Sunday, January 31, Day 11, Corpus Christi, TX to Waco, TX via US77: 307 miles
It was time to get out of Corpus Christi and back on the open road!
It was strange to wake up to a coach that really didn’t need to be warmed up after all the cool mornings of this trip, although I did turn on the furnace for awhile. The outside temperature was 62°, an unusual start for the day. I was up and at ’em around 0600, excited to get the heck out of the local Corpus Christi Walmart lots where I’d spent the prior two nights.
First thing after chores was my morning walk around the store, after which I climbed on one of the little scooters and did some shopping. Anyone paying attention to me would have thought I was nuts.
I was on my way to Pasadena, TX before 0900. I was so happy to be on the road again. My spirits were high and the traffic was light. I saw the USS Lexington on display as I crossed the Harbor Bridge. The carrier was quite a sight as was the bridge itself. Corpus Christi is a lovely town and even has a skyline to show off.
Corpus Christi’s skyline on a bright Sunday morning.
The unique Harbor Bridge that overlooks the USS Lexington.
The USS Lexington, now a museum, saw many battles in WWII and is the oldest surviving carrier in the world.
During the drive I more closely examined the route I was on and could see that I was going to wind up too close to the Houston area. I wanted no part of Houston, not even the beltway around it. I have nothing against Houston, I just hate driving in big cities. So I pulled over and reviewed the online Google maps. I could as easily go almost directly north to Waco, still driving 300 miles for the day, and be in the rural areas of Texas I so enjoy. So I made the change, backtracked a few miles and headed north on US77.
I saw a mix of gas prices during the day’s drive that seemed wildly disparate for a 300 mile drive. This shows a 60¢ spread.
It was a lovely drive. I thoroughly enjoyed the open country, the light traffic and Texas in general. The wind blew most all day, but it was from the south and was a welcome tailwind. The coming couple of windy days, as I would drive west, the south wind would be a far less welcome crosswind, but while driving north it was appreciated.
The long and lonely US77 through rural Texas was a very enjoyable drive.
I lost another pound by eating so righteously most of this trip. And it was Sunday. It seemed the lost pound was worthy of a celebration, and being Sunday, fried chicken sounded like the perfect reward. Sure! Celebrate losing weight by overeating!
The Chicken Monster is happy!
I perused the restaurants on my navigator and chose the Golden Chick in La Grange, TX which was but a block or two off US77. When I got there, I ordered three thighs, mashed taters, cole slaw and a biscuit. To go. I settled into the dinette and enjoyed a wonderful fried chicken dinner. The chicken itself was much like KFC’s extra crispy which is a bit greasy, but the biscuit, taters and coleslaw were very good. We don’t have that chain at home and that’s probably a good thing for my diet.
As I neared Waco, I ran into a series of about a dozen or so doubled highway signs that just made no sense. Check out the photos above by clicking to see larger photos. I don’t know if it was a jurisdictional thing or if people just get whacky near Waco. It was very strange…
Big Blue at Waco’s Walmart lot on a very warm, last day of January.
I pulled into Waco’s Walmart lot at 1630. It had been a very warm drive and I had the dash air conditioner on at times. It was in the low 80s there, and just opening the coach cooled things off enough.
Once settled in I took my afternoon walk in the store, then began updating this blog and editing photos. The evening was as usual, but no dinner. The chicken pig-out would last ’til the next day! I spent the evening watching my new set of WWII DVDs, and hit the sack about 2230.
Monday, Feb. 1, Day 12: Waco Tx to Ft. Stockton, TX via US84, FM574, FM45, US190, I-10: 364 miles
I was up and around before 0600, and was anxious to hit the road. The weatherman was predicting a windy day, and I don’t like driving in wind. It makes the day very tiring as I have to fight to keep the coach on the road. But I wasn’t going to let weather stop me again if I could help it.
I worked through the morning chores, visited the usual ‘net sites, and fired up the coffee maker. With coffee made, about 0840 I drove to the gas station right there in the lot and filled up at $1.51 per – and though I’ve seen lower that was the lowest price I paid the entire trip!
Pumping on cheap gas was the first order of the day’s drive. I was a happy camper at $1.51 per and I’m sure I’ll look back on this photo with fond memory.
Somewhere along the day’s drive on US190 I spotted a very run down, barely operational RV park with just a handful of sites. There were a couple of buildings and about three RVs parked. I knocked on every door and no one answered. I decided to pull up to one of the sewer pipes and unload. Just as I was in the middle of dumping a fella pulled up in his Tahoe and introduced himself as the owner. Ulp. The first words out of my mouth were “Sir, I want you to know I knocked on every door and nobody answered!” It turned out that he was a very friendly fellow who really only wanted to talk to me the rest of the day about most anything. I dug out a $5 bill and he gladly accepted that as payment. I had to pull myself away from his friendly chatter to get the job done! I dumped the tanks and loaded on fresh water. It was a task I had to get done that day as the tanks were almost full. Whew!
