Heading for the Sunshine!
(Photos of this trip were lost during an earlier site migration.)
January 5 – 22, 2006
Day 1, Thursday, Home to Bakersfield, CA via SR99: 206 miles.
I’m on the road again!
It’s not often that I miss a full month of RVing, but December came and passed and I didn’t turn a wheel on this motor home except to have it cleaned and to gas it up.
I headed south this morning with expectations to reach Barstow. But I did something better; I stopped and visited my cousins Ken and Murle Jean in Fresno. What a pleasure to visit with those I grew up with and have a lifetime connection to. We visited for about an hour, catching up on the latest family happenings. And then I continued south.
My intention for Day 1 was to reach Barstow, but that intent melted away as I approached the Flying J Travel Plaza near Bakersfield. I was tired. It was after 3 O’clock and it just seemed the right thing to do to park early.
I spent a couple of hours getting caught up on my computer doings. That included sorting out this laptop that crashed awhile back. It’s a drag, but it has to be done.
I’ll continue my trip to Arizona tomorrow, rested and more alert. I’m anxious to cross those Tehachapi Mountains and drive through the Mojave Desert.
More tomorrow or whenever I find another Wifi connection…
Day 2, January 6, Bakersfield, CA to Laughlin, NV via SR58, I-40, US95: 308 miles
Day 2 was a bit frustrating. By mid-morning the fog in Bakersfield still hung heavy in the air and it continued ’til I drove above it well into the Tehachapi Mountains. When I finally rose above it, it was a gorgeous day, just what I was looking for: sunshine and warmth.
My plan was to drive to Needles – and I did. But when I got there I discovered that there was no place to park. No Wal-Mart, no truck stops, nothing. And with a population of just 5000 souls, I guess I understand why. It’s a small desert town with little retail presence. I’ve always known of Needles, and I guess I assumed it was a bigger town. Now I know better.
So I headed for Bullhead City, Arizona and the Wal-Mart store. When I got there, I did a bit of shopping. During my visit I talked to another RVer in the parking lot and learned that the city rousted over-nighting RVers as a matter of policy. Regularly. And the fact that he and I were the only RVers in the parking lot seemed to confirm what he said. I moved on.
I drove through town and crossed the bridge to Laughlin, Nevada to park in one of the casino parking lots. The first lot was so full of RVs and other vehicles, and the spaces were so tight, that I figured that I could do better. I found a dirt lot across the street that was occupied by a lot of big rigs. It was dark and I wasn’t going to be too picky. I pulled in for the night.
The logistics of the day were pretty screwy, but the drive was entirely enjoyable once I got above the fog. I do love the driving part of RVing, probably a lot more than the camping.
Tomorrow will be another big day. I hope I can find a Wifi hot spot to get on the ‘net.
Day 3, Saturday, Jan 7, Laughlin, NV to Eloy, AZ via SR95, SR72, I-10, SR85, I-8: 324 miles
It didn’t take long for me to get out of that dirt lot in the morning. I didn’t much like being amongst the noisy big rigs or the casinos. It wasn’t much past dawn when I drove back across the river to the Walmart lot.
While there I did my morning chores; I cleaned the front windows, did a bit of housekeeping, took a shower and shaved. And ate breakfast.
The day’s drive was just gorgeous. Much of the trip was along the Colorado River and the many attractions that are along its banks. I drove by Havasu City and the transplanted London Bridge. The sunshine was wonderful and the warmth was well into the 70s.
I have to work at staying put this trip. I always want to hit the road and see the country when I’m RVing. But this trip is without a specific destination; I simply want to be in the sunshine and warm weather. And I am there. But I’ll drive each day to different areas of Arizona and probably Texas. I don’t know just where, however, and being a hobo is part of the fun.
Day 4, Sunday, Jan 8, Eloy, AZ to Nogales, AZ via I-10, SR83, SR82: 129 miles
While these Arizona days are sunny and warm, the nights are colder than at home. But with five blankets on my bed, I‘m a pretty tough guy. And of course, forced air heating is a good thing when necessary. I’ve been using the heater every morning.
