Day 1, Tuesday, February 16, home to Tulare via CA99: 152 miles
I had been very frustrated. This was my third attempt to find some warmth in Texas. It seemed that I hadn’t enough sense to give up. Last year’s January Search for Sunshine was aborted due to a failed water pump that sent me limping home from Parker, Arizona. This year, it was my heart’s lack of rhythm that sent me back home last month, having gotten only as far as Barstow. I became a believer – I believe that three is a charm!
This attempt was delayed due to our first Covid shots that we received on February first. Then my dear Lavonne’s 78th birthday came on Valentine’s Day, as it always does, and I couldn’t miss that. I had planned to leave the day after, the 15th, but by waiting one more day I would likely miss predicted high winds across the Mojave Desert.
I spent two or three hours each day for three days to get Big Blue ready for the new adventure. I cleaned both inside and out. I was pretty sure that she was as ready as I was to hit the road to nowhere in particular – and, hopefully, we’d both stay healthy enough to see this third try through to success!
Loading up to search for Texas warmth – here I attach the faithful Garmin navigator. That magic little box does things that seem impossible! I wouldn’t travel without one.
After loading on lots of clothes, groceries, etc., I was about ready to leave home and begin my adventure. I hugged my dear Lavonne tightly as I kissed her goodbye, was blessed by her warm smile and sweet disposition, and promised we’d be talking soon, as I call her at least twice daily. And I headed for the coach.
It was a real pleasure to finally pull out of our little gated community and join the chaos on CA99 southbound. The road was rotten in too many places, the traffic was always too heavy, and still I enjoyed the day’s drive. I was on my way to sunshine and warmth and would soon be out of Kalifornistan!
I love this old, rustic barn along CA99 with its roots back in perhaps the 1950s or 1960s, I’d guess. I don’t believe they’ve painted such barns as this in many years. Here’s an interesting story about those Mail Pouch barns from Wikipedia.
I stopped for lunch at this unusual Mickey D’s in Chowchilla. Its large truck and RV parking area is very handy, and it’s also easy getting off and back on the freeway there. But no McDonald’s grub (which I love) for me that visit. I had a big Panda Pig-out planned for that evening, so I would wait ’til another day to enjoy some Mickey D’s.
Although I enjoyed my drive down the busy and all-too-often rough riding CA99, I was so looking forward to turning off when I reached Bakersfield the next day. But the day’s drive was bright and sunny, a good north wind blew Big Blue along as we headed south. And the big Cat engine showed 9.2 MPG for the day. That was happily noted because it’s usually just 8 to 8.5 MPG.
Almonds were beginning to bloom all along my drive. They are Kalifornistan’s second most valuable crop behind only dairy products. Those bee hives are big business for out of state bee keepers as they are trucked thousands of miles for just this purpose every year.
I arrived at Tulare’s Walmart at 1500 hours, and was happy the drive was over. In years gone by, I rarely stopped for the night after driving just 150 miles. However, in my old age, I don’t mind a bit! Aboard the coach at my destination for Day 1, I was at rest for the night. The plan was to head for Texas, then, depending on the weather, I planned to continue east on back roads to Louisiana or perhaps even Mississippi. If the weather didn’t cooperate along that route, I could follow different back roads deep into south Texas, perhaps even to the Corpus Christi area. I have always enjoyed bummin’ around the country without firm plans.
Big Blue parked for the night at Tulare’s Walmart store. It was good to settle in for a night aboard – I haven’t been aboard near enough the past couple of months or so. Hopefully this trip would provide me with many more days and nights aboard!
I whiled away the afternoon editing the few photos of the day, and then began writing of my new adventure. I am always so very much at peace, as well as comfortable, aboard our little home on wheels. Lucky me!
At 1730 I set aside the laptop and tended to evening chores. After a good, hot – but short – shower, I ordered my Panda Pig-out online, then walked the minute or two to the Panda store. After a brief wait at their counter, I toted the feast home. I hadn’t had Panda since the first of only two nights aboard Big Blue in January, and I was overdue.
Back in the coach, I dug into my Panda treats and enjoyed every bite as I watched too many YouTube videos. I had a double order of their very delicious orange chicken, white rice saturated with teriyaki sauce, and a new-to-me dish called string bean chicken breast. The new dish was not bad, but it confirmed my suspicion that I should have ordered teriyaki chicken.
I was so occupied that I forgot to take my usual pig-out photo. So I’ll include last month’s photo:Just imagine that blue sweatshirt is black, and this photo from last month portrays the night’s feast perfectly.
After my delicious Panda Pig-out, I settled back to watch more YouTube most of the evening. Animal videos of every kind are available, and some of then portray the vicious side of those critters – and are not always a pleasant sight. Some videos are of life in the wild, and much of that life is cruel. But there is also plenty of nonsense and many laughs on YouTube, as well.
I walked into the store during the evening and bought a pint of “low” calorie ice cream, which was still 330 calories. Somehow, dessert just seemed right and proper after the Panda Pig-out.
I finally called it a day about 2330 hours and headed to my cozy bed. I slept well, as usual, and looked forward to the continuing adventure.
Day 2, Wednesday, February 17, Tulare to Barstow, CA via CA99, CA58: 192 miles
I was up at 0630 and turned up the heater and turned on the water heater, and then returned to bed while things warmed up. I enjoyed a quiet night aboard, and looked forward to the day’s drive over the Tehachapis and into the Mojave Desert.
