Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty, his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.
Wednesday, December 14, 2015: Up, breakfast, and on the road by 0930. The temperatures are in the 50’s but with the bright Texas sun, it felt a lot warmer. At this stage of our trip, we enter the part of the United States that features more cows and oil wells than people…consequently there are few towns of any size to explore along the route. But, occasionally, we will come upon another traveler with an interesting vehicle…and today there were a few…like this bad boy!
The perspective of the above photo is a bit deceiving…but that rig is a lot longer than the standard 18-wheeler! It features 34 tires, and the cargo actually formed part of the truck’s chassis! There were a half dozen of these rigs lumbering down the road with pilot cars leading and trailing the pack.
A bit further along this quirky RV sped by.
Looked to be a Casita camper on a utility trailer frame, with a boat shaped bow and a funny doghouse style storage box at the rear. Along the side, it sported a mural with the phrase “Free Spirit” emblazoned upon…no argument there!
And lastly, at a truck stop, we spotted this very, very, long hauler!
That rig is transporting just one blade of a three-bladed wind generator…not too heavy but at 155 feet, very long!
All very interesting, about the only thing interesting in this part of Texas!
Yep, miles and miles of straight as an arrow roads, or that we have been calling “pointy roads”. To break up the monotony, an occasional tumbleweed would tumble past and for a real thrill, a gaggle of oil wells pumping Texas Crude would come into view off in the distance. With this vast expanse of nothingness, one would occasionally view a mirage.
This vision of deliciousness was so realistic we followed it for hours in the hopes that the rear doors would swing open and the hidden bounty would be ours! But our attempt was thwarted by an escort of three police cars, two highway patrol vehicles and the local sheriff, who guarded the truck as if it was carrying the gold of Fort Knox! Just as quickly as it appeared the apparition and its law enforcement escorts shimmered in the afternoon heat and slowly vanished.
At 1200 we passed into the Mountain Time Zone and our spirits fell with the realization that we just added another hour to our day of travel in the vast emptiness of South Central Texas…however, there was a bit of excitement in the day when our cell phones alerted us to this incoming Text Message:
What!!! Did we take a wrong turn? Did Lucy, the GPS lead us astray, again?! Now don’t get me wrong, we like visiting Mexico, we have friends that live in Mexico, I can even see Mexico from my house, but we had no desire to visit Mexico today! A detailed look at the trucks navigation system revealed that we were mere inches from the border.
Fully within the confines of the United States, but apparently closer to Mexican cell towers then US ones!
An hour later, the pointy road led us toward the mountains of west Texas.
And a few additional hours found us nearing the city of El Paso…which when translated from Spanish means: “Pass Through, Do Not Stop, There is Little of Interest Here”. But stop we did as El Paso, which is nestled along the eastern slope of the Franklin Mountains, is the home of Fort Bliss…at 1,700 square miles it is the second largest US Army post in the world.
Fort Bliss has an outstanding RV Park, and one of the best military shopping malls in the country. Considering it had been a while since laundry was done, or groceries were procured, or Kit had enjoyed any intensive retail therapy, we pulled in to their RV Park for a short stay.
With beautiful blue skies, and warm temperatures, Kit and I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside and reading until darkness fell. Finally, some time to relax!
Thursday, December 15, 2016-Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas: Today is devoted to getting some groceries, fueling up the truck, performing preventative maintenance on the trailer, doing a large load of laundry and enjoying a relaxing day off the road.
Kit also spent time finishing up some Christmas stockings for the Vegas Tribe that our daughter Kim had started, all while enjoying a nice French Vanilla stogie (Pirouette cookie said Kit).
And I worked on editing photos and writing this journal…yep, we lead exciting lives!
Before nightfall, the truck was reconnected to the trailer, the levelling jacks retracted, the water and sewer hoses disconnected and the main camper slide brought in…basically readying everything for an O-dark-thirty departure. Our goal is to be in Tucson by tomorrow afternoon for a nice weekend stay with my bruzzin and the lovely bride-of-bruzzin before heading to Las Vegas to spend the Christmas holiday season with our daughter and her family.
