January 4, 2016, Day 1, Home to Bakersfield Flying J via SR99: 202 miles
The day finally arrived for my annual search for sunshine, usually a drive deep into Texas. I would drive the US Highways and some state routes, avoiding the Interstates as much as possible. I love Texas; its landscapes, its people, its open spaces.
I loaded Big Blue in the rain that first morning, and considered the effort to be my daily exercise. It’s hard work for an old man!
Gassing up the coach for the first day’s drive south toward Bakersfield.
It was a rainy drive toward Bakersfield. It rained steady to Fresno and then on and off to Bakersfield.
I loaded the coach in the rain that first day, and drove in rain most of the day. I met my dear cousins, Murle Jean and Genene, sisters who live in Fresno, for lunch at the Marie Callender’s restaurant there. We visited for over an hour, talking about family and memories. I always enjoy our visits and I’m happy they like to get together. Both are in their 80s and we have childhood memories of long ago.
I posed here with my cousins, Murle Jean, center, and Genene after our lunch. We go clear back to the day I was born!
After our warm visit, I bid them farewell and continued south towards Bakersfield to the Flying J truck stop north of the city. I pulled in sometime around 1630, dropped the jacks, put out the slide, and made myself at home for the night.
Jacks down and the slide out at Bakersfield’s Flying J Plaza for the night.
I set about checking the next day’s route, one which I planned to take me to Quartzsite, AZ. I don’t much like the hassle of that winter RV paradise, but thought I’d check out the many coaches for sale and the endless flea market type businesses that flourish there.
The evening aboard was the same as always when I’m on the road. I spent time on the computer, zapped a frozen dinner, and watched TV. I bought GodFather III since my last trip and began watching that movie.
The noise level at the Flying J was a bit much for me, but with the sound machine I had a good and restful night. The weather was rainy, but I never heard rain during the night. The day’s forecast was for rain and I reckon one cannot travel the country in January and expect sunshine everywhere. My search would continue…
Day 2, Tuesday, Bakersfield, CA to Parker, AZ via SR58, I-40, US95, SR62: 350 miles.
I was up around 0600 after having turned on the heaters, both forced air and water, around 0530. I spent the morning as usual, doing the morning chores and visiting my online sites. A bit before 0800 the rains came, and I imagined that I might have rain all day. That would be a good thing, but I’d prefer sunshine during the day’s drive.
I pulled out of the Bakersfield Flying J at 0830, after topping off the gas tank, and continued my Search for Sunshine 2016. And I did not find sunshine; it rained virtually all day – and for a time was very windy. Occasionally I’d get ahead of the storm, then stop for whatever reason, and it would soon catch me.
SR58 east of Bakersfield was wet and stormy. It was just the beginning of a long day. The wide load ahead was a harvester.
Farther up SR58 I got ahead of the rain – ’til I got to Tehachapi where I stopped to whip up breakfast, and the storm caught me again.
The Mojave Desert got a good soaking from the storm. More storms were predicted through the week. Hooray! We’ll take every drop we can get.
Somewhere in the mountains eastbound along I-40 I ran into fog. Several times.
During the afternoon it rained incessantly. My plan was to reach Quartzsite, AZ and park somewhere for the night, but I didn’t know where. I checked for a Walmart and found one in Parker, AZ – just 35 miles from my planned destination. I called to verify that they allowed overnight RV parking, and as usual, they did. That was quite a relief because I wasn’t going to arrive ’til after dark. I certainly preferred staying on a Walmart lot to looking for a place in a strange town after dark! I pulled into the Parker Walmart lot a few minutes after 1800 their time, after dark. I entered the Mountain Time Zone when I crossed the state line. It was a great relief to park for the night as it had been a long day.
I took my sweet time doing evening chores, recording this travelogue, editing photos, etc. I walked to the store after settling in for the night and took my walk by doing laps around the inside of the store. They had some merchandise covered with tarps, buckets scattered about the aisles, etc. to catch rain water that leaked from the roof. It was quite a hazard on their smooth floors. I guessed the store was new and this must have been the first real rain storm for them, or that roof had simply gone bad since the last one.
