We had several days, actually weeks, to get our motorhome ready for our 1200-mile trip from Nacogdoches, TX to Cottonwood, AZ but, as usual, we kept putting it off. We didn’t start packing until the day we were leaving (3/19/15). I ran a perfunctory check of the motorhome to make sure all systems were go but we were still taking a big chance because it had been sitting in storage for months. It seemed that our biggest problem was that our state inspection sticker had expired six months previously. No problem, we could stop on the way out of town and get it inspected. It should only take about 15 minutes max.
We captured three of our cats, crated them, and took them out to the motorhome and were finally ready to leave. We pulled away from the house about 2:00 PM and headed for the inspection station. The 15 minutes turned into about two hours because they were so busy. When they finally got to me, the mechanic didn’t even bother to look at the motorhome. He simply issued the new sticker, probably because by then the heavens had opened and a hard rain was falling.
Before leaving the inspection station we began hooking up our car. That’s when I discovered that the air hose connecting the car brakes to the motorhome brakes was missing from the front of the car. A couple of weeks ago the car’s front bumper had been replaced and the air hose connection had not been remounted. We hurried to the body shop in hopes they could correct the oversight before they closed. We made it and they fished around behind the grill, located the air hose, and remounted it under the front bumper. At 4:30 PM we were finally on the road. Only 1200 miles to go!
We stopped for the night at a Pilot truck stop around 6:00 PM and sandwiched ourselves between two 18-wheelers with about two feet of clearance on each side. We had made it as far as Tyler, TX, only 88 miles from our starting point. Quite a first day!
On Thursday morning 3/20/15, after a noisy night in the truck stop, we were not fueled and on the road until almost 10:30 AM. Our goal for the day was Amarillo and the Oasis RV Park up in the Panhandle. For the first 200 miles we drove in and out (mostly in) of heavy rain and were delayed by two accidents and road construction near Fort Worth. We stopped in a rest area around 2:00 PM and had lunch. We were behind schedule (as usual), which meant a late arrival in Amarillo. We were further delayed as we were not on the interstate any longer and had to slow down through the many small towns along the route. One of these towns was Quanah, TX, which I made fun of in my blog a couple of years ago and was severely scolded in a comment by one of its residents. As we entered the town I saw the sign that inspired me to mention it in my blog back then. The sign read, “Puka Lives Here.” I won’t say anything else, as I don’t wish to be scolded again. You can check my post of August 19, 2012 if interested.
At 5:30 that afternoon we were still at least two hours, perhaps two and a half, from the Oasis RV Park so we stopped where we have stopped before when unable to make Amarillo before dark. It was the Cotton Gin Old Towne RV Park in Goodlett, TX, a place that may be hard to find on a map, as there is only an old cotton gin and the rv park. It wasn’t the Oasis RV Park but was still somewhat of an oasis in the rather desolate panhandle of Texas. When we pulled into the park we had traveled a total of 416 miles from Nacogdoches. Not very impressive for what should have been two days of driving.
At 9:05 AM on Saturday we left Goodlett intent on making up some time. We pulled into the New Mexico welcome center on I-40 for lunch a little before 1:00 PM. We were 205 miles closer to Cottonwood. We were back on the road after lunch with intentions to make it all the way to Gallup, NM before stopping and parking in a Walmart parking lot for the night. Driving was somewhat tedious because of the huge number of 18-wheelers. I was leap-frogging from convoy to convoy. I would settle in with a group until it began to slow down and I would move on ahead to the next group. Every time I passed another vehicle I would have to use my passenger-side mirror to judge the distance and pull back in without the car we were towing being too close to the vehicle we were passing. Each time it seemed I had to readjust the mirror (remote control thank goodness) in order to see properly. It finally got to the point that I could not adjust it any longer and pulled into a rest area to investigate. I found the mirror was loose on the arm extending from the RV. The setscrews holding it in place had been stripped and the mirror was being turned by the wind. I knew immediately why the screws were stripped. While the motorhome had been in its covered storage parking our “neighbor” in the space next to us kept a rather large ski boat and trailer stored. The boat had some kind of aluminum “outriggers” (I don’t know what else to call them) attached to the sides of the boat. I assume they had something to do with pulling skiers. Unfortunately, the guy wasn’t very good when it came to towing his boat. Several times, as he was pulling it out of his storage space, one of the “outriggers” would hit the side mirror of my motorhome, pushing it out of adjustment. I would reposition it, complain to the manager, and leave a nasty note on the boat (I never saw anyone with the boat). This happened three or four times (I’m too kind hearted) before I sent a letter to the storage company owner to inform them that I would hold them responsible for any damage done if they continued to allow the boat owner to hit my mirror. I also threatened to call the police and report it as vandalism. In the end, I was moved to a new space and nothing more done. After these several months I now knew that damage had indeed been done. For the moment all I could do was get out my Gorilla Tape and wrap the mirror housing and arm in it to keep it from moving.
