This is a photo of a Happy Camper driving through the Southwest and deep into Texas, looking for warmth in January – other travelers likely thought they saw Tom Selleck driving a motor home, but it was just me.
There is no doubt that I wrote too many words – over 7,000 – about this trip. And I took and edited waaaay too many photos. I spent a lot of time doing both at my overnight stops, so at least this project gave me something to do. I also spent way too many hours putting the writing and the photos together on this site. But mainly, I wrote this for me and in years to come I can relive this trip as I have often relived past trips and I find that to be very satisfying. I doubt anyone will read this whole travelogue, and I don’t blame ’em. But if you read any of this and find any photos to be interesting, I’m glad of that. Thanks for the visit!
Monday Day 1, Jan 13: Home to Bakersfield Flying J via SR99: 200 miles
My dear Wifey had dealt with major back surgery this past year, and the prior couple of years she had so much back trouble that I couldn’t do any extended traveling during that time. I did go to Quartzite and Oceanside for a week last year, but nothing longer than that for a long time.
This trip would last two weeks, and I was excited about getting back on the road. The plan was to head south toward the border to find some warm weather. It wasn’t like we were having the usual foggy winter at home, as we had a drought in progress and there wasn’t enough moisture to create those gray, cold, miserable winter days. Still, it wasn’t exactly warm even with some daytime highs in the low to mid 60s.
Parked at IHOP (background) and near what appeared to be a homeless circling of the wagons. But not a soul in site. I had a great visit with my cousin.
The first day I planned to stop in Fresno, as usual, to meet my cousin, Murle Jean, for lunch. We spent an hour visiting and our visits are always very pleasant. I had just turned 70 and she had turned 80 and we go waaay back to the day I was born. She informed me on the last visit that my twin sis and I were considered stars as we were the first and only twins in the family. I advised her I was still a twin and inquired whether I was still considered a star. I guess the years have taken the glow from our status. After our warm and pleasant visit, I climbed back aboard the coach and continued south.
I pulled into Bakersfield’s Flying J Plaza a bit after 1600 and drove back to the truck parking lot which was crowded with big rigs, and was pretty noisy with all the idling engines and reefers. At one point I decided it was just too noisy and moved farther back in the lot where it was a bit quieter.
Parked with the big boys at Bakersfield’s Flying J Plaza.
I planned to drive to El Centro, CA the next day, but after checking gas prices in Yuma, AZ, I decided to try for that on Tuesday, Day 2. It would be a 400 mile drive, and I wanted to get some miles behind me.
My destination for this trip was a town near Houston, TX where my 90+ year old aunt and uncle live. They are a loving memory of my childhood, and I haven’t seen them in almost nine years. I planned to arrive at their place in Texas on Saturday or Sunday so as to minimize disturbing their daily schedule and to include seeing their daughter and son-in-law.
While “camped” at Flying J, I showered, made dinner, relaxed, began this travelogue and generally stayed busy. It was good to be On the Road Again! As the evening passed, I fired up the generator and began the umpteenth viewing of the WWII documentary on DVD series The World at War. I mixed a couple of drinks, sat back and enjoyed the evening. I was in my cozy bed a bit after 2200.
At home in a truck stop lot editing photos and writing the travelogue.
Tuesday, Day 2: Bakersfield CA to Yuma AZ via SR99, SR58, US395, I-215, I-10, SR86, SR111, I-8: 390 miles
I had a long day ahead of me as I added 15 gallons of gas at one of Flying J’s pumps early that morning of Day 2 . I decided to head for Yuma instead of El Centro. It was just a bit after 0700 as I pulled onto SR99 and headed south toward SR58 and over the Tehachapi Mountains to the Mojave Desert. The day was clear and bright and I settled in for the long drive.
Sunrise over SR58 as I began the day’s drive.
Stark desert landscape along SR 58 east of Bakersfield.
More desert views during my day’s drive: Highway view along I-15. Or maybe it was I-215.
Row Crops in the desert with lots of irrigation going on.
Dates were a popular crop in the Imperial Valley.
Wind turbines seemed to sprout everywhere:
The wind turbines along my route were a portend of things to come.
All was well as I pulled over at the junction of SR58 and US395 for breakfast. I took a 20 minute walk, and then bought a Subway breakfast sandwich to eat in the coach. I was soon heading south on US395, enjoying the beautiful drive.
Somewhere along I-215 the wind kicked up and just kept getting stronger. There were gusts to about 50 MPH and I had to pull over two or three times trying to find out what the terrible banging on the roof was. It turned out to be the slide’s rolling canvas cover, the slide topper, being blown out and then slamming back against the side of the coach. I pulled off the freeway and tried to wrap it to stop the banging, but it really didn’t help much. Another RVer pulled in behind me, and had the same problem. He told me that he’d just wait it out, and had heard the winds were to blow ‘til the next day around noon. I wished him good luck, and then pulled back onto the freeway. I was delightfully surprised to find the wind decreased significantly in the next half-hour, and the rest of the day the wind was tolerable although on a couple of occasions it tried to kick up but it didn’t muster the gusts I dealt with earlier.
It was a long drive down the various highways to Yuma, but I enjoyed the desert beauty and the drive along the Salton Sea.
I drove along the Salton Sea during my drive on SR86.
Lunch aboard the coach overlooking the Salton Sea.
I arrived at Love’s Travel Plaza in Yuma about 1830, and was very pleased to pull into their lot and turn off the coach for the night. I pumped 69 gallons into my 75 gallon tank, and was ready for the even longer drive to Deming, New Mexico the next day. I checked the weather and noted that Deming would be 23° on Wednesday night. Brrrrrrr. I would have to check that I had plenty of propane!
Arizona had the coolest logo…
…and a very slick centennial logo, too.
An Arizona landscape feature that was visible for miles.
Whatever route this sign was about I never knew, but I was on it some of the time. I never saw any mounted Spaniards or Indians, though.
Jacks down at Yuma’s Love’s Travel Center for the night. This photo was taken the morning of Day 3.
