We’re coming to you this week from a Panera Bread in Riverside, California, where we’ve pulled over for a bite to eat while we wait for the maddening California rush hour traffic to clear up so we can finish today’s drive to San Diego from Phoenix. You know you’re in California when you plan your dinner around traffic!
Our loyal followers might remember San Diego as being the city we started this crazy journey in 8 months ago. Returning today, 249 days after our departure, completes our loop around the US! That’s right – nearly 14,000 miles of asphalt have rolled behind us through 32 different states over the past 8 months and we’re now right back where we started. What a trip it has been around this magnificent and beautiful country. So magnificent, in fact, that we averaged 350 miles of travel each week, all the time trying to squeeze in sightseeing, training, building two businesses, and meeting up with countless friends and family members along the way. What a truly spectacular journey it has been though; we had some surprises, both good and bad, and had an opportunity to see places we would have never seen otherwise.
We last left you spending time in Phoenix with Jim’s mom and sisters. Jim’s mom had purchased tickets to a circus for the Wednesday night after returning from our trip to Portland. She had heard it was a good show but in all honesty, I don’t think we were expecting much from the local neighborhood circus. Boy were we surprised! This circus had it all, including a very nostalgic feeling of a time before electronic everything. It was a family circus and it featured all the classics: acrobats, clowns, sword swallowing, trapeze artists, horseback riding stunts, rings of fire, and lots of impressive juggling. We were truly blown away at their level of talent and our level of entertainment!
The next day was our final day of being parked out front of Jim’s mom’s house; it was also the last day Jim had to complete all of her honey-do’s. Heather and Jim’s sister, Jamey, started their day at a wonderful heated yoga class while Jim went to the library to get a little work done. Once we all reconvened at the house, Jim spent the rest of his daylight hours installing the new TV and swing arm wall mount, replacing the broken garbage disposal (how Mardi Gras beads ended up in the drain to begin with may forever remain a mystery), adding a video camera doorbell, and replacing the old thermostat with a new digital controller and then reinstalling the old one after finding out the new one was not the right model – sigh. Once he had all the chores done, we showered up and headed out to meet up with some more old friends. We met up with Jim’s good friends and fellow newlyweds, Jessi and Scott, at a great little restaurant in Tempe. We had a wonderful time catching up with them; between Jessi’s new job, Scott’s upcoming US Open shot (he’s an incredible golfer), our life on the road for the past 8 months, both of our 2016 marriages, and plans for the future, we had lots to catch up on and laughed and talked away the evening. ‘twas lovely spending time with them!
Friday morning we had to be up fairly early to get Bertha disconnected from the house and ready to hit the road. We pulled out of mom’s house around 9:00am and beelined it to the west side of Phoenix and back outside Heather’s parent’s house. They were out of town but graciously allowed us to park there for a few days while Jim went camping and Heather spent the weekend catching up with her girlfriends. Jim’s buddies, Ben and Ken, swung by to pick Jim up and head toward the cooler, slightly snowy northern Arizona, or to Payson and the Mogollon Rim to be more specific. It was a pretty quick drive up there and they spent the better part of an hour taking advantage of the four wheel drive, romping through the mud, before finding the perfect camping spot. They got their tents and campsite all set up, built an epic campfire, and settled into the frosty 20 degree evening with their guitars. Fortunately, the nip in the air couldn’t compete with the warm comfort of a dancing flame and a bottle and a half of scotch.
Meanwhile, Heather was back in Phoenix. After kissing Jim goodbye, she headed toward downtown Phoenix to meet up with a friend she’s known since she was a teenager. It was Nina’s lunch break so she didn’t have a lot of time, and since she’s training for an ultra-trail run, she requested to spend our catching up time going for a run, which actually turned out to be pretty awesome. Once Nina was back to work, Heather had a few hours of downtime back at her folks’ house before showering up and again heading downtown. This time to meet Cindy, a friend of about 10 years now. They had a magical evening of chatting for well over 3 hours, while the waitress shot dirty looks to try to get the table freed up for other patrons. Cindy asked Heather to be a bridesmaid in her September wedding! What a fun year of weddings this will be! Once dinner was over, Heather headed back to her parents’ house and tucked herself into Bertha for a solo night.