I pulled out of the Walmart lot at 0830, after morning chores were done and the coach was checked out and ready to roll. I would stop along the drive for breakfast as I was anxious to begin my day. The weather was perfect, sunny and calm, and driving Big Blue is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a beautiful day.
The day’s drive began as I continued south on CA99.
Just a bit after 0900 I pulled off the highway and parked across from a small truck stop – just where that was I don’t recall. I simply zapped a Jimmy Dean’s “Egg’wich” sandwich, placed it between two pieces of toast, added some mayo and mustard, and enjoyed a very quick and tasty breakfast. For dessert I had a small mandarin orange. And I continued south.
Along CA99 I passed this monster machine turning an almond orchard into sawdust. This is how it’s done these days – the pulled trees are on the right, and the huge backhoe is lifting them into the grinder. Then the grinder’s conveyer belt dumps the sawdust into huge piles that would be trucked away.
I was delighted to reach the junction of CA58 which heads east, and was done with the awful CA99 and it’s heavy traffic. Big Blue powered us over the Tehachapis and into the Mojave Desert, and I enjoyed the drive and the scenery as much as ever. The weather continued sunny and calm and the coach purred along comfortably.
Oranges grow along CA58 leading to the Tehachapis. Note the pruning on the top of those trees – a perfect flattop haircut!
I stopped at the Boron Rest Area near the junction of US395 – less than 50 miles from my destination. I just wanted to kick back a few minutes and check some websites on the ‘net. I relaxed with a cup of coffee and spent perhaps 45 minutes there.
Here, Big Blue and I are climbing the Tehachapies. Those threatening clouds were limited to just the mountains and it remained dry up and over them.
The vast Mojave Desert is very scenic, I think. It was a beautiful and calm day and a pleasant drive.
Remember Hinkley? As mentioned here on a recent trip, the movie Erin Brockovich starring Julia Roberts was about the town and the utility company PG&E’s poisoning of the ground water. Millions of dollars were awarded to its residents. This is the sign for the scruffy little town that lies along CA58.
I arrived at Barstow’s Walmart store at 1300 hours. After setting up the coach for my overnight stay, I began my walk around the huge parking lot. The walk included shopping for a few groceries in the store. Yep, I like to spend a few bucks at the Walmarts I visit to pay my respects to Mr. Sam and his generosity toward RVers. Walmart’s open lot policy to traveling RVers was his idea. Even now, 29 years after his passing, I, and many other RVers are grateful for Walmart stores’ open lot policy to RVers as we travel. For new readers, Mr. Sam was Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. I read his autobiography years ago. He was a wonderful and generous man.
Big Blue at rest on Barstow’s Walmart lot. Lookin’ good, Baby!
I enjoyed my afternoon and evening in the Mojave Desert. I spent the afternoon editing the day’s photos and bringing this travelogue up to date. It was sunny and in the coach, it was warm and cozy without needing a heater. I kept the door and windows closed, and while it was in the 50s outside, it was near 80° inside and I was very comfortable.
For dinner I zapped a frozen dinner and stayed on my diet. I was again tempted to walk into the store for dessert, but I resisted. It was a good diet day.
The evening’s entertainment was provided by Merle Haggard and The Strangers. I dug out my old DVD of Merle Haggard live at Billy Bob’s Texas. It was a recorded live performance released in 2004, and the whole performance was a real joy to watch – again. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show. I sure miss him.
I called it a day at my usual time, 2330, and climbed into bed for a very cool night in Barstow.
Day 3, Thursday, February 18, Barstow, CA to Parker AZ via I-40, US95, CA62: 207 miles
I was up and around at my usual 0630 having first turned up the heater; the gauge on my window showed just 32°. To this Central Valley tenderfoot, it was very cold.
I was anxious to hit the road again, so I spent very little time dawdling over the laptop and tended to the morning chores. I would drive to Parker, Arizona where last year my Search for Sunshine came to a sudden end when the water pump for the big Cat engine gave up on me.
I converted my cozy home on wheels to a very comfortable highway cruiser, and pulled out of Barstow at 0800 hours. Such an early departure meant I’d stop along the drive for breakfast.
The small, unincorporated burg of Ludlow, population 10, is 50 miles east of Barstow, and that would be my breakfast stop. It’s only attraction to me is its Dairy Queen – and it was closed due to construction. It also has the Ludlow Café and a gas station with a large, dirt parking lot for big rigs.
What a great way to start the day!
I thoroughly enjoyed the morning drive through the scenic and lonely desert. The traffic was very light; most of it was big rigs blowing by me in a hurry to get somewhere else. I sure don’t miss my hurried truckin’ days, but I was luvin’ my morning drive aboard Big Blue.
I passed this long train of FedEx semi trailers as I began the drive. These were but a few of the trailers as my camera lens couldn’t capture them all.
At Ludlow, I pulled into a rough old parking lot for the Ludlow Cafe’s truck driver customers. I slowly bounced across it to the far end, and parked facing west to keep the morning sun off my dirty windshields. I would clean those monster windows after breakfast.
I toasted three frozen waffles, zapped a quarter cup of syrup, and enjoyed a quick and tasty breakfast. For dessert I had a small mandarin orange. Again. And it was time to get to work.
I dug out the large step ladder, bucket, etc., and cleaned those dirty windshields. The outside air was very cool, and a breeze blew that seemed to freeze my wet hands. But this old sissy got the job done, and was mighty happy to finish it and hit the road again.
It’s an old habit from my truckin’ days to keep those windshields clean.
