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Road trip from California to Maine

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OR...How to travel in a RV and not pay for a single night of lodging

This is the picture we taped to the dashboard in the truck the day we left.

We were invited to visit friends in Maine and take a tour of the Camden Harbor on his lobster boat. We had three weeks and a camper but not a lot of money. We discovered the "RVer's Friend", planned our route and left on one of the hottest days of the year.

I can honestly say that it was the trip of a lifetime. What we found was the most amazing, beautiful country.

What was even more amazing is that we spent every night free. We stayed at Truck Stops and Travel Plazas. We took showers, ate our way across the country and all of it without paying for a nights lodging.

This is a two part story. Look for the link at the bottom for the trip home. We visited many other places.

9/21/2002 - Odometer reading 190948

I never take pictures of California because it is not a vacation until we hit the border of another state

We left at 9:12 am on our big adventure. Gas in 2002 was $1.49 a gallon. We visited Oatman, Arizona on our way and ended up in Flagstaff, Arizona for our first night out. We stayed for free at the Conoco Station.

Welcome to Arizona

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First Overnight Stop, Conoco Station, Flagstaff, Arizona

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9/22/2002

Flagstaff, Arizona to Tucumcari, New Mexico

We stopped for lunch at the Red Rock State Park in New Mexico. We had camped there before and it is an incredibly beautiful place. Stayed at the Chevron Station in Tucumcari. It was noisy but we slept well. When we pulled into the dirt lot, we had it all to ourselves. When we woke up, we were surrounded by what appeared to be hundreds of big rigs.

Welcome to New Mexico

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Red Rock State Park, New Mexico

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Road trip necessity

9/23/2002

Tucumcari, New Mexico to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We drove 527 miles and spent 13 hours on the road. Might have taken less time if we had not stopped at so many places. Tip here...If you are driving through this area, add another day to the trip. By the time we got to Maine, we were a full day behind. For those who have not traveled America, around every corner is another sight to see.

Spent some time at the Oklahoma City Memorial.This is a must-see where time really did stop between the two walls that were erected to contain the minute the bomb went off. Children do not run and play here. Almost without being told, they recognize the tone of this memorial. I have pictures on the companion lens, Attractions on Route 66.

Welcome to Texas

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Shamrock, Texas. Art deco Route 66 gas station.

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Largest cross in North America located in Pampa, Texas

 It is visible for miles. Well worth a stop.

It is visible for miles. Well worth a stop.

Welcome to Oklahoma

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Oklamona City Memorial

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9/24/2001

Tulsa Oklahoma to Cuba Missouri

We spent time visiting family in Springfield, Missouri. Last day in Missouri, stayed at the Voss Truck Port in Cuba, Missouri. Showers were $10.00.

(Note - 5/23/2011 - Joplin was destroyed by a tornado yesterday. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families in this area.)

Welcome to Missouri

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9/25/2002

Cuba, Missouri to Swanson, Ohio

We drove all day. Covered 585 miles in 13 hours. Spent the night at the Sunoco Travel Plaza in Swanson. Did you know that from Cuba, MO to Swanson, OH covers four states. At this point we were falling behind in our schedule.

Those four states were revisted on the way home but the only picture we took on that day was the Mississippi River. Our very first every view of the river.

9/26/2002

Swenson, Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania

One of our goals was to spend some time with friends in Erie. At this point we were a full day behind in our schedule so we were very happy to finally be there.

Lake Erie, Pennsylvania

Gary (my husband - dressed like a California Tourist), Patty and I at Lake Erie. We don't live where lakes are this big. We can always see across our lakes so this was interesting.

Gary (my husband - dressed like a California Tourist), Patty and I at Lake Erie. We don't live where lakes are this big. We can always see across our lakes so this was interesting.

Statue of Col. Strong Vincent - Civil War Hero

The statue was erected at the library in Erie. On another trip with Jim and Patty, we toured Gettysburg and saw where Col. Vincent was injured in the war. We've had some great adventures with Jim and Patty!

The statue was erected at the library in Erie. On another trip with Jim and Patty, we toured Gettysburg and saw where Col. Vincent was injured in the war. We've had some great adventures with Jim and Patty!

Lighthouse at Lake Erie

There are several lighthouses in Erie. There were new to us as well. We don't have that many lighthouses in Southern California. We also do not wear raincoats when visiting historic sites. That was new to us too.

There are several lighthouses in Erie. There were new to us as well. We don't have that many lighthouses in Southern California. We also do not wear raincoats when visiting historic sites. That was new to us too.

Are you geographically challenged?

9/27/2002

Erie, Pennsylvania to Rochester, NY

Still running a day behind, we took off with Patty and Jim and headed to Niagara Falls. Stopped at the Seneca Nation Reservation to eat lunch, good food.

Took the Maid of the Mist boat trip. What an incredible experience. From there, we crossed the Peace Bridge on foot into Canada to eat lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then bid farewell to Jim and Patty to continue our journey.

Spent the night at the Scottsville Travel Plaza on I-90.

Welcome to New York

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Niagara Falls, American Side

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Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls Boat Tour

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9/29/2002

Rochester, New York to Rockland, Maine

Do you know that there are only two off-ramps in New Hampshire and neither of them have restrooms. Use the restrooms in New York or wait until you get to Massachusetts.

Made it to Alan's house in Rockland, Maine.

Welcome to New Hampshire - Remember there are no restrooms.

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Welcome to Massachusetts

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Welcome to Maine. A little blurry - it might have been that we were so glad to get there.

Old camera, didn't realize until we got home the picture was blury. Not worth making another 3000 mile round trip for a better one. If you squint your eyes, you can see it does say "Maine".

