Wednesday, January 6th
When I run into Walmart this morning to use the bathroom (conserve those tanks!) and buy a couple things, “Life is a Highway” is playing over the store sound system. I take it as a sign that I made the right decision not to wait to get the fridge fixed.
I depart from Fort Stockton, TX and sail west on I10 through a surprise fog. I say surprise fog because I don’t expect to see fog in drier parts of the country and am always surprised when it happens. Luckily it’s not thick enough to impede travel.
Occasional rain showers grace the entire day’s drive, which surpasses yesterday’s impressive total at 510 miles (yesterday was 490). I drive from sunup to sundown, but luckily I10 is a pretty easy drive.
A ways out from El Paso, the eastbound traffic is stopped on a small side road. What’s going on over there? I don’t see an accident but can’t tear my eyes from what’s in front of me long enough to puzzle it out. A little ways past it, white trailers are pulled off the interstate and what looks like large lights are set up along the road. Is this some sort of filming thing? It’s a mystery.
Mountains spring up to the south and then to the north and warrant a picture. It’s been months since I’ve seen mountains and I’ve missed them.
I10 cuts through El Paso and it feels like what I imagine a slalom run would be like: curvy and fast with some elevation change. There’s some traffic, but not enough to slow things down.
Then it’s into New Mexico! Yet again, I’m going to be driving through New Mexico without stopping to see anything which feels like a shame given how much I’ve heard about this state, but the lows here are going to be below freezing and if I can make it into Arizona, it’ll be warmer.
Shortly after entering the state, the speed limit on the interstate drops, and there are signs for trucks to take the next turnoff, I wonder what this is? The latch on my truck topper hasn’t been working well lately, and a gust of wind pops it open. I pull over with my emergency flashers on and secure it.
Just as I get back on the road, the speed limit drops again and there are signs: boarder patrol. More of those white trailers are pulled along the road with lights set up next to them. This must have been what was going on east of El Paso! And here I have just stopped to go around the back of my truck and mess around with something. That probably doesn’t look good.
I slow to a stop and roll down the window. The officer asks me if I’m American, and I say yes. “Have a good day ma’am” he says, and waves me on. Phew.
After Texas, the drive through NM almost seems to go by in a blink. I missed a good portion of the state staying as far south as I did.
The sun is setting as I approach Benson, AZ. I10 climbs up through a low mountain pass littered with large boulders and if I wasn’t running out of daylight I’d stop to take some pictures because it’s a pretty area. None of the “passes” along I10 that I’ve driven today have been steep enough to warrant a grade sign, as I said earlier it’s a very easy drive.
In Benson, I pull into a Love’s Travel Center and park next to the only other RV in the back lot, a Class A with a towed. This is the only free overnight parking option in town. Before I go to bed, three other RVs have joined us in the row, a little holdout against the vast armada of semis.
Thursday, January 7th
My first sunrise in Arizona is pretty spectacular. Just another lovely morning on the road!
Cloudy skies conceal the tops of mountains near Tucson. I keep my eyes pealed for the first saguaro of the trip and spot it beside a vacant lot on the outskirts of town. It’s not the most scenic location.
West of the city I find more of them, growing in the higher elevation areas near bluffs and hills.
Today’s drive is a paltry (in comparison) 135 miles, to the city of Maricopa just south of Phoenix. The clouds have opened up and my wipers are going full blast at 10:30 am when I pull off the road and into the driveway of some friends I made at Amazon in Haslet. Well it’s not their driveway because they’re full-timers too, it’s their relative’s house who were gracious enough to let me stay a night as well.
Once I’m pulled in I duck into Cas to put the cushions back where they belong and discover that water has gotten in through three of my windows – one on each side of the trailer. No, it’s not leaking around the frame, it came in around the glass panes themselves. This happened to me once before, my first spring on the road when I drove through heavy rain on my way up to the Badlands. It’s never happened when I’ve been stationary and it doesn’t happen every time I drive through heavy rain. I’m happy to note that all the leaks I had in Texas: through the frame on one window, around my Fantastic Fan, and over the door from an awning rivet are all bone dry.