Wednesday, Day 3: Yuma, AZ to Deming, NM via I-8, I-10: 438 miles
I had a restful night at Love’s Travel Plaza, with much thanks to my white sound machine that drowned out the noise of the lot. I was up and at ‘em about 0500, and anxious to get an early start as the day would be about a 450 mile drive.
Early morning Border Patrol check – I went through these checks perhaps eight times during the trip and was waved through every one.
I set about my chores right away and was on the road at 0545, well before sunrise. I enjoy night driving, and early morning before sunrise is essentially night driving.
Desert mountains highlighted by the early morning sun. What a beautiful way to start the day!
Sunrise along I-8 that began a great day of driving.
A solar farm in the desert that covered many, many acres. Incredible.
Saguaro Cactus along I-8 on a beautiful, mild day.
Another rugged Arizona landscape feature visible for miles.
The miles flew by as I enjoyed the rural drive and most of the day was indeed rural. I stopped at a rest area sometime around 0730 and cleaned the windshields and made another cup of coffee. I stopped again about 1000 at Eloy, Arizona’s Flying J to take a 20 minute walk and whip up a quick breakfast of frozen French toast.
I had heard earlier that there was an accident near the area, and sure enough, as I pulled off to park, the freeway was coming to a grinding slow down. I saw a Highway Patrolman at Flying J and asked about the accident. He told me it would be clear in just a few minutes. When I pulled out to continue my drive, the freeway was flowing as usual. Whew. That was good timing for me. Parked at Eloy’s Flying J while the highway cleared as I made breakfast aboard the coach. The “low” gas price was encouraging for one from Kalifornistan.
At some point around 1400 I stopped along the route and made a quick lunch, but I’ll be darned if I can remember what I ate or where I stopped. Honestly, I shouldn’t be allowed to wander these highways alone!
Freeway art flourished along the southwest Interstates. Here are three good examples of an art form I don’t recall seeing in Kalifornistan. I wondered if the tax payer paid for all that. If so, I’m not much of a fan:
New Mexico welcomed me and I was looking forward to landing in Deming.
I finally pulled into Walmart’s lot in Deming, NM, at 1500 my time, but 1600 local time. I took another 20 minute walk, then a shower. Next I went shopping for a few things I needed in the coach. I bought a Subway sandwich for dinner at the shop inside Walmart, and it was a welcome change from my coach “cooking”. I even splurged on a peanut butter cookie! I had promised myself a box of Crunch and Munch, kind of a Walmart specialty I used to greatly enjoy with a few brews on trips in years past. So I bought a box after searching long and hard for it. I had a few brews in the fridge from home, and as I edited photos and wrote this travelogue, I thought often of the treat that awaited me when it was TV time.
After the computer work, I settled in to watch TV and relax with the above goodies. After a few brews it was more trouble trying to stay awake than the TV was worth. I turned it off and hit the sack about 2200.
Thursday, Day 4: Deming, NM to a rest area on I-10 near Sheffield, TX: 379 miles.
Early morning with other RVers at Deming’s Walmart lot before pulling out for the day’s drive.
I was up around 0500 and began the morning chores at once. I wanted to hit the road early again, and to put some miles behind me en route to Huffman, Tx, to visit my aunt and uncle. I pulled out of the Deming Walmart lot a few minutes after 0600.
This moon shot was taken as I was driving through Deming toward the Interstate. I was surprised how dramatic it turned out.
It was a long day of driving. I stopped at the Love’s truck stop just before Las Cruces and filled up with gas at only $3.03! Yep, I’m conditioned to think that’s a good price. I loaded on 67 gallons for just a bit over $200. And I continued down I-10.
Gassing up at Love’s near Las Cruces, N.M. This was the cheapest gas I’d seen in a very long time. Note the coach jacked up on one side to stuff in more gas.
Dropping into Las Cruces, N.M. Note the rugged mountains in the background. I drove through Las Cruces and on into Texas.
Leave it to Texas to build a monument at their state line. And I understand that; Texas really is a great place and I’d like to live there.
Texas welcomed me once I passed their monument and entered the state.
As I approached El Paso, TX I was reminded of a trip a few years ago when I thought it was a dusty border town – an image I got from country music lyrics, I suppose. I was surprised then to see what a huge metropolis it was, but I was not surprised this time. The traffic moved along nicely but it was a zoo. It seemed to go on for miles and I was relieved to finally have El Paso behind me.
Looking across the border wall into Juarez, Mexico. I was told that the crime along this border is very high and is a dangerous place. I kept on truckin’!
Driving through El Paso reminded me of big city driving in Kalifornistan. I didn’t like it and it wasn’t a pretty drive.
More El Paso Interstate. Note the colored concrete divider and bridge. Nice.
It was good to be through El Paso’s traffic and into the wilderness. I loved the solitude.
Texas – the land of the free and refreshing common sense!
Beyond El Paso, Texas was wide open and I loved it. The views were wonderful some of the time, and hours of boredom other times.
Stopped at a rest area beyond El Paso where I whipped up an oatmeal breakfast aboard one of my favorite “restaurants” while traveling. I find those Dale’s Diners most everywhere I go, it seems. It was a beautiful day to be in Texas, and I enjoyed a good walk while parked there. Soon enough I was back on the Interstate.
More photos of Texas’ beautiful landscape. But west Texas sure was a desolate place – I couldn’t even pick up a radio station in some places.
I continued on down I-10 all day, and finally pulled into a rest area about 25 miles west of Sheffield, TX. I was whipped by the long drive, and was happy to finally turn off the coach and enjoy its comforts. The day’s drive was over and it was time to relax with a cool one. I was fed, showered, comfy and happy aboard my magic carpet – while parked in a Texas roadside rest area. Life is good with an RV.
I took a shower, whipped up a can of turkey chili for dinner, then got to work editing photos and reviewing my favorites on the ‘net. When all was done I set about bringing this travelogue up to date. It seemed I was spending a lot of time editing photos and writing this travelogue, but if I hadn’t kept this record of my travels, they’d be forgotten for the most part and I wanted very much to have a good record of the adventure.
It was nearly 0930 Central Time when I finished writing, etc. After a bit of TV and a couple of my Collins cocktails, I hit the sack. I was bushed.
