2018 Winter Search for Sunshine

Bumming Around Texas in the Sunshine!

2018 – Jan 22 thru Feb 3

Day 1, Home to Tulare, CA via SR99: 157 miles

The cold, grey, winter days in the San Joaquin Valley were getting to me and it was time to go look for some sunshine and warmth. I knew that Big Blue II was getting tired of just sitting alone in our gated community’s cold and dreary RV lot, too.

Before I could begin the adventure, I had to have the rear end cap rubbed out to clean up the oil spots that wouldn’t wash away. And I needed some sun visors as the electric visors on the coach were dead and I didn’t want to fix ’em – I’d prefer manual pull down shades – or visors – that won’t have burned out motors in the future. I bought a set of four, online, and needed help installing them. I scheduled a detailer for Saturday to clean up the oil, and also scheduled a friend to help with the visors on the same day. It was a busy day for Big Blue II but we managed to get it all done.

Finally, on the following cool and drizzly Monday morning, I pulled her up to the house and began loading her up to go look for some sunshine!2018-1-22a loadingLoading the coach for my first interstate trip aboard the new Big Blue II!

The plan for day one, after the loading was complete, was to drop in at Mello truck/RV repair shop where I have repairs done, in Modesto. I had to fix that oil leak that we thought was fixed after they put a seal where the dipstick enters the engine, but was still leaking. I’d called a few days before and arranged to drop in as I began my trip, so they were ready for me. They had me back into the shop and a mechanic got right to work after I told him where the leak was.2018-1-22b shop timeBig Blue II in the shop at Mello’s in Modesto. It’s a great place for diesel repairs and they do it right!

I was in the shop for about four hours, and they got the leak fixed right this time. And for no charge! The leak was to be fixed last visit and they didn’t quite get it, but I’d have been willing to pay something for the three hours they worked on it!2018-1-22d valley water warsDriving through Kalifornistan’s Central Valley one is often reminded that whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over! It never ends.

It was good to pull out of the shop and continue south toward Texas. I had hoped to spend the night at Barstow, but because of the shop delay I pulled into Tulare’s Walmart about 1700. It was nearing sundown and I was tired after a full day. It was good to drop the jacks and be “home” for the night.

A Panda Express was a short walk from where I parked, so for dinner I pigged out on a delicious Chinese feast of Orange Chicken, something new called 8 Treasure Chicken Breast and a side of chow mein. It was a wonderful dinner after a long day.

After the feast I settled in for the night. It’s so pleasant to travel aboard Big Blue II. Wherever I stop for the night I have my own bed, my own kitchen, bath and all the comforts of home. I do miss my hot tub, though!

I spent the evening editing photos and writing this travelogue. I also watched a DVD movie on the computer, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? for maybe the 20th time, dozing through about half of it but it was as funny as ever. I went to bed around 2300 and slept well.

It was a cool night, but I was warm and cozy having set the bedroom temp for about 64°. The second zone, the kitchen/living area, I set for 61°. I really like that dual zone thermostat, a first for me.


Day 2, Tuesday, Tulare, CA to Parker, AZ via CA99, CA58, I-40, US95, AZ62: 402 miles

I was up at 0600 to turn up the heater and turn on the water heater, then went back to bed awhile as things warmed up. I had already found my sunshine; the morning was gorgeous!

I hustled through the morning chores so I could hit the road early – I wanted to cover the 400 miles to Parker, AZ, and it would be a long drive.2018-1-23a morning at TulareMorning at Tulare’s Walmart lot made for a beautiful start!

I needed to get acquainted with Big Blue II‘s fuel gauge during the day’s drive – I knew it was not accurate from the shorter trips we’d taken already, and wanted to get familiar with it on a long trip. It drops too fast the first 3/4 tank, and then has well over 300 miles left in the tank the last quarter tank – according to the gauge. Sure enough, I drove a couple hundred miles on that last 1/8 tank and when I filled up in Parker, I had 12 gallons left in the tank. The prior coach wasn’t much better – it must be a diesel thing.2018-1-23b EB CA58Heading east on CA58 out of Bakersfield toward the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert.

The 400 mile drive to Parker was too much of a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed the lovely sunny day and the splendid desert views, but tired of it all about sundown. And I still had quite a drive yet after dark.

Click for larger photos and to read the captions:

In Parker, I pulled into the one cheapest station I found online to fill up, and they were out of diesel. I pulled into another and it didn’t have pay-at-the-pump and the next charged too much. The fourth station I pulled into suited me, so I pumped through three cycles – they cut me off at $100 twice and I finally filled up on the third swipe of my credit card. Whew!

It was good to pull into the Walmart lot and be “home” for the night. I promised myself that the next day would be much shorter. First thing I headed into the store for a walk and then to buy some groceries. Back at the coach I had dinner an hour late, but felt much better after dinner and my shower. I guess 400 miles has become too many for this old man. That’s hard to admit; back in my trucking days I could cover a thousand miles if I had to!

After zapping a frozen meal for dinner, I settled in to write this travelogue and edit photos. Afterwards, as I enjoyed a couple vodka tonics, I watched YouTube videos instead of a movie or TV. I have to wonder why a RV owner would invest in a satellite TV system these days; online content is so complete that one really needs nothing more than a laptop and a wifi hotspot. My Android phone is my hotspot that connects my computer to the internet almost anywhere I go.

