Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Fanny Conundrum

Being away for 6 months means that we have to decide what to do with my little Fiesta, Fanny. Sam's lease car is going back so there's no problem there. I now own Fanny outright, and given that I do very low mileage she is cheap to run and maintain, so I'd like to keep hold of her.

There are varying opinions on what to do with a car for 6 months. Storing her in a garage makes things simpler, but the two key things that people have advised are:
  • put her up on axle jacks so that the tyres don't get flat spots
  • hook her up to an intelligent trickle charger, so the battery stays in good condition

In addition, I'd probably want to fill out a SORN and also contact my insurance company to see if I could get some money back.

I was fully prepared to go down this route, but the whole axle jacking thing is complicated by the fact that Fanny is parked tight up against one of the walls of the garage. This means we'd have to jack her up from the front and back, which would need 'proper' equipment and I'm not sure there is enough space at the back to do this.

The alternative is to get someone else to run her while we are away. People have kindly offered to give her a drive every couple of weeks, but to be honest this would be a faff for them. The preference would be for someone to use her as their own vehicle. 

The house sitters already have a car lined up, but a bit of Facebooking found that Sam's cousin Hannah could use a car. So that's that sorted then. Fanny won't be sitting alone and unloved in stasis for 6 months.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The final countdown...

Lee has made a couple of awesome desk count down desk calendars for us at work.

Not sure the guys I work with really need any more reminders that I'm going away, I only talk about it several times an hour but it brightens my day seeing there is not long to go!


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Too early to pack?

27 days to go and tonight, I have finally given in to my super organised nature and have started to pack!

I actually started to put things in the top of one of our wardrobes last September.... it was the end of summer, the evenings were getting darker and I needed something to cheer me up (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)




Saturday, 7 April 2018

State Guides Done!

It has taken many months of research on the internet, in books, speaking to people (sometimes even random people on a train) but we have finally completed our pre-trip research for each state we are visiting (all 48 lower states).

Why have we done this research? Asides from me being a planner at heart and not able to do anything without a to do list, spreadsheet and action tracker, we wanted to reduce the research time on the road (more time to enjoy the sights around us rather than planning ahead) and ensure we were able to hit all the key sights we wanted to see. We also needed to be sure we could make it around within 6 months so needed some idea of where we need to be at certain times to make this possible.

A quick reference guide is below of each of the State Guides on the blog. The next time we will be writing about these states will be on the road! Click on the state name to be taken to the blog entry.

For anyone looking to plan a road trip, we would recommend using www.furkot.com, it is a free online road trip planning tool and has been key to helping us plan our trip.


AbbreviationState Name
ALAlabama
AZArizona
ARArkansas
CACalifornia
COColorado
CTConnecticut
DEDelaware
FLFlorida
GAGeorgia
IDIdaho
ILIllinois
INIndiana
IAIowa
KSKansas
KYKentucky
LALouisiana
MEMaine
MDMaryland
MAMassachusetts
MIMichigan
MNMinnesota
MSMississippi
MOMissouri
MTMontana
NENebraska
NVNevada
NHNew Hampshire
NJNew Jersey
NMNew Mexico
NYNew York
NCNorth Carolina
NDNorth Dakota
OHOhio
OKOklahoma
OROregon
PAPennsylvania
RIRhode Island
SCSouth Carolina
SDSouth Dakota
TNTennessee
TXTexas
UTUtah
VTVermont
VAVirginia
WAWashington
WVWest Virginia
WIWisconsin
WYWyoming
DCWashington DC

Illinois

We plan to hit Illinois twice! First at the start of the trip going from Nashville to St Louis, we are going to stop off in the Shawnee Hills. This pretty area has sandstone canyons, dense forests and large gorges, plus it is wine country!! Just in one trail, there are 11 award winning vineyards.

Towards the end of the holiday, we are planning on coming back into Illinois to visit Chicago. This is a place I have visited before (on St Patrick's day) but Lee hasn't. I am looking forward to showing Lee the things I liked when I visited this city such as walking down the river, the view from Willis Tower and learning about the gangster past.

