Saturday, September 29, 2012

Westbound, MO, KS and OK

Hitting the road is one of my favorite things.  I love life on the road seeing America as it really is.  The trip for me is the journey and not the destination.  I plan on doing a few of these over the coming year.  My inaugural trip in the Sprinter was Route 66 with my beagle Ruby.  She is a rescue dog that we adopted in April of this year and this would be her first time on the road.  Luckily she loves to travel also!

 Seeing as I love the southwest I made good interstate time through Illinois and Missouri and hooked up with Route 66 in Joplin and followed that into Kansas where it takes a short spin through that state.  Then down into Oklahoma where I felt like I was finally getting into the west.  At 11:30 that night I was ready to get off the road so I stayed in a truck stop in Big Cabin, OK.  I found a corner tucked in next to the semi's and had lots of grass around for walking Ruby that evening and the next morning.  I ran the generator all night with the roof AC going and I didn't hear a thing until we woke up that next morning at sunrise and went for a walk.  Then on to a full day of driving to get farther west and into the land I love.  Great weather meant easy travel.  Next up is Texas and New Mexico.

 Common view on the interstate.

 Joplin, MO Route 66, no building left but the sign still stands.
 Route 66 in Baxter Springs, Kansas downtown.
 The sun rises as The Chief stands ready at the entrance of The Wood Shed truck stop in
Big Cabin, OK.
Morning at The Wood Shed, Big Cabin, Oklahoma.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RV Changes

One part of changing the direction of my photography back to what I really love involves vehicles, specifically RV's.

I didn't want to be tied down to retail photography anymore.  No more worrying about keeping hours and all the followup work.  No more working sports games and other peoples schedules into my own.  Just concentrate on the photography that I want to do and when I feel like doing it.  Part of that entails traveling to where I want to go and how I'm going to get there.

Traveling by air is fast.  And a huge hassle.  I don't mind private or corporate flights but I am really tired of the cattle-call of modern-day commercial airline travel.  Trains are out of the question.  Though I think trains are great, this country does not have good options for train travel.  I love driving so that has always been my preferred choice.  And traveling by RV is a great way to go so I can stop when and where I want and always have a place to be for the night when needed.

This past summer I traded off my trusty 'ol Fleetwood Providence motor home.  It was a great unit that served us well through 29 states and a whole bunch of miles.  Truth be told, I still miss it at times.  She measured 40 feet with a Cat C7 turbodiesel, airbrakes, PacBrake, the whole shebang.  With the Chevy Suburban being towed behind it the whole rig was 65 feet long.  She was a blast to drive.  But she was getting a little long in the tooth and things needed to be done.  Looking at my long to-do list for her, and thinking about the small amount of camping we were actually doing I thought it was time to say goodbye.

The problem was, I still liked the idea of having an RV for travel.  But I was thinking about something smaller since we didn't camp much but preferred to vacation at resorts or hotels.  I kept thinking a Sprinter van RV conversion would be a nice way to go for family travel.   And...when I wanted to go on photo trips with just me and the dog I didn't need to have a huge rig.  Preferably I wanted to drive something that would fit in a lot of places without the hassle and not have a toad (towed vehicle).  A Sprinter sounded like a good compromise.  Sprinters are made by Mercedes-Benz and powered by a Mercedes-Benz turbo-diesel for outstanding durability and great fuel mileage.  It would give me some room for having my own place to sleep wherever I was and still small enough to drive as a "car."  Driving a 24 foot "van" is like driving a Smart car after being used to driving a 65-foot-long, 13 foot tall rig.

I've always had a thing for the old VW Microbus.  You know, the old Hippie Van.  The Sprinter, to me at least, is like a modern day version, though decidedly upscale over the old microbus.  But it has that go-anywhere, anytime attitude.

So in comes the new Sprinter.  My conversion was done by Winnebago in Forest City, Iowa. She's 24 feet long and just under 10 feet high.  Just the right size to whip around in the city and be comfortable on the highway.  She's equipped with a stove, microwave, fridge/freezer, 2 sinks, a small bathroom w/ shower, TV w/ DVD and an electric fold down rear couch that converts to a queen size bed. If I get tired I just look for a place to park for the night whether it be a rest area, truck stop, BLM land, scenic overlooks or whatever.  Maybe even a campground if I need to fill water, dump tanks and get reliable wifi for an evening.
When I'm on the back roads I have a tendency to drive by something and want to whip around and go back and photograph it. The Sprinter makes it easy to turn around and go back to what caught my eye.  In the old rig it was a hassle to do that.

Some iPhone snapshots of the Sprinter.

One big adjustment with the new RV is that it is small.  I've had to learn how to pack an RV all over again.  I've learned that I really didn't need all that "stuff" in the rig, except the camera equipment.  While there are tradeoffs going to a much smaller unit, so far I am very satisfied.  Roaming around the country and getting 24 mpg in my "house" is pretty cool.

Next up....heading west