2nd Try: 2016 Search for Sunshine II Page 1

Thursday, Day 1, January 21, Home to Bakersfield via SR99: 198 miles

Having aborted my first Sunshine trip earlier in the month near Phoenix due to cool weather forecasts, I would head south for another try. This trip, instead of visiting the kids in Oceanside en route home, I’d visit them first, and then continue on to Texas and warm weather. At least that was the plan.

2016-1-21a loading groceriesLoading on groceries for the 2016 Search for Sunshine II trip to Oceanside and, hopefully, on to  a few days wandering the back roads of Texas!

I cleaned the inside of the coach the day before, and having washed the outside upon my return from the first try just a couple of weeks or so ago, I didn’t have that chore. It was the usual big job to load up, as it always is nowadays for this old man, but I got the job done and was ready to leave about 1100. But wait! Our son, Craig, called and wanted to bring some fried chicken over for lunch to share with us. What a guy! Of course I’d wait for fried chicken, taters and gravy, and salad from Raley’s! And it was surely worth the wait! After the pig-out, a bit before 1300 hours I bid my loving wife good-bye with a warm hug, bid Craig farewell with a big thank you for the lunch, and headed south.

2016-1-21b Snowy Sierras from south of FresnoThe wonderfully snowy Sierras as seen from SR99 somewhere south of Fresno. Our very wet and welcome El Nino weather has been a Godsend! 

I would drive to Bakersfield’s Flying J and spend the night. That was only a 200 mile drive, then I would continue on Day 2 through the Mojave Desert to Dean and family in Oceanside for a couple days’ visit. The drive was excellent and I drove straight through. I arrived at the Flying J around 1630 and topped off the gas tank with 30 gallons. Hopefully I would drive clear to Arizona on Sunday on that tank and buy some really cheap gas there. I paid $2.30 per at the Flying J but saw it as cheap as $2.14 during my drive.

2016-1-21c Night at Flying J BakersfieldSettled in for the night at Bakersfield’s Flying J Travel Plaza. 

Once settled in for the night, I set about visiting my usual online sites, writing this travelogue and editing photos. Having eaten that great chicken dinner for lunch I didn’t need much for dinner. I made a small sandwich and it was plenty. I spent the evening there on the Flying J lot as I usually do; I watched Raising Arizona for the umpteenth time, still enjoying it, and eventually woke up on the couch before heading to bed around 2230. It had been a splendid day aboard Big Blue.

Friday, Day 2, Bakersfield, CA to Oceanside via SR99, SR58, I-15, I-215, SR76: 269 miles

I slept well although it was a cool night. The forced air heater kept the bedroom at about 64° as I had set it for the night. When I awoke at 0500 I turned up the furnace, turned on the water heater and climbed back into bed ’til things warmed up.

I was pleased that the house batteries indicated full charge that morning, which meant the switch replacement did the trick after the last trip’s low battery problems.

I set about my morning chores, read my usual morning websites, and enjoyed hot coffee as I began my day. I continued my trip south a bit after 0700.

2016-1-22b roadway to SR99 onrampThe entrance to the southbound ramp from Flying J: for this goat trail we pay the highest gas tax in the country!

The weather cooperated so I headed east on SR58 through the Mojave Desert to Barstow and then south on I-15. That adds around 60 miles to the trip compared to driving I-5, but worth every mile to miss LALA Land and its crazy traffic.

2016-1-22c green SR58The usually brown landscape along SR58 east of Bakersfield had turned green thanks to our wonderful El Nino rain storms.

I stopped at the rest area near Boron on SR58 for breakfast and simply zapped a breakfast sandwich and cut up an apple. The drive was pretty busy through the urban areas such as San Bernardino on I-15 but nothing as bad as LA. I arrived at Dean’s about 1230.

2016-1-22f Lunch at Felix'sDean and I pigging out at Felix’s BBQ in Oceanside; Dean had brisket and I had to have fried chicken, naturally.

Soon after my arrival Dean drove us to Felix’s BBQ for lunch. I pigged out on fried chicken again, and Dean had brisket. The chicken and side dishes I ordered, both candied yams, were wonderful.

2016-1-23a Dean and me and the ridesDean and I pose with Big Blue and his gorgeous Audi. Check out that new electric awning and its perfectly matching blue color!

