Left Auckland airport flew to Los Angeles, totally uneventful flight as one desires, total shambles at border control at LA airport, the new machines that check you into the country and all gone on strike so we were placed in a queue that wound itself backwards and forwards through the whole terminal for the next hour and a half. I felt sorry for the people are flying onto London they had all this to go through plus they had to clear their luggage and then carry it or push it up steep bank to another area where they left their luggage or they could have gone via Singapore they could predictive relaxing with Singapore sling in the bar.
All that being completed it was then on to United airlines for the final leg to Tucson and then a taxi to the hotel. It was interesting as we were landing at Tucson airport looking out of the plane on the left-hand side I saw about 50 fighter jets under what I would call carports, perhaps I should call them plane ports or perhaps airports but that word has been used. With a hot Tucson Sun I’m not sure that the carports or whatever would keep them very cool.
Now the work begins to get the motorhome back on the road so the first step was to stop at a Walmart and collect the battery for the motor, the existing one having not been charged for two years was going to be very marginal, then on out to the storage unit fitted the battery, and started straight off so was then on to the emission test which are passed with flying colours but as the Rand McNally GPS did not have a fully charged battery, and driving anywhere in a strange country without one I purchased a small tom-tom has spent the rest of the day not being lost.
Was on to clear my PO Box and collect all the letters that were waiting for me, found a office where I could get a current sticker for the registration of the motorhome and had to pay an extra $50 because last year when I had finished I’d cancelled the insurance so that put by registration on hold which I thought was a good policy.
I then dropped the motorhome at camping world with a whole list of things for them to check and get agrees an oil change and spent the next day reading books on my Kindle.
There was a text message that the motorhome was finished so I walked across the road and collected the motorhome, paid for the repairs, driven back to the hotel, loaded with my luggage and was on my way for this years travels.
Three days earlier Luda had flown to Minneapolis to visit her daughter and grandson, the flight on the day that I flew had a very long wait over in Los Angeles the ticket she had was with American Airlines which was a code share with Qantas, so in Christchurch she was checked into Jet Star, who would not check the luggage all the way through, then the plane was late in Auckland and the seven that were on the connecting flight had to run with their luggage to the international terminal to be told that their seats had been sold. Luda went to the Qantas counter and they purchased a more expensive Air New Zealand ticket for her and flew via Houston so she eventually got to Minneapolis be it with another short delay in Houston.
I meanwhile have been driving on to my first stop my drive across the country to South Carolina in the first stop was a very small town called Bowie, like a lot of small towns that had once been prosperous but now consisted of shops and commercial buildings that were falling to pieces and houses in similar condition, nevertheless there was a RV Park where I could plug in to the power and give my fridge kickstart and with an overnight charge of $15 there was obvious was not a major stopping point for RVs.
Thursday 20 July
I set the GPS for the next stop today which was Denning, the GP asked me, or told me, one of the routes have a shingle road that I want to take it? Well thought this is America how bad can it be so I said yes. I set off across the Arizona barren landscape and very occasionally, I think it was twice, came across an area that was being irrigated and whatever crops though a growing there was green and lush and big.
Then I came to a signpost which said end of seal and I was wrong it is America and it can be bad, I think the last vehicles to cross this bit of road was the bullock trains heading west, passed through an area called Apache Pass but that eventually came to an end I was back on tar sealed, thank goodness, onto a small settlement called Apache, and little bit later a monument which signified the spot that the Indian warrior Geronimo had surrendered. Driving on today’s route was obvious that a very solid rains in this area of Arizona – New Mexico as each bit of the road that has a dip in it in other climates there would be a a large pipe to let the floodwaters passed safely underneath the road but was so little rain here the rain just flows right across the road and had been raining I guess that would have been 50 or more fords to cross which would have been an interesting experience.
As a rather sobering experience passing through all of these little towns to see that the commercial centre was now no longer exists, in fact at one stage for every house that was occupied there were 10 that were unoccupied falling to pieces.
