Scenic Side Trips

I remember the scenic side trips mom used to take when I was a boy. She loved to drive all over the area. The area was upstate New York. We lived in Gates… directly outside of Rochester. Lake Ontario was the north border, and the east, south, and west were scenic side trips.

We had four actual seasons back then. The countryside was hilly and green with trees and winding roads. Back then it was two-lane roads with farms and small populated areas.

It was before malls.

Rochester was a huge city. She drove there but not for scenic side trips. We went there to get stuff. However, we rarely came directly home. She managed to find some way to divert from the direct path home to take a scenic side trip.

“Let’s see where this road takes us,” she would say. Or we might be driving along, and she would exclaim, “Oh, look. That looks interesting, let’s see where it goes.”

That’s my mom. She lived in her world of wonder. I take after her.

That’s why I share a scenic side trip I had on my way home from our Pagosa journey in the Casita.

The Casita is only 17 feet long and weighs about 3,500 pounds. I tow it with a massive V-8 Toyota SUV of 2003 vintage. It gets terrible fuel mileage but is wonderfully comfortable. Towing the Casita is like towing a shadow.

However, when I got in my scenic side trip situation, I wish it was a shadow and not a 17-foot appendage I had to maneuver.

We were on US 491, approaching Gallup, New Mexico. Although my route was to take a right on Interstate 40, I wanted to stop at the Home Depot and stay overnight. We had stopped there on the way to Pagosa a few days earlier.

I lucked out on the way to Pagosa. I had exited Interstate 40 when I saw both Walmart and Home Depot just before the exit. I took the exit and turned somewhere in that mess of streets. I weaved around at least one hotel parking lot and a couple of other store parking lots and found myself at the Home Depot parking lot.

In other words, it wasn’t a straight shot. I like it when I can exit one street directly into where I want to go. Like when I pull off to get fuel. Easy pull off, and a direct, easy pull back onto the road.

Here’s a bird’s eye view what I encountered when seeking the Home Depot exit.

US 491 and I-40

The photo identifies Walmart Supercenter. The white building adjacent is Home Depot. I was on US 491, and there is no direct way to find which street would lead me to Home Depot.

I chose the wrong street to exit.

Within 200 yards, the pavement ended into a crushed stone road. It was under construction. There was a Chinese restaurant directly ahead. It was open and full of cars. The road was blocked off.

I decided to pull into the parking lot and go through and pull out the exit. It was a good choice… but a wrong decision.

It was somewhere in the afternoon and folks were entering and leaving the parking lot. It wasn’t like when cars are parked for a few hours. It was an active parking lot with people driving in and finishing their meal and driving out.

And I had my Toyota and Casita blocking a fairly narrow path of parked cars.

I had no choice. I had to back up at least 100 feet. It is a challenge. If you have been following my Casita journey, you know this was my first trip with the Casita.

You also know I had very limited experience backing up. In fact, less than a month before was my first time backing into the storage lot space to park the Casita.

I had an audience. People wanted to get in their cars and leave. There were people in cars wanting to get by me and park so they could eat.

Both groups of people were waiting for me to get out of their way.

Some people got in their car and backed out and managed to squeeze by me and leave. More than one driver decided to squeeze by me and manage to park directly in front of me.

In a way, their actions helped me. It told me I had some room to navigate between the narrow alley of cars.

I didn’t panic. Somehow, I felt supremely confident I could carefully take my time and back up that 100 feet.

It took at least… oh, I don’t know how long… probably less than 15 minutes, but each second seemed like forever. All I knew was I absolutely MUST keep the Casita going straight back. I couldn’t allow the rear of the Casita to wiggle to the right or left more than an inch in my limited vision.

If it did… Either the rear of the Casita would hit a car… or my car’s rear driver side would hit the rear of a parked car.

During all this time, Bernie and Chris were wonderfully silent. I love those dogs for their silence. (usually, Chris enjoys greeting people and animals nearby).

I carefully backed up. To an outsider, the procedure may have looked like a slow, smooth, professional “nothing to it” maneuver.

I was sweating bullets. But when I finally drove out of the parking lot I was grinning. It was my first real long experience backing up. It gave me the supreme confidence I could handle towing the Casita. (I needed that).

Here is a long view of the parking lot.

back up

And this is the blocked off exit that trapped me.


I never recall mom every having problems with her scenic side trips. She always enjoyed whatever popped up.

There’s a lesson having that attitude.

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