After lunch I drove the coach over to Guajome Park, a couple of blocks away, and settled in for my visit. After setting up I relaxed a bit while editing photos ’til Dean came by. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking over old files of his school records and other memorable papers that I brought along on the trip. It was time to pass most of them along to Dean. We had a grand time remembering those days long ago.

By the time we looked over the files the afternoon had turned to evening. There wasn’t enough time left for me to head to the house with him, so he set off for home and I settled in for the night. The kids had been down with a cold or flu, and I didn’t want to spend too much time at their home, anyway. I would see them the next day.

Saturday, Day 3, a day with Dean and family.

Because the kids were sick, I wanted to spend just enough time with them for our Christmas in January when I’d give them our gifts, including Connor’s birthday gift. He turned 15 earlier in January. So Dean came by a bit before 1100 and we headed to our usual Chinese restaurant, Chin’s. We enjoyed a wonderful meal together, and had a good visit. Afterwards we drove to the house where I greeted the kids with cautious hugs. I would be a thousand miles from home the following week and certainly didn’t want to be dealing with the flu.

2016-1-23b Gillespie MenGrandpa with the boys, Connor, 15, and now taller than me for the first time, Aidan, 11, with their proud dad, Dean. This photo by Melissa is one of the best ever of the Gillespie Men – if I do say so myself.

We enjoyed our Christmas as they gave me a wonderful five DVD collection of a WWII documentary, and they know I love such history. We gave them a gift certificate to one of their favorite restaurants, Prohibition Brewery, which is in nearby Vista. We gave the kids certificates, too, so they could get whatever they wanted, so long as it was at a Target store. I visited with the family for about an hour, then headed back to the coach with Dean for the afternoon.

2016-1-23c TV in the coachDean and I whiled away the afternoon together in the coach. We watched an interesting DVD of WWII and had a relaxing time together.

We spent the afternoon watching one of my favorite WWII documentaries, A Fighter Pilot’s Story. It is one of the best of my WWII documentaries, and Dean really seemed to enjoy it. Sometime after 1700 Dean had to head home to the family, and I bid him farewell ’til my next visit. Dean and I spent the vast majority of this visit together, and we enjoyed ourselves. I missed not having more time with the boys, but they were not feeling well and I did not want to share their illness.

After Dean left I tended the evening chores including a shower, writing this travelogue and editing photos. I zapped a frozen meal for dinner, and finally settled back to watch some of the new DVD documentary I just got from the kids for Christmas. I mixed a couple of good drinks and had a terrible time staying awake after the long day. I woke up on the couch around 2300 and headed for bed. And I slept well.

Sunday, Day 4, Dean’s to Casa Grande, AZ via I-15, I-8, I-10: 386 miles

I was up about 0500 to warm up the coach and hot water, then snoozed a bit longer ’til things warmed up. I set about the chores at once, then set the coach up for travelin’. I filled the fresh water tank there at my space, then powered in the slide and raised the jacks. When all was set I pulled up the hill from my space to the RV dump and emptied the waste tanks. I pulled out of Guajome Park at 0610, and headed sort of a back way to I-15 south. It was a perfect day to drive a few hundred miles and I was very much looking forward to it.

2016-1-24a I-15 San DiegoFog curled around the hills and valleys as I drove into San Diego. I don’t think I’d ever driven I-15 in that area before and I was impressed with the city.

When I reached El Cajon, beyond San Diego on I-8, I pulled into a Mickey D’s and got a cup of their coffee and an irresistible strawberry creme pie. I checked some of my ‘net sites while there, then drove a couple of blocks to a gas station and pumped on 10 gallons at the last high-tax Kalifornistan price of $2.70 I’d have to pay ’til I returned. I could then drive on into Arizona where I paid $2.15 per and filled up. Of course I saw gas at $2.05 later in the day; it never fails.

When I pulled back onto the interstate I drove through those very lunar-like Cuyamaca Mountains. The drive took me to over 4000 feet, then dropped down the other side to below sea level.

2016-1-24b Dale's Diner at Cuyamacca MtnsA Dale’s Diner somewhere along I-8 in the Cuyamacas. The food was just so-so but it sure was a handy place for breakfast!

The drive through the Cuyamacas can be a notoriously hazardous, wind-blown affair; I once had to park at a casino in the mountains for a couple of nights waiting out a windstorm the likes of which I have never before or since had to endure.

