The Final Chapter…
I bet you all have been wondering just what the hell happened to us? Were we swallowed by a haunted bayou someplace in the wilds of Louisiana? Or eaten by a pack of ravenous ‘gators? Kidnapped by Crazy Canadians? Or did we just turn around and head back to Key West, to lay on the beach, drink margaritas and chill until all of our credit cards were maxed out or we ran out of Land Shark beer?
Well, none of the above, actually. You can attribute this prolonged lack of our communication to just sloth and pure laziness on my part. (The reality is that it take me about 12-16 hours to prepare each chapter of this blog and I simply just could not bring myself to sit down and get to it.)
We made it home pretty much in one piece (well, some pieces got left and other pieces got added, but you are going to have to keep reading to figure out exactly what that means.) We have been back home in Silver Lake, WA, since Sunday, March 22. But, let’s go back several weeks to where we left off, near Lafayette, Louisiana…
We stayed a couple of nights at the Frog City RV Park, in Duson. We had intended on going back to Prejean’s Cajun Restaurant in Lafayette one more time but decided to try this other place, near Duson (just down the road from Lafayette) on the advice of some locals. Big mistake. BIG mistake. Deep fried everything. And pretty bland. And over cooked. And mediocre service. But, at least the beer was cold. Oh well…we can always head back to Prejean’s on the next trip.
On the road once again, we passed through Lake Charles and then exited Louisiana on Interstate 10 and entered Texas…dismayed, but not surprised to note that the first mile marker we saw indicated ‘899.’ Gads! (By comparison, from San Ysidro, near Tijuana, to the Oregon border – taking The 5 all the way – is only 796 miles…so that gives you a sense of scale.) It’s a l-o-n-g way across Texas on The 10 – it took us over 4 days of pretty steady driving.
After passing through Beaumont, the first major city we came to was Houston – and it’s one huge city. We were on the beltway going around the major metropolitan area and were cruising along in fairly light traffic until we encountered this incredible traffic jam that went on for miles and miles. Turns out there was some major bridge construction going on that caused a ‘funneling’ from 6 lanes down to ONE lane. That delayed us by about 2 hours. Oh well…
First overnight stop in Texas was at Columbus, where we stayed in a funky, but functional, RV park. We had dinner at a pretty good Tex/Mex place nearby (Los Cabos) that evening.
Next day, back again on The 10 headed west. We skirted San Antonio on the Beltway without encountering much traffic, and are now headed into the wilds of West Texas. There just ain’t much out there.
At all. Hardly anything.
Including RV parks. Even Google Maps gets confounded when you do a search for them. We ended up in Ozona, where we stopped at one of the few-and-far-between spots we could find. This place did not even have a name, unless you call the giant sign by the freeway that said, in ten-foot-tall letters, ‘RV Park,’ a name. Actually, it should have been called ‘Shit-Hole RV Park.’ It was raining and we were tired, so we pulled into the place and discovered that we had to walk a 2 blocks block back across the highway to a motel (a Super 8 – another dump) to check in. Got a ride from some guy who dropped me off out front. Went inside, no one there. Waited 20 minutes. Finally walked over to an adjacent restaurant and asked them where the guy was who runs the motel. They called him and he showed up 10 minutes later, with no apology. So I tell him we want to check into the ‘RV Park’ across the highway. “Forty dolla,” says he, in his middle-eastern accent. “Did you say ’20 dollars?’,” says I. “No, 40 dolla, cash, no discounts,” snarls he. “Not even Good Sam, AARP, AAA, anything?” says I. “No.” says he. “And cash.” says he. So, I paid it, with a mental protest, plotting someway to get even (and I did…) I walked back across the street to find a spot (“Stay anywhere you can find,” said he.) The place was a total Shit Hole, like I said above. A third world country. Dirty. Garbage everywhere. And dog crap (That’s how Charlie and I got even.) It looked like most of the spots were occupied by (fracking) oil workers (there is a major oil boom going on in Texas.) We pulled into a spot, leveled the RV and retreated inside until morning. Took the Glock with us, just in case.
The next morning, we could not get out of there fast enough.
OK, on the road again. Still in Texas and still heading west on The 10. Next stop was Van Horn, a dying West Texas town (somewhat reminiscent of the town in the movie, “The Last Picture Show”) but with a remarkably nice RV Park – clean, friendly and big spaces. And a nice dog run for the dog. We headed out to get diesel for the truck and find a place to eat. Found fuel, but no restaurant.