Friday, Day 5: Rest area near Sheffield to Giddings, TX via I-10, SR71, US290: 335 miles
It was a restful night aboard the coach at the rest area, thanks again to my white sound machine. There was traffic in and out all night, I’m sure, but I didn’t hear it. The day’s drive took me off the Interstates for a change, and I drove east on SR290, a drive I recall from other adventures. It was a long, hilly route and included Fredericksburg, a town in Gillespie County. I very much liked the area.
This day’s travel was as the prior days; I kept to my eating and walking schedule while trying to keep a good pace towards my destination of Huffman, TX near Houston. I ate breakfast and lunch in the coach at rest areas, and took a couple of 20 minute walks most days. Johnson City, TX is on SR290, and they’re mighty proud of their most famous son, Lyndon B. Johnson. I wasn’t impressed. I recalled his war on poverty and the trillions of dollars we’ve wasted on it.
I had planned to drive to Cypress, TX, just 40+ miles from Huffman. That would have been 425 miles, but the plan didn’t execute well, thanks to not knowing the route I chose.
The drive through the Austin area was terrible. I cussed the traffic and got myself all stressed out. Eventually I made it through and I would take a better route when I headed back.
All was fine ‘til I neared Austin, TX. I planned a route that I thought went south of Austin, but it actually took me right near the downtown area. Freeways were under construction. Much of my route was not freeway and I stopped at numerous red lights. The traffic was impossible and I drove in bumper to bumper traffic. I cursed my lousy route planning, and generally let the traffic ruin my day. The alternative would have been a route near Houston, and I surely didn’t want that.
I ran so late, and was so tired from the stress, that when I reached a Walmart in the small town of Giddings, TX, I pulled in for the night. They granted me permission to spend the night, as usual at Walmart, and I was grateful. I had driven just 335 miles, short of my plan by 90 miles, but I was just plumb worn out. Parked at the Walmart store in Giddings, TX along US290. It was a great relief to finally settle in for the night after all the stress of driving through Austin.
Once I settled in the lot, I took another 20 minute walk which helped recharge me a bit. Then I took a good hot shower and I felt a lot better. I began the photo editing and this travelogue which kept me busy up to dinner time. I walked over to a nearby Subway and bought a chicken teriyaki sub for dinner and took it back to the coach.
I worked on the next day’s route, and I spent a lot of time re-examining the route the little navigator came up with. It seemed a good route for a Saturday, and I hoped for a better execution of my plans the next day.
Saturday, Day 6: Giddings to Huffman, Tx, then back to Cypress, TX Walmart: 174 miles
Day 6 was the big day of the first week of my winter adventure. I’d been wanting to see my Auntie Dawn and Uncle Norwood for the past few years and hadn’t seen them since 2005 at the family’s last reunion. Reunions were once regular, every three years, but as the “old folks” have passed the reunions became a thing of the past. My Mom’s side, the only side I ever knew, consisted of my Grandma, Lillian Peterson, and her nine children. My Aunt Dawn was the youngest and only survivor of that family. I hadn’t seen anyone of that generation since the last reunion and I was excited for the upcoming visit.
The day’s drive was along US290 much of the time, but it wasn’t all so rural as this.
Wide open US290 with intersections, homes, etc. along the highway and the limit was 75 MPH! God bless Texas. Still, I always drove my usual 58 MPH as traffic whizzed by me.
I crossed the Brazos River! I don’t know anything about it except country music lyrics sometimes mention the Brazos River. (♫ crossed the Brazos at Waco ♪ ♫…) or something like that.
Somewhere along US290 someone didn’t much like Reagan.
Kickapoo Rd. Really.
In spite of my careful planning, I wound up driving through lots of traffic on roadways with lots of signal lights through the area north of Houston. I drove too many very busy surface streets and was plenty worn out from it all when I pulled over for breakfast in the coach about five miles from my aunt and uncle’s home. Driving across Lake Houston as I neared my destination.
I was impressed how the traffic flowed through some areas in spite of the traffic. With a little advice from Roy, my aunt and uncle’s son-in-law, and the Garmin navigator, I managed to stay on freeways most of the way back to Cypress later that day. That’s one happy nephew between my dear Auntie Dawn and Uncle Norwood. These loving folks were so good to my Mom, my twin sis, and I when we were kids and times were not always so prosperous for us. They also ran successful businesses for years, mostly radio stations and even an early TV station. I have warm memories of staying with them one summer during high school while working at their radio station in San Francisco. I love you, Auntie Dawn and Uncle Norwood, and thanks for the nice visit.
My visit with my dear Aunt Dawn and Uncle Norwood was splendid! I spent the better part of an hour in their home, then spent another half an hour with their daughter, Dawnie, and son-in-law Roy outdoors with their horses and dogs. While there, I loaded a bit of drinking water onto the coach for all the instant coffee I drink while traveling.
They invited me to join them for Chinese lunch which was in the direction of my return trip, and I was more than happy to accept. I asked them who told them about my Chinese food addiction, but it seems Roy is also an addict and didn’t know of my addiction. Dawnie and I climbed into the coach and followed the rest in their van to the restaurant. Here I pose with Roy and Dawnie, the Patterson’s daughter and son-in-law. My aunt and uncle live in a newly completed home they just built near the main house on the kids’ property. These photos were taken at the restaurant.
We spent about an hour and a half together visiting and getting re-acquainted around the table. Uncle Norwood and I talked boats and I talked family history with my Aunt Dawn. They are the last of their generation of the family at 90 and 92 years old. Of my Grandma Peterson’s nine children, Aunt Dawn is the last. It was such a pleasure to be with them even for a short time. I didn’t want to interfere with their schedule, and while their lives are comfortable, Uncle Norwood is confined to a wheel chair.
It was 1400 when I bid farewell to the family and boarded the coach. I was then on my way back home via Dean’s in Oceanside. I thought I’d drive the 120+ miles back to Giddings, but after an hour drive as I approached Cypress and the Walmart where I initially planned to stay the prior night, I decided I’d driven far enough for the day. It was, after all, 1700 local time and I was tired.
Jacks down at the Cypress, Texas, store where I spent the first night of my return trip to my son Dean’s for a visit, and then on home.
