A Truckie’s Retirement

On May 30, 2010, the National Lampoon’s Wagon Queen Family Truckster departed Austin, Texas to begin an expedition around the United States…and part of Canada. Years of labor from the great Gary Schneider resurrected this iconic vehicle that symbolizes America, family vacations and a quest for happiness. Three months later, after fulfilling its duty as HomeAway.com’s mascot and goodwill ambassador, the Truckster officially broke down in a Target parking lot, but back inside Austin’s City Limits! After traveling through 2 countries, 36 states and 13,475 miles, the Truckster came to its final resting place on August 25, 2010, symbolizing the end of HomeAway’s Great American Road Trip. Along the way, we gave out almost 10,000 coozies and postcards, 5,000 beach balls and 4,000 frisbees.

The three Truckies, John, Steph and sometimes Adam, stayed in 36 of HomeAway.com’s vacation homes in 35 different cities throughout the United States and Canada. Within these homes, 27 loads of laundry were spin cycled and 215 meals (including oatmeals of every style) were consumed. Since we had plenty of time for cooking, Steph and I invented a new fish taco recipe that we may enter into the county fair next year. We kept a nice balance of trying new cuisine in different cities and preparing our own meals—a wonderful advantage of staying in a vacation home.
Since we earned the credibility to call ourselves professional travelers and bloggers, we got the chance to meet and spend some time with others in a similar position. In Virginia Beach and Washington D.C we met up with Mara Gorman, in Boston we spent two days with Kim Mance and in Seattle, Jennifer Miner hopped aboard for a few days. We also had run-ins with Keith Savage, Jessica from WhyGo Italy, Michelle Duffy and Kim and Jason just to name a few.
At no point was our metallic pea green compromised and all of our wood paneling stayed perfectly in tact. That’s fancy talk for, “The Truckster was never scratched!” I know what you’re thinking, “John, there had to have been at least ONE time when you were close to hitting something.” Well, it was pretty close when a mammoth cow was crossing the road at midnight, in the rain, on a blind turn. And then there were the times when the luggage flew off the roof on the way to…well let’s just say the luggage flew off the roof a couple times and nobody was hurt.

At the end of each day, we had the good fortune of coming home to one of HomeAway’s vacation houses and always having enough room to disappear from each other if we needed our own space (the inside of the Truckster is only about 10 square feet). We also woke up every morning and could make breakfast and coffee in the kitchen, which Steph and I could NOT do without. Any time her clothes stunk, I would direct her to the laundry room in our house, and whenever I was annoying her (I have a tendency to ramble) she could go watch TV, play some Wii or hang out in one of our many backyard pools.

We were never very far from downtown in major cities we stayed in so we always had fun going out at night. A short cab ride to popular nightspots is all you need to kickoff an evening out in any random city! Not to mention, if we had friends in town there was always enough room to house them.
What I may miss the most is telling people I drive the Family Truckster when I’m asked about my job. Or maybe it will be waking up in one city and falling asleep in another. Perhaps it will be the Truckster itself, that pea green, 18-foot box of joy! Whatever it is, I know I could probably win a Pulitzer Prize for my “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay!

Truckster’s Final Resting Place

Adam and I were rolling through the desert over the last few days to get the Truckster back to HomeAway.com’s headquarters in Austin, TX, wrapping up the Great American Road Trip. Despite almost hitting an elephant-sized cow and having some starter issues, things were moving pretty well…until we reached Austin.
We decided to make a pit stop at Target to get some last minute goods before pulling the Truckster in to HQ when we felt something snap. “Pull over!” I barked, “I think we blew a tire.” We coasted in to Target’s driveway (technically reaching our destination) and got out. The Truckster was slumping to the left but there was no flat tire. Not good.
After calling a few tow trucks and getting some street advice from pedestrians, we diagnosed it with a broken lower ball joint on the driver’s side tire. Here’s what ensued…

-John

Truckster goes on Safari!

New Mexico is not only the “Land of Enchantment” but also the land of critters!

To my surprise, the drive through New Mexico was not the barren desert that I had always imagined. The drive on Interstate 10 was filled with mountains, abundant grasslands, palm tree oases and for the most part it was actually raining! When it wasn’t raining, the temperatures were probably in the high 80s with incredible winds.