I struggled to stay put this morning and get a late start. It’s my nature to be up and at ’em early, then to get on the road pronto. I’m trying to break that habit, but it’s not easy. I am, after all, at my destination. I’ve found warm weather and I ought to just find a decent RV park and stay put for a couple of weeks. But I know I’d leave in a day or two, seeking out new sights and roads less traveled. But I did take my time at the Flying J and their Wifi internet connection. I updated my RV site. I caught up on my email, such as it was, the vast majority of it was spam. As usual. I checked my favorite news, weather and comic sites. I had a leisurely breakfast of oats and raisins and nuts. And orange juice. I’m turning into Nature Boy. At this rate I may soon be foraging with the squirrels.
Today’s drive was again sunny and warm and very pleasant. Even the drive through Tucson was smooth and easy. I usually avoid busy areas such as Tucson. I have avoided Phoenix and even Quartzsite this trip. I prefer the scenic routes, on two lane US Highways, over the speed and monotony of the Interstates and take them every chance I get. I see the country as it really is and I drive pretty slow. I love the rural driving and the rural sites.
Yes, I avoided the RV Mecca of Quartzsite. As thousands of RVers gather there this time of year, I took a short cut to avoid the entire area. I’m sure the RVers that enjoy crowds and flea markets are having a wonderful time, and I’d probably enjoy the shopping, but certainly not the crowds. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
I am pleasantly surprised to see the freedom of choice here in Arizona for motorcyclists. They can choose whether to wear helmets or not without big government choosing for them, and it seems that many of them choose not to. Why they would take the risk, I don’t know, but they do have the choice! And the big rigs streak along the Interstates at 75 MPH, and maybe a bit more, along with the rest of the traffic. It’s good to be reminded that most western states don’t have that antiquated 55 MPH law for the big rigs. California’s law turns trucks that are capable of running with the flow of traffic into rolling log jams. But I digress…
I was surprised to drive to nearly 6,000 feet elevation today as I cut south on the scenic Arizona Highways 82 and 83 to Nogales. I could have taken I-19 and made it a lot quicker, but, blah, blah, blah. (See above!) The two lane state highways were very scenic and had relatively little traffic. I enjoyed the drive immensely.
I have plenty of higher elevation driving ahead of me if I drive into Texas, which I think I’ll do. Once into the lower elevations the nights should be warmer. But the days may not be as warm. I’ll find out in the coming days.
When I pulled into the Wal-Mart lot in Nogales, the store was missing! Sure enough, they had built a Super Center in town, and the old store was occupied by some other business. That’s not the first time my Garmin Street Pilot wasn’t up to date with Wal-Mart. But how does one keep up with Wal-Mart? It is such a vibrant and thriving business that it would be impossible to keep such navigation devices current with their growth and change.
Eventually I found the new Super Center and chose my “campsite” in a far corner of the lot. I dug out my little electric scooter from the basement storage and headed for the store.
Nogales is a stone’s throw from the Mexican border. I was amazed how many Mexican license plates I saw in the parking lot. Apparently many Mexicans come across the border to shop cheaper here at Wal-Mart than in their home towns. I was amazed. And most conversations I overheard in the store were in Spanish. When I checked out, the cashier greeted me in Spanish. I think.
Tomorrow will be another day of discovery. For me, I’m in un-traveled territory here in Nogales, and have been since leaving I-10. I love it. Life is good.
Day 5, Jan 9, Nogales, AZ to Deming, NM via SR82, SR90, I-10: 248 miles
The night at Nogales was cold, I used all five blankets and still had the heater on. That high elevation is not part of what I was looking for. I want sunny, warm days and mild nights. So what if this is January, isn’t Arizona always hot? Or at least warm? I guess not.
When I got dressed to meet the day, I chose to head for the border before the morning chores and breakfast. I drove south ‘til I eventually reached a sign that said “Mexico Only”. I figured I had gone far enough and headed back. I found the store that used to be Wal-Mart, pulled into the lot and did my morning chores: Housework, breakfast, shower and shave and planning the day’s trip.
This is the first trip ever that I’ve not known where I was heading each day. I’ve had a notion to drive to the Texas Gulf Coast, but really don’t know why. I’m just hoping it’s warm there. And not windy or rainy.
To that end, I retraced a bit of yesterday’s trip, driving SR82 to SR90 and on up to I-10. Yesterday I drove just a portion of SR82. Even though I have no real destination, I don’t much like backtracking.
I wound up in Deming, NM on I-10 at the end of the day. It was not a long trip but I sure was tired when I got there. I had planned to drive on another 60 miles or so, to Las Cruses and a Wal-Mart store, but instead discovered Deming’s big Wal-Mart – right next to a big K-Mart. It wasn’t listed in my little navigation gizmo, but there it was – a Super Center right on the highway, apparently a fairly new one. I was relieved to find it and gladly dropped the jacks for the night.