A day later, STILL in Texas, but FINALLY getting to El Paso and then crossing back into New Mexico. Wahoo! We passed through Las Cruces and stopped in Lordsburg. Now, we usually avoid KOA’s like the plague (they are usually over-priced and under-aesthic’ed), but RV parks in Lordsburg were on the sparse side so we had to opt for this place. I have to admit we were pleasantly surprised. Reasonable rate. Nice size space. Friendly. Clean. OK, we’re happy. Nearby was Kranberries Family Restaurant (when you see ‘Family’ in the name of a restaurant, it also means ‘no beer.’) Dinner was pretty blah, with probably the weirdest nacho’s we have ever had: 50 chips-out-of-a-bag and smothered in at least a gallon of genuine Velveeta. Oh, and 10 pepper slices on top, too. Dee Dee told me to quit bitching about them and lighten up…it’s probably just a local custom, some sort of Tex/Mex thing. But, the employees were, as in the custom almost everywhere in Texas, very friendly.
Back on The 10, headed out of New Mexico, into Arizona. Passed through Benson (where we stayed with our friends Gary and Debbie a couple of months before, on the way East.) On to Tucson, were we first headed to an RV park we found on the Inner-Net (and the Inner-Net never lies – never ever.) Pulled in, drove around, and headed right back out. It was ghetto. Found another place near Old Tucson – Desert Trails RV Park. The owner’s first name was Pericles and he was one terrific guy. They had ONE spot available (it’s still high-season in the desert) and we got it. This was a great place – outside of town in the midst of the Sonoran Desert and very peaceful. Incredible landscapes and scenery. We loved it. While there we had a delightful visit with an old Modesto friend, Carol Lancaster-Mingus, who taught Television classes and was a stellar member of the faculty. Such a great, gracious, lady who showed us around her home town and treated us to an absolutely delightful dinner in a restaurant where we watched the sun set on the Catalina Mountains. Wonderful evening!
After departing the Tucson area, we were on to Mesa, where we checked into a very high-class RV park, called Mesa Spirit, where we stayed for FREE, courtesy of LaMesa RV, in Mesa. Here is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the next part of the story:
We had been talking on-and-off for over a year about possibly trading in our 5th-wheel for a Class A motor home. While on this trip, we started doing lots of research on what we wanted, and once that was done, finding a dealer with the right price. We talked to several in Washington and Oregon, but could not come to terms on either the trade-in value and/or the purchase price. So, we finally settled on LaMesa RV (in Mesa) who gave us a fair deal and treated us well. Plus, it was the end of the RV season for them, so they were unloading inventory. So, on Saturday, March 7, (after closing the deal and spending the night in the LaMesa RV parking lot) we moved from one unit to the other; this was a long, stressful day that almost did us in, as it got very warm in the afternoon. Plus, we had A LOT of stuff.
Our new rig is a Class A 2015 Winnebago Adventurer. We opted for gas instead of diesel. Yes, there are many pro’s and con’s regarding this choice, but we just could not justify the huge additional expense of a diesel pusher. And, as it turns out, we have been very pleased with our choice. It’s a great coach.
After moving all our ‘stuff’ across from the 5th wheel to the Winnie, we drove back to the Mesa Spirit RV Park and stayed another 3 days, once again compliments of LaMesa RV. While we were based here, we headed down to Gilbert to have lunch with an old friend from my ASU graduate school days, Neil Miller, and his wife, Marilyn. They have a great place and we really had a great time…especially seeing all of Neil’s ‘stuff.’ What a collector he is.
I spent the next 2 days about as close to death (and hell) as I ever want to come. Somehow I either got a massive dose of food poisoning, or some kind of really virulent flu. Whatever it was, it really tore me up for 36 hours. Not at all pleasant.
As the ‘disease’ was beginning to wane, we limped back out to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. We had stayed there several months before, at the beginning of our trip and enjoyed it so much that we booked in for another 5 days. Here we once again met up with our Prescott buddies, Debbie and Gary. We took in a Mariners/Rockies spring training game out in Peoria (it takes 75 minutes, driving 60 miles an hour on the freeways, to get from Mesa to Peoria…the Phoenix area is huge.) Seattle lost 4-1, but we still had a great time. The Peoria stadium facility is very nice venue (heck, beer is only $7 for a 16 oz. can) and we chatted with lots of folks who come down here mainly to watch the pre-season games. Everybody was having a good time.
