Thursday, April 8, 2010

Final Comments on This Trip

First, as you can see, for Seymour traveling is hard work! Seriously, he really seemed to like it and didn't mind the driving part. He reminded me when it was time to stop and walk him. I hear about people who have pets that get car sick - I'm really glad Seymour isn't one of them.

As I've said before, traveling with a pet is much more enjoyable to me than traveling totally alone. I would not have walked as much or talked to as many people by myself. There are downsides, such as not being able to do the NASA tour and not being able to go into restaurants. I mostly did take-out meals and ate in a park or at a camp ground.

While driving through each State, I wondered which allowed the use of cell phones. I know it's best to use a hands-free phone but I haven't quite figured out how to set that up yet. I will research and put the info on this site so others can print it and have it when traveling.

A few more tips:

1. When camping, don't forget to look for the Corp of Engineers parks. I have a book that lists them and I noticed that some of the State maps include them in their list of State and National Parks. I want to get a National Park book because I have a Park Pass that allows me to pay 1/2 price for camping. That pass also gives the same discount at the Corp of Engineers parks. So far, the only State I have found that gives a discount with the National Park Pass is Louisiana. I hear that there are more - I just haven't found them yet.

2. I was told that Motel 6 will give a 10% discount to pet owners now. I don't know how long this will last, but if you are driving, this may be a good deal. I would be curious to know what the rooms look like that they give you. The last time I took Seymour into a Motel 6, my room was pretty awful. I hope they have upgraded.

3. Don't be afraid to ask at shops if you can bring in your pet. I've only been turned down a few times. Mostly, I just carry him and try to be unobtrusive. I am sure that one complaint by one customer could curtail their open pet policies.

4. Although I'm told that many Walmarts allow campers to park overnight in their parking lots, I never needed to do that. I also checked each Rest Area I stopped in and only found one that allowed trucks to park for 8 hours, no mention of campers. I may have just not been at the right Rest Areas yet.

I expect that our next few trips may be to various Texas Parks but I am already planning my next one - possibly to the west coast.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hot Springs Arkansas

I have fallen in love with this place and with the National Park. This is out second night here in the park. At Hot Springs National Park, you just drive in, find a spot and go to their automated machine to pay. Their are spaces with electric and water and spaces with no electric. If you have a National Park Pass or Senior Pass you only pay 1/2 price for the spots. The discounted rate is $5.00 for the non-electric spots and $12.00 for the ones with hook-ups. Although I could use battery power for my lights and fan, it was too warm here to not use the A/C so I got the space with the hook ups. Many people have dogs here and there are great hiking trails. They have restrooms but no showers. There is also a creek running on one side of the campground but those spots either have no hook ups or the ones that do are already taken. The only other problem here is the the campground is right beside a busy park road but I got used to the noises. Overall, it's a great place to camp.

The town of Hot Springs is about 5 miles away and we spent about 4 hours there. I took Seymour into many of the shops and found that he was allowed to go with me on the Duck Tour. That's a vehicle that goes on land and in the water. It was only $18 for a 1 hour and 15 minute tour. Well worth it. There is also a place in the center of town where you can fill water jugs with hot spring water. It is cooled a little but it's still very warm. It would have been great to have bathed in it but I think I might have drawn a crowd. Seymour again opened doors of conversation that would probably not have happened, otherwise. I love traveling with him - except for his occasional gas problem :)

I will definitely come back and feel very comfortable bringing Seymour.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Two Weeks In On Our Trip

A short update on other things we've learned on this trip.

1. I think that people in camp grounds are more open to talk to others - even a single traveler like me. And because many of them have their own animals, it's an instant conversation starter. It's very comfortable.

2. Day's Inn - I saw 2 that had RV parks attached to the motels. The parks are basically parking spaces and I expect that they have at least electric. I don't know how much they are but it's nice to know that there are some like that in case you have no other place to stay. The last Day's Inn I saw was outside of Brinkley Arkansas.