Mutant cannibal grasshoppers

Mutant cannibal grasshoppers

At one point, we had to pull over for some gas and came across a large colony of mutant grasshoppers! In addition to being neon blue and other exotic colors, these particular grasshoppers were monstrous in size and cannibalistic. A word of caution, the following video is a bit gross and may not be enjoyed by everyone:

Award-winning rest stop in '92!

Award-winning rest stop in '92!


We made our way down I-10 East and stumbled upon one of the best rest stops…in 1992. I’m surprised it hasn’t won any more awards in the last 18 years because the bathrooms smelled like fresh oranges and the soap tingled our nostrils with the scent of freshly baked cakes! It also had plenty of warning signs cautioning us of the rattlesnakes and wildlife in the area (safety first!). However, we weren’t warned about this extremely long walking worm and we began to wonder if any of New Mexico’s bugs were normal-sized.
Walking worm in New Mexico!

Walking worm in New Mexico!



Mexico/United States border fence

Mexico/United States border fence

Another thing you’ll only find in the southwest is the border fence. Neither Adam nor I had seen this before, but we paralleled it for a little while on Route 8 and contemplated jumping it. It looked pretty tall, which only made us more curious as to what was on the other side. We didn’t jump it, but only because we were on a time schedule.

Finally, as we approached our vacation home in Fort Davis, we saw a sign that read: “OPEN RANGE”. “No big deal,” we thought, “probably just for decoration like the ‘Welcome to Texas’ sign.” Boy were we wrong. In hindsight, the sign should have read: “CAUTION- SAFARI” because in the midst of the rain and nightfall, we came around a turn and crossing the road in front of us was the largest cow Adam or I had ever seen in our lives. Believe me, Adam lives in Texas and I’ve attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show almost every year since birth, this cow was HUGE. The rest of the drive was spent calculating the physics of a 3,000-pound object flying into our grill and how we would explain to a farmer that his freak elephant/cow is our new hood ornament.


Tomorrow, we finalize the drive to Austin and bring the Truckster home!

-John

Truckster’s Desert Trek

On Monday, John and I began the final leg of this summer’s Great American Road Trip. I flew out to San Diego over the weekend to take the reins from Steph who is headed to New York to begin her career in advertising. I’ve traded my desk chair for the Truckster’s driver’s seat to accompany John on this 1,300 mile journey back to HomeAway HQ in Austin, TX.

Sand dunes in SoCal

Sand dunes in SoCal


The trip turned out to be quite an adventure! The first day we experienced multiple border checkpoints and saw some of the most breathtaking scenery through the deserts and mountains of Southern California and Arizona.
Sandstorms---very dangerous!

Sandstorms---very dangerous!


After a long day of driving, we stopped to grab a bite to eat in our destination of Tucson and had the unfortunate occurrence of a dead Truckster. It wouldn’t start! We all know the Grisowlds had their own maintenance issues in Arizona but we promise we didn’t fly the Truckster 50 yards off a cliff!
Skiing anyone?

Skiing anyone?

With unsuccessful attempts at jump-starting the Truckster, AAA was quick to the rescue and informed us that the solenoid on the starter was malfunctioning…solendoid?…sounds like something on the space shuttle. The coolest part of this unfortunate ordeal was that John and I learned a nifty trick, how to hotwire the Truckster.

Check out this video of John demonstrating the use of our new key to the ignition, a Swiss Army knife.

Mechanics are like Truckster doctors

Mechanics are like Truckster doctors

The next day, instead of creating suspicion to everyone observing us starting the Truckster in the future, we had the solenoid replaced and were on our way to Fort Davis, TX for pit stop number two on the way home.

After that long ordeal, it was very rewarding to rest our heads in this lovely Tucson vacation rental. Huge beds and a huge TV can cure any day’s woes.

Tomorrow, we complete the journey to Austin!

-Adam

Charge on, Truckster!

Ultimate Chargers Tailgate

Ultimate Chargers Tailgate


One of our favorite things to do with the Truckster is to visit huge tailgates at stadiums! For this reason, we went to Qualcomm Stadium to the Chargers vs. Cowboys preseason game. I love tailgates because we have rockin’ coozies that say “The Griswolds Are Back” and fans of all teams need them! Tailgating is fun enough, but rolling up in the Truckster is a true game changer. I’ve never been offered so many free hotdogs, sausages and burgers in my life…

Pre-season football amazes me. It’s not the actual game or the amount of fans that show up to them (although impressive) but it’s the energy and fanfare for a game that doesn’t count for anything. At this game, they shot fireworks for every Chargers player and had a flyover. A FLYOVER! By this point in August, America is so starved for football, we fly fighter jets in celebration of pre-season—what a beautiful thing.