Kit and I went to bed with excited anticipation…we are only a day away from completing our transit across the widest part of United States and looking forward to the next 4 months of bouncing about the American Southwest!
Friday, December 16, 2016: Woke up to a scene out of The Wizard of Oz! Winds so strong the camper was dancing on her springs and everything that wasn’t tied down was flying past the windows!
Realizing that we weren’t going anywhere today, the alarm was silenced and we allowed ourselves to be rocked back to sleep.
As the morning wore on, the winds increased in velocity…with the truck and trailer connected, we felt pretty secure, however the camper was really shaking when the wind gusts topped 50MPH!
Kit mentioned that the movement of the camper in the wind felt like being on Jeff and Catherine’s sailboat in the Gulf of Maine…except, of course, their rig is designed to heal over…ours is not!
During a lull, I made a mad dash outside, lowered the levelling jacks, reconnected the water and sewer and snapped a photo.
You may recall that yesterday the mountains to the west were clearly visible, and the tree on our site was full of golden leaves…what a difference a day makes! Kit and I spent the rest of the time relaxing inside the camper with an occasional venture into the storm to get some exercise. As evening fell, we were mentally prepared to leave in the morning to continue our journey but the weather forecast did not look promising.
Saturday, December 17, 2016-Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas: This morning the winds are as strong as ever, and the interstate highway we would take into Arizona had a severe wind alert posted for high profile vehicles, like ours. As I registered for another day, the RV Park manager mentioned a motorhome had blown over last night on I-10 heading East…minor injuries, motorhome likely totaled. Yikes…guess we made the correct decision to hunker down!
Spent the day inside the camper tending to some modifications we had previously planned when time permitted…and boy did we have a lot of time on our hands now! Around midafternoon, I checked the Wind App I use when engaged in kite flying and discovered the following wind history graph for the El Paso airport.
Yep, around 0900 the wind gust topped 60 MPH!
As nightfall fell, the gusts were still pretty bad but the forecast was for diminishing winds and calm by sunrise. So, once again, we made preparations for an early departure…with that, we hit the sack and hoped for the best.
Sunday, December 18, 2016: Yay! Woke to calm winds and the prospect of a sunny day! Made coffee and hit the road by 0630.
I usually trust the GPS to guide us through a city, unless of course the human navigator that sits in the passenger’s seat contradicts said electronic navigator. At these times, when I must make a split decision, I generally abide by what the human navigator is telling me. In this case, I didn’t….and I was wrong! Driving a few miles out of our way until I came to an exit to loop around and retrace those few miles brought us to exactly where we should have been ten minutes earlier…if I had listened to the human navigator! During this detour the human navigator kept repeating the word “recalculating” in that condescending, I told you so, voice.
Pulling off on the Trans-Mountain Highway Kit and I made our way over the 7,129-foot Franklin Mountains into New Mexico where we merged with I-10 heading West. Within a few hours, we encountered the first Border Patrol Checkpoint of the trip.
Take notice of the three white poles on the left that are affixed with cameras and sensors. Those feed a national database and allow the agents to know the origins of the vehicle…a huge time saver compared to stopping everyone and asking for identification. In addition, fugitives are apprehended frequently through the system…a win-win!
Since we left before breakfast, and we were nearing the sizable town of Deming, the decision was made to treat ourselves to a meal at Denny’s.
The above photo is only half of my breakfast…the better half I might add! Not that the eggs, bacon, and hash browns were substandard, but the pecan pancakes with caramel sauce and bananas were incredible! Following breakfast, we continued down the I-10 Business route in order to see if our motel from 1965 was still standing!
Yep, it sure is…however, today it’s a flop house. One can still make out the Travelodge logo in the second story railing design. As a newly married teenage couple, this is where we spent the first night of our transcontinental motor trip to Key West, Florida some 51 years ago.