Well, just as our last stay (in December) at Lost Dutchman was disrupted by a chronic truck problem, this one was no different. The day after the game, Dee Dee and I were out getting diesel for the pickup (we did not trade this in on new RV) and we got a text message from Gary telling us he was in the hospital. What the heck is this??!! Turns out that about 11 PM the night before he started experiencing some chest pain, so he called the paramedics and they came out to get him. The weird thing is that they were staying right across the road from us and we did not hear a thing! And there was both an ambulance AND a fire truck! So, we head right over to the hospital to see him. He looks good, and is in fine spirits, but they want to do an angiogram to take a look at his heart, so he has to hang out for another day.
The day he was discharged was the same day we had to depart Lost Dutchman State Park and continue heading back home. So, we worked with the Park to get his stay extended for a few hours to allow him time to get ready to leave. We got his RV squared away and left. Turns out that he felt well enough (even after the angiogram) to drive back to Prescott. Debbie followed in their car. (We talked with him the next day and he said he was really tired and pretty sore – felt rode hard and put away dirty.)
Whew. Well, we have not given up on Lost Dutchman…as they say, 3rd time’s a charm…
So, we continue west, stopping at this totally cool RV park right on the river in Needles – Fender’s River Road Resort. We had this HUGE spot with a great view. Once again, we lucked out and got their last spot, due to a recent cancellation. This is on our list of good places to stay if we make a return trip in this direction.
By this time, the ‘free’ 1/2 tank of gas that La Mesa RV had given us was pretty much gone, so we headed out in the truck to find a place to re-fuel. We had heard that gas prices in California were out of line with other states, but imagine our surprise when every gas station in Needles was over $4 per gallon! We mentioned our dismay to our waitress at dinner (Wagon Wheel Restaurant, great place) and she told us to head back across the river into Arizona where it was about $1/gallon less. What a difference a mile can make. Turns out that Needles gas stations (greedy bastards) were an anomaly; the remainder of our gas stops in California were not that far out of line.
Next destination, Bakersfield, at a regular stopping place, the Orange Grove RV Park. We stayed there for a couple of days to cool our jets (we had an absolutely ‘delightful’ meal at Sizzler…don’t ask why we stopped there…just dumb, I guess.)
On to Lodi for 2 more days, where we stayed at this fairly nice, but W-A-Y overpriced place, Flag City RV Park, located near the intersection of Highway 12 and The 5. I guess you could say the best thing about it was the 5 acre fenced dog run; Charlie was in Dog Heaven. Here Bob met up with 2 really old and good friends and golfing buddies from Modesto Daze, Bill Woodard and Juan Alvarez. What a great time we all had playing a round at the Spanos Reserve course. Hard, but fair. Re-kindled many great memories. We also had a great dinner with an old water-skiing-and-drinking buddy, Daryl Verkerk, and his new girl friend, a delightful lady and lots of fun. That was a nostalgic evening of reminiscing about days gone by.
We left Lodi on March 20th and now the ‘end’ is really in sight. Next stop was Yreka at another funky place that we managed to squeeze into (also on our list of places to skip next time…). Then on to Albany, Oregon, for a stay at the Blue Ox RV park, a bit hard to find, and sorta cramped spaces, but adequate…except for no dog run at all.
And then, down the home stretch to Silver Lake, where we finally arrived HOME at noon on Sunday, March 22, after a short 3-hour drive. We made it down the driveway with no problems (I drove the RV all the way back from Mesa, with Dee Dee following in the truck.) We pulled in and let ‘The Boys’ out to finally be able to run free after being pretty much confined for over 4 months. They were pretty pleased about that. The house looked great – just like we had left it. Thanks to our neighbor, Karson, for checking it a couple of times a week and texting us that things looked good, and to our nephew Stacey and his wife, Lynne, who came down once a month to start the vehicles, water the plants and look things over.
So there you have it, folks. The end of our 4-month, 12,000+ mile journey all the way to Key West and back. We stayed at 50 different locations. What a wonderful, memorable time we had. We enjoyed sharing our adventures (and mis-adventures) with all of you and hope you had a good – vicarious – experience. This installment to the blog, Chapter 12, is the last for this trip…but stay tuned. There will be other travel experiences in our not-too-distant future that we will be sharing with you. We have already started the preliminary plans for our next trip, which will probably begin around next November 1. We might even head back to Florida…one never knows…
Following are the ‘Top 46’ most favorite pictures of our journey, since this post was somewhat devoid of visuals (too busy travelling…)
All the best to each of you,
Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan