Welcome to August! As a kid, it was the month that came before we had to go back to school, and in my last post, “Takin’ Care of Business“, I described parts of the best and most epic summer vacation that my family took.
I also promised that I would write about the long and epic summer vacation trip that I took my wife and kids on, and came about mostly because of a series of misfortunes that stretched back to the previous October.
One of my sisters had moved with her family to southern California, and they did it in a motor home. Just a few years later, they were about to move to Hawaii, and asked me to fly out and drive their motor home back east.
So, out I go, and after being in an airplane most of the day, that night I started my drive back. The next afternoon, before I could get out of California, the transmission broke. I ended up spending almost a week waiting to get it fixed before finally giving up and flying back home.
A month later, the repairs completed, I headed back for a second try at driving home. This time, I finally made it out of California. Barely! Excessive heat had melted some wires and electrical connections on the transmission, preventing me from getting away from the gas pumps I had stopped at just past the Arizona line.
After being rescued and brought back to where I had already spent way too much time, the transmission guys had me back on the road the next day.
That night, not quite half way through Arizona, the driveshafts fell out. After being towed to Flagstaff, I had had enough, and flew back home again.
So, the following June, our family’s epic summer vacation began. It started the day after school had ended. We drove to Portland, and then took the bus to Logan Airport in Boston. It was a wet day and around 60 degrees when we flew out early that afternoon.
That night, when we arrived in Las Vegas at midnight, it was 98 degrees. Trust me, that much of a temperature change will get your attention!
The next day, we took a van tour to the west rim of the Grand Canyon, where we then took our first ever flight in a helicopter, followed by a river tour of the Colorado River.
The next day, we spent the entire day in the “family” section of one of the casinos. Why? Air conditioning, of course! Then it was back to the airport that night to catch a shuttle van that would take us to California, where we would get on an Amtrak train that would take us to Arizona to catch up with the motor home.
The shuttle vans were running late, but we didn’t know why until they finally arrived. Seems that Amtrak was also running late, so we had plenty of time.
When we got to the train station in Needles, in the middle of the night, we found there was no station, just an outside platform with a couple of wooden luggage holders, which as the night went on, my kids crawled around in and actually caught a nap in.
Meanwhile, there were a few local people and a business that kept checking in with Amtrak and would pass on the latest info. Very nice folks.
Finally, many hours late, the Amtrak train arrived, and we climbed on board, taking our first-ever train ride as a family.
Originally, we were scheduled to arrive in Flagstaff in the middle of the night. I had crossed my fingers that there would be a nearby motel, but it was morning by the time we arrived, so we caught a break there. Instead, we caught a taxi and went to where the motor home was.
After some last-minute fixes, we headed out to the best place to park a motor home while gathering needed provisions. Yes, we went to Walmart.
As we were about to finally leave, I noticed we had an electrical issue, so instead of leaving, we drove back to the RV repair place and parked nearby.
The next morning, they came and knocked on the door, having seen us when they came in. They made some tests, and determined that a couple of the coach batteries were toast. They replaced them, and sent us on our way.
We didn’t get far, when the electrical gremlins returned. So, we went back, and as soon as the head guy could free himself from other customers, he came right over. After some quick poking around, they figured out that some electrical thingy had failed, but they wouldn’t have it until the next day.
So, we tracked down a rental car, and off we went to visit several of the National Monuments in the area, which we would not have done except for the extra down time we now had.
They say third time’s the charm, and so it was for us. We headed south, with the idea to check out the Phoenix area.
In late June, Arizona is freaking hot in the middle of the day, especially since the air conditioner in the motor home almost quit working about an hour after we left Flagstaff. It was at least bearable when we were driving at highway speed, so we didn’t stop until we got to Tuscon.
The next morning, we visited a couple of tourist attractions until it just got too hot for us. We then headed southwest, and then north, ending up in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where we spent the entire next day in Carlsbad Caverns, where it was nice and cool underground.
Another repair to fix the blower motor fan in the motor home (which also fixed the Air Conditioning issue we had) and we were back on the road. Our next planned stop was St. Louis, where we spent a couple of days, including celebrating Independence Day at The Arch, which included fireworks that night over the Mississippi River.
The next night, we left, but had to keep an eye and ear out for the strong Thunderstorms passing through, which included multiple tornadoes. More excitement and adventure for our kids from New England.
For the rest of the trip, it was mostly uneventful, except for when a rear tire blew out in the middle of Pennsylvania.
It was a long and fun adventure. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take another one, given all our summer schedules over the next several years. But we all remember this epic cross-country trip.