2016-1-24c 7 mile drop 4100 ft to sea level lunar landscapeDropping out of the Cuyamacas is a seven or so mile drop of 6% that seemed never to end. The mountains are so rocky and barren it seemed like driving on the moon.

At one point along the drive I was very near the border fence. I came across an exit that was within a quarter mile or so of it, so I pulled off and took a few photos. I was amazed how heavy and tall that fence was up close and personal. It was as heavy a fence as I’ve ever seen and taller than the coach.

2016-1-24e border fence up close and personal A Tom Selleck look-alike at the border fence for an up close and personal visit. I was amazed by the heavy metal used in its construction. And it was taller than Big Blue! Note the soft sand – I had to drive carefully to keep from getting stuck. Much of the ground was smoothed by the Border Patrol to help spot footprints of illegals walking across.

The weather was sunny and warm with light winds for this adventure. Then a bit later along I-8 I had a brisk tail wind push me along which was a wonderful bonus to what was a perfect day of driving. And at some point along the day’s perfect drive, Big Blue turned 60,000 miles. She’s becoming a very experienced coach.

2016-1-24f Colorado River and ArizonaEntering Arizona and crossing the Colorado River. I was very pleased to be out of Kalifornistan once again!

I had both breakfast and lunch aboard Dale’s Diner during the day’s drive. It’s amazing how I seem to find one anytime I look. They’re cheap eateries, to be sure, and the food is only so-so, but the service is very personal. And I find that I stay on my diet when I choose to eat at one of them.

Lordy, I tried to buy some propane along I-8. I tried the first of four Love’s and theirs was broken. Three other Love’s along my drive had no propane. I had enough for the night, but getting propane the next day was a must.

2016-1-24g not my idea...Snowbirds packed in cheek by jowl in one of many RV parks that cater to the sun-starved snowbirds. Packed like sardines along an interstate is not my idea of beating Old Man Winter. I wanna drive and see some country!

2016-1-24j two at a time
Two Border Patrol pickups with cages streaking along I-8 near the border. It’s a very busy area for them, no doubt.

I thought I’d spend the night at a Love’s or Flying J in Eloy, AZ but found them to be so busy and noisy that I looked elsewhere. The Walmart in Casa Grande, very nearby, doesn’t permit overnight parking. I recalled that I had stayed at the Cracker Barrel there in the past, so wound up there for the night. Cracker Barrel Restaurants have safe, well lit parking areas and they welcome RVers. Their food is very good but I had dinner in the coach. Perhaps the following morning I’d have breakfast there.

2016-1-24k night with the gracklesAs I pulled in to Cracker Barrel’s lot I passed this tree full of grackles. I took a flash shot, and the next instant nearly the whole flock took off with a great whoosh of flapping wings. I roosted with the grackles that night!

Once landed at Cracker Barrel I set about sorting through over 80 photos I’d shot that day. Most were discarded out of hand as shooting through the windows results in a lot of photos ruined by reflections, etc. These photos posted with the day’s travelogue were the few survivors.

To save on my limited propane supply, I made sure to shower about an hour after parking to make good use of the hot water which is heated by the engine as I drive. Yep, a hose runs back to the water heater and heats the water without need for propane or 110 volts. But one must use it before the water cools off, and I normally shower later and have to warm it with propane or electric.

I was in the Mountain Time Zone once in Arizona. I ate late, around 2030 because of the change, and I’d adjust to the new time as the days passed.

The evening passed as usual aboard Big Blue. As I ate dinner I worked on this blog and photos, tidied up the place a bit and retired to the couch to watch more DVD documentary. I nodded off on the couch, as usual, and finally gave up and hit the sack about 2300 local time.

Monday, Day 5, Casa Grande, AZ to Deming, NM via I-10: 274 miles

It was a cool night in Casa Grande, into the low 40s. I set the thermostat at about 64° in the bedroom during the night and slept comfortably. The Cracker Barrel lot was quiet as only one other RV was there overnight with me.

2016-1-25a morning at Casa Grande's Cracker BarrelMorning at Casa Grande’s Cracker Barrel was cool and sunny. It seemed to be another perfect day for bumming around the country aboard Big Blue!

