Hitting (or missing) the Open Road,

This week's photo collection is the 16 worst roads we've traveled (so far). Each road, listed from bad to worse, taught us lessons about travel.

The first thing most people ask about Alaska is, "Aren't the roads really bad?".  Well, you can tell them that in this week's travelogue, there are 15 roads that are worse! Coming in at #16 is the road between Anchorage and Valdez, Alaska.  It is our best example of how the frost heaves turn a level road into a roller coaster.  If you travel at 60 mph, it is truly a bad road.  But, at 25 to 30, it is actually quite fun as you experience recurring weightlessness!  Lesson: The paved roads in Alaska are not a problem in your motorhome when driven at the proper speeds.

#15 is in Northwest Maui, Hawaii.  This road is listed for "locals only" and no, we did not drive the Mothership, just a small rental car.  And yet, the on coming traffic, still had to hug to edge to allow us to pass.  Lesson: Don't pay attention to the locals only signs and enjoy a great road with gorgeous views and drive very slowly.

No. #14 is Califonia's beautiful Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Monterey.  This 130 mile stretch of the road has a view of the Pacific Ocean for most of the trip.  While many RVer's are surprised that we would drive the road, there is only about 10 miles that are tight 20 mph curves.  It is best to take the road when traffic is light.  And driving South on the ocean side of the road would be a wild ride.  Lesson: Don't be a wimp, go for it!

Our #13 road is California Highway 121 between Petaluma and Lake Berryessa.  This road goes into the category of "we'll try anything once".  The road is not a problem for the motorhome, but you will get a long line of cars, motorcycles and bicycles behind you wanting to pass.  And there are almost no turn outs to let them do that.  We guess that the orange sport car ahead of us should have been a clue.  Lesson: Don't assume that the size of a road on your GPS is a real indication of it's width.

Road #12 is the Rainbow Bridge which connects Canada to the New York at Niagara Falls.  The bridge is a few hundred feet long and has a great view of the falls.  But it took an hour and a half to move across as you had to go through the border checkpoint. Ellen walked it several times, taking pictures while Pete sat in traffic. Lesson:  Try the bridge just a few miles further North and you can cross in minutes instead of hours.

At the 11th spot is the beach road at Pensacola Beach.  According to the sign below, you can "Drive East along the Gulf of Mexico" right on the water on Florida route FL-399. After about 8 miles, however, you learn that the bridge, that should take you back to the mainland, is gone.

At this moment, you are thankful that you do not tow a car.  We can back  up easily using the rear view camera to stay in our lane.  This road is bordered by soft sand and we backed up about 1/2 mile before we felt comfortable turning around without getting stuck in the sand.  Lesson: Without a tow car, you have the flexibility of going down any road without worrying about how to get back.

#10, also in Florida, proves the validity of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me".  This was a few weeks after #11.  Our GPS showed that we could travel right on the Atlantic Ocean's edge and cross over a non-existent bridge to once again, get back to the mainland.  The bridge washed out years ago.  This time we were able to turn around and drive out forward.  The only "grouch" we met in 3 years was on this road. We stopped in front of his home, looking for a place to turn around.  He came out yelling "You're not turning around here, you guys are ruining my driveway."  After we mentioned we were just looking for a turn around, he became very nice and helped us on our way.  Lesson: Don't believe your GPS all the time.

For number 9, we had to travel to British Columbia.  The "Sea to Sky Highway (BC-99)" is quite a ride with 13% up and downgrades.  In the right hand photo below, you can barely see the road that we had to descend.  If you use your brakes on the downhills, they would burn out. You must use 1st gear and only use your brakes sporadically, when needed.

Besides the 13% descent, this road includes many hair pin turns.  Actually it was fun and beautiful.  Lesson: It's good to have 400 horsepower (up) and an exhaust brake (down).

#8 is AZ-89 Alternate, Arizona's highway from Clarkdale to Prescott.  It goes through Jerome, a small town cut into the side of the mountain.  We would have loved to stop and visit Jerome, but with it's narrow streets, we did not find a place large enough to park.  Lesson: When you see a town hanging onto the side of a mountain, it is probably too small for a motorhome.