State:Illinois
Towns of Interest: (FB) = FirebreakChicago
National Parks:N/A
State Parks of Interest:Cave-in-Rock State Park
Places of Interest: (N) = Night StayShawnee Hills (South) 
Smithland Lock & Dam (20 locks and dams that slow the river - visitor center to view and tell you the history)
Golconda (Outside the town is the marker for Trails of Tears - route for thousands of Indians on the way to reservations)
Elizabethtown (Nice town by the river)
Cave-in-Rock (Ferry down the Ohio River)
Cave-in-Rock State Park (Campgrounds, overlooks of waterways and trails through groves of oaks and hickory trees)
Pounds Hollow Recreation Area (View of Pounds Hollow Lake)
(N) 
Garden of the Gods (Marked turnoff - oddly shaped sandstone formations) 

Chicago (Nx2)
Millennium Park (This 24.5-acre park features Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and serpentine bridge; sculptor Anish Kapoor's 110-ton Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”); and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain)
Wrigley Field (Even when baseball’s not in season, there’s plenty to do at this legendary stadium, erected in 1914)
360 Chicago (Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago offers dining, sights and an interactive tour far above the city streets. From 1,000 feet up on the 94th floor, you can see up to 55 miles out and four states)
Chicago Riverwalk (stroll along the Riverwalk)
Adler Planetarium (the museum’s real draw will always be the virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater)
Willis Tower Skydeck (Formally Sears Tower)
The J. Parker (rooftop bar is unlike any other in the city: It boasts destination-themed cocktails, seasonal small-plates and sweeping, mesmerizing, breathtaking views of Lincoln Park from the 13th-floor roof of the Hotel Lincoln)
Navy Pier (tourist hot spot features shops, eateries, an IMAX cinema and a bevy of sightseeing boat tours)
The Magnificent Mile (stretches between Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River)
Routes of Interest: Shawnee Hills Byway (Route 146 through Shawnee Hills)
Useful Links:







Kentucky

Kentucky was accidentally missed out from the original route plan but we had to find a way of adding it into our trip. We have decided to try to visit the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky on our way from Nashville to St Louis. It covers 170,000 acres of protected land and is a great place for outdoor activities such a hiking, biking, fishing, boating, climbing....  I don't think we'll be bored.



State:Kentucky
Towns of Interest: (FB) = FirebreakN/A
National Parks:Mammoth Cave National Park - not visiting
State Parks of Interest:N/A
Places of Interest: (N) = Night StayLand Between the Lakes (National Recreation Area) (N) (Package at the Golden Pond visitor center for 3 attractions - tour the elk/bison prairie, Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory)

Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway (Route through Land Between the Lakes)
Routes of Interest: Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway
Useful Links:




Texas

The final state plan is for the largest state, Texas!

We could have easily spent all 6 months in Texas and still not managed to see it all so we have come up with a plan which will hopefully allow us to see 4 of the biggest cities, visit the small towns in Hill Country and spend time in the two National Parks.

Emma did a road trip around Texas a couple of years ago with her husband Paul and was kind enough to review our trip and provide us with some hints and tips. Emma's recommendations included making a trip to the 6th Floor Museum in Dallas, seeing the Stockyards in Fort Worth and visiting The White Elephant, Bill Bobs and the Flying Saucer, taking a relaxing walk around Barton Lake in Austin and seeing the Capitol Building. Emma has some great hints and tips for Hill Country and Big Bend too.

My favourite tip from Emma was to stay in Marfa to view the lights. The Marfa Lights are glowing basketball sized multi coloured orbs that appear in the desert outside Marfa. Some people believe these lights are aliens or ghosts, others are boring enough to believe them to be car headlights but no one really knows for sure!