I was in bed by midnight local time, but by home time it was my usual 2300. I would have to adjust my living to an hour later the next day or two – then again, it matters not all when I go to bed or get up!


Day 3, Wednesday, Jan 24, Parker, AZ to Tucson AZ via AZ72, I-10, AZ85, I-8, I-10 (again): 260 mile

I slept very well, as usual, snuggled into the little bedroom known locally as Zone 2  on the thermostat. It stayed a cozy 65° again as the rest of the coach stayed at 61° and saved on propane and battery life. I know, I know… I’ve bragged on my fancy new zoned heating system enough already!2018-1-24a morning at Parker AZA clear and sunny Wednesday morning at the Parker, AZ Walmart.

After morning chores I whiled away the time perusing my favored sites on the ‘net including the morning news and the comics. I went into the store and walked the daily 25 minutes or so as I also picked up a few more items I needed.

I really wasted away the morning as I made a leisurely breakfast of toasted frozen waffles with a little clementine orange and my usual cranberry juice. I could have eaten healthier but those waffles sure were good along with my sugar free syrup.

It was about 1100 when I finally pulled out of the Walmart lot and continued my adventure to Texas. It was such a pleasure to be out in the boonies of Arizona with few cars and trucks (compared to Kalifornistan) and lots of open desert.2018-1-24b 1st shot of the dayThe first photo of the day as I left Parker, AZ on the open, lonesome AZ72. It was sunny and warming and I was already enjoying my successful search for sunshine!

2018-1-24h saguro2018-1-24e scenic AZI especially enjoyed the lonely, stately saguaro cacti – by the thousands if  not millions! For some reason they add so much to the desert landscape, looking much like desert sentinels.

My main activity of the day seemed to be simply shooting too many photos of beautiful Arizona. As I edited photos I had to delete most as there are only so many photos of essentially the same view one can  post! Somewhere along I-10 (or I-8?) I pulled into a rest area and whipped up a lunch which was only a small frozen breakfast sandwich that I zapped, a small apple and more cranberry juice – I was being pretty righteous!

When I checked my Garmin navigator for the eateries near Walmart I was amazed to see about a dozen within .1 miles! There was an In-N-Out Burger, Mickey D’s, KFC, Chinese, and more. I gave in to all that temptation before I ever got there, knowing it would be too much to resist.

More of the beautiful Arizona landscape. Click on any photo to enlarge and enjoy:

I arrived at the Cortaro Rd. Walmart near Tucson around 1630 and picked a comparatively remote spot for the night. During the drive a lens fell from my prescription sunglasses. A nearly microscopic screw had worked loose and was gone. As I parked there was an optic store almost next to me. First thing I walked over and explained what happened and in 10 minutes I was walking out with fixed glasses for no charge!

I walked over to Walmart and bought a wall clock that I wanted for the coach and a couple other items. And I did a few things around the coach such as hanging the clock, repairing a loose windshield fan, etc. Soon enough it was dinner time and during my day’s drive I had already succumbed to the temptation to buy dinner at KFC. So over to KFC I headed. But wait – they were out of chicken! Really! They had only the extra crispy available and I was sure it had sat around too long. The place was nearly deserted, so I chose to head to the coach and zap a frozen meal for dinner. I did and I was plenty satisfied that I didn’t pig out.

After evening chores such as dinner, shower, etc. I settled in to edit photos and write this travelogue. I enjoyed the usual evening aboard and was in bed around midnight.


Day 4, Thursday, Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 284 miles

It was a comparatively mild night in Tucson and I awoke to the mid 40s. It wasn’t so mild that I didn’t turn up the heat and go back to bed for a while, though!

After morning chores, I perused my usual comics and news, etc. online and was in no hurry to hit the road. I finally pulled out of the lot and continued east about 0900.2018-1-25a morning in Tucson Another sunny morning and I loved it!

The day’s drive was entirely on I-10, across Arizona and New Mexico. It was sunny and rural as well, except for the beginning as I drove through Tucson. 2018-1-25b Tucson commute Tucson was busy and the traffic was heavy, but there were no delays. The rest of the drive was rural and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was hankering for a pancake and egg breakfast, so I consulted my navigator for a Denny’s restaurant along the route. The first one east of Tucson was in Benson, AZ about an hour’s drive. I just have to have some fried eggs a couple of times a week, and I don’t do frying aboard the coach. I am a fan of Denny’s – especially their Value Menu. 2018-1-25c Denny's Benson AZBreakfast at Denny’s – delicious and cheap!

Along the drive somewhere west of New Mexico I came across the widest trailer I’ve ever seen. The damn thing took up both lanes and all the traffic had to line up behind the monster. When the shoulder was wide enough he’d pull over so we could squeeze by. I was delayed no more than 15 minutes or so, and at least it was a good photo op:

2018-1-25d super wide loadSqueezing by the monster that took up the whole two lanes unless the shoulder was wide enough to let traffic by.

The drive went just fine, and the scenery occasionally was quite dramatic. One area would have to be called “the rock piles”. It was quite an attraction – the state even had to post a sign stating that painting or defacing the rocks was a crime.

The “rock” section of the drive; click for larger photos:

At some point along the way, about lunch time, I pulled into a rest area for a break. I did a couple small jobs around the coach that I wanted to get out of the way, then made lunch and simply dawdled away some time. I was traveling less than 300 miles so I certainly wasn’t in a hurry.