I pulled into the Walmart lot about 1700 local time. I was welcome, as usual, and thankful for how convenient (and cheap!) my RVing is thanks to Mr. Sam’s long standing policy of welcoming RVers overnight.
It was good to have relieved the pressure of reaching a destination and I felt more relaxed. I did want to visit my aunt and uncle very much, and I didn’t want to be any later than the weekend. I had ‘til the next Friday afternoon to show up at my son’s home in Oceanside, CA for my quarterly visit there. I had six days to cover 1500 miles and that would be a piece of cake!
Sunday, Day 6: Cypress, TX to Fredericksburg (hereinafter Fredburg), TX via mostly US290: 209 miles.
I had a very relaxed evening in the coach, and slept well, as usual. I was up around 0530 to get the day started. After my usual chores, I headed out onto US290 about 0600 and headed for Fredburg, TX, only a couple of hundred miles away. Somewhere along US290 I shot a photo of a big construction project. There was a lot road construction along Texas highways…
…but mostly the view was rural, which I greatly prefer. I had several days of rural driving ahead and I was surely looking forward to every mile.
My self-inflicted deadline of visiting family on the weekend was behind me and I had five days to drive about 1500 miles to arrive Friday around noon at Dean’s home in Oceanside, CA. The day was drop-dead gorgeous with sunshine, gentle breezes and relatively warm temps. More stop and go through the Austin area again, but I’d seen worse. Soon I was back on the open, rural highways.
I fared better on the return route. While I had some miles to go on surface streets with stop lights and heavy traffic, the vast majority of driving through the Austin area was on fast moving freeways. Once I got beyond the Austin area, traffic was light and the drive was very pleasant.
More US290 as I headed toward Fredericksburg, Texas for the night. I would love to live in the Fredericksburg area. I think. But with Wifey’s deep roots in Kalifornistan, it’s just an old man’s pipe dream.
I stopped at a small town somewhere east of Fredburg when I spotted a Subway. I ordered an egg white sandwich on flat bread, something I had grown fond of during the trip. I suppose it was a good thing that I became more of a Subway junkie than a MickeyD junky. But I still loved my McFlurries and the occasional dollar burger.
I arrived at Fredburg a bit before noon home time, which I tried to stick with for timing my meals and sleeping. Although the clocks in the coach said it was 1600 the setting sun said 1800 and there was no arguing with Mr. Sun. I gassed up at this little gas station in Fredburg two times in a row, both going east and returning west. The second fill up I pumped 79 gallons into my 75 gallon tank. I can stuff in a bit more by tilting the coach as seen here.
And here’s why I gassed up twice at the little station! Actually it was more about where I happened to be when I needed a fill up, but I did look for a good price. I saw gas as low as $2.98 on my trip but never got to buy any at that price.
I took a walk and did a bit of shopping after I set up in Fredburg’s Walmart lot. I was tired of running the generator to power the TV and DVD player and to charge my electronic items, which really made no sense, so I dug out an extension cord from below, plugged it into the coach’s inverter in the cabinet above the driver’s seat, and ran it back to the table where I do all my photo editing, travelogue, etc., on the computer. I could then run the electrical stuff off the house batteries and not the generator. Duh. I should have been doing that all along.
I have used the inverter in the past, but generally it was easier to just push the starter button and fire up the generator. I left the extension cord in place as it was quieter and more economical to use the battery power for the TV, DVD player, and electronics. That is, during the cooler months. In hot weather the generator has to run anyway to power the much needed air conditioner.
At the Walmart lot in Fredburg, Texas. Once again Walmart built a larger store and the old store, where I had spent a night years ago, was no longer a Walmart.
During the evening of Day 6, after the travelogue and photo work was done, I watched TV for a couple of hours, had a couple of my Collins drinks, then hit the sack around 2200 as usual. And as usual, I slept like a baby.
Monday, Day 7: Fredburg to Fort Stockton, TX via US290, FM2093 (FM=Farm to Market Rd.), I-10: 260 miles
I was up about 0530 to begin my second week on the road. Since I wanted to do only about 250 miles per day, I had to find other things to occupy my time when I wasn’t driving. So I decided to do some housekeeping. But first, after the usual morning chores such as making the bed, shaving, etc. I took my first of two 20 minute walks for the day. I then began the housekeeping by vacuuming the whole coach with the little Dirt Devil hand vac I keep in the coach. I shook the several throw rugs as well, and figured I’d done enough for one day. The next day I would dust.
It was 0830 when I pulled out of the Walmart lot and continued my journey west on US290. I planned to stop at the propane place I’d seen earlier, but wasn’t paying attention and drove right by it. So I pulled over and asked a delivery driver if he knew of any propane dealers. He advised I’d driven by the one I wanted several stoplights back, but that another was just up the hill on SR16. He told me how to get there and soon enough I pulled in and got the propane topped off. I had a quarter of a tank, certainly enough to get home on, unless I was delayed. I figured I’d play it safe. I asked the gal that pumped the propane if there was anyplace nearby I could dump my tanks. She said a RV park was just down the street, so I drove over and asked if I could dump. They were very helpful and for $10 I dumped the tanks, topped off the fresh water, and threw my trash into their dumpster. I was set for the rest of the trip! I would dump again at Guajome Park in Oceanside on Friday and would then be good ‘til I got home.
The navigator said I could continue on down the road the RV park was on, and so I did. It turned out to be a Texas FM (Farm to Market) Road that paralleled US290 for over 20 miles, and ended at the highway in the small town of Harper which I’d driven through on my way east. Farm roads are narrower, follow the earth’s contours more, but are still paved and well maintained.
The narrow, roller coaster Farm Road I drove for over 20 miles. They didn’t invest much in bridges, instead they posted signs to watch for water in the road. Still, it was a pretty good road – better than many in Kalifornistan.Still on the Farm Road, but at a stop light at SR290 in the small burg of Harper. I rejoined the main highway by turning left there, then pulled over on the roadside for breakfast.