Earlier in the day I stopped at a TA Travel Center in Willcox, Az to see if I could get on the ‘net. Sure enough, they had Wifi, although a different one than I am subscribed to through Flying J. For $1.49 I signed on for an hour, right there in my coach. I didn’t even have to go inside. I did a bit of internet banking, checked my email, checked gas prices in New Mexico (and decided to wait ’til I got there to buy gas), whipped up lunch and was then on my way. Oh! And I checked the weather down the road on the internet, too. What a world we live in!
Tomorrow? I’ll decide then. It’s time to hit the sack…
Day 6, Tuesday, Jan 10, Deming, NM to Ft. Stockton, TX via I-10: 332 miles
My life has come to this: I’m a vagabond. A bum. I really am wandering from place to place without plan or direction. At least for now. Of course the bit of cash and the credit cards I carry make the bumming life a bit more pleasant than otherwise. Perhaps more planning wouldn’t hurt, but I really do like this kind of RVing. Today I had to drive a bit further than I wanted because there was no town beyond El Paso that offered safe, free harbor for an RVer. Well, I probably could have spent the night at a rest area, but that doesn’t compare to a Flying J or a Wal-Mart.
Last night was the coldest yet. I had the heater on all night again. Well, it was set for about 60 degrees and it cycled on and off during the night to keep the little bedroom above the 40s – which is how cold it was in the rest of the coach. That is not what I’m out here looking for! So I hit the road at 8 O’clock just to have the chassis heater keep me warm. That’s pretty early for me; no breakfast and no chores got done ’til I got to Anthony, Texas. I drove about 80 miles to the Flying J in Anthony, which was the first off ramp in the state.
I logged onto the internet there to catch up on my comics and other internet interests. I also posted yesterday’s travelogue. But I sure had a hard time with that Wifi. I finally gave up before I got my email answered and posted photos. The dang system just kept losing me time after time. And that was the last Wifi that I know of for the foreseeable future. But I’ll keep writing and shooting photos as I go and post them when I can.
Today’s drive was a long one. Once I got below El Paso it was just endless grassland and high desert broken by a very few small towns. The good news is that it’s not as cold here as in New Mexico. I hope tonight will be more comfortable.
Tomorrow will be another day. And it will mark one week on the road. I don’t know just which roads I’m going to head south on yet. I’d like to get on a US highway and off the Interstate. But if there are no decent places to camp on the two lane roads, I’ll probably have to stay on the big road. I’ll find out tomorrow.
Day 7, Jan 11, Ft. Stockton, TX to San Antonio, TX via I-10: 320 miles
I woke up to a milder morning in Ft. Stockton‘s Wal-Mart lot. I ran the heater just a bit and with the sunrise the coach warmed up nicely.
I set about getting the chores done after a few cups of coffee and watching a little TV. (I am amazed at what the networks consider topics worthy of discussion on the morning shows – which I never watch at home. Hollywood’s dress choices seemed to be the hot topic – do people really care!? I guess they do. Those people need to get a life!) The morning chores included a shower which pretty much topped off my holding tank and depleted my fresh water supply. I got a week out the initial water supply. Not bad. I’ll be looking for an RV dump station at the rest areas today.
The little Wal-Mart store in Ft. Stockton was the smallest I’ve ever seen. I didn’t go in because I need a Super Center for my grocery shopping. But the little store shows that Wal-Mart seems to adapt to the smaller towns pretty well.
I was the last RV out of the lot, then took my time driving through town to see the rest of Ft. Stockton. At the end of town I followed the ramp onto I-10 and headed southeast. The view didn’t change much all day; hills and grass and more hills was pretty much all I saw.
I did manage to find a rest area with a RV dump and fresh water. That made my day! To someone who doesn’t RV it may not seem like much, but it’s pretty important to us RVers. And it was free! I dumped the holding tanks, loaded on fresh water and was ready for another week.
As I neared San Antonio, the desolation gave way to more and more traffic and the usual big city development. The elevation dropped dramatically during this day’s drive. San Antonio is just 700 feet above sea level. And much warmer!
I pulled into the Flying J on I-10 after taking a loop around the city to get there. I avoided a lot of traffic by doing so.