We go out to eat for lunch and I try Vietnamese food for the first time. I get something called Pho soup (prnounced more like “fuh”) which features rice noodles with a variety of meat and vegetable options. It’s good!
After lunch, we go say hello to some cows. About 30,000 cows. My friends use to work (and the relatives they’re staying with still do) at a large dairy farm on the outskirts of town. With my vet tech background, I’m somewhat familiar with how dairy farms work, but seeing one on this scale is something else entirely.
On the way back, we’re stopped short by flash flooding over the road. The rain stopped here over an hour ago, but it’s raining hard in the mountains and the water has run downhill from there through this normally dry wash. It’s hard for those not familiar with the desert to understand how this kind of flooding works. We turn around and take another road that has several dips through washes, and there’s not a trickle. Either it didn’t rain uphill from these washes, or the water came through earlier and is already past, or it hasn’t gotten here yet. You don’t want to wait around to discover which of the three it is.
My friend’s Class A has an outlet on the exterior that I plug Cas into overnight. None of us are sure how much I can run without flipping a breaker, but I turn one of my electric heaters on to dry things out and it handles it just fine.
Friday, January 8th
So, it’s 165 miles to Quartzsite from Maricopa, and that seminar I briefly mentioned last post is at 10 in the morning. Figuring that I average 60 mph on the interstate, one can see that I need to wake up pretty early in the morning if I’m going to make it on time. I’m out of bed at 5 am and on the road by 5:22 am. Guess getting up early for Amazon has had some benefits.
My first public speaking engagement. Helping give a seminar was not something I’d planned on doing. Last summer at Yellowstone, Bob Wells from Cheap RV Living stopped by Old Faithful to visit me, I’ve guest posted on his blog before and we were internet friends. He mentioned the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (often abbreviated as RTR), an informal boondocking gathering held on the very outskirts of Quartzsite that he hosts. At that point, I had decided that this was going to be the winter for boondocking, and I told him that if things worked out, I’d be pleased to attend and pick the brains of those with boondocking experience and have help nearby if I ran into problems.
He’d said then that he’d be pleased to have me lead a seminar, but I’d said no, it was going to be my first time boondocking and my first rally of any sort for that matter and I’d rather listen and get a feel for it.
So fast forward to early December, when I’ve gotten enough money from overtime at Amazon already to know that boondocking will indeed be a go, and I’ve looked at maps and charted the distance from Haslet to Quartzsite to know that if my Casita appointment is on the 28th and I leave shortly after, I would get to Quartzsite around the 5th if I see a thing or two along the way. So I let Bob know I’ll be at RTR on the 5th when it starts, and then he says he’d be grateful if I’d help him run the work-camping seminar on the 8th, since I’ve worked at Amazon and done National Parks and he has not. I agree.
Rolling down I10, I keep an eye on the road and check the time frequently. The clouds from the past two days are breaking up and moving off, and the sun rises golden over the desert. It feels like it’s going to be a good day and I’m making good time.
I pull into Quartzsite a little before 9 am, but do not head straight to RTR. I may be a boondocking newbie, but from reading other blogs I know that you do not pull into a new camp without first dumping your waste tanks and filling your water. My preparations did not go as far as finding out where to do that in Q, so I text a friend already here for help (another person I met at Haslet), and she comes to meet me where I’m filling up on gas in town.
With the wait for her to come get me, the wait to get the tanks dumped and take on water, and then the considerable drive out to the secluded RTR site, I pull in at 10:05 am. Finding a good spot to camp will have to wait, I drive right up to the main area where seminars are held and no sooner is the truck in park than I jump out and wade through the press of humanity sitting in camp chairs around the huge firepit. Bob is already up front talking into the microphone. It’s show time.
All in all, it goes pretty well.
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