Except for the wind, it was a lovely day to drive through rural Texas.
Texas FM roads (farm to market) are narrower, follow the contour of the land with fewer bridges and less leveling of the roadbed, but are usually well kept and quite smooth. They make for a lovely rural drive and I sure did enjoy them.
Shortly after dumping, while in the same little town, I pulled over and whipped up lunch in the coach. Breakfast consisted of a strawberry creme pie and coffee from McDonald’s as I left Waco, and I needed something a bit more nourishing. I whipped up a good diet lunch.
I continued the drive along US190 seemingly forever, fighting the relentless wind that gusted to 35 MPH I would guess. It was a south wind, and driving west as I did all day long, it was a strong cross wind that I fought almost the entire day. As the day went on, the wind increased. I was very tired from the constant fight to keep Big Blue on the road. I hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet!
How Texas says “Please don’t litter!”
These historical markers are all over Texas it seems. They must take their history very seriously and that’s a good thing.
This is an example of the markers and I must have passed 25 of them that day alone even though I was in very rural areas with few travelers.
The last 50 miles of the drive was on I-10. Within minutes the wind worsened, then seemed to turn from south to north. I couldn’t figure that out, but I checked on a wind map website that evening and it showed that the SR190 area had strong south winds and Ft. Stockton and along I-10 had even stronger winds from the north.
At any rate, the wind gusts increased to what I was sure were over 50 MPH and sure enough, that’s what was recorded online. Winds were recorded at 40MPH+ with higher gusts. It was a fight to stay on the road to Ft. Stockton where I would spend the night. I drove 45-50 MPH to keep some semblance of stability as the wild cross wind tried to blow me off the road. I had some concern about being blown over as I’ve seen trucks on their sides in Wyoming wind storms back in the day.
Eventually I reached Ft. Stockton’s Walmart lot. As I suspected, the place had a lot more RVs than usual as travelers were seeking shelter from the wind. As soon as I pulled in, parked into the wind and done for the day, I headed into the store to take my walk. I hadn’t walked that morning and certainly had to get a walk in for the day. Back at the coach I checked weather forecasts along my route looking for a reason to be optimistic, but everywhere it was to continue blowing and also to become much colder. Rats.
I spent much of the evening on this blog and editing photos. This blog will one day be a pleasure to relive my adventures, and one day I may not be able to wander around the country. Even now, I often read old fishing and RVing adventures and enjoy the memories that otherwise I would never recall.
After updating the blog, I watched the new WWII documentary while enjoying a couple cool ones. I planned to hit the road early because it seemed the only way to beat the wind and cold was to drive all the way to Tucson. The wind would lessen by Wednesday anyway, but the cold was to be in the low to mid 20s the entire route ’til Tucson where it was to be in the low 30s. I was hoping the wind would ease by morning or there was a possibility I’d have to hole up another day; I was not going to drive in 50 MPH+ gusts again! I hit the sack early, before 2200, and slept well.
Tuesday, Day 13, Ft. Stockton, TX to Tucson, AZ via I-10: 554 miles!
I was up about 0430 and began warming up the coach and turned on the water heater. When I climbed back into bed while things warmed, I could feel the coach shudder as the wind howled. Yep. It was still blowing hard, but it wasn’t quite as bad as the drive of the day before. After the chores, I checked weather sites for the coming day, and nothing encouraged me. The warmest forecast was for Tucson, 550 miles away, and it would be 31° Tuesday night, somewhat less miserable than anywhere else along my route. I couldn’t seem to win.
I pulled into the Walmart gas station before leaving and filled up. I pulled out of the Walmart lot and drove a couple of blocks to the local Mickey D’s for a cup of coffee. The place was lit up as if open, but the door was locked and the drive-in was the only choice. Big Blue was too big, so I brewed my own right there, then headed for the I-10 westbound. I pulled onto the onramp at 0545. The wind was howling.
And it continued howling. I could drive 58 MPH, so it wasn’t as bad as before, but there were a couple of times during the darkness of early morning that I slowed to about 50 MPH to keep control. Daylight was a welcome relief as I could at least see the countryside. I fought to stay on the road virtually all day long. And it was a long day! I wasn’t certain I’d go clear to Tucson, in fact I put Las Cruces, NM as my destination into the navigator, knowing I’d get that far way too soon to stop for the day. I ate breakfast and lunch aboard Dale’s Diner. As usual, I found one each mealtime everywhere I went. I ate well, staying on my diet.
The Texas landscape was still beautiful in spite of the incessant wind.
Somebody’s broken dream decays in the Texas desert.