After settling in and getting on the internet awhile, I decided to have my first meal out of the coach since I left home. I ate at Flying J’s buffet and completely pigged out. At least I pigged out on peas and corn and sweet ‘taters and lots of other veggies. I had one chicken leg and one small bowl of soft vanilla. And I hope I’m losing weight.
The weather in San Antonio was terrific! It was in the 70s when I arrived and the next morning it was in the 60s when I awoke. That was wonderful, just what I’d been looking for! The humidity was in the high 90s and on such mild days not unpleasant.
The plans for the new day were to drive to Corpus Christi. I planned to do some shopping along the way or at the Wal-Mart Supercenter when I arrived in Corpus Christi.
Day 8, Thursday, Jan 12, San Antonio, TX, to Corpus Christi, TX via I-10, I-410, I-37: 151 miles
The drive to Corpus Christi was much the same as the prior day, but the continued drop in elevation was even more noticeable. I bucked a bit of a head wind as I drove through the Texas grasslands and hills and arrived at Corpus Christi about 3 O’clock in the afternoon.
I had an urgent repair on my hands; the coach batteries had died of old age the past couple of days. I noticed that they were low that morning at Ft. Stockton, and they were still low at Corpus Christi. I figured I could just buy a couple at Wal-Mart, so headed on into the store to do my grocery shopping, too.
They had my groceries; they didn’t have my batteries. I needed 205 AH deep cycle monsters, and was out of luck. I asked the lot security guy if there was an auto parts store in the area. Yep, there was one about two miles away. I was on my way!
I arrived at the local Car Quest store and found a couple of the batteries I needed! I switched the batteries, got credit for my old ones and was on my way in about an hour. Lucky me! I was about $175 lighter, but my battery problems were over. Back to the Wal-Mart I headed, but got lost due to highway construction in the area. With a little help from my Garmin Street Pilot, I soon found my way.
The anxiety of the batteries dictated an extra beer when I finally settled in for the night. I dug out The Music Man video and had a lovely evening. Life is good.
Day 9, Jan 13, At ease in Corpus Christi, TX. I’m taking a day off.
Yep. I’m doing something new. I’m doing nothing. Well, that’s not true; I’m doing housework and catching up on my travelogue. But I am staying put. I’ve never done that while aboard the RV except after arriving at a particular destination such as family or friend’s homes. And staying put while on the road just doesn’t come naturally for me.
I vacuumed the whole coach. Then dusted. I spotted a Chinese buffet in the next block when I arrived and gave up breakfast so I could have an early lunch there. Mmmmm. It was an unusually good Chinese buffet. Or maybe it just seemed that way because I haven’t eaten Chinese in over a week. That’s a long time for me!
One reason I’m staying put is because the wind is really blowing here today. It’s supposed to lay down tonight – and it’s also supposed to drop into the 30s overnight. But then back into the 70s tomorrow. I may head south to McAllen to visit the south tip of Texas. Or I may head north towards home. I plan to visit my son and his family in San Diego next weekend. I guess I’ll decide tomorrow…
Day 10, Saturday, Jan 14, Corpus Christi, TX to Eagle Pass, TX via a tour of Padre & Mustang Islands, SR44, US83, US277: 288 miles
Saturday morning dawned bright and blue, as usual in South Texas, and by daylight I was cruising up the northern tip of Padre Island toward Mustang Island and the small town of Port Aransas. Signs along the way informed me that I’d be taking a ferry ride when I got there. I had no idea. The ferry is no big deal to the locals, for sure. Other than a bridge about 20 miles south, it was the only way to the mainland.
What a quaint little town! What a nice place to live. (Please note, honey!) There was water everywhere – and so were boat dealers and even a West Marine store. I should have dropped in to visit my money, but they were closed.
I drove onto one beach that was right on the highway. The access road stopped abruptly at some very soft looking sand. I couldn’t risk getting the motor home stuck, so I turned around and headed back to the main highway. The sand was more like talcum powder than sand I’m used to and it was a beautiful beach.
I was waved into line at the ferry slips and looked forward to what would be a new experience aboard the coach. But a ferry ride was not to be. A fella walked up to my window and advised me that the captain of the ferry I was in line to board could not load me. He said the tide was so low at that time that my motor home would bottom out on the severe ramp angle caused by low water. Dang! I had no choice but to drive back and take the bridge. In so doing, I eventually drove right by the Wal-Mart where I’d just spent two nights. I had made a 70 mile loop. But I had no complaints. I had seen Corpus Christi the way I should see it, by driving along the seashore for miles. It was beautiful and I envy those who live there. Perhaps in July I wouldn’t be so envious. The humidity is nearly intolerable then, or so I’ve been told.