A few more photos to click and enjoy:

When I-10 began its dramatic drop into Mesilla Valley and Las Cruces, I grabbed the camera for a few shots of the town spread out below and the dramatic Organ Mountains in the background. That range is so photogenic I always shoot too many photos.

Click to enlarge and view:

It was about 1620 hours when I pulled into the Walmart lot and joined several other RVers that had also stopped for the night. As usual, it was good to be home after a day of travel. Yep; I was right at home in a Walmart lot! Crazy as it sounds, I wouldn’t travel any other way. Big Blue II was my very comfortable ride during the day and would be my home for the night. No motel for me, thanks! I had my very own home complete with my kitchen, my shower, my bathroom, and my bed! You just can’t buy that in the very best motels and hotels!2018-1-25n Las Cruces WalmartBig Blue II fits right in with the other RVers who have taken Sam Walton up on his invitation to spend nights on his lots. He was a very generous man. And smart, too! There are cameras covering every nook and cranny of a Walmart lot, and many stores have security guards driving the lots day and night. They are a very safe place to “camp” for the night – and the price is right!

And… after all of the above bragging, my evening took a turn for the worse. RVs generally have two banks of batteries: there are chassis batteries that power the chassis such as starter, etc. and there are house batteries that run most everything inside such as lights, heater fans etc. As I checked the house voltage something was very wrong. After driving almost 300 miles, they didn’t read even 12 volts. It would be a long night.

I went about my evening, had dinner, etc. and figured the batteries would last through the night. I might add that my fuel was about a quarter of a tank, and when that low the generator won’t run – it’s designed to not work at low fuel so as not to run out of fuel while running it. My only option would be to drive to the nearest diesel pump and add fuel, but I didn’t want to bother and hoped the batteries might see me through the night. But… around 2200 the lights were getting dim and I had no choice. I drove a couple miles to a Murphy station and added 25 gallons. Back at Walmart I ran the generator an hour to charge the batteries a bit and hoped they’d run the heater fan overnight as necessary. And they did. But it was midnight when I finally got to bed.


Day 5, Friday, Las Cruces, NM to El Paso, TX via I-10: 

I slept ’til almost 0700 to make up for the late night I had. I had one duty and that was to replace those batteries. I always choose Interstate batteries because of their great dealer network and warranty. But first I worked through the morning chores and took a walk in the store on what was a very cool morning in the mid 30s.2018-1-26a coach rearMorning at Las Cruces. I posted this photo of the rear to show the Bed Bath & Begone decal I had made and installed awhile back. I’ve had that play on words, Bed Bath & Begone, on the last three coaches and it gets a chuckle from people. 

There was an Interstate dealer less than five miles away and I headed there as soon as I was able. Of the four batteries that are on the house bank, he checked two and they were dead. I told him not to worry about the others, that I wanted four new Interstates and would he install them. They said they don’t install on big RVs because of past issues – I guess such a customer once blamed them for electrical damages. Ok, I’ll install ’em, I said. I paid the man something over $500 for the batteries and he brought them out on a pallet with a forklift. I began the job of changing them.

Before I finished the first one, I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was getting angina just wrestling the first old battery out and lifting the new one in. Something had to give.

My morning adventure in photos; click to enlarge and read:

I walked back into the office, found the owner, and told him about my heart issues and that I’d be happy to pay them for installing them. When he understood what I was dealing with he agreed right away to do the job. He was very kind about it and I was very relieved.

An hour or so later the job was done and I had four shiny, new Interstate batteries installed in the coach. He wanted $50 for the job but he had been such a kind fellow once he knew my situation that I told him to make it $100. And we were both happy. In hindsight I kinda wish I hadn’t been so generous, but at the moment I was very, very grateful for his help.

From the Interstate battery shop I drove to a nearby parking lot to calm down, regroup, and decide what I’d do the rest of the day. I also zapped a frozen egg white and chicken sandwich and peeled a clementine orange for breakfast. And I enjoyed my first cup of coffee for the day as I updated this travelogue.

I had planned to drive to Ft. Stockton, TX, but my day was half shot already, or nearly so, and so was I. I decided to head to El Paso, TX, just 50 miles away. And I’d find a place to dump the holding tanks and add some fresh water. I could probably go another day but I’d have plenty of time that day.2018-1-26g welcome to Texas I was welcomed to Texas and was glad to be there!

I stopped at a Love’s station on the western edge of El Paso and filled up the propane tank. I asked about a RV dump but they had none. The Flying J across the street had one, I was told, so I headed there.

And there’s a reason I go to Love’s first nowadays. At Flying J they took my $10 and told me the electric lock on the dump didn’t work but I could kick it open with my foot. It wouldn’t open no matter what I did. I tried to get the water started to fill my fresh tank, and there was none.

I walked clear back to the office and was told that I could get water around the side of their office or some such nonsense. No; I’d need it to dump the tanks, too. So after half an hour wasted they gave me back my $10 and I continued on to Walmart.2018-1-26 dd El Paso messEl Paso is a lot like Los Angeles and I hate the traffic. And it’s cheek by jowl to the Mexican city of Juárez, one of the murder capitals of the entire world. As bad as El Paso seems, the view over the border fence is even worse. 

