MONDAY, 18th JULY.
We had decided on a quiet day on Saturday, 9th July going out for just a short while in the morning, first to a Salvo's Thrift Shop to drop off the electric jug, mugs and a few other odds and ends we'd bought for the road trip and no longer needed, then to Marina del Rey where we enjoyed a very good cup of coffee at Tony P's Dockside Grill before returning to the motel to relax for the rest of the day. A pizza was bought from a shop around the corner for lunch, we couldn't eat it all then so polished the remainder off before setting off for the airport in the evening, dropping the rental car off and being shuttle bussed to the terminal. What can I say about the flight? It's 15 hours of tedium on the aeroplane, plus a couple of hours in airports at either end of the journey, necessary but not exactly enjoyable. In crossing the date line en route to Sydney, we lost Sunday and arrived in Australia on Monday morning (11th) and after spending a couple of days in Sydney and Newcastle with our lovely family, we flew home on Wednesday 13th, arriving in Perth in the early evening. Our good friend Laurie met us at the airport and drove us home and since then, we have been catching up on lost sleep and trying to settle back into normal (?) life.
So now we are home, our first visit to the USA over and time for reflection.
We've missed travelling with Boris this year and are still saddened by his unfortunate demise last August. On occasions we felt a little envious of the motorhomers we saw along the way, especially those camped by a river, lake, canal or ocean, or amongst trees in a forest, but a Boris couldn't have taken us to many of the places we visited.
When we began discussing a visit to the USA a few months ago, we looked at the possibility of buying or renting an RV but dismissed both ideas as the information we garnered suggested that buying was extremely difficult for foreigners and renting was expensive, plus there was the added cost of camp sites. There may be a CamperStop or CamperContact Motorhome Guide, similar to those in Europe, available in the USA but we didn't really look too deeply, having decided on the rental car/motel option which worked very well for us.
We stayed in a total of 39 motels and 2 airbnbs. The motels were much the same in that they all provided a bed and a bathroom. Some were small with just the basics, others were large, sometimes with a small table and chairs and a few had an armchair or two! A few were old and tired, others newish or renovated. About 75% had fridges and microwaves, those that didn't had ice machines and supplied a small bucket to collect the ice. None had an electric kettle so we bought one from Walmart as we do enjoy the convenience of making a cuppa in the morning without having to shower and dress to go out and find a cafe. Breakfast was included in some motels but they were in the minority and usually consisted of pastries or muffins and coffee. A few also provided cereal, yoghurt, fruit, bagels or bread for toasting and a couple had waffle machines. Only one provided a cooked breakfast which was much appreciated. What all 39 had in common was that they were all very clean and provided oodles of hot water for showers. The first airbnb we stayed in was in a house which we shared with one other couple and two single people (both long term residents). We had full use of the kitchen, living and dining rooms, laundry and our favourite, a front verandah with rocking chairs! Bliss! The second was a two bedroom, two bathroom condominium which we shared with the owners, a young couple and their dog Belle. Both were very comfortable and we were reluctant to leave each one.
In order to keep costs down, and because we didn't want to eat out every day, we took with us a soft cooler bag, our 'Schultz' bag (named for the company that gifted it to Mike in his working life several years ago, filled at the time with Christmas goodies which have long since been devoured). We bought 3 freezer bricks from Walmart which we froze in fridge freezers overnight, and these kept milk, butter, drinks & small food items cold throughout the day when placed in the Schultz bag. When there was no fridge, we used ice which worked well but not quite as efficiently as the freezer bricks. We carried cereal, tea, coffee, health bars, fruit, biscuits etc., and for lunches we bought plain rolls which we filled, or already filled foot long rolls for $5 which we shared and occasionally a cooked chicken for about $5 which, with a ready made salad, provided a couple of meals. Walmart was our main supplier for lunches though we did share a few foot longs from Subway, but they were nearly double the price of Walmart's. Another source of low cost lunches was the CVS Pharmacies which we first found in Las Vegas. It was most satisfying to be able to have picnic lunches along the way, especially as very often when on the open road, there were no cafes/restaurants/diners within cooee.
We travelled into 9 of the western states and experienced very diversified terrain, with mostly warm weather, very little rain, a light snow storm, and drove through mountain ranges, marvelled at spectacular canyons, rivers, dams. lakes and waterfalls, enjoyed a rodeo, visited ghost towns and museums, rode cable cars, ski lifts and a little steam train, drove along the southern Oregon and California coasts, and visited 16 national parks (our $80 annual pass bought on our Grand Canyon visit saved us over a couple of hundred dollars and enabled to skip the queues).
The only bugbear we found was the tax added at the till, as being used to tax included in advertised prices at home, we never knew quite what we were going to have to pay....sometimes it was a mere 1%, other times it was 4, 5, 8, 10 or 12%.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience and well worth the long flights there and back and yes, we would do it again!