2013 Search for Sunshine

A Desert Run to Quartzsite AZ & Oceanside, CA


January 21 – 27, 2013

Day 1, Monday Jan 21: Home to Bakersfield Walmart (Rosedale) via SR99: 215 miles

The plan was to drive to Barstow on the first day, but at 1500 I pulled into the Bakersfield Walmart lot on Rosedale Avenue and called it a day. I’d loaded the coach for about an hour before leaving and figured I’d put in a full day’s work by the time I reached Bakersfield. And I really didn’t want to drive up SR 58 into the desert after dark to a Walmart I’ve never been to, and dark is just after 1700 these days.


Watching the sun set in Bakersfield near the end of Day 1. It was good to be on the road again!

It was an uneventful day, as I like, but it could have been worse – I could have run out of gas! As I approached the Flying J Plaza about 20 miles above Bakersfield, I decided to pull in for a fill up even though the gauge said I had about 3/8 of a tank. I didn’t want to shop for gas along SR58, which at that time I was planning to drive that day, when I could fill up at a station I knew. Now, the gas tank holds 75 gallons, and according to the gauge I should have taken on about 45 gallons. However, I pumped 66 gallons which meant I had just 9 gallons left in the tank. Whew! I was glad I didn’t try to drive many more miles. So now I know I cannot trust that gas gauge. I’ll have to figure, for the time being, that a quarter tank means empty. (As it turned out later in the trip, E means empty, and the needle drops like a rock from ¼ down to empty!)

I settled in at the Rosedale Avenue Walmart in Bakersfield, tuned in the satellite TV and made myself comfy. I shopped a bit at the Walmart, naturally, just to show my appreciation for their kindness of allowing us RVers to park in their lot. It is a great resource when traveling to park for free as we don’t need hookups in these modern RVs. Some folks park every night at a RV park and for various reasons, I suppose. So far, I haven’t found a reason. And Walmart, with its security people and ubiquitous video cameras watching over the lots, is a very safe place to spend nights while on the road.
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1-22, Day 2 – Bakersfield to Quartzsite, AZ via SR58, SR395, I-10: 353 miles

I was up and at ‘em early, as usual, and was on the road by 0630. I wasn’t sure how far – or exactly where – I’d go that day, but as it turned out I drove clear to Quartzsite where two friends of ours, Rich and Juanita, are spending a couple of months in the (mostly) sunny, warm desert. They live in Oregon and take their snowbird trips very seriously. They find lots to do playing their bluegrass music with other snowbirds at different venues around the area nearly every day. They have been coming to Quartzsite for several years and have a number of friends they meet here. Oh… and so much for Barstow. It isn’t even on the way to Quartzsite!


East bound toward the Mojave Desert on SR58 from Bakersfield as contrails from airplanes above caught  the early morning rays of the sun.


Somewhere in the lonely Mojave Desert, a single wind turbine blade passed west bound along SR58. This gives some scale as to how big those wind turbines are!


At SR 395 I turned south and encountered this beautiful range of Mojave Desert mountains.

I arrived in Quartzsite about 1420, and pulled into the dusty, rock-strewn lot that passes here as an RV park of sorts. There are no hookups for the dirt spaces, but an RV dump and fresh water are available. The cost to overnight is just $6; to dump one’s RV tanks is another $12. I planned to spend one night here, maybe two, and I parked right next to my friends. But I wouldn’t have to worry about dumping the tanks ‘til I arrived at Guajome Park in Oceanside.


At the RV parking area my friends stay at in Quartzsite, my coach (R) is parked and set up for a day or two of visiting them (center RV). They bought that coach from me when I bought the “new” one. It had serious damage from a tire separation that tore up a holding tank and much more as seen on another story here (Oceanside  July 2012). My insurance paid me $6000 for the damage, and I sold it to Rich and Juanita at a bargain price. Rich can fix anything, and he has fixed up the “Rex” very nicely.