My navigator told me the turn off to take to Walmart, and lo and behold it was long gone as construction had closed it. Much of El Paso’s I-10 is a construction zone. I wound up driving some side roads with lots of traffic for half an hour before I finally got to Walmart. I was fit to be tied!

Finally at Walmart, I headed to the store for a walk. It was then that it dawned on me I hadn’t eaten since my very light breakfast and I was starving. I was in no mood to whip up lunch in the coach so I promised myself a Mickey D lunch as one was right there in the store. After the walk I headed to the coach and enjoyed a couple dollar menu sandwiches.2018-1-26d El Paso Walmart Jacks down at one of several El Paso Walmarts. I was finally “home”!

The frustrating day was over! It was good to be “home” for the night, but I was bone weary from the activity and frustrations and El Paso traffic. I washed away much of my fatigue with a hot shower, and followed by a strong cup of coffee, I was beginning to feel like my usual self.

I caught up on this travelogue and its photos during the afternoon and evening. I occupied a relatively quiet section of the lot and enjoyed the afternoon and evening at “home” in El Paso. I would have bet against my ever staying a night in busy El Paso, but there I was and it wasn’t so bad.2018-1-26h El Paso lightsAs darkness fell, I realized that I had a home with a view! The lights of El Paso and Juarez twinkled brightly below. 

After the editing and writing I dug out one of my favorite movies, Driving Miss Daisy, and watched about half of it before giving up to sleep and heading to bed around midnight local time. The other half of the movie would still be on the DVD in my laptop for the next evening.


Day 6, Saturday, Jan 27, El Paso to Ft. Stockton, TX via I-10: 229 miles

I slept well and awoke a bit before 0700 to turn up the heater and fire up the water heater. It was another sunny and beautiful morning and I was looking forward to the day’s drive.

I would be driving by another Love’s and Flying J as I continued east out of El Paso, so I called both and found that Flying J had a RV dump. “Does it work and is it open?” I inquired. I was assured that it was fine.

So, I drove the few miles to the place and finally got my tanks dumped and filled the fresh water tank. I was very pleased and it was a successful start to the day.

Click for some of the day’s photos and captions:

Once east of El Paso there are miles and miles of nothing but sand and brush, and I loved the solitude! The truck traffic was very heavy for a Saturday, but at the junction with I-20, about 160 miles beyond El Paso, most trucks headed up I-20 toward Ft. Worth and Dallas. After their departure onto I-20, the drive really was great as the highway seemed nearly empty.

I stopped at an older truck stop near Van Horn that had nothing to recommend it but a good price for diesel. I had to fuel up before settling in for the night and pulled right in when I saw their $2.88 credit price. The major stations such as Love’s and Flying J were selling the exact same stuff for about $3.15 per and I just don’t understand how they get away with it. I guess a lot of travelers just don’t pay attention.

I crossed into the Central time zone during the day’s drive and was then two hours later than home time – and 1400 miles away!

About a hundred miles after fueling I pulled into the town of Ft. Stockton and settled in at the Walmart store. It was a beautiful afternoon and the Saturday shoppers had the place pretty busy. I went into the store as soon as I could and took my daily walk.2018-1-27gg normal pricing
Jacks down and settled in for the night at Ft. Stockton’s Walmart lot. The bum’s life is a good one aboard Big Blue II!

The size of the various Walmarts can vary greatly. The Ft. Stockton store was about medium size for a Walmart. In January of 2016’s search for sunshine, when I pulled into this place there was snow on the ground, but not this trip – it was beautiful!

After my walk I returned to the coach for the evening and tended to the usual chores such as dinner, a shower, editing photos, writing this travelogue – and, of course, the usual twice daily call home to stay close and in touch with my dear Wifey (which is definitely not a chore!).

I enjoyed a couple cool and tasty vodka tonics as I watched the rest of Driving Miss Daisy and enjoyed all the warmth and humor as the first time I watched it. It’s a great movie! Around midnight I turned in for a very restful and peaceful sleep in yet another Walmart lot!


Day 7, Sunday, Ft. Stockton, TX to Del Rio, TX via US285, US90: 182 miles

This would be the first day that I left the endless I-10 to wander the back roads of Texas that I so enjoy. Yep; I had to drive six days of interstate speedways to finally arrive – and it felt good to be mostly alone on the two lane Texas roads.2018-1-28i W Texas traffic jamThis is what I mean by “Texas back roads”. Here US285 was nearly all mine. I love the view even if it never changes, and I very much enjoy the solitude.

After the usual morning chores and “breakfast”, which consisted of two donuts from Walmart’s bakery,  I tackled some housework which is a chore that I must stay up with during these long drives around the country. The day’s housework would include vacuuming the whole coach and then mopping the floors. When I was done, I was pretty much pooped. This ol’ heart patient wears out in a hurry these days, and I have learned that I have to stop when I tire. But I got it all done!

I pulled out of the Walmart lot about 1100 hours Central time. I had less than 200 miles to drive, and I took my sweet time. I believe I was in what Texans call brush country. The view doesn’t vary; it’s scrub and cacti for hundreds of miles, divided into ranches by very old barbed wire fences.