Highway 178 from Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley to Ridgecrest, California took the #7 spot.  We knew this road was narrow when we saw the opening sign that said "Road not recommended for trucks and buses".  This would mean that there would be tight turns; that's okay, we're used to that.  A few miles down the road another sign said "No vehicles over 25 feet".  Too late, like a pig in a ham and egg breakfast, we were committed.  In photo 3 below, we pulled off the road as that road was getting smaller by the mile.  We stopped an oncoming vehicle to inquire about the road.  We asked if they thought that we could make it.  They queried "Are you over 25 feet?".  "Yes, we are 44.".  "You should be okay!" And we were.

Lesson: You should only try some roads once and this is one of them

Even the scooter can find a road too tough.  Road #6 is in Arkansas.  The day after Hurricane Ike came through, there was water everywhere and downed trees.  We took a scooter ride toward Branson, Missouri.  Heading home, we took a small road that would save an hour of travel time.  However, Ike turned the road into a stream and we turned back.  Lesson: A 4WD would be great in Arkansas.

#5 was the scooter again.  We were told of a great 25 mile road to a small lake near Zion National Park in Utah.  It was a great ride, but we never like to back track.  So we headed up a wide and smooth dirt road that turned into a mud bath.  In photo 1 Pete picked a dry strip to travel while Ellen walked.  She walked after we dumped the scooter several times.  We met up with a park ranger who said we would never make it through.  So we headed back only to have the mud cake up in the fenders to the point where the front wheel would not even rotate.  Somehow, we were still able to push it up our steepest hill.

Ellen thought it was kinda fun .  Pete was not amused . Lesson: Keep the scooter out of the mud.

Ohio gave us number 4.  We just had to visit Jeff and Mary Ellen in Piqua.  Their driveway is narrow and their bridge can only hold 10 tons. The Mothership weights in at 17 tons.  Not a problem as only one axle was on the bridge at a time.  We trimmed the trees on the way out to avoid scratches.  Lesson: Trim the trees on the way in (duh!).

Back in the trees again was #3.  Pete failed to listen to the GPS and headed down the wrong road in Arkansas.  A great thing about a GPS is that it will tell you how to be back to your original route.  But the GPS does not know that the homemade bridge is broken down and will not hold the Mothership.  So we turned around and put several hundreds scratches on the left side of the motorhome to match the several hundred we got on the right side coming in.  Lesson: Get back on the right route, right away.

Okay, maybe some of the roads in Alaska are not so good for your motorhome.  One of the worst roads in America is the Top of the World Highway in Alaska.  The road goes 66 miles from Dawson City, Yukon to the Alaskan border.  The Canadian section is half gravel and half paved, but the entire road is smooth and you can travel 60 mph, even on the gravel.  However, as soon as you reach Boundary, Alaska, on the border, you must slow to 20 mph.  This 74 mile road to Tok, was not rutty but it was like natural cobblestone that would beat you to death at 21+ mph.  Many people told us that you want to travel this road, at least once.  We beg to differ.  You are at 5,500 feet for a hundred miles, but the views are not that spectacular, the road is rough and you collect enough dirt to fill a sandbox.  The Top of the World Highway receives our #2 rating.  So what is the No.1 big bad motorhome road of the USA?

#1 The Freeway!  Of our 60,000+ miles we have traveled, we would guess that only 10,000 are on freeways.  We avoid them whenever we can.  They are straight, usually smooth and will bore you to death.  Now, if you have a limited time off, then by all means, jump on the freeway.  But, if you travel full time, get off the main roads and hit the little ones.  What you will see is the real America in all its glory.  For example, you will never see the 6-seat, open 24-hour chapel north of Yellowstone,  the quaint little towns, or the everyday people and how they live. The people are the best part of RV travel.

We not only avoid the freeways, we try to never take a road for the second time.  Lesson: Take your time, slow down and smell the flowers along the way.

Yes, this truck is going the same way we are, being towed in for repair.

We were delighted to share some our very unique experiences and we'll see you next week.

Love, Pete and Ellen

Another lesson from Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
By Pete . Ellen Mattson