Monday, September 28, 2009


Food, foodstuff, fare, provisions, groceries, chow, victuals, rations, cuisine, fodder - whatever name you give it, you still have to figure out how to use it wisely.

We left home with some food essentials - bread, butter, eggs, bacon, two steaks, frozen vegetables, canned fruit, and healthy snacks. I had every intention of eating healthy on the road. I envisioned stopping at roadside stands for fresh local fare.

We’ve shared and fully enjoyed gourmet meals with family and friends, but we have resorted to some bad-for-us behaviors as well. We seldom fix breakfast because we’ve discovered we can be satisfied gastronomically and financially with the McDonald’s dollar breakfast menu and their senior coffee. We’ve gone to great lengths to search out local soul food restaurants for bar-b-que and “chittlins.” We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the campground clubhouse in Dallas. We’ve had to refill our healthy snack stash more than once because we lunch and munch on it as we ride. We've not found one roadside fruit stand on the interstate highways we travel.

McDonalds is salty and processed. Soul food too is salty and the “vegetable” sides include candied yams, rice and gravy, and macaroni and cheese. In addition, a sweet delight to-go is a must. Eating almonds, bananas and grapes all day defeats the purpose of healthy snacks. This is not wholesome behavior!!!

When we get home we’ll have to go to a detox spa, a weight loss program and the gym seven days a week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Keep On Truckin'

What impact has technology had on the trucking industry? Judging by the number of 18 wheelers on the road it appears that America is very dependant upon the trucking industry to meet its need for goods and food. Trucks have not been replaced by computers and robots are not driving the trucks. Day and night truckers are crisscrossing America moving everything from mail to moo cows.

Truckers are accommodated with truck lanes, truck parking, and truck stops equipped with lounges and showers. There are trucker welcome centers and guidebooks for truckers. Roadside rest stops are filled with trucks soon after nightfall and South Carolina has roadside rest stops for truckers only.

I’ve been told that the independent trucker who owns his own rig and contracts to transport goods has been severely impacted by the significant increase in the cost of fuel because the large trucking companies are able to buy fuel in bulk at a lower cost.

Interestingly, we see Walmart trucks more often than any other. Walmart is moving a large amount of stuff and obviously selling a large amount of stuff. We’ve contributed to Walmart sales by purchasing a good part of a truckload since we left home - everything from a fire extinguisher to raincoats to snacks.

Some of the trucks are actually quite pretty. One day I hope to be able to climb up into one and look inside the cab. I hear they have many of the comforts of home – bed, microwave, and refrigerator. I suppose I could just walk up to one of the drivers and ask if I could look inside, but that would be way out of my comfort zone.

Although at times on the road they can make you apply the brakes or grip the armrest, truckers are usually willing to help when asked for information. You can also follow the lights of a truck ahead if the weather is bad and visibility is poor. Kudos to truckers, they’re coping with inclement weather, rough roads, errant drivers, and long hours. They’re going to every part of the country hauling what we need.

And I bet you thought the title "Keep On Truckin' was something about us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Rain and fellowship with family seem to be constants as we travel. After a rainy weekend in Atlanta, we headed to Savannah. The national news reports of flooding in the southeast made our family back in California wonder about our safety. At times we wondered ourselves. Just outside of Birmingham we gassed up, got on the freeway, traveled eleven miles, and pulled into a rest stop to wait it out. The rain came down in sheets for nearly an hour.

Our stay in Atlanta was enhanced by the joy of seeing great grandson Raymond Michael for the first time. He is quite the little guy - constantly moving and trying new things. It is always amazing to watch children testing to see what works and what doesn’t – from figuring out how to get attention to unloading a drawer full of pots and pans. You can almost see their brains working as they try new things. What an experience to watch your adult children grandparent. We have to smile as they coo over their grandchildren just like we do.