State:Texas
Towns of Interest: (FB) = FirebreakDallas
Forth Worth
Austin
San Antonio
National Parks:Big Bend National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
State Parks of Interest:Enchanted Rock State Park (Hill Country)
Places of Interest: (N) = Night StayDallas (N) The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (The presumed murderer of President John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, is believed to have fired the fatal shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the intersection of Houston and Elm Streets) Reunion Tower (he most distinguished and most recognizable tower in Dallas. GeO-Deck observation level, home to an informative interactive display providing details about the building and notable landmarks) Klyde Warren Park (This unique park is easily accessible as it sits right in the middle of uptown Dallas, with food trucks and restaurants along its perimeter) Pioneer Plaza (City’s largest public park area, and a very popular tourist site) Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures (These amazing life size sculptures are dotted around Pioneer Plaza) The Katy Trail (follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (known simply as MKT) and is a popular walking, jogging, bicycling and even inline skating trail) Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza Fort Worth (Nx2) Fort Worth Stockyards (Fort Worth's biggest tourist attractions and takes visitors back to the days of the great cattle round-ups with all kinds of entertainment and fun things to see and do, from rodeos to live music shows, museums, and western-themed shopping) The White Elephant (good live music) Bill Bob’s (rodeo arena in a bar) Cattle Drives (are held daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. along Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District, meet the drovers at 3pm) Sundance Square (Consisting of a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and entertainment buildings and named after the infamous outlaw, the Sundance Kid, the area is safe and fun to explore on foot thanks to its many pedestrian zones. In addition to restaurants, cafés, and hotels, Sundance Square contains many excellent shopping opportunities, from high-end boutiques and interesting art galleries to large department stores) Flying Saucer near Sundance Square (nice atmosphere and live music all evening) National Cowgirl Museum and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (a tribute to the women of the American West who distinguished themselves and exemplified the pioneer spirit, including cowgirls and ranch women, writers, artists, teachers, and entertainers) Water Gardens (beautiful and refreshing oasis adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center) Justin Boots Outlet Store (cheapest authentic boots - 717 W. Vickery, Fort Worth, TX 76104-1142, Region: Near Southside) Austin (Nx2) See the bats fly out from under the Congress Ave Bridge Baylor Street Art Wall (the concert foundation has become a canvas for local graffiti artists. It is constantly changing, just like the city. While there be sure to climb to the top to get a great view of the city. 11th & Baylor Street) Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail (One of the best ways to check out Downtown Austin is from the water - good for Paddle boarding) Rainey Street (The most well known party-street in Austin is still 6th Street, but in recent years Rainey Street has given it a run for its money) Barton Springs Pool (situated at the grounds of Zilker Park. It is a must-go-to place in the summer to cool off) Krause Springs (Natural springs fill a concrete swimming pool on the upper part of the property and the runoff flows via waterfall into the lagoon-like swimming hole down below) Hike Mount Bonnell (Mount Bonnell is considered the highest point in Austin at 775 feet. It is a popular tourist destination to view the city of Austin, Lake Austin and surrounding hills) Barton Lake (relaxed afternoon walking, biking or driving it) Capitol building (free tour) Hamilton Pool (The closest thing to an oasis you’ll likely ever see. This swimming hole sits in a natural grotto carved out of limestone, and is complete with a small beach area and a 50-foot waterfall! Admittance is around $15 per vehicle, and the park usually reaches occupancy by 10am on hot summer days, so arrive early. It’s also a good idea to call before you head out as the preserve is often closed for swimming due to high bacteria levels (most commonly in the days following a rainstorm) - 23 miles west of Austin). Check if reservations are needed - https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool New Braunfels (Tube