June 8, 2019, Preparing for Denver and (perhaps) Arkansas:
Our long planned trip to see the kids near Denver had already taken a twist or two as we prepared. We had planned to take the south route and visit family in Visalia, CA, Tucson, AZ, Greenwood Village, CO and Arkansas – yep, my dear Wifey and Trail Buddy, Lavonne, seems to have family everywhere. But the weather, predicted to be a high of 100° in Parker, AZ, which was our destination for the second night of the trip, was changed to 111°! We were willing to deal with the earlier forecast, but certainly not 111°! And parked on the asphalt lot of the local Walmart it would likely have been even worse. So we cancelled the south route a couple days before the trip, and planned to take our usual route of I-80 through Nevada, Utah and Wyoming en route to Colorado. While Parker, AZ was to be 111°, Salt Lake City was predicted to be just 85°.
I began preparing the coach days earlier because it takes days to get done what I used to do in an afternoon. I washed the coach over three days, about an hour or so of work per day. I also decorated the interior a bit, adding some wall decor to make the place more homey. When the day came to load the coach and head for the kids’ place near Denver, Big Blue was ready and we just had to load up and go!
Washing the roof on the first day of the three it takes to wash the coach nowadays. I may be older and slower and tire much easier, but I still get the job done!
If we continued on to Arkansas, we’d likely be gone two to three weeks. Spending so many days on the road requires a bit of planning and preparation which is something I enjoy. And it keeps me out of that $%#&@!! recliner I love too much!
Day 1, June 10, 2019, home to Gridley via CA99, I-5: 122 miles
I was more than ready to hit the road that very warm morning that would find us dealing with 100° in Gridley in the afternoon – and it would be about the same at home had we stayed. To avoid the heat, I drove the coach up to our home from the RV lot in our little senior gated community a bit before 0800. We got right to work loading the stuff we need on a long trip, and we were loaded and leaving home at 0945 – I believe that’s some kind of record for us.
The drive was unremarkable as we like, except for a slowdown on I-5, right where we turn off onto CA99 and the country north of Sacramento. We were pleased to leave the slowed, heavy traffic as we turned onto the lesser traveled state highway.
Click to enlarge and read captions:
Along CA99 we drove by seemingly thousands of acres of rice paddies. The rice was just breaking through the standing water, and looked much like hundreds or thousands of acres of lawn. It was really quite beautiful. We turned off SR99 about 12 miles or so south of Gridley to take the country back roads less traveled and miss having to drive through the towns of Live Oak and Gridley.
We pulled into a scenic area, at least we thought it was scenic, next to some growing rice, and parked. I whipped up lunch there while my Trail Buddy settled for just coffee and yogurt.
We were about a quarter of a mile from an agriculture airstrip belonging to, I supposed, a crop dusting outfit. I watched a couple crop dusters land and load whatever chemical or seeds they were spreading, and take off again. There are videos on YouTube of those modern, GPS guided crop dusters that are very interesting. Those poor guys on the ground waving flags to show the crop duster his next pass are long gone. Instead, a screen shows the pilot exactly where he’s sprayed, and exactly where to fly next. It seems that very little is left to chance these days. For an excellent demonstration of modern crop dusting, check out this video and begin watching at four minutes to see the GPS guidance that shows the pilot exactly where to spray. It’s very interesting as he seems to paint the field on his GPS screen.
We arrived at Gale and John’s at 1245 hours. Lavonne headed directly to the house as it was pretty warm already. I parked Big Blue and set her up for the night. I turned on the air conditioners as soon as I could plug into the grid. The dash air kept us comfy during the drive.
Parked out in the country near Gridley at Gale and John’s.
It was good to see my dear sis and John again – even though I’d already visited four times in the past few weeks. We visited a couple hours or so, then I headed to the coach for my grandpa nap. Gale and Lavonne napped as well, while John headed to the grocery store for a few items.
We brought pulled pork and hamburger buns from home for dinner. For dessert we brought fresh strawberries, strawberry cake and whipped cream to make strawberry shortcakes – our first of the season.
When Lavonne began preparing dinner, she discovered there was no running water. John checked his well pump controls, and couldn’t find the problem. It was on our last trip that the pump went out, and John was able to fix it. This time he had to call for help. When the repairman showed up and diagnosed the problem, he declared the pump was burned out – and he wouldn’t have a new one ’til the next day. We would have no running water that night! We got by with bottled water that John had, but there was no dish washer, either. It would be a challenging night in their home. Fortunately we had running water in the coach, but that didn’t help John and Gale!
We visited over dinner and in the living room for awhile, then we bid Gale and John goodnight and headed to our cozy little home on the driveway for the night.
The Travelin’ Gillespies at our laptops as we spent the evening in the coach. It had been a hot day in the valley, and we ran the air conditioners ’til after 2200 hours.
We spent the evening on our laptops, Lavonne mostly on games, as I began this travelogue of our trip. Lavonne went to bed around 2230 or so. I began watching a favorite documentary, for the umpteenth time, of The Century; America’s Time on YouTube. I enjoyed part one as I downed a couple cool ones. I hit the sack at 2330.
Day 2, Tuesday, Gridley, CA to Winnemucca, NV via CA70, CA20, CA174, I-80: 306 miles
When I was up around 0615 and first went outside, I checked with John about their water situation. I hadn’t thought the night before about their need for water overnight – at a minimum for their bathrooms. Well! He was in the process of grabbing hoses and running water across the irrigation ditch from their neighbor’s house about 150 feet away or so. I offered him buckets of fresh water from the coach as I still had probably 90 gallons on board. In all I probably gave him five or six buckets of the wet stuff. Of course, I then needed to add water to the coach for the next three days of living aboard. I certainly wasn’t going to get any from John! I suggested he call his pastor and let him know I’d stop by the church and add water – which he did and which I would do.
It was decided I’d head to Mickey D’s for some good breakfast sandwiches. When I arrived back at the house we all sat around the table visiting and eating that delicious junk food.
After breakfast and setting up the coach for our continued trip, we bid Gale and John a warm farewell, then pulled out of their driveway at 0900.
We drove right by their church as we headed east through Gridley to CA70. We pulled into the parking lot and up to a hose and filled our tank with good, fresh city water. The minister came out and told me he’d received John’s message about our predicament. He was very friendly and I was welcome to all the water I needed. And we continued east.
Regular readers my recall the awful old country road we have to drive to get to CA70. Well… my goodness! It was gone and replaced with a brand new road, smooth as a baby’s bottom! We were shocked; after all, this was Kalifornistan and we weren’t used to such improvements!
Click to see and read about the miracle!
The rice was coming up nicely east of Gridley, too. It was a beautiful sight at this stage – much like a well manicured lawn.
At Grass Valley, we took a bit of a shortcut on CA174 to avoid the long drive along CA20 to I-80, and merged onto I-80 much earlier than CA20 does. However, CA174 was as twisty as the other highway, and we were stopped twice at construction zones. I’m not sure it was the better route.
We streaked through Reno holding tightly to our wallets, and were finally beyond the busy metro area. It was so good to be on the wide open I-80 once again. It is such a pleasant drive compared to almost any over-used, neglected roadway in Kalifornistan!
More click fun!
We pulled into the Love’s station in Fernley and pumped on a bit over 22 gallons at $3.29 per. I wanted to be sure we had enough fuel to run the generator for five hours or so in Winnemucca where we’d spend the night – and to drive on to Battle Mountain, NV the next day where I could fill up at $3.06 per. As it turned out I probably didn’t have to add any fuel, but safe is better than sorry. We also whipped up lunch while parked at the Love’s station.
More photos and captions to click:
We arrived at the Walmart store in Winnemucca a few minutes after 1600, and it was hot – something in the 90s and likely even worse parked on the asphalt lot. Once I set up the coach for the night, we headed to the store and bought a number of items we needed. I also took my daily walk in the store.
Back in the coach we whiled away the evening on our computers, dealing with whatever lousy carrier AT&T works with in the Winnemucca area. Our data speed there must have been 3G, and it was impossible to upload photos.
Jacks down for the night at Winnemucca’s Walmart.
Lavonne whipped up some taco salad she prepared at home, and it was a real treat. And speaking of food, I fell off my diet worse that evening than any in recent memory. While shopping, I bought that favorite snack of mine, Crunch ‘n Munch, along with two large cans of beer. And as I wrote this blog, I imbibed enough calories for a whole day. Ugh. And I promised myself never again – and I didn’t enjoy that beer very much anyway.
After giving up the blogging in frustration with the cell service, I dug out the movie Driving Miss Daisy and began watching it for the umpteenth time. It is such a fun movie for me, and without a decent ‘net connection, watching anything online was not possible.