Oh Savannah, what a city. Our nephew and niece, Cedric and Yelina, and their family made it magical. The entire family was enthusiasticly involved in seeing that we got a taste of Savannah. He’s a history buff and she’s a dedicated teacher, thus their guided tours were filled with interesting information about the city and its history. We spent an evening on the riverfront listening to and watching local artisans as a ship navigated the harbor. They showed us the coffles once used to restrain slaves as they waited to be sold. We took pictures of the first African American church. They even made sure we got a taste of the local epicurean delights by feeding us a dish called Low Country Boil. Loaded with seafood, it was delicious – so much so that I bought a postcard with the recipe for Monique so she can cook it when we get home.

In Savannah too was a fine new little Hunt, their grandson Cameron, testing and trying. Cooing going on here too.

We’re in Fayetteville, NC now. We’ll explore and visit family and friends in North Carolina for the next few days. What do you know, there’s rain in the forecast for the next few days.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is Cheap Coming Back?

Thrift and frugality were the American way in the early years of our history. Ben Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” My slave ancestors learned to make something out of nothing – chitterlings, hog maws and fried anything.

As the country grew and progressed Americans were encouraged to start spending to boost the economy. Spending became an act of patriotism. Charge accounts, charge plates and credit cards became the rage. Consumption became the American way.

Today’s economy has made many of us return to more simple living. We’re cancelling cable, giving our kids home haircuts, buying only what we need and using coupons at the grocery store. The internet has scores of Web sites with cost cutting ideas.

It seems though that the almighty dollar is still strong. I am struck by the overabundance of dollar stores we’ve seen as we ride. The Dollar General, the Dollar Store, the 99 cents Only Store, the Family Dollar Store, the Dollar Depot, the 99 cents Connection and the Dollar Bee all seem to be thriving. Roam around in one of these stores and you can find a little bit of everything – from auto care goods to zucchini. Throw too many items in that cart and you’ve spent a 20 dollar bill in no time. Can everything we really need be found in a dollar store? Are we cheap, thrifty or frugal? Is this the new rage?

We're In Atlanta

The scenery is beautiful. The freedom to move around the country at our own speed is a gift. But, nothing beats the time we spend with family and friends.

While in Dallas we visited with our four California-escapee friends. As they have before, Cynthia and Jim opened their home to us and treated us like royalty. Their hospitality is superb. Cynthia’s cooking is wonderful. Linda still has her sense of humor and made us laugh. Nate drove us around Dallas in his pick-up truck with me squeezed in the middle feeling a bit like a teenager. We went from thrift store to thrift store looking for, of all things, a computer mouse. Some things never change.

We traveled on to Lake Charles, LA where we spent a wonderful time with our niece and nephew, Alice and Larvell. Larvell gave us a guided tour of the area’s interesting sights. Later we had dinner at one of the riverboat casinos and talked the evening away.

We just arrived in Atlanta for a visit with Bob’s son and to see a great grandson for the first time.

We’ve already driven over 3000 miles and I believe over half of them have been rainy. It has rained everywhere we’ve stopped. There were six and a half inches of rain in 35 hours while we were at the campground outside of Dallas. We were forced to purchase real rain jackets after getting drenched going from the truck to the camper. We made our selection, went through the check stand, put the jackets on and wore them out of the store. Reminiscent of kids with new shoes. It appears the rain isn’t over as rain is in the Atlanta forecast for tomorrow. In addition, the muggy heat is intense.

Having your lodging on your vehicle has its advantages, but having a house requires work. We’ve dealt with a temperamental refrigerator and discovered a leak in our bedroom area. A leak in all this rain made for a wet mattress. Thank goodness Bob is a good maintenance man. I’m good at standing around acting like an apprentice and fetching tools and supplies. Through it all we’re laughing and having fun.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Let Me Put A Bug In Your Ear

Run, and I do mean “run” the other way the next time someone whispers conspiratorially, “Let me put a bug in your ear.”