Having been up till 2300 local time, I made myself snooze ’til about 0630 when I turned up the furnace and started the hot water heater. About 20 minutes later I got up and began the morning routine. It was good to see the batteries were strong and that the new solenoid fixed the problems of the last trip. I set about visiting my usual sites on the ‘net, spending most of that time reading my favorite Arcamax online comics.

The day required nothing of me; I didn’t have a destination this trip as I usually do, and it mattered not a bit how far or where I would go that day – or any day of this whole adventure! I was a bum again! But I was a bum with a darn nice ride and a cozy home that I could take with me. Life is good!

I wrestled with the notion of eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel or not. I preferred to stay on my diet, but the good folks did welcome me to spend the night on their lot and I felt somewhat obliged to have breakfast with them. I knew from past visits that they do make great meals, but I opted to stay on my diet and pulled out of the lot at 1000.

2016-1-25c finally loading on some propaneI finally filled the propane tank at the Eloy Flying J. The tank gauge read empty.

2016-1-25d eat your heart out, KalifornistanEat your heart out Kalifornistan; gas in Eloy was $1.66 per!

The day was cloudy with some sun and cool. I would drive to about 4500 feet and settle in at Deming which is about 4300 feet. And Deming was to be cold that night, about 30°. The one sure thing I had to do was fill the propane tank, and I did so at my first stop, several miles down the road at the Flying J in Eloy. I was relieved to have that done and would be well prepared for the cool evening in Deming. The gas price was just $1.66 in Eloy! I had a full tank at $2.15 per and I sure wished I’d have waited, but I almost always find gas selling for less after I fill up.

2016-1-25e Picacho Peak in the backgroundPicacho Peak in the background as I stopped for a Subway breakfast sandwich.

I stopped at a tourist store with a Subway in Picacho, AZ which is at the foot of Picacho Peak, a landmark mountain visible for miles. I was due for something different, so I ordered an egg white sandwich with lots of veggies for breakfast. It had been a long time since I ate a Subway sandwich, and I sure enjoyed it.

2016-1-25f smooth drive through TucsonTucson was a busy place with lots of traffic but I cruised through with no delays.

The drive was very pleasant as I followed I-10 all day long. I didn’t need the heater or the air conditioner, and that’s pretty unusual in the southwest. Somewhere along the interstate I pulled into a Mickey D’s and got a large coffee and zapped one of my frozen breakfast sandwiches that I enjoyed along with an apple. I called that lunch, and I very righteously stayed on my diet. But I sure wanted a big ol’ hamburger!

2016-1-25j splashy NM welcomeNew Mexico extended a splashy welcome, as usual!

I arrived at Deming’s Walmart store a few minutes before 1700. I went for a walk first thing, and did laps around the inside of the store as it was pretty brisk outdoors. Then I returned to the coach for my shopping list and shopped for a number of grocery and household things I needed.

I zapped a frozen meal for dinner, a delicious meatloaf with mashed taters and gravy with only 280 calories. I ate as I checked my ‘net sites and began the day’s blog. As usual I shot way too many photos and had to sort and edit them.

2016-1-25L Walmart DemingSettled in for a cold night at Deming, NM’s Walmart lot.

The evening unfolded as usual; after the shower, dinner, ‘net time, etc., I settled back on the couch to watch some TV. I dug out the movie Fargo and watched some of it ‘til I found myself waking up once again on the couch. I called it a day and climbed into bed at 2300.

Day 6, Tuesday, Deming, NM to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 58 miles

I awoke to temps in the 30s, but the coach bedroom stayed a tolerable 64° with the furnace on low overnight. After warming up the rest of the coach I got up a bit before 0700. After the morning chores and checking a few ‘net sites, I went into the store and walked laps for 20 minutes or so. It was too cold and breezy to walk outside.

Although the forecast a few days ago as I planned this trip was for a cool but sunny day, the latest forecast was for snow in Ft. Stockton, TX, just where I might have headed for the day’s drive. As if that wasn’t disappointment enough, the wind was kicking up in Deming and it seemed I was reliving the aborted trip of three weeks earlier. The drive to El Paso would be sunny, dry and cold, so I decided to continue east because the forecast for Wednesday and beyond was for warmer weather.

I had a terrible time with my ‘net connection via my phone’s hotspot in Deming. It was as slow as dial up – if it worked at all. I was pretty sure that  locations down the road would be greatly improved. At 0945 I continued east.