I proceeded up SR44 toward my destination for the day, the town of Eagle Pass. I drove through brush country, as the locals proudly call it on their signs, and all along the highway were entrances to ranches. Some entrances were grand affairs with stately brick walls, some were simple iron gates with a name welded on. I can’t imagine what they ranched; it seemed too brushy for cattle and there was little to see but endless shrubs and cactus. Perhaps some were deer hunting ranches.
I could have taken I-37 back to San Antonio and then I-10 toward home. But I love to see the outback areas when I travel. I love the small towns and the rural feel of the narrow highways that make up the US and state systems. The Texas state highways amaze me. They go from massive, four lane affairs with huge medians and wide shoulders to paved cow trails. One section I drove today had lanes about 110” wide that barely accommodated the 102” wide motorhome. Another had such a wide median that they could have accommodated 12 lanes. Such extremes are strange – but interesting.
I dropped the jacks at the Eagle Pass Wal-Mart store. Once again the Garmin navigator was out of date with its location. The location indicated on the navigator is currently occupied by a large local grocery and drug chain and I had to ask directions to the Wal-Mart store. Sure enough, a huge Supercenter has been built in this fairly small town of about 23,000. This town must cater to a huge area; the shopping opportunities seem endless. I’d guess half the vehicles in the lot were sporting Mexican license plates. Of three or four TV channels available, none were in English. I watched the Seahawks – Redskins game with the sound off – it was all in Spanish.
Eagle Pass is near the Rio Grande River. I passed a large Border Patrol facility today and saw them working the area pretty regularly. I saw more Border Patrol vehicles than other law enforcement cars today.
I’ll continue on US highways tomorrow ‘til I reach Fort Stockton. I had planned to stay on the US Highways as long as I could, but I could find no Wal-Mart or other safe haven for the night except for Fort Stockton – which is on I-10. So I’ll be back on I-10 tomorrow when I camp at the Wal-Mart store there.
I figure that I’ll be back home a week from tomorrow. And that’ll be a nice thing, too. I love RVing – and I also love being home. I miss Wifey most of all… and our pooch Wiggles… and the fireplace… the hot tub… the boat… the fishing…
Yeah. Home will be nice.
Day 11, Jan 15, Eagle Pass, TX to Ft. Stockton TX via US277, US90, US285: 238 miles
I was up before dawn, showered, chores done and heading for Fort Stockton before 8 O’clock. I don’t know what the hurry was except that if I chose to drive clear to El Paso, another couple hundred miles, I would have time. But that would be way too much driving for me nowadays. When I first started RVing I’d drive 400 miles a day regularly- once in awhile even 500. But with no destination in mind except to be near San Diego on Friday, I’m just taking my time. A bit over 200 miles a day is plenty.
I drove through a lot more brush country today – including another Border Patrol check point. The traffic was so sparse that two agents walked out to the checkpoint just to wave me through, then retired to their Chevy Tahoe to await the next vehicle. I saw one Border Patrol vehicle dragging several tires behind it – apparently to rub out tracks so that fresh footprints would show. There are strips of barren ground beyond the fence line along both sides of the highways. I had no idea the Border Patrol worked so hard at catching illegals.
I do enjoy driving through West Texas. The traffic is very light and the West Texas landscape is endless scrub brush and cactus along the rather good highways. I drove just 50 MPH most of yesterday and today. Such driving is very relaxing and enjoyable. And more strangers waved at me today as we passed on the highways than have waved at me in California since my last Texas visit. These folks are indeed very friendly.
While the bigger towns and cities appear to be prosperous, the rural towns and roadside buildings appear to be in a depression-era economy. I saw more goats today than cattle. Photos I took today show some of the run down conditions. I saw a lot of empty commercial buildings during my drive through the few small towns along the way. Here in Fort Stockton, a town of just 7800 souls, even a huge old K-Mart building stands empty and forlorn. The sign was painted over, but not enough to cover the name. I wonder if they were here before Wal-Mart. I’d bet they were.
After getting settled in the lot today, I took what has become my usual half hour walk. In a vacant lot next door I saw a Road Runner no more than 30 feet from me. For the heck of it – and, of course, scientific research – I chased the critter to see if he’d fly. Nope. In a nano second he safely distanced himself from my pathetic effort. Do I know how to have a good time – or what!?