Rich and his wonder-dog, Gretch, pose at the front of my coach. Gretch is about the best dog I’ve ever met. She looks like she has some Pit Bull in her, but her heart is made of gold. Even so, other dogs best not start any trouble!

After our warm visit when I arrived, we drove into town for dinner at a rather non-descript combination café and coin laundry. The place also rents 20 minute showers to the tourists for $6. The maximum is two per shower at $6 each. I was surprised at the industry of those folks who own that unusual enterprise, but they were packed wall to wall with customers in the café, the laundry and the showers. What a money maker it must be!


Rich, Juanita and I pose outside their coach during my visit. They play instruments at various music “jams” in the area and keep very busy with that. And after all the years they’ve been snow-birding at Quartzsite, they have friends around as well. They’ll spend two months there this year!

After dinner we returned home and to our separate coaches for the night. Rich and Juanita own my prior coach, the Rexhall that I sold them after turning 100,000 miles. Rich has fixed the coach up nicely and they seem to enjoy it very much. They sure are getting a lot of use out of it.

For myself I find this Quartzsite tourist town a bit too rustic. It’s a gritty little town of about 3600 people during the summer when temps reach 120°. During the winter months the sunshine, a RV show followed by a car show and endless booths where vendors hawk wares of every description draws thousands of RVers. The small town accommodates seemingly countless RV sales lots where hundreds of RVs are offered for sale. Quartzsite has few pretensions; it is not a pretty town and it sits on barren wasteland – or so it seemed to me. But the snowbirds are friendly and gather together in this bustling outpost every year. It is indeed a senior’s winter haven as folks under 60 are few and far between. Quartzsite is whatever one wishes to make of it, it seems.

The plan for the next day was to start at McDonalds early in the morning where we could log onto their free wifi. I hoped to see Quartzsite up close and personal, including some of the vendor’s stalls in the circus-like atmosphere. I’ve often said I would never want to stay in Quartzsite, but here I was and my friends made my stay enjoyable.
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1-23, Day 3 – at Quartzsite


Sunrise on Day 2 at Quartzsite, Arizona. Yes, I doctored the colors a bit, but this must be where Arizona chose its logo:

I shot this photo of the Arizona Logo, and it does look something like the sunrise above!

Rich and I agreed to head for MickeyD’s for coffee and to connect to their free Wi-Fi. The place was abuzz already before 0700, but we bought our coffee and McMuffins, and then settled at a table to connect to the world with our ‘puters. The endless parade of folks through the joint was entertaining. A lot of them were clearly desert rats or RV tourists; it’s kinda hard to tell, and a few well-dressed patrons may have been local school teachers stopping in for a quick breakfast en route to their classrooms.

After returning to the campground, Rich and I walked across the rocky “wash”, a creek bed for the occasional rains, and through a long culvert, a couple of 12 foot square tunnels under the I-10 freeway which is part of the rain run-off system. On the other side of the freeway we walked right into a vendor area with dozens of flea-market type tent stores. I bought a few things very cheaply that I just couldn’t live without – for less than $10 total. My sore feet soon gave out and we were back at the coaches within 30 minutes.

Photos of a small portion of the hundreds of vendors in Quartzsite:

The first impression is that there are simply too many RV sales lots in such a small town, but somebody must be buying them! For a city of 3800 or so, sans snowbirds and sellers, it is an astounding RV super market. And this doesn’t even include the huge, annual RV show every January, as during my visit, which I made a point of missing. Obviously, many folks head to Quartzsite to buy their RVs, but It can’t be for the lack of sales tax! In Quartzsite, the sales tax of state and city is 10.6%!

