Summer Travel Map

Monday, November 4, 2013

October 31-November 4: The long trek back to Arizona

November 4, 2013
Cederholm Compound, Peoria, Arizona

It wouldn’t be RVing if there weren’t issues. We though the furnace replacement in the summer was enough, but we were wrong. Coming out of Gulf Shores, we started to see exhaust smoke from the coach, which got progressively worse. We talked it over and decided to bypass our last stop and head back to Arizona a few days early.

Like the Alabama coast, the Texas Gulf Coast is another area we’ve never visited. Strange, I know given that we’ve been traipsing all over the country 6+ months a year since 2005, racking up 112,000+ miles. But, it is what it is.

So, I did my research and decided that Aransas Pass was a reasonable place to stop for a few days as we traveled west. About halfway between Galveston and Mexico, we could explore the area in both directions on day trips in the Rover, then pick up I-37 in Corpus Christi for easy access back to I-10 for the trip home.

We left Gulf Shores mid-morning, billowing gray-black smoke like a steamer. When it didn’t settle down by our lunch stop, we both agreed that we should try to make it back to AZ rather than make another stop. I called to cancel our reservations and plotted a new course. Actually, the route wasn’t the issue as we picked up I-10 headed west near Mobile and just followed it to Phoenix. But, we needed to have an idea of how long we’d travel each day, know where we’d overnight, and schedule fuel stops.

As it turns out, we followed our original plan for the first day, stopping for the night at a Louisiana Rest Area right in the middle of the Atchafalaya Swamp. We’ve stopped here before and knew it’s a huge area with overnight security. Even though part of the facility was under reconstruction, we had plenty of room.

Thursday was a terrible driving day. In addition to the stress of whatever mechanical issues we were facing, the weather was awful. We drove all day into the path of a front that had dropped flooding rains on central Texas. Fortunately, the front passed, the rain stopped and the stars were out by bedtime.

The next day, we were on the road early and made the Texas line by late morning. Mile Marker 880 started the countdown across the longest stretch of road we know. By late afternoon, we made a fuel stop in San Antonio, then pushed through rush hour traffic for another 100 miles or so to Bourne, Texas. We aimed for the local Walmart, made sure it was OK to stay, picked up a few staples, and called it a night. It was a long driving day at 443 miles.

Now, some people assume we’re “roughing it” in a situation like this. Au contraire. We carry our own water and fuel, and made sure our holding tanks were properly emptied before we left Alabama. I ran the on-board generator for a couple of hours each evening to power the microwave and water heater, and charge up the batteries. We put up the satellite and had as much DirecTV HD as we wanted each evening. A quick generator run in the morning to power the coffee maker was all we needed. All in all, it’s pretty cool to move your house along with you as you travel.

Mile Marker 440. Halfway across Texas!
Saturday, we were up early and on the road before 8:00 AM. Our goal was to finish the drive across Texas, and we were successful in completing the 520 mile trek. We stopped at another known boondocking spot, the Flying J truck stop in Anthony, Texas, I-10 Exit 0 right on the New Mexico state line. We splurged with a dinner at Denny’s, even though we should have known better.

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, even if we didn’t. We again splurged on breakfast at Denny’s, which was better than dinner. We topped off the fuel tank and were on the road before 9:00 AM, and made the 414 miles across New Mexico and half of Arizona in just less than 7 hours. I’d arranged for our utilities to be turned on the 6th, expecting to be home on Thursday, the 7th, so we didn’t have water or Internet in the house. This wasn’t a huge deal, of course, since we had both in the coach.

We continued our tradition of heading to Grimaldi’s for pizza on our first and last nights in Arizona, and had another great New York-style pie and a bottle of Chianti. It was good to sleep in the “house bed”. On Monday, we were up early (having gained two hours with the travel from Central to Mountain time plus the end of Daylight Saving Time), and started the unloading process. Unloading always takes less time than getting ready to travel. At lunchtime, I went to the storage lot and paid for our usual 6-month stay. By mid-afternoon, we were done and moved the coach to storage.

Whew! We made it! It’s really good that we were able to get back to Arizona with the engine acting up. Trying to get it fixed on the road would have involved lots of compromises and probably a night or two in a dog-friendly hotel. This way, I can take it to places I know and have whatever work done at a more leisurely pace.

Some quick stats: we were on the road for 187 days, traveling about 7,315 miles. We bought 1,291 gallons of diesel for $4,865. We didn’t buy any propane this year. We spent $3,928 at RV parks and averaged $21.46 per night, although this is heavily weighted by the number of nights we “freeloaded”.

Anyway, we’ve completed another travel season, so our blog will turn more to life in the desert for a while and posts might be more sporadic (if that’s possible). Life continues to be good…

Just for fun, here's a picture from the yard when we got back. Where the seed for this corn came from, we'll never know!

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.