Tomorrow I’ll be on I-10 all day long. I plan on getting on the ‘net at the Flying J near El Paso and finally post all this rambling – plus new photos – to my site.
Day 12, Jan 16, Ft. Stockton, TX to Anthony, TX via I-10: 253 miles
Ostensibly, weather was the purpose of this January adventure; I went in search of warm weather and sunshine. And I also was getting away from cold and fog, and that was the true purpose. And I succeeded pretty well. Until now. Today dawned windy and cloudy and a few rain drops actually fell as I prepared to hit the road. But the real problem today has been wind.
It is not pleasant driving into a headwind of any significance, and this wind is certainly that. I fought the wheel most all day against either a headwind or a crosswind. When I get out of the coach it’s miserable and cool. The best that can be said of this day is that I drove out of the clouds and into bright sunshine. And that’s fine even in the wind – if I stay indoors. And other than gassing up and loading on some propane, that’s just what I’ve done. It doesn’t look like I’ll be taking a walk today.
I’m hoping that tomorrow the winds will lay down. According to NOAA it’s supposed to be sunny with winds to 7 MPH tomorrow in Las Cruces, NM. But they are predicting lows in the 20s tonight in the El Paso area. It’s a good thing I bought propane today.
I’m on the internet today, and will finally get this travelogue updated and the photos posted. It’s been days since I was logged on. A week from today I’ll have been home a day. I think. I hope. I enjoy the driving immensely this trip, as usual, but this sort of adventure is not as pleasant as driving to a destination. I don’t enjoy hanging around for much time. I want to be on the move. My trip around the country last year was more interesting because every day I saw new country. I miss that. But I’d do this again. It sure beats sitting around in the house looking out at the fog. And by next month the weather may improve enough to actually do some fair weather sturgeon fishing. Hurry Springtime!
Day 12, Tuesday, Jan 17, Anthony, TX to Eloy, AZ via I-10: 340 miles
I didn’t plan to drive so far this day, but that’s how it worked out. I just wanted to get to a Flying J again so I could access the ‘net. And it was a grand day to just keep on truckin’ because the sun was bright and the wind was calm. I enjoyed the long drive.
As usual, I did not expect to find the drive through Tucson to be pleasant, but the traffic flowed nicely and there were no delays. Still, I sure do prefer the wide open spaces to the hassle of city traffic.
Today I’ll likely end up back in California. I haven’t been in the Brawley or El Centro areas since my truckin’ days back in the 70s, so I think I’ll head there today. Those places are very low elevation, relatively warm and hopefully I’ll find calm winds. And I’ll be in the San Diego area for the weekend and head for home Sunday.
So far it’s been a grand trip.
Day 13, Jan 18, Eloy, AZ to Yuma, AZ via I-10, I-8: 200 miles
This day began slow and easy at the Flying J lot in Eloy, AZ. I took my time getting around, knowing that I had two days to get to my son’s home in Oceanside, CA. I spent some leisure time on the internet, keeping my travelogue up to date and visiting my usual internet sites.
When I began to pull out of the lot, I discovered that the automatic steps at the door didn’t tuck up and out of the way. Uh-oh. I recalled that at one point yesterday I pulled a bit too close to a curb and when the steps automatically dropped down for use, they didn’t quite extend all the way. That might have blown a fuse. But where was the fuse? It was a 30A fuse in a 25A slot. Oh yeah, I remembered, I upped the fuse capacity to prevent this from happening.
I pulled the fuse and it seemed to be OK. So I climbed down under the coach at the steps, looking for another fuse. None were there. I looked again at the 30 amp fuse and it looked fine. I even checked it with my little meter. It showed continuity. Dang. I finally decided to change it anyway. And with the new fuse, the steps worked! I don’t know how that could be, but the steps now work fine and that’s all that really matters. And that’s a good lesson for me; in the future I won’t think that just because a fuse checks out that it’s good. Hmmm.
I headed out onto I-10 and then took I-8 toward San Diego and Southern California. I needed to find a Wal-Mart along the way, and my little Garmin navigator indicated one at Casa Grande, about five miles off the highway. And once again, the folks at Wal-Mart are ahead of the folks at Garmin. The big Wal-Mart store stood empty. I asked a local couple who were walking nearby where the new one was and was directed down the same street about half a mile. Sure enough, I found a huge SuperCenter.