2016-1-26a Organ Mtns in the distanceA Border Patrol inspection and the incredible Organ Mountains that overlook Las Cruces in the distance.

The wind made for a tough drive through the New Mexican desert. I decided to hole up and wait for better weather at Las Cruces – and try again the next morning. To get a good gas price, I stopped at the Love’s station near Las Cruces and filled up for $1.60 per. I drove a few more miles after the fill up and pulled into the very scenic rest area that overlooks Las Cruces and the incredibly rugged Organ Mountains beyond. It was sometime after 1100 that I found a sunny spot in the rest area where the sun shined warm through the big windows of the coach. The wind outside was cold and miserable, but I was comfy and warm inside.

2016-1-26c Rest Area Las CrucesParked at the scenic rest area east of Las Cruces, NM. Yes – it was a windy, cold day!

2016-1-26d Las Cruces and the Organ Mtns. from the rest areaLas Cruces spread out below the rest area with the rugged, beautiful Organ Mountains in the distance.

I stayed at the rest area for a couple of hours, whipped up breakfast, then finally was able to get on the ‘net and get the info I wanted about Texas weather. Day 6 would be the worst of it with snow falling in Ft. Stockton. From the next day on the weather improved greatly with 80s forecast for Corpus Christi. But I’d have another night or two to deal with low 30s and even 20s.

2016-1-26e Onite at Las CrucesI spent most of Day 6 at Las Cruces Walmart waiting out the weather in Texas which was to greatly improve in the coming days.

Having caught up on my blog, photos, weather, etc., I drove the few miles into town, arriving at the Las Cruces Walmart a few minutes after 1300. The wind was near calm, the sunshine through the windows so warm that I even opened a window. If that was considered holing up for a day or two, I liked it!

The blog and photos were done and I had a completely free evening ahead. I would fire up the little Honda generator to charge the batteries for a few hours since I drove only 58 miles, and I wanted to clean the dirty windshields, but otherwise I had the afternoon off. At around 1500 or so I walked to a nearby Subway for another great sandwich, their Sweet Chicken Teriyaki. mmmmm. I stayed busy with some small coach projects and going on and off line.

I watched TV all evening including the movie Fargo and more of the new set of WWII DVDs I got from my son and family for our Christmas in January. I watched ’til a bit after 2200 and was in bed by 2230.

Wednesday, Day 7, Las Cruces, NM to Ft. Stockton, TX via I-10: 275 miles

First and foremost, the night at Las Cruces was cold! It was likely the coldest night I’ve ever spent aboard Big Blue. When I got up around 0700 after heating the place up, including running a stove burner for awhile, it was a frigid 27° outside!  Still, I was comfy in the coach where I worked through the morning chores, then headed to the store first thing for my morning walk.

2016-1-27a brrrrr.Brrrrrrrr. It was a cold night in Las Cruces!

The Las Cruces Walmart was as big as any I’ve visited. It was huge – and I was in a bit before 0700 and saw the night shift busily restocking shelves all around the store. I bought some heavy socks, long johns, and hi-top slippers to help keep warm on this adventure. However, warmer weather was predicted for the next few days, but it could turn cold again on my return trip. This Walmart had a Mickey D’s and I brought a large coffee back to the coach.

I read my usual ‘net sites and brought this blog up to date. And I hit the road at 0900.

2016-1-27b welcome to TexasTexas welcomed me once again.

It was a grand and glorious day to  be bumming around the country aboard Big Blue. I felt a restaurant breakfast coming on that morning, and saw a billboard for the local Cracker Barrel in El Paso. And I remembered that I owed them one for the stay a couple of nights before. So I set the navigator to head for breakfast. I parked in the area they reserve for RVers, went in and ordered. I had pancakes, two eggs, and turkey sausage. It was delicious and it hit the spot. But the noise! I rate a quiet meal as important as good food, and they failed the quiet test miserably. But that’s how most restaurants are these days and that’s why I visit so few. But it was a tasty breakfast!

2016-1-27c Juarez Mexico along El PasoJuarez, Mexico is just over the border fence from I-10 in El Paso. I’m blessed to be in America!

2016-1-27d El Paso too much like KalifornistanEl Paso, TX is just too much like Kalifornistan with too many cars and people. I’m always so glad to have it behind me and…

2016-1-27e El Paso behind me…then to find the emptiness of Texas beyond the big city!