As I enjoyed the morning quiet of the St. David, Arizona campground a bug flew into my ear. My natural reaction was to swat at it. Not a smart reaction. I wiggled my ear and shook my head. We went on with our departure preparations, but my ear was feeling very irritated. I went to Wal-Mart, bought and used a kit for getting ear wax out and we moved on down the road. Throughout the day and night the ear continued to bother me. By morning of the next day I knew I should see a doctor. We used the GPS (yes, it is often useful) and located a hospital emergency room at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque just 17 miles away. We roamed around the area for half an hour looking for a parking lot to accommodate our rig and finally managed to find our way to a desk with a person ready to help. I dug my Kaiser travel kit out, confident I was armed with what I needed and proud of myself for being prepared.

On the day when President Obama was scheduled to deliver a much anticipated health care reform address to the US congress and the nation I experienced the best and the worst of our health care system. We arrived at the hospital at 10:30AM and I was immediately checked in by a clerk who, when I asked about the wait time, smilingly assured us this check-in part would be the shortest. How right he was. Two hours later I was called to be “triaged.” I had my vitals taken, was given a bracelet, saw a nurse who looked in my ear, and was told to return to the waiting room. I’ve now told my story to three people. We sat there for another hour and finally I’m called to see the doctor and tell my story to yet another person. Now I’m asked if I have insurance. I get the feeling I’m expected to say no, but “Yes, I have Kaiser and here’s my card and my emergency claim form.”

“Great, let me see the card and you can go into the examining room.”

I tell my story to a nurse who takes my vitals, again.

I wait another 45 minutes, sitting on the end of a gurney, feet dangling. The doctor comes in, hears my story, pokes around in my ear and takes my blood pressure. “Mrs. Hunt your blood pressure is high. Are you being treated for high blood pressure?” I say yes as I think to myself, “Well yes it’s high I’ve just been waiting for more than three hours in the most crowded and crazy waiting room I’ve ever seen and I have a bug in my ear.

“It looks like you got the bug out because I don’t see it, but your ear is irritated. I’m going to have another doctor look at it to be sure.” says the doctor.

Oh yes, I forgot this is a university medical center and doctors are in training. Fifteen minutes later the diagnosis is confirmed and I’m told the nurse will come and give me my discharge care instructions. Discharge, I didn’t know I had been admitted. After five hours, I’m discharged with instructions to take Tylenol, apply a warm compress and come back if it isn’t better in 48 hours.

During my time in the waiting room I see one person collapse and fall from her chair to the floor. She’s lifted by staff members and taken somewhere in the back. I later see her waiting in one of the examining rooms. Another woman tells me she has no insurance because she lost her job and her husband can’t get her on his insurance until open enrollment. I know better than that. It’s pathetic that people don’t know their rights. Yet another woman tells me she has no insurance because her employer doesn’t pay for any of it and she can’t afford the plan. A man a few seats away is on his cell phone telling someone his father’s being admitted and he has no health insurance, but he’s a veteran so they’ll hopefully be able to use that. A friendly woman tells me this hospital is known for having a long wait period because they see the uninsured and since I have insurance maybe I should go over to the Presbyterian hospital. After waiting all this time I’m not going anywhere. While we sat there I also called three private ENT specialists Bob found in the phone book and they were either closed, didn’t take walk-ins or didn’t take insurance.

The best and the worst of our health care system - the care was superb and the staff was very competent, but the wait was insufferable. Having to wait hours in a hospital emergency room to see a doctor is inhumane, whether one is insured or not. Private specialists can be selective about who they see. Yes, Mr. President we need our healthcare system overhauled so that everyone has access to health care.

Now, let me put a bug in your ear. Our health care system needs immediate attention. I’m thankful I have health insurance. A bug in your ear hurts. I can de-bug my own system.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We're In Dallas

After languishing in the San Diego area for a few days we turned east about 4PM Sunday afternoon. The beauty of this adventure is that we have no time schedule and no predetermined destination. Our flexibility allowed us to spend a great day with my sister Garnet on Saturday. She happily chauffeured us around to all the thrift stores in her neck of the woods. We all had something we were looking for. Garnet found hers, Bob found his and I came up empty-handed. We all had fun browsing through the junk and trying to convince each other that the item you just looked at is a “must have.”

