Finally – Bummin’ Around the Country Again!
Day 1, Monday, May 1, 2023 Home to Tulare, CA via SR99: 167 miles
♫ ♪ On the Road Again! ♪ ♪ ♫
Attaching the faithful Garmin navigator to the dashboard of Big Blue in preparation for the new adventure.
I loaded the coach as though I would be gone for two weeks or more, but for all I knew, I might be back home in just a couple of days. I didn’t have a plan and my destination was unknown. I might head toward those wonderful chicken restaurants near Pittsburg, Kansas. If so, it would have been best to drive I-80, but I was heading south and would be taking I-40 through Arizona and other southern states – if I should get that far. That unknown element is part of the attraction of these RV bummin’ adventures!
Other than family gatherings at our son Craig’s place, just 20 or so miles away, our last trip was in July of last year when we cruised up to Oregon to visit our niece, Jill, and her family. That was 10 months ago!
It was right after that trip that I had a heart attack and was out of commission for a while. I am happy to report that my heart seems just fine since. I am now dealing with an issue in my back and legs that makes walking quite a chore. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I walk like an 80 year old man since I’m in my 80th year! I walk slowly, and with a bit of a stoop, and I suspect it’s caused by arthritis in my old bones. Nevertheless, I still take my daily walks, although they are shorter walks these days, and I am thankful to still be able to bum around the country!
Fuel prices have dropped since our July trip. I fueled up during the day’s drive for $4.11 per, which was $2 less per gallon than I paid last July. Granted, I looked online for that very “low” price in high priced Kalifornistan. The station was just off the freeway, but there were no ramps nearby, and my usually very faithful Garmin Navigator took me on about a 10-mile wild goose chase. I finally found the place on my own, but it sure was a round-about drive. It’s no wonder that station sells for considerably less than other stations!
The station that was so hard to get to was just off the freeway, but with no off ramps. I eventually drove to the right off ramp, but my Garmin navigator directed me the wrong way once I took it!
I arrived at Tulare’s Walmart at 1630 hours, having begun the day’s drive at noon. It was a slow pace, and that’s just fine for this old man. As usual, I cruised at about 58 MPH the entire trip. Here in Kalifornistan, with our hokey, outdated regulations, the speed limit for big rigs is only 55 MPH, but I rarely see one going that speed. Big rigs blow by me all day long, and more power to them – Kalifornistan has the lowest speed limit of all 50 states, and it’s just ridiculous – especially on Kalifornistan’s many, many miles of rural interstate highways. No other state limits big rigs to such a low speed. At the other end of the spectrum, Texas has a maximum big rig speed limit of 85 MPH on some of their highways. And I suppose that’s enough whining for now.
Click to enlarge and read the captions, then click again for an even larger photo:
Once settled in for the evening, I just took it easy as I enjoyed my time aboard Big Blue. For dinner I simply ordered a Panda Express dinner online, and then walked the short distance across the parking lot to pick it up. It was, as usual, delicious. And I knew that I had better watch my eating for the rest of the adventure as it’s just so easy to overdo it on these trips.
Big Blue parked for the night at Tulare’s Walmart store.
The next leg of my trip would likely be to the desert town of Barstow, about a 200 mile drive from Tulare. From there I’d likely head on into Arizona and spend the third night in the town of Parker.
Day 2, Tuesday, May 2, Tulare, CA to Barstow, CA via CA99, CA58: 195 miles
I awoke to find a few raindrops on the windows, but hadn’t heard it rain during the night. We’ve had a rather dramatic cooling in the Central Valley from high temps in the 90s last week to high temps in the low 60s as I write this.
I took it very easy; I had only 200 miles to drive and didn’t worry about getting an early start. I headed into the store for a couple of grocery items I needed. Back at the coach, I checked the oil in the main engine and generator, bumped the tires, and checked that Big Blue was ready for the road.
Here’s what the big boys are selling diesel for these days – still over $5 per, while smaller stations nearby sell for less than $4.50. I guess some folks are willing to pay for the convenience of being so close to the highway. The big rigs one sees at the Love’s and Flying J stations, etc., are certainly not paying the advertised price!
I began the drive to Barstow a few minutes before 1000 hours. The day began a bit breezy and became downright windy by the time I began driving through the Mojave Desert. Still, I enjoyed the drive, even down the rough portions of CA99, and there are a lot of them. Once I turned on to eastbound CA58, the road was all new concrete and pretty smooth – but that didn’t last once the climb up the Tehachapies began.
Big Blue powered us up the hill and through the town of Tehachapi at the top. I enjoyed giving a bit of payback to the big rigs as they struggled up the mountain and I blew by them for a change! It didn’t last long, of course, as once we descended into the Mojave, they blew by me once again.
For lunch, I planned to stop at a rest area near Boron, a small, old historic town in the Mojave Desert. But as I came upon the rest area, I discovered it was closed. That was the second or third closed rest area I’d seen so far on this trip. I took the next off ramp and found an abandoned, dead end street that was obviously unused. So, I made it my rest area and backed into it. I whipped up a hot dog and peeled a couple small tangerines for lunch, and took my sweet time at my personal rest area. During the entire time there, probably near an hour, not one car came by.
Parked for lunch at my very own rest area. I had that old road all to myself.