The day was absolutely perfect once I got El Paso behind me. I was delighted to be heading east on I-10 nearly alone, passed regularly by the big rigs as I trucked along at my usual 58 MPH. I really enjoyed the emptiness of the place, the feeling of freedom, the lack of people and traffic. That’s why I love RVing the wide open places, I suppose.

2016-1-27f  wonderful, wide open TexasGod Bless Texas, where common sense can still be found. Still, I poked along at my usual 58 MPH.

I dropped from 3700 feet in El Paso to about 3000 feet in Ft. Stockton, but the coming night’s weather wasn’t much improved as they predicted 34°. But the next few days were predicted to improve dramatically. I looked forward to warmer weather and enduring these couple of cold nights would be worth it.

2016-1-27g inspectionAnother inspection and this time the fella actually asked me if I was a U.S. citizen. Yes. And then he waved me through. That dog was no doubt trained to sniff out drugs and other contraband.

2016-1-27i Texas landscapeBeautiful Texas landscape. I love Texas!

2016-1-27L snowy Ft Stockton WalmartI pulled into Ft. Stockton and found the place to be pretty snowy. I heard a comment on the radio that it snowed 9″ the day before. I was glad I holed up the prior day to miss the storm.

The entire day’s drive was sunny and clear but cool outside. Inside, driving the coach is always comfortable!

I dropped the jacks at the Ft. Stockton Walmart lot a few minutes after 1700, which was Central Time as I had passed into another zone. Home time was then two hours earlier. I headed to the store for another walk, and did laps around the interior for about a half hour.

Back at the coach the evening unfolded as usual. I began updating the blog, editing photos, zapped a frozen meal for dinner, and passed the time very busily. It was after 2100 when I settled back to watch some TV. I was in bed about 2300.

Thursday, Day 8, Ft. Stockton to Eagle Pass, TX via US287, US90, US277: 237 miles

It was another cold night; the outside temp was just 36° early that morning. The batteries were very low again shortly after I got up a bit before 0700. I had to start the generator with the help of the chassis battery. I hoped that the problem was that I ran the heater in the bedroom all night at 64° which may have kept the fan running much more than normal. I also watched TV several hours and I do put quite a demand on those batteries.

First thing after the morning chores, I headed to the store for my morning walk. I was grateful to be at a Walmart where I could walk indoors as it had been just too cold to walk outdoors the prior few days.

I spent time reading my usual ‘net sites, then set about checking weather again. The sun would be shining brightly and Texas would have warm days but pretty cool nites. I was surprised to see a big change in wind predictions. Wind would be about 15-20 MPH in Corpus Christi beginning Saturday and also in much of Texas through which I hoped to travel. It would last into the next week. Uh-oh. I considered heading home early and avoiding the wind. But it would be blowing to 40 MPH in Las Cruces. Damn wind! I chose to continue as I had planned and just take things as they came.

2016-1-28b dumped and loading waterAdding water after dumping the holding tanks. It was a pretty sloppy place with snow and mud everywhere. But the tanks were empty!

I gassed up at the Walmart gas station before leaving as I’d be driving sparse US highways in remote Texas. I continued my drive around 0915, but stopped within a few miles at a RV park to dump my tanks and fill the fresh water tank. I had to tromp around in the snow doing so, but when it was done I was relieved to have a fresh start.

2016-1-28d snow near Ft StktnIt was clear, cool and snowy as I left the Ft. Stockton area.

2016-1-28e bkfst in a Dale's DinerWay out there where I couldn’t get a radio station and even the phone was out of touch, I found a Dale’s Diner. I had a good, diet breakfast.

The day’s drive was through such remote country that I couldn’t pick up a radio station except for a few Spanish speaking ones. I checked my navigator for a Mickey D’s and it said the nearest along my route was over 200 miles away.

2016-1-28f SandersonI am proud to report that I drove through the Cactus Capital of Texas: Sanderson!

2016-1-28g Border Patrol everywhereThe Border Patrol was everywhere looking for illegals, I suppose. They had a strip of dirt about the width of a traffic lane near the highway for many miles. They kept it smooth by dragging old tires behind a truck. I saw on TV’s Border Patrol series that they check the smoothed areas for footprints. 

