Lookin’ for Sunshine!
January 3 – 15, 2007
This old story was posted on two prior websites, one of which closed and in the migration to another the photos were lost. I remember much of this adventure and to keep it fresh I have now posted it to this site. While there are no longer photos of the trip, I still enjoy the memory.
This trip was taken aboard this 2001 Rexhall, our first motorhome. I drove Ol’ Rex nearly 100,000 miles in 46 states. She held up very well and was sold to our friends, the Poelstras, who still use her!
January 3-5, 2007, Day 1-3: Home to Oceanside through Paso Robles & L.A. via SR33, SR101, I-405, I-5: 534 Miles.
I’m on the road again, and it’s about time! The whole point of these “Sunshine” trips is to get out of the San Joaquin Valley fog and miserable weather. And such weather is settling in real steady at home this time of year.
I didn’t record the past two days, so am catching up now on the morning of day 3. For grins, I’m taking SR 101 this trip, the route Mom used to call the Coast Route. As a kid we drove LA to SF areas several times and Mom would talk about which route to take: The Coast Route (SR101) or the Desert Route (SR99). I always take SR99, so decided to be different this time. It’s a nice change; the coast and the farmlands one sees on this route are refreshing. How many times can one drive through Bakersfield and see new things?
But the downside is that this route is about 130 miles longer. But I like the driving. That’s why I have a motor home.
I spent the first night at the Wal-Mart in Paso Robles with no problem and with permission. Oxnard, however, was a different story. I was told by Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club – both in the same shopping center – that overnight parking was not permitted there. I saw a rather remote and neglected parking area near Sam’s Club with two apparently abandoned RVs. Signs were posted that no parking over 24 hours was allowed. I took that to mean that up to 24 hours was allowed, and I settled in. I spent the whole night and had no problems. When I first went outside that morning I noted that several other RVs had joined me.
January 6, 2007 – Day 4: At Guajome Park in Oceanside.
I arrived in Oceanside in the early afternoon of Friday, as planned. I have now taken the coast route to SoCal and will probably never take it again; it took about 130 miles longer via the coast. But the I-405 is a lot better route through L.A. than taking I-5 from Bakersfield. The traffic was terrible, as usual, but it certainly flowed faster. Yesterday was a very windy day and driving the RV is pretty nerve-wracking in high winds. I managed to stay in my lane the whole trip, but the high winds sure pushed me around.
We brought in Chinese food for dinner, as is usual when I visit. I brought the Christmas gifts with me and the kids had a good time opening them. About 7:30 it was time for this old man to head back to the coach and some peace and quiet. These grandkids are cute as can be, but mostly when they’re asleep. At most other times it is mayhem and endless racket around their home. I’m too old for such chaos.
Dean picked me up for breakfast the second day and we enjoyed some time alone at a local restaurant. It’s hard to get much visiting in with the kids’ around, so breakfast together was very pleasant.
I visited a couple of times that day, seeking some solitude in the coach between visits to calm my frayed nerves. I just don’t do kids well, especially noisy ones. My grandkids are very loud and boisterous. On occasion they are outdoors and I get some peace and quiet for awhile. It was during one of those peaceful moments that I got on the internet and updated this travelogue.
The next day I headed east on I-8 for places unknown. The unknown is what makes these trips so much fun.
January 7, 2007, Sunday, Day 5: Guajome Park, Oceanside to Alpine (Viejas Casino) via I-5 and I-8: 95 Miles.
I was excited to hit the road after the visit at Dean’s family. I got the coach ready; the slide in, the jacks up, the holding tanks dumped and fresh water loaded. I hit the road at 0915.
I wouldn’t have left so early had I known what was in store. The first 70 miles or so were just fine, the day was sunny and relatively warm and I enjoyed the drive. But the wind kicked up as I gained elevation heading up the Vallecito Mountains. The climb came as a surprise, I wasn’t aware of such a range between San Diego and El Centro although I’m sure I’ve driven this route before. Somewhere near the Viejas Indian’s Golden Acorn Casino, at about 4000 feet elevation, I was dealing with winds up to 60 or 70 miles per hour. I’ve never experienced such force! I slowed and drove as cautious as I could, but eventually a very strong gust blew the awning away from the side of the coach briefly, unwrapping about a foot of awning. I pulled over immediately to check the damage. The wind was unbelievable as I stepped outside. I had to attach some nylon ties to the awning frame to keep it secure, but some of the awning was left to blow in the wind. I drove slowly to the next off ramp which happened to be the Golden Acorn Casino where I could spend the night. The wind howled 40 to 50 MPH the entire afternoon and all night long. I parked in the parking lot area where other RVs were parked, a fairly long walk to the casino. Retrieving my little electric scooter from the basement of the coach was out of the question; the wind would likely have taken the door to the storage compartment. Even getting into and out of the coach was difficult; the wind tried to rip the coach door from my grasp.