Back in the coach I zapped another frozen meal for dinner. I watched the finish of GodFather III and never did fully understand all the goings on. But it was a good movie, I thought. By 1100 MST I hit the sack and slept very well. ======================
Day 3, Wednesday, Parker, AZ to Buckeye, AZ via SR95, I-1o: 133 miles.
I was up and around at 0600 on what was a very cool morning in Parker at just 45°. The heater warmed the coach nicely after a half hour or so. Sometime during the night the pounding rain awakened me, but by morning the rain had passed. As night turned to day I realized the sky was clear and in time the sun shinned brightly on the horizon. I raised the curtains for the first time this trip to let the warming rays into the coach. It felt good after all the recent rain.
Big Blue (r) with about a dozen other RVers “camped” at the Parker AZ Walmart lot on the early morning of Day 3.
I walked into the store again for my daily walk. I dodged water puddles and buckets again, and although the rain had ceased the leaks persisted. After my walk I strolled across the boulevard to a Mickey D’s and ordered a strawberry pie – oh, two for a buck? I took two as the price outweighed the guilt. And a senior decaf. I sat at a window in the warming sunshine and spent a few moments reading a newspaper and enjoying the moment. There I was, in the middle of nowhere with nothing I really had to do, and no cares or worries. I was a transient passing through, a hobo of sorts, and with all the comforts of Big Blue waiting just across the street, l was a pretty happy hobo!
After the coffee break I went back into Walmart and bought some groceries and other items I needed. I figured I paid the rent for the free stay overnight. Thanks, as always, Mr. Sam!
I took my sweet time getting out of town that morning, but at 1030 I finally headed toward what I thought was my destination for the day, Quartzsite, AZ and the zoo it is. I have often written in past travelogs that it had no real attraction for me, but this year I thought I might look at the RVs they have for sale. And I’d ride around the flea markets on my little scooter.
As I pulled into town I knew I had made a mistake. The crowds and the busyness of the place were a complete turn off. Even so, I dutifully poked through the busy roadways ’til I found a place to park. I dug out my electric scooter and scooted off to see what the many sales booths had to offer.
The following are images of the zoo that is known as Quartzsite. The place is overrun with people, their yappy little dogs, and vehicles. I didn’t like it at all. But I did buy a small step stool I needed, and I learned once again that I don’t like the place, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
My scooter and lots of RVs for sale. I can’t imagine how they sell so many out there in the boonies, but every year they’re back with more to sell!
As usual at flea market booths, most seemed to be very similar to one another. How many tools can one look at in a day? Or sunglasses? Or electrical parts and pieces? Even so, I scooted from one to another for an hour or so, and actually found a small, folding step stool I’ve been wanting for the coach. I dug out my credit card to pay, but the clerk pointed to the sign that clearly announced NO CREDIT CARDS FOR PURCHASES UNDER $20. oh. I dug out $10 cash and paid the lady.
After my big CASH purchase, I wandered about a while longer, then headed back to the coach to decide what to do with myself the rest of the day. After checking the maps and Walmart locations, I opted to head for the Walmart at Buckeye, AZ, just a hundred miles away.
As I poked through town towards I-10, I stopped at a gas station and filled up with gas at $2.13 per. Now, that’s one thing I like about Quartzsite: The gas is cheap! As I continued out of town, I noticed a couple of diesel coaches on a sale lot that looked interesting. I stopped and took a quick look at them but both were too big as my limit is 33 feet long; I can’t find a reason to get anything bigger. Frankly, I can’t find a good reason to get another coach as Big Blue has been upgraded to be about everything I want in a coach except air ride and a Cummins diesel. And do I really need those things?
A travel plaza along I-10 en route to Buckeye. Note the upright flag; it was a sometimes breezy drive. And note two fine things about Arizona I love: the beautiful desert landscape and… cheap gas!
The drive to Buckeye was unremarkable, as I like, but the highway was atrocious in spots. It beat me and the coach up badly for some time, and I just don’t understand why they can’t maintain their roads any better than Kalifornistan does. Most states, including much of Arizona that I have driven, are better.