In Harper I pulled over and fixed my breakfast of a couple of frozen French toast slices and half an apple. I then continued on US290 which took me through the hill country to I-10. Back on I-10 heading for Dean’s in Oceanside, CA. This section of Texas is as desolate a stretch as one would care to drive. I loved it. The drive was so far removed from civilization… …that an oversize load going by was a high moment of the day. Well… for me it was, but then I’m a big rig junkie. Count the axles on that dolly! I figured that was a bridge section heading to some freeway job site.
It was a breezy day, and I drove against a headwind the entire time on I-10. I was blown around a bit but it wasn’t severe. I stopped at about every rest area and picnic area I came across just to while away some time. I made lunch at one stop which consisted of half a turkey sandwich and some beet slices.
The drive was splendid except for the wind. It was a warm day, even in January, and I ran the AC much of the time. Along that stretch of I-10 it was desolate. There were very few towns, and the drive between was long and lonely. There were sections of the drive where I could not pick up any radio; not AM, not FM, and not even weather stations. Still, my SiriusXM worked although I use it mainly while parked and not much while driving. There is a connection on the XM cradle that shorts out on bumps and turns the radio off. I found that on the smoother roads my XM worked alright. I did have CDs to play if I needed some sound. One thing about Texas AM stations is that there is more preachin’ and church services broadcast in one day than you’d find in a week in Kalifornistan. Yep… Texas is in the Bible Belt. There were many hill tops in Texas that were cut for the highways, but this was one of the deepest cuts. I reckon this cut took a long time to complete. One can find the most mundane things to be interesting out on I-10 through the desolate areas of Texas.
While the speed limit was 80 MPH in west Texas on I-10, I always drove 58 MPH. The traffic whizzed by me the entire time, and that was fine. Some of that day’s drive I slowed to 55 MPH just to save a bit of gas against the headwind – and also I didn’t want to get to Walmart too early.
Something I learned on that trip, which I should have known all along, was that my Android phone, for which I had a hands free ear piece, could be used hands free even to dial or look up information. I used to think I had to place the call myself by pushing the right buttons on the phone. But, no! I simply pushed the button on the earpiece and when the proper tone sounded, said “call home” or whomever else I wanted to call. I could also get weather at whatever location I wanted, as well as most any other information I might need. What a world we live in!
Someone’s mega-buck rig eastbound on lonely I-10 with a huge trailer. I figured there was probably a Bentley or Rolls in the trailer. Wow.
When I arrived at Fort Stockton, I followed my navigator’s directions to what was the old Walmart, now occupied by other businesses. I had looked up the store’s address in the Walmart 2011 Road Atlas, which lists all their stores, keyed it into the navigator and yet it was still the old store. This has happened often in my past travels, but I figured my 2011 Atlas would be quite up to date. I guess it’s time to buy the 2014 edition. I asked at a local business where the new store was, and then drove right to it.
Having finally found the store, I settled in for the night and had a lot of other RVers nearby, thanks to good ol’ Mr. Sam, the founder of Walmart – and his generosity lives on!
As I pulled in I noticed that a number of other RVers were already there, which was unusual in the other Walmarts I stayed at this trip. I found a good spot, and faced the coach into the wind in case it blew harder overnight. A coach is built for high winds as it goes down the highway, but parking sideways to the wind can make for a very rocky night. I was settled for the night.
I took another 20 minute walk, around the store both inside and outside, plus more walking around the lot. When I returned to the coach I hooked up the electronics and TV to the inverter and began editing photos and writing this travelogue. Around 1800 I walked to the store for something different for dinner. The night before I had a rotisserie chicken, and probably should have settled for one of my frozen dinners. I came back to the coach with a hoagie type sandwich, full of turkey, cheese and more. It hit the spot. I probably didn’t need to post another selfie, but here it is anyway, busy at the computer. Note the power cord below the table from the inverter that powered everything from the batteries all night.
Again I must drone on about the RV style of traveling. I was a week into the trip, and the only money I’d spent for the RV other than gas was the $10 it cost to dump the waste tanks. (Ironically, I pulled into a Texas rest area not long after, and it was the first Texas rest area I’d seen complete with a free RV dump site. I should have waited.) Each night I slept in my own bed, always had my own bathroom including shower, and carried my own food in my own fridge/freezer with a stove and microwave to cook it. Yes, the coach consumed a lot of gas, about 7.3 MPG, but was still a cheaper way to road-trip than a car because I didn’t have to buy all my meals nor pay the crazy prices motels charge.
And I’ll carry on a bit more about WallyDocking while I’m at it: When parked at Walmart, there are cameras overlooking the parking lot 24/7. Many Walmarts have security vehicles patrolling the lot 24 hours a day. I am more secure in a Walmart lot than a RV park. And whatever a traveler may want, he’ll likely find it in the Walmart store. It is a great place to “camp”.
A somewhat doctored photo of the sunset from Fort Stockton’s Walmart lot. It was even more beautiful than this in real life.
Whew. TMI! Well… after all the typing I watched more of my VHS series The Century; America’s Time. I need to get that series on DVD as rewinding is for the 80s! I also enjoyed a couple of my Collins cocktails. Life is good – even in a Walmart lot!
Tuesday, Day 8: Fort Stockton, TX to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 277 miles
I slept in the morning of that eighth day of my Search for Sunshine trip of 2014. Well… ‘til about 0600, that is. Some nights when the old bones are aching a bit, I set out an Ibuprofen PM to take during the night along with my usual magnesium pill. And I did that night and I slept very well.
I got through the morning chores, and then continued my housekeeping by dusting the coach. It sure needed it! I left the bathroom and bedroom cleaning for later. I hit the road around 0730, heading to Las Cruces, NM, 270 miles away. During the day’s drive, I pulled over for lunch and to tend my bug collection. Bugs in January?! Yep. It seemed strange to me, too. But it was a warm January in Texas.
The drive was uneventful, just as I like, but I got pretty sleepy at one point and pulled into a rest area to wake myself up. I had a slice of bread and a glass of juice and that turned out to be lunch. While at it I also washed the front windows. It seemed strange that I had to tend my bug collection in January, but sure enough I did. The weather was quite warm – and of course that’s why I was there. At one point I came across this highway closure. I knew that couldn’t be a good thing, but after just a couple miles or so, the side road took me back onto the Interstate. It turned out to be a construction project.