I hobbled with my walking cane to the casino and spent a bit of time at the slots. I didn’t lose much. But when I headed back to the coach the wind was so strong that I walked at quite an angle to stay upright. I’ve never experienced stronger winds.
January 8, Day 6, Alpine to El Centro via I-8: 56 miles.
I heard on the TV news that gusts had been recorded to 80 MPH in the Vallecito area the day before. Every school in the local school district was closed due to the winds – something that, according to TV news, was never necessary before. I sure can pick my travel times!
I whiled away the morning of Day 6 moving the coach to a more protected area. I also improved the repair job on the awning and hoped that it was fine ’til I get home. With my handicapped parking permit, I parked in the handicapped spaces on the protected side of the casino. The new parking space was a huge improvement over the open parking lot where I listened to the wind howl all night long. It was a very lonely night, but I was safe and warm in the coach.
I also spent more time at the slots in the casino. For my efforts, I won a whopping $2 over the two days. That’s a pretty poor return, but it beats losing.
Finally, around 1400 hours, the winds dropped to about 25 MPH and I headed down the mountains toward El Centro and calm winds. It was a great relief to leave the mountains behind. I never want to experience such wild winds again! The trip to El Centro took a bit over an hour, but I dropped from over 4000 feet to below sea level in that short trip. I parked for the night at El Centro’s new Wal-Mart Super Center and was very thankful for their open lot policy for us RVers. I somewhat returned the favor by shopping for some groceries and other items I needed. What a bargain!
January 9 – Day 7, El Centro to Calexico via SR111: 27 Miles (Includes sightseeing miles.)
What a difference a day makes! And elevation helps, too. Yesterday I awoke to a cold morning with 40 MPH+ winds at 4000 Ft. This morning I awoke to sunshine and a very mild winter morning below sea level.
It was a good morning in another important way: I fixed the awning! Having worried about starting a project that might not be repairable, and the coach undrivable if I couldn’t get the awning back in place, I gave it a try. I simply removed the nylon ties and duct tape I had applied to hold it in place, then pulled it open. As the fabric reeled out, it straightened out itself – and then I simply reeled it back onto the roller. Voila! It put itself back in place perfectly. That was the first project of the day and it made for a wonderful start.
I busied myself with housekeeping for a couple of hours after the awning repair. The morning was bright and warmed quickly to a very lovely day in the mid 70s. And no wind! I shopped for a few more items at Wal-Mart before setting out to… another Wal-Mart. En route to Calexico, I drove a bit out of the way up I-8 and stopped at a rest area near El Centro NAF, a naval air base. I saw a couple of the Navy’s Blue Angels and other F-14s (?) flying overhead yesterday afternoon, and hoped to get some good photos. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any Navy fighters today.
I pulled into the Calexico Wal-Mart Superstore early in the afternoon and have just been hanging out, enjoying the perfect weather. I pulled out the scooter, grabbed the little five gallon gas can I use for the little Honda generator, and scooted about a block to the nearest gas station. Seeing this old man on a little electric scooter, toting a gas can between his legs, as he crossed a busy intersection probably was a funny sight to the drivers.
I sat outside the coach for awhile this afternoon reading a book. It’s not like me to be hanging around so patiently; I always want to be driving somewhere. But I’ve decided that enjoying the weather near the Mexican border is a fine way to enjoy this trip. The whole idea is to find some sunshine and warmth – and I found both right here! Tomorrow I may drive to Yuma. Or not.
Tonight I’ll pop a few brews, settle back to some TV news, if I can find an English speaking station, and munch some Crunch ‘n Munch. And I’ll likely watch a DVD of the UFC, a martial arts show. Life is good.
January 10 – Wednesday, Day 8: El Centro, CA to Yuma, AZ via I-8: 68 miles. (Included looking for an overnight spot.)
This day began slow and easy. I really didn’t know what I was going to do and took my time figuring it out. I did my usual morning chores and watched some DVDs I recorded before this trip. I watched an episode of The First 48, a reality cop show about various homicide departments – and some more mixed martial arts (MMA) fights. That’s a pretty unusual morning for me as TV is usually my evening entertainment. And it will be again tonight.
There is an ongoing conflict between my heart, which tries to keep me alive, and my appetite, which is trying desperately to kill me. Usually I choose to eat heart-healthy foods, but on occasion my appetite for junk wins out. I finally decided to have brunch at 1100 at a nearby El Pollo Loco. They serve so-so food so far as heart-healthy fare goes, fire cooked chicken and rice and beans. While it’s not as unhealthy as Chinese buffet chow, it’s not my best choice. But sometimes I just have to have something besides Lean Cuisine frozen dinners or oatmeal. So a bit after 1100 I pulled into the El Pollo Loco restaurant to find the place still closed. Rats. Well, I tried. I figured I might as well drive back to the Chinese buffet next to my overnight spot at Wal-Mart and have myself a pig-out. And I did. And it was a strange experience.