Thanks to our friends Richard and Juanita for the following photos of a few of the many RV sales lots:

In the afternoon we drove over to one of the many RV parks’ clubhouse for a “jam” session of traditional country music. It was a couple of hours of singing by several folks who simply walked up to the mic and began singing. Most of the singing was done by those with the guitars, including Rich who sang over a half dozen songs. The singers were accompanied by a couple of guitars with amplifiers, a couple of acoustic guitars, and a drummer who kept the drums subdued enough for the crowd to appreciate his accompaniment. The entertainment lasted a couple of hours and about 40 or so of us oldsters enjoyed the music – even me, of all people! I usually find concerts too loud and not at all pleasant, but I think that seeing my friend Rich up there doing much of the singing made it enjoyable for me.

We returned to the coaches and relaxed a bit, and then headed to dinner in town.


Rich jammin’ with the band at the Country Jam. Sounded good!

We tried three or four restaurants before we found one without a long line of waiting customers. The RV show week sure turned this town into a circus! We finally found a decent restaurant with a reasonable number of waiting customers, and chose to do our time waiting. In time we were finally served, but the slow pace of everything was less than acceptable. Still, the food was very good and we left, belatedly, with full tummies.

Back at camp I bid the folks a good night and retired to the coach. I spent a couple of hours updating this travelogue and editing photos, took a good shower, then relaxed with a couple of my “Cockpit Collins” cocktails. Mmmm. By 2130 I hit the sack and slept like a baby ‘til 0430 when I had to get hoppin’ to meet Rich at the car at 0530 and head for MickeyD’s.


I probably spend too much time writing and shooting my trips, but it passes the time and I do enjoy it. 

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1-24, Day 4 – Morning at Quartzsite and then to Moreno Valley Walmart lot via I-10, SR60: 186 miles.

At 0530, as planned, Rich and I drove over to MickeyDs to again connect to the world with our laptops. We ordered only coffee as we planned to pick up Nita for breakfast later in the morning. We did our ‘net stuff and downed coffee for about an hour, then headed back to camp. We picked up Nita, and of course Gretch, and settled in at the laundomat/café – this time for breakfast. We waited there, naturally, for a table. The whole town was an even worse circus this day, and we were not surprised. Service was slow as they were very busy, but the meals were good. We visited like the old friends that we are over breakfast, and then headed to another vendor area. It was a short shopping trip as my feet were already sore, but I did manage to buy one silly cap that looks like I have long grey hair sticking out the top of a visor. I hoped the grandkids might get a kick out of seeing ol’ Grandpa Mustache looking a bit different. I’d soon find out.

After returning to camp, I readied the coach for travel. It was 1030 when I pulled out of the campground and headed for Moreno Valley’s Walmart store en route to my son’s place in Oceanside. I first gassed up in Quartzsite for $3.14 per gallon. These days I think that’s a great price!

The day’s drive was along I-10 westbound for several hours. Just before the state line, the Border Patrol had the Interstate stopped for an inspection. There seemed to be a whole division of them parked along the highway and standing in the lanes, checking everything that moved. It certainly seemed like overkill to me. Did they have a hot tip on some human cargo heading across the line? Maybe a big drug shipment was coming through? I have no idea, but…

          …here are some photos of the big Border Patrol roadblock:

Slowed to a crawl so the dogs could sniff out something. This seemed like overkill to me.


The were an awful lot of agents just hanging around – or so it seemed. I hope that in the end they did some good.


Somebody apparently didn’t smell right to the dogs. Here some surprised traveler has his car searched.

Around 1430 I tried to land for the night at the Walmart in Beaumont, but was refused. The RV park Nazis apparently have convinced the local city council that one free American (Mr. Sam set that policy years ago) should not be allowed to offer, free of charge and as a friendly gesture, free parking for the night on his own private lot to another free American. So it is in a few Walmart towns. I traveled a few more miles to Moreno Valley’s Walmart which I had called earlier that morning and knew they’d allow me to over-night. It was about 1530 when I pulled into their lot, checked with the customer service manager, and was assured I could park at the far end of the lot. “Just be sure to let the security driver know you’re staying for the night” the manager said. I did and he also was welcoming.