I stopped at a Petro truck stop just west of El Paso, thinking there might not be another opportunity before Las Cruces. Heck, I could have driven to Las Cruces had I tried, but I paid $3.10 per gallon. When I arrived at Las Cruces gas sold as low as $3.00. Bummer. Texas landscapes can be very photogenic. This unusual feature was visible for miles.
And some of their road signs were kinda strange. This one? Duh.
At this point, still in Texas, I was just one time zone away from home. I was looking forward to visiting my son and his family in Oceanside, and also getting back home to Wifey, the hot tub, and my beloved recliner!
I think of broken dreams when I see scenes such as this. This old, abandoned truck stop and restaurant was once somebody’s pride and joy. What happened? I always wonder. And many such places could likely tell a sad story. Back in New Mexico, and I was getting closer and closer to Dean’s and home.
I shot this east bound border check because of the dramatic setting. I loved those hills.
I passed someone! I passed someone! That’s mighty rare at 58 MPH all day long.
The driving day ended a bit after 1400 when I pulled into the Walmart lot in Las Cruces. The off ramp I was to take was closed for construction, so I had to drive another two or three miles and double back. I checked in the store during my walk to be sure I could park overnight, and as usual they said Ok.
Back in the coach I edited the day’s photos and clacked away on the keyboard writing this travelogue. As the afternoon turned to evening I finished my work and took a hot shower.
When I first arrived I saw a Cracker Barrel very near Walmart and promised myself that I’d head over there for my first sit-down meal of the entire trip, except of course the Chinese meal with my aunt and uncle. I was not disappointed with my chicken fried chicken, three vegetable sides, and corn bread. Mmmmmm. It was a great meal even though I was alone. I wanted fried chicken, naturally, but even Cracker Barrel doesn’t serve it anymore.
Doubling back to Walmart due to the closure of an off ramp. The mountains that surround Las Cruces were just gorgeous!
Jacks down at the Las Cruces’ Walmart for the night.
I returned to the coach and settled in for the night. The weather forecast predicted low 30s overnight but I was warm and secure in my home-on-wheels.
I poured a couple of my favorite cocktails and then settled back and watched some more WWII DVDs in color. What a relaxing way to spend an evening at home while away from home.
Wednesday, Day 9: Las Cruces, NM to Tucson, AZ via I-10: 278 miles
After the usual morning chores, I began the day with a walk into and around the store. They had a Mc Donald’s and I could not overcome the temptation for a good cup of McCafe coffee and one cookie. I tried calling dear Wifey from the store but it was just too loud. We continued our call when I returned to the coach.
I began the final stage of three work periods to clean the coach good and proper. The final included the sinks, shower and toilet and dusting the bath area and bedroom. It was a pretty good work out and I was mighty pleased with myself when I was finally done. I reckoned that the inside of the coach was in good shape ‘til the next trip.
Yet another border check. I was waved through, as usual.
These scary signs were at a New Mexico Rest Area. It was a very good way to reduce visit times!
I continued west on I-10 around 0930, and as I pulled out of the lot I realized that I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I got a lot of mileage out of that one cookie! But within an hour I pulled into a rest area and whipped up a quick breakfast of frozen egg, sausage, and cheese wraps that are surprisingly low calorie and quick to zap in the microwave. A cup of OJ and some fruit rounded out a quick breakfast.
More of New Mexico’s beautiful landscape: As I continued west I shot entirely too many photos. In fact, I shot too many photos the entire trip. But they kept me busy as I edited them and added captions so I’ll remember what they were about back home when I update my website with a grand story of my Search for Sunshine 2014. THE THING was advertised for miles; this sign was over 50 miles from their roadside attraction in Arizona. But I’d been there before, and knew that THE THING was a tourist trap. But they did have a Dairy Queen there…
…and THIS was THE THING that interested me – a Reese’s DQ Blizzard that I enjoyed for miles beyond the stop!
I stopped at THE THING, a wildly advertised roadside attraction that I’ve stopped at before. They’d like me to pay to see THE THING but I’m not all that gullible. THE THING is well documented on Wikipedia and certainly not worth the price of admission to me. But I did find their advertisement on their huge outside electronic sign for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Blizzard to be utterly irresistible. Even at almost $5 I happily took one to go and enjoyed it for about 40 miles! Mmmmmm. They are good!
This series of signs lets one know that there is a chance of severe wind storms that can reduce visibility to zero. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced such a storm: Somewhere before Tucson, I decided to claim my piece of Arizona. I loved the solitude, the weather (in January), and the relatively cheap gas!
As I continued west I neared the huge metropolis of Tucson and managed to time my arrival just perfectly to join in on the commute. While there weren’t any real traffic jams, the traffic was very heavy and it sure didn’t compare to the recent days of leisurely driving relatively empty highways. Driving through Tucson I shot this photo of the Tucson skyline. It looked like a nice place – but cities don’t entice me at all.
I continued on through Tucson to the west side where the landscape was again fairly wide open. I pulled into a huge Walmart lot a bit after 1530. I spent the afternoon with the door and a window open as it was very mild ‘til well after sundown.
I spent a lot of time on photo editing, etc, as usual, and also took a walk around the store and some of the lot. The store was perhaps the biggest I’ve ever seen – it was a monster. A couple laps around the store would have made a full 20 minute walk, I think. I did resist the nearby Mickey D’s and Subway and instead ate in the coach. I had another frozen dinner, and then had just one left.
I spent a couple of hours or so watching more documentary DVDs on my television, enjoyed a couple more of my Collins cocktails, and was in bed by 2200. It had been a good day on the road.
Thursday, Day 10: Tucson, AZ to El Centro, CA via I-10, I-8: 280 miles
I slept very well again, which is usual aboard the coach. I finally rolled out of the sack around 0600 to begin my day. After the morning chores, shaving, etc., making the bed, and so on, I headed out for a 20 minute walk including walking in the store where it wasn’t as cool as the 41°outside. The store visit included a couple of McDonald’s chocolate chip cookies and a cup of senior coffee. I just couldn’t resist.