I walked in, paid the moment I walked in the door, then grabbed a plate and loaded it up. Twice. Now, most buffets at least take a drink order. Or bring the silverware. Or something. This place was 100% get your own stuff. And I did and have no complaints. But during my entire visit I didn’t have one word with a waitress. At one point, a bit before I left, she came by and removed the two plates I had used without so much as a “How’s everything?” or a “Thank you.” There certainly was no smile. Not even a glance my way. Humph. The food was pretty good, but much of it barely warm. So I tipped myself a dollar and left. I was stuffed and happy. My appetite won out again. But that was one strange buffet.
And it was time to decide what to do with the rest of the day. I headed south through town looking for the border and maybe a chance to park on the US side and ride my scooter into Mexico for a look around some stores. But I never found a shop or a parking place near the border. So I gave it up and headed to Yuma on I-8, about a 50 mile drive.
My memory failed me once again: I tried staying at Wal-Mart in Yuma – one of two Super Centers in the town – and found out after I got there that over-nighting is not permitted. The Nazis at city hall have outlawed such freedoms at the behest of the local RV parks, no doubt. So I dug out my casino camping book and found that Paradise Casino, about eight miles away, permitted over-nighters in their lot. My little Garmin Navigator failed me as well, not finding the casino due to a bridge closed to construction. But I found it in good time and am now settled in for the night. The thing is… I did this exact same routine last year about this time. I pulled into Wal-Mart and wound up at Paradise Casino. This is how us old folks do things.
I did one thing productive today. The house batteries have seemed a bit week in the mornings, so I checked ’em. The terminals were pretty badly corroded, so I went into Wal-Mart, the one that won’t allow me to stay overnight, and bought some chemicals to clean and protect the battery terminals. And I bought a little voltmeter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and keeps me informed of the battery voltage. According to the real voltmeter in my tool box, the little plug in isn’t all that accurate, but at least I can now monitor the voltage more closely.
And then, finally camped in the Paradise lot, it was time for a few brews, some TV news and another box of Crunch ‘n Munch. Life really is good.
January 11, Day 9, Yuma, AZ to Quartzsite and Phoenix via I-8, US95, I-10: 203 miles.
I awoke in the dirt RV parking lot of Paradise Casino after a very quiet night. It’s a very quiet place – except for the train whistles off in the distance – and I slept well.
I determine day to day what I want to do and where I want to go. This day I decided I’d drive on to Phoenix to visit my nephew and his family. Kevin and Kelly have two kids and I haven’t seen them since they visited my sis, probably a year ago.
And I decided I’d drive there via Quartzsite, the town that is overrun with snowbird RVers this time of year. I’ve driven by it in the summer when all the RVers are gone, but that doesn’t compare to the wintertime gathering. As I pulled into the place, at US95 and I-10, I could tell that it was not for me. It’s a glorified flea market! The streets are lined with vendors of every description, the wind was blowing and it was dusty and crowded. I did park for about a half hour and went up one block with my scooter. What I expected to find I do not know. I was very soon back on the road heading east on I-10. I’d had enough Quartzsite for a lifetime in about an hour.
I arrived in Phoenix in time to participate in their afternoon commute. It wasn’t so bad, and I landed at the local Flying J for the night. It can be a noisy place, but they have Wifi available, and I haven’t been on the internet since last Saturday. I have been trying, and continue to try updating my pages and visiting my favorite websites that I enjoy from the ‘net. This time it has been very frustrating as their Wifi seems to turn on and off continually – even thought I’m parked very near their Wifi antenna. In time I’ll finish my updating and surfing. Later today I will land at a Wal-Mart near my nephew’s home for the night. Tomorrow I’ll visit them for a couple of hours. I will likely begin my return home tomorrow afternoon. I’m thinking I’ll take I-10 and skirt LA by going through the Mojave Desert. But I never know for sure ’til I’m on the road again.
January 12, Friday, Day 10: Time off in Phoenix
This day was very laid back, an unusual thing for me when on the road. I like to be driving from one place to another and enjoying the scenery. Today I simply drove across Phoenix from Flying J to a Wal-Mart near my nephew and family. I have whiled away the day reading, doing little jobs around the coach and watching TV news. I am rested and ready to hit the road again.
The weather has certainly changed today. The daytime temperature has been in the mid 50s and it has been raining. The next couple of days will be much cooler according to the forecast, but I’ll be cozy in the coach whatever the weather may be.