Click to enjoy some of the day’s sights and to read the captions:

I don’t understand the economy of the area, but there are darn few people depending on it, whatever it is. Cattle? The few head I saw all day long wouldn’t support very many, and the poor critters would have to walk and graze for 50 miles a day because the vegetation is mostly dry and prickly. I saw as many sheep as cattle. I saw some oil wells and related equipment, but very few. I suspect a lot of the ranches offer deer hunting for paying guests, but I saw only one deer, dead in the road, during the drive and none elsewhere.

Click for more of the days sights:

I stopped at one “picnic area” which is a rest area without restrooms. I took a few photos and enjoyed the quiet of the place. Absolute silence is very hard to come by these days and I really enjoyed “listening” to it during that stop.

I whipped up a turkey sandwich for lunch on the side of the road somewhere that looked like everywhere else. Again, the view never really changed all day long! I arrived at the town of Del Rio a bit after 1500 and pulled into the local Walmart lot.

I took my walk around the area, outside for a change, as the weather was perfect. The temp was about 70° with no wind at all – and that’s what the trip was all about – finding sunny, warm weather! I’ve been enjoying sunshine the entire trip so far.2018-1-28s Never need in Kalif Here’s another sign never seen in Kalifornistan; even on these back roads the Texas speed limit is higher (75 MPH) than any other state that I can recall. Slow down to just 70 MPH on this curve! Even so, I poked along at about 55 MPH most of the drive. 

Back at the coach I whiled away the afternoon on the computer checking my news and comic sites and just dawdling the time away. During my walk I discovered a Panda Express a block or so down the street and was tempted to go there for dinner – but I resisted. I felt a chicken dinner coming on as soon as I found a good place and hoped it might be the next day. I believed I was in Golden Chick restaurant country, a small chain featuring fried chicken. On an earlier trip in these parts I was quite impressed with their food.2018-1-28t Home in Del RioBig Blue II at rest in Del Rio’s Walmart lot for the night.

As evening rolled around I began the usual routine of dinner, shower, etc. and then sat down once again at the computer to edit photos and write this travelogue.

Once that was done, I dug out the movie Godfather and began watching it. It’s pretty violent, as I knew, but I watched the first hour or so. As I began watching I got a hankering for ice cream which I have no business eating. But I was weak at the moment so I walked over to the store and bought a pint of pecan pralines ‘n cream. It was delicious! And so were the couple cool ones I washed it down with.

I was up ’til 0100 which is unheard of for me, but my inner clock considered it to be 2300 – which it was back home!


Day 8, Monday, Del Rio, TX to Laredo Texas via US277, US83, I-10: 174 miles

I slept well ’til almost 0800 which is unheard of for me – but again my inner clock considered it to be 0600, my usual wake up time. It was a cool morning and I turned up the heater and turned on the water heater, then began the morning chores.

After the chores I read my morning comics and news online, then tackled some more housecleaning. I removed a few spots from the carpet, then cleaned basins, mirrors, etc. I had the coach looking pretty spiffy by the time a late breakfast rolled around. I zapped a breakfast sandwich and peeled a little clementine orange. It wasn’t much but after the ice cream pig out the night before, it was plenty.

It was almost 1100 local time when I finally headed out of the lot for the day’s drive to Laredo, TX. It was another perfect day to wander the back roads of Texas, and I greatly enjoyed the drive.

Photos and captions to click and enjoy:

I passed through my second Border Patrol checkpoint and after assuring them I was a US citizen and that I was alone, I was instructed to have a nice day. And so I did!

Much of the day’s drive was very near the Mexican border. I was surprised that I saw no Border Patrol vehicles along my drive except at the checkpoint. Usually in these parts I see several during a day’s drive.

The view certainly didn’t change much. The drive was again through the Texas brush country and believe me, brush country is brush country – it doesn’t change other than hills or flats and it all looks pretty much the same.

So what’s the big attraction? Brush country is very lightly peopled and it offers a wonderful feeling of solitude. ‘Til I got to Eagle Pass during today’s drive I saw only the occasional small town the past two days. And of course all that ended as I neared Laredo. Arriving in Laredo for the first time ever that day, I was reminded of my first drive through El Paso. Both are big cities with lots and lots of people and traffic – and I was surprised by the size of both. I don’t particularly like being in either of them. But there I was in El Paso for the night Friday and the great metropolis of Laredo that day.2018-1-29j Laredo Walmart
I pulled into one of several Walmarts in Laredo about 1445 local time.

First things first, and I took my walk around the area and in the store. The place was crowded, I thought, for a Monday afternoon, but then again this is quite the big city. I parked way out front near a bus stop that was very busy all afternoon. I was surprised by all the people who took the bus to Walmart and hauled their stuff home on the bus. And very nearby, too close for me, I-35 bustled. It wasn’t so bad, I hoped, that it would make sleeping difficult, but it was bad enough that I won’t likely overnight in Laredo again!

Around 1800 I knew I would be staying put, something not so sure when I first parked, so I dropped the jacks and settled in for the night. And the evening and night were as usual. I watched the rest of The Godfather and don’t believe I’ll bother with the sequel although both sequels are in my DVD set. And I climbed into bed around 2330 instead of 0100 as I did the night before, and as always aboard Big Blue II, I slept very well.


Day 9, Laredo, TX to Del Rio, TX via I-35, US83, US277: 176 miles

I was up and around about 0700 to turn up the heat, then went back to bed a while as things warmed up. It was another bright and sunny Texas morning but a good breeze was blowing.