Leaving town, we merged onto Interstate 10 and continued west. Since we had tanked up, both the truck and ourselves, Kit and I decided on minimal stops today in order to make good time on our journey to Tucson. Usually we stop every hour or so, but todays mission is to get to Dewey and Bea’s place by early afternoon.
I’m frequently amused, yep easily amused, by the graphics on the trucks GPS.
And how closely it replicates what we view out the windscreen.
With that piece of fascinating insight, the rest of the day was not nearly as exciting except for maybe crossing into the state of Arizona.
Around noon we came to the small dusty outpost of Bowie, Arizona, population 449, including the infamous John Rambo. Needing a pit-stop we pulled into Dwayne the Jerky Man’s large parking lot…since there is not much else around, the vast desert is their parking lot!
Dwayne’s is the town’s main attraction consisting of a gas station, Jerky emporium, Pistachio seasoning factory, and RV Park. Inside was an opportunity to shoot the bull, which I did using my Canon S-95, double action.
Dwayne’s is a perfect place to pick up some, “sorry were late in getting there” gifts for Dewey and Bea…some world famous spicy Pistachios.
Yep, they’re as hot as they look. Red ones are chili pepper seasoned, yellow are lemon tequila, green is jalapeno flavored, and the white are lime tequila, and my favorite!
After the brief stop, Kit and I were back on the road continuing West and shortly before 1300 hours found us passing through Texas Canyon.
Texas Canyon lies within the Dragoon Mountains…the name was derived by the many Texas settlers that made the area their home. Just to the south is where the famed Apache “Cochise” was laid to rest following many years of conflict with insurgent forces that sought to eradicate the Apache Tribe. Uncaptured and undefeated, Cochise died of natural causes in 1874 and was buried in the mountains he loved…the precise location of his final place of rest is unknown by modern man so the surrounding area has become known as “Cochise’s Last stronghold”. Texas Canyon is a traditional stop off point on our annual treks into the Tucson Valley, however since we were anxious to get to town we continued to motor on.
Nearing the city limits of Tucson, we ran into traffic…more than normal for this time of the day. Kit logged onto the WAZE App and discovered there was an accident ahead in the right lane near a freeway onramp. With this information, we moved over to the extreme left lane and made better progress than folks who had no clue what was ahead! Love the Waze…thanks Catherine for letting us know of its existence!
Arrived at our destination for a brief but surely enjoyable stay. Dewey, Bea and brother Dan were all there to greet us. Dewey, I’ve known forever as we were once cousins, then….um well, you know the rest of the story by now?!
Today was an emotional reunion, as Dewey suffered a devastating loss in July. His only daughter Erin succumbed to the terrible disease of Cancer.
A sweet beautiful soul, Erin lived life to the fullest and valiantly fought the insidious disease. Kit and I have been thinking a lot about Erin over the past few days and her zest for life so tragically cut short. She was truly a special person and the world is less bright with her absence…rest in pain free peace dear Erin…we love you.
Kit and I were unable to make the trip out west for Erin’s memorial service as we had our two Las Vegas grandchildren visiting us…but we intend to honor her spirit in our own way when we visit the coast of California in a few months.
Then there is my sister in law, Bea…she is like the sister I always wanted.
Fun and full of energy, Bea is also an excellent cook…she had planned a Sunday morning brunch with some of their friends. Sadly, we were unable to make it to town in time…so she thoughtfully put on a special spread for us!
An excellent cook in the Mexican tradition, Bea prepared an incredible Chile Relleno Casserole, which she excellently paired with Lime Margaritas…a fabulous meal!
We were also joined by brother Dan who had a rare day off work from his chef job at a high-end resort just north of town.
The rest of the day was spent sitting around and remembering the good old days of our youth until the wee hours of the afternoon when everyone retired.
Monday, December19, 2016-Tucson, Arizona: Up to a beautiful Arizona winter morning! Following breakfast and coffee in the camper, Kit and I joined Dewey and Bea in the house for more visiting. Dew and Bea are animal lovers and in previous episodes you have meet their gaggle of puppies…. however, there are now a few new additions to their menagerie.