Tomorrow I will visit my family for a couple of hours, then, weather permitting, head for Yuma. From Yuma I may head north to visit the Salton Sea area. Or I may head west towards San Diego and on home. Each day is a new decision.
January 13, Day 11, Gilbert, AZ (Phoenix) to Yuma via I-10, SR387, SR84, I-8: 193 Miles.
After a pretty good house cleaning around the coach and a good shower, I had a very warm visit with my nephew, Kevin, and his family. We enjoyed a nice Saturday brunch together, toured their lovely home and caught up on old times. This old man had to explain to them that as their generations keep getting older they just keep dragging me along with them. The kids didn’t seem to be concerned about advancing age a bit.
After our visit, the day became very frustrating. As I finished my morning shower, a bit of water accumulated in the bottom of the shower. In an RV, that meant the gray water holding tank was full. I was also very low on fresh water. I had to find a place to dump the tanks and load water. That’s when things got frustrating.
On rare occasion an RV dump site is available at rest areas. I hoped that I would find one as I cruised down I-8. I stopped at two rest areas and neither had a dump although one used to but it had been removed. I tried two RV parks that wouldn’t permit dumping, even for pay. Unfortunately, I had passed a couple of RV parks early in the day because I wasn’t paying much attention. I should have tried them but was past them too quickly. So I was 0 for 4 tries and getting desperate. I came upon a RV park on the outskirts of Yuma, and decided to take them up on their advertised $19.50 rate. I would dump the tanks and spend the night pretty reasonably. Naturally, their cheap spaces were taken, or so they said, and the only spaces available were $30 for the night. I was in no position to complain. I took one.
I pulled into my grossly overpriced, low quality space and hooked up the electricity. I planned to do my dumping the next morning, load fresh water and head on down the road. Paying for a space wasn’t so bad; I had been on the road for 13 days and that was the first RV park I had to patronize. I like to avoid all RV parks and usually do.
The direction I would take the next day would depend on the weather. The weather was unusually cold and overnight temperatures were predicted to be in the 20s or 30s. I could have all the cold I wanted at home – and have a nice hot tub available at my whim as well. So the next day would see me heading up to the Salton Sea area if the weather warmed up, or maybe I’d be heading home via the Mojave Desert. I would decide the next day. But for that night I’d be cozy and warm with my electric heater that my $30 rent would include. The RV park would pay for all that electricity. That seemed to be a fair shake.
January 14, Sunday, Day 12, Yuma, AZ to Bakersfield, CA via I-8, SR111, SR138, I-10, I-215, SR58, SR99: 392 Miles.
Whew, it was a long day! After dumping the tanks and loading fresh water, I headed out for the day’s drive from Yuma, not sure of what it would bring. I decided to head to the Salton Sea and avoid the LA area. As I cruised by the sea, it was a calm, sunny day. But it was very cold by desert standards. There had been a cold snap of record proportions across most of California, and it was not pleasant. I decided to try for Bakersfield by nightfall, and home the next day. And that’s just what I did. It was a long drive.
Much of the route I drove this day was one I’ve never taken before. It took me from 200 feet below sea level to something over 4,000 feet elevation. After cruising through all the new territory, I arrived at SR58 in the Tehachapi Mountains, and followed it to Bakersfield – a route I have driven many times as a trucker and as a RVer.
I tried to land for the night at two different Wal-Marts in Bakersfield. The first was so full of cars there was no room for the coach. The second was just fine and I landed for the night.
The local TV news told of record cold temperatures the night before, down into the low 20s, with predictions for continued cold. The pass over the “Grapevine” was predicted to drop to 9 degrees overnight! With weather like this, my adventure was over; I can find cold like this without driving a thousand miles or more! And at home, I at least have the hot tub to thaw out my frozen bones.
January 15, Day 13, Bakersfield to Home via SR99: 212 Miles.
It was good to be back home! This trip may have been longer had the Arctic air not moved into California and much of the country the past few days. Bakersfield set a record low temperature for this date last night and the night before. It was just 24 degrees. It was in the twenties the morning I left Yuma, too. This unusually cold weather has likely shortened my trip because it just isn’t fun when it’s so cold. The whole idea of this trip was to find warmth and sunshine. And while there was plenty of sunshine, the cold snap wasn’t at all pleasant.
The whole trip was just 1800 miles and lasted thirteen days. Cold weather or not, I headed home. I missed my lovely wife, my hot tub and my recliner. And pretty much in that order. The weather here is as cold as Bakersfield or Yuma, but it’s home. And it was very pleasant to take a real shower instead of the quickie RV showers I’d been limited to. And that hot tub! Well… It was great to be home!
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