By Mitch R.
Happy New Year 2015!
After four months on the road, we posted Mitch’s Interim Report Card Part I, in which we graded ourselves on how well we’ve accomplished the goals of our trip. We also named some best of the bests, like best scenery, favorite place for fun and frolicking, and favorite surprise experience.
Now, to celebrate our new life that began in 2014, it’s time for Part II, more ratings of the best of the best of what we’ve seen and experienced so far:
1. Best beaches – My vote is for Lake Tahoe, which has some really nice sandy beaches! We spent three days at several small gems on the Nevada side, including Secret Cove and Chimney Beach, and had a great time each visit. Grade: A-. Water could be warmer.
2. Favorite restaurant experience – The Turquoise Room at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, was built in the 1920s as an elegant Santa Fe Railway depot and has recently been restored as part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The atmosphere is historical, graceful southwestern charm. The menu is unique, made with local ingredients.
We didn’t expect to find such a special restaurant in the northern Arizona desert, but manager Paula Hamby at the OK RV Park in Holbrook recommended it. She even called ahead, unbeknownst to us, to reserve us a table on a busy Saturday night (which meant we didn’t have to wait). It was an amazing evening, capped off by a trip down the road to that famous place: Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona. Grade: A.
3. Most beautiful drive – The “Million Dollar Highway” from Silverton to Ouray, CO. This two-lane highway winds through the Rockies, reaching an 11,000-foot summit between these two old mining towns, which sit at 7,000 to 8,000 feet elevation. The road is one hairpin switchback turn after another, up and down the mountain, some of them greater than 180 degree turns! We did not drive the RV on this road (we took our car) and we don’t recommend anyone attempt the journey in one.
The wildlife is as amazing as the scenery. We saw bighorn sheep leap onto the road in front of us, and in Ouray we saw deer grazing downtown next to natural hot spring pools. Ouray bills itself (appropriately) as the Switzerland of America, and Silverton will make you feel like you are on the set of an old western movie. One block off of the main street the road is still unpaved, with hitching posts in front of the saloon. Don’t miss Vals’s blogpost about this adventure. Grade: A for Amazing.
4. Favorite karaoke – If you know us at all, you know we are gluttons for karaoke. Our “roadshow” has now given us the opportunity to “perform” in five different cities including Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville, Miami, and Tampa. I vote for Troubadours in Nashville. The city is just filled with musical talent so even the karaoke singers were amazing. We had a blast there! Grade: B. If only they paid us.
5. Favorite (oddest) small world story – Not the people we met in Key West who were very good friends of friends of mine from high school in Pennsylvania (who I ran into at a resort in Jamaica in 2006, which itself was an odd coincidence). Not the guy who checked us in at the RV park in Tampa who was the brother of a friend of Valerie’s from Massachusetts. Not the couple we met in Colorado that was from the next town over from us in Massachusetts, or the young guy we met in Orlando who went to middle school with my older son.
The winner of this award would have to be the mother and aunt (who we had never met before) of our good friend Christina from Georgia. We approached two older women who were birdwatching on a beach in Florida to ask them what kind of birds we were looking at. We got to talking, and despite not knowing our names, one of the women managed to figure out that we were the full-time RV friends that her daughter had been telling her about. It was just two days before we were planning to meet up with her daughter Christina and her son-in-law Bill! She said, “I know you have plans to meet! I was just visiting them. I thought it might be you!” We had to take a picture and text it to Christina immediately, who promptly freaked out, in a good way. Grade: C for Cool Coincidence with Christina’s mom.
6. Best new friends – We’ve made many awesome new friends, but we really hit it off with Mike Y. and Terry L., whom we met in Key West. We liked ‘em so much we saw Terry again in Longboat Key on our way through, and we’ve got plans to see ‘em both again soon. Grade: Two “Fun Buddy” Points Each.
7. Favorite RV park experience – A showing of the movie RV at the Tahoe Valley Campground a few weeks after Robin Williams died. We had both seen the comedy years before, but wandered past the movie tent and were sucked into it again, witnessing his comic genius just a couple weeks into our full-time RV adventure, which gave it a whole different perspective.
This was *before* we lost our engine breaks driving over the Rockies. I’m glad we did it–watched the movies and drove over the Rockies. Grade: B+. Folding chairs in tents with kids running around isn’t the best ambiance, but we’d try it again.
The first four months of our adventure haven’t lacked in excitement or fun or touching moments…and we can’t wait to see what comes next! Happy New Year!