I continued east to Needles where I’d turn onto US95 South to Parker. And I had a decision to make – I should have added some fuel at Barstow, but I did not. As I drove, I calculated that I had enough fuel on board to get to Parker – but just enough with very little to spare. I chose to pay Needles’ outrageous fuel prices for some peace of mind, and pumped on 10 gallons of Chevron diesel at the price-gouging cost of $4.90 per. For some reason, Needles’ prices are far higher than anywhere along I-40 that I’m aware of. But I did head south on US95 with the knowledge that I had spare fuel.
The incredibly high gas and diesel prices in Needles – and all three stations I saw advertised the same diesel price. Ouch!
More beautiful desert along my morning drive.
US95 is about 50 miles of pretty good two lane highway to CA62. I have driven the 18 miles to Parker on CA62 several times, and it was a rotten old road. I’ve written of it here on past trips, about how Kalifornistan posted signs reading “Rough Road”. That’s not an unusual solution in the Sovereign State of Stupid. But – CA62 was all new road! I was pleasantly surprised that, for once, a Kalifornistan roadway was replaced instead of simply placing patch on top of patch for eternity.
Surprise – surprise! It appears that Kalifornistan actually replaced a state highway. This is CA62, fresh and new and no more signs reading “Rough Road”.
As I crossed the Colorado River into Parker, AZ, I noticed the river was very low. I don’t recall ever seeing it so dry.
Once in Parker, I pulled into a lower priced station and pumped on $100 of fuel at a reasonable $2.91 per. That would get me to Marana, near Tucson, which was the next day’s destination. There I could buy fuel for around $2.60, so of course I planned to do that. I like saving money!
I pulled into the Parker Walmart at 1415 hours, home time. Of course Arizona is on Mountain Time, but I’d wait ’til the next day to change my time. Once settled in, I took my walk around the parking lot, then walked into the store for a few groceries I needed.
Parked for the night at Parker, Arizona’s Walmart store. Note the sign, likely required by the City Nazis, forbidding overnight parking. Walmart doesn’t enforce such foolishness, and the city police certainly have better things to do than to hassle law abiding RVers who are spending money in their town. I’ve spent the night next to many such signs and have never been bothered.
Back at the coach, I began editing photos and writing this travelogue. Around 1730 I tended to the evening chores such as a shower and dinner. Once done, I began writing again.
After setting the writing aside, I began watching the old movie Intolerable Cruelty for the umpteenth time. It is such a hoot! I also enjoyed a pint of light ice cream that was labeled Halo Top. The cookies and cream flavor was quite good for being only 330 calories. I washed it down with a couple cool ones as I watched the movie. I watched and dozed and finally gave up for the day. I climbed into bed at 2330 hours and slept well.
Day 4, Friday, February 19, Parker, AZ to Marana, AZ via AZ95, AZ72, I-10, AZ85, I-8: 260 miles
The night in Parker was another cool one – my window thermometer showed 39°. But having turned up the heater a bit earlier, I was warm and comfy in the coach.
I dawdled around the coach for a change. I wanted to post Day 3’s photos as I didn’t get that done earlier. I also had been thinking of a Mickey D’s breakfast. I hadn’t had such a meal in ages, and I was hankerin’ for a Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddle. I love those sandwiches and with a McDonald’s just across the street, I planned on having one.
Happy Meal, happy Dale! I can’t remember the last time I had a McGriddle, and I had to eat very righteously the rest of the day.
After breakfast I prepared the coach for the day’s journey to Marana, AZ which is near Tucson. I take the various roads listed above to avoid getting anywhere near the Phoenix area. In so doing I drove some pretty rugged roads as connectors between I-8 and I-10, but overall the trip was very pleasant. I enjoyed beautiful desert scenery all day long – and the highways were not crowded, especially I-8 which was, by Kalifornistan standards, nearly deserted.
I saw 200 miles of desert and I could post many more photos. But I’ll post the following few as they are among the most scenic (Click to enlarge, you can then scroll down and click “View full size” to enlarge, and click once more for a huge photo.):
Somewhere along the drive, I pulled into a picnic area, which is like a rest area but with only picnic tables and no restrooms. I whipped up some oatmeal, added in a banana, and somewhat made up for the Mickey D’s high calorie breakfast. And I continued on.
As I neared Marana, near Tucson, the light traffic I had enjoyed was no more. I dealt with no delays, but just a lot of traffic. I was thankful I’d be driving through Tucson on a Saturday morning and would likely avoid the Tucson commute traffic.
Somewhere along one of the connector roads, I passed this rather primitive, homemade sign. But I have to say… Amen!
I mentioned that some of the connector roads, usually designated as an Arizona state highway, were pretty rough. Here’s an example of about the worst I dealt with:This section was unbelievable. When I pulled over some time afterward, I found the laptop on the floor, and a number of other items knocked around.
I arrived at Marana’s Walmart at 1610 hours local time, which was Mountain Time. I set up the coach for my stay, then took my walk around the lot. I stayed out of the store as it was a typical Friday afternoon, and the place was very busy.
The weather was perfect. It was about 70° when I arrived, and for the first time this trip I walked in just a T-shirt, and didn’t need a sweatshirt – it felt a lot like springtime.
After my walk, I took an early shower as the coach was so warm inside. I also opened the living area windows for the first time this trip, but that didn’t last long. It was a nice change while it lasted.
I spent much of the afternoon and early evening editing photos and writing this travelogue. I stayed very comfy without the heater most of the evening, as it was very mild.
Big Blue at rest for the night at Marana’s Walmart. It was a lovely Arizona evening, calm and mild.
After updating this travelogue, I settled back to finish watching the movie, Intolerable Cruelty, and chuckled my way through that very funny movie. Again. I then dug out the movie The Help, and began watching it. Again.
During the evening I was very earnestly wanting something sweet to munch on. I’d eaten a low calorie dinner and was sticking to my diet, but the hankering for a sweet something drove me back into the store. I purchased a tiny, single portion, pumpkin pie. At the self-checkout I hated to use a credit card for just a 50¢ pie. So I grabbed a candy bar and made it a worthwhile purchase – and destroyed my low calorie diet. Overall I added over 700 sugary calories to my day. There’s no explaining why. I chalked it up to a weak moment and promised myself a very disciplined next day. I have lost over 60 pounds since the onset of my heart issues years ago, and the loss is due only to self-denial. I’m at my proper 155 pounds now, and I’ll never gain again. The reality is that my life very likely depends on being well disciplined.
I also enjoyed a couple cool ones as I watched The Help. After dozing off a few times during the evening, I finally headed off to bed at my usual 2330 and slept well.
Day 5, Saturday, February 20, Marana AZ to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 288 miles
I awoke to bright sunshine and a beautiful Arizona morning. After morning chores, I had one goal in mind, and that was to fuel up at a station about three miles into town, and to hit the road for Las Cruces.
I set the coach up for travel, and pulled out of Marana at 0810 to begin my day. I fueled up with 70 gallons at a Circle K store at $2.80 per, a bit more than Gas Buddy was showing online for the place. I then headed to I-10 and continued east. I would drive ’til breakfast – about 70 miles down the interstate.
I pulled into a rest area and enjoyed oatmeal for breakfast, having had it for lunch just the day before – but it kept me on my diet. I updated this travelogue, and then continued east a few minutes before 1100 hours.
That beautiful American flag sure dresses up a dreary landscape!
The time had come for me to change to Mountain Time as I’d be in Texas the next day. Most of the state is Central Time, and I’ve tried to stay on home time in past trips and it just doesn’t work. Getting up at 0630 home time to bright and warm sunshine where it’s actually 0830 0r 0930 can be pretty strange.
I enjoyed a nice tail wind during the drive, and that’s always welcome as it helps the fuel mileage. The day remained bright and sunny and was a wonderful day to be bummin’ around the country.
I shot a lot of photos during the drive, and after editing, there were not that many of the desert landscape. I’ll again post them all in a single collection. Remember – click to enlarge, you may then scroll down and click “View full size” to enlarge, and click once more for a huge photo:
Having lived four full days on board, I had to dump the holding tanks and fill the fresh water tank. Love’s Travel Plazas nearly always have a dump site, so I looked one up along my route on my navigator, and called to be sure. Yep – they had a RV dump. I planned to pull in there, and a few hours later I did just that. Usually I can find the dump sites, but there was none to be found. I walked in and asked at the counter, and she didn’t know anything about it! Having waited a minute or two as she waited for help, I gave up and headed back to the coach. I found it on the side of the building on a steep portion of the property where the coach would be far from level. What the…?! So I gave up and headed back to the interstate.
Before I reached the interstate, I passed a fourth rate RV park that was mostly empty. I made a U-turn and went back. Once there, I saw no cars parked by any of the few old RVs that were parked. But there were plenty of empty sites, so I pulled into one and proceeded to dump the tanks and fill the fresh water. During the time I was there, nobody was around, nobody walked over to me, and it seemed plumb deserted. The price was right! And I continued on to the interstate. In my 18 years of RVing, I’ve managed only one other time to dump in what seemed to be a deserted RV park – at no cost. Strange.
The pathetic, mostly empty, RV park where I “borrowed” a RV site to dump my tanks and load fresh water. I’d have gladly paid a fair price, but I didn’t see a soul around!
I continued on my drive and arrived at one of the three Walmarts in Las Cruces at 1615 hours Mountain Time. After I had the coach set up for the night, I took my daily walk around the lot. It was another beautiful afternoon and I walked in just a T-shirt again. I have certainly been successful in finding some warmth this trip!
Jacks down at one of three Las Cruces Walmart stores. I chose the one just off I-10. Thanks, Mr. Sam!
I showered, made dinner, and by then it was getting pretty dark. I sat myself down and edited photos, updated this travelogue and enjoyed the early evening.
When I finished the travelogue, I began watching my collection of WWII videos titled The World At War. It is a very interesting history of that awful conflict and the world-wide misery it inflicted on so many people, not to mention the millions who died. I poured a couple cool ones to enjoy while I struggled to stay awake. Eventually, bedtime rolled around, and I retired at my usual 2330.
Day 6, February 21, Las Cruces, NM to Fort Stockton, TX via I-10: 276 miles
I rolled out of bed about 0630 to begin the new day. My main goal for the morning was to get some shopping done. Sunday morning is usually a great time to shop as most folks are still sleeping or starting their day very slowly.
I hustled through the morning chores, then headed to the store not long after their 0700 opening. I had a list of items to stock up on that my smallish local Walmart doesn’t carry, and shopped for them. I also needed a few groceries for my bummin’ meals. And, I had to fill my four, one gallon containers with water for my drinking and coffee water. Walmart stores have filtered water machines that cost about 39¢ or so per gallon. Back at the coach, I put the groceries away, then set the coach up for traveling.
What a great way to start the day! It was sunny, clear and bright – and I had I-10 nearly all to myself.