down the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers. Continuously running shuttles to the river. To Float time is about 2 -3 hours) Natural Bridge Caverns (30 minutes outside San Antonio. Awesome natural underground caves) San Antonio (Nx2) San Antonio River Walk (2.5-mile-long network of walkways, along the banks of the San Antonio River, is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, bars and restaurants) Historic Market Square (Also known as El Mercado, this historic shopping district in downtown San Antonio is home to the largest Mexican shopping center in the city, along with plenty of festivals and exhibits) The Alamo (stood its ground for 13 days in March 1836 -- the deaths of a small band of Texans here has since come to symbolize will and fortitude in the pursuit of Texas’ independence) La Villita Historic Arts Village (Established in 1939, La Villita Historic Arts Village is home to nearly 30 galleries and shops, all contained within 1 square block, featuring oil paintings, sculptures, watercolors and more by local and regional artists) Tower of the Americas (The 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas offers great views of downtown San Antonio. Built for the 1968 World’s Fair, the structure was the tallest observation tower in America until 1996) Open top bus recommended Texas Hill Country Bandera (Cowboy Capital of the World) Kerrville (Pretty town) Fredericksburg (German town - shuttle every day up and down a route that covers something like 20 wineries) Enchanted Rock State Park (Pink granite with a magical feel) Junction (Somewhere to stay on route to Big Bend) (N) Big Bend National Park (Nx2) Panther Junction Visitor Center (Collect maps, information on hiking and safety tips - behind the visitor center lie the Chisos Mountains) Pather Path (A 50 yard nature trail near the visitor center) Basin Junction (3 miles after the visitor center, turn left down Basin Junction. Ahead on the right looms Pulliam Bluff. If you look closely, you might see the face of a man reclining) Lost Mine Peak (at 2.5 miles, the jagged sumit to your left is Lost Mine Peak) Casa Grande (Big House - will be straight ahead, a landmark for much of the park) Green Gulch (As the road climbs higher into the mountains, you go through a canyon called Green Culch) Panther Pass (In about 5 miles, the road hits the highest point at Panther Pass, names for the mountain lions that still roam these hills) Lost Mine Trail (Park at the nearby trailhead for the Lost Mine Trail, there is a strenuous 4.8 mile road trip or if you are short on time, hike the 2 mile round trip to Junier Canyon Overlook, for good vistas of wooded Juniper Canyon) The Basin (After Panther Pass, the road decends in hairpin curves to the basin, a 3 mile depression in the mountains. There are many hikes from here including an easy 0.3 mile round trip to Window View Trail) Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (Rte 118 - 31 mile tour, some of the parks most striking scenery) Sam Nail Ranch (Park at Old Sam Nail Ranch and stroll a short path to the remains of windmills and a ranch house) Blue Creek Ranch Overlook Sotol Vista (a spur road, the parking lot at the end of it provides vista's of the surrounding mountains and a plaque identifies what is what) Volcanism (an exhib on the left in about 6.5 miles describes how volcanism shaping the landscape) Mule Ears (the next spur road on the left has excellent views of the peaks known as Mule Ears) Tuff Canyon (after 4.5 miles, stop for to see Tuffs Canyon, stroll the short trail to the right to biew the canyon, its a 0.75 mile round trip) Castolon (Turn left onto Castolon to stroll around the old Army post, it is a trading post, visitor center and bookstore) Santa Elena Canyon Overlook (about 8 miles from Castolon) Terrlingua Creek (at the end of the road, if the water is low, put on some old shoes and wade across Terlingua Creek. You can continue on here down the Santa Elena Canyon Trail which is a 1.7 mile round trip and ends in striking views) Terlingua (Formerly a mining center, now a tourist destination) El Camino del Rio ("The River Road" - Old Spanish Trail then a smuggler route, one of the best drives in Texas) Marfa (N) Fort Davis (Famous Fort from the Civil War) Guadalupe Mountains National Park Devil's Hall Trail (3.8 miles) hike Smith Spring Loop (2.3 miles) hike
Routes of Interest: Hill Country
Basin Drive (Big Bend)
Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (Rte 118 - Big Bend)
El Camino del Rio (Big Bend)

Useful Links: https://www.tourtexas.com/
https://www.traveltexas.com
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/hill-country-texas-road-trip/
https://www.fortworth.com/