Speedy Mesquitey and Axel Rod are desert tortoises and reside in a large living room based terrarium. They subsist on the flesh of cactus and are constantly in motion…if you watch closely enough. Dewey and Bea alternate taking their new charges for daily walks around the block. Dew took Speedy for his walk yesterday afternoon and has yet to return.
A neighbor, who you may remember from past episodes, came by to say hello. Manny is a retired creative writing professor and an historian on the Mexican art of Mariachi Music, as well as an accomplished musician and singer of that legendary musical craft.
It is always a pleasure to visit with Manny and hear his stories of growing up in a Mexican home in south Tucson and his frequent trips south of the border to visit kinfolk. Much to our pleasure, Manny gifted us with a DVD recording of the latest Mariachi Fiesta which featured professional and amateur musicians…many of which are from his own extended family. Thanks Manny, I’m sure we will enjoy viewing that DVD for years to come!
The rest of the day was spent helping around the house and installing Dewey and Beas new bike rack to the back of their camper for their upcoming trip to the coast. Later, we all went out to a local Favorite, Grumpy’s Café for an excellent meal.
The Octogenarian Photo Bomber in the background was noticed by the waitress photographer, so she waited for the gentleman to shuffle past before taking a second photo. However, I thought the original was funny enough to include…he may well be the oldest photo bomber in history!
The family spent the remainder of the evening enjoying some great conversations and a few drinks before Kit and I called it a night and prepared for an Alpine Start in the morning.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016: Up at 0530 hours and on the road under cover of darkness as we headed toward Las Vegas and a Christmas visit with our daughter and her family. After a few minutes on I-10 West, which in these parts of Arizona heads more northerly, the sun began to illuminate the horizon.
As we neared the big city of Phoenix, big city commuter traffic became an issue.
Leaving the congestion and skirting the west side of Phoenix, we came to this troubling sight.
This is unacceptable! The one who will soon occupy the Pennsylvania Avenue Golden Throne wants to spend our tax dollars on infrastructure projects, when he should be focused on fixing our roads and bridges…please write your congressman and help bring a halt to wasteful infrastructure spending!
Moving over to US-93 and heading north, we stopped in the town of Wickenburg for breakfast at a quirky little place that Kit discovered on the internet.
The Pie Cabinet had, in addition to some delicious looking pies, a small but nice selection of breakfast offerings. We both had their quiche of the day and homemade muffins…very tasty.
Back on the road, we noticed that the further we traveled north the more sparse the population centers became.
The day would be rather boring if not for having my lifelong traveling companion to keep me company with her sparkling conversation.
Oh, um…never mind!
Nearing the southern border of Nevada, we began to encounter the foothills of the McCullough Mountains Range.
Where the terrain morphed into High Desert with its attendant vegetation and rock formations.
Kit and I soon crossed over the Pat Tillman Bridge into the state of Nevada and the Pacific Time Zone before stopping at a roadside casino for lunch and some walking around time. Back on the road we soon encountered the city limits of Las Vegas and headed toward our home base for the next few weeks, Oasis RV Resort.
Now this fancy, full featured kind of place is not our preferred style of camping…however, it is just a few minutes from daughter Suzie’s house where these two hooligans reside.
And Christmas without children around just isn’t as much fun…stay tuned!
Kit’s Bit’s: Well, other than being delayed two days by a fierce wind storm, the last week of travel was quite enjoyable! Finally, making it to Las Vegas to see our two youngest Grands, Jack, age 12 and Tucker, age 9.5, they are indeed a couple of hooligans! Jack, now a Middle School student is very conscientious and LOVES computer games like a lot of kids nowadays. Tucker, on the other hand, being in 4th Grade, likes to stir things up! J He’s quick witted and NEVER misses an opportunity to create a bit of chaos. All in all, they are very good boys and always fun to be with. We are very fortunate to be able to spend time with them each winter and summer, considering they live so far away.