Lavonne headed to bed about an hour or so before I did. I followed at about 2300 hours. We ran the air conditioners for hours that evening, even some time after Lavonne retired. It was a warm evening – and we’d have another one the next night in Salt Lake City, although predicted to be a bit cooler.
Day 3, Winnemucca, NV to Salt Lake City, UT via I-80: 356 miles
We wanted to arrive in SLC before 1700 hours, and that would include losing an hour at the state line. Our granddaughter, Erica, lives in SLC and would meet us there at that time. Lavonne and Erica always go out to dinner when we can stay in SLC and meet her there.
But I’m getting ahead of our day. Because of the time best to meet Erica, we wanted to get a very early start. So we were up and around before 0600 to prepare for our day and pulled out of Winnemucca at 0645, a very early start for us.
I love to begin my day by driving a wide open, light traffic highway with lots of elbow room, and that morning was one of those great starts. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire day’s drive, even into SLC. We stopped in Battle Mountain, NV to fill up at the Maverik station. They were selling diesel for just $3.06, a price unmatched anywhere on our drive so far. I filled up with just 57 gallons, and wished I hadn’t added any the prior day. And in Wyoming diesel was selling in the $2.70 range. Yes, I’m obsessed with fuel prices since I live in Kalifornistan where the stuff often sells for over $4 per gallon.
Our drive was unremarkable as we like. We stopped to eat breakfast and lunch in the coach at rest areas, which we like to do – it’s best for both health and $$ reasons! (One of the tough parts of being well over 70 is that we remember restaurant breakfasts for about 80¢ and dime coffee while today we can’t buy restaurant breakfasts and coffee for both of us for less than $15!)
The day’s weather was nearly still and at times we even had a light tailwind to push us along. It was a wonderful drive.
More click fun:
We arrived at the SLC Parley Ave. Walmart a few minutes after 1600 and Lavonne had time to get ready for her date with granddaughter Erica. And right at 1700 hours Erica pulled up next to the coach. We visited a bit in the coach, and then they headed off for dinner at a nearby Italian place. I, as always, stayed in the coach and ate a frozen dinner. I do know how to have a good time!
After the gals left for dinner, I headed to the store for my daily walk, then shopped for a few items we needed. Back at the coach I whipped up dinner, showered, etc. and then tried to visit a few ‘net sites before catching up on my blogging. But once again, I was frustrated with the terrible slow AT&T service. The phone’s indicator showed 4G, not 4G LTE. And it was so hopeless I couldn’t even open my mail. Then, after awhile it showed LTE and worked as fast as our home cable ‘net connection! I guessed it was commute hour traffic on the network that slowed it down so badly, but I really don’t know.
Big Blue appears to be leaning over in this strange photo, but she’s the only level item as we dropped the jacks for the night at SLC’s Parley Ave. Walmart. The lot was sloped and the jacks leveled the coach. Note the dual tires off the ground at the lower right of the photo. The lot was not level, but Big Blue leveled herself automatically with the hydraulic jacks.
Grandma and Erica pose outside the coach. They had a grand time together during their dinner out – as always.
Around 1900 or so the gals returned home from their dinner out. Erica joined us in the coach and we visited for an hour or so, catching up with her life. She is just a sweet gal we really enjoyed visiting. When she bid us goodnight and left, Lavonne and I relaxed at the table on our computers. Lavonne surfed her favored websites and I tried to catch up on this blog. I had over 60 photos from the day’s adventure to weed through and edit plus the day’s story.
I headed to bed some time after Lavonne did – around 2330 Mountain time.
Day 4, Tuesday, SLC to Cheyenne, WY via I-80: 429 miles
When we were up and about we noticed that we had our usual access to the ‘net, or 4G LTE, to upload photos – and so I did. And I was finally caught up enough to publish my blog to the website.
We had a long haul planned for Day 4, at least for us old folks, of 429 miles. And we wanted to get underway early. So in spite of the time it took to upload all the photos for the past day or so, we hit the road at 0800.
We began pulling the long, steep grade up to Park City as soon as we left the Walmart lot. Big Blue stormed up it easily and we passed a lot of slower traffic – and were passed by faster traffic, mostly cars. Once beyond Park City we enjoyed the wonderful Coalville area which is some of the most beautiful country of our entire drive.
When we arrived at the very scenic Echo Reservoir, we stopped at a view area overlooking the reservoir. Lavonne whipped up breakfast for us. I tackled the bug collection on the windshields. It was a beautiful place to pause for a while.
More to click:
Not long after we left our breakfast stop, we reached the Wyoming line and drove literally hundreds of miles to the other side of the state where we would spend that night at a Walmart in Cheyenne.
Wyoming is huge. Wyoming is very, very empty – if one likes lots of elbow room they’ll find happiness there. They would also have to like lots of wind. And somehow enjoy cold, miserable winters, too. That may explain why the place is so empty. As I’ve written on earlier blogs, Wyoming has about 570,000 souls while the city of San Jose, Kalifornistan has more than twice that number! And, for proper perspective, one must realize that Wyoming is nearly 98,000 square miles while San Jose has 177 square miles. Did I say Wyoming is empty?!
Click for large photos and captions:
As mentioned in the above photo caption, much of our drive was windy, but for a change, it was almost always in our favor. Yep. We love tail winds and that’s what we had much of the day. And it was a strong tail wind much of the time. We got great mileage and a tail wind also makes the drive quieter. We like quieter.
We stopped at a rather grungy gas station near Laramie, WY that was selling diesel for just $2.76 per. I pumped on almost 68 gallons. That was a good choice as we hadn’t seen such a low price so far this entire trip! And we continued the long drive toward Cheyenne – and we were getting close.
We pulled the long, steep Sherman grade up to Sherman Summit at over 8600 feet, the highest spot on all of I-80. From there on into Cheyenne it was mostly downhill – and with a good tailwind, too!
Sherman Summit is the highest point on all of I-80.
We pulled into the Walmart near I-80 in Cheyenne, and set up for the night. As we drove east we saw gathering storm clouds ahead, and thunder storms were predicted. I was disappointed as the evening wore on that we got only a few rain drops along with quite a lot of wind, but no raging thunderstorm which I would have greatly enjoyed.
After we were set up in the Walmart lot, I headed to the store for my daily walk. Lavonne heated up more taco salad for dinner, and when I returned I enjoyed a wonderful dinner. We worked through the evening chores after dinner, and a bit later Lavonne headed to the store for some ice cream and a few things she needed.
Cheyenne’s Livingstone Ave. Walmart was our home for the night. Home, sweet home!
We enjoyed a lovely evening there in Cheyenne, needing neither the air conditioners nor the heater to keep comfortable. However, it was predicted that the low temperature was to be just 51°, so we’d have the heater set to keep the coach comfortable overnight. We retired at 2330 local time.
Day 5, Friday, June 14, Cheyenne, WY to Greenwood Village, CO via I-25, I-270, I-225: 120 miles
I was up at 0630 for our big day – we’d arrive at Allen and Nancy’s and spend a lovely weekend with them. We were looking forward to the good times, good eats, and relaxation.
I would have to dump the holding tanks that morning en route to the kids’ place. About five miles into our drive I pulled into the local Love’s station and pulled up to the RV dump site. After coughing up $10 for the service, I proceeded to dump the holding tanks. I also added a bit of fresh water to get us through the morning as I wasn’t sure we had much fresh left after four days on the road. And we continued south toward Denver.
Beautiful Colorado photos to click:
We pulled into the Welcome Center rest area a few miles into Colorado and whipped up breakfast. Lavonne bought the forbidden food, peanut butter, for this trip and she had a PBJ sandwich chased by a banana. I went hi-brow and toasted a couple frozen waffles and had a banana and clementine orange for dessert. And I also had a spoonful of peanut butter, the food not allowed in our house because I’m so addicted to the stuff. We do allow it on some of our trips, and this was apparently one of those trips. And we continued south.
Even though we drove a few extra miles to loop around the worst of Denver freeways, the traffic was heavy and we both hated the drive to and around Denver. It was stop and go some of the time, and hectic all of the time. But we prevailed, and we pulled into the kids’ driveway about noon. It was a big relief to be parked!
Upon arriving, I set the coach up for our stay. Because of the slope of the driveway I had to put blocks under the jacks for a bit more lift at the rear. Shortly after we arrived, Allen drove up and, as is traditional, he brought Chik-fil-A sandwiches and fries for lunch together.
We made it! Finally parked at Allen and Nancy’s beautiful home. (Click this photo to enlarge; click again for a huge photo.)
We went into the house and joined Allen for our traditional lunch of tasty Chik-fil-A sandwiches and waffle fries. After we ate, Lavonne and I returned to the coach awhile as Allen took care of some business calls in the house. He joined us in the coach a while later, and when Nancy arrived home, she joined us in the coach, too.