My lunch rest area was only about 40 miles from Barstow, and I arrived at the local Walmart there a few minutes after 1500 hours. I have spent many nights at the Barstow Walmart, and there is a lot of room for RVs and trucks to park. I made a point to park as far from the trucks as reasonable so as to avoid the sound of rumbling reefers during the night.
Parked for the night at Barstow’s Walmart lot. I do know how to have a good time!
Once set up for the night, I headed into the store for my daily walk, and did some shopping for a few items I needed. Some time ago, I gave up frozen meals to reduce my salt intake. But I decided to buy a few for the trip as without those easily prepared meals, it requires more “cooking” than I want to do on board the coach. So, I bought a few frozen meals, and have them in the freezer for lunches and dinners on the road. I like convenience, and I like cheap!
My afternoon and evening were spent writing about this bummin’ lifestyle, editing photos, and simply enjoying my time aboard Big Blue.
During the evening, after the writing, etc. was done, I set up a small TV/DVD player on the dinette table that originally served as the bedroom TV. It now stays in storage on board and is rarely used. However, I recently bought a new laptop computer without a DVD player. My old laptop had the player so the little TV was rarely used. With its larger screen, it seems to me to be an improvement.
More to click:
After the movie, it was nearing midnight and was time to head to bed. I had enjoyed another day on the road and living aboard Big Blue. Yes, life is good!
Day 3, Wednesday, May 3, Barstow, CA to Parker, AZ via I-40, US95, CA62: 206 miles
I slept very well in the cozy bed of Big Blue. The place was quiet and I wasn’t disturbed by any sounds outside. Of course, the fact is that I have rarely had to move due to being disturbed on a Walmart lot.
On the other hand, one of the many good reasons to WallyDock is that if things aren’t just fine where one parks, the move to another area is not complicated – one just simply moves.
Once up and around, I walked into the store for a few items. A favorite food of mine is apple butter – and there isn’t a store in our town that carries the stuff – I don’t believe most stores sell enough to bother with it. I’ve tried to order it online, but at Amazon, for example, the same stuff I can buy at a Walmart for $4 and change is over $8 online, so it’s just prohibitive in my way of thinking.
Having found the apple butter in the Barstow Walmart, I bought four 28 ounce jars and that ought to last me perhaps a year or more. One of my favorite uses of apple butter is with poached eggs on toast. A good slather of apple butter on the toast before the egg lands is a real treat. Try it sometime – if you can find the apple butter! And there it is… the first recipe ever included in my travel blog!
It was about 0920 when I pulled out of the Barstow Walmart and headed east on I-40, bound for Parker, Arizona. The traffic isn’t half bad on that rural interstate, and it seemed most of the traffic was big rigs that blew by me the entire drive. It was a sunny but breezy day, and the wind didn’t decrease all day.
What a great start to a grand day of bummin’ around the country!
I’d like to post some photos of different scenes along my drive, but driving through the desert all the scenery seems to be just about the same.
Click for full sizes and captions:
It was a cool day for being in a desert all day, but finally it warmed considerably by the time I reached Parker, Arizona where it was about 87°. I ran the air conditioner for quite a while after I arrived.
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I spent the afternoon editing photos and writing of the day’s travel, as usual. I had planned to have the writing and editing done by dinner time so that I could spend more time watching some old movie during the evening.
Big Blue looking good with jacks down at Parker, Arizona’s Walmart lot for the night.
As it turned out, I didn’t spend the evening watching a movie, but again watched some very entertaining videos on YouTube. That’s not unusual for me, even at home, because that site has my number and continually throws up suggestions of various videos that catch my attention. YouTube can be very addictive.
Cookies and Cream ice cream is also very addictive, and I walked into the store for a very “low calorie” pint. It was a very tasty dessert and I kept pretty close to my 1500 calorie daily goal.
I finally gave up and headed to bed about midnight. My plan for the next day was to drive to Marana, Arizona, near Tucson, which would be about a 250 mile drive.
Thursday, Day 4, May 4, Parker, AZ to Marana, AZ via US95, AZ72, I-10, AZ85, I-8, I-10 (again): 260 miles
I spent another quiet and restful night aboard Big Blue. I rolled out of bed about 0630, as usual, and looked forward to another day on the road.
Another grand start to a day on the road with Big Blue. I love that long, nearly empty highway!
I did not look forward to the incessant wind which had been blowing much of the trip. By 0830 hours, as I prepared for my day, it was again windy. It blew virtually all day long during my drive, trying to blow me into the ditch or into the oncoming traffic. Big Blue ran splendidly even though I had to keep her steering wheel cranked a bit one way or the other to keep her on the road against the abominable wind. I didn’t need the heater nor the air conditioner because the weather was otherwise perfect.
The railroad cars outnumbered the automobiles, and I liked that! I consider trains chugging through the countryside to be quite a dramatic site.
The traffic was light, as well. As I drove toward Phoenix on I-10, the traffic was getting heavier, but I turned south to avoid the big city, and while the roads from I-10 down to I-8 were often pretty rough, the traffic was usually very light.
The desert landscapes added a lot of pleasure to the drive. While some may see deserts as sand and weeds and thorns, I see desert landscapes as truly beautiful – but only from the comfort of Big Blue! I’d hate to live in one, or have to walk through one.
