Our trip started early on Monday 31 May with myself, Della and Kako, our little Bichon Frise, heading out in a rented 29 foot Class C motorhome. The motorhome was well stocked with supplies, computers, GPS and mapping programs and complete equipment for 13 different ham bands. Trip planning had begun nearly a year prior to our departure. The purpose of the trip was to spend time in NJ & PA to operate what is known as the June VHF Contest. This is one of many annual Amateur (ham) Radio contests designed as a means to practice emergency communications. In this case I would set up all of my equipment in multiple locations in the two states over the contest weekend. As a note; few people know this but over 90% of the emergency communications, and virtually all of the health and welfare communications, in New York City following 9-11 was done over Amateur (ham) Radio making these contests really important training, as well as being fun. That is only one example of how ham radio assists in times of need. You can be certain that much the same effort is made following a big earthquake.
Overall we took our time on the drive. We set out for Delta Utah, our first overnight stop. We then spent some time in CO, then on to WY and then to the Mt. Rushmore area of SD (state 48 for me) where we spent 3+ days and 4 nights. What a wonderful place but more then a week is required to see all the major attractions. Then we moved on to ND (state 49) and stopped in Rugby, ND, the geographical center of North America. Over the next few days we traveled through MN, WI, IL, IN, OH and then into PA and spent the night close to my first operating location.
After the contest weekend we spent a couple of days visiting my Dad and other family members and friends in NJ and then we headed south through Delaware, Maryland, and Washington for a visit with Della’s sister and husband in Virginia. We spent a couple of days there and visited the new WWII memorial and several others. We even got to see a piece of the Berlin Wall in the Reagan building. That was exciting to see such a great piece of history.
Our next tourist stop was Nashville Tennessee where we did the Grand Old Opry and had lunch with ham friend who I have been mentoring via e-mail. Then we went to a Tuesday night Opry show and headed to Arkansas (state 50) the next morning. We were on our way to San Antonio since Della had never seen the Alamo. This gave me a reason to visit AR (couldn’t think of one before) and let me tell you AR has the worst roads I have ever seen! You’d think they were paved 50 years ago and not touched since. Also, we were over 100 miles into Arkansas on very heavily traveled I40 before a road sign even told us how far it was to Little Rock. I guess they can’t afford road signs and blacktop. But - they had money for plenty of Bill Clinton signs. Go figure!
Della and I enjoyed The Alamo (which I had seen previously) and then we had lunch with another ham and several of his ham friends. The River Walk followed lunch and we finished up our tour of San Antonio and headed back to the Campground in a heavy hail and thunderstorm. From there it was for the most part a straight drive home with only a few brief stops including Carlsbad, NM then on to Tucson, AZ. Along the way we did stop at White Sands National Monument for an hour or so but decided to save that for a later trip. From Tucson we spent two days driving back to Reno via the Hoover Dam and through Las Vegas (no donation stops there). We arrived home on 1 July. We then found that Kako somehow had saved up a lot of energy during the trip and was extra hyper for 3 or 4 days.
We learned an awful lot about rental motorhomes. They are low end units (understandably) and in our case not that well maintained (coach wise), at least by the place we rented from. We rented a Class C unit, the ones with the van front end. If we were to do it over again, we would rent a Class A unit (more bus like) but even those would be low end units I suppose. Friends had offered to let us take their 40 foot Class A unit but a few days before we left on our trip they unexpectedly needed it so we stuck with the rental unit.
If anyone is thinking of buying a motorhome, as we are, let me know and I would be happy to offer some thoughts and ideas. Maybe even a suggestion or two.
Overall the trip was quite enjoyable and we may well do it again, especially if we purchase our own coach.