I pulled out of the Las Cruces Walmart lot at 0820 hours. My next goal for the morning was to get the heck through El Paso, one of my least favorite drives. It is much like LALA Land (Los Angeles) and driving through it has never been pleasant. The fact that I was heading through on a Sunday morning would make the drive much easier.
Texas gave me a big welcome – and asked me to drive friendly. My experience has been that Texans are among the friendliest folks I’ve ever met.
Honestly, it seems that El Paso goes on and on forever – and they never finish the highway construction along I-10. I’ve been passing through for many years and it’s always under construction.
Click for a guided tour through El Paso:
My Sunday morning El Paso drive was as good as one could expect. The traffic was very light and I pretty much breezed through. My plan was to have breakfast east of El Paso, so a few miles beyond it I pulled into a rest area and whipped up breakfast. And I looked forward to the day’s drive through the scruffy landscapes of Texas. I always enjoy the drive and the solitude.
Parked with the big boys for breakfast – and El Paso was behind me!
I stopped at another rest area for lunch. I made one of my favorite sandwiches, smoked turkey with onion, tomato, lots of lettuce, apple butter, mayo and mustard.
Please tolerate the very unnecessary photo, but I count these sandwiches among my finest culinary creations. Obviously, my creations aren’t much with my very humble talents. I wanted my dear Lavonne to know I’d been eating well – as I nearly always do. (Although I had plans for a chicken pig-out the next day!)
The first inspection station of my trip was pretty busy. The Border Patrol mans many of these stations, and I’d likely drive through many more. They almost always wave me through with little concern – as they did that day.
I enjoyed a strong tail wind nearly the entire day – and got over 9 MPG which is very unusual. And the ride is so much quieter when a tailwind blows as there is that much less air plowing around the huge, square front. These Class A coaches have the aerodynamics of a brick. I hoped the wind would be calm on my return trip as I wouldn’t want to deal with a headwind on my return. It seems the prevailing wind is usually from the west.
Having arrived in the Central Time Zone, I decided to set the clocks ahead another hour, and was then two hours ahead of home time. Sometimes this confused old man can’t figure the simple 2 hour difference correctly. I once called my dear Lavonne at 0500 – and woke her up – because I added two hours instead of subtracting. Such things are not uncommon for me in my old age. (That sign was broken like that two years ago!)
As I cruised along the nearly empty I-10 after having lunch, I came upon a crew working to load a burned out motorhome. It was a fairly high-end coach, a diesel pusher, and it was completely destroyed. It appeared that perhaps an engine fire engulfed the whole coach. What a catastrophe for someone. So sad. (Click to enlarge, and then click again for a huge photo.)
I arrived at the Ft. Stockton Walmart store some time after 1600 hours, Central Time. (I forgot to record the time.) I joined several other RVers and we made the place look like the Walmart RV Park. Once settled in, I took my usual walk for about 25 minutes.
I was running later than I usually do in the evenings. I didn’t finish the evening chores ’til after 1900 hours. I figured I’d have a little extra time during my return home when I’d find those lost hours.
I caught up with this travelogue after dinner, editing photos and writing ’til after 2130 hours. I spent the evening as usual; watching the WWII documentary, enjoying a couple cool ones, dozing off at the table several times, and finally heading to bed about 2330. I slept well, as usual.
Day 7, Monday, February 22, Ft. Stockton, TX to Lampasas, TX via I-10, US190: 302 miles
I slept in a bit on Day 7, for some reason. I reckoned it was the two hour change in time, as my internal clock figured it to still be 0430 when, by the local sunrise and the clocks, it was 0630 and time to rise and shine. I overslept by only about a half hour, so it wasn’t anything to fret over.
When I did hop out of bed and turn up the heaters, I stayed up and got right after the morning routine. It was a beautiful sunrise, the tailwind was still blowing pretty well, and I was having a ball just bummin’ around the country. Life is good.
After the morning routine, it looked like I’d be hitting the road by 0830. I idled over to the Walmart gas station and added 37 gallons for the $100 limit they allowed my credit card. I could have swiped it again, but fuel was cheaper in Lampasas, so I’d fill up there. I pulled out of the station and continued east.
The day’s drive was through landscapes that barely changed over the 300 miles I drove. It seemed to all be scrubby desert, with a few areas of orchards of various nut trees. I saw a few flocks of sheep, very few cattle, and what livestock I did see was grazing on brown growth that looked awful.
At one point along the drive, I came across this bridge construction project. I waited, alone, for five minutes for the automated flag-man signal lights to let me pass. Finally, I crossed this raw dirt road full of potholes. I drove across at 4 MPH and that was a bit too fast for the coach. It was the roughest road over which I’ve ever had to drive a motorhome.
The entire drive was all rather colorless, likely because it was February and most every growing thing was still dormant. It was not pretty – but it was empty, and that’s the reason I so love bummin’ around in Texas. I believe I drove over a hundred miles, maybe much more, and didn’t see a single home. Of course, my view is from the motorhome only, and I don’t see everything, to be sure.
Most of the day’s photos seemed pretty similar, and I’ll post most landscape photos in a gallery. Remember to click to enlarge, and scroll down and click on “View full size” for even larger:
I stopped for both breakfast and lunch along the drive, and ate lightly in the coach. I had a chicken pig-out planned for dinner, and didn’t want to overdo eating before that.
Ahhhhhh! I enjoyed a McFlurry as I drove after finding a McDonald’s in the small town of Brady, Texas. The town is proudly advertised as The Heart of Texas. It is located at nearly the geographical center of the state. Several businesses in the town are named Heart of Texas, such as Heart of Texas Lube and Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital.
Several big rigs hauling wind turbine parts were heading west and I shot a few photos. These three pretty much represent them:Here a huge tower section goes by – for each rig there seemed to be three pilot cars managing traffic for them.
It’s pretty difficult to gauge the length of these giant blades, but they are far longer than the length limit of big rigs without permits and pilot cars.
This photo more clearly shows the incredible lengths. Note the telescoping main frame of this trailer. More info here. It’s really a remarkable feat to transport the huge parts that make up a wind turbine.
I fueled up again at the small town of San Saba, less than 50 miles from my destination, where I found diesel selling for just $2.36 per. That was the lowest price I’d seen on the trip. I pulled in and pumped on 42 gallons when it cut me off at $100. It was so close to full, I didn’t bother with a second round of pumping. And I was a happy camper having found that excellent price. (I pumped diesel back in my trucking days for 25¢ per, so my happiness is well tempered with such recollections.)
I pulled into the Lampasas Walmart at 1620 hours, and was mighty pleased to park for the night. 300 miles wasn’t far by my standards just two or three years ago, but these days, I tire pretty easily. Still, after setting up for the night, I took about a 20 minute walk around the lot, and checked out the Golden Chick restaurant that was just around the corner.
Back at the coach, I edited a few of many photos, then showered and headed around the corner for my Golden Chick chicken dinner. I had looked forward to the pig-out all day. I had to walk to the drive thru window and order because the lobby was closed. Since I didn’t have a car, walking up to the drive up was the only option as they permitted walk-up orders at the drive thru while the lobby was closed due to Covid. I ordered three pieces, all thighs, one fried, two roasted, mashed potatoes and coleslaw. And I headed back to the coach with my feast.
Happy as can be living aboard Big Blue, and pigging out on Golden Chick fried and roasted chicken, mashed taters and coleslaw. Mmmmmmmmmm.
The chicken was very good, as was the coleslaw. The taters were so-so, but it was a good pig-out overall. I’ve written here often of our son’s barbecued, blackened chicken thighs and how great they are. Well… the chicken I had that night wasn’t even in the same league, but it was still good chicken. (We’re planning to head to Denver to see the kids in May, and I’m already looking forward to Allen’s blackened chicken thighs!)
After dinner I finished the photo editing, then began writing of the day’s adventure. When those pleasures were done, I watched more WWII documentary ’til almost bedtime. I also enjoyed a couple cool ones as I watched. I headed to bed at my usual 2330 hours – except that by home time, it was only 2130. It took me some time to to fall asleep and I reckoned it was my internal clock wondering why I was in bed so early. Once asleep, I slept well.
Day 8, Tuesday, February 23, Lampasas, TX to DeRidder, LA via US190, I-14, I-35, TX7, US287: 331 miles
I slept a bit later again, but only about half an hour more, and when I rolled out of bed, I stayed up. I had one goal, and that was to hit the road early – I had over 300 miles to cover that first day of the second week of my adventure.
I worked through the morning chores pretty quickly, then set Big Blue up for the day’s drive, and pulled out of the lot at 0745. I believe it was my earliest departure of the trip.
I again enjoyed a beautiful day and light traffic through rural Texas. I set my routes up for these adventures to avoid even mid-size cities if I can. And the drive of Day 8 was considerably different than even the day before. I saw green fields, pastures, cattle and a much improved landscape over the scrub I’d been driving through.
I stopped at a vacant parking lot in a small town, whose name I cannot remember, for breakfast in the coach. I did the same for lunch. It’s always a pleasure for me, for the short while I’m there, to be in such a place because a small town is where I belong. The folks living in those small towns likely take it all for granted and I envy them a great deal.
This four lane highway seemed strange. It was a full four lanes, yet the traffic was as light as the two lane roads, and it had no paved shoulders.
This is a sight you’d never see in Kalifornistan – nor, perhaps, any other state. A small, two lane rural road with a speed limit of 75 MPH. Texas must be run by people with uncommonly good sense. No matter the higher speed limits, I chugged along every day at 58 MPH.
I planned to continue east ’til I reached the town of DeRidder, Louisiana. I don’t know why, maybe because it sounds like a longer, more distant adventure clear to the Pelican State. As I entered Louisiana, it was quite a contrast to Texas. The unusual 75 MPH Texas speed limit along their backroads became 55 MPH in Louisiana. And as I entered the state, the roadway was suddenly much rougher than were Texas roads. But as I continued the road improved a great deal.
I pulled into the DeRidder Walmart lot at 1545 hours. After setting up for the night, I took my daily walk around the huge lot.
Jacks down for the night in DeRidder, Louisiana.
I was dealing with an old issue aboard Big Blue – the refrigerator was acting up again. It seemed to just shut itself off, and I had to turn it off at the controls, then a while later turn it back on. When I arrived at DeRidder the fridge was 47°, and should have been in the 30s. The freezer was up to 7° and should have been below zero. I inspected the back of the fridge from the outside access, checked the propane flame, and all seemed Ok. But it was still warming so something was wrong. I ran the generator and put the fridge on electricity for four hours, and it cooled down nicely. I then put it back on propane, and it continued to cool. I was hopeful that it would continue to work alright, but I had to get that intermittent something fixed before summer. (Later in the trip I read that the fridge is programmed to warm a bit every couple days to defrost the fins at the top of the fridge’s interior. Perhaps that was what it was doing.)