The abominable wind blew as a headwind or crosswind all day long. It was very, very tiring. The poor coach worked extra hard too, shifting out of overdrive often, even on the slightest grades. I had to keep the steering wheel cranked a bit off center to stay on the road. I was not having fun.
New Mexico welcomed me, twice, within about a half mile of entering their fine state. It was a pretty glitzy welcome!
I had to stop at a small town in NM to gas up. I had burned almost a full tank of gas, which holds 75 gallons, to cover just 400 miles or so. I pumped on 68 gallons, getting less than 6 MPG; I average 7.5 and that was a 20% reduction in gas mileage due to the damn wind. After the fill up I made lunch, then soldiered on, still fighting the wind constantly.
Another Border Patrol inspection: I was traveling alone, yes. And yes, I’m an American citizen. So I was free to go. Again.
I’ve driven by such signs many times, but that trip, after all the wind, I became a true believer.
I pulled into a Mickey D’s at Benson, AZ for a cup of coffee and a small Reese’s McFlurry. That combo makes for a real sugar and caffeine jolt and usually keeps me awake the rest of the day. It worked just fine.
I finally got some relief the last 50 miles or so as the wind dropped to maybe 10 – 15 MPH as I neared Tucson. When I pulled into the Walmart on the far west side of Tucson, the wind was near calm, and I was a happy camper. As soon as I parked a bit before 1700 and settled in, I headed to the store for my walk. I also shopped for socks and T-shirts as I was about out of clean ones. It had been a long trip.
Back at the coach I checked the Tucson weather and discovered, to my chagrin, that the nighttime Tucson temperature would drop to the mid 20s, not the low 30s as predicted just hours before. Honestly, I just couldn’t win.
These upright, windblown flags pretty much represent the conditions I dealt with for two days. I was ready for some calm.
I had to counsel myself about the difficult past couple of days. I could very easily let the wind and long drive ruin the whole trip for me and streak for home in just two days. But the fact was that the trip, although cold at times, and often very windy, was very pleasant overall as I so enjoy the rural drives and the bumming around during these adventures. So, having rebuked myself for getting down, I looked forward to the next day very optimistically, even though the next day would take me back to Kalifornistan. I would enjoy the next three days and I would celebrate the homecoming on Friday. Honey! Hearth! Hot tub! I’d had a good trip except for the wind but I love home even more than being a bum!
After the blog update, I spent the evening watching more WWII documentary on TV, fell asleep on the couch, woke up near midnight and finally went to bed. It had been a heck of a day but I slept well.
Wednesday, Day 14, Tucson, AZ to Brawley, CA via I-10, I-8, SR111: 293 miles
I awoke about 0630 to a 28° morning in Tucson, turned up the furnace, lit a burner on the stove and went back to bed while the place warmed a bit. I was pleased to find a sunny, calm day and was back to my usual self, looking forward to another day of travel. I wasn’t sure where I’d land that day, but possibly El Centro, CA. Perhaps I’d drive farther. I would be home Friday, for sure, and was indeed looking forward to it.
After morning chores, I walked to the Walmart and took my morning walk. It was good to walk indoors as it was freezing cold outside. I took my sweet time in the coach afterwards perusing my favorite ‘net sites, updating this blog and enjoying the morning. It was good to not be in a hurry.
Probably the most beautiful photo of the day: NO WIND!
By hanging around and running the furnace, I managed to completely drain the big house batteries that power everything but the chassis. For the first time ever, even the radio quit. I had to hit the special switch that starts the generator engine with the chassis battery to begin charging them. I ran the generator ’til it was time to leave, then the big engine’s alternator would charge them all day. The furnace ran much of the night keeping the bedroom warm on such a cold night.
I finally pulled out of Tucson a few minutes after 1000 and headed west on I-10. I took I-8 at the junction and continued west all day long, enjoying the beauty of the desert. It was a pleasant drive with little wind, which was very important to me after the misery of the prior two days. There was a good breeze in the afternoon, but only 10-15 MPH.
Several photos of the day’s drive through beautiful Arizona. Click on ’em for larger photos – it would be worth your time:
I stopped at a Subway about 25 miles into the drive for breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed an egg white sandwich which was on my diet. I pulled into a rest area and whipped up lunch which was a frozen dinner. One rest area I stopped at had vending machines and I strolled over to check them out, darn it. I used my credit card for the first time ever, I think, at a vending machine. I got a small cinnamon roll for $1.25. What a world we live in; I usually use the card for my Mickey D’s coffee, too, because it’s so easy to slide and not have to dig for change, etc.
This sign… I get mixed emotions every time I drive by it!
Strange Kalifornistan dunes along I-8.
I pulled into the Brawley Walmart lot and settled in at 1645. The day’s drive was a pleasure but it’s always nice to settle in for the night. I planned to drive to Bakersfield the next day, perhaps Tulare, then home on Friday. I was ready to be home!