The Walmart store in Beaumont, CA where they said no overnight parking was allowed. But even so I had to shoot the fog as it lay along the mountain valley above the store. 

It’s always a good feeling to land for the night in one of the many Walmart lots that welcome RVers. Mr. Sam (Sam Walton, founder of Walmart) recognized many years ago that traveling RVers are great customers. We spend money in his stores and we don’t hurt a thing in his lots. Unfortunately, a very few RVers, likely those near homeless types who have old RVs and try to live on private parking lots, have made some cities wary of overnight parking. Not to worry, you city Nazis; Walmart manages one of the biggest and most successful businesses in history and should certainly be allowed to make such decisions on their own!

Enough politics. I spent a quiet evening in the coach watching TV and imbibing a couple of my Cockpit Collins. My little corner of the Walmart lot was quiet and secure and I slept well.

During the night I heard rain drops on the roof. Somehow rain makes a comfy night aboard the coach even cozier.


Parked overnight in the rain at Moreno Valley’s Walmart. Note the jacks lifted the front tires off the ground to make the coach level. I had a quiet, restful night here.
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1-25, Day 5 – Moreno Valley to Dean’s in Oceanside via I-215, I-15, SR78: 48 miles

I was up and around at 0530. It rained much of the early morning hours and it was still coming down when I climbed out of bed. It seemed to be a very mild storm and I used the heater very little that morning. I began the usual morning chores, fired up the generator and the coffee pot and sat back to kill some time. I didn’t want to leave for Dean’s before 0900.

I spent time taking photos, writing this travelogue, and shopping for a few more things in Walmart. One project I tackled, at the behest of my friend Rich, was to hook the TV and the RF link to the coach’s inverter so that I could watch satellite TV without running the generator. All it took was an extension cord from Walmart, and it all worked just fine. I was so used to running the generator to watch TV in the old coach that I just didn’t give it much thought. But Rich did, and I’m glad I can now watch in an even quieter coach – as well as save some gas. This coach has two big 6V deep cycle batteries connected to produce 12v. The batteries are big enough to run the TV all evening and morning as well. Good job!

I dealt with rain the whole morning. As I drove to Dean’s it was raining most of the way. It was just a 58 mile drive and timed so that the traffic wasn’t bad at all.


Upon arrival I donned the goofy hat I bought in Quartzsite and greeted Dean. He took a triple-take when he first saw me. My six dollars were well spent! After he realized my long, spiked hair was just a hat, we had a good laugh. When the kids saw it, they thought ol’ Grandpa Mustache was cool! That didn’t last long…

We then headed down to the Monterrey Cannery Restaurant at the Oceanside Harbor for lunch. Lunch at the harbor is a long time tradition for us. 

After returning to Dean’s from lunch I hopped into the coach and drove the couple of blocks to Guajome Park. I dumped the holding tanks first thing at the park’s one and only RV dump. The spaces have electricity and water only. I then drove to my space and settled in for a couple of days.

A couple of hours later Dean picked me up and I spent the evening with the gang at home. Again, I wore the hairy hat and completely faked out the boys! Conner thought I really had grown a cool hairdo ‘til I showed him it was just a silly hat. I think he was a bit disappointed by the truth!

My January visits always bring Christmas in January as I haul down our gifts for the kids. Connor turned 12 on January 10th and we also had his birthday present along. It’s a lot more fun to bring the kid’s gifts along when we visit than to just ship ‘em and not be there. 

We played the table game Sorry for awhile and poor ol’ Grandpa Mustache came in dead last. Having not played in 50 years was not going to be an acceptable excuse, so I didn’t even mention it. 

Melissa cooked up an especially good chicken dinner and we sat around the big ol’ kitchen table and ate together – just like in the good ol’ days!