I wasn’t sure where the day’s drive would take me. I wanted to continue south to Brownsville and see the gulf waters, but if it was going to be another metropolitan area as Laredo seemed to be, I’d just as soon begin my homeward trek.

After the usual morning chores, I headed into the store to buy a few things I needed, and asked a local about the Brownsville area. She advised that the Brownsville and McAllen area is one metro area, bigger than Laredo. Oh. Thanks, but no thanks; I would turn and head for home that morning, and count on finding new back roads and small towns with Walmart stores!2018-1-30a heading for home
Heading home! And of course – the view didn’t change!

Well, no, I decided to not find new back roads but to retrace the route back home. As I wrote earlier, this lonely brush country all looks alike – so what’s the point? The route I took was as direct as possible, and I wanted to go directly home.

It was about 0930 hours when I left Laredo and headed for Ft. Stockton, TX where I’d spent the night three nights prior. But after driving an hour or two, I decided against the longer drive and instead headed to Del Rio, where I spent the night just the night before last. And it was only a 175 mile drive.2018-1-30b fueling in Asherton, TX
I pulled into a Valero station in the little town of Asherton where they sold diesel for just $2.80 per, and I pumped on almost 60 gallons to fill up. I should have waited but I saw the prices are quite a bit higher most other places. I’d seen diesel sell for as high as $3.20 in the same area, so figured I got a pretty good price. But I also saw diesel in the $2.60s in the next town.

More photos to click:

I continued on to Del Rio’s Walmart and pulled in for the night. And soon after my day went pretty much downhill. It was about 1530 when I went outside to check the batteries. When I tried to open the door to go back into the coach, it wouldn’t unlatch for me. Both the latch lock and the dead bolt were unlocked, but pulling the door handle and finding it very loose and sloppy, I knew something inside had broken and locked me out.

I checked Google for local locksmiths and the first one I called was available and came right out. Two fellas arrived about 1600 and they were excellent at their trade and had very kind dispositions. The older fellow was a certified master locksmith and had been doing that for over 30 years. But nothing they tried worked. They worked on the coach for over three hours before they got the door opened. About two hours in I told them both that I sure called the right place because anyone else would have given up. Of course, half that time was trying things that didn’t work and they didn’t charge me for it.2018-1-30j lock repair The locksmiths working to let me back in my house! They had what is called determination. I think many would have given up.

In the end I had to use a big screwdriver to get the door opened from outside because I’ll need a whole new latch assembly – probably from an RV dealer – to complete the job. But I could get home the way it was – at least that was the goal.

The time out of the coach was like being homeless. No food. No bed. No medicines. No warmth.

As day turned to dark, they continued to work by flashlight and it was getting cold outside. I finally went inside the store and sat on one of their electric shopping scooters by the warm chicken display where it was plenty comfy, and waited for their call. It was about 1900 when they called and said they got it open.

It was with gratitude that I paid them $110 for their efforts. They were kindly and determined fellows and I was very pleased that they stayed with a very difficult job ’til it was done.

My evening, after the difficult repair, was as usual albeit dinner and shower, etc. were a bit late. Then I sat down to clack the keyboard as I updated this travelogue and edited photos.

I guess all the drama had me wired because I stayed up past midnight local time. I think. Or was it home time? Those time zones confused me. But when I got to bed I slept well and was very thankful to be back in the coach.


Day 10, Wednesday, Del Rio, TX to El Paso, TX via US90, US285, I-10: 424 miles

I was up around 0600 and that was probably too early, but getting a larger screwdriver to open the door was on my mind. So was heading to the store to buy one and hoping the %$#&!! lock would let me back in!

As it turned out I bought a small nail puller that looked like a baby crowbar since Walmart didn’t have a larger screwdriver. And it worked! And as I needed to enter a couple more times during the day, my regular screwdriver worked, too. But every time I had to shut that door I wondered if I’d get it open again!

I hustled through the morning chores and hit the road at 0740 so I could cover the 425 miles to El Paso. I could be home by Saturday night or certainly Sunday if I covered about that many miles per day. And I wanted to be home; the anxiety of getting locked out again by the broken door latch assembly took a lot of the pleasure out of my adventure. 2018-1-31a Amistad ReservoirI drove by the Amistad Reservoir near Del Rio, TX as I began the drive.

I stopped to buy some cheap fuel at a station just a few miles out of town because their price of just $2.69 was too good to pass up. There was room in the tank to pump on only 16 gallons but I figured it was worth it. Farther down the road I zapped a breakfast sandwich for breakfast. I also made real coffee for the morning cup as I wanted to be alert for the long drive.

Photos of the day’s drive to click and read:

The drive would take me back to I-10 by noon and my two lane driving would be done for almost the entire drive home. At least the interstates would be much less crowded most of the way ’til I reached Kalifornistan.

I stopped to make lunch at a rest area, and again in Ft. Stockton for a Mickey D’s McFlurry and large coffee. That combination never fails to chase away the sleepiness – and I was good the rest of the drive.

More photos to click!

Once in El Paso I drove to the Mesa Walmart store and pulled in for the night. I took my walk first thing, and naturally worried about getting the coach door open again. As it turned out, I got it open but it took some time to do so. I left the driver’s side sliding glass window unlocked just in case.

Click ’em:

After my walk I got the evening chores such as dinner and a shower done and settled in to write this travelogue.

