Monday, April 6, 2015

Wrapping Up Our First Big Adventure

Thursday, April 2 - Sunday, April 5

As expected, the wind blows all day Thursday. Once all the good-byes are said we spend most of the day indoors. Bill isn't feeling great so he takes advantage of the complete quiet and sleeps most of the day.

Our host is active with the local domestic violence shelter so we make arrangements for all the leftovers, and extra food, to be picked up later in the day. So glad nothing went to waste - and they got some mighty tasty eats!

The sun sets on our last day in Ruidoso
Neighbors stop by to say good-bye

Hey, no hug??

Friday morning the trees are standing tall and the leaves are barely fluttering. We waste no time pulling everything together to head down the mountain by 8:00.  Past the narrow downtown we hook up the Jeep, double check everything, and begin our journey back to SoCal.

Because the original plan was to be back for a wedding on Saturday we were going to make the trip in two days, with one night in Casa Grande, AZ. While I'm bummed we missed the wedding, I am very glad we didn't have to make that drive.

Past Las Cruces the wind returns, but at less than 10 mph it's a nuisance, not a problem. After about two hours the velocity doesn't increase but our "angle" must because it becomes more work to just drive down the highway. I'm no longer having fun. Unacceptable.

Bill finds us a site in Benson, AZ, and after seven hours of driving I'm very happy to pull in and park.  The Benson I-10 RV Park is a bare-bones, very clean, little stop just off the freeway, and looks like heaven. A quick run into town for DEF and drinking water, and we are back in our little home.

Nice desert views through the window

This is the first spot we've had the jacks down. Because they weren't working the last few days. When I called the dealer to make an appointment for the growing number of "items" I asked if there was a reset process for restoring the jacks (all the lights were flashing on the panel, and no worky).  Yes, there is :-)  All of our stops have been nearly level so it hasn't been an issue. Benson was less so, and we're happy to have the levelers now.

Sun rise over Benson, AZ

Saturday is that interesting combination of flat desert and large city driving. It's all Interstate, but goes from two-lane-with-cacti-on-the-side to 6-lane-with-malls-and-international airports-on-the-side and back again.  I've driven it a hundred times but it's all different from "up here". The fuel stop at Picacho Peak just west of Tucson was an easy stop last week, so I pull off there rather than fueling up in CA on Sunday.  Because we already know we're going to make another stop. Because we can.

I lose the rear camera a few miles before the off-ramp. My heart skips a beat as I go from "we lost the Jeep" to "no, we just can't see it" in about 5 seconds.  We have a great tow-bar, a break-away switch, nothing is going to happen just because we can't see it.  Just add it to the dealer list.  It's still weird having absolutely no means of "seeing" it.

We fuel up and continue west.  We'll stop in Blythe, just over the CA border.  Again, Bill finds a great spot with large grass pull-through sites.  It's almost 90 degrees so the 50 amp FHUs are welcome.  The Riviera RV Resort is right on the Colorado River but the only "sites" overlooking the water are park models. Although it's a holiday weekend the park is about half full and we are hopeful it will be fairly quiet. At $44 after our discounts, it's the most expensive place we've stayed, but our average is still way below our budgeted $30/night.

Blythe is home to two of our dear friends - Mike and Rita.  A couple phone calls and yes, they can come over for a couple beers and a short visit. We sit at the picnic table under the awning and enjoy our first official "company" in our new home. We'll see them again at the reunion in two weeks. Hopefully then I'll remember to take pictures!

More beautiful desert just outside the park

We're ready for a restaurant and a couple cocktails. Fortunately the one place with a dog-friendly patio also has wonderful food!  The margaritas are fair but the burritos, sopa and taco are exceptional.  If you're in Blythe, give Garcia's on Hobson Way a try! The weather is perfect, and with the addition of a beautiful sunset it is a perfect final evening on the road (this time).

Sunset, margaritas and love-of-my-life

Easter Sunday morning and we're packing up at 7:30. The night before Bill figured out I had "touched something" that changed the setting on the rear cameras, and when we pull out the Jeep is once again visible on the screen. Sweet.

We both grew up in the area around Desert Center. He at the Kaiser Steel Mine community of Eagle Mountain, and me at the Metropolitan Water District community of Iron Mountain 40 miles north. So we know this section of the trip like our backyard. We love it.  A stop for lunch and ice in Chiraco Summit yields a nice surprise when Bob Chiraco is having a meal with friends in the cafĂ©. We get caught up quickly and promise to always stop in on our way through.

We're almost back.  We've taken two things off the dealer list (jacks and camera). We've enjoyed a quiet night at a river resort.  We've been good neighbors.  I signal for every rig that passes us when they can move over. There has been minimal cursing when challenged. An uneventful final push is warranted.

But this is the "are-you-sure-you-really-want-to-do-this" trip!  This is the "see-if-your-blood pressure medication-really-works" trip!  Apparently you only get the good karma if you make it back alive.