Allen and Nancy joined Lavonne and I in the coach for a visit. A bit later, Norma, Nancy’s mom, arrived and joined us. (This photo may also be enlarged as the above photo.)
When dinner time rolled around, it was decided that we’d bring in some barbecued ribs, brisket, cornbread, beans and coleslaw from the nearby Brothers BBQ restaurant. It was a delicious meal, and their cornbread won the highest praise, it seemed – it was wonderful!
After dinner we continued visiting on their very cozy patio. It is a beautiful place with lots of lawn and gardens surrounding their entire home.
The family continued to visit on the patio after our delicious Brothers BBQ dinner. (L-R Norma, Nancy, Lavonne, Allen, and that Tom Selleck look-alike fella.) Note their beautiful lawn and gardens. It is a very cozy place to enjoy hours spent with family. (This photo may also be enlarged.)
When the clock showed that it was nearly 2100, I retrieved my shower things from the coach, donned my robe and headed to the shower that is located in the kids’ basement. Their basement is very nicely finished and furnished, but is nearly unused. So it was pretty cold down there for a shower, but once in the shower, of course, the warm water made it very comfortable. And did I waste water! After four nights of quickie RV showers, I dawdled wondrously under that hot shower. ahhhhh.
After my shower, I bid everyone good-night, and headed to the coach for the night. On these trips, Lavonne prefers the guest bedroom in the house. Having a choice is a good thing, and I always choose the coach!
I watched the rest of Driving Miss Daisy when I returned to the coach – it is such a great movie – and I enjoyed a couple cool ones while watching it. I called it a day and climbed into bed about 2330. Other than the awful Denver traffic, it had been a very nice day.
Day 6, Saturday, at rest in Greenwood Village, CO.
I spent a very quiet and restful night in the coach. I believe it was cool enough that the heater came on in the bedroom to maintain 64°. I was up and around a bit after 0630.
As usual, everyone met in the living room to visit over coffee as we planned our day. The girls would go shopping, and Allen had some outside chores he tackled. He met the gals for lunch in town. I brought this blog up to date, and also vacuumed and dusted the coach. I took a walk around the very lovely park nearby. Except for my bit of housework, it was a lazy day.
A shot of the very well maintained park near the kids home where I like to take my walks.
During the afternoon and evening we played the card game Golf, and like the namesake, low score wins. It’s one of the few table games I find entertaining, even though I have to relearn how to play each time we visit.
Allen and Nancy planned a steak barbecue for dinner. Allen is very handy at the grill, and I was very pleased with the perfectly done, rare with warm center, New York steak he barbecued for me. We had asparagus and salad along with the perfect steaks. We ate on the patio and had a lovely visit over dinner.
As I headed to the coach for the night, I noticed that we had a lovely, full moon overhead. The tripod was right handy for a change, so I took several photos of the show. As moon photos go, this isn’t much, but it’s the best I could do that night. (This photo can be enlarged by clicking on it, and enlarged again with a second click.)
Around 2100 hours or so I headed to the coach for the night as my dear Wifey spent the night in the house. I watched the second part of the history documentary The Century; America’s Time which I’d seen many times but was still very informative and entertaining. I headed for bed in the very cozy Big Blue at 2330 for another quiet and very restful night.
Day 7, Sunday, June 16, another day at rest in Greenwood Village, CO
The seventh day, God rested. And we followed His lead this week. We didn’t do anything on our seventh day on the road other than rest and eat.
Well… I did wash the front of the coach, but that was it for me. And I did ride along with Allen to the nearby Boston Market for my requested meal on Father’s Day. I love the stuff, but the one nearest our home is 62 miles away – and I don’t love it that much! But I’m ahead of myself already.
It was Father’s Day, and Allen and I pretty much kicked back and let the ladies take care of breakfast. Allen flipped some pancakes but the gals did most of the work. I enjoyed pancakes, fried eggs, and bacon. For lunch we did the Boston Market thing. Dean called me. Allen’s kids, Erica and Jason, made a conference call to Allen on Skype. So our Father’s Day seemed to be well acknowledged and celebrated.
The day was so slow that I didn’t even break out the camera except for the following few photos – a relief for most family members!
I so wanted a huge thunderstorm with lots of rain during our visit. We had episodes of rolling thunder, and a few occasional sprinkles. We got this little bit of dampness on the last day of our visit and not much more. humph.
Our chef hard at work preparing chicken for dinner. Allen also grilled a bunch of chicken for us to enjoy as we continued our travels. What a guy!
Dinner is served! Another fine, authentic Mexican dinner by Nancy. I write often of her wonderful cooking, and here’s another example with her chili sauces (mild and hot) at the far right. Spread over the grilled chicken and those roasted baby potatoes, it was delicious. We also had tossed salad with baby tomatoes. What a feast! Norma joined us for awhile after dinner and she also got to enjoy the same feast. (Click to enlarge, click twice to get very hungry for some Mexican chow!)
We spent much of the afternoon watching the US Open played at Pebble Beach. I’m not a ball fan, and never paid much attention to golf, but the US Open was an interesting program. Of course Allen, publisher of the popular magazine Colorado Avid Golfer, is into golf in a big way. He got us interested in the program and was a fount of golf information when we had any questions.
Our lovely Father’s Day with the kids would be the last day of this visit and we’d be continuing our drive to Arkansas the next morning. Our visit was the usual good times with Allen and Nancy. They live very busy lives and are very involved with their businesses and their community. They are very sweet to shelve all the other activities to make time for the old folks, and we very much appreciate and enjoy our time with them.
I bid everyone a good night around 2000 hours, and headed to the coach for the night. I tapped away on the keyboard to update this blog and enjoyed a quiet evening aboard. I wanted to get to bed a little earlier than usual – we would be driving to Dodge City, Kansas the next day!
Day 8, Monday, Greenwood Village, CO to Dodge City, KS via I-25, CO86, I-70, US287, US50: 357 miles
The time had come to bid our dear kids goodbye. Allen and Nancy toted Lavonne’s belongings back to the coach after her stay in the house, and it was about time to leave. Earlier I had converted our cozy lil’ home on wheels back to a highway cruiser, filled the fresh water tank, and made ready for the long drive to Dodge City. After hugs and thanks all ’round, we boarded Big Blue and pulled out of their driveway.
Backing out of Allen and Nancy’s driveway after our lovely visit. We were on our way to Dodge City, KS and on to Arkansas – and maybe even on to Graceland in Tennessee!
…and away those Travelin’ Gillespies go! (Thanks for the very cool photos, Allen!)
We left Greenwood Village at 0830 and headed south on I-25 to Castle Rock, CO just a few miles down the interstate. There we’d take CO86 across much of rural Colorado and then on into Kansas.
That drive is one of my favorites this time of year when everything in the Midwest seems to be a carpet of green. It is a shutter bug’s world – around each curve of the highway another beautiful scene emerges. And in my case, I had to delete an awful lot of photos as I edited them because there just wasn’t enough room for them all.
We stopped in the little town of Elizabeth, CO for breakfast – in the Walmart lot, naturally. I hate to admit I had pie for breakfast, and a few chunks of watermelon for dessert. What?! No, that didn’t make sense, but that’s how it went. Lavonne settled for just the chunks of watermelon that Nancy bought already cubed at the supermarket. And we continued on across Colorado on the very rural CO86.
Click for beautiful, rural Colorado:
I missed the Welcome to Kansas sign, even though I aimed and shot, I missed. But soon there was no doubt we were in Kansas. The Kansas skyscrapers were common, as were cattle trucks and feed lots.
Kansas is not a healthy place for critters we humans find to be tasty! We passed one Tyson packing plant in a rural area with so many cars in the parking lot it looked more like an airport. There were signs on their lawn about their great benefits, etc. so I gathered they were looking for even more employees to process those tasty birds.
Click for Kansas photos:
We continued our drive along Kansas highways against a wind much of the time. It wasn’t a terribly strong wind, but enough to feel the buffeting sideways when a crosswind and it noticeably affected our mileage a bit. But Kansas and much of the Midwest is windy this time of year. We just drove on.
We came to an awful detour in the Garden City, Kansas area that required us to drive through the town. Highway US50 was shut down for major reconstruction and we had no choice but to take the detour. Eventually, however, we wound up back on the highway and continued on to Dodge City where we would spend the night.
More click fun:
We pulled into the Dodge City, Kansas Walmart at 1815 hours. We were two hours later in Kansas than home time, and along with the time consuming detour, that lost hour made our arrival quite a bit later than usual.
Once set up in the Walmart lot for the night, we walked into the store where I took my walk and we shopped for a number of items we needed. Back in the coach we had dinner. I zapped a frozen dinner and had a clementine orange. And, of course, a piece of that delicious apple pie Allen and Nancy gave us. It is impossible to decline apple pie!