Old camera, didn't realize until we got home the picture was blury. Not worth making another 3000 mile round trip for a better one. If you squint your eyes, you can see it does say "Maine".

Alan's house in Rockland, Maine

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Travel Tips

Enjoy your trip! We live in a beautiful country and each state is beautiful in it's own way. We ate lobster in Maine, saw Plymouth Rock. We saw Lincoln's house in Springfield, IL. We traveled the entire Route 66. We saw Niagara Falls. We traveled through 14 states.

  • Start with Free Campgrounds. This site provided the inspiration and information to plan a trip like this. We bought the "RVers Friend". Plan out your route and head out. This is the most amazing adventure and we plan all our trips this way now.
  • Decide how long you plan to drive and then about 2 hours before your deadline, look up a place and head towards it. In our case, we spent more of our time off the highway and more on back roads. There are so many things to see so your destination for the night might change, depending on how many time you stop for sightseeing. We ended up a whole day behind schedule because we stopped at the Oklahoma Memorial and the largest cross in Texas.
  • Check out where you plan to stay. Does it meet your needs? We only changed our minds once in New Mexico when we were uneasy with the truck stop. It was probably fine but everyone has a feeling about something once in a while. Stick with your feelings. Be alert. Even well patrolled stops have not so nice people.
  • Find a parking space. Most of them are fairly close to the facilities. Please do not treat it like a campground. It is not a campground but a place to sleep. Please keep the area clean.
  • It matters little what kind of RV you travel in. It could be a travel trailer or 5th wheel. The only vehicle that does not lend itself to this type of travel is a pop-up trailer. Be a good citizen. Do not setup a campsite. Keep you slide-outs closed. This is a privileged granted by the various stops and is only for an overnight stay.
  • If possible, park away from the big trucks. It's noisy. Many places have spots for RV's only.
  • Use the facilities at the truck stops. Many of the showers are nicer than mine at home and some have family showers.
  • Chicken Fried Steak gets bigger the further east you go.
  • At many Wal-marts, you can spend the night free. Watch for signs posted in the parking lot, many cities now have regulations that forbid it. If in doubt, ask at the store.
  • If you are in Salem, MA, follow the parking regulations and the streets are too small for larger RV's.

Downtown Camden, Maine

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Fort Knox - Built in 1779, for the largest Revolutionary War expedition.

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Captain Alan on our lobster tour

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The brochure for Alan Philbrick's lobster tour

We don't know if he is still doing the tours. Probably not as he talked about being "too old" to do this much longer although we never saw him as old.

We don't know if he is still doing the tours. Probably not as he talked about being "too old" to do this much longer although we never saw him as old.

Gary and the lobster

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What a wonderful day we spent with Alan

Alan Philbrick was a wonderful host who not only put us up but took us on our own private lobster tour. We pulled our own lobsters out of the traps and learned more about the creatures than we ever thought. We toured the islands in the bay and saw fishing boats as they came in with their catches. We went by several lighthouses and learned their history too. Alan was a wonderful teacher.

After the tour, we came back to his house where he cooked the lobsters for us. What a feast!

Lobster Fest - What a great meal that can never be recreated.

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Gary and Alan ready for dinner

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Follow along for the trip home

  • Road trip from California to Maine - The Trip Home
    And so we say goodbye to Alan and Maine and start the trip home. However, we are no longer on a deadline to get to anyone's house so we have more time to sight-see on the way. One of the best things about a road trip is that there are so many new...

Comments Encouraged

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 07, 2012:

I guess I missed this before. Next time you come to New England, come stay with us in New Hampshire.

We do the boondocking in Wal-Mart parking lots. It's tough if you are tired of driving, then find the Wal-Mart posted for no overnight stays. I like the RVer's Friend that you recommended. We take it on each RV trip.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on January 07, 2012:

Pretty awesome! I want to go too!

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 07, 2012:

That was fun! I've driven cross county several times but never really took the time (or had the time) to stop and explore much along the way. One of these days I'd like to take a very leisurely road trip all over the US. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Well done and *blessed*

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on December 07, 2011:

We've lived all over the country - Florida to California and throughout the Midwest. We often thought that it would be fun to RV back to all the places we've been and visit friends we still have in each place. Enjoyed your cross-country tour. Off to read Part 2. :)

grannysage on August 10, 2011:

Thanks for the blessing on Traveling Wilburys. And speaking of traveling, by this time next month we will be full time rv-ers and traveling up to Maine. We know absolutely nothing about this, so will be reading a lot of your lenses as a crash course. I've already picked up a couple of tips from here.

NoYouAreNot on June 12, 2011:

I love the road. I wish sometime in my life I get an RV to live in and travel with. The tips section is a really useful addition.

miaponzo on June 12, 2011:

What a FUNNNNNN trip!!!!!!!

Melody Lassalle from California on May 30, 2011:

This sounds like an incredible trip. What an adventure!

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on May 30, 2011:

awesome lens. ~blessed~

GiftsBonanza on May 27, 2011:

Sounds like an amazing trip!

Carol from Arkansas on May 26, 2011:

Great travel ideas! Too bad we have a popup trailer.

Ann from Yorkshire, England on May 24, 2011:

amazing

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on May 24, 2011:

I don't know much about Maine but this sounds like fun.

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on May 24, 2011:

I don't know much about Maine but this sounds like fun.

happynutritionist on May 23, 2011:

This is fabulous! I'd love to do this trip...LOVE Maine, been there so many times!

TeacherSerenia on May 23, 2011:

OOH I would love to go on this trip - but I can't drive on the right. I only know how to drive on the left. LOL