2011 Spring Trip Conclusion

It was a good trip. We didn’t have any accidents, and we were not stopped by the police or anything, and Customs were nice in both directions. We didn’t lose anything or leave anything behind in a hotel by accident. The worst things that happened were the failure of our 12v cooler, and a flat tire. The cooler may have been a plus, as we used ice for the rest of the trip, and it doesn’t hum. Kal-Tire here in Kenora refunded us the full price of the replacement tire we bought in California. We thought there were hints that a rear wheel bearing was going, and now that we are home, Olson Honda has confirmed this. We have actually been carrying a spare bearing for years, ever since one failed at Bozeman, MT. Now we’ll actually get to have it installed.

There are probably other vehicles more perfectly suited to this kind of journey. A small camper, for instance, but that kind of thing wouldn’t be useful as a daily driver the rest of the year, and owning a second vehicle to use five weeks out of the year is unrealistic. The CRV is capable and comfortable, economical and easy to drive.

We remembered to take laundry detergent, but we forgot to take dish detergent. We also forgot plastic wine glasses and bowls. We did remember to take five sets of spare batteries for the camera, but used twice that many. I still prefer this to a rechargeable. We also took two memory cards for the camera: we filled one, and the other failed. Luckily, some other minor camera glitch had persuaded me to back up all the photos onto the laptop, so we only lost the last handful of pictures, not the entire contents of card two.

We were wise enough to pump up my VISA card before we left, but it would have been nice to have left more money in the chequing account so that we could have used debit cards where our credit cards were crippled by our lack of a ‘five digit zip code’. If VISA had a real governing body, they would put a stop to that. We took traveler’s cheques for the last time. Many places were still fine with them, but more than a few times, people just didn’t know if they should take them. One hotel said they would leave the charge on my credit card ‘until the cheque cleared’. A traveler’s cheque is not a personal cheque! The whole point is that it’s safe for a merchant to accept one from a traveler he will never see again. Oh well.

Caroline had a very good idea last year, and we tried it this time. Instead of lugging all our baggage into every hotel, we just took in overnight stuff and a change of clothes for the morning. And something to wear for dinner. And our shoes. And our cooler. And our laptop. And the camera. And our picnic kit. Eventually, after hauling everything in to do laundry one day, I reverted to bringing in my whole suitcase again. Caroline stayed the course, taking in just a small carry-on most nights.

Tim had a fairly good idea this year. On previous trips, when we were hauling everything into the hotel all the time, we used our own baggage carts, a folding two-wheeler and a folding four-wheel platform cart. These proved very handy, much easier than borrowing (and unloading and returning, and re-borrowing and reloading and re-returning) the hotel’s. However, they were awkward to pack in the back of the CRV, and often had to be stowed under the luggage. This year I stood them up behind our seats and bungeed them to the headrest supports. That way they could be unloaded first if needed, or left for days undisturbed if not.

We finally perfected a route that gets us home from Missoula, MO in two days. Swift Current seems to be the right place to stop. This makes the last day’s drive nearly ten hours, plus you lose one to the time change as you enter Manitoba. That’s a lot for one driver with no stops longer than five minutes, but there’s still the option to stop in Winnipeg if fatigued or aching. This time it went very well, due in large part to our very early start out of Swift Current (0545).

We are very happy to have discovered Sedona, AZ. Unfortunately, everyone else discovered it first, and mass usage is taking a heavy toll on the small canyon.  I’m afraid the same is true of Yosemite. Despite the many famous landmarks there, the actual valley floor is a tiny area. It’s overrun by swarms of visitors, even before the tourist season gets into gear. Mount Rushmore has been all but sealed behind a massive concrete parking garage to accommodate the endless traffic there.  So the good news is, the USA has some absolutely stunning National Parks, and the Americans have a real appreciation for them. The bad news is, the Parks service is struggling to keep visiting pleasant, and probably losing that struggle. Disneyworld sized parking lots are a depressing necessity. Budget cuts seem to have gutted some parks,  while others, like Wind Cave, rely on their guided tour revenue to make ends meet. Understated attractions like the Mojave Desert seemed, ah, deserted. There was no formal park entrance where we went in, and although we did eventually find a ranger station near a campground, it was staffed by a solitary ranger.

If I could offer any advice, it would be to try to get off the beaten track a little. Take the time to drive to the lesser known features, even if they are considered second best. We took one of the little loop drives at Sedona, for instance. Away from the famous canyon, we twisted through beautiful vistas of the red rocks. A few yards from the two parked cars at a scenic overlook, I saw a painter unrolling her kit, getting ready to spend the day appreciating and depicting something beautiful. Compare that to the struggle to simply find a parking space in Yosemite. If I could add one request, it would be to ‘leave nothing but footprints’. More than one ranger told me gloomily that they expend massive amounts of labour and money on cleaning up after people. If it’s beautiful, why would you want to make it ugly?

That’s all for this trip. If we do another trip this fall or next Spring, we’ll probably make it shorter, more like our first run to Oregon. I’d like to visit McMinnville and the Umpqua valley again.

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