I pulled into the Buckeye Walmart at 1540. The place was a beehive of big box retailers, but I found a relatively quiet spot to park for the night. After I set up the coach I got busy on this travelogue and photos.
Jacks down at the Buckeye, AZ Walmart lot; I was “home” again for another cozy night aboard Big Blue.
I shopped for a couple of items in the store and spent the rest of the evening in the coach. After the computer time, dinner, etc., I dug out a Coen Brothers movie, Blood Simple, and began watching. It was a cool evening and I threw a small blanket over myself as I watched TV on the couch. I must have been very, very comfortable because the next thing I knew it was well after midnight, the TV and DVD player were off, the lights very dim, and rain falling steadily. I had run the big house batteries down! My 130 mile drive did not charge them fully and having fallen asleep with the TV, DVD player, lights and heater on, I was left in the dark.
What to do!? I didn’t want to run the big generator as it is mounted to the chassis under the bedroom. I grabbed a flashlight and headed outside in the rain to dig out the small, very quiet Honda generator. I fired it up and chained it to the coach for the night.
I then headed to bed, shaking my head in disbelief that I would sleep away the night on the couch. The little generator ran, nearly unnoticed, all night long ’til I got up a bit before 0700.
Day 4, Thursday, Buckeye, AZ to…? I backtracked to Kalifornistan 207 miles!
The batteries charged up by the little Honda while I slept. My first morning chore was to go outside, still raining, and put the generator away.
After the crazy night I made for myself, I had some decisions to make. The weather south was deteriorating badly due to the many El Nino storms and a descending Arctic cold front. Very cold nights were predicted. Deming, NM, my next planned stop, was to have snow showers! Even Corpus Christi, my eventual destination, was due for cool weather. I certainly wasn’t going to continue on to Deming and its freezing, snowy weather! What to do… what to do…?
The decision was a tough one, because I looked forward very eagerly to this trip. I considered just hanging around the desert areas near the Mexican border where it might be tolerable, but certainly would not be the summer like weather in January that one may often find.
I spent a couple of hours on the computer checking various routes, weather forecasts, and even considered staying put somewhere a few days while the weather warmed up. It finally dawned on me that I did not take this trip to play weather-guesser or weather-dodger. I wanted warmth and sunshine and my prospects were poor. The last days of this trip were to be at Oceanside where I’d visit my son, Dean, and family January 22nd and 23rd. Perhaps I should abort this Texas trip and head home, then head back to Oceanside for the visit in a couple of weeks. Then, after the visit, if the weather had warmed and Texas forecasts were more inviting, I’d resume my search for sunshine. I headed for home.
This highway sign greeted me soon after I began the day’s drive. Ugh…
And the sign was posted for good reason – the wind and rain.
I drove south on SR85 to I-8 and headed west for Kalifornistan and home. I drove through heavy rain and winds the first hour or two, and the westerly winds plagued me the entire day. I enjoyed my drive, sort of, but it sure wasn’t what I’d envisioned.
Still… Arizona was beautiful when the rain stopped.
I pulled off at the small Arizona town of Wellton to top off the tank with cheap, Arizona gas. While there I dumped my holding tanks, loaded on fresh water, and was then ready for five more days – should I need them. While there I again examined my options, and decided to continue. I whipped up a quick lunch aboard, and after an hour or two there, continued west.
Eat your heart out, Kalifornistan; I paid a bit more when I gassed up, but I saw gas in Calexico, CA for almost $3 per!
Along I-8 I encountered this group of campers parked right at the border fence which is visible behind them.
The drive was tedious, but at least I was on the road, which I enjoy, and away from my recliner at home. I arrived at Calexico at 1600, and dropped the jacks at the local Walmart. As usual, I was welcomed to spend the night, but it took some doing to find someone who knew the policy.
Settled in for the night at Calexico’s Walmart store.
I was concerned about the rest of the trip as I had some of the windiest areas of SoCal to drive through en route home and with these weather systems rolling through, I might be in for some rough going. If all went well, I would be home Saturday.