After dinner and my shower, I began editing photos and writing this blog. We ran the air conditioners ’til well after dark as it was mid 80s and fairly humid in cowboy country. Eventually things cooled down pretty nicely and open windows were enough to keep us comfortable.
We couldn’t quite fit that second lost hour into our evening, so we went by Mountain Time ’til morning. It’s kinda tough going to bed two hours early and still get all the stuff done.
About the time I called it a day it was midnight local time but I considered it 2300. When I crawled into bed at 2330, the rain began. And did we have a wonderful storm – I finally got my glorious thunderstorm! Lightening flashed, thunder rolled, and rain came down in buckets! It rained on and off all night long. When the rain came down, it was usually hard and heavy. And I was pleased that I finally got my often wished for thunderstorm.
Day 9, Tuesday, Dodge City, KS to Pittsburg, KS via US50, KS96, US400: 341 miles
After we were up and around a while, the rain completely stopped. The sky was overcast and threatening, but that was all. After morning coffee, breakfasts, and perusing the ‘net on our laptops, we continued the drive east at 0930.
This day would find us landing in Pittsburg, Kansas where two of my favorite restaurants are located. Well… not actually in town, but out in the boonies. Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s sit side by side, as they have since the 1930s, and sell mighty fine fried chicken. Chicken from one of those, maybe some from both, would be dinner for us that day and I was very much looking forward to it. But I’m ahead of myself again.
The drive was just wonderful. The parts of Kansas we drive are the true heartland where crops are grown by mostly hard working and good people. Traffic jams are nearly unheard of and the country is just beautiful. Driving through this part of the country would restore anyone’s faith in country and people.
We stopped somewhere along the drive for lunch, but I’ll be darned if either of us can remember where. But we did order only PBJs at the local Dale’s Diner as we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for the dinner we had planned. Naturally, we had to prepare the food ourselves; Dale’s Diner seems to be a do-it-yourself outfit.
About 30 miles into the day’s drive, we drove through the intersection where we had that awful accident going on two years ago. We stopped and visited with the gal who runs the small motel where we were taken by the KHP and called for a cab to drive us back to Dodge City where that day’s drive began. She remembered us and we remembered her, for sure. She was very kind and helpful during that awful time after the accident. The story is here.
Click for photos of the intersection:
One highlight of the day was finding diesel at just $2.64 per at a QuikTrip mini mart station near Wichita, KS. We hadn’t seen a better price anywhere so far the entire trip, and I was very pleased to pump on a bit over 78 gallons.
Click for larger photos and to read the captions:
…and a couple more to click and read!
The planned dinner at Chicken Annie’s was to be the highlight of the day. And we weren’t disappointed. We ordered margaritas and onion rings to start, and both were very good. The chicken was good and tender and piping hot. Our young teen waitress was a real pleasure – she had a wonderful personality and her service was first rate. The meal was good – and it was cheap. The drinks were just $4.25 each; that’s half what I usually pay at Dave Wong’s Chinese food in Kalifornistan. Our dinner bill, including everything, was just $31. That wouldn’t likely happen anywhere back home!
Click for our visit to Chicken Annie’s:
After the lovely dinner, we drove down the country road to a highway and on into Pittsburg and the Walmart store. The road out in the country where the chicken restaurants are located is very narrow and lanes are not even marked with a center line. Cows graze just feet from the shoulder of the road. It is very, very rural and I loved it!
When we arrived at the Pittsburg Walmart, after setting up for the night, I walked into the store for a few things we needed. Back in the coach I showered, then began editing photos and whacking the keyboard. It was quite a day and a lot to write about.
And we got another thunder storm! A huge black cloud was coming our way, so I checked local weather. Heavy rain and a warning that winds could reach 50 MPH convinced me to move the coach into the wind. I raised the jacks, brought in the slides, and set up again facing the wind. And did we get a show! Rain came down heavily as lightening flashed and thunder rolled across the sky. I loved it. And after the storm settled down, the rain kept up for hours. It was a real Midwestern gully washer!
Parked at the Pittsburg, Kansas Walmart. A storm warning of winds to over 50 MPH made me move from here to face into the wind which never reached 50 MPH, but was very strong for a while.
The clock on the coach living room wall read home time which was two hours earlier than local time! By home time, we would be in bed by 2130, and while that seemed early, it had been a pretty long day. We slept well as it rained on and off through the night.
Day 9, Wednesday, June 19, Pittsburg, KS to Mena, AR via US60, KS171, MO71, MO249, US71, I-49, I-40, I-540, US71 (again): 256 miles
As we began our day at 0630 it was sprinkling outside. It had been a pretty wet night and it kept us comfortable. The day would find us visiting Lavonne’s cousin in Waldron, Arkansas for an early dinner at 1600.
We planned to visit nearby Mt. Ida the next couple days, and were not sure where we’d spend the coming night, but perhaps at a Walmart in Mena, AR. Thursday night we planned to spend out in the Arkansas woods at another cousin’s country place where we once stayed on a prior visit aboard Big Blue I. We looked forward to the next few days with some concern as the weather was predicted to be hot with high humidity – but after all, we were about to visit The South and Friday would be the first day of summer!
Our early morning was very relaxed as we had ’til 1600 to arrive at Waldron, just 213 miles away. I shopped at bit at Walmart and we spent quite a bit of time on our laptops keeping up to date with friends and family, blogging and visiting our usual websites.
It was going on 1100 before we finally pulled out of Pittsburg and headed to Arkansas. We would drive through a bit more of Kansas, then Missouri and on into Arkansas. And it would be a beautiful drive.
Click for photos and captions of our beautiful drive:
We so enjoyed the scenic views around nearly every bend in the road as we cruised through Missouri and on into Arkansas. Everything was green and lush. We had been told, and witnessed some ourselves, of the very wet spring season in the south. We had a good, wet rainy season in Kalifornistan, too, and while some farmers have been hurt, such as cherry growers in our area, it was good to see the lakes and reservoirs full. We had also read of farmers in other areas whose planting had been delayed by rains.
We were looking forward to visiting with Lavonne’s cousin, Betty, and husband, Paul for an early dinner in the small Arkansas town of Waldron. We were to meet them at a Mexican restaurant there at 1600 hours. They had visited us in our hometown a year ago when they were traveling, and this would be the first time we’d seen them since.
When we met, we caught up with each other’s family news, etc., and enjoyed a very nice Mexican dinner with them. For dessert we ordered deep fried ice cream, a delicious idea found in many Mexican restaurants. We all enjoyed the unusual delicacy.
Click for photos of our lunch with Betty and Paul:
After our visit, we drove to a local RV park and paid $10 to dump our tanks and fill the fresh water tank. Then we drove about 35 miles to the small town of Mena, Arkansas and parked at their Walmart store – the only one in the immediate area since the one in Waldron closed a couple years ago. We would spend the night there, then drive about 40 miles to Mt. Ida where we’d meet a number of Lavonne’s Arkansas kin. We made the same visit back in September of 2015.
Arkansas roadsides are often ablaze with the color of wildflowers. Click to view some examples!
In Mena, we were treated to our third thunderstorm show in three nights! We saw the huge, black clouds ahead as we drove the 35 miles to Mena, and the storm held off ’til we were set for the night. Then for something over an hour, the storm let go with a torrent of rain and lightening and thunder. I loved it! Again! We count these storms as blessings as they cool down the weather from the high temperatures and humidity – and are very entertaining to me.
Click for a few more photos of our first day in Arkansas:
During and after the showy storm, we worked our way through the evening chores, and had a couple hours to just relax as we wished. The next day we’d spend with a number of folks who would gather together near Mt. Ida at Hank and Lanelle’s home in the woods. We would spend the night there as well.
Day 10, Thursday, Mena, AR to Mt. Ida, AR via AR88, US270: 50 miles
Thursday dawned cool in Mena, but it would not last long. We made a fairly lazy morning of it since we weren’t expected in Mt. Ida ’til 1100 hours. We enjoyed a junk-food breakfast of a donut and a muffin and generally took it easy as we were both on our laptops much of the morning. I also took my daily walk in the store.
This 1950s classic style drive-in, named CruZers, seemed to be alive and thriving in the small Arkansas town of Mena. It was a throw-back moment for us as we thought such things were long gone. (Click to enlarge.)
We would visit both sides of Lavonne’s Arkansas family that day – or in other words, we’d attend two family reunions that day! Two! First, we met with family on her dad’s side, her cousin Bill’s widow, Wanda, at 1100. Bill’s brother, 93 year old J.W. was there, too. Two of his sons dropped by to visit as well, Wayne and James. Lavonne was pleased to see each one of them and they talked family the entire time. It was a nice visit.