3. I really hate when the State Park's Office closes at 5 pm and there is no way to reach anyone to see if there is an available camping spot. Some have those cutsie numbers like 1-800-call-camps but they don't also give you the numbers that go with the letters. I tried calling one of those numbers twice - and both times got a totally different company. I'm thinking they didn't change their sign when they changed their number.

4. I found two more things I should have packed for Seymour. He ended up getting a tick on his nose and I didn't have tweezers or clear nail polish. I finally mixed body lotion and hand sanitizer and found some small needle-nosed pliers that worked. I have a first aid kit but will add those things for our next trip.

5. Seymour loves the smells at the various rest stops so we did stop more than I normally do. It was good for me to get out and walk a little and obviously it made the trip more fun for Seymour. Plus most of the rest areas have wonderful grass that we don't have in Texas. It took Seymour a few days to realize that he wouldn't get burrs in his feet before he began prancing and rolling in the grass. I hope is isn't too disillusioned when we get home :)

6. I tried taking him to more stores and two didn't know their store policy on pets so they let me in but said I would have to leave if anyone said anything - no one did. The stores were JC Penny and Big Lots. I really appreciate the ability to bring him in, even if they have stipulations like you have to carry him or don't put him in the shopping cart. At least he's in out of the van.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Week 2 of our trip

Well, we have been on the road for almost 2 weeks. We've been in a couple more State parks, including Salt Fork in Ohio. I am impressed with at least this park in Ohio since they don't close down their offices at 5 pm so that you can't get a camping spot if you are traveling across country. It's hard to plan to make reservations when you aren't sure where you'll be. In Ohio, if the park office is closed, you can still go in and find a spot to camp and then pay in the morning. What a breath of fresh air that policy is! I also loved their hiking trails - very easy to follow since they color-code the trees for each trail.

We've already experienced a camper van break-down that ended up with us meeting some great, new people in Pittsburgh. The front tire started smoking and we were right in front of Monro Muffler and Break Service. They were busy but he could see that I was pretty upset so he squeezed us in. The wheel bearings went out of the front wheel and they ended up replaces them on both front wheels. Seymour and I sat in the office for a couple hours and made friends with a woman who was waiting for her son, who worked there. She fell in love with Seymour and ended up taking us to a hotel since the van wouldn't be done until the next day.

Now, this is where a small dog comes in handy. When we got to the hotel there was a sign that said "Absolutely No Pets". Luckily, I had the purse/carrier that I stuffed Seymour in and we checked in and got to our room without a hitch. I did need to put him in the carrier and take him a block or so from the hotel to walk him, but he was quiet all night. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. The next morning, I found that there was a bus I could take to get back - again no pets allowed. Again Seymour rode quietly in his carrier and we made it back. Since we were pretty much stranded that whole day, I used his carrier to walk around the mall and even to go into a fast food restaurant to get a take out. I still am of the opinion that if they are in a carrier, I don't see why they can't go in buildings.

I do always have my pet "poop bags" hooked to the end of Seymour's leash so if they don't have any available when I walk him, I have my own. I think it is good to show that pet owners are responsible folks.

Although this doesn't pertain to Seymour, I have more travel tips. The most expensive part of this trip is the gas so I tried to save in other ways. I always took a cup in to get a coffee refill - much cheaper than getting a coffee in their cups. I also had a couple soda cups from some fast food stops and saved them. You can often get a soda refill or what I did was get a cup of ice. It was free in 2 places and 25 cents in another. Those savings add up!

I have been using my Broadband2go service throughout this trip. Twice it did not work. I think it is a Sprint service and I am finding it is spotty in many places - especially the State parks. Overall, I'm glad I have it and will continue to use it. I am hoping that the $20 level I paid for will last until I get home. Downloading pictures eats up the Mb so I am cautious about that. I will add pictures when I get home.