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
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,
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
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
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
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
: 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.
: You should only try some roads once and this is one of
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.
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
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
still able to push it up our steepest hill.
Ellen thought it was kinda fun
. Pete was not amused
the scooter out of the mud.
Ohio gave us number 4. We just had
to visit Jeff and Mary
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
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
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
#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
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
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