Monday, December 16, 2013

Planning Ahead--Recommended Books, Websites, Apps

Do I plan ahead?  Yes, sort of.  I have laid out desired routes then ignored them completely; reworked the route for something more appealing; or found that the desired destination had somehow vanished from the planet never to be found.
I do try, however, to start out with some semblance of a desired target.  And my process goes like this:

1.)  Tell everyone you know what you are shooting for--but be very general.  That acts as a motivator and helps to keep you on track.  For example, I am definitely going to Nova Scotia, someday.  There--my goal is out there, so hold me accountable.

2.)  The following is, to me, the most fun of all that I do.  It opens up my imagination and heightens the anticipation.  Start with the Atlas (a 'must have' tool) and make a general line from where you are sitting, to where you want to eventually arrive.  Those post-its you see on the map above are suggestions people have made to me of places to see, restaurants to find, and people to meet.  If any of you have a favorite then please let me add it to the map.
3.)  Draw the lines...What states will I cross? Are there any I want to avoid? Which ones have I never seen? Who do I know in each state?  Etc.

(The guide book above has some suggested routes through each state with points of interest along the way)
4.)  I have a collection of regional maps and they are the ones I mark up with colored pens, post-its, and various notes in the margins. The route is taking shape by now.
5.  This is about as far as I plan until I reach each state.  I now have a general route and know the major cities I expect to see when in each state.

6.)  I try always to cross into a new state on an interstate freeway because of the visitor centers that come up almost immediately.  From them I collect free maps and brochures, free coffee and advice from the employees. Also, many of the centers have free dump stations, free potable water, picnic tables to spread out all my maps, and they often allow overnight parking. Now it's time for the details.
While sitting at that picnic table I plan the specifics of the next few hundred miles-- museums, parks, attractions, suggestions from friends.

This book has been well worth the five dollars I spent in a used book store.  It has led me to places I would never have found otherwise--the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and the dinosaur museum in Canada, the canyon with the petroglyphs in Utah, a few ghost towns in Calif. and Texas, and a dozen other places that aren't touted by the Chambers of Commerce.

Or for $3.99, you can purchase an APP that is even more detailed and comes with colored pictures!

7.)  In the middle of all this fun stuff is the need to find potential over-night places to park.  

My Golden Age Passport is still the best bargain I have found anywhere.  I bought it ten years ago for $10 and I have recouped that money many times over.  The pass can be bought at the entrance to any National Park or Monument and is available to anyone over 62 years of age.  With it you get 1/2 price on camping at any National Park or Corps of Engineers park throughout the country. You also get free entrance to any National Park or monument for everyone in your vehicle.

The locations of government campgrounds may be found in these two books and I purchased both in Camping World stores. State parks may be bargains as well and those Visitor's Centers have booklets that supply all the lowdown.

Harvest Hosts is an organization of 400+ specialty farms, organic farms, family farms and wineries throughout the country where members may stay free if you just call the day before.  They are usually off on a country road somewhere but they are always fun and different and worth finding.  You can join through their website and it is $45 per year.

There are also discounts for regular old ugly RV parks.  I used Good Sam's Club (10% off) and Passport America (50% off RV parks) mostly the first year.  I may renew Good Sam's but I don't stay in enough parks anymore to warrant renewing P.A.

8.)  Using lots of colored pens and highlighters and one of the maps from the Visitor Center I circle stuff, draw lines, and make notes.  I note where every Cracker Barrel, Flying J, Love's, Nat'l & State & Corps of Engineer Park, Harvest Host, and friend or family's driveway can be found.  Using post-its I note the museums and attractions.  When I am all through I have a darn good idea where I will be going, stopping, sleeping and eating.

9.) And finally--The APPs.

Ron gave me this wonderful little toy that I have nicknamed "Precious".  It is beyond addictive.  If you want to play 'Words with Friends' (Like Scrabble) with me my handle is,  ToeKneeTucson.

It also helps me to plan my itinerary, so here are the APPS I have installed and that I use the most.  I welcome any others you may find helpful as well.  I also have used most of these sites on-line before Precious entered my life.

Yes, it really is a level--and it works.  It's great to have on the floor next to me when I am parking.

Free WiFi?  There are so many free WiFi signals coming out all the time that this is not always up to date--but it's still good. The most common are Public libraries, Starbucks, McDonalds, Lowes, Home Depot, Quiznos, some hospitals, many malls.  I mostly just sit in the parking lots--the signals are usually strong enough.

This one is the most important of all!  Almost every large town or city has one or two free dumps and this site will lead you to them. (Tucson has two) 

And, before I start out I check this APP.  
And if the weather is bad then I watch a movie.  I am no longer addicted to TV (if I ever was).  And if there is a show I want to watch I can see it thru Netflix.


  1. I use TripAsvisor a lot- just on my laptop though but they do have an APP.

    I enter the city name followed by "attractions". Since the reviews are often by locals you may find lesser known but still interesting things to see. Also reading over the reviews gives you a much better idea of what to expect and if it will be something that you'll enjoy.

    1. Thank you--I will add the APP to my collection, it looks very helpful.