Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: It's A Wrap

J.C. Levendecker's Dec 28, 1907 cover for the Saturday Evening Post

Having this year of 2007 come to an end is like sliding into home in game 7 of the World Series, bottom of the ninth, score tied, and hearing the Umpire scream, “SAFE!” as the crowd (Red Sox fans, no doubt) erupts into a deafening roar. That’s how good, how exciting this first year of being full time in the coach has been for us. Like the “ball game,” there were moments when we were ahead of things and times when we were trailing a bit, but there was never a lull in the action, and the excitement of our adventures built right to the very end. It’s a WIN. So on New Year’s Eve (tonight as I write this), it will be “Game Over” for this year…..But wait ‘til next season! We’re looking to repeat!

It is so incredibly tempting for me to list all the travels, the precious moments, the scary episodes, the majestic vistas, and good times with old and new friends alike - but you are already reading the blog and so you have all that before you if you care to scroll down or dip into the archives. So rather than detailing the year all over again, let me present a “book report” summary.

We visited a grand total of 32 of the 50 states in the good old US of A in this, our very first year. On the left side of the blog page at the top you will find the colored in map of those states. When you hear people tell you that we live in a beautiful country, believe it, whether you have availed yourself of the opportunity to get out there and see it yet or not. You will find all that you expect from the places that are known to you before you set out, but there is great beauty in the discovery of things and places and sights that are unknown to you. Adventures unanticipated are marvelous gifts.

We also spent some quality time in three Canadian Provinces, and there is a map to that effect as well. While “three” may not sound like very much, it is important to remember that space is BIG up there and the distance traveled though three provinces can be thousands of miles. It is for example, 2,300 miles from Seattle to Alaska. This helps put matters in perspective.

And while we’re talking about miles, the total for the year, as noted on the odometer of the coach at the Pilot Truck Stop for the last fill up of the year, crossed “home plate” at 23,571.9 miles. That, remember, is JUST THE COACH. We towed the Odyssey behind us for each and ever one of those miles, and then unhooked it whenever we needed to day-trip around where-ever we made base camp. So I’m guessing that the actual mileage driven for the year, combining both vehicles was probably near double that figure above. In any event, I can promise you we did a lot of driving. Fortunately I love to drive. We all do. Marilyn has become an excellent navigator- a skill she did not have before we set out. But practice makes perfect…and she’s had a lot of that. There were times when she was right and the GPS was wrong. That would make me “wrong” on more than one occasion when I opted to follow the directions of the GPS and not hers. I only remember one or two particular times when that happened, but somehow I’m thinking Marilyn can detail quite a few more.

We had a few repairs to deal with along the way, but nothing major (knock on wood) and in the vast majority of times, Newmar or a particular dealer or repair shop made the pain go away fast like a good “doctor” should. We took all the safety measures we thought we could and put as many redundancies in place as we could think of (and afford). We call that the "Gundy Redundancy Program." Certainly that has paid big dividends and prevented problems that may not have been easily handled. We say our little prayers that the travel continues to be safe, but we help out that process where-ever possible with good planning and common sense- or so we think!

I’d like to offer a few observations from the vantage point of one who is on the road, one way or another, on a daily basis. You are free to disagree if you like, and perhaps some of my thoughts will change with more time, but a few things seem to me to be, in general, misperceived in this country, and I just felt like offering my 2 cents worth for your consideration:

First off: gas, diesel, fuel prices in this country are NOT expensive! Oh, they may be a lot higher than they were, say, two years ago, but that’s because it was artificially cheap then, not because it is outrageously high now. Now I’m not saying it won’t pinch your wallet and mine for a while until we get used to the new reality, but we still have it good here. While you were paying a buck and a quarter for gas several years back, we were living in Honduras and paying 4.50 a gallon. In Europe at that time gas was about 6 dollars. This year, when we traveled through the Canadian Provinces we paid generally much higher prices than anywhere along the route in the US and as much as 5.50 a gallon in British Columbia (price converted to US gallon from Imperial for comparison sake).

Secondly: While the rest of the world uses the metric system because it is “better” and “easier”, I have not yet proved that to myself, so I certainly can’t prove it to you. It MAY, however, be true, so I’m keeping an open mind and we made comparison charts so we could work at learning what even little kids the world over all understand better than we do. The scale of the GPS in the coach, a Garmin 7200, can be switched back and forth which helps the learning curve a lot. It is good and positive and fair for us to appreciate the way we do things. But it is not so constructive for us, as Americans, to think that everything we have, everything we do, is better than the way others deal with things. There is value in both understanding and appreciating the ways of others. We do not…or rather should not…travel to see how much better we are than everyone else. We travel to learn those differences, to appreciate those differences and to grow constructively in the process. What we view with and react to with respect builds friendships which are necessary for peace in the world. Without mutual respect we will always have problems at every level.

Next up: People send me reminders in the form of forwarded e mail about this and that just about every week, especially that English is the official language of the country. True. No argument from me there. BUT…I have traveled, even lived for periods of time, to places where I didn’t speak the language or couldn’t speak the language, even though I made every effort, and I sure appreciated it if there was sign in English to help me out, or a bilingual brochure, or a person on the street who was willing to try to communicate to help me out. I’m just thinking we are taking this a little too far sometimes. We are an immigrant nation. Trace your own lineage back far enough and most of you will find relatives speaking something other than English. Even so, that would make you British, not American. Point being this: We have heard English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Athabaskan, Inuit, Japanese, Chinese, a variety of First Nation (Indian) languages and a smattering of many others along the way. While our official language is English- that was not our first language, so if your argument is that “If you want to come to our country you must learn to speak our language”- I would only ask you one thing: How much Cherokee, Apache, Sioux and/or Cheyenne do you speak???

And finally, a word about energy. You read the same headlines and stories I do. So it’s temping to buy into the horse crap that as Americans we are not innovating, not conserving, not going “green”. I have seen countless evidence to the contrary, so permit me to go on a bit more. Wind? There are wind farms across this entire country. I have seen them, marveled at them, photographed them countless times. I have seen them on the east coast, the west coast, in the heartland, in Alaska, in the south…so please don’t tell me we are not working in that direction, Mr. and Mrs. Politician. In fact the only place you won’t see them is in the bay in front of Ted Kennedy’s place because he thinks they are ugly and doesn‘t wish to have to look at them! There are solar homes, solar panel stations, solar operated road signs even in places where I am not too sure they can work well but they seem to be doing just fine. There is a solar panel on the top of this coach which helps to keep our 6 batteries charged (didn’t know that one, did ya?) There is hydro power a plenty, complete with fish ladders to protect the species that need protecting. There are lots of coal fields in lots of places where I didn’t expect to see them. And we identified oil shale deposits along the way that are primed and ready to be developed at today’s prices. The facts though are simple: Oil is still the cheapest energy source to find, to produce, to use. Until that changes, guess what? But we ARE preparing for that eventuality. And about the "Amber waves of grain" in the famous line from AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, they were nowhere to be found on this cross country trip. Wheat has been replaced by either corn or soy as we ramp up production of ethanol; if this keeps up we may need some new lyrics for that beautiful song.

The evidence of what is going on in the country is quite different from what the so called “truth” is. Truth is not self evident, as you might have heard. It grows out of experience. We hope you will ride along as we get ready to begin our second year on the road. Keep the windows and the mind open so the experience can flow on in….Thank you all for a great year and….Happy New Year!

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