Sunday, September 11, 2016

2,600+ Miles Down and We've Only Just Begun!

Here we go.....!
Hello Luvs,

Happy weekend! Boy am I glad that we are done with our road trip toward the west coast. Started off as a caravan and then went at our own speed. Why,  you may ask? Keep reading and you'll find out.


The view from the patio located on the
south end of the National Park.
If you have been reading our blogs you know that we drove down from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to finish up a few things. We went through our items we had stored in our van (with many items with layers of mold-which meant they HAD TO GO!). With Baby Boy in New York with his grandparents (10th birthday celebration) we had a slightly easier time. We had our items in the garage and powered through in 2 days. I would say that we decreased the amount of items by another 40%. 

I'm a sucker for beautiful
clouds and there were plenty!
The only downer is the fact that I had to don a mask to clean out the mold. The DIY method did wonders! I spent about three hours in and out of there and am glad I did. Not having the van as a means of transport was an option we did not want to face. It saved us money (at least $1,000) because we did not have to rent anything. The van needed an oil change (which I recommend you do when tackling a long drive). The last thing you need is to have your vehicle breakdown because of something that could be avoided. Checking tires, oil, and liquids is taking a proactive stance which leaves you with peace of mind. 
A stream ran along the Davis
farm located next to the Park.

Now....how did our drive go while fluttering through different states? The first was Tennessee which happened to be the most memorable. What you just read 'most memorable' might lead you to think that it was a good thing. Well, the climate we experienced was quite frankly scary. The pride that we witnessed in support of Confederacy (not only by people but by businesses) shined a bright light once again on the true heart of the people who have felt this way.  They now have a pass to let their bigoted flag fly. Might seem as if I am harping on this....but THIS (racism) is the reality people of color deal with. 

While observing the flags and sign over and over the kiddos began to have a discussion about the fact that these businesses are blatantly saying that they do not want our business. They do not cater to all tourists who come through. They cater to the men on motorcycles with their patch that represents their prejudiced organization (my late father was a member of one that was the opposite...it was DIVERSE) and caravan with the large truck that has a confederate flag attached to the cab. On one hand it is hard to witness this, and on the other it opens the blinders to what others have always said. They have spoken about the fact that the United States has not come nearly as far as many think in regard to race relations. Being in Tennessee at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the nearby gas station we chose to fill up at put an exclamation point on the fact that there are places a bi-racial family should not venture. Wow! That speaks volumes....! We spent the night at an Airbnb and the hosts were very nice. A few issues, but they were quick to jump in to fix them. Also, Barbara gifted us with homemade cookies and caramels. DOUBLE YUM!!!!
These lovelies rolled around in mud
to cool themselves off....the pigs
NOT the kiddos!

Chasing the Sun...!
We hightailed it to our next stop which was Oklahoma (after driving through Arkansas). Finding a hotel with rewards is helpful in many ways. We've stayed at Airbnbs more than anything else (over the last 7 months) but hotels have also been a reprieve between many days of traveling. We have a card with La Quinta and were able to use points to reduce our stay to $30 for the night. Can we say it together....SCORE! That is cheaper than most hotels and on top of that they except dogs. Traveling with a pet is a challenge in itself. I will be sure to share the ups and downs of having Goldie with us at some point. Later on in the blog you will read about the BAD!
Does the Oscar Mayer Wiener
song make more sense now?


This was the point where we were no longer driving as a caravan. Before that I should mention something about the Airbnb...the parking spots! We had to drive down a fairly steep driveway that was not very wide. The designated spots were by what looked like a bit of an outdoor workshop. We made it work and backed up slowly. This is where I believe the van picked up a large staple (probably from them doing remodeling work?). Could be wrong, but I think that was the spot. About three hours in I was speaking with the Hubster, and he heard a loud noise. He asked if I saw anything from behind. I did notice a piece of black rubber bounce out, but I assumed that it was something he simply rode over. Later on when I caught up with him (he was going a bit faster) again he asked me to look toward the back because the van was driving weird. It turned out that a large staple caused a blowout. Did not know that then. He actually found out about six hours later that that was what happened. Yes....you read right! We all pulled over to a gas station (about forty miles east of Memphis) and he called Geico. They said that it would be a two hour wait before someone could pick him and transport him to buy a tire. Having the kids with us we decided that I should drive ahead instead of waiting around. What happened in the six hours in which he remained there deserves its own very long paragraph.

Baby Girl had the chance
to catch up with a friend
in Placitas.