Click for larger photos and to read the captions:
I stopped for breakfast and lunch along the drive, and prepared the meals in the coach. To me, “eating in” is one of the best reasons to travel in a motor home – especially these days when food generally, and restaurant food especially, has become so expensive. One drawback of being an old coot is the memory of the cost of things years ago. A Mickey D’s Big Mac, when first introduced in the 60s, was just… 45¢! Today they average over $5 in Kalifornistan. Yep – I’m happy to fix my own lunch these days! And that’s probably enough whining for today’s post.
I arrived at the Marana, Arizona Walmart at 1600 hours. The traffic was pretty heavy in the area as it is a suburb of Tucson. That metro area is over a million souls, and I’d bet most of them have cars! I did not look forward to the coming drive through Tucson the following morning, and I’d be sure to leave after 0900 hours.
I spent most of the afternoon writing this blog and editing the photos herein. I parked next to a sign that explicitly stated that I’d be towed if I parked overnight. I’ve parked next to such signs many times, and they’re not there because Walmart wants them, but because the city fathers, likely pressured by local RV parks, require them.
Big Blue at rest for the night on Marana, Arizona’s Walmart lot.
These signs are posted around the lot – this is the one I parked next to.
I suppose it makes sense to have such postings so that those who would try to live on the lot, and some people have tried, could be more easily removed.
I have never been booted from a Walmart lot, and I’ve stayed in them many, many times – including the Marana Walmart lot. There are a precious few Walmarts, mostly in touristy cities, that cannot allow overnight RV parking because there’d be too many.
I whipped up a quick dinner by zapping a frozen meal in the microwave. I have discovered a new favorite in the Walmart frozen food section. It’s a Walmart brand, called Great Value Pulled Pork and Sweet Corn Cake. I love the stuff too much and have had it for the last three dinners! It’s not exactly low in calories at 500 of the sweet little critters, but I can still manage to stay near my 1500 calorie daily goal. As usual, I had a little tangerine and a banana for dessert. And no, I’m not hard to please when it comes to food!
After finishing the blogging and dinner I set up the little TV/DVD player and began watching the George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones movie, Intolerable Cruelty. I have seen that movie so many times that I almost have it memorized, but I still laughed through it. I watched about half of it when I had to head to bed about midnight. I’d watch the rest the next day.
Day 5, Friday, May 5, Marana, AZ to Las Cruces, NM via I-10: 282 miles
I was up and around at 0600 hours, having been left unmolested by the local gendarme for my crime of parking overnight on the Walmart lot. I awoke to a perfectly lovely day with lots of sunshine and absolutely no breeze. What a difference!
I wasn’t leaving ’til after 0900 hours due to the Tucson commuter rush. I took time to wash the monster windshields, peruse my morning comics and figure out the daily Wordle. I also made a quick breakfast and took my time enjoying that delicious apple butter on raisin toast – mmmm! Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my cinnamon/sugar mix that I like to sprinkle over the apple butter.
I finally pulled out of the Walmart lot a few minutes after 0900 and continued east on I-10. Tucson wasn’t so bad, but I had one big slow down as three lanes merged into two. Once beyond Tucson, I had a wonderfully rural drive all day long.
I was getting into much cheaper fuel territory, and fueled up in the small town of Willcox, Arizona for just $3.92 per. With my PenFed credit card discount the net would be about $3.72. I have been conditioned to think that’s a pretty fair price. I suspect that the farther east I travel, the lower the cost of fuel will be. At home, the price of diesel is as high as $5.30. I hate Kalifornistan!
Check that price!
Click for larger photos and the captions:
I think I have managed to sort out my destination – and it’s going to be, maybe, Pittsburg, Kansas where I love to visit the chicken restaurants. As I figure it, I should arrive there on Monday. It will depend on the weather, of course, which could change my plans.
Big Blue with jacks down for the night at a Las Cruces Walmart.
I planned to drive to Clovis, NM on day 6, and would be at something over 4000 feet there. I have some reservations about higher elevations due to my heart history, but Las Cruces is 3900 feet, and I had been doing fine there.
I enjoyed the day’s drive with its lovely weather, usually good roads, and relatively light traffic. I had a terrific tailwind during the afternoon that made for great fuel economy and a quieter ride.
I arrived at 1600 hours at one of three Walmarts in Las Cruces, and I chose the one that was very near I-10. It was actually 1700 hours in Las Cruces because I entered the Mountain Time Zone when I crossed the state line into New Mexico.
During the afternoon and evening in Las Cruces, I reviewed possible routes and times to continue my adventure to Pittsburg, Kansas and the two nearby chicken restaurants out in the country. I figured it would take four more days of driving. On Saturday I’d drive to Clovis, NM. On Sunday I’d drive to Liberal, KS. Monday would find me in Wichita, Kansas. Then on Tuesday I’d have only about 150 miles to drive to Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s. After I feasted on the world’s best fried chicken, I would drive into town and spend Tuesday night at the Pittsburg Walmart. On Wednesday, I’d begin my trek home. And an old saying came to mind as I penciled in my plans: The best laid plans of mice and men…
Besides the planning, I spend two or three hours on this blog, then spent the late evening watching the rest of Intolerable Cruelty and began watching Driving Miss Daisy for the umpteenth time.
I poured myself a nightcap during the last hour of movie watching, and then headed to bed at midnight. It had been a grand day!
Day 6, Saturday, May 6, Las Cruces, NM to Clovis, NM via US70: 329 miles
I was up a few minutes after 0600 hours, and turned on the heaters as it was a bit cool in Las Cruces. I got right after morning chores, then headed into the store not long after it opened to buy a few grocery items.
