Our Winnebago is parked out front (see picture) and Cele has scrubbed it down inside and I’ve done the same with the exterior. We’ve waded through piles of mail that wasn’t forwarded, done a ton of laundry, and caught up with family and friends (though our blog and regular email access made this possible on the road). I even shaved off my beard!
Though they’ve all been mentioned in the blog, we wanted to list a few companies and people who made this trip much more enjoyable and successful. Of course, the trip would have been impossible without our trusty Winnebago Outlook. We can’t begin to imagine what Steinbeck would think if he saw our Winnebago compared to his little truck camper! Thanks to Sheila Davis, Kelli Harms, and others at Winnebago HQ in Forest City, Iowa (great factory tour and RV service!) for making us big-time (and lifetime) Winnebago fans. The legendary company is celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2008.
And, in thinking about our Winnebago, we wanted to mention and thank Camper Country in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our RV was delivered there and we’ve had some minor service issues taken care of there quickly and professionally (as well as being under Winnebago’s industry-leading warranty). We’ve recommended them to several people and hope to convert many more to RVing and Winnebagos.
Speaking of “conversion” to RVing, we have sent many who are interested in RVing to the excellent Go RVing website to learn (lots!) more and receive a super DVD or CD. It provides the perfect introduction to RVing!
We carried a number of “toys” with us to further enjoy the great outdoors. Our Specialized hybrid bikes gave us great access to trails and roads into small towns. We carried them on a great Thule rack. We’d honestly used Yakima racks and other toy carrier products previously, but the quality and innovative design of our Thule bike rack means we’ll be replacing several Yakima products in 2008! We also used a great Thule storage box and look forward to trying some of their Thule Smart RV RV-specific line that they’ve just released.
We tucked two inflatable kayaks under our back ladder and loved using them throughout the trip. These great little boats are made by Advanced Elements and we found them perfect for RV travel. We’ve also used them in our backyard creek and have taken them on several road trips in the Jeep–where you can see an interesting body of water and be paddling on it in less than 10 minutes (I’m not kidding!).
Some other “products” from our trip deserve special mention beyond earlier blog entries. If I‘ve forgotten any, please let me know!
We didn’t get lost very often–but when we did–our Garmin GPS always came to the rescue with both vocal directions and very clear directions and maps on our large screen. We also used the Garmin when driving to a specific address in a city and very much enjoyed our subscription to XM Radio. And, in thinking about not getting lost, Michelin and Rand McNally became our two favorite maps for making driving plans before hitting the road and planning diversions once underway. GPS is great, but we still love perusing maps on paper!
We’re also the proud parents of six huge Michelin tires. We equate Michelin quality to Winnebago and that’s a nice feeling when you’re rolling down the road.
The series of options from Campfire Grill made it really easy to use our many campfires for cooking as well. These products are great for all kinds of campers–from RVers to backpackers (we’ve also heard the motorcyclists who camp love their compact size).
We also used our ancient, but excellent, Coleman lantern often and one of their propane stoves occasionally (our grill and indoor stove made this for “emergency” use only). Coleman makes a ton of other great camping products.
A number of the products above (and many more) came from Camping World. This RV owner’s paradise is the “superstore” of RVing and we stopped at many along the way (along with the occasional Wal-Mart, of courseJ ). The Camping World staff is quite knowledgeable and they always seemed to know about (and have) exactly what we needed.
Good Sam is another major player that every RVer needs (or will need). We always enjoyed staying at Good Sam campgrounds (where members get a 10% discount). Good Sam members are known for being “Good Samaritans” to other travelers. For instance, we arrived at several Good Sam campsites to find a campfire already prepared for our enjoyment. We must admit to being a little biased because they featured our trip in their excellent members’ magazine, Highways.
We had previously signed up for Good Sam’s great Emergency Road Service and are happy to report we didn’t need it the entire trip. We had used it twice before our trip–once when we got the RV stuck in a muddy ditch and a second time for a dead battery–the quick and professional service both times convinced us to renew before out big trip.
As loyal readers know, we stayed at a number of great KOA campgrounds. We really grew to appreciate their friendliness, cleanliness, and consistency (though surprises like warm cookies or ice cream bars delivered to our door as a welcome gift kept each KOA unique). KOAs were especially welcome when we wanted long hot showers, laundry facilities, and wi-fi.
We also spent many nights at state parks. For spacious campsites and varied natural experiences (like hiking, biking, and kayaking), it’s hard to beat these natural resources. We stayed in a state park in virtually every state through which we passed. Of course, the national parks system is also alive and well, with visits to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the Badlands), Yellowstone National Park (with wildlife galore), and Petrified Forest National Park (including the Painted Desert) among many incredible experiences for us on this trip.
Other quick “kudos” go to: Ford (we’ve been very impressed with our E-450 chassis and service at various Ford dealers across the country); Interstate batteries (we accidentally drained our “house” batteries and they solved the issue through a local dealer); Dometic (www.dometic.com) (great awnings and more!); and various RVing-specific products we’ve grown to appreciate from Thetford and Camco.
That’s a lot of products, but the list of people to thank is even longer. Here’s a quick rundown in the same order as the trip:
*Our favorite microbrewer, Sam Calagione at Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales…Pour it Again, Sam!
*Oliver Peterson out on Long Island, who learned about our trip after our visit to Sag Harbor and wrote about it several times for the Southampton Press.
*PR pro Nancy Marshall in Augusta, Maine, who took delivery of an important FedEx for us and also provided lots of insight to the state she obviously loves.
*Matt Polstein of Maine’s New England Outdoor Center, who welcomed us (and our RV) with open arms and exposed us to his marvelous state of Maine (including Baxter State Park) and NEOC’s incredible restaurant, River Drivers.
*Betsy Foster in Canada, who made our trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the rest of our time in Ontario a special memory.
*RV guru and historian, Al Hesselbart, who showed us around the incredible RV/MH Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.
*Previously mentioned Kelli Harms and Sheila Davis at Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa, who have made us Winnebago wanderers for life.
*Gary Knowles, a Wisconsin expert who sent us to all of the right places for cheese, beer, and more (including a great hotel stay and meal nearby at Del-Bar in Wisconsin Dells). Thanks also to Melanie Platt-Gibson, for hosting us for dinner and introducing us to the Wisconsin Dells (Steinbeck also loved it there).
*Chuck Lennon, an equally astute expert on Minnesota, who told us about the incredible Oktoberfest and August Schell Brewery in New Ulm and also helped us with our Sauk Centre visit.
*Ditto for Donnie Sexton in Montana–what a wonderful state and we can’t wait to return.
*Our friend, Bridget Sheahan, in Spokane, who joined us for a quick lunch and lots of memories about our time in Germany together.
*Louie Richmond in Seattle, who introduced us to the restaurants and food of Tom Douglas.
*Holland America’s Erik Elvejord and Tracy Peterson, who provided us with quintessential Seattle friendliness, coffee, and food. Holland America remains one of our favorite lines and we plan to sail with them whenever we can pursue another lifetime goal–a world cruise.
*Scott Thomasen and his parents, Ron and Jan. Scott gave us some great tips for visiting “Steinbeck Country” and his parents welcomed us into their incredible home for one of our favorite stops of the entire trip.
*Amanda Holder at the National Steinbeck Center–we couldn’t have made this trip so “Steinbeck” without her. Our time at the NSC remains a highlight of the adventure.
*Cele’s brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Bev Serwitz (and their sons Brady and Max), who provided a nice respite in Los Angeles before beginning our journey east.
*Eric Miller in Amarillo, who set us up at the incredible Big Texan Steak Ranch for one of most memorable meals of the trip and thus provided our version of the Thanksgiving-period “ranch” experience that Steinbeck had enjoyed in Texas.
*Our friends Andy and Jay Boisseau in Austin, who told us about a get-together of about 50 Virginia Tech and UVA fans for the post-Thanksgiving football classic.
*New Orleans experts Mary Beth Romig and Christine Decuir, who helped us find an incredible RV resort right in the revitalized Quarter and located the school Steinbeck had visited. The Big Easy is back!
*Our friend, Chef Susan Spicer, who prepared a quite memorable meal for us at her legendary Quarter restaurant, Bayona. Susan has a tasty new cookbook out called “Crescent City Cooking” and its receiving rave reviews.
I apologize for this “laundry list” of products and people, but–like Steinbeck–we found that our trip was greatly enhanced by the help of people and products all along the way. Our own “Search for America” couldn’t have been accomplished without them!