Click for photos of our short drives along Arkansas highways:
We had talked to Wanda the day before, and told her not to prepare any food or go to any trouble for us. But that’s not how it’s done in Arkansas. When we arrived she had a full spread of home made spaghetti, garlic bread, salad – and key lime pie for dessert. Naturally, we dug right in with the rest of them and it was a very good meal.
When it was time to leave, they all climbed aboard the coach for a look at the interior. They all complimented on how much room it had for us and wished us safe travels. Most memorable was watching almost 94 year old J.W. climb those six steps into the coach – he marched up them like his much younger sons, and we were amazed. He didn’t put one foot on a step, then the other as one might expect of someone his age. No, he stepped one foot on each step like anyone else and was aboard at once and required no help. He was an amazingly agile 93 year old.
The clan on Lavonne’s dad’s side was our first reunion of the day. That’s (L-R) Dale, Lavonne, Wayne, Wanda, the 93 year old J.W., and James.
Lavonne’s folks met and married in Arkansas as young kids, and in the 1930s, 11 of them, all family, climbed into an old Chevrolet pickup and headed to California. Yes, those were the dust bowl and depression days. They were among the “Okies” and “Arkies” who migrated west in search of work – any work – and often wound up working crops, as Lavonne’s parents did. Many returned to their home states over time, but Lavonne’s mom and dad did very well in Kalifornistan.
Lavonne’s mom and dad back in the Arkansas days before moving to Kalifornistan in about 1936.
Her dad was a brilliant and very successful salesman and her mom was a very hard worker. Besides that, they invested in many rental properties. Many members of both sides of the families are still in Mt. Ida, and that is why we had so many people to visit.
Our next visit was to be around 1500 hours at Hank and Lanelle’s place out in the woods near Mt. Ida. After leaving Wanda and the fellas, we drove into the small town and parked for an hour or so and caught up with our ‘net things. I worked some more on this travelogue to keep up with all the goings-on.
Then we drove a very few miles to Hank’s place and followed the gravel road to their nice home in the Arkansas woods. Hank built their home with the timber on their own land – these folks come from hardy stock! Another cousin, Gabe, was also there when we arrived. He drove three hours from Oklahoma to be at this larger gathering. After I got the coach backed into its spot where Hank had a 30 amp plug for RVs, I headed into the house to begin visiting. It was there I learned that the gathering was to be at a lakeside park near their home – just a couple miles or so away. It was in the 90s and very humid, and I was surprised we’d have this reunion outdoors on such a day. But I agreed to go along.
For me it was not pleasant at the lake. It was hot. It was humid. I sweated and swatted at flies regularly. There were about 20 family members in all who gathered together and they seemed to have a grand time. They were very friendly and loving folks who are all related in some way to one another. Lavonne had a grand time visiting with them all – and they were all there for one reason – Jewell’s daughter (Lavonne) was in town and they all wanted to see her – and of course visit with each other. It was as though I was married to a star!
One photo does not do justice to the very happy family reunion at the lake (and you can easily see who is the star attraction), and this is only part of the group. It was a hot and sticky day in Arkansas, but these folks were all used to it and nobody complained – except me! (Click to enlarge this photo; click twice for a huge photo.)
The hamburgers and hot dogs were ready in due time, fresh off the grills, and we all dug in. I had a double burger with baked beans and a piece of pecan pie. It was a tasty lunch, and I enjoyed it. The flies tried to steal it, but with enough swats, I thwarted their efforts!
The beautiful Lake Ouachita near Mt. Ida where our second reunion of the day took place. It is a very beautiful place and was not at all crowded.
After I was done eating I heard that Gabe, the cousin who drove in from Oklahoma, was leaving soon as he wanted to return home that evening. When he left, I joined him and he dropped me off at our coach. I was very pleased to be back in the air conditioned comfort of Big Blue! I was done sweating and swatting for the day, and soon after getting back, I took my shower. I was so relieved! Lavonne stayed at the lake with the family, and that was the right thing for her to do. But not me!
After I got back to the coach and showered, I began work on the day’s blogging. The coach was plugged into Hank’s 30 amp power, and the air conditioners kept things cool and comfy.
Big Blue set up for the night out in the woods at Hank’s place. He had a 30 amp plug for RVs and we kept the coach cool and comfy all night.
Lavonne, Lanell and Hank arrived back home about 2030 hours after the reunion picnic was over. They’d all had a good time, and Lavonne also headed to the shower as soon as she could after the hot, humid day at the lake.
We visited for a short time upon their return, and agreed to join them for breakfast at 0800 the next morning. The night was warm and humid, and I got up twice during the night to turn on the bedroom air conditioner to keep it under 80°. Even so, we slept well out there in the peaceful Arkansas woods.
Day 12, Friday, June 21, the first day of Summer, Mt. Ida, AR to Hensley, AR and Henryetta, OK, via US270, US70, US167, I-30, I-530, I-40: 345 miles
We woke up out in the Arkansas woods to what would be the hottest and most humid day of the trip. When we were up and around at 0630 hours, it was already muggy if not terribly hot, and I turned the air on right away.
We were to join Hank and Lanell for breakfast at 0800, and after getting ready and spending a bit of time online, we walked over to their home. Lanell served up small pancakes, turkey sausage and turkey bacon, and scrambled eggs – and I had seconds of everything! It was a very good breakfast. We visited ’til it was time to get Big Blue set up for the highway. I excused myself to do so, and when I was done we bid the good folks good-bye with much thanks for the hospitality. We headed down the gravel road to the highway at 0900 hours.
We would begin the trip back home on that day, but first we had one more relative to visit, and she was about 80 miles farther east in the town of Hensley, Arkansas. Della is Lavonne’s cousin on her mom’s side, and now in their 70s, the gals would meet for the first time since childhood.
Della and Lavonne visited for the first time since childhood at Della’s home in Hensley, AR.
Della cares for her ailing husband and is a full time care giver. Their visit was very pleasant and heart warming for them after all those years. After a bit over an hour, we had to begin our trip home. We bid our good-byes after the short visit, and Della returned to her caregiver duties.
In all, during this Family Tour 2019, Lavonne enjoyed reuniting with 25 Arkansas relatives over the past three day. But it was time to head for home – and with the torrid heat and humidity of Arkansas, it was none too soon!
I cussed the weather and the rotten Arkansas and Oklahoma roads as we headed west on I-40 which would take us all the way to Barstow, Kalifornistan. That first day of our long drive home took us to the town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. Henryetta?! That seemed such a strange spelling, but it’s their town, not mine.
More to click:
Too many sections of road in both Arkansas and Oklahoma were rough and overdue for repair, or more likely, replacement.
The entire drive was hot and humid. We ran the dash air conditioner all day long to stay comfortable. If we could have suddenly and magically appeared back home, we would have done so! As it was, we had several days of hot weather to endure. We hoped that when we got to the panhandle of Texas or into New Mexico and beyond, the humidity would be much less, and our comfort would improve.
Lavonne whipped up sandwiches for lunch at a rest area somewhere along the drive. For such stops on miserably hot days, we fire up the generator and house air conditioners a while before we plan to stop so as to cool down the rest of the coach. We were comfortable as those house air conditioners were very effective.
We finally arrived at the Walmart in Henryetta, OK at 1800 hours. As before, we fired up the house air conditioners before we arrived, and were comfortable in the coach. We were surprised by the small Walmart we found in Henryetta! We called earlier to be sure they would put up with us, and as usual, we were welcomed. But there was just no room in the small parking lot. As I began to pull out of the lot to continue the drive, I noticed a lot at the side of the store that seemed a possibility. I drove to the side and there was shade! Shade would be a great thing for us, so I pulled up next to the store into the store’s shade and parked. I asked an associate if that would be Ok, and he said it was fine. So, after all the uncertainty, we had ourselves a wonderful, shady place to park – well… as wonderful as could likely be in the hot and humid Henryetta, OK!
I went into the little store and took my daily walk. The comparatively small Walmart was clean and neat and tidy, as is nearly every Walmart we visit, and we’ve seen a lot of them. It was surprising how much merchandise the little store carried. I also shopped a bit for a couple items we needed. For dinner, I walked next door to a Taco Bell and bought a few tacos for us. They hit the spot.
After editing too many photos and blogging much of the evening away, I watched more of the The Century – America’s Time on YouTube. What a history we have in just the last century!
At 2245 hours, the temperature outside was 86° and the humidity was 70%! In the coach it was a comfortable 77° and it seemed very likely that we’d run the air conditioners all night long.
I headed to bed at 2330 hours, about an hour after my Trail Buddy retired. It had been a long day – but thanks to Big Blue’s diesel generator and two air conditioners, it was a fairly comfortable one.