I was still determined to make Gallup, mirror, or no mirror. Fortunately, the tape held. I began following an 18-wheel flatbed trailer that was carrying what appeared to be large metal boxes. After following it for some time I became curious and began inching up closer in an attempt to see what he was hauling. I was finally close enough to see a small circle that looked like a pie cut in six equal slices. The slices were alternating colors of orange and black. It was beginning to dawn on my what the symbol indicated when I read the small print next to it. “DANGER: RADIATION.” I quickly passed him and moved on up the road what I considered a safe distance!
We kept driving and made it to Gallup. We were both very tired when we exited I-40 to find the Walmart. I managed to miss it and had to find a place to turn around. The motorhome with car attached is a total length of approximately fifty-four feet. It doesn’t turn on a dime. In the end I had to block a four-lane highway to make a U-turn. I pulled into a Home Depot parking lot because we could see a Walmart sign in the distance but did not know how to get to it. I got out of the RV, approached a man, pointed at the Walmart sign, and asked how to get there. He seemed a bit confused and wasn’t making much sense to me. Finally, he pointed to the building adjacent to Home Depot and said, “That brown building right there is Walmart!” Feeling like an idiot we crossed the Home Depot lot into the Walmart lot and parked for the night. It was 7:00 PM and we had driven a total of 977 miles, 561 of them in ten hours of driving that day.
Sunday morning (3/22/15) we were in no hurry. We only had another 252 miles to go and weren’t expected until around 3:30 in the afternoon. We left at either 10:15 or 9:15 AM (we weren’t sure because we didn’t know what time zone we were in). For many miles across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and on to the coast I presume, I-40 parallels the old historic Route 66. It was not unusual to spot old buildings that were once thriving businesses before I-40 took away the traffic from Route 66. One such building was an old RV park, its faded sign identifying it as, “Root [sic] 66 RV Park.”
When we crossed into Arizona we stopped at the state’s welcome center for an Arizona road map and some brochures of attractions in the Sedona-Cottonwood area. The place looked busy and the parking lot was almost full. We parked and walked over to the welcome center’s entrance and discovered the door was locked. A sign on the door read, “OPEN MONDAY – FRIDAY, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.” It was Sunday. The state’s welcome centers are not open on weekends when most tourists are traveling? Very strange. There were some maps in a box beside the door so it wasn’t a total bust.
We left I-40 at Flagstaff and headed south on I-17, past Sedona, and got off at the Verde Valley exit. The RV park was another 15 miles or so. We were using the GPS on Carol Ann’s phone and were told to make a right turn on East Thousand Trails Drive (location of the Thousand Trails RV Park). We made the turn but realized the road sign just read, “Thousand Trails Drive,” without the “East.” There were no RV Park signs either. Nothing to lead us to believe this was the correct road. We decided to get back on the highway and drive a little further, hoping to find East Thousand Trails Drive. A few miles later we discovered that Carol Ann’s phone battery was dead and the map was no help. We turned around, went back, and turned on the Thousand Trails Drive without the East and it turned out to be correct. After 1228 total miles and 21 hours and 59 minutes of driving time we had made it. In two weeks we have to turn around and do it again, in reverse.