Thursday, November 2, 2006

Westward Ho: Day 12

We rolled into our driveway last night at 6pm EST. Mission accomplished, and it's good to be home.

The day started out with a futile search to find a place on the Illinois side of the Mississippi to take a picture of downtown St Louis and the Gateway Arch. After a few minutes of wandering through industrial streets and poor neighborhoods, we came across a ramp back onto the freeway and decided to just get underway towards home.

Nothing special about today's drive: 428 miles in 7:48 of drive time at an average of 62.8mph. Familiar vistas to those of us who live in this part of the country: farm fields and orange barrels.

TOTAL FOR THE TRIP: 5,413 miles and just short of 100 hours of drive time.

The inventory of states we visited:

South Dakota
North Dakota
New Mexico

The high point of the trip for me was the visit into
Yellowstone National Park, but I enjoyed all of it. A map of the whole route we took is attached below.

As we entered into western Ohio, Terry commented that she never would think of the farms around here as 'big fields.' Once you've seen the vast open farmland of Texas, most of the farms in this part of the country look quaint.

We enjoy this kind of traveling. There were times when I thought that buying a motorhome and touring the country would be a grand thing. But I don't think the economics make sense. You start with the purchase price of the motorhome itself, and it's not unusual to spend $100,000 or more for that (I worked with a guy who had a $300,000 motorhome!). Then you have the maintenance and upkeep, which is a mixture of owning another vehicle and another house. During all those days when you aren't using your motorhome, you need to have a place to store it. Once you get on the road, you've got this big beast that consumes large amounts of increasingly expensive fuel. And it would seem that you are a bit limited as to the roads you can take.

Compare that with traveling in our Suburban: it's my everyday vehicle, so no additional capital cost. Admittedly, it gets pretty poor mileage (maybe 15mpg in typical driving), but I don't put that many miles on it around town -- especially in the summer when the Harley is the prefered mode of transportation. I really like having a vehicle that is reliable, big enough to haul stuff, 4WD so we can get around in snow or to places off the beaten path, and frankly old enough that I don't get wound up about a few dings and scratches.

Beyond the capital costs, when you are on the road with a motorhome, you still need to find a place to park and hook up to utilities. I don't have a sense what this costs, but it certainly isn't free. The notion that you can just pull off the road anywhere you please and set up camp is not quite true. Although most motorhomes have holding tanks for potable water and wastewater, onboard generators for electricity, and LP gas storage for heating and cooking, the fuel for the generator and the LP gas aren't free.

So we stayed 11 nights in hotels at a total costs of under $1,000. Breakfast was free every morning, and many times we made our own picnic lunch from items we bought at supermarkets and kept in the cooler (ice obtained free from the hotel). We had a nice dinner every night, making our total food costs under $400.

When we crossed the high passes in the snow around Yellowstone, we had the security of 4WD whenever we needed it, and could pull off anywhere to admire the scenery and take pictures.

The nice thing is that when got home, we just pulled the Suburban into the garage and our vacation expenses ended. Would we buy another Suburban if this one wears out (nearly 200,000 miles now!)? Probably not -- the Suburban is a little larger than we need. But we might consider a Yukon or a TrailBlazer or something of that ilk.

So we've made our trip to New England, and a grand tour of the Great Plains and the Rockies. We've been around a good deal of the Southeast, including last year's trip to south Florida. We've driven the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego. Next July, we'll be taking a cruise to Alaska with several friends (and I'll complete my quest to visit all 50 states). And yes, we've seen the Grand Canyon.

I'm not saying that we've seen everything in America, but we've seen a lot. At the moment, I have no compelling need to go anyplace except places to hang out with the family (see my
rant about touristy places). I'm looking forward to our planned trip to the Myrtle Beach area with the extended family next June.