It’s Time for Texas!
Day 1, Saturday, January 16, home to Tulare via CA99: 151 miles
The isolation that my dear Wifey and I had inflicted upon ourselves due to the pandemic continued through the holidays and into January. The days were cold and wet; not the wet of rain, but of fog and high humidity. Mornings in the low 40s with 100% humidity and fog are common during the dead of winter in the Central Valley, and such wet cold cuts through one like a knife. I wanted out of the misery, and it was January – that meant that it was time for my annual Search for Sunshine.
My brief one night get-away aboard Big Blue back in early December certainly was not a lasting remedy. The days ticked by ‘til January, and I set the date for my escape to be January 9th.
Nearly two weeks earlier, before the delay, I washed the coach. I’m much too vain to hit the road with Big Blue looking less than her best.
The 9th came and went, and I stayed isolated at home with my dear Lavonne. My heart went out of rhythm on the 7th, once again, and I just couldn’t leave home on a long trip in that condition. My heart’s lack of rhythm, or arrhythmia, was not life threatening, but the unlikely possibility of it becoming serious a thousand miles from home was enough to postpone my adventure.
During my week’s wait, we learned that my dear twin sis, Gale, passed away on the 13th. I’ve written of her often on these pages, and have a whole section of the many visits we’ve made to see her and her loving husband, John. As I mentioned here often, she suffered with Parkinson’s Disease, an awful, debilitating disease that is very often fatal. There would be no funeral planned due to the pandemic, but a graveside service would be planned for the coming weekend. As much as we wanted to attend, I advised the family that we would not. I just will not attend gatherings of any kind these days, and the family understood.
The day my sis died, my arrhythmia finally stopped and my heart was back in rhythm. My very helpful cardiologist increased my dosage of the medication that worked so well before, and a day later, I had rhythm! It seemed strange to me that I would snap out of it the same day my sis died. Stress can bring on arrhythmia. Perhaps the relief of knowing that she was no longer suffering compensated somewhat for losing her.
I planned to head for Texas and my Search for Sunshine adventure on the 16th. The coach was ready to roll, having been prepped nearly two weeks prior. When that Saturday morning of the 16th rolled around, I began loading Big Blue for Texas!
Loading all the stuff, several basket-fulls like this one, for two weeks or more on the road is a big job for an old man. But I stayed after it for over two hours – and really didn’t tire too much. I was pleasantly surprised by my endurance as I usually will take a couple breaks during the process.
When the job was done, I bid my dear Lavonne good-bye with a warm hug and kiss. I let her know I appreciate her pleasant attitude, as always, about my solo travels. As often mentioned before, if family is at the end of a trip, she’s all in. If I just want to bum around the country for a week or three, she chooses to stay home. I am a very lucky – and happy – fella having such a lovely wife. I pulled out of the little gated community we call home at noon, and headed south for Tulare, my first overnight stop of the trip.
The day’s drive was unremarkable, as I like. The 150 miles of CA99 is not scenic, and is usually pretty busy. Of course, being a holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Day, there was plenty of traffic. I was surprised by how few RVs I saw on the highway. Maybe folks are wising up and staying home during this Covid pandemic. Myself, I’ll be alone the entire trip except my walks into the store. As I read somewhere, people aren’t getting sick so much when they’re safely shopping with masks in place, but when partying with family and friends. The spikes in infections and deaths two weeks after Christmas and again two weeks after New Years, surely underscore that fact.
I stopped for lunch at a rest area about 30 miles into the drive where I found a Dale’s Diner. As usual, the service was lousy and the food just so-so. I had to whip up my own lunch and clean up afterwards, but at Dale’s Diner, the price is always right!
Click to enlarge and read the captions:
Strange construction area with temporary walls.
…and the water wars continue.
The day was sunny and calm and a perfect day for driving if not for it being in Kalifornistan with its all too often rotten roads and heavy traffic. But in a couple days that would change – and I looked forward to it.
This strange train crossed the street as I arrived in Tulare. Now, that’s some rig for a fella who apparently carries all of his belongings with him. I presumed he’s homeless, but whatever his situation, the fella is pretty creative.
I arrived in Tulare about 1530 hours and pulled into the Walmart where I spent the night back in December for that short getaway that was only the one night.
Big Blue set up for the night at Tulare’s Walmart. It was good to be “home” on the road again.
I set up the coach for the night, and was delighted to again be back on the road. I stayed aboard the entire afternoon, editing photos and continuing this travelogue. I worked through evening chores, including showering and ordering my dinner.
I had promised myself a Panda Pig-out for weeks – I hadn’t enjoyed any since that last trip on December 9. I was overdue! So I ordered online, then walked the couple minutes to the nearby Panda Express where my meal was waiting for me.
Back at the coach I dug into the feast with both hands. I eat pretty righteously all the time, counting every calorie I eat, as if I had any choice living with the heart issues I have. But once in awhile a fella needs a good pig-out – and I hadn’t had one in about five weeks. It was all very delicious – the double order of orange chicken, the teriyaki chicken, and white rice saturated with teriyaki sauce. And the fact that I was miserably full afterwards didn’t phase me a bit – it was worth it!
Indeed – it was worth it! This Happy Camper is plumb full of Panda.
I called my dear Wifey at home to let her know all was well and to check on her. All was well at home – both with her at our bigger home and with me in our little home on wheels.
Thoughts of my dear, late sis crossed my mind often. Knowing that she no longer suffered from that awful Parkinson’s Disease was a bit of consolation, but I missed her already – and I’m going to miss her the rest of my life.
Gale, my dear twin sister, and I back in 2015, long before she became ill with Parkinson’s Disease. Her goodness and her sweetness were captured pretty well in this photo.
She left a hole in all our hearts. I thought of the adjustments her loving John would have to make living without her, and thought of how hard it would be for him. He has his daughter, Jill, in Oregon and son, Kevin, in Arizona who are very attentive to him, and I hope he makes the adjustments alright.
My evening in the coach was comfy and warm. I clacked away on the keyboard, bringing this travelogue up to date, and then watched a few YouTube videos. I headed to bed at my usual 2330 hours, and slept well once again aboard Big Blue.
Day 2, Sunday, January 17, Tulare, CA to Barstow, CA via CA99, CA58: 199 miles
Day 2 dawned clear and cool in Tulare. I was up around 0615 and turned up the heater and turned on the water heater. I returned to bed to snooze a few more minutes while the place warmed up.
After morning chores, I checked weather along my route to Barstow to see if the predicted winds were still in the forecast. Of course they were. Winds to 30 MPH were predicted Tuesday in Barstow and across the desert where I planned to drive on Tuesday. If I must drive a motorhome in windy conditions, the relatively heavy Big Blue handles them well. Sunday and Monday, the weather was to be just fine.
I did change my plans a bit to avoid Las Cruses, NM ’til Wednesday. Possible rain, snow and sleet was predicted for Tuesday, so I’d make a point of arriving there a day later. To do so, I planned to drive south to Calexico, CA on Monday, then to Marana, near Tucson, on Tuesday. That would avoid Las Cruces ’til Wednesday. Weather was predicted to be just fine with that plan, but I’d keep an eye on weather predictions closely.
This day was my dear sister’s memorial at the local cemetery. It was to be outside at her gravesite. A number of family members planned to attend, but not Lavonne and I as it seemed just too risky during this Covid pandemic. Because of Covid, we missed Thanksgiving with family, Christmas with family, and now the memorial service for my only sibling, my twin sister, Gale. I can’t put my frustration into words fit for publication. It’s all been just so sad.
I pulled out of Tulare’s Walmart about 0830 hours and headed south on CA99 to Bakersfield. I planned to fuel up there where, according to GasBuddy, a Fastrip station was selling fuel a bit under $3 per, credit price. That was about as good as I’d find, so I set the navigator to take me there.
Near Bakersfield, I passed the turnoff for Merle Haggard Drive. It was proper that they named a street for him in Oildale, a town just north of Bakersfield, as he grew up in that area. He was about my favorite country singer back in the day – and he still is. We lost Merle on his 79th birthday back in 2016.
I endured the drive down CA99 to Bakersfield where I headed east on CA58 over the Tehachapi mountains, then drove across a small section of the Mojave Desert to Barstow. As it turned out, the day was just perfect for the drive, and once off CA99 heading east, I really enjoyed the drive.
Fueling up at the Fastrip station in Bakersfield. I drove nearly three miles into town and back for about a half tank to fill up. I don’t think I’d do that again. But I saved about $16!
I stopped at a Dale’s Diner at the Boron Rest Area about 45 miles before Barstow. I whipped up a quick lunch of egg salad sandwich and an apple. I was trying to make up a bit for the Panda Pig-out.