After two hours they told him it would be another forty-five minutes to an hour more. When the tow truck driver arrived it became very uncomfortable and more than a little concerning. Geico contracts with different towing companies throughout the country. The company used on this occasion is one that would cause most (of not all) to wonder what type of vetting they do. The driver did not have the proper hook-up to tow the van. I guess he tried for a bit to load it unsuccessfully and someone from his company suggested an alternate way to get it to attach. This is when he used the 'n' word. Because of my husbands race he assumed that he is a card carrying bigot. Why? Could be the sentiment of many in the area, or simply that has not evolved. The Hubsteer has addressed this freighter sized elephant (or rather called out people) on past occasions. On this one he did not. Why? Well, the person was packing (does my lingo make me sound tough?) a gun. It might be legal to open carry there, but that does not mean Geico says that it is okay to do so while working with them. To be in the middle of nowhere and come face to face with a gun carrying racist is a frightening prospect. Now, just imagine that my husband was African American and you REALLY start to quake in your boots and sweat all over! If we were there would it have been the same? I don't think so. He would have either kept his mouth closed, rode on past without stopping, or not tried to assist....citing having the wrong equipment. In other words....not give any type of service. Since the driver did not have the right equipment he had to wait another ninety minutes to be towed by the owner's son. He said the son was nicer, but that he was also carrying. It might be that they carry as a result of another experience. It may be legal in the State, however....it is not okay with Geico. Either way, it does not make it any more comforting to those of us who do not like guns. The next day the Hubster called and reported the experience. Three reports were done and the company might actually lose the contract. I never want anyone to lose work, but everyone (including my husband the customer) should feel comfortable. Having to wait four hours while the temperature was in the upper 90's was the rapidly melting icing on the cake.
Gotta LUV blowing
bubbles!
We also got to see a hot air
balloon doing its thing.

After all this the Hubster arrived at one in the morning. I had picked up dinner and it was waiting for him in the fridge. I felt so bad because he had to rise again at six thirty to do some work. Not a lot of sleep any way you put it!

That brings me to the singalong we had on the trip. To keep me awake we sang our hearts out. You get to hear the kiddos having animated conversations, trying to get truckers we passed to honk their horn or pull their lever/rope, and sing in silly voices. Driving between six to nine hours requires singing in order to keep you alert and attentive. Of course I do not know all the words...so bear with me. Even better? Sing along!!!!

Interested in singing along to some great tunes? Maybe you'll know more of the lyrics than I do...wanna see? Just click the play button on the top right.

Link to singalong...: https://goo.gl/photos/TNV2wdFX8PHua1cp8

Oh, another thing I would recommend is downloading the free gas app GasBuddy. It is a life saver in regard to finding the best priced stations. It lets you know how far you have to go to reach it, and when the last price was registered. On this trip alone I found gas for $1.79 when stations around me were $1.99-2.09. That adds up...so BEFORE your next trip download that app and simply click on the 'gas near me' option. You'll be glad you did when you have fifty miles left in the tank and the cheapest gas is twelve miles away and not the next station you come across that is crazy expensive. It will also allow you to know if you have enough gas to make it there. 

Since Baby Girl still keeps in touch with her friend in New Mexico we stopped there. Her parents graciously offered their guest room. So we had many giggles (Jalen, Maya, and for an hour Grace) as adults, and of course we did as parents.


Kiddos impersonating
Mama Kat!
We went through Arizona and are now in Nevada. The major event in Arizona? Stopping at In-n-Out Burger. If you have yet to try what they offer you should get on that. It is reasonably priced with service and quality that is consistent. If a place gets Gordon Ramsey to turn around and order from the the drive-thru a second time you know it is worth exploring! When you do I would love to hear all about it!

We arrived at our Airbnb in Nevada and were hit with a crazy odor, haphazard arrangement, and an instant need to find another place. I will spare you the details, but ultimately it was a place for someone to crash after partying and does not suit four people. This one was booked through the Hubster, and he reached out to the host who happened to be around the corner. He came by, said he didn't smell anything, but still let us cancel. We pulled into a gas station and did a mad search. He found one that was perfect. The host Patrick worked out everything in between meetings (he only had five minutes to do so...He ROCKED!). It is two large rooms that are both masters with their own bathroom with a ton of amenities. It is priced reasonably (around the price we paid for the other) especially with the coupon given from Airbnb. I have said it recently and I will say it again...the more Airbnbs you stay in the larger change there is to book a terrible one. Some hosts know what they are doing and others think that they simply put it on the site and take no additional measures to ensure that is a proper Airbnb. 
As we race toward the sun...our journey as a family
has just begun!

Was this long enough for you? I am going to try to begin periscoping soon so look out for that. I am also going to check in more frequently and not wait three days. This driving stage kicked my butt!!! Enjoy the video and pictures throughout...!

Til next time,

Kat


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