I was surprised to find the only bags available at the self-checkout stand were what one might term old fashioned paper bags. I can’t remember the last time I a saw paper bags in a Walmart. They were pretty fancy ones, too, with WALMART proudly printed in blue on every one. And then I was charged 10¢ for it! Sheesh. I’d prefer to be a bit less politically correct and at least have a plastic bag option!
And then I began my driving day, and I somehow wound up going south, I think, when I wanted to take US70 directly from Las Cruces northeast toward Clovis, NM. I’m sure I followed the directions from my Garmin navigator, but I would be much more likely to get myself turned around than would that electronic wonder. At any rate, and I hate to admit this, I wound up driving through a small bit of Texas! That means I drove south on I-10 about 20 miles out of my way. Sheesh. I have to ask again, as I’ve asked several times in the past, why do they let us old coots loose on the highways and byways to get lost!?
Why in the world was I on NM213 heading south?! Even I don’t know!
I eventually got it figured out, and the bottom line is that I drove 329 miles during the day’s adventure instead of the 293 miles I should have driven. Frankly, I don’t know why I admit to such meanderings when I don’t have to!
The day was pleasant once I got straightened out. US 70, which was the main highway of my drive, was as barren and lightly used as any I’ve driven. Nevada advertises their portion of US50 as the “Loneliest Road in America”. I’ve driven both now, and I think US70 was every bit as lonely as US50.
And… an even bigger question: Why was I in Texas?!
I wound up on this forsaken excuse of a road as I began my turn around to head for Clovis. Sheesh!
I’m not complaining; I like lonely highways. During the drive along US70, I topped Apache Summit at 7612 feet. Driving up the the mountains it seemed I’d never reach the top. Then once over the summit, it seemed I’d never reach the bottom, which didn’t drop below 4000′ if I recall correctly.
Somewhere near Apache Summit I was high enough to be in timber country.
It was good to finally pull into the Clovis, NM Walmart lot. It was warm, but not so warm that I needed the air conditioner when I parked. During the drive I had been thinking about how good a Walmart rotisserie chicken would taste for dinner.
Once parked, settled in, and cleaned up, I headed into the store and bought the chicken I’d been wanting. I also bought coleslaw. I loved my dinner but I’m not sure it was worth the aggravation I felt for falling off my diet wagon – or more accurately, jumping off my diet wagon with both feet!
All I can do is climb back on the wagon and do better. That is, until Tuesday, anyway – when I plan a chicken pig-out with Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s fried chicken near Pittsburg, Kansas.
I spent much of the evening updating this blog. For relaxation afterward, I watched more YouTube funnies, mostly the hilarious things people video their very funny pets doing. I find silly pets to be very entertaining.
I called it quits and headed to bed about midnight. It had been another grand day on the road!
Day 7, Sunday, May 7, Clovis, New Mexico to Liberal, Kansas via NM209, NM469, US54: 258 miles
I was up and at ’em a few minutes after 0600 hours. I’d like to report about the day’s first cup of coffee as I perused my comics, but I’ve given up a lot of fluids, including those beloved morning coffees. That’s how I have to deal with these heart issues, and frankly, I’m getting used to not sipping on coffee every morning.
Once ready for the day, I headed to the store for a couple items I needed, and I do like to shop at the Walmarts I overnight at to show my appreciation. Sam Walton opened his lots to RVers many years ago, and it’s a real boon for us to have safe, well lit lots to spend the nights while traveling. And, of course, just about anything one would need while traveling is found in the stores. Some Walmarts even sell gas and diesel, and usually at the very lowest prices.
A few minutes after 0900 I pulled out of the lot and headed northeast to Kansas. I drove through both the Texas Panhandle and the Oklahoma Panhandle to arrive in Kansas.
The drive included some very narrow farm roads north of Clovis. I drove miles and miles through desolate country on roads that had no shoulder at all. It crossed my mind that if I had to stop and pull off the road, I might sink into mud. For all I knew, they may have had recent rainstorms. But all went well, and in time I was driving on wider roads, and eventually four lane highways.
All of the day’s photos are posted in this gallery; click to enlarge and read the captions. Click again to make the photo even larger:
I arrived at the Liberal, Kansas Walmart at 1630 Central Time. Yep, I was two time zones away from home! I’m pretty sure I’ll find the two lost hours when I head for home, probably beginning Wednesday.
I ate the day’s three meals in the coach, trying in vain to make up for the awful rotisserie chicken pig-out of the prior evening. I planned another chicken feast at Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s in a couple of days. I just had to behave myself all other meals!
Once I was settled in, I walked into the store to take a lap around the inside due to it being about 91° outdoors. As I walked across the lot to the store, it became very apparent that I would not walk that lap indoors; my legs were just too weak. I had to return to the coach. I have no idea why that weakness has begun, but as soon as I can, I’ll be seeing the doctor about it. It’s all very strange as I’ve never dealt with such an issue before.
I spent the evening as usual; I edited photos, then wrote of the day’s travel, etc. in this blog. During the evening, I perused the offerings on Amazon Prime Video, which we have with our Prime membership. I selected The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. I had seen that movie back in the 60s when it came out, and likely a time or two since. But due to the two-hour time change it was all too soon time to head for bed. I would finish watching the movie another night, or maybe not.
I climbed into bed about midnight and slept very well.
Day 8, Monday, May 8, Liberal, KS to Wichita, KS via: US54, US400: 204 miles
I slept ’til very nearly 0700, which is unusual for me. Perhaps the two hour time difference had something to do with it. I hopped out of bed and got after the morning chores on that first day of my second week on the road and living aboard the coach.
Once the bed was made and I was presentable (such things are among the morning chores), I walked into the store to do some shopping. I climbed onto one of the electric scooter shopping carts that Walmart benevolently offers, and was able to shop to my little heart’s content while sitting comfortably.
We’ve had Big Blue for nearly five years, and we’ve never used the propane stove. But I’ve been craving eggs the past couple of days, so I wanted a pan to boil poached eggs. Naturally, Walmart offers such items, and I bought one along with a big, slotted spoon to fish out the eggs from the steaming water. I also bought several other food items, including fresh eggs, and wheeled my loot out to the coach with a regular shopping cart.
The untested and unused little stove worked just fine. I enjoyed a tasty breakfast of two poached eggs on a couple slices of raisin toast that was slathered with apple butter. Delicious! Poached eggs on toast will occasionally be my breakfast (or even lunch) choice when I travel aboard the coach!
It was 1100 hours when I pulled out of the Walmart lot in Liberal, Kansas. I could blame my late departure on the two-hour time change, but no. It was because I simply chose to dawdle around that morning as I shopped and as I whipped up a good and proper breakfast for a change. Besides, it was to be near 90° at my destination of Wichita, and I wouldn’t mind getting in later when it would be cooling down.
As I began the drive, I encountered a road that the little Garmin navigator wanted me to take, but was closed due to construction. I continued on and took a long detour, and when I was finally back on the right road I had driven, I think, about 30 extra miles! Such things are to be encountered when bummin’ around the country, I suppose, and the fact is, thankfully, I’m certainly not on any time schedule!
Somewhere along US400 as I drove east, I stopped at a lovely little rest area for lunch and to kill some time. I wanted to arrive later than usual at my destination to avoid at least some of the heat.
At the rest area, I took my sweet time editing the photos I’d taken of the morning’s drive, and updating this blog. After the update, I whipped up some lunch before continuing on toward Wichita.
I resumed the drive somewhat refreshed and up to date on my writing and photo editing. I enjoyed the drive through rural Kansas, and I always find small farm towns interesting. As I have often written in the past, I was meant to be a farm boy, and somehow I missed my calling.
Kansas roads seemed well maintained with few exceptions. US54 and US400, which are essentially the same highway, have their names changed somewhere near Mullinville, Kansas. The highway is a pretty busy thoroughfare for that part of Kansas, and I pulled over often to let the hurried truckers pass me. They like driving at least the speed limit which is usually 65 MPH while I cruise along at 58 MPH for the sake of better fuel mileage.
When I drove big rigs years ago, I had a great disgust for RVers that held up traffic – including me – because they simply didn’t pay attention to the line of frustrated people lined up behind them. I don’t want to be that kind of RVer!
I arrived at the Kellogg Drive Walmart at 1715 hours. It was the first of three Walmarts in Wichita, and I had planned to drive to the one on the east side of town. However, by arriving at the peak of commuter traffic, I pulled into the Kellogg Drive store on the west side of town and avoided the traffic hassle.
I set up Big Blue for the night, then began evening chores because I had arrived at the time that I usually do them. That included dinner, and I zapped a frozen Healthy Choice Steamers dinner of sweet and sour chicken. Afterwards, I enjoyed a banana and a tangerine for dessert. I was trying to behave, knowing that I’d be pigging out on the chicken feast at Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s the next day!
Jacks down at one of three Walmarts in Wichita, Kansas.
When I arrived, it was plenty warm in Wichita at 91°, so I fired up the generator and ran the air conditioners for about 2½ hours. By then, the weather was quite comfortable at about 84°.
I spent the evening as usual, editing photos and writing of the day’s drive across the portion of the heartland known as Kansas. I love driving through farm country and watching the endless green that it is this time of year.
I watched the rest of Driving Miss Daisy, then began watching The Help staring Emma Stone and Viola Davis. I’ve seen both movies many times, and still enjoy them, but perhaps it’s time to find a few more to take on my travels.
I poured myself a cool one about 2230 hours and enjoyed it along with the movie. I called it a day around midnight, as usual, and headed to bed. It had been another pleasant day on the road with Big Blue.
Day 9, Tuesday, May 9, Wichita, KS to Pittsburg, KS via US400, KS47, KS7: 183 miles
I woke up to yet another beautiful day, looking forward to another day’s journey aboard Big Blue. It was also the day I would arrive at my destination of Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s.
The two restaurants are out in the country near Pittsburg, Kansas, sitting cheek by jowl to one another. Chicken Annie’s was founded in 1934, and Chicken Mary began her business in the early 1940s. Both were born of necessity as both women found themselves having to support their families. They have competed side by side for the local chicken lovers’ business all those years.
I don’t remember the first time I ate there, but it was after seeing a story about the two restaurants on PBS television. Every time I’m in the area, I make a point of visiting both.
(I looked up the yellow flowers in the photo above, and I believe they are buttercups, as described here. If they are buttercups, they’re toxic to livestock.)