The drive across that small portion of the Mojave was pleasant and scenic – if one appreciates open, empty, scrubby landscapes, and I do. I was reminded of times back in the 70s when I did a lot of truck driving through the desert. I was going through a divorce at the time, and I really hated the empty deserts. They so looked lonely and empty – just like I felt much of the time for a year or so. Now… what brought all that up?!
The area beyond Bakersfield along CA58 was parched and dry. I checked for Bakersfield’s rainfall, and found that in 2020 they had a small fraction of their usual rain. I guess that would explain it. Those many wind turbines are there for good reason – the area can be quite windy.
The beautiful Mojave Desert as I drove along CA58 east of the Tehachapi Mountains. It was a perfect day to be bummin’ around the country!
I arrived at the Barstow Walmart a few minutes before 1500 hours, found a fairly remote section of the lot and settled in for the night. First thing, I took my daily walk around the lot for about 25 minutes. I avoided people during my walk as I didn’t wear my mask. Barstow’s new Walmart is only a couple years old, and the parking lot is huge – some of it stays pretty empty.
The store was very busy, naturally, on Sunday of a holiday weekend. I had a few things to buy in the store, but I’d wait ’til morning when it would be far less busy.
After showering and a microwave dinner of sweet and sour chicken, I sat down to edit the day’s few photos and bring this travelogue up to date. Then I spent the rest of the evening wasting my life away watching YouTube clips. Honestly, they have me addicted and perhaps I need counseling or a recovery program. I enjoyed a couple cool ones as I watched, and went to bed at nearly midnight. It had been a good day.
Day 3, Monday, January 18, Barstow, CA to HOME?! via CA58, CA99: 345 miles
Yes, sadly, I headed for home instead of to Calexico on the Mexican border. I was up at 0500 and discovered that arrhythmia had returned yet again – my heart’s rhythm was gone, and the heartbeat timing was just crazy. It was a big disappointment. That condition seems on and off again and I think stress is a trigger. The passing of my sister and not being with family at the graveside service may well have caused this relapse.
Big Blue ready for the drive home instead of continuing on to Calexico.
I hurried through the morning chores, set the coach up for the 345 mile drive home, and left the Barstow Walmart at 0630. I always enjoyed driving at dawn back in my truckin’ days. I love to see the sunrise and daylight spreading across the dark skies. That part of the disappointing drive home I did enjoy.
The Mojave, shortly after sunrise, was quite a sight to see. The vast, open, quiet country was very pleasing to me. So was the empty highway – and I knew that wouldn’t last long on Monday of a three day weekend! I dreaded the drive north on CA99 from Bakersfield to home, but I had to face it.
As I approached the Tehachapis along CA58, the countless wind turbines caught my eye. Obviously that area is very windy, but again, not that day. The weather was bright and warm and relatively calm.
Once on the west side of the Tehachapis, nearing Bakersfield, I found a Dale’s Diner by a large fruit stand, and whipped up a quick breakfast. And I continued on toward CA99, wishing there was another route home.
What a mess CA99 was, and no surprise that I’d be fighting traffic all the way home.
The heavy traffic wasn’t bad enough by itself, I guess. I also received notice via my navigator that there was an accident ahead, and there’d be a 35 minute delay. So I turned on the Waze app on my iPhone, and it showed a route around the accident and traffic snarl. I followed the detour for perhaps 15 miles along country lanes and roadways, and wound up back on CA99 north of the accident. That Waze program is a grand travel partner!
A part of the detour I drove to avoid the delay of an accident on CA99.
I stopped at another rest area about 30 miles or so from home, and made lunch. I enjoyed a frozen dinner of meat loaf, taters and gravy that was very good – and I was hungry. I took my sweet time and relaxed a bit, as I knew I had to unload the coach at home.
I arrived home a bit before 1430 hours. I was whipped – it had been a long drive with entirely too much traffic – and a detour to boot. I greeted my dear Wifey with a big hug and kiss, and although I’d have preferred to continue my adventure, it was good to be home. I unloaded much of the stuff from the coach, and the rest would wait another day – and so would dumping the holding tanks.
I would soon get this latest heart issue under control. One thing sure is that I wouldn’t be leaving for a long trip just a couple days after getting my arrythmia sorted out – I’d wait at least a week to be sure of it!
I’m not sure I’ll be able to leave soon enough to continue this Search for Sunshine. My next adventure may be a springtime tour across the country. Whatever it may be, I’m looking forward to another adventure soon, so stay tuned!