I found one of the hours I lost before I reached El Paso. It was good to be closer to home and be just one hour later than home time.2018-1-31Lb Life aboard Big Blue II  is good. This is how I watch movies (and news and comics and maps and more!) – who needs satellite receivers and TVs these days?!

After updating my travelogue and photos, I kicked back with a couple cool ones and watched more of that Raising Arizona movie. It was a very entertaining movie, but I just couldn’t stay awake. I finally gave up and headed to bed and slept very well, as usual.


Day 11, Thursday, El Paso, TX to Tucson, AZ via I-10: 318 miles

The day started a bit before 0600 when I rolled out of bed to turn up the heater and fire up the water heater. I wanted an early start, so after morning chores I got the coach ready to roll and left Walmart about 0830. The plan was to drive clear to Casa Grande, AZ, but as the day turned out, I reached only Tucson.

A few photos to click and read:

It was no doubt that trying for Casa Grande was an over exuberant plan because I had to dump the tanks and add fresh water. And I wanted to fuel up again, too. And I wanted a Denny’s Value Slam for breakfast! Two out of three ain’t bad, and that missed one was Denny’s fault.

I pulled into Deming, NM to eat at Denny’s and to pump on some cheap diesel at a station down the street. At Denny’s I parked, and it was not easy in the cramped parking area. I closed the door to the coach – which with the broken lock was a big deal – and hoped I could get back in! I walked into Denny’s and was pleasantly greeted and seated.

I chose a counter seat. Across the counter from me and maybe ten feet away, four employees were having a loud conversation. I gave them a minute to greet me and take my order, but they completely ignored me as they continued to yap. I gave them another minute, then walked out.

And I had to face that %$#&*!! lock again. It took me 10 minutes to get back in and drive down the street to Mickey D’s and grab a delicious McGriddle with sausage, egg and cheese to go – because I chose to leave the coach door unlocked which also meant it was opened a bit, too. I enjoyed my McGriddle in the coach along with a small mandarin orange. I’ll try to remember to forget that there’s a Denny’s in Deming, NM!

Next I continued down the street and pumped on 54 gallons of diesel – the cheap stuff I found online and scheduled in my navigator. And then I continued west toward home.

More fun to click on:

I called ahead to a Love’s station along my route to ask if they had a RV dump site, and they did. I pulled into the very busy place and waited a spell for another RV to move away from the dump. I then relieved Big Blue II and loaded on fresh water. I was then set ’til I reached home!

The long drive was going fine ’til I joined the commute traffic in Tucson. It wasn’t bad – nothing like L.A. – but it was “slow and go” for awhile. It was also about 1600 and I was getting tired. So I changed the navigator to the Walmart I stayed at when I motored east this trip. By the time I pulled into the Walmart lot, it was 1630 and I’d had enough. It was good, as always, to be “home” for the night.

I had to shop for groceries, so after arriving I set off to the store for my walk which included pushing the cart around the store. And, as before, I’d have to fight the broken lock to get into the coach. After five minutes of fumbling around with the screwdriver and little nail puller, I got back into the coach for the night.

I began the evening chores after stashing the groceries. First a shower, then dinner, then time to clack away on the laptop to update this blog. And I did so for a couple of hours.

I also watched the rest of Raising Arizona and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yet again. I also dug out the movie Intolerable Cruelty, another very entertaining Coen brothers comedy. Having enjoyed a couple cool ones along with the movie, I crawled into bed around 2300 and slept well.


Day 12, Friday, February 2, Tucson, AZ to Barstow, CA via I-10, I-8, AZ85, US95, I-40: 474 miles

2018-2-2a Morning at TucsonMorning in Tucson, AZ.

I awoke a few minutes before 0600 and got up to turn on the heat, then stayed up for a change. I was on a mission; if I was going to make Barstow, CA that day, I would have to get an early start. And so I did – I pulled out of the Walmart lot at 0715 and was on my way.

I had the brief pleasure of joining the Tucson rush hour, but only for a couple of blocks. When I pulled onto I-10 and headed west, Tucson and the heavy traffic was behind me and the drive was very pleasant.

Photos to click and read the captions:

The drive through the Sonoran Desert was magnificent. It is beautiful and is chock full of those incredible Saguaro cacti. The photos here don’t begin to represent the drive itself. The same could be said for most of the day’s drive; the desert views can be just stunning.

I stopped for breakfast around 0900 but for the life of me I cannot remember where. But I do remember the zapped breakfast sandwich and the little mandarin orange. And I hurried on, I think; I don’t remember breakfast at all!

More to click on!

I checked the prior night while on the computer for cheap fuel along the day’s route, and found that Chevron in Quartzsite, AZ was selling it for $2.78 per. I programmed the stop into my Garmin navigator and it took me right to the station. By the time I arrived the price had been raised to $2.83 but when others were selling the stuff for well over $3, it was still a good deal.

Quartzsite is quite the town during the winter. It is literally overrun by RVers and RV sellers and flea markets. It is a zoo! I have visited in the past, but it just isn’t for me. I kept on pushing for Barstow!

It was at Quartzsite where I left the interstates and drove two lane roads for about a hundred miles. It was a nice drive, but after 100 miles of the twisty, two lane, I-40 looked downright inviting when I finally reached it.