When I arrived about 1230 hours, I had time to work on my photos and blogging as they don’t open ’til 1600 hours. During my wait I worked on this blog, showered, and got ready for my feast. Once open, I walked into each place and ordered a two thigh dinner with two sides. The sides were mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, and apple sauce dyed, for some unknown reason, a bright red.
I thoroughly enjoyed my fried chicken pig-out. The sides that I ate, just two, were good and tasty, but the wonderful fried chicken was the star of the meal. It is said that locals disagree, sometimes passionately, about which restaurant makes the best chicken, but I have to say that they seem nearly identical to me.
After the feast, I fired up Big Blue and headed to town and the Walmart lot. When I pulled in, The weather was threatening, but later it became very dark and windy, and there was a severe thunderstorm warning put in place. In time, the wind kicked up to as high as 60 MPH and shook the motorhome pretty violently.
The winds soon subsided and the rain began. There was a pretty good rain with some lightening, but the rain storm wasn’t as fierce as the winds that preceded it. A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect ’til 2300 hours, and I kept the window shades up well after dark just so that I could watch the rainfall. I also turned off the music on Alexa and just listened to the rain on the roof of the coach. It sounded wonderful!
After I posted the day’s story on this blog, I set up the little portable TV/DVD player for some movie time. I continued watching The Help, but still didn’t finish it. It would still be there the next evening, no doubt.
I called it a day and headed to bed about midnight. I have sure enjoyed my RV travels and consider myself very fortunate.
Day 10, May 10, Wednesday, Pittsburg, KS to Hays, KS via US400, I-135, I-70: 345 miles
I slept very well, and perhaps it was the one bottle of Modelo beer I enjoyed the prior evening. If so, I had five more bottles and I may sleep unusually well for several more nights!
The day’s drive would take me to Hays, Kansas, about 350 miles across windy Kansas. As one Kansan told me recently, if the wind ain’t blowing, it ain’t Kansas. I am learning to believe it.
The drive was as usual, and I had no issues to complain about, except, of course, the price of fuel. I filled up at Pittsburg, KS as I was leaving town, and paid $3.88 per. Naturally, I saw diesel selling in the $3.67 range during my drive, but that almost always happens.
I fought sleepiness during much of the morning, ’til I stopped at a Mickey D’s and bought an Oreo McFlurry and a cup of coffee. As always, that combination kept me wide awake the rest of the day.
I’ll let the photos I took tell the story of my drive, because a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.
Click and enjoy the day’s photos:
I arrived at the Hays, Kansas Walmart a few minutes after 1600 hours. I parked at a remote section of the lot and set up Big Blue for the night. It was pretty warm, and I ran the generator and air conditioner for two to three hours to be comfortable. The wind blew all afternoon and evening, of course. Perhaps Kansas is an Indian word meaning windy?
Big Blue parked for the night at the Hays, Kansas Walmart. Note the distant flag flying above the store – it was blown upright, and stayed that way all evening.
I spent the afternoon and all evening in the coach, and didn’t enter the store my entire stay – which was very unusual for me. Once I updated this blog, I set up the TV/DVD player and watched the rest of The Help.
I dug out an old DVD I recorded way back in 2006. It had one episode of The First Forty-Eight and an old UFC fight episode that I had also recorded on it. And yes, those old recordings were still entertaining.
For dinner, I enjoyed the left-over apple sauce and coleslaw from my recent chicken feast. Along with three slices of turkey lunch meat, it made for a not-all-that-bad meal.
I headed to bed at midnight, as usual, and slept very well. Life is good. (Even as a bum!)
Day 11, Thursday, May 11, Hays, KS to Cheyenne, WY via US183, I-80: 418 miles
My day began at 0630 when I rolled out of bed to face the new day. I slept very well, and was again looking forward to another day on the road. I planned to travel farther than I usually do nowadays, a bit over 400 miles, to reach Cheyenne, Wyoming.
I got right after the morning chores, making the bed, etc., and making sure Big Blue was ready for travel. I pulled out of the Hays, Nebraska Walmart at 0800 and headed north toward I-80 which was 130 miles or so away.
Another grand start of my day; an open highway and Big Blue to carry me away on yet another adventure!
Once on I-80, I enjoyed a tailwind most of the trip, which helps fuel mileage. However, I also climbed during the day’s drive from 2000 feet elevation to a bit over 6000 feet. That doesn’t help fuel mileage at all!
I stopped at the Nebraska town of Ogallala to fuel up at the Walmart gas station. The store was near the freeway, and the price was one of the lowest of the trip at just $3.60 per. I happily filled up, even standing in the rain a bit to do so. Yep, it started raining in Ogallala and rained on and off ’til I arrived at Cheyenne’s Walmart. On occasion I drove through heavy downpours.Big Blue slurping up more diesel – this Walmart station in Ogallala, Nebraska charged “only” $3.60 per gallon.
During the day’s drive, my Consumer Cellular phone gave me fits. Much of the time while on the coach, I play my “smart speaker” Echo from Amazon, aka Alexa, and she’s online via my i-Phone’s hot spot. At one point that morning she suddenly stopped playing her beautiful music. I also couldn’t get online with the phone nor the laptop. I had to call for support from Consumer Cellular, and not once but four times! Finally, late that afternoon just before I arrived at Cheyenne, they got me back online. All these electronic gizmos can sure be frustrating sometimes.
