RV Life – A Trial Run, Part 1 (Route 66)

A Trial Run - Route 66 Museum
Clinton, Oklahoma. Learn about the Mother Road.

Making the decision to live the RV life can be a difficult process. Trial Run

A trial run to experience the good and the bad helped me decide.

Try it before you buy it“. That’s sound advice.

It was her idea. My wife Cheri always had a vision in her mind of traveling the country in an RV exploring the “beautiful distance”. That vision was inspired by her parents at a very young age. She has vivid memories of family trips in the old station wagon or van seeing places like Arizona, California, Colorado, Tennessee, and New York. Trial Run

Some of her best memories are still alive in her heart from days gone by, some 50 years ago. When life presented an opportunity to realize the dream and relive those childhood memories there wasn’t much convincing required for her to pursue the idea, except for me.

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I had some experience with RVs. Two trips to Alaska about 20 years ago gave me some pretty good insight to how amazing it can be. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a full-time lifestyle out of it. The idea of not having a house or community roots was a foreign concept to me. So, she wisely proposed, “try it before you buy it”.

A Trial Run - Four Winds Class-C RV
Stock photo of a 2016 Four Winds, similar to the one we rented.

Why not rent an RV for a couple weeks and give it a trial run? Excellent idea. So that’s what we did.

In the summer of 2016, we set out from Franklin, Tennessee in a Four Winds C-class motorhome for a grand adventure in the wide-open American West. The Grand Canyon was our destination.

We planned our first stop in Clinton, Oklahoma to see the Route 66 Museum. We learned the first lesson in RV travels during the all-night drive bouncing across Interstate-40. Lock down all loose objects in the vehicle!

Every pothole, bridge, and asphalt heave we ran over … the oven rack, the microwave spin plate, pots and pans, dishes, all of it!

There was no point in trading off drivers through the night because no one could sleep with that racket. We were so tired when we arrived in Clinton that we slept in the museum parking lot for a few hours before going in.

A Trial Run - 1957 Chevy
Car fans will recognize this classic right away, the ’57 Chevy.

The museum was great, offering a wonderful perspective of Americana in the early days of vehicle travel.

We learned about the Dust Bowl and how the “Mother Road” was built.

We saw hundreds of antique artifacts and, of course, classic cars!

We pushed onward through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The sunset filled the Albuquerque sky with vivid southwest colors as we ventured further along I-40 and crossed the Arizona border to find a rest stop for the night.

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A memorable fuel-stop that day came shortly after crossing the Texas-New Mexico border at Russell’s Travel Center. It was a great operation with a fresh and clean appearance that offered just about every convenience a traveler could ask for.

What made it memorable for me was how they stayed true to the Route 66 experience. Dozens of beautiful cars were on display, new and old, paying tribute to the romance of the American Highway. Thousands of unique collectibles and shiny souvenirs filled the shelves, offering a wide array of eye candy for tourists with a few dollars to spend, or a few hundred! I was lucky to get out of there with my travel budget intact!

The next day we ventured deep into Arizona. It was a marathon day as we experienced several major points of interest.

A Trial Run - Petrified Forest National Park
Remnants of an ancient forest. How did it get there? Perhaps Noah’s Flood?

Petrified Forest National Park

Acres of wide-open space littered with the fossilized remains of an ancient forest.

We started at the visitor center and bought a colorful chunk of petrified wood. We then followed the park road through miles of magnificent desolation stopping at a few points of interest for close-up views of petrified trees.

A memorable stop included ancient petroglyphs drawn onto the rock centuries ago, perhaps millennia.

A Trial Run - The Painted Desert
Colorful mounds stretch to the horizon.

The Painted Desert

A vast landscape of rolling badlands splashed with brilliant colors.

Like a living piece of artwork this canvas of creation radiates hues of deep lavender, rich gray, red, orange, and pink.

We stopped at several overlooks to stare at the scenic wonder.

A Trial Run - El Rancho Holbrook Arizona
Renamed and remodeled, this Route 66 location dates back to the 1950s.

Holbrook, Arizona

A quaint little desert town of 5,000 that continues the iconic Route 66 experience. We didn’t have much reason to stop there besides fuel and food.

By appearances alone, the El Rancho Restaurant & Motel isn’t much to look at. But whoever was in the kitchen that day prepared a plate of delectable southwest flavors.

Classic enchiladas covered in a vibrant green hatch chili sauce. The taste was so fresh and delicious it’s etched into our memories to this day.

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A Trial Run - On a Corner in Winslow Arizona
Such a fine site to see.

Winslow, Arizona

The classic Eagles song plays over outdoor speakers downtown as tourists take their turn to “Stand on the Corner“.

A colorful wall mural stands behind a bronze statue of the songwriter, Jackson Browne.

A Trial Run - The Meteor Crater
More than just a big hole in the ground, the Meteor Crater is a natural wonder.

The Meteor Crater

Rich with historical and geological curiosities, the giant bowl-shaped cavity is 550 feet deep and nearly a mile wide.

It was designated as a Natural Landmark in 1968 by the US Department of the Interior and was used by NASA as a training location for the Apollo Moon Missions.

Remnants of the massive meteor that fell there ages ago are on display.

A Trial Run - Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
A place of geological wonder and natural beauty.

Sunset Crater Volcano

Just before reaching Flagstaff is US Highway 89 that runs alongside the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.

We took a short drive through the monument and was treated to some spectacular views.

Ancient lava flows cover the slopes with deep red rock formations as majestic mountains towered all around us.

We set our sights back to the main destination. The camp site was still about 2 hours away, so we pressed-on for miles and miles through vast Navajo lands. We passed through rocky canyons, crossed over deep river gorges, and crested over high mountain summits. The beauty was endless.

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Canyon Encounter

With a couple hours of daylight to spare we arrived at the Grand Canyon and made a short stop at the Desert View Watchtower.

Cheri had been there before as a child, but this was my first encounter with the canyon. As I stood on the rim gazing in wild wonder it felt like the giant crevasse was drawing me in, pulling me down. The strange sensation had me feeling a bit off-balance.

The vastness of the landscape boggled my mind. Pictures pale in comparison to the in-person experience of witnessing such a profound sight. I have no words. You simply must experience this for yourself.

Exhausted, we settled-in for the night at a cozy little camp site at the Mather Campground. What an amazing day! Over 300 miles and seven points of interest. Fantastic!

Psalm 95:4-5

  • RV Life A Trial Run Part 1 Grand Canyon First Look
  • RV Life A Trial Run Part 1 Grand Canyon
  • RV Life A Trial Run Part 1 Grand Canyon Reaction

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Steve Coryell