The drive along I-40, which took me clear to Barstow, was pleasant and much of it was incredibly scenic. It is very, very desolate and one drives for miles between tiny little towns that have very little to offer. One such town is Ludlow and so far as I knew it had only a gas station and a Dairy Queen. A DQ?! Yes! And I couldn’t pass it up. I pulled in and ordered a small Reese’s Blizzard. Small? It was as big is three Mickey D’s snack size McFlurrys. I enjoyed it for miles and it helped keep me alert.

More click fun:

I finally reached Barstow near sundown, and pulled into the brand new Walmart that opened just last summer. The parking area was still under final construction it seemed, with new trees just planted and much seemingly yet to be landscaped.

I sure was pleased to drop the jacks and settle into my new “home” for the night. It had been a long day! I began the evening chores at once and within an hour I had showered and began zapping a frozen meal for dinner.2018-2-2n jacks down at Barstow Finally landed in Barstow for the night and to get some rest. It seemed that I might make it home on Saturday!

I continued writing this blog after dinner and, as usual, had too many photos of the day’s drive. I deleted over half of them – I have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to shooting photos and often shoot way too many.

I didn’t do the movie thing that night; I just perused my online comics ’til it was time to give it up for the night. I climbed into bed around 2300 and slept well indeed – I would probably be home the next day!


Day 13, Saturday, Barstow, CA to Home via CA58, CA99: 344 miles

I rolled out of bed on the morning of Day 13 with one thought in mind: It was time to go home! I rushed through the morning chores, and then converted my cozy little home on wheels into a very comfortable highway cruiser. I headed across the Mojave Desert and the Tehachapi Mountains to The Great Valley where home and my dear Wifey waited for me.

Click any photo to enlarge and enjoy:

As I drove across the desert I was pleased to note that the new freeway eliminated a lot of two lane highway that was badly worn out and is/was a seriously rotten road. There were only 13 miles of two lane road of what used to be many more miles. Even so, the day’s drive was on the worst roads since I left Kalifornistan nearly two weeks earlier. When one contemplates the rotten condition of our roads here, and also that we pay the absolute highest gas and diesel taxes in the entire country, it underscores what a stunning failure Kalifornistan government is. (Read writer, historian, and farmer Victor Hanson’s opinion here.) One good thing about the drive was that it was Saturday morning and the usually overwhelming traffic of this state was much lighter.

Once over the Tehachapis and heading north on CA99, I took an off ramp and found a parking area where I stopped awhile and whipped up breakfast. I had toaster waffles and a mandarin orange. I also brewed another large cup of coffee before continuing north on one of the rottenest roads I’ve ever driven. CA99 is an absolute disgrace!

The traffic increased dramatically on CA99 and by late morning was its usual mess. Traffic sped along at the limit, but there was just too much of it. The lonely roads of Texas were only memories and the reality of living in Kalifornistan became all too real again.

Somewhere north of Fresno I pulled off the highway and stopped at a Mickey D’s for a quick order of a $1 McChicken sandwich, a snack size Oreo McFlurry and more coffee. I ate “lunch” as I continued north.

More photos to click!

It was 1315 as I pulled into the gated senior community we call home. It sure was good to be home and with my dear Wifey once again. After a big hug and warm visit, I set about unloading the coach which is no small task for this old man.

After the unloading was done, I moved the coach into the RV lot and washed both end caps to clean off the dirt and grime of the long trip. Then I dumped the holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank.

My 2018 January Search for Sunshine was a resounding success with every day of the 13 days being sunny.  In fact, it seemed that I even brought sunshine home with me as it was a very sunny and mild day at home. 


Epilogue:

The 2018 Search for Sunshine adventure lasted 13 days and covered 3,487 miles. I spent every night in a Walmart parking lot. Thanks, Mr. Sam!

Every day was filled with sunshine except the day I left home when it was drizzly, so the search for sunshine was a complete success. I didn’t drive through a drop of rain. And the wind, which in past Search for Sunshine trips has been terrible, was not really much of an issue this trip.

It was good to take the new Big Blue II on an extended trip to really get acquainted with her. She is a very adequate and comfortable home on wheels. I especially liked the two-zone heater/AC system which I’ve never had in prior coaches.

I was disappointed in the fuel mileage because I was used to 10 and 11 MPG with Cecil the Diesel, and now I get 8 to 8.5 MPG. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a 20% reduction in efficiency. I do realize, however, that Big Blue II is a larger and heavier coach with a bigger diesel engine, and I shouldn’t be surprised that I must feed her more fuel.

It was good to be back to my Honey, hearth, hot tub and home, but I am already looking forward to the next adventure aboard Big Blue II!

2018-1-28 header

 



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 Looking for Sunshine!. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 2018 Winter Search for Sunshine

  1. Patty S. says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog, started with the most recent, will probably go back and read them chronologically. I’m very much enjoying your 2018 Looking for Sun Travels as the southwest is close to my heart. Thanks for the virtual road trip.

  2. FishWisher says:

    Hi Patty –
    Thanks for the visit! It’s good to know when someone enjoys my travelogues and maybe even my old fishing adventures. It’s good to be back on the road again and finding sunshine. I’m in Ft. Stockton, Texas tonight and having a grand time. The southwest is a wonderful place to visit and enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful desert. It sure beats the gray days in the San Joaquin valley during the winter. And you are most welcome, visit anytime!
    – Dale

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