On the 15th of March we rolled out of Port St. Lucie, Florida on our first American Road trip since 2008. The game plan was to take seven days to Laramie Wyoming my old college town where we planned to catch up with friends and do some business. After Laramie we plan to go to Steamboat Springs Colorado and use our timeshares to stay with our kids and grand kids for two weeks. We would then take another 21 days to drive back to Florida.
Because geezerswithpassports.com is our new project it was our plan to try out a bunch of the money saving tools that we are recommending on the blog and make sure they really do work. Traveling by car one of our first challenges was to find inexpensive lodging. After a half dozen two-day trips around Florida we were low on free motel rooms so we needed an alternative plan. I checked the Internet, and I was happily surprised to see that Choice Hotels was running a “Stay Two Days get One Free” special. Because Choice Hotels has a huge inventory of Hotels across America I calculated that we could stay in Choice Hotels across America and taking advantage of their stay two get one free program I could do it for the $40 a night budget I try to set for trips like this.
The second challenge was to enjoy the great foods that America has to offer without going into the poor house, we are accomplishing that goal by using tools like: free breakfasts, Restaurants.com, Groupon.com and dining clubs.
The final big challenge traveling with a Cadillac that gets around 21 miles to the gallon was to find cheap gas. To solve this problem we are experimenting with waze.com a GPS program that identifies where the cheap gas is. Using this amazing site we have been able to keep our gas prices at an average of about $2.03 a gallon and avoid the areas on our trip where gas has skyrocketed up to $2.49 a gallon.
Armed with the tools I mentioned above we started rolling across America, all fat dumb and happy.
My original plan was to try to blog about every day describing the cool things that one finds wondering this beautiful country. Bam Boom Bam man it’s hard to blog across America. First, the country is beautiful but nothing really cool seems to happen. You could ask, ”Tom what happened cool and worthy of a blog today?” and I would have to say, “wow nothing, we saved lots of money with geezer tools but that’s for an article at a later time, mostly we drove, enjoyed some great local food and soaked in the scenery. I did mention some great meals and lets be honest most people love to talk food so I’ll be doing some of that during the road trip.
I have now learned that blogging is a lot like fishing you go for days and don’t get any bites and then out of the blue wham you have four things that deserve a blog and now you don’t have enough time to write everything that day.
I decided to write this blog as a basic recap of the trip so far. We are in Laramie, Wyoming and for the first time we have some down time and are able to digest and reflect on the last seven days. In reflection, a lot has happened, but in a slow fashion that is better described as a kind of awakening. Like many Americans I have, in the last years, seen and feared a polarization of the American people. It was starting to feel like the political and theological beliefs of many Americans were so diverse they were some how splitting the American people. After 7 days, seven states and maybe 20 conversations I can say I was wrong. We are all Americans and we all want the same things and this country is as strong and wonderful as it has ever been.
One aspect of America that has left me feeling proud is the spirit of the American entrepreneur. In the next week I hope to finish three blogs on amazing businesses that we have found. As I write these blogs I will link them to this blog so you can find them. The message these three very happy business people have taught me is the little guy is still a power and the small-scale entrepreneur can beat big money with ingenuity, hard work and passion. The first business I’ll be blogging about is the Velduizen Dairy Farm and Cheese Shop a dairy in Stevensville, Texas where the owner sold 80% of his dairy cows and used the remaining 55 dairy cows to produce the milk for a cheese factory. The second entrepreneur is a restaurant owner who has purchased Cavalryman Steak House and using modern technology is taking the business to the next level. My final small businessman is the owner of a food truck that has combined an imaginative dream with hard work to put together a successful food truck business.
During our trip everyone and I mean everyone we talked to had a future they believed in and had a positive attitude. A waitress in Florida looked forward to the summer and just hitting the beaches. You could tell her life revolved around the joy of family and friends and just being around her lifted our spirits. We stayed with friends in central Texas and those stays were a joy. Rex, Charlene’s partner in the Marshal service and Rex’s wife Kat opened their home and hospitality to us and for eight straight hours we just sat and enjoyed their company. They shared their hunt for a piece of the Texas hill country land and their plans to buy some acreage and build a home for their retirement. We then drove about 100 miles to see Teresa and JR, Teresa also worked in Wyoming with Charlene in the Marshal service. We stayed on Teresa and JR’s little farm for two days. Goats, long horn cattle, llamas, donkeys, horses, cats and dogs fill their lives and they seem to be ready to bring more animals into their life. Like Rex and Kat, Teresa and JR love the raw beauty of the Texas hill country and after spending three days in the Hill County we agree that it is one of the most beautiful places we have visited.
Maybe because of the political atmosphere in America now and more likely because it is a huge concern for most Americans the issue of healthcare and medical bills was the one issue that seemed to pop up in many of the conversations we had on our road trip. I can say after seven days of talking to people everyone is confused and fearful about healthcare. We talked to people who have the best healthcare insurance available but lay up at night worrying about their kids who have no heath care. We talked to one couple that had just survived a catastrophic medical crisis that their insurance had paid only 80%, leaving their retirement at risk. One hotel worker in Louisiana who was putting himself thru school talked about getting a government job when he graduated because he wanted the State health insurance. I may be wrong but when a bright young kid with a college education limits his job prospects based on health care benefits something is wrong.
Basically, this jaunt across America so far has been a pure joy. We have been able to connect with old friends and make new friends. We have eaten the seafood of the Florida coast, the Cajun food of Louisiana, the BBQ of the Texas hill county and the thick juicy steaks of Wyoming. The scenery has been beautiful and sometimes breathe taking. It took us eight years to decide to take this trip. In that eight years we have been around the world a few times but today sitting at my computer I have to say I agree with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she says, “There’s no place like home.”