The next day, Day 9, I would begin my homeward journey. I would have preferred to drive more interstates en route home, but they generally go through the larger cities, so I would pretty much retrace my drive as I returned home.
My evening unfolded as usual aboard Big Blue. I brought the travelogue up to date. I watched more WWII documentary as I enjoyed a couple cool ones, then began dozing off and finally called it a day at the usual 2330. I slept very well, as usual.
Day 10, Wednesday, February 24, DeRidder, LA to Killeen, TX via US190, TX7, US287, I-35, I-14: 304 miles
I was up at my usual 0630, having warmed up the place a bit earlier. I wanted to hit the road early, so right after morning chores, I pulled out of DeRidder at 0710, my earliest departure yet this trip.
Another wonderful day of bummin’ through rural Texas and enjoying its wide open, nearly empty country roads.
On Day 10 I had to buy fuel and I had to dump the tanks. And I also dealt with that infernal refrigerator. It has been a source of frustration on and off since I bought the coach.
I stopped at a Brookshire Brothers market in the town of Newton, Texas. Apparently they’re a regional chain of supermarkets that also sell gas and fuel. Theirs was the best price around at just $2.40 per, so I pulled in and filled up. Strangely, neither Louisiana or Texas mention whether the diesel is biodiesel or Diesel 2. In Kalifornistan, every station states which they’re selling.
I faced headwinds and crosswinds most all of the day, as I figured I would since I enjoyed the tailwind most of the trip traveling east. The wind was never a serious issue, but it knocked the coach around a bit at times.
I believe this roadside shrimp shop was a first for me. I guess it makes sense since they are reasonably close to the gulf coast.
I enjoyed the drive. The light rural traffic and endless countryside is just what I most enjoy about this bummin’ around. I did run into some interstate traffic as I neared the end of my drive, but even it was fairly light by Kalifornistan standards.
As I was stopped for lunch in a small town, whose name I can’t recall, I watched a heavy hauler negotiate an impossible corner turn. They have a trick up their sleeves; the trailer can be steered itself, turning much wider than it normally could.
Click on the photos, then remember you may scroll down and click on “View full size” to enlarge, and click once more for a huge photo:
Nearing my destination, I drove I-35 and I-14 through the Temple, TX area – but by Kalifornistan standards, that freeway traffic was very sparse.
As I neared Killeen, I came across a Love’s Travel Plaza just off the interstate in the town of Troy, and pulled in to see if they had a RV dump. Of course they did, but it was blocked by another RVer buying propane. After a half hour wait, I dumped the tanks, loaded on fresh water, paid the cashier $10, and then continued on to Killeen. I was good for another four days or so.
I arrived at one of three Walmarts in Killeen at 1545 hours. After setting up for the night, I went shopping in the store for a few items I needed. I’ve never seen a store so depleted of bread and lunch meats – those areas were virtually empty! I asked an associate if the bread section was always so empty at this late time of the afternoon, and she replied that it was. That seemed so strange. I guess the Killeen, Texans really love their bread!
After stashing the few groceries I bought, I showered and fixed dinner. I was hoping to find some eatery nearby that would appeal to me, but those anywhere near were a long walk away for a tired old man. I settled for a frozen turkey and dressing meal, but I also felt a pig-out coming on.
The $%&#$!! refrigerator vexed me all day long. It just took the notion from time to time to turn off and then it would lose its cool. I tried everything I could during the day and evening. One time it began to cool, then stopped again. As I wrote this at 1930 hours I remembered to enter a “forget code” procedure I’ve used with some success in the past. The procedure removes any fault codes in the fridge’s processor that may cause it to stop cooling. An hour and a half later, the freezer had dropped 2.3 degrees to 5.4°, and the fridge dropped .9 degrees to 47.1°. I was encouraged.
I spent much of the evening updating this travelogue. Afterward I tried to watch more WWII documentary while enjoying a couple cool ones, but I missed a lot of the documentary by falling asleep time and again. I finally gave up and crawled into bed at my usual 2330 hours. I slept well.
Day 10, Thursday, February 25, Killeen, TX to Ft. Stockton, TX via I-14, US109, I-10: 332 miles
I rolled out of bed at my usual few minutes after 0600 to turn up the heater and turn on the water heater. I was delighted to see the refrigerator had cooled down nicely through the night; the freezer was at -4.5° and the fridge was at 38.3°! That made my morning – and the “forget code” procedure seemed to have worked. As I wrote this in the evening around 1930 hours, it was still cooled down and seemed to be just fine.
Happiness is a cool fridge. Fridge/freezer remote monitors such as mine are available online for around $20. I wouldn’t RV without one!
My morning unfolded as recent mornings have. I was anxious to hit the road for the day, and after chores and setting Big Blue up for highway cruising, I pulled over to the Walmart gas station at 0730 for a fill up. I added only 36 gallons to fill the 90 gallon tank, but the price of $2.46 per was too good to pass up.
I pulled out of Killeen, TX, headed for Ft. Stockton. The drive would be mostly a retracement of my drive east. The day was cloudy and cool – quite a change from the very warm prior day.
My drive began with a drive down I-14, but not for long. Soon I was on US190 for nearly the whole drive.
I turned on to US190 which took me all the way to I-10, just 50 miles or so from my destination. It would be my last day driving the lost and lonely back roads of Texas which I so enjoy. I drove through some long, desolate areas along US190, and loved every mile.
This noble, old courthouse serves San Saba County from the City of San Saba.