I took my walk in the store where it was warm, and the evening was cool. And I went through the usual routine during the evening. I hit the sack around 2230 and slept fair – ’til sometime around 0400…
Day 5, Friday, Calexico, CA to Tulare, CA via SR11, SR78, SR86, I-10, I-215, I-15, SR58, SR99: 413 miles.
Around 0400 the “white sound” machine in the bedroom stopped and I woke up. uh-oh. The batteries were stone dead. Again. Ok, it must have been the batteries all along even though they’re not quite a year old. I fired up the generator and let it run a couple of hours to charge them as I went back to bed. After I was up, had done my chores and made coffee, I turned off the generator. In addition to those couple of hours, the batteries charged the entire 400+ mile drive that day. So, if they failed again, something would be very wrong with one or both. Either way, the coach would soon be going in for service where I bought the batteries and I would have them checked.
I reviewed the day’s route and the weather forecast was looking good. As I retreated home to avoid the lousy weather south, I finally found some sunshine!
The day was bright and sunny and calm. I had finally found some sunshine!
I left Calexico at 0800 and began what turned out to be a very nice drive; no rain, little wind, and no traffic problems. I was due for a good day’s drive! It was a shame that this trip was aborted, but I was enjoying myself nonetheless.
The following photos were taken during the day’s drive:
Much of the drive through Imperial Valley was well below sea level. Note the right side of my navigator showing elevation at -168 ft.
Beautiful Imperial County doesn’t do winter; even in January crops were growing everywhere!
The Border Patrol checkpoint along my morning drive. As usual they just waved me through with no comment. I must look pretty innocent.
I found this Dale’s Diner along the Salton Sea. They’re everywhere I travel! The food was so-so, but the view was great!
More of the beautiful SoCal valleys I drove through. Note the mountain snow.
The SoCal mountain ridges were covered with snow just about everywhere I drove. It was mighty unusual, and mighty welcome!
I stopped for breakfast and lunch aboard the coach, and just pressed on ’til I arrived at Tulare a bit before 1700. I was whipped when I arrived, but after setting up the coach for the night, I took my walk inside Walmart where it was much warmer than the very cool evening in Tulare.
Jacks down at Tulare’s Walmart lot at dusk. It was a long drive and I was whipped – but I’d be home the next morning.
After a walk in the store, I spent the evening as I usually do. I worked on this travelogue, zapped a frozen dinner, and enjoyed a movie ’til it was bedtime. I hit the sack around 2230.
I wondered if the batteries would be strong in the morning, after all, they had a 400+ mile drive to charge and I hoped they did. Morning would tell. ============================
Day 6, Saturday, Tulare to home via SR99: 151 miles
I was up around 0600 and discovered that the batteries held up through the night, but they were weak. I was convinced that I had a failed battery and I’d have to get it replaced when I got home. I ran the generator about an hour to give the batteries a bit of a charge to get me through the morning ’til I headed home. (Back home and at the shop where I bought the batteries, they found the solenoid switch for the house had gone bad and didn’t allow them to charge properly. I had it replaced and hoped that the problem was behind me. I’d find out on my next trip.)
I worked through the morning chores and then checked the usual websites. I brewed a cup of coffee to get me going, and hit the road a bit before 0800.
SR99 was uncrowded that Saturday morning, and I streaked home with no traffic delays.
I dealt with a few rain showers but the drive was unremarkable as I like. I stopped for breakfast aboard the coach somewhere north of Fresno, and continued home. I gassed up in Ripon, very near home, for $2.35 per. I figured the price was low and may be higher in the near future. I arrived home around 1130.
Home again! Even though the shortened trip was a bit of a disappointment, it was good to be home. I hoped to restart my Search for Sunshine 2016 again soon!
After warmly greeting my dear Wifey, I set about unloading the coach. I had loaded up for a three week trip, so I had a lot to unload. After unloading and dumping the tanks, I washed the very dirty rear cap, then got carried away and washed the whole coach. I just couldn’t put it away so dirty!
If Texas had better weather later that January, I planned to try again after my visit to my son’s near San Diego. After all, once at the kids’ place, Texas is a lot closer!
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.