Jim spent Saturday in the woods, having a very testosterone-filled day. The boys spent hours playing cornhole, shooting guns, drinking beer, and rocking out the acoustic guitars fireside. What else do you do when you’re camping? As darkness rolled in over their remote forest campsite, stars and planets began to fill the sky above. Mars, Venus and Neptune were all in alignment, and both Mars and Venus were so brightly illuminated that they were easy to spot from the wee hours of dusk on. A telescope and DSLR camera might be welcomed additions to the gear checklist in the future…
Also on Saturday, Heather started the day with some more down time to herself (what a treat) before heading over to meet up with Krissy and baby Charly. We spent some time around the house hanging out and eventually getting ready to head out for an evening on the town, sans baby! We headed to a great little Mediterranean restaurant downtown and gorged on sweet potato fries and gyros before heading over to meet up with Heather’s friend, Missy, and her brother, Eric, at Valley Bar. Valley Bar is a cool hipster spot and we spent a few hours there playing darts, hanging out, and making new friends. It was fun to get a night on the town with the girls…and Eric.
Sunday was our last day apart and Heather spent the morning with her girlfriend, Kash. We did a killer lower body workout in the park (again downtown), and once we felt we had earned it, we walked up the street to an awesome little cafe. The whole area we were in was adorable. As we walked down the street we were admiring the eclectic little homes and imagining how cool it’d be to be neighbors. We sat on the gorgeous, sunny patio for a while catching up on all the girly things we’d been missing. After brunch, Heather again went to meet up with Missy to go for a hike. We decided on Piestewa Peak. Heather had never done that one before and it was fantastic! It was quite the steep hike, especially after having just done a lower body workout, and her legs were shaking by the time they hit the summit. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for an Arizona desert hike – warm, sunny, and clear for miles so you could see the entire valley in every direction. As we were finishing the hike, Jim called to say he had just gotten home. Heather headed back to meet him and we got all cleaned up before heading back out to meet Missy for one of the most delicious Italian dinners in the history of the world. We were both beat after dinner, we cuddled up and put a movie on…but only made it to 10:30 before we had to turn off the movie and crash out.
The next morning, we were headed back to the east side of town for one last day with Jim’s mom and sisters. We met Jim’s mom at the movie theater to see La La Land…what a visually and musically stunning movie! And now Heather is working on Jim to take dance lessons, haha. After the movie, we headed back to her house to hang with the the rest of the group and to head to the neighbors’ for a nice happy hour on their picturesque back porch. It couldn’t have been a nicer evening. We said our goodbyes to the neighbors, ran Jamey over to Best Buy to return a laptop, then helped her shove her suitcases full of toys and chocolates for all the kids in Guatemala. We said our goodbyes to Jim’s mom and dropped Jamey at the airport on our way back to the west side of town. It’s always sad saying goodbye after a nice trip with the people you love.
Tuesday was our day to get things done before heading out to California. We both had dentist appointments, Jim had a doctor’s appointment to get a check up, and we had a guy come out to replace Bertha’s cracked windshield. It wasn’t an overly exciting day but we got a lot done, including all our cleaning and laundry so Bertha is ready to hit the road once again!
Today, Wednesday, we had a few final loose ends to tie up in the morning and finally hit the road around noon. It was a beautiful day to drive through the desert and we’ve enjoyed the scenery as head back to the coast. We always love our time in Arizona but are excited to be on the move again, ready for the next adventure!
We hope the new year is starting out right for all of you as well! Thanks for reading and lots of love to you always!
Total RV Trip Miles: 13,501.2