Day 13, Saturday, Henryetta, OK to Amarillo, TX via I-40: 342 miles
Yep. We ran the generator and both air conditioners all night long, and didn’t shut them off even in the morning – it was just too hot and muggy even at 0700 local time. I couldn’t imagine living like that!
We were up and about by 0630 and eager to continue our return home. We were ready to be home! While I love driving across country and all the sights, etc., I certainly do not like such humid weather!
At 0730 Saturday morning as I wrote this, it was 79° outside and the humidity was 88%! We are used to a “dry” heat in the Central Valley, and if it has to be hot outdoors, we want it to be dry, as well.
We pulled out of the hot and uncomfortable Henryetta, OK at 0800 and continued east on I-40.
Not a bad start to the day when one can drive such lonely highways through such beautiful country – provided one has air conditioning!
I had to buy propane that day, and when we called ahead to a certain Love’s station, they said they had propane. We pulled into a nearby station first to fill up with much less expensive diesel. Then we drove over to the Love station only to discover they sold/exchanged only the small tanks of propane. That didn’t work for us; we had to find some bulk propane and have it pumped into our much larger tank.
Back on the highway we found another Love’s station online and called to see if theirs was bulk – and it was. So we stopped and filled our tank, at last. Nearly $53 later, we pulled back onto the highway and continued our trek toward home.
We finally found some bulk propane and filled our tank with the stuff!
It was a pretty windy drive across Oklahoma, but nothing more serious than reducing our fuel mileage. We didn’t get even eight miles per gallon that day, and that hurts.
All aboard Greyhound:
Once in the Texas panhandle, the wind decreased, but by then we were climbing much of the time. Amarillo is at 3600 feet while Henryetta, OK is less than 700 feet. It takes even more fuel to climb to higher elevations!
Welcome to Texas! (Please pardon the bug splatters on the day’s photos.)
Somewhere along the drive we pulled into a Mickey D’s for a large coffee and hot fudge sundae for me. I needed the sugar jolt to wake me up. Lavonne had a small McFlurry. And we continued on.
The sugar jolt was almost enough to call it lunch, but not quite. Later in the drive, Lavonne made up some PBJ slices of bread and we each had one. We love that PBJ and it is pretty filling!
Click for some very interesting sights along I-40 in Groom, Texas (You can scroll down a bit and click on “View full size”, then click on the photo to make it larger. Click again for a huge photo. Enlarging will make the stations of the cross very easy to see.):
More info on the Groom, Texas sights is here.
As we began to drive through Amarillo, heading for a Walmart there, the traffic came to a dead stop. Then it crawled along between stopped and 5 MPH for a while ’til my Trail Buddy noticed a Cracker Barrel just off the freeway. We turned off at once and pulled in.
Now, we had no clue what the traffic jam was about but we didn’t want to be a part of it. It turned out to be construction, and not long after we pulled off, a semi and a motorcycle collided and the highway was closed down completely for a while. We really felt lucky to have pulled into the Cracker Barrel because they welcome RVers to overnight on their lots. And that’s just what we decided to do.
When the time rolled around for dinner, we ordered our dinners online at the Cracker Barrel. A few minutes later we walked into the store and about ten minutes later walked out with our dinners. The place was as loud as most popular restaurants are, and we didn’t need to hear it.
We ate our meals in the coach where screaming kids and loud, inconsiderate adults are not allowed. As for our meals, I have complained often that Cracker Barrel, which purports to be a country restaurant, didn’t offer fried chicken. Well, now they do, and I intended to try it on this trip. And I can report that Chicken Annie’s in Pittsburg, KS where I ate earlier this trip has nothing to fear from Cracker Barrel. But their “sawmill gravy” was delicious, as were their fried apples and many of their other food choices.
Big Blue at the Amarillo, Texas Cracker Barrel for the night.
We spent the evening as usual, mostly on our laptops, keeping up with the sites we usually visit. Much of my evening was devoted to this blog and editing photos. I watched more of The Century: America’s Time and was up to episode seven, 1941 – 1945: Home Front. That episode is my favorite because it is about the times in which I was born, and it tells of the heroic efforts of my parent’s generation, The Greatest Generation, which literally saved the world – and our country – as well as democracy! What heroes they were (and some still remain)! Check it out on YouTube if you are so inspired.
We went to bed at the usual times and presumed our day to be over. But no, we had a rude awakening about 0030 hours after we were both sound asleep. The CO alarm in our bedroom sounded loud and shrill to let us know it had detected deadly carbon monoxide. Yikes! What the…?! It turned out to be no surprise because we were parked in the Cracker Barrel RV parking area, cheek by jowl with a large 5th wheel rig that had parked next to us and had been running his gas generator all night. We were so close that some of the exhaust must have gotten into the coach and triggered the alarm. So… we simply had to move, and we did. After the move to another part of the lot, we settled in for the rest of the night. We slept soundly ’til around 0700 when we awoke to greet the new day.
Day 14, Sunday, June 23, Amarillo, TX to Grants, NM via I-40: 358 miles
We were in Sunday mode, it seemed, and moved a bit slower than usual. The morning was low keyed and we were in no hurry to move on. I guess we’d had enough excitement during the wee hours when the alarm sounded. After we were done with morning chores around 0830, Lavonne wanted to check out the gift shop inside Cracker Barrel. The prior evening when we went in to pick up our dinner, it was ready so quickly that she didn’t have time to do any “serious” shopping. Serious is the code word for actually buying something; she was serious on that Sunday morning’s foray into the gift shop.
We mostly dawdled ’til about 0845 when we pulled out of the Cracker Barrel lot and continued west on I-40. The once closed interstate was open with light Sunday morning traffic and we enjoyed the drive – but not the wind! And it was windy.
Click for Texas photos!
The wind tried to push us off the road most of the day. Such driving is tiring and frustrating – but even so, I enjoyed the long drive. The drive was uphill most of the time as Amarillo sits at 3600 feet while Grants, NM is at 6500 feet.
New Mexico greeted us with its usual splashy welcome sign. And there were two more signs to greet us just to be sure we felt welcomed, I supposed. (Photo credit: Lavonne)
As we drove through Texas we enjoyed a smooth and well maintained Interstate 40. New Mexico was quite another matter. There were some smooth sections, of course, but there were entirely too many miles of broken highway that beat us and the coach during much of the drive.
Broken I-40 through New Mexico was bad enough that we saw one large billboard summoning support for highway repairs in New Mexico. Careful, New Mexico… you do not want to wind up like Kalifornistan!
The wind continued to blow as we climbed and climbed up I-40 to Grants, NM. The next day we would cross the Continental Divide between Grants and Gallup, NM at over 7200 feet.
The cost of fuel seemed to go higher the farther we drove west. The best I could do on Day 14 was $2.72, but I gladly coughed up the money to fill up at a station in Santa Rosa, NM. Back home $2.72 would be an unrealistic fantasy! I also had to dump the holding tanks that day, and by Lavonne calling ahead, she found a Love’s Travel Plaza in Tucumcari, NM with a RV dump facility. For $10 I dumped both holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank. We’d be good for three or four more days.
Click for more photos of the day’s drive:
We stopped for lunch at a rest area somewhere along I-40 and I zapped a bowl of soup and toasted a ciabatta roll. Lavonne whipped up a PBJ. And we continued west.
Beautiful New Mexico!
We finally arrived at Grants, NM and pulled into their Walmart lot for the night. Having called ahead, we knew we’d be welcomed. The place looked like a truck stop with all the trucks lined up on the opposite side of the lot we chose. We had a lovely view of the New Mexican landscape from our spot in the lot, and the place seemed very quiet.
Our cozy little home on wheels overlooking the New Mexican landscape.
Right after we arrived, we headed to the store where we picked up a few items we needed and I took my daily walk. The place was busy, naturally, on a Sunday afternoon, but we were not delayed at all.
Back at the coach we busied ourselves with dinner, showers, and the usual time on the laptops. I edited the day’s photos and tapped out this blog of the day’s travels. It was good to be settled in our little home on wheels after the long, wind-blown drive. We had a very quiet section of the lot and had a pleasant evening and night – and thankfully, it was a pretty cool one.
Day 15, Monday, June 24, Grant, NM to Kingman, AZ via I-40: 392 miles
What a difference a few hundred miles and a couple of days can make! We dealt with very hot weather and high humidity just three nights ago in Henryetta, Oklahoma, running the air conditioners all night long. Yet we actually had the heaters running a bit as we slept in Grant – the temps dropped into the 50s. I much prefer the cooler nights!
As seen in the photo above, we parked for the night on the edge of the lot, next to the open country – and our nearest neighbors were nearly under our feet – a town of prairie dogs! Their front doors were dug into the dirt right next to the coach. The little things seemed almost fearless of me as I checked the outside of the coach that morning – one pup walked right up to my feet as I shot photos of him (or her). They sure were cute and inquisitive little critters and I enjoyed the time I spent photographing them.