Daybreak over Tucson and a day of driving awaited me. A week after arriving home as I posted this photo to the website, I wished I could have stepped back into it and continued the trip.
Back at the coach I stored the TV, sucked in the slide, raised the jacks and continued my drive west. I just loved driving the relatively empty Interstates in the boondocks where the traffic was negligible and driving was a real pleasure.
I counted my Mickey D’s cookies as breakfast, and just drove on ‘til I reached a rest area about 0930 or so. I made a couple of hot dogs for lunch, one of my favorite meals. I buy non-fat wienies, non-fat mayo and save a lot of calories by doing so. I gassed up in Yuma before entering Kalifornistan and its ridiculous gas tax.
It was with mixed emotions that I crossed the Colorado River into Kalifornistan.
I didn’t need the sign to tell me I was back in Kalifornistan…
…the busted highway made it perfectly clear!
I continued on after lunch, and faced the fact that I was soon to be back in Kalifornistan. Yep. And while Wifey awaited in Kalifornistan, as did my hot tub and recliner, it was with mixed emotions that I crossed the Colorado River into the poorest run state in the union. At once I noticed a change in the roads, a decidedly negative difference, as well as the reminders posted along the highway of our foolish 55 MPH limit for trucks:
Ugh. This sign should read Rolling Roadblocks Ahead.
In the other states I’ve driven this trip, trucks were permitted to run with the rest of the traffic and thereby not be rolling roadblocks. But this was Kalifornistan and common sense a scarce commodity. Probably because of the proximity of the Colorado River and perhaps other water sources, I noted agriculture becoming more common in parts of Arizona and Kalifornistan.
I pulled into the town of El Centro and drove several miles to the Walmart store, another huge SuperCenter that is much bigger than most I’ve seen. When I turned off the engine in Walmart’s lot it was 1430. I had just 140 miles to drive the next day to visit my son and family in Oceanside. My trip was nearly over.
I took another 20 minute walk around the store and checked in at the auto dept. The service bays were empty and they told me they could take me in right away. I headed back to the coach and drove it in for service. An hour later the service was done and I saved about $25 over the cost of the service I usually have done at home, and I no longer had to feel guilty for not changing the oil on time. I doubted that the Walmart guys did as well as my regulars at home and could only hope that they did everything right. Jacks down at the El Centro, CA Walmart for the night. The coach service was done and off my mind, too.
I drove back to the far reaches of the lot and settled in for the night. I had already checked with the security guard who patroled the lot and was told I was fine there for the night.
El Centro is a lowly little burg. At about 50’ or so below sea level it gets mighty hot in the summer. (Back in my truck driving days I hauled lime to a Spreckles sugar mill in the area, I believe it was in Brawley, a nearby town. I was told then that the sugar beets would actually cook if left on the concrete slabs outside the plant. Now, that’s hot!) It was near 80° when I pulled in, and the evening was very mild. And it was January! El Centro had as bad a section of roadway through town as I’ve ever seen. I had to wonder why they let the infrastructure rot away so badly. The rotten city road that welcomed me to El Centro. How can they let their infrastructure rot away so badly? Oh… yes. I was back in Kalifornistan!
I WallyDocked for the eighth night this trip. I was safe, secure and watched over by Walmart’s many cameras. Bad guys generally know not to practice their profession at Walmart. Everything that moves in a Walmart lot is recorded on video!
I watched more documentary on TV, enjoyed cocktails, and relaxed after my tenth day on the road. I crawled into my cozy bed around 2200.
Friday, Day 11: El Centro to Dean’s in Oceanside via I-8, SR78, SR52, I-15, SR76: 136 miles
I was up at 0600 and set about my chores. I took a 20 minute walk in and around the store and once again fell to the cookie temptations offered up by McDonald’s. When I returned to the coach, I prepped for the day’s drive and pulled out a bit after 0800, heading to Dean’s and family for a couple of days. I’d have one complete day off on Saturday and then head home very early Sunday morning.
I had to drive the several miles through town from Walmart back to I-8 which meant the horrible section of road I complained about before. I wasn’t much impressed with El Centro.
About five miles up the freeway I exited at a very nice looking rest area, having decided I’d have breakfast a bit early since I’d be having lunch with Dean around noon or so. I ate a couple slices of toast and half an orange. The toast was my high dollar, high fiber, organic Dave’s Killer Bread. The toast alone made for a very nutritious breakfast. The well kept and attractive rest area just north of El Centro, and the RV dump site I was so pleased to find there. I was loading on fresh water in this photo.
As I pulled out of the rest area I noticed it had a RV dump area. It was open, it was clean, and it was empty! I pulled in like I owned the place and dumped the tanks and added some fresh water. What a deal! I was counting on having to dump at the Guajome Park where I’d spend the next couple of nights, but now the dumping was done. I was a happy camper.
I continued west on I-8 and climbed from sea level to over 4000’ and back down in about 80 miles. The landscape in some areas was lunar and as uninviting as one might imagine. I also contended with high winds through the same area I spent two days waiting out a wind storm a few years back in the old coach. This time, however, it was not so windy that I had to stop. The Cuyamaca Mountains I drove through to reach Dean’s in Oceanside. Isn’t this what the moon looks like?
It looked like a tough life in the Cuyamaca Mountains, but then again, the solitude looked pretty attractive to me.
Yet another border check for this trip. I must have driven through eight or nine check points.
The navigator took me along several back roads to I-15 and continued north. Another few back roads took me to Dean’s from I-15 and I pulled in front of their house just a few minutes before noon. Dean was working from his home office as he usually does. I waited in the coach and brought this travelogue up to date while he tightened up the loose ends of his work week and was able to join me in the coach. Parked near Dean’s home (background) after arriving just a bit before noon. Essentially, my Search for Sunshine trip was over. Visiting Dean and family and the long drive home is something I do every third month.
When Dean showed up we visited a few minutes in the coach, then headed down for our traditional lunch overlooking the harbor. It was an unusual gray day in Oceanside, and very mild. We sat alone on the patio in a row of empty tables. I guess when folks are used to perfect weather year round they prefer to sit indoors on gray days, and many folks were dining indoors. Dean and I at our favorite Oceanside harbor restaurant, Monterey Bay Canners (a strange name), overlooking the harbor and we were looking forward to a great meal.