Texas highways almost serve as history books with their many, many historical markers. I must drive by up to 20 a day during my drives in Texas. Here is one I stopped at just to add to this day’s travelogue. I seldom stop to read them, but they are pretty interesting when one takes the time. It’s good that Texas preserves its history for all to learn.
I had no idea what this white material was, but I believe this must be a plowed cotton field. I don’t recall seeing a field quite like this before.
Unlike the prior day when I actually turned on the dash air for awhile, Day 10 was very cloudy and cool. I can’t complain; I have found lots and lots of sun and warmth during this very successful 2021 Search for Sunshine. But not that day.
Click to see larger photos and to read the captions:
As I approached I-10 which would take me the last 52 miles of the day’s journey, I felt a tinge of regret. There’d be few back roads to enjoy as the vast majority of the drive home from that point would be freeways. But I’d still have many miles of open country and light traffic, and I’d still be loving my drive.
Welcome to I-10. My back road bummin’ was mostly over for this trip!
I arrived at Ft. Stockton’s Walmart store at 1545 hours. Since I would be driving into the Mountain Time Zone the next day, I chose to set my clocks back one hour – and I suddenly had an extra hour. I prefer gaining an hour over losing an hour!
After converting my big, comfortable highway cruiser into a cozy home on Walmart’s lot, I set off on my daily walk. It was breezy and cool, but I had to get my daily exercise. After my minimal walk of 20 minutes, as I was pretty tired, I walked into the store, grabbed one of their sit-down scooters and shopped for a few items.
Big Blue at rest at Ft. Stockton’s Walmart and RV Park. Thanks, Mr. Sam!
Back at the coach, I stashed the groceries, and then tended to evening chores. I was none too warm, so before I took my shower, I closed off the back area of the coach where the bedroom and bathroom are, and turned the heater up to 80° – I wanted a good warm room with my hot shower, and that did it!
After my shower I settled in for the evening. I edited photos and updated the travelogue. For dinner, I tried a “Hungry Man” frozen dinner for the first and last time. I thought it might be a bit of a different meal than my usual, low calorie, frozen fare. It wasn’t anything special, just more food and more calories.
I continued watching the WWII documentary along with a couple cool ones. After falling to sleep several times, I gave up and headed to bed at my usual 2330 hours.
Day 11, Friday, February 26, Ft. Stockton, TX to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 284 miles
I was up a few minutes after 0600, and for a change, I stayed up. After turning on the heaters, I tended to the morning chores. Those chores consist of shaving, etc., then thumping the rear dual tires to be sure I didn’t have a flat. (With a flat on one of the duals, the inflated tire next to it supports the flat so it isn’t obvious. Running on the one good tire can result in ruining both, so it’s a daily morning chore – sometimes more than once a day.)
I also had to fill my drinking water bottles again as I’d poured the last one into the two gallon dispenser I keep in the kitchen. The Walmart filtered water dispensers are very cheap. That morning I paid just 29¢ per gallon.
Just before I planned to leave, as I poured fresh coffee into my travel mug, I managed to spill the full mug all over the counter and onto the floor. That foolishness resulted in about a half hour clean up, including the non-slip mat we keep under the coffee makers and toaster.
Once the mess was cleaned up, I set the coach up for the day’s drive, and pulled out of the lot at 0835. I looked forward to a day of cruising I-10 all day long, ’til I reached Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was a beautiful day for driving, the sun shined brightly and the cool morning warmed as I drove.
It was another wonderful, sunny day to drive a pretty lightly traveled I-10. And it was nice to have the sun at my back for a change, instead of driving into it each morning as I did during the eastward portion of my trip.
Around 0930 or so, I stopped for breakfast at a parking area that was essentially a rest area with no facilities. Since I had all the facilities of a rolling home, it worked just fine. I zapped a frozen breakfast sandwich, peeled a small mandarin orange, and enjoyed a good meal. And I continued west.
The fridge continued to work just fine! I was very pleased with it, and I should be pleased after all the work I’ve put into it over the past three years. I hoped that for the rest of the trip, that fridge and I would get along just fine.
It seemed I did a lot of climbing during the drive, but upon checking elevations, I climbed just a thousand feet during the day.
I stopped at a regular rest area for lunch, but I never have to visit the facilities as everything I need is aboard the coach. I do find the trash receptacles handy for my accumulated household trash. For lunch I whipped up a chicken salad sandwich, followed with an apple for dessert.
I came upon a sign for a view area ahead, and I took a few minutes to check it out. This was the view, and I thought that it was well worth the stop. Beautiful!
I drove past this heavy hauler with what appeared to be a huge transformer aboard. Note how long the rig is to spread that weight over more roadway. And also note those nine axles to carry the massive weight – nearly twice the usual number of axles! (Click to enlarge.)
I wanted to add fuel somewhere around El Paso as I thought they had lower prices than did Las Cruces. I stopped for a short time and perused the GasBuddy site. I found a station selling diesel for $2.64, a price lower than most highway stations. It was over three miles off the interstate, but I didn’t realize that ’til I turned off. It was a Walmart in the small town of Horizon City, just before El Paso. I filled up, but perhaps the hassle was not really worth it.
The drive through El Paso was mostly at the 60 MPH limit, and after about a half hour, I was pretty much past the city. I then came upon a construction zone that was bumper to bumper for about 15 minutes. I already missed those wonderful Texas back roads!
El Paso’s crazy freeway snarl (above) reminded me of a can of worms. I counted six levels of freeway in that tangle! El Paso reminds me very much of Los Angeles.