The houses in this country have shingles as a favorite roofing material and often instead of wood tiles or slate they have square pieces of tar backed paper (Malthoid) and this very quickly peels off in an short time the roof falls in and produces another wrecked house.
Getting closed to the end of my travel for the day there was a signpost ahead which said that the next exit at Denning was towards Silver City and as I have a friend Joe Butts living in that city I stopped and saw how far away it was, 53 miles was doable so I rang Joe on my New Zealand cellphone told I could not speak long, but was he at home and the answer was yes so an hour’s drive north and we spent an enjoyable evening catching up on our activities.
Joe had a student was living with them from Japan, he was the son of a studio owner in Japan and Joe was giving him some of the basics that he would need to do photography for’s father’s business.
Back on the road heading east with tonight’s destination being set to Roswell, I did look for aliens on the road but with all of the Border Control Trucks that I passed on the road looking for people from Mexico I guess that a poor little alien would not have much chance. Passed through the White Sands missile testing area which we had visited on one of our last travels, passed two Indian casinos. Then I was in the city of Roswell with lots of signposts promising all sorts of alien encounters, but I headed straight for a Walmart supercentre where I saw enough alien looking people whilst I was shopping for supplies.
Saturday, July 22
Today’s destination is Lubbock, having to GPS’s one I set to use motorways and the other one I set to avoid motorways, entering the destination into both is interesting that on a 300 mile trip there is usually only about 12 miles difference, of course the real difference in the time it takes to travel with a much higher speed on the motorway of least the back roads are much more interesting and in that way I get through all of the little towns that are no longer viable.
I was due to get petrol and I called in at a “Sams club” this is a special club that you pay to belong to and get special prices on most products I asked the guy manning the pumps do you have to belong to the club to get petrol, he said no just I will use my card, but you can’t pay cash, I said my credit card won’t work in your country, his said I’m sure it will, let me try, of course it wouldn’t and as he passed it back to me he said do you mind if I say a little prayer for your travel, my immediate thought was if you can’t get my credit card to work I’m not sure what your prayer will do, but seemed to be a nice little old guy so I stood still for a few moments whilst he gave me his blessings and I carried on.
Sunday, July 23
Carrying on East towards Durham South Carolina most of today was spent crossing Texas and all of the oil wells going up and down pulling the oil out of the earth, passed by a lot of windmills generating electricity which with the advent of electric cars Texas will still be on a winning streak with electricity instead of oil.
In the meantime I have to stop every four or 500 miles and fill up with petrol and in a little country town of the name of Bailey with a rather beautiful retail section of town was almost deserted of shops but the little grocery with petrol pumps at the beginning of town was manned by a Pakistani like a lot of grocery shops everywhere. Whilst I was waiting for my hundred dollars worth of gas to make is way into the petrol tank a rather nice black Japanese car stopped and very well dressed man got out with highly polished shoes white shirt and tie and I immediately thought of him being a government official but then realised that it’s Sunday’s and I reviewed that to perhaps someone that’s just been to church, he asked me how I was and I replied with my normal “well I woke up this morning” so perhaps it is good to be here in his reply was as far as he was concerned it would be better to be in heaven, yes I am in the Bible Belt, and he looked at my maps on the back of the Motor home and asked me if I was doing all of the travel for the church, and I could see where the conversation was heading so I left him pumping gas in to his car and carried on my way towards the east coast.
Today I finally passed out of Texas and have just got the nose of the vehicle into Arkansas.
As I passed through all of these small deserted in a commercial sense towns with beautiful commercial buildings and shops all empty or being occupied by the likes of “Bryans bargain bins” and the like I think back 30 years and to own these shops all commercial buildings would have been like having money or gold in the bank and today when I read to very large clothing chains closing 60 to 100 shops and then hearing the news that Amazon had just purchased the Sears chain of shops, that was formerly Sears Roebuck and they were the major catalogue company for probably 100 years and they have been reduced down from selling everything to selling simply home appliances and now they fall under the Amazon umbrella and I guess even these shops will eventually close.
In the 70s and 80s I used to travel to the states because I felt what I saw happening there was going to happen elsewhere in the world, I first saw storage units and video hire businesses spreading across the country and of course they followed on to New Zealand, now the latest trend is for women to do their clothing shopping online consequently getting a bigger choice for less money, and the side-effect I can see from this is that these online companies will know more about their clients than the main street shops and they will go from strength to strength.
Today I am glad I don’t own any retail buildings as I feel that even Ashburton in 20 years time will be a lot like the towns I am passing through on a daily basis.
Yesterday I stopped in Memphis Tennessee and a campground that was beside the Mississippi River and as I drove down the high stop bank to the campground I realised I’d be in trouble if the river burst its banks……
Eventually I know I am going to cross over the Mississippi River and at that point I know I will be in the south of America where the Confederate flag is still highly valued.
Whilst I was in Memphis I went to Camping World and had a new toilet fitted, the one from last year had broken this was the first location that I had visited had both the time and the correct toilet to be fitted. Whilst I was there the got the refrigerator and the generator working both had fuel blockages so is good to get everything or almost everything working again. My Rand McNally GPS is switching itself off on a very regular basis and as I use this to find camping grounds etc I guess I may need to replace that if it does not stop.
Tonight I am in a RV Park that is attached to an casino in the park is better than a lot at I visited across the country, I am in Missouri and tomorrow morning will cross the Mississippi going back into Tennessee on my way east.
I first of all thought the casino was an Indian casinos because that’s what the majority are across the states, casinos on Indian land, but this was a casino in the form of a boat sitting on the Mississippi River so obviously there is a law permitting that. The RV Park as nice as it was was probably one of the most expensive than I have stayed in, you need to go into the casino to register under lots of slot machines everywhere in a large TV screen with a endless cycle of people that have won the jackpot, I suspect some of the photos are 10 years old as there is no dates on any of them and the casino is certainly not new the smiling faces that had won the jackpot most were around the $1500 with one at 2000 one at 5000 but I could not imagine many people getting rich from this casino as it was a simple machine for transferring the money from the gamblers pocket to the casino with as little trouble as possible.
As I left the following morning I drove through a large gate which obviously fitted neatly into a concrete wall and again there would be a problem when the Mississippi flooded, the people in the casino did say that if we had to evacuate that would give us warning, very nice of them.
Back on the road east crossed over the Mississippi into Tennessee, I am obviously still the Bible Belt, as I pass through these semi-deserted towns as far as shops are concerned the only thing that looks new and substantial are all the magnificent church buildings which seem to stretch forever.
Was interesting along with later to cross over another magnificent bridge which was crossing over the Tennessee River which seem to be as large as the Mississippi, I saw a notice for a state park a little bit ahead so as I’m running early on my trip across the country I decide to spend a couple of nights in the peaceful park
Monday, July 31
The last week I been driving across the states towards Durham North Carolina and I have stopped for two nights on the location of a park is claimed to be David Crockett’s birthplace, is on the edge of some non-descript River just south of the Appellation mountains and Johnson city. Have 284 miles to go in three or four days to do it in.
It has been a reasonably uneventful drive, was just more of what I have seen, I stopped this morning at Jefferson City Tennessee and four new tyres fitted to the rear wheels of the motorhome, back in Tucson I knew this was going to have to happen yesterday when I looked at the outside tyre on the right-hand side I could see the start of holes So I thought was best to do it now. It was another Walmart purchase and they have the tyres fitted in two hours, one hears stories observes super-sized people that shop at Walmart but is also some super super-sized people that work there.
This morning after the tyres were fitted I thought I would check out the Waffle House and see what they had for breakfast, was quite experience they had three men cooking and two girls waitressing, the girls would take the order and then would call out the order and the three men would spring into action each doing the part of the order they specialised in, it was done very well and like most meals in America cost very little.
Thursday, August 3
I am on the other side of the American continent having travelled 2900 miles across eight states and I’m spending the night in a state Park just on the outskirts of Raleigh North Carolina. To get here I crossed over the Appellation Mountains in my normal technique of staying off freeways was a major handicap as I was averaging about 30 miles an hour over the winding narrow road so when I can get a chance I changed the GPS to use freeways and instead of 6 ½ hours to do the journey it knocked back to 4 which was much more reasonable.
The other day when I was looking at getting back on the road and old guy in a pickup pulled up beside me, when I say old he is probably about my age, he slowly got out of his pickup and hobbled over to my drivers window with a map in his hand and I told them there was no use asking me about anything on the map he said no but you will be up to help me, went on to say that’s sister was 84 other day was going out to feed her ponies in another town and she broke her ankle and he had to find a way of getting there so he could feed the animals, I thought what has this got to do with me……. But wait, he said all he needed was some nice person to fill up his car with petrol, at this point I wound the window up, and he was saying from the outside of the window, aren’t you going to help me! I started the RV and drove off leaving the question unanswered.
The reason I’ve driven right across America is to attend a photographers convention, the first American Convention I have attended for 24 years, it will be interesting to see if anything has changed in 24 years, somehow I think everything has changed.
August Monday 7th
For the last three days I been attending the Carolina photo Expo in Durham North Carolina and I will do a special newsletter with photos of this event for the photographers.
Today I waited round to see an old friend, John Stanton from 30+ years ago then it was on the road towards Cincinnati to visit with David Ziser before going on to Minneapolis to collect Luda who has been spending this time with her three-year-old grandson which for some reason had a higher merit value than a group of photographers. After 200 miles I came across a rest area and decided that would do for the parking spot for the night so I have a good 12 hour’s sleep.
The gas cylinder and the headlights were meant to be fixed in Tucson but they felt there was no problem and naturally now I have found I have a major problem, but if I did not want to have problems I would have stayed at home.
After spending some time with David I carried on the road north towards Minneapolis stopping at Shelbyville for the night.
Filling up with petrol this morning at Shelbyville I saw they also had propane so I filled up the propane tank which took almost 5 gallons that’s when I discovered the water heater was not working properly. I scouted around Indianapolis moving slightly West so that the route to Minneapolis would not take me through Chicago and its traffic so I stopped the night at a rest area on the freeway close to the Mississippi river.
The tyres that I’d had fitted to the rear one of was losing air pressure so I spent some time today looking for a repair shop that could handle this while I waited and that took up most of the day.
I arrived in Edina about 1 PM and as I had been told that France Street was blocked off I put into the GPS to avoid France Street and it took me right around the city the long way and placed me in 58th Street on the wrong side of France Street so after all of that I drove around the block and ended up outside the house, I had texted Luda that I was blocked and she set off to show me the way which I had worked out so five minutes later we were both in the same location.
Friday the 11th
We left Edina about 12 o’clock with lots of tears flowing from the womenfolk and drove on North towards Fargo stopping at Clearwater to fill up the refrigerator with proper food and whilst were there we called at a RV shop and had the technician look at the water heater, he fiddled with it and said it should work and so we drove on to St Cloud and stopped at a camping ground where we discovered the hot water was not working!
We left some Cloud heading on the motorway straight through to Fargo and had to content with all the 18 wheelers going past at maximum speed and then the roadworks where we were reduced down to barely a single lane, so we were pleased to see the signposts welcoming us to Fargo with 100,000 population.
We realised would have to get the hot water fixed before we left Fargo so today we wanted around the repairs shops to see who, that were listed in our GPS were still in business or still in the same location, we settled on two and checked into a campground that was the closest to the larger one of the two.
