Our MCI MC8 Challenger had not really gone anyplace since we picked it up in Anaheim almost 9 months earlier. We had completed the interior with donated materials and gifts from family; Cherry composite floors in the front, vinyl tile floors throughout the back, childrens' room in the back with three bunks, seating with seat-belts for all family members, trimmed in pine, redwood, teak and bamboo. Finally, we completed the conversion from Bus to Mobilehome/RV with the California Highway Patrol, then registered and insured. My 8V71 Detroit Diesel was warming up and I was not even sure I could get it out of the driveway. Turned out I made it look easy.
The excitement continued to build as we headed for our first stop in Pismo Beach. The only really eventful part of this first leg was the fact that it was so uneventful, except for our Bus passing cars trucks and RV's with ease, I actually had to concentrate on keeping my speed down, something I never had to deal with in previous RVs.
The kids were delighted to be traveling again and were discovering animals all over our campground in Pismo. We met some family and even stayed some extra days while waiting for an appointment at camping world for an oil change for our MCI. They told us they needed a few days lead time to prepare for our older vehicle (1973) . We actually enjoyed this time and celebrated the fact that split second timing what once again not really a part of our lifestyle. I noticed a problem with one of our Tag-axle air bags and a mobile mechanic helped me work it out in the park.
Upon arrival at Camping World, we discovered that several days was not nearly enough lead time as they did not have the parts, oil or now-how to do an oil change on our bus, they also neglected to call and let us know, so we had wasted several days waiting for the appointment and actually showing up for it.
We next headed to Quartzite AZ, a destination we had missed the previous year due to the crash, to meet a couple traveling families. This was the kids first opportunity to make friends back on the road and they really made the most of it in the dry Arizona desert. The kids were flourishing, making friends, discovering new animals, and playing new games. We stayed 3 days in Quartzite making some great friends and discovering a new RV mecca to head back to in the future. There are literally thousands of RVs and opportunities for fulltimers open to them. You can even look it up online.
Our first day out of Quartzite had us passing the exact location of the crash and it was a moment we commemorated with candy for all, Lex suggested we make the same celebration every year and at each passing of the location, something which we all agreed to do. We decided our next true stop would be the South Llano River in Texas, since there really wasn't anything else we wanted to see in Arizona or New Mexico on this pass, so after Wally Docking a couple more nights that was our next stay.
We had stayed in South Llano River in the last year and looked forward to it with great anticipation. This is lovely little Texas State Park just a short distance off of the I10 in the Texas Hill Country. While there we saw Deer, Turkey, Cardinals, and Antelope. Getting back on our bikes after so many months of sedentary life in Watsonville reminded us of muscles we had almost forgotten we possessed. Our travel lifestyle was missed in mind, heart, and body, but welcoming it back did come with a few aches and pains. We also learned that our new ride was a very nice place to live on the road providing all the comforts we had gotten used to calling home.
I can't over state how huge Texas is. I mean, honestly that place goes on forever and ever unless you are crossing on the I40. Heading East once you pass San Antonio it is basically flat and straight for almost 800 miles and Houston is really just a huge Urban sprawl that takes hours to cross. As much as we love other parts of Texas we hate this part and only wanted to get to Louisiana.
Once in Louisiana we decided to stay in Lafayette at a KOA were we had before stayed for our Halloween, this time we made plans for our first Mardi Gras. After stuffing ourselves with Boudin and Cracklins' we dragged the slightly confused children to what we told them would be a surprising parade. We were not disappointed with their shock and delight at dozens and dozens of floats throwing them presents and so many beads they were brought to their knees several times each and were forced to remove and store their "Mr. T" starter kits and start over. After a fond farewell to LA and the Mardi Gras mess left by the revelers we Wally-Docked in Waveland Mississippi with plans for something all Travelers love, a "freebie."
If you have never visited Naval Air Station Pensacola, they have a spectacular admission free air museum that is not to be missed if you get the chance. It has both static and mountable exhibits for the kids, for homeschoolers this is also a great educational history opportunity. Plan to spend most of the day there as we spent a half day and only saw less than half of the exhibits.
The Bus still needed an oil change and it turned out a couple of air bags so we stayed at an awful Days Inn in Orlando right next to the "lovely" Orlando Jail while our bus was worked on at the MCI service center. The folks at MCI were spectacular, and I can't say enough good things about MCI and the helpfulness of their employees. I felt they did everything to stand behind the 39 year old MCI that we now owned.
A short drive from the MCI service center brought us to the Thousand Trails RV Resort near Orlando for a meeting of other Traveling Families in the area. The kids have made new friends, started their Florida tans, and Mom and Dad have genuinely started to get back into shape. I will make more updates as they come up and check out the pictures I will soon be posting.