Click for the cute lil’ Prairie Dogs:
We spent a few minutes with our laptops as we enjoyed our morning coffee. I went into the store and pumped some water from their water machine into our four empty gallon containers we use to carry drinking and coffee water. At 39¢ per gallon, it’s a handy, safe way to resupply our drinking water.
Back at the coach we set up for the day’s drive to Kingman, AZ, and pulled out of the lot at 0800 hours Mountain Time. We had a long drive planned including a lot of climbing and descending high passes of over 7000 feet.
We stopped twice to eat, as well. We had breakfast aboard the coach somewhere along I-40 but we cannot remember where. But I remember the food! I had oatmeal with banana and a slice of our summer’s first cantaloupe. And it was sweet as could be. For lunch we stopped at a rest area near the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona. We stopped at the crater years ago, and it is a mighty interesting place to visit. But not twice – at least not for us. Lavonne made a great ham sandwich for her handsome driver and we both enjoyed more sweet cantaloupe.
Beautiful New Mexico – Click for larger photos:
We stopped for fuel once although I certainly didn’t have to as I had over half a tank. But prices along the drive made me believe I was about out of opportunities to buy fuel for less than $3 per gallon. So I pulled into a Union 76 station in Holbrook, AZ and filled up at $2.79 per.
We arrived at Kingman, Arizona’s Walmart at 1700 hours, and set up for the night. It was well into the 90s and we ran the air conditioners ’til bedtime. It was hot – but it wasn’t humid and we certainly counted that as a plus after the night in Henryetta, OK a few nights earlier.
I ordered Chinese from Panda Express online as a store was almost next to the coach. I enjoyed a very good meal of teriyaki chicken and honey walnut prawns. Lavonne opted for more cantaloupe. Enjoying my delicious Chinese dinner, I did not envy her meal nor she mine. Choice is good.
More photos to click and enlarge and read the captions:
We had a comfortable evening so long as the air conditioners were on. I wrote much of the day’s blog, but uploaded very few photos as we were about out of our AT&T data allotment and I wasn’t going to buy anymore. What I don’t use within two months they steal back anyway! It’s a nutty system but it seems all of the carriers do about the same thing.
Day 16, Tuesday, Kingman, AZ to Tehachapi, CA via I-40, CA58: 294 miles
I was up at 0600 and Lavonne joined me not long after. We took our time that morning as we were in no rush to arrive at Tehachapi for the night. The later we arrived the cooler the weather might be.
The day dawned sunny and bright. Forecasts along our route were for hot weather and windy conditions. I don’t like either very much, but we had to cross the deserts of Arizona and Kalifornistan which would include the murderously hot Needles, CA. Ugh. We planned to drive to Tehachapi, CA near the summit of the Tehachapi Mountains where it was predicted to have a high of only 83° and the low for the coming night was to be 54°. That sounded wonderful, and we’d be a one day’s drive from home unless we visited Lavonne’s cousin near Visalia. That we would decide later in the day.
I headed into Walmart for a couple items, then tackled the bug collection on the huge windshields. We both relaxed with our laptops checking on the wider world before beginning our drive.
We pulled out of Kingman, AZ about 0830 and with Arizona’s decision to keep standard mountain time all year and not have daylight savings time, we were the same as Pacific daylight savings time – in other words, we were back on home time!
I was told long ago by my son, Dean, who works as a software salesman in the mobile phone testing industry, about dealing with mobile phone companies. He simply advised me to find a good carrier to hate, and to stick with them. And I have learned to do just that with AT&T! I tried to get along without their expensive data charges for the last day or two of this trip because we used up the last of our monthly data provision. I thought I’d try to get along with their “slow” data which my plan provided, but it was so slow that it wasn’t useful to us. We rely on our phone hotspots to connect our laptop computers to the ‘net as we travel and that requires “fast” data speed. And so I humbled myself and signed onto an “unlimited” data plan that would see us home. And I will change again at home to a much less expensive plan! And I’d have to pay extra charges no doubt for my changes, but that was the price to stay connected, I reckoned.
We topped off the tank with diesel fuel at a Love’s station, the last opportunity along Arizona’s I-40 before entering Kalifornistan, so as to save a bit more on fuel. I try my best to spend as little as possible on fuel because it is so high priced – especially in Kalifornistan where it sells for about $4 per gallon. I bought the last non-Kalifornistan fill up at that Love’s station for $3.05 per, and that will be it ’till the next time I’m in another state. Stupid politicians are the sole reason for such crazy price disparities as we had seen on our Arkansas trip.
We were back in Kalifornistan within a few miles of leaving Kingman. The Welcome to California sign always brings mixed emotions for me, because that’s where home is, darn it. And we continued east on I-40 toward Barstow.
We whipped up breakfast while at that last Love’s station to top off a tank that was 3/4 full. I zapped one of those Jimmy Dean Delight breakfast sandwiches and Lavonne cut up fruit as well. For lunch we stopped at a rest area out in the hot and windy desert in Kalifornistan known as Desert Oasis Rest Stop. We took our sweet time there so as to arrive later at Tehachapi, CA where a fairly cool evening was predicted.
At least Kalifornistan tries to keep drivers aware of rest area closures. This trip saw too many closed rest areas. In one area of Oklahoma, there were two rest areas a ridiculous 189 miles apart – and none in between. And both were closed with no warning whatsoever. A similar situation existed in New Mexico. We saw so many closed rest areas that we looked online for an explanation. We found that one cause is that many motorists now choose the large travel plazas such as Love’s and Flying J, etc., over rest areas, so rest area use has fallen off. Also, the states have cut funding and closed rest areas. There is talk of permitting commercial establishments such as gas stations and restaurants to build at rest areas so that the states can earn income to pay for their upkeep. During my Grand American Loop back in 2005 when I circled the whole USA, I saw such arrangements in the east, and they seemed a good idea. I’d support having restaurants and gas stations at rest areas.
The drive from about Barstow to Tehachapi was not so pleasant. The wind blew constantly and it was hot – in the 90s. It gets much hotter in those parts, but it was more than hot enough for us, although Big Blue’s dash air conditioner kept us comfy. It was mostly a long pull from Barstow at about 2200 feet elevation to Tehachapi at about 4000 feet.
Having called the Tehachapi Kmart during our drive to be sure we could park on their lot, and it was fine, we arrived there about 1630 hours. We drove about three miles through the town of Tehachapi to the Kmart, and settled in for the night. There was no Walmart there, fortunately for Kmart, and we knew both chains usually welcomed RVers.
More click fun and captions:
I took my daily walk in the store shortly after we arrived. It was sad, really, the few customers and employees I saw there. It was a Tuesday afternoon and perhaps a slower time for them, but Walmarts seem to always to be buzzing with much more activity.
I walked across the lot to a Burger King that shares the same shopping center with Kmart. I got a Whopper each for Lavonne and I, and how ’bout this? Burger King was out of mayonnaise and ketchup! I told the young girl at the counter that can’t be! I’d lose all faith in mankind! But it was true; a sign on their wall declared it so. Is nothing sacred?! I survived since we had both in the coach fridge. Still… how could the burger icon be out of ketchup and mayonnaise?!
Click for more photos of the day’s drive:
The weather in Tehachapi was all it was predicted to be. A bit after 1900 I opened up the windows and the door and let the cool, 74° breeze flow through the coach. It was downright refreshing.
Lavonne talked to her cousin in Exeter, CA that evening, and we would visit him over lunch the next day around noon in the Central Valley town of Visalia. Then we’d visit a cemetery near the town of Exeter, Lavonne’s birthplace, where Lavonne’s parents are buried along with other family members. We would arrive home on Thursday, Day 18.
Jacks down on the Kmart lot in Tehachapi, Kalifornistan. Note the big, red K in the background. We enjoyed a lovely, cool evening there.
Our evening in Tehachapi unfolded about the same as all our evenings on the road – except that we were comfortable without running the air conditioners half the night. That was a nice change. I watched a bit more of the history documentary again, and we enjoyed a quiet evening in the small town.
Day 17, Wednesday, June 26, Tehachapi, CA to Selma, CA via CA58, CA99: 173 miles
I was up and about a bit after 0630 and joined Lavonne who was up a few minutes earlier. We worked through our morning chores as usual. The day would find us back in the heavy Kalifornistan traffic of CA58 as we headed down the Tehachapi Mountains to Bakersfield. Then we’d head north on the awful state highway known as CA99 with its lousy, rough pavement and endless traffic. Yep. We were nearing home.