We arrived at the repairs shop good and early to be told that there was a three week waiting list for us to have something done to our motor home so we went off to the other repairs shop and he was all for sending us on the road to the repairs shop somewhere in Bismarck, he suggested telephoning ahead and I asked him who and what, and then he had another look at the water heater decided it was a gas valve, said he could have one here by 1 PM tomorrow and he could fit it then. So with that more or less organised was back to the campground where we watched films for the rest of the afternoon and relaxed.
Sharp on 1 PM we are back at the repairs shop and yes the valve had arrived at about 30 minutes later it was fitted along with two other minor parts which he felt needed replacing and after leaving $300 at the shop we were on our way West, stopping in Jamestown for the night.
We left Jamestown and carried on West towards Bismarck which I believe is the capital of North Dakota but is substantially smaller than Fargo. North Dakota is certainly not a highly populated state matters very obvious by the number of vehicles on the road and a large distance between shopping opportunities which you see in more populated states.
Today we left the parking lot in Bismarck and drove to our first stopping point, a Lewis and Clarke visitors centre where for seven dollars you could view a illustrated history of their outstanding adventures and finding a way to the Pacific Ocean, and from there we moved on to a Indian Museum and beyond that a model of an Indian village which was very well preserved and about a mile walk from the museum.
We carried on a roundabout route to the Missouri State Park where we are camped in a basic camping site with electricity for $15 a night. To get to the site are passed through a lot of North Dakota farming landscape and were starting to see an abundance of oil Wells scattered across the farmland with whole towns geared to serving this industry with all of the pumps holding tanks et cetera on display. We are noticing that sunflowers seem to be a major crop, but the whole area is sparsely populated is not uncommon to see signposts at the exit of motorways indicating that there are no services at this exit.
Coming to the State Park the road ran alongside a magnificent canyon which in a couple more million years may equal the Grand Canyon but we will not have time to wait round to see that, on this trip.
It was back on the main road and the first thing that we did was go down and 8% grade to the bottom of the canyon drove from little while passed oil rigs, or oil storage tanks, pumps working overtime and general maintenance areas for all of above, and a course was up an 8% grade to the top of the canyon and it was more or less like that for most of the morning and is interesting to see collections of oil pumps up to 10 in the one location all working in unison. Couple locations we saw two new oil wells being drilled again with multiple pumps on their location.
We crossed over into Montana early afternoon and put our clocks forward one hour and we decide to spend the night in a little village called Culbertson.
We carried on across Montana, known as the big sky country, but we think there’s quite a lot of dust in the year so it is inclined to be little bit hazy and needs have a good rain to clear the sky. If we thought North Dakota was sparsely populated Montana is almost like before the Europeans came except of course for all the cultivation is certainly not by the number of houses have seen. As I drive mile after mile towards a never ending horizon I think what must been like in a bullock cart going west and I wondered what hardships I would have experienced by the time I got to the location that I am in my 2009 RV.
It’s obvious that the early settlers came from a wide variety of countries and towns as today we passed through Fraser, Kintyre, Chelsea, and up ahead Glasgow and tomorrow we will see Zürich.
When we crossed into Montana is almost as if the oil pipeline had been turned off as we hardly saw any oil Wells being worked and we had entered into a vast prairie unlike anything we had seen outside Kazakhstan.
As we passed through Wolf Point which happened to be a town in the middle of a Sioux reservation we stopped thinking we may see a little bit of Indian history but no, this particular area had been open to European settlers for a short period of time and then the land that was not occupied was turned into a Indian Reservation, so the town of Wolf Point was outside the reservation and the museum was devoted to the bits pieces that the early settlers brought with them from their home towns and is interesting how similar these museums are in the majority of the countries we had visited.
We found a spot were the Missouri River had been dammed, supposedly the largest earth dam in America, it had formed a immense lake which was very popular with all types of powerboats and we also found a spot where we could stop and camp for up to 14 days and we stopped there for the one night.