2016-1-28k WhataburgerI finally arrived at the first real town I saw all day. Del Rio, Texas had a Whataburger so I pulled over to try one. I was sure hungry for something of substance so I brought a big ol’ hamburger back to the coach and really enjoyed it. It was huge and it was delicious! I weighed myself that morning and found I had lost a couple of pounds this trip. What better way to celebrate than with an 815 calorie hamburger!?

I continued my drive ’til I finally reached Eagle Pass. It is a town of about 28,000 souls with a trade area of about 48,000. The Walmart was huge! I set off on my evening walk soon after I arrived at 1600. The temperature was in the low 70s and was a welcome change although the overnight low was to be 40°.

2016-1-28L Eagle Pass, TXSettled in for the night at the Eagle Pass, TX Walmart. 

I updated this blog and edited photos during the late afternoon. To further celebrate the loss of a couple of pounds on this trip, I walked over to nearby Chinese buffet. They offered “Buffet to Go” for just $7 and I can’t resist a bargain. I did limit myself to a pretty small to-go container, but I loaded it up with chicken, sesame chicken, and broccoli. The special included a free container of soup, so I filled it with hot and sour soup and a bit of rice. What a feast! The guilt about equaled the calories, so I guess it was a fair trade. And the guilt would help me stay on my diet for the next few days!

After dinner I watched the movie Oh Brother, Where art Thou? for the umpteenth time and still enjoyed the silliness. I also watched some of the new WWII documentary I got from Dean and family. I hit the sack about 2230 and slept very well.

Friday, Day 9, Eagle Pass, TX to Corpus Christi, TX via US277, US83, SR44: 216 miles 

I found a somewhat more temperate night in Eagle Pass with the temp about 45° at 0600. That was a welcome change from the 20s. The heater didn’t work so hard and the batteries were in pretty good shape when I awoke considering the hours of TV I watched the night before.

During the morning chores, I cut my lip while shaving, a first for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be allowed sharp instruments in my old age. It seemed it would never stop bleeding, so while I sat around with a small piece of paper towel hanging from my face, I perused my usual ‘net sites. As soon as I stopped the bleeding I took my morning walk inside the store. I also did a bit of shopping because at most Walmarts I visit they don’t carry Fresca, one of our favorite soft drinks, especially mixed with OJ. They had the large bottles for $1 each so I stocked up with 10 of them along with a few other grocery items I needed.

2016-1-29a Morning coffee and clatterMorning Mickey D’s coffee after the lip emergency, the walk and shopping, and about ready to hit the road again.

Back at the coach I whiled away more time online, updated this blog and passed the morning time away at my leisure, as old geezers are wont to do.

At 1030 I finally pulled out of the Walmart lot in Eagle Pass, TX and headed in the direction of Corpus Christi – on two lane highways virtually the entire trip. And I loved the open, lonely brush country I drove through. At least I think it was what they call brush country.

As I left Walmart, their station (L) was $1.54 per, but I really didn’t need any yet. I wound up buying later at a Love’s along my drive for $1.66. I can’t win!

Soon after I began the drive I passed a drift of wild pigs rooting along the road, in plain view and seemingly afraid of nothing. I pulled over to go back and get a photo, but there wasn’t an easy turn around so I continued on. I kept a sharp look out for more the next 50 miles or so, but no pigs were to be seen. They are a plague in Texas and can be shot anytime and there is no limit. I sure wished I’d have gotten a photo!

2016-1-29c sniff testI finally got some attention at a Border Patrol inspection. That dog sniffed every vehicle including mine. They asked where I was going and if I was alone. I replied “Corpus Christi” and “Yep!” And they let me go. I felt better about myself, somehow, having finally gotten some attention!

2016-1-29k success
The drive was pleasant and sunny and warm. Finding sunshine on the trip had not been an issue; there’d been plenty of it. But warmth had been difficult to come by. I finally succeeded! It was 80° outside at one point according to my remote electronic outside thermometer.

The landscape never changed much ’til I approached Corpus Christi. It was brush country all day long, with endless ranches along the lonely two lane roads I traveled.

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The three photos in the slides above were a few of many ranch entrance gates I saw. Some were astounding in their opulence, some were just plain ol’ chain link. I don’t know what those ranches produced.