And right next door was a new Chinese buffet! Naturally, I had Chinese for brunch. Other than that big pig out I ate only two bananas all day – my guilt was somewhat relieved.
After brunch, the day turned out to be a series of frustrations. First, the leading honchos of Casa Grande, no doubt at the behest of the RV park owners, had passed an ordinance that overnight parking was verboten in their fair city. Who did Sam Walton think he was to invite RVers to spend the night on his private property?! And why do those RVers think they have the freedom to accept without the local honchos permission!? I suppose some folks in Casa Grande still refer to this as a free country – but I can’t imagine why.
And all of the above could also be said of the local honchos in the city of Yuma. No way, Sam, you may not invite guests to park overnight on your private property! Such nonsense makes me sick. And all such ordinances can be laid at the feet of the local RV parks. They cozy up with the local elites to pass this nonsense so as to force RVers into their parks. There is no way I’d part with a dime to stay at those campgrounds. I drive to the next city or county every time. Or maybe spend the night at a rest area or casino. *&$@# local nazis!
So, as suggested by the kind security fella at Wal-Mart, I headed to the local Paradise Casino a few miles down the road. Naturally, they have plenty of room for us RVers to park – and the honchos of Yuma and Casa Grande can suck eggs. Maybe some day the only free country left will be the Indian Reservations.
I have one day to spend as I please before I head to Oceanside. I think I’ll head for the Salton Sea area and see what they have to offer. More about that tomorrow…
Day 14, Jan 19, Yuma, AZ to Calexico, CA via I-8, SR111: 60 miles
After a very slow and easy pace of doing morning chores, I kicked back with some coffee and turned on the TV. The weather forecast was not good, winds to 25 MPH were forecast and wind advisories were predicted for the San Diego area. Rats. I hate wind. I hate to drive in wind. I would prefer rain or fog.
I decided to make the day’s drive as short as possible. I continued west on I-8 to Calexico to check out the Wal-Mart store there. And for a change, I was welcome to spend the night in their lot. I was relieved; down went the jacks and I was at home. And it was only 10:00 a.m. California time – I had driven just 60 miles!
And again… there was a Chinese buffet right next door! I had brunch at that one, too; that’s two in two days. And naturally, I went into Wal-Mart to do some shopping. When I fixed the fuse I discovered that a couple of tools I didn’t have would have helped. And so I bought them. Cheap.
After a nap and a few hours to digest the big brunch, I headed out for an evening walk around Calexico. The town has a lot of new stores built up around the area where Wal-Mart anchors the local trade, I’m sure. The town had more than its share of dollar stores, money exchangers and low-end clothing stores.
I again noticed lots of Mexican license plates in the Wal-Mart lot. Every conversation I overheard in the store – indeed, even the loud speaker announcements – were in Spanish. The checker greeted me in Spanish and on the street another person greeted me in Spanish. I was reminded that this area was once Mexico and while the border moved, the culture didn’t.
Day 15, Jan 20, Calexico, CA to Oceanside, CA via SR86, SR78, SR79, SR 76: 150 miles
Upon checking the map, I chose to drive some backwater roads this day instead driving I-8 and I-5 to Oceanside – which would have been a lot faster. I like new roads and I like two lane roads. I got a lot of both by taking the high road.
I drove on SR 78 from about 200 feet below sea level near Brawley to about 4200 feet within less than 100 miles. The Vallecito Mountains rise and fall to sea level between the Salton Sea and Oceanside. They are mostly desert, especially on the eastern side, and the popularity of making noise in that desert with all kinds of dirt vehicles was amazing. It was Friday as I drove through the mountains and I saw herds of weekend warriors heading from the populated west to the barren east with their various bikes, four wheelers and sand rails in tow. I don’t get it. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. Some of them would think I’m nuts to invest so much money and effort fishing. (At least fishing is a quiet and peaceful pursuit!) By early afternoon I arrived at Oceanside and found my space at a rather beautiful county park within walking distance of my son’s home. My wife and I have stayed here several times in the coach while visiting, and I like it. The spaces provide water and electricity but no sewer hookup. So I just plug in the electric cord and simply use onboard water and holding tanks. The coach tanks are in good shape – I don’t need to dump ‘til I get home.
And now to visit with the kiddles…
Day 16, Jan 21, Saturday, at rest in the coach.