Settled in for the night at Brawley’s Walmart.
After my walk I returned to the coach and began this update and photo editing. The evening was as usual; clacking the keyboard, watching TV and falling to sleep on the couch. Life is good on the road with Big Blue.
Thursday, Day 15, Brawley, CA to Tulare, CA via SR78, SR86, I-10, SR62, SR247, SR58, SR99: 392 miles.
I was up and at it around 0600. Right after the chores I took my morning walk in the store where it was much warmer than the 38° morning in Brawley. Back at the coach I planned the day’s route to Bakersfield or Tulare, depending on how I felt at Bakersfield. I planned a new route on back roads to avoid the SoCal freeways as much as possible, but wasn’t sure about what I was getting myself into.
I began the day’s drive along SR78 and SR86 heading toward the Salton Sea and on to Palm Springs. It was a perfect day to see some beautiful country.
But first things first: I drove by a Mickey D’s for some coffee to go as I headed out of town, but the dang place had nine people in line to order. I made my own there in the coach and drove on. About forty miles or so down the road in Coachella I stopped at another Mickey D’s to buy a McGriddle sandwich for breakfast, and that one was all jammed up outside due to road construction. I found the next one a couple miles down the road and finally, after three tries, got my sausage McGriddle. I cut up an orange to have with it and called it breakfast.
The day was just perfect for driving through the desert and farms of Imperial County and into Palm Springs, then up SR62 to SR247 and across the high desert to Barstow where I caught SR58 through the Mojave Desert and the Tehachapi Mountains. It was quite an adventure on the new, roundabout way that added miles to my trip, but they were back road miles and very scenic. The photos tell of the drive better than a lot of words:
The drive was very scenic, and well worth the time to click on the photos for a full size view.
Approaching the Tehachapi Mountains from the Mojave Desert on SR58.
Dropping down the Tehachapis toward Bakersfield and the great Central Valley. Note the lovely green growth that is usually parched and brown.
Once in Bakersfield I felt like driving the extra 65 miles or so to Tulare where I would spend the night, as usual, in a Walmart lot. A stop at the Mickey D’s in Tehachapi for a caffeine and sugar jolt no doubt powered me through to Tulare. I took my evening walk in the Walmart store, then fell off the wagon by getting dinner at a Panda Express in the same center as Walmart. mmmmmmmmm. It was a delicious meal and worth the misdemeanor of going off my diet.
Patch on top of patch on top of patch, but never repaired: The Kalifornistan highways are so rotten in some places, including this example, one of many sections of SR99 that are in horrible shape. And for this we pay about the highest gas tax in the country. This is the price we pay for electing fools to run the state.
The evening unfolded as it usually has during this adventure; after dinner I watched Driving Miss Daisy for the 24th time, fell to sleep on the couch, then retired to the bedroom around 2300. The next day I would be back home! And it was time to be there…
Friday, Day 16, Tulare, CA to home via SR99: 151 miles.
I slept well until about 0500 when I heard strange noises outside. I rolled out of bed and looked out to see a couple of fellas unloading boxes from a truck for one of the nearby stores. Relieved that it wasn’t anything to worry about, I went back to bed. Moments later I heard a garbage truck picking up the nearby stores’ dumpsters with much clatter and racket. So… I learned that I wouldn’t be sleeping in that morning. I turned on the heaters and began my day – the day I would be back home!
Big Blue at the Tulare Walmart Friday morning before heading for home.
At the start and end of each travel day I record mileage, generator hours, etc. and also track gas purchases. I reckon this record keeping is a habit from the trucking years.
I took time to make a cup of coffee and peruse some of my daily ‘net sites but still pulled out of Tulare at 0730. I was on my way home! I stopped at a Mickey D’s somewhere along the drive up SR99 for coffee and also zapped an egg and sausage sandwich for breakfast. Oh… and I bought a couple of Mickey D’s great chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
The Central Valley in February; rain and recent warmth have triggered a showy bloom of flowers as the orchards continued dormant. They would soon burst forth with a gorgeous splash of blossoms. I noticed some beekeepers busy near orchards setting out beehives for the coming pollination season.
There was a lot of green bursting out all over! It was a pretty drive as I headed for home.
The drive home was uneventful, as I like, except for the outbursts of anger as Big Blue and I were both beaten up by the rotten sections of SR99 long neglected and rough as a goat trail. I hate to drive that lousy road anymore.
But I made it home at 1100 and was happy as could be to share a big, warm hug with my loving Wifey. It was so good to be back to my Honey, home, hearth, and hot tub! It had been quite a trip, 16 days and some of them very cold and some very windy, but all a part of the adventure of bumming around the country in great comfort. I was looking forward to another trip soon!
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.