I don’t know what the economy of that brushy landscape could have been. I saw a few cattle, but how could cattle prosper among all those cactus plants and other brush? I saw oil infrastructure, and many oil field support companies, but most seemed to have much of their equipment sitting idle in the yards. I read that hunting is a big deal and that some ranches fence in deer for hunters. I didn’t figure it out after a Google search, either.

2016-1-29f chopper and these lookingThese Border Patrol units were working with a nearby, airborne helicopter. They must have found some illegals traversing that rugged landscape. What a tough life – both for the illegals and the Border Patrol.

2016-1-29m Big Blue bathBig Blue got a bath en route to Corpus Christi! She was pretty dirty from the snowy Ft. Stockton area, and really needed some TLC. 

As I approached Corpus Christi and the Gulf Coast, the land was flatter, crops were growing, and there were a lot more people and traffic which I hadn’t dealt with all day. I liked the brush country for its solitude. But I liked the prospect of landing in a Walmart lot for the night, and Corpus Christi has several. I wound up at the Robstown area in the northwest area. I called earlier and was welcomed to stay.

I arrived at 1700, having lost a lot of time due to my very dependable Garmin navigator’s inability to find the store! My fine, expensive, upscale Garmin found the store, but couldn’t do more than drive me in circles. I finally asked Google, via my smartphone, to take me to it, and it did so easily. It was a strange experience.

2016-1-29n Corpus Christi WalmartSettled in at one of several Walmarts in Corpus Christi. They list six of them in their atlas. Heck, I could have spent a week there and stayed at a different Walmart each night!

I headed to the store as soon as I was settled in and took my evening walk. The store was another huge one, and on that Friday evening, was quite busy.

I worked on the usual things, the blog, photos, evening chores, etc. as I have done every evening of the trip. I got carried away and forgot dinner, so ate a couple of hours late. After waking up on the couch with the TV on, again, I headed to bed at nearly midnight.

Saturday, Day 10, Corpus Christi, TX to Corpus Christi, TX: 16 miles

Yep… I drove across town from one Walmart called the Robstown store, although it’s actually in Corpus Christi, to the one on Padre Island. I read the wind might be less on Padre, and once there, I believe it was a bit calmer. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

2016-1-30b Corpus Christi is an oil townDuring my drive across town I learned that Corpus Christi is a big time oil town. I read one article that said they had six refineries.

I was up about 0700, and after the morning chores headed to the store for my morning walk and a cup of Mickey D’s great coffee. I sure like the combination of a Mickey D’s in a Walmart. Back at the coach I began planning my trip home. The weather was again a big problem for me. Winds with gusts to 60MPH were predicted for Las Cruces and it was to be very windy throughout southwest New Mexico and west Texas. The winds would last through Tuesday, and nights into the 20s would follow the winds. I had some changes to make in my plans. For the present I could only hole up again and this time for two or three days. I could not be in Las Cruces before Wednesday, a two day drive, but Wednesday was four days away.

2016-1-30c makin' juiceThe little Honda 2 KW makin’ electricity for the batteries for the coming night. It’s a very quiet little generator.

The first job was to get the batteries charged, so upon arrival at the Padre Island Walmart, I dug out the little Honda generator, chained it down for safe-keeping, and fired it up. My little 16 mile drive would  not begin to charge the batteries for the coming night. I ran the big generator the better part of an hour in the morning, and four more hours with the Honda would see me through the night.

2016-1-30d Padre IslandAfter my 16 mile mini tour I was in another Walmart lot but still in the same town. My trip was on hold for a couple of days.

It was a tough day hanging around doing nothing. I was very bored and would rather just be home than be grounded 2000 miles away. I’ve driven many of these cross country trips but never had so many weather challenges. Or maybe I just pay more attention to weather in my old age. At any rate, I planned to hit the road the next morning as I’d rather drive in windy weather than mope around like I did all that day. So I’d be heading north to Waco, TX in the morning to drive a few hundred miles for the simple pleasure of the drive. The plan was to drive around Texas, after all, and not just drive to Corpus Christi and then head for home.

I spent the evening as usual, working on the photos and blog and watching TV. I hit the sack around 2300, looking forward to the next day and getting back on the road!


This Travelogue continues on Page 2: Page 2

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.
This entry was posted in Travel: Interstate Adventure!, Travel: Search for Sunshine!. Bookmark the permalink.

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