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!

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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