We had a wonderful time there and enjoyed delicious coconut prawn appetizers before lunch. The beer was cold, the conversation warm, and the day was perfect.
After lunch we returned to their home and I drove the coach over to Guajome Park, a San Diego County Parks facility with a really nice RV park. I always reserve space 33 which is rather off by itself, away from the other campers – just how I like it. Parked at Guajome Park’s RV area for a couple of days to visit my son Dean, his wife Melissa, and the boyz, Connor and Aidan. Note the relative wide open spaces of the park compared to other RV parks.
The small lake at Guajome Park, a park in the San Diego County Parks system.
The entrance to Guajome Park.
The entrance to the RV park at Guajome Park.
After setting up the coach for the stay, I took the first nap of this whole trip. I take naps regularly at home, as a proper oldster should. It was good to grab a few winks. When I awoke I called Dean to come pick me up, which he did, and we headed to their home, just a couple of blocks away.
Connor and Melissa were away at a baseball practice, and Dean, Aidan, and I just hung out for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Connor and Mom showed up around 1900 and I got to greetand visit with them.
By 1930 I was ready to head for the coach. Dean drove me to the park, and I was home for the night. I hopped into the shower, then continued work on this travelogue. After the computer work, I mixed a couple of cocktails to settle my nerves from the long day, and watched more of my WWII DVDs. I hit the sack about 2200 and slept like a baby.
Saturday, Day 12: Jacks down all day for the family visit.
I was up and about around 0630, and just took it easy. I was having a day off, after all, and I was due for one. I would have a couple of hours before Dean would call about picking me up to spend the day with the family. I took a walk as I waited, and shot a few photos of the park (above).
When Dean picked me up, we headed to the house and spent some time just hanging out with the family.
Around 1100 Dean and I headed off to our traditional lunch together at Chins, a very nice Chinese restaurant. It’s good for Dean and I to have our two lunches together and visit. Those are about the only times we get to spend time alone. Mmmmmmm. The Pu Pu Platter from Chins. And that was just the beginning!
It was Christmas in January for us, as I like to bring the gifts personally. I enjoyed watching the kids open their gifts which are usually gift cards so they can choose for themselves.
Christmas in January, and the boyz had a grand time.
Even ol’ Grandpa got in on the gifts. Here’s my latest sturgeon catch!
Dean with his almost 20 year old cat; his cat pre-dates the kids and even Melissa. And the ol’ cat was still getting around pretty well.
Grandpa and the boyz, Aidan and Connor, reviewing this trip’s photos.
Three generations checking out Grandpa’s old family photos. I like to help the kids learn about family members who preceded them.
It was a grand time with the family, and I sure enjoy our times together every three months when I drive the coach to Oceanside for a couple of days together. But as happens every visit, it was soon time to head back to the coach and get ready for my early departure on Sunday morning.
Sunday, Day 13: Oceanside, CA to home via I-5, I-405, SR99: 414 miles
I was up a bit before 0400 and set about getting ready for the long drive home. I pulled out of Guajome Park at 0445 and headed north on I-5, excited and very much looking forward to home.
Just before I reached the I-5/I-405 interchange, I saw in my headlights what looked like a tread that separated from someone’s tire. I saw it for just a split second before running over it; I didn’t have a chance to avoid the dang thing, and with a mighty thump it tore up something down in the chassis of the coach. There was a loud scraping sound as I looked for a spot to pull over. After about half a mile, I pulled over to see what happened.
I was beside myself. There I was in LALA Land before daylight on a Sunday morning, possibly broken down, and knowing not a soul in the area. I couldn’t imagine a worse place to be stuck.
The only thing to do was to put on my coveralls and climb under the coach to see what was left. I found the muffler dragging the ground which was the scraping sound. The tail pipe was simply gone. The pipe in front of the muffler was tweaked, but functional. I didn’t see any other damage. What to do?!
I opened my tool box and parts box, looking for something to get the muffler off the pavement. I had a couple of cargo straps with metal hooks that I wrapped over a spring hanger and hooked onto a muffler mount. After cinching up the belts, the muffler was about three inches off the ground – enough to drive on home.
Not pretty, but it worked. And it got me all the way home. I wasn’t stuck in LALA Land after all!
I lost about an hour, maybe a bit less, with the muffler incident. I wasn’t as concerned about the repair I might need as the possibility of being broken down in LA. I think I would have paid $1000 for a tow home rather than be stuck there.
I continued on home with a bit more rumble than before, but at least things stayed put. The trip home was as usual from then on. With the straps holding the coach together I cruised on through LALA Land in the early morning.
Streaking through the Tehachapi Mountains, nearing the Central Valley. After two weeks on the road, I was heading for home!
At the rest area just before I-5 drops down into the valley, I stopped to whip up a quick breakfast and check that the muffler was still hanging on Ok, and it was. I continued down the Tehachapis to the valley.
I stopped at Flying J in Bakersfield for gas, and pumped ’til the usual shutdown at $125 when I usually just go through the routine again to pump until it’s full.
The trip on home was uneventful. It was a long, tiring drive, and all the stress of the muffler incident in LA didn’t help any. I was mighty glad to pull through the gate of our little gated senior community and stop in front of our home. Wifey! The hot tub! My recliner and TV! It was good to be home! Life is, indeed, good when you have a motor home.
And I was already looking forward to the planned Death Valley trip in February!
The trip was 3770 miles. I drove an average 314 miles per day. Of the 13 days of the trip, I took just one day off from driving while at Dean’s.
From the fill up in Ripon as I started, to the fill up at Yuma en route home, I pumped on 440 gallons of gas. Of that, I figured 8.5 gallons to run the generator at a half gallon per hour. Deducting generator gas from the total, I averaged 7.3 MPG for the trip. At an average of $3.13 gallon for the trip, gas cost me about $1377. The good news was I didn’t pay a dime for a motel, an RV park (except Guajome), and ate nearly all my meals in the coach. That makes for pretty cheap travel!
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.