San Diego Auto Museum Truckster exhibit

San Diego Auto Museum Truckster exhibit


Today, we went to the San Diego Auto Museum to exhibit the Truckster. When I say we, I mean Adam and me because Steph left the tour yesterday : ( Don’t worry, it has been planned for a long time, she has a big time “job” in “New York City” starting soon so she had to leave a few days early to prepare.
Shopping for important parts

Shopping for important parts


Since Adam and I are macho guys, we looked under the Tuckster’s hood and noticed we would need a new serpentine belt for our drive across the desert.
Preparations...

Preparations...


After coolly handling the “serpentine situation,” I took Adam to In-N-Out for his first time!
Adam stares in awe...

Adam stares in awe...

Tomorrow, we begin our trek into the heat, I mean, desert.

-John

Truckster’s Tribute to Woody Wagons

Sidewalk mosaic

Sidewalk mosaic


For the second time this summer we have come across a woody wagon themed show! These are special times for us because the Truckster always sticks out sorely, yet is a crowd favorite. The car show in Encinitas was a classic example of the Truckster going above and beyond compared to the other woodies.
Woody celebrations!

Woody celebrations!


All of the woody wagons looked spectacular, were made of real wood and most had surfboards on the top (we are in California ya know). When I was going around taking pictures of the cars I thought the boards looked cool and thought, “Man, that would be neat if we had a surfboard on top of our car.” However, I got to the Truckster to take a photo and STILL, after almost 3 months of driving it, laughed out loud when I looked at our roof rack and saw a dead Aunt Edna. Some things will never get old…
Our version of a surfboard

Our version of a surfboard


Very old school surfwagon

Very old school surfwagon

Another interesting Truckster moment happened when we met a family who has been tailing us around California! They said we must have crossed paths on the Pacific Coast Highway when we were coming from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They live in Orange County, just south of LA, but didn’t get see us when we were there either. Finally, now that we’re in San Diego, they found us at the car show! Not only that, but the Dad was wearing a Wally’s World t-shirt—a true fan! Something tells me they might drive a bright red Ferrari…
We’ll be at the beaches in San Diego tomorrow, see you then!

-John

Surf's up!

Surf's up!

Storming the Beaches!

Painted lifeguard towers---a colorful touch!

Painted lifeguard towers---a colorful touch!


The last couple days we took advantage of the Southern California sun and hit the beaches. LA has some of the country’s most famous beaches including Santa Monica, Venice, Hermosa, Manhattan and Long Beach. Turns out an old woody wagon is a hit here in SoCal! Both Truckster fans and old school California lovers appreciated the Truckster for its cosmetic glory—not to mention the fact that we were giving away beach balls and frisbees AT the beach!
Venice Beach

Venice Beach


We find ourselves in Hermosa beach right now which is great because I hear this is one of the best surfing beaches in the LA area. I’ve been doing some surfing since we got here and trying to convince Steph to do the same but she claims the water is too cold. I also just grabbed a sweet deal on a longboard skate board—$30! When he said I could have it for $30, I asked him what’s wrong with it. His response, “It’s in really good shape, wheels are good, no cracks in the board, it’s just really ugly is all.” Clearly, I’m not one to judge the appearance of my transportation so I took him up on the offer. I told the him I’d give him a ride in the Truckster for giving me such a sweet price, I’m pretty sure he just made the best deal of his life!
Hermosa Beach street signs

Hermosa Beach street signs


One thing to note about the west coast is that most days start out hazy and end up completely sunny. This is a trend we’ve been spotting since Seattle. We thought the “burning off” was just a northwest thing, but as I write, I can see the haze disappearing from the Hermosa Beach horizon. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll see how Steph and I can never seem to come to grips with this miracle of Mother Nature.
Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier


Tomorrow we’re headed to Anaheim, home of Disneyland. I’m going to be looking out for Donald Duck because I’m seeking an autograph from the King of Quack. We might come back to LA for a Dodgers game or visit Newport Beach to add to our SoCal beach experiences. Talk to you soon…

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