I spent the morning doing my various chores including cleaning the windshield in preparation for the long drive home tomorrow. During the entire trip I didn’t once extend the slide that maximizes the size of the little living room. But upon parking here yesterday, I dropped the jacks, slid the slide and popped out the awning. I have used the awning so infrequently that I do much of it one handed – the other hand usually occupied with the little brochure that tells me how to do it.
Last evening my son drove by with both kids strapped into their new mini-van and we went to their lovely home for a couple of hours. My visits there are filled with mixed emotions; I love to see the grandkids, but they are so abominably loud that I can’t bear it. They are both shriekers and the sound level in their home is nearly intolerable to me. It is a happy home, the kids are very well adjusted, it seems, but my kid was never allowed to create such din. He is now getting even with me, I fear, but being the visiting grandfather I can leave often and find sanctuary in the coach.
This morning I visited for another couple of hours, then asked for a ride back for a couple of hours’ relief. We played a little T-ball in their backyard, a first for me. It was a pleasant time outside in the sunshine where, in my book, loud kids belong. And I’ll spend a few more hours this afternoon with them. Some of that time will be here in the park where I’m staying but the kids won’t be screaming in my home.
My home. I haven’t written much about this magic carpet, but it certainly deserves some mention in this travelogue.
My home while on the road is a 2001 Rexhall Vision 315 Class A motor home. It’s 31 feet long and is constructed on a Ford motor home chassis. But all the particulars don’t begin to describe the convenience and pleasure it offers. Today’s RVs are things of incredible utility. They function as wonderful sight seeing vehicles and as very comfortable and convenient homes when the day is done.
I choose to drive 50 MPH when I can do so without slowing down other drivers. I gladly do 55 or 60 MPH when I have to. This big ol’ thing could run 65 MPH all day if I asked it to do so, but I prefer better mileage and time to enjoy the view.
Each time I park this coach for the night, I am cognizant of what a wonderful, magical device this coach seems to be. I sleep better aboard this coach than I do in my bed at home. I shower in gloriously hot water, albeit not too much, and can set the forced air heater to whatever degree of warmth I desire. In the summertime I cool it with air conditioning.
I have TV available nearly anywhere I spend the night – even though it’s not always in English and the content is nearly always, in my opinion, very shallow. But that’s typical broadcast television; I could bolt on a satellite receiver (and have done so since this trip). I could then receive my usual TV fare such as the History and Discovery Channels. And someday I may. For now I usually watch programs we have taped at home for RV trips. For radio listening, I have added XM satellite radio to the coach’s radio. I usually listen to Hank’s Place, which plays my favorite old country music, Bloomberg Radio and Fox News. I have the choice of about 200 channels, but for me, only about ten channels are worth listening to. I can listen to any one of them from coast to coast – and I have done so.
This coach’s little kitchen is equipped with a three-burner stove and a microwave oven. There is an apartment-sized refrigerator/freezer, a stainless sink and enough kitchen storage for two people. There are two air conditioners on board – one just for the bedroom. And the main attraction for me, when comparing the modern Class A to other types of RVs, is the massive amount of storage available in the “basement” and the convenience of having everything available in one vehicle. The drawback, of course, is that there is no tow vehicle to use as transport while the coach is parked. Many folks tow an automobile, a “toad”, for sightseeing and errands while the coach is parked. I don’t use a toad but I don’t park for long periods, either.
The RVs of today make the term camping seem a bit primitive to describe what it is modern RVers do. How can you call it camping when a hot shower and a TV show and a forced air heater is included in the so-called camp? If I had to actually camp, I wouldn’t bother – I’d get a motel room. My idea of roughing it is walking on linoleum floors!
Day 17, Jan 22, Oceanside, CA, to Home! Via I-5, SR99: 407 miles
The long trip was about over. I was excited about going home. By 4 O’clock in the morning I was on the road!
We always make it home from my son’s in one day even though it is over 400 miles. I love the RV travels, even alone, but getting back home is a real treat after a couple of weeks or more of RV showers and the simple meals I prepare aboard.
I was home early in the afternoon and somehow still had the energy to unload all the stuff one takes on a long trip. I also dumped the tanks and put the coach away ‘til its next call to action.
The trip was 3,962 miles according to the odometer, and it reports miles a bit short according to my Garmin navigator. I trust the Garmin over the mechanical odometer.
And now I can set my focus on fishing. As the weather permits, I’ll certainly be back out on the Delta chasing those big ol’ sturgeon!
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