Dean brought me home around 1930. I showered, watched a bit of TV and downed a couple of my good cocktails. At some point, around 2200 I think, I awoke on the couch and stumbled back to bed. It had been a long day for this old man.
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1-26, Day 6 – Jacks down at Guajome Park

It rained all of Day 5 and apparently through the night and into my first morning at beautiful Guajome Park. Rain makes my stays aboard the coach all the more comfy. I love the sound of rain on the coach roof and I could spend the whole day in the coach. But not this day! This was the day to spend with the family and Dean and I head to Chin’s Chinese Restaurant for a great feast.

I wouldn’t hear from Dean ‘til about 1000, so I just knocked around in the coach doing chores, answering a few emails and updating this travelogue. I tried to take a walk during a lull in the rain, but headed back to the coach when the rain began again.

Dean picked me up and we headed to the house for awhile, but soon left for our pig-out date at Chin’s. We arrived at 1100 and ate entirely too much of their wonderful food. Chin’s is an unusually fine Chinese Restaurant and is worthy of a righteous pig-out.

After lunch we returned home and we all hopped into the family van and headed to the local park and rec gym to watch Conner play basketball with his rec team. The game was a pleasure to watch because Conner was the star player on his team, at least according to me. He scored 16 points in his team’s rout of the opposing team 42-8. I was a proud Grandpa.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the house. I took a good nap as the TV played for those around me. In due time steak dinner was served and I ate too much once again. I told ‘em I must be an easy guest as all I want to do is hang around the house and take it easy. Melissa agreed, saying all she has to do is feed me to keep me happy. I’m glad she understands me so well!


A great steak dinner with the family around the table on my last night of the trip. 


This is Dean’s cat, Enzio. He’s had Enzio since she was a small kitten, even longer than he’s had the family; Enzio turns 18 years old on March 1!

A bit after 1900 I asked Dean to drive me back to the coach so I could prepare an early start for home in the morning. I wanted to be up by 0400 and on my way by 0500 or sooner. I bid my farewells to the kind and loving family I am proud to call my own, and my visit was over. I’m sure glad I can make these quarterly visits to keep in touch and watch my family grow in so many wonderful ways.
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1-27, Day 7 – Guajome Park Oceanside to Home via I-5, SR99: 405 miles

Early to bed, early to rise, and back on the road well before five! It must have misted heavily all night as it was mighty wet out when I set about to disconnect the power and water a bit before 0430. And it misted/rained clear through LALA Land and even to Bakersfield. Nonetheless, I made good time, and arrived home at 1315. My stops were limited to a couple of quick meals and gassing up. I pumped 12 gallons on at Goshen, and then barely made it to Ripon, just down the road from home, to fill up. I stuffed 74.9 gallons into my 75 gallon tank – a new record! No doubt the tank is a bit over the official 75 gallons, but I had never been so close to running out. Whew.


It was a wet drive home over the Grapevine heading towards Bakersfield.

As I gassed up in Goshen, I had a triple-senior moment that I should forget but likely never will. I swiped the card, etc., and then tried to pump diesel into the gas tank. Fortunately the nozzle did not fit or I might have been in a real pickle. I then pumped 1.8 gallons of premium gas before I realized it; I always use regular. I then swiped again, and pumped 10 gallons of regular to get me up the road to Ripon. It was during these duh moments that I noticed that I was wearing my T-shirt inside out! It was about that time when my inner adult asked my inner doofus… why do they let me loose on the highways by myself?!

In spite of my foolishness, I made it home safely, and got my daily cardio done by unloading the coach. It was good to back my “new” coach into her shed in the RV lot, plant a kiss on her for her faithful service, and walk to the house.

One of my most anticipated moments of being back home is to take that first hot, glorious, leisurely shower and to unabashedly waste lots of hot water! I enjoyed every splendid moment of it! A week of RV showers earned me that right.

And most of all, it was great to be back home with my Honey! Although we talk on the phone at least twice daily, there’s just nothing like planting that first big hug and kiss on my darling wife. Ahhhhhh – as the little plaque on our refrigerator reads – “No matter where you may roam, the best part is coming home!”
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About FishWisher

Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.
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