Click for larger photos of the day, and to read the captions:
I arrived at Cheyenne’s Livingston Avenue store at 1600 hours Mountain Time. (I found one of the hours I lost earlier.) When I had Big Blue set up for the night, I headed into the store for a few items I needed. I find the self-check out that Walmart offers is a real time saver. It’s the only way I check out nowadays. I had my concerns about people cheating the system, but apparently it works; it seems that Walmart now has more self-check out counters than ever.
Back at the coach, I put things away and began editing photos. I have uploaded so many photos that my phone’s 1 gigabyte data plan is now pushing 20 gigabytes. That also includes all the YouTube videos I watch – I should remember when on the road, those chuckles can cost a pretty penny, paid to the phone company.
I set aside the photos at about 1730 hours because it was time to clean up and prepare dinner. It was about then that I realized I parked sideways to the wind when I first parked. When the wind is strong, and blows to the broadside of the coach, it can rock the whole coach quite noticeably. So I had to raise the jacks and move the coach so that it faced into the wind. What a difference that made! I usually check the wind direction before I park, but with the rain coming down when I arrived, I didn’t.Big Blue parked for the night (I thought). I had to move her later in the evening to face into the quite strong wind.
The weather, naturally, in Wyoming was brutal. The wind blew and the rain fell and I wasn’t a particularly happy camper. Then I realized that the forced air heater for the living area had quit working. I wasn’t about to go out in the weather to check it, so I dug out a small electric heater and it kept me comfortable. I also had to run the generator to work the little heater.
The bedroom/bath forced air heat worked fine, so I set it at 65° overnight to keep that area comfortable for sleep. I slept well ’til about 0430 and then, perhaps due to weather worries about the coming day’s drive, I didn’t sleep so well.
Day 12, Friday, May 12, Cheyenne, WY to Salt Lake City, UT via I-80: 428 miles
I was up at 0600 and had one thing on my mind – to get the heck on the road and get over 8,640 feet Sherman Summit, about 40 miles west. It was just 35° in Cheyenne, and I wondered if Sherman Summit might not be closed due to snow. From what I read online, all roads were open in Wyoming, and just rain and wind were reported.
I worked through the morning chores, then idled the coach over to the Walmart gas station to top off the fuel. It was selling for $4.00 per, and might have been the best buy I’d find for a long time. I pumped on about 25 gallons to fill up. Naturally, I saw it selling in the $3.60 range later in the day!
I was in windy country as soon as I began my drive, it was pretty clear to see.
I pulled out of the Walmart lot at about 0730 and continued west on I-80, just hoping for the best. The weather for perhaps the first half of the day’s drive was wet and windy, just as predicted.
When I topped Sherman Summit it was snowing, but not heavily and it wasn’t sticking – except to the windshields. I was able to drive over the top at nearly normal speed while the wipers cleared snow away. I could see only where the wipers contacted the windows while the rest of both huge windshields were covered solid in snow.
As I descended from the summit, the snow eventually ceased and I dealt with wind and rain for much of the day. Signs warned of winds in excess of 40 MPH, and I’d guess that was accurate. Wyoming is really big and it is nearly empty.
Eventually, the weather improved, and the afternoon drive was partly sunny and breezy with no rain to speak of.
I pulled into Salt Lake City’s Walmart store near the bottom of Parley’s Canyon. It is the same one that my dear Wifey and I spend the night when we visit our granddaughter who lives in SLC, while enroute to Denver to visit her parents. In fact, we planned to do just that the following month.
It was good to be in spring-like Salt Lake City after the wintery conditions in Wyoming. I drove from miserable winter to very pleasant springtime in just one day!
Big Blue at rest for the night on the Parleys Way Walmart lot in Salt Lake City.
I zapped a frozen chicken pot pie for dinner, and really enjoyed it as I had given up such meals before going back to such fare during this trip – they really are very quick and convenient, if not the healthiest choice.
After a shower and dinner, I set myself down to update this blog and edit entirely too many photos, many of which would never be posted – there simply was not enough room for all of them.
After the blogging was up to date, it was movie night again. I dug out the movie Fargo to watch for the umpteenth time, and watched what I could of it before it was time to head to bed at midnight. I would likely watch the rest of it the following night.
Day 13, Saturday, May 13, Salt Lake City, UT to Fernley, NV via I-80: 479 miles
I slept well ’til a little after 0500, which wasn’t enough sleep for this old man. I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up trying pretty quickly and rolled out of bed to greet the new day.
The day would be a long one. I wanted to reach Fernley, Nevada, which is almost to Reno. Then the following day I would have about 220 miles left to drive home, which would be Mother’s Day.
After morning chores, I set Big Blue up for another day on the highway. I pulled out of the Walmart lot about 0720 and continued west toward home. Salt Lake City wasn’t so busy that early on a Saturday morning, and the traffic through the metropolis was smooth and at the speed limit.
When I reached Wendover, on the state line with Nevada, I pulled into a truck stop and fueled up. I pumped on 60 gallons at $3.76 per. While that would get me home, I planned to top off somewhere around Fernley. There’s usually quite a difference in Nevada vs. Kalifornistan fuel prices. I wanted enough fuel on board to negate having to buy any in Kalifornistan before the next trip the following month to Denver to see the kids.