The down side of this “no time schedule, no predetermined destination” approach is that we don’t know where we’ll be when we get tired and ready to stop. Sunday night we spent the hottest night of our lives in Blythe CA. It was at least 90 degrees at midnight. So hot we threw caution to the wind, or rather to the heat, and slept with the camper windows all open. Risky behavior.

Our rather circuitous route has finally gotten us to Dallas where we’ll spend a few days visiting friends and relaxing at the Bay Landing campground.

Things That Have Made Us Go “WOW!”

• The increased presence of the US Border patrol throughout CA, AZ and NM. At one checkpoint we were questioned about our citizenship status and our rig was sniffed by dogs. We were intimidated and stumbled through the answers to the questions. It’s a wonder we weren’t held for further investigation. Border Patrol agents are in cars up and down the freeway. They’re at service stations and freeway rest stops.

• As we drove through New Mexico yesterday bolts of lightening lit up the sky. Flashes of red and orange lit up a sky decorated with bright white, gray and slate blue clouds. Pyrotechnics just don’t measure up to nature’s own light show.

• Our GPS system sometimes just doesn’t do the job. I’ve even told her to “shut up!” And why does she chatter when we go off the freeway? Doesn’t she understand that we have to get gas and go potty? Thank goodness for a good old atlas – and we have two.

Friday, September 4, 2009

We've Only Headed South

We haven't started east yet.

After taking forever to pull out, we hit the road Tuesday afternoon.

Our first planned stop was in Lancaster, CA to get some work done on the camper at the Lance Camper dealer and to visit with daughter Karless and her children and grandchildren. The visit with family was great. We got to see grandson Tony in his own barbershop and the great grandchildren growing like weeds.

As for the visit to the Lance dealer, what can I say? We went to the "dealer." Labor is $110./hr. A one day job became two. The air conditioned waiting room was equipped with comfortable chairs and cable TV.

Then we discovered the truck air conditioner was not working properly. We were not about to head into Arizona with an improperly operating air conditioner. We had that fixed too, but we did not go to the Ford dealer.

Yesterday we stopped in Los Angeles to get an addition to our music and GPS system. What an experience. There is a whole cottage industry selling and installing electronics located in warehouse fronts on 11th Street. You can bargain for the best price and get what you buy installed immediately. I sat in a folding chair under a pop up awning in the LA heat while the installation was done. No air conditioned waiting room here. Trying not to look like the FBI or the INS, I took a picture. I'll ask Bob to post it later.

We are now in San Diego visiting family. I love visiting with my sisters! Our plan is to head east either tomorrow or Sunday.

Eastward ho. We're on our way "folks back east."

Our Rig

The first time we did the cross country road trip in 1998 we did it with Monique's beautiful new fifth wheel trailer and our truck. The truck broke down in Laramie Wyoming, we bought a new one on the spot and continued our trip. In 2001 we did it again with our own little old fifth wheel that had literally fallen apart by the time we got home. In 2006 we made the trip in Bob's little sports car with a suitcase each. This time we're using the truck we bought in Laramie and a camper.

The camper supplies basic needs. It has approximately 150 square feet of living space - bed; full kitchen, including microwave; and toilet with sink. There's a place for everything (just barely) and everything has to be in its place or one could break one's neck falling over stuff. Something is assigned to every available space. To pass one another we have to suck our tummies in. (Good breathing exercise.) All of our clothes wouldn't fit into the one small closet so we have a couple of suitcases beside the bed. The back of the truck is loaded with the camping gear for stops at campgrounds along the way. We have about a three day supply of food and water, a few snacks and a few cans of "emergency food."

What a way to learn how to live with less.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hitting the Road in a Few

In a few hours we'll be on the road again. Heading south then on to points east. We'll be blogging our journey along the way. We have no specific agenda. We'll make our plans as we go.

If we're in your neck of the woods, we might just give you a holler.