As we prepared to leave for the day’s drive, we noticed another furry visitor outside the coach – actually, we’d seen several ground squirrels running around on the street, but this one was climbing around in the rosemary plants and seemed interested in the coach. I grabbed my camera and got a pretty cute shot of him looking us over. This was two furry visitors in two mornings.
Our second furry, morning visitor in two mornings! Ground squirrels were running around the area and mostly on the street, it seemed. This one was eyeing us from the rosemary plants.
Once we pulled out of Kmart and were driving through a bit of town to the on ramp for CA58 west, we passed a Walmart store that appeared very nearly completed and almost ready for its grand opening. Poor Kmart. They just can’t win, it seems. When Walmart opens, it will almost certainly spell the end of the local Kmart. (The Kmart closed about six months later, just before the Christmas season of 2019.)
It was with some fear and loathing that I pulled onto CA58 west as I know that highway well, and it’s not a pleasant drive. The views of the farmland below can be interesting, but it is one rough ride in many places and it never seems to all be repaired or replaced at once. But we bounced and banged down the long grade to the Central Valley below.
At one point along CA58 we pulled off the highway and whipped up a quick breakfast. I had a couple of slices of toast with PBJ and a clementine orange for dessert. Lavonne settled for just a nectarine. We were saving room for a good lunch at the Olive Garden in Visalia where we would have one last reunion with another of Lavonne’s cousins and his fiance.
Once in Bakersfield, we headed north on CA99, about my least favorite road of all time – and of course the drive home was something over 200 miles on that miserable highway.
We drove to CA198 and then turned east about 10 miles toward Visalia. We pulled into a Walmart lot, parked, and walked into the store where Lavonne shopped for groceries we’d need at home. Meanwhile, I took my daily walk around the place.
Back at the coach, just as we finished putting away the groceries, a fella knocked on the door. It was Lavonne’s cousin, Darryl! They hadn’t seen each other since they were teenagers, and it was quite a reunion. He had his car nearby, and along with him was his fiance, Patsy. We enjoyed meeting her, too, and soon were in their car heading to the Olive Garden for lunch.
Darryl, Patsy, Lavonne, and Dale at the Olive Garden for Reunion #5 – or was it #6? It was good to enjoy old times and family history.
Patsy and I enjoyed listening to all the talk about family members as Lavonne and Darryl caught up with a lot of family talk. We also enjoyed what I thought was superb Italian food. It was a very good lunch, and if Olive Garden (and most all restaurants) were quieter, I’d be tempted to eat such good fare more often. Maybe.
After all the visiting and eating, we left the restaurant and drove back to the coach where we bid one another good-bye. It was an enjoyable reunion once again, and was, I think, reunion number five of the past week. Maybe it was six. And Lavonne had nearly completed her Family Tour 2019, with just one more stop, and that would be next.
Exeter, a small farm town, is located just a few miles from Visalia, and we headed there to visit the… cemetery! Yep. Lavonne was born in Exeter and lived there and other nearby small towns ’til she was about twelve years old when her family moved to Stockton. Her parents were pretty faithful to visit the cemetery, even driving down from Stockton annually to visit family graves. Now that her parents are also in the same Exeter Cemetery, Lavonne wanted to visit on this second-to-last day of our trip.
The lovely farm country near Exeter, up against the foothills of the Sierra Mountains which were barely visible beyond the hills. It is very picturesque farm country.
I parked the coach on one of the cemetery’s narrow roads, and we began a long walk to visit several grave sites.
The following photos will likely be of little interest to most folks, but for the family members who sometimes read my travelogues, here are some of the family’s graves we visited. Click to read the captions:
After about an hour or so of hoofing it around the cemetery to visit all the family graves, we climbed back aboard Big Blue, and headed to our last destination of the trip, The Raisin Capital of the World, Selma, Kalifornistan! There is a Walmart there, and we would spend the last night of our tour on the Walmart lot.
Big Blue at Selma’s Walmart store for the last night of our grand Colorado & Arkansas Adventure.
After about a 40 minute drive, we arrived at the Raisin Capital’s Walmart lot about 1600 hours and pulled in like we owned the place. After setting up the coach for the night, I walked into the store and bought a couple cans of beer and a large box of Crunch ‘n Munch. It was, after all, my last night on the road and I wanted to party a bit. I managed to eat most of the Crunch, and with a little help from Lavonne it was soon all gone, and so was one of the beers. I just didn’t enjoy the beer that much. Again. But that Crunchin’ is hard to beat! And I swore the stuff off again.
Bad habits – but oh, so good! Didn’t I swear this stuff off as the trip began? Well… this time I really meant it!
We worked through the chores such as a quick dinner, showers, etc. And for once, we used all the hot water we wanted. I had dumped earlier that day, and had plenty of water for the last night’s use.
I began the blogging as soon as I could, as usual, and hoped I could get the darn photos to load for a change. But once again, even after signing onto AT&T’s so-called “unlimited” plan, the data speed was very slow. At times I could load photos, but most of my efforts just wouldn’t work. I again threatened to make a change!
Later in the evening I dug out the movie The Green Mile and began watching it once again. It is a terrific Tom Hanks movie and I really enjoyed it. Again.
I called it a day about 2330 hours and hit the sack for the last time this trip. We slept very well in the Raisin Capital of the whole, wide, world!
Day 18, Thursday, June 27, Selma, CA to home via CA99: 124 miles
When I climbed into bed that last night of the trip, I thought that the nearby traffic on CA99 would interrupt our sleep, but I fell right to sleep and the constant hum of traffic did not bother us. I guess that white sound machine covered the noise pretty well.
We were up and about a bit before 0630 on the final day of our 18 day Arkansas adventure. And what great timing we stumbled into! This time of year we could have temperatures above the century mark at home, but the high that day was predicted to be just 80° – a very unusual forecast for the Central Valley when it was nearly July! Unloading the all the stuff from the coach would be a breeze – at least it wouldn’t be a hot day!
Our drive up CA99, also called the Golden State Highway, included the usual heavy traffic one should expect anytime driving THE most dangerous road in the country (as of 2015). Yep, it’s true – check this list of the worst US roads, and see that CA99 has the worst fatality rate per mile of any US highway. But we live about a half mile from it, and have to drive it regularly.
Driving north in heavy traffic on CA99. It’s never a pleasure to drive this old highway, but we managed. In some places it’s a very rough road, too, but things have improved over the last several years as work on it never seems to cease.
In spite of the the highway’s bad reputation, we cruised on home safe and sound once again. We stopped at the Chowchilla McDonald’s for a quick breakfast on the last day of the trip, then arrived home about 1100 hours. It was good to drive through that gate and be home once again!
Back in Kalifornistan where the water wars never end. Imagine being a farmer where the stupid politicians steal your water and dump it in the rivers to send it out to sea. Yep! We were back in Krazy Kalifornistan!
We got right to work unloading all the stuff we carry with us on a long adventure. Eventually it was all done and the stuff was put away. I drove the coach down to the community’s RV lot and dumped the holding tanks, loaded the fresh water tank, and washed her dirty face – that front cap was pretty dirty and buggy after her nearly 4400 mile Family Tour 2019, and I’m just too vain to have the dirtiest coach in the whole RV lot!
15,000 words to record a trip to Denver and Arkansas?! Well… in a word, YES! We must have had a good time if I found so much to write about. Or maybe I passed the time each evening writing something – anything – to keep myself occupied. I think the truth lies more toward the good time explanation. I certainly do like RVing across the country aboard our very comfortable coach – and I like writing, too. Most of all, I enjoy reliving my adventures by reading these travelogues. If I didn’t have them to read, the many trips would simply be a blur. Also, if the day should come that I can no longer cruise the country in a motor home, I’ll have these many stories to enjoy – even if they have too many words!
And now, back home again, I can say this without jinxing ourselves: Big Blue performed perfectly! She kept us cool and comfortable as we crossed deserts and mountains. All systems (and there are a lot of them) ran flawlessly, and we had no trouble of any kind.
Our fridge, a typical RV absorption unit, is sensitive to high elevation and works awfully hard in hot weather. We did add a couple bags of ice to the fridge a few times to help it out, so perhaps it needs to be serviced, but our food stayed cold and safe. The freezer kept frozen foods well, too.
Our trip was about 4400 miles (That means I wrote almost 3½ words for each mile!), and according to our trip computer we averaged 8.6 MPG. It was a pleasure to be in Arkansas and other states where we could buy diesel at those comparatively low prices.
Now that we’re back home, we’ll soon be planning a trip to see my sis and brother-in-law near Gridley. And perhaps a trip to Oregon is not far off. It won’t be long ’til I get the itch to hit the road again!
Here is a map of our Arkansas Adventure 2019 that is fairly close to our actual route but completely ignored the Arkansas loop we traveled. (Embedding Google Maps is a frustrating effort and details are omitted for unknown reasons.):