The night’s less than normal amount of sleep, combined with the morning’s drive, took its toll on me and I fought much of the morning to stay awake. At one point, I pulled off the highway, parked, and went to bed for about an hour. I was more alert after the nap and made it safely to Fernley.
Click for photos of the day’s adventure, and to read the captions:
I finally arrived at the Fernley, Nevada Walmart at 1700 hours. I was bushed. 480 miles are just too many for an old man to drive in one day, at least this old man. It was good to pull into the Fernley, Nevada Walmart and be “home” for the night.
Once settled in, I absolutely had to do my bi-weekly medicine sorting. I take so many medications and supplements, that if I relied on just taking them directly from a bottle, I’d have nearly 20 bottles to open and sort through. So I put the meds together in two, one week pill organizers from which I can dispense each day, and four times each day, Morning, Noon, Dinner, and Bedtime. Without those organizers, I’d be lost.
Pills at breakfast! Pills at lunch! And dinner! And bedtime! It takes some effort to keep them all organized.
For dinner, I walked into the store’s Subway Shop, and ordered a 6″ Chicken Teriyaki sandwich for dinner. I love Subway fare, and yet so seldom have it. I sure enjoyed that sandwich for dinner!
Big Blue at rest for the night at the Fernley, Nevada Walmart store.
It was then time to edit photos and bring this blog up to date. Around 2200 hours I had it all done, and was looking forward to movie time again.
I dozed off for about half an hour just before I dug out the little DVD player, so I lost that much movie time. I poured myself a cool one, and continued watching Fargo for about 40 minutes before bedtime rolled around.
I climbed into the cozy queen bed aboard Big Blue at midnight, and slept well. I would be home the next day!
Day 14, Sunday, May 14, Fernley, NV to Home (!) via I-80, CA99: 225 miles
Again, I couldn’t quite get the six hours of sleep that seems to be my required minimum. I was up a few minutes after 0500 and excited about heading for home.
I turned on the forced air heaters and the water heater for just enough time to get comfy. I worked through the morning chores, checked that Big Blue was ready for the day’s run, and pulled out of the Fernley, Nevada Walmart lot at 0630.
I wanted to top off the fuel, so I headed to the lowest priced station I found online, which was owned by a local Indian tribe. Due to some federal regs, they can sell fuel cheaper than anyone else, so I filled up with 41 gallons at $4 per.
Fueling for the last leg of the 2023 Chicken Run.
And then the miserable drive home began. Miserable? Yes! From Reno to Sacramento, I-80 is one of the most abused highways in Kalifornistan. We had a very snowy winter, and the heavy trucks, with chained up tires, grinding up and down the mountain from Reno have rutted the concrete highway so badly that it was difficult to steer Big Blue as she wanted to follow the ruts. I finally gave up the effort and stayed out of the truck lanes, choosing to drive the lanes most used by cars, and not at all rutted. It truly was a miserable drive.
The ruts left by trucks grinding over Donner Summit on chains have ruined a large portion of I-80.
Once below about 4000′, the roadway was in better condition, but still a typical rough and poorly maintained Kalifornistan roadway. At one point I hit a pothole so jolting that the microwave oven door popped open and the glass turn table crashed to the floor, breaking into a thousand pieces. I pulled over to the side of the road and swept up the mess as well as I could. It will require a lot of vacuuming to get all the glass shards out of the carpet and the kitchen floor.
I stopped at a “View Area” somewhere high in the Sierra mountains for a very quick breakfast. I zapped a breakfast sandwich, peeled a tangerine, and ate it all in a hurry so as to get back on the road.
In spite of my very negative comments about I-80 and Donner Summit, there are some very scenic views along the way. Click to enlarge and read the captions:
I arrived home a few minutes after 1100 hours, and was ever so pleased to hug my dear Wifey good and close. While I love to wander the country, I also love my homelife with the cutest and sweetest woman I’ve ever known. Life is good with my Lavonne!
I unloaded items I’d need overnight, then parked Big Blue in the RV lot ’til morning when I’d unload her completely. It was already a warm day in the valley, and I was bushed.
Glad to see you are back on the road and in (somewhat) good health. Getting old is not for sissies. On the subject of frozen dinners. There are some out there that are fairly healthy. Healthy Choice Steamers are low in salts and fats. Yo may have to supplement fruit etc to fill you though.
Good luck and happy travels
Hello, Mel –
It’s good to hear from you again. And, yes, I’ve eaten many Healthy Choice Steamers. I love the Sweet and Sour Chicken, Sesame Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie plus others. I make a point of having fruit with every meal, too. Usually I have tangerines. I have a suggestion for you that isn’t a particularly healthy one, but it sure is delicious. It’s Walmart’s Great Value brand frozen dinner called Pulled Pork And Sweet Corn Cake. You might really like it, too.
I also say that old age isn’t for sissies – and don’t we know it! But as long as I can do things I like, it surely beats the alternative!
Thanks again for the visit.
Could those yellow flowers you were seeing be wild mustard ? It was hard to tell for me but they are prolific.
I don’t think they’re mustard as they are closer to the grass, or much shorter than mustard. I just found what it may be, which is buttercups. Check it out here (I can’t make a link here) but you can copy and paste this: https://www.farmprogress.com/animal-health/a-pretty-yet-painful-pasture-flower-for-livestock
Those buttercups sure do look like what I’ve been seeing. The trouble is, the article states that they are toxic.
Thanks for the comment.