West of Palm Springs the valley is full of wind turbines. Today they are all spinning, but the wind is light, hitting us from the front, and not an issue. Until it is.

The highway makes a slight turn to the south and bam! It's like being in a tornado as we are getting hit from all sides at once. Bill checks the weather app and utters those calming words "Oh Shit!".  Wind advisory for the area, gusts over 40 mph at 2 PM.  It's almost noon.  The wind doesn't own a watch.

At 45 mph I'm gripping the wheel like rungs on a tall ladder. The rig sways to the left and then to the right. We're either going to share a lane with an 18-wheeler or end up in the ditch. Neither prospect is appealing.  This is the Whitewater Grade and going over the hill, across the bridge, through the small canyon and "out" the other side is the longest 10 miles I've traveled - ever.  I've driven it hundreds of times, even in the wind in a large truck camper. But not in a condo, and not with winds this strong.

You'll have guessed by now that we made it just fine. No lane-sharing. No ditch-landing.  Sore muscles (apparently I drive with my ass), and taxed nerves but unscathed.  Bill says he was never nervous, and since this time he didn't make a bee-line to the loo I believe him :-)

By the time we merge onto I-210 the winds are manageable, and although traffic picks up significantly I'm able to calm down, breathe normally, and once again enjoy the drive.

We hit some stop-and-go along the way, expected on a holiday Sunday.  We head straight to the storage lot rather than by the apartment first because I had pulled everything out of cupboards for off-loading this morning.

The gate is locked. Happy Easter is posted on the gate. We don't have a key or a code. Because they are supposed to email us a code if the gate is going to be locked on a holiday.  No email.

I call and leave a message while Bill unhooks the Jeep.  We off-load at the apartment and return the rig to the PetSmart parking lot where it started out 10 days ago.

So we're back.  We had our first big adventure. We learned a lot about the rig, and the road, and campgrounds. We never argued, never lost our temper or our cool (well maybe I did a little). We now have a list of fixes for the dealer in a couple weeks.

We can't wait to do it again - and for a very long time!

Ready to go again


  1. Wow and to think I will be nervous pulling a boat. You sure give me courage, those winds sound scary. Glad you prevailed and are getting the kinks worked out.

    1. The more I experience what can happen on the road, and what I can get through - the more I have confidence I can just do it. You will too :-)

  2. The winds this last week were brutal and I felt like my hands were glued to the steering wheel when I finally stopped, which happened with more frequency than planned. A good sign for the future is no temper tantrums.

    1. Yes, we expect to have bumps, and are lucky to avoid the need to take "it" out on each other :-) Hope that wind lightens up for you!

  3. Boy that was some maiden voyage. I was gritting my teeth and I wasn't even there. All we did was drive 450 miles to south Carolina on I-95 with no wind. I HATE wind. I don't know what I'd do had I been there. So please post a map with the sections I should avoid because of fickle winds. Does Bill ever drive?? I'd say you two have weathered a lot on this little trip. It bodes well for the long haul. Especially your in tact sense of humor.

    1. When not behind the wheel of the rig I love the wind. I have always found it empowering and energizing and refreshing. I love the sound of it rushing through the canyons and the cottonwood the smells it brings from far away. When it comes to these areas I can definitely map the windy spots when you come west! Bill offers to drive but doesn't care if he ever does. I haven't taken him up on it yet - maybe some day.

  4. Fantastic! Your maiden voyage was uneventful and just like you hope all the others will be.

  5. Whew. I was alternately anxiety-ridden and laughing out loud while reading this….you guys did great. Congratulations!!!

    1. Thanks Laurel :-) That was pretty much the same way I felt! Although at some point my laughter may have been hysteria :-)))))) We still can't wait to get out there!

  6. We were at the Blythe campground a few weeks ago. Have you joined Escapees? We stayed at a really nice park in Benson recently. They offer decent rates and have only been to one park that we wouldn't return to. Where are you heading when you hit the road for good?

    1. With the addition of the Xcapers group I'm thinking about Escapees for a few reasons. I saw their park but we didn't take a look because I was wanting to just chill at that point. We go north through Nevada and Idaho and end up in Washington for the month of July - stopping to see friends along the way :-)

  7. Love your blog. Keep writing and traveling!

  8. Jodee,

    When I used to drive trucks for work, we used to have problems with the rental trucks being hard to control. The reason was, the rental companies would adjust the caster out of the front wheels, thereby saving on tire wear. (They are trying to make a profit, and aren't worried about driver comfort). Caster is what a shopping carts front wheels have, and it is what keeps the cart in a straight line. Same with vehicles. When it is set too straight, you have to constantly correct your steering when you drive, which is very tiring. When it is set correctly and you make a turn, the wheel should want to come back straight to keep the vehicle steady. Just a thought that you may want to have either the dealer check it, or an alignment shop.


    1. Thanks Jim! Makes perfect sense, I'll have them check it when we drop it off in a couple weeks :-)