In a recent interview, I was asked how far we typically drive in a day. We like taking our time and consider 200 miles a long driving day. Even then, it's something we usually do only when we're trying to "get there" like at the beginning or end of a trip. I thought the interviewer, Mike Wendland, seemed a little surprised. He told me that he and his wife "take their time" by driving until they reach 300 miles or 3:30 pm.
You might agree that is still not a bad pace. After all, at 60 miles per hour, 200 miles is not even 3 and 1/2 hours on the road. But, being shunpikers, we can drag 200 miles out much longer!
I'm not going to pretend we don't drive the Interstate highways but we're always looking for routes that can avoid them without altering our course. Even if just for a few miles at a time, we enjoy the break. Last week we drove home from the southwest. It took us 10 days to drive 1700 miles from Questa, New Mexico to our home in Ontario. By including a variety of interesting stops, these were not just travel days but they became as memorable as the rest of this 4-and-1/2-month-long trip.
Even on our way out of the state, there were new discoveries that required investigating. Hwy 38 east from Questa took us through Cimarron Canyon - a gorgeous drive (with several stops to check the scenery)!
By noon, we had only made 55 miles. Perfect timing to stop for lunch at the St. James Hotel in the town of Cimarron. It had been recommended for good food but also as a must-see landmark for anyone who thinks the west was never as wild as claimed. Former guests of the hotel include Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Jessie James, Billie the Kid, Bat Masterson, Clay Allison, Doc Holliday, Pat Garret, and Wyatt Earp.
The bullet holes in the tin ceiling above the table where we had lunch are real and original. Twenty-six men were killed in this building, which is considered haunted by their ghosts! One of the guest rooms is no longer rented for this reason.
We decided to stop and catch a few shows in Branson. We stayed two nights in the Turkey Creek Escapees RV Park which is very handy - just over the bridge and a short walk from Historic Branson landing. At only $5.00 per night (in boondock parking), we had access to showers, laundry, RV dump, fresh water, and some of the friendliest RVers you'll ever meet. (Do we need to remind you why we think every RVer should belong to Escapees?)
We went to three shows - all were excellent. With more than 100 shows to choose from (similarly priced around $35.00 per ticket), the hardest part was deciding which ones to see. We mixed it up with three very different types of entertainment.
We purchased our show tickets the day of and the day before the shows and still ended up with great seats (fifth row and second row center) for two of them and not bad seats for the one we bought literally hours before show time. We also paid less than half price for them but how we managed that is another story. One I figure we should tell you about, if just to warn you and tell you what we realized afterwards that we should have done but didn't.
Just like we've seen in Vegas and Orlando, there are discount ticket offers all over town and we know they are a hook for time share presentations. Believe it or not, we've never attended one of those and have always sworn we never would. We're never going to fall for that!
But, here in Branson, we heard a different twist - the presentation was not for timeshares but for something new, a discount Travel Club - and guess who fell for it? Not me! But, when 90 minutes of our time provided free breakfast for two and savings of $100.00 on our tickets, Randy signed us up. What?!!?
The presentation was relatively painless. There were about 25 other people attending. The concept was presented as a no-brainer: why wouldn't we join the Westgate Travel Club and be guaranteed luxury hotel rooms and vacation packages around the world, at the low, lifetime price of $500 per week (per suite, not per person). We could get suites to accommodate up to ten people - our whole family - at no surcharge. There was no apparent pressure until the end: if you didn't bite. This deeply discounted, one-time fee for membership was (only) $7000.00 if we bought it today.
We managed to escape without buying, even though the offer kept getting better the longer we declined. But here's what we didn't think of until we left:
We googled Westgate Travel Club - something we or any of the 25 people in the room could have done in advance or at any time during the presentation (even though they asked us to turn our phones off, of course). Google produced page after page - a staggering number of URLs highlighting this club as a scam. Many, many complaints, reviews, and lawsuits. The Better Business Bureau web site states they won't rate Westgate due to the high number of unresolved complaints.
Had we, or any of the 25 prospective suckers in the room with us, thought to use google before or during the presentation and then stood up to announce our findings (questions and comments were encouraged) in front of the crowd, how fast do you think we would have been whisked out the door and handed our free gift? Probably could have shaved an hour off our "sentence".
Just something to remember, should you ever find (or choose to put) yourself in the same situation.
Our trip home included three stops with old friends and three with friends we hadn't met yet (Boondockers Welcome members).
In Carthage, Missouri, we stopped to see an old friend, Randy Ridings, who we met in Texas 11 years ago. He's one of the most interesting people we know and has made national headlines with his quadyak - an amphibious cycle/kayak. We got to see the prototype in person and, as an added bonus, we met his delightful daughter and enjoyed an evening Art Walk at the Carthage Town Square. Great people, great art, great town! I recommend stopping even if you don't have friends here.
We routed our trip through Elkhart, Illinois to include a fitting last stop: The RV Hall of Fame Museum. So many vintage RVs under one roof was quite a trip in itself. All are in excellent condition with original interiors and furnishings.
The building also has a library with almost every RV-related publication ever printed in North America. Heck, we even managed to find an article about ourselves!
Taking our time also means we don't hesitate to take a detour when an interesting billboard or sign catches our attention. For instance, we just had to pull off in Gays, Illinois to see this one-of-a-kind historic building:
If you haven't guessed, it's a two-story outhouse. And yes, a real piece of history in this tiny hamlet. I'm sure the two questions that pop into everyone's mind are, “Why?” and "Would anyone in their right mind use the lower door?"
Okay. First answer is obvious – it used to be attached to a two-story inn. You can come up with your own answer for the second question.
Now, if you thought I was going to finish up this trip's blog series on that final note, you're wrong.
I'm already fielding questions about where we plan to go next. We have some travel ideas but this summer I have two priorities:
We'll be "taking our time" with both so don't be surprised if you don't hear much from me during the next few months.
Days on the road on current trip: 139
Total camping costs to date: $197.00
We'd love to hear your thoughts.
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