Current Location: Peregrine Pines Family Camp, USAFA Colorado Springs, Colorado
Full moon clear at 29 degrees F at 4:00 AM
The days are starting to all run together. When traveling east on I-10, crossing Texas, it seems like it goes on forever. I can’t remember how many days it took us to get across that state, but I am sure it was at least four. What I have discovered, is that the name of the state doesn’t matter, one state, five states, whatever, it takes days and days to get back west.
1620 miles, 5 days driving, with one down day in Palestine, AR, looks like our 300 mile per day routine is about right with a little bit extra
When we left Okefenokee, our main focus was heading home, taking I-40 back west as an alternative to I-10. It helps to have a bit of different scenery, new landscapes to wake up the eyes and heart. I know there are many sights we haven’t visited along the 10, but my ache to see new sights is waning a bit as our trip exceeds two months. I am sorta ready to be home.
We left our little campground in Albany, Georgia on Thursday morning the 14th of March, traveling west and north. Our original plan included driving toward Nashville, where we had a reservation at Arnold Air Force Base for two nights. We thought it might be fun to see a little bit more of Nashville than we saw back in 2007, and to continue west toward Memphis.
We did have an important destination. My mother, deceased in 1952, was born in Palestine, Arkansas. I have spent several years attempting to track down my mother’s father and relatives on that branch of my family with little success. With the help of Ancestry DNA tests, I discovered that I truly do have family connections right there in Palestine. We had been invited to park at my cousin Rita’s place as long as we wanted. Our visit will get a post of its own, but that will come next.
My cousin Rita and her husband Johnny in Palestine, Arkansas
No matter where you travel this time of year, weather can get in the way of the best laid plans. The huge “bomb cyclone” that hit the upper Midwest was coming east in a long red, orange and yellow band that stretched from the lower southwest corner to the upper northeast corner of our route, spawning flooding, and scariest of all, tornados. There was no escaping it. Should we hunker down and wait somewhere for it to hit us, or simply drive fast through it and hope it misses us. As my daughter Deanna said, you are moving and the tornados are moving, no matter what you do, it is a crap shoot.
We decided that we should take the most direct route possible to get to Arkansas, skipping the sight seeing and cancelling the Nashville reservations. All I had to do when calling the office was mention the tornado watches we were traveling through and we got a full refund. Nice.
Our goal on the 14th was to simply get through the line of tornado watches. We crossed Georgia in lovely sunshine, entering into Mississippi and some of the most kerthunkety roads we have traveled since I-10. We passed Montgomery and Birmingham, navigating the freeways without much trouble. I thought a lot about the important historical locations in both of these cities. I have read great stories about visits to both cities and wished I had the weather, the time, and the energy to stop and spend some time appreciating the changes we have experienced in our country since the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.
Did I mention I was a bit burned out on city sights? I found myself a bit glad that I had the excuse of tornado warnings to keep us moving north and crossing Mississippi in record time. I joked that there would surely be a tornado shelter at the Cracker Barrel.
There were only a few scary moments, as we watched the swirling black clouds north of Birmingham building, and fought the erratic wind gusts. The sky never did turn green, and the warning system app never sounded an alarm for tornado conditions going from watch to warning. There were a few intense downpours, but no hail, for which I was extremely grateful.
That night, once again we overnighted in the free parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Tupelo, Mississippi, safely on the other side of the tornado watch. Nickie teased that we must love Cracker Barrel food, but not so much. We do love their free parking lots however, and so far at each one we have used, the lot has been quiet. In Tupelo we were the only rig in the lot, as we were previously in Florida.
On the morning of the 15th, we continued north and west, crossing the Mississippi River mid day and arriving at my cousin’s place early afternoon. We stayed two nights, and as I said, the story of that visit will come in another post.
Lots of high water on the Mississippi Delta
On Sunday morning, the 17th, once again we pointed the rig west along I-40, crossing Arkansas and most of Oklahoma before settling in once again at another Cracker Barrel, and another night alone in a quiet parking lot. There were a lot of hotels surrounding the restaurant, but it seemed perfectly quiet and safe, even on the fringe of a big city near the airport.
This time we decided to succumb to the big country breakfasts that they are famous for. Mo had French Toast for the first time on this two month trip, and I had some kind of great scramble thing, with biscuits and fresh squeezed orange juice. We don’t eat out a lot, and this was our first breakfast out on the entire trip.
Our lovely breakfast kept us satiated through the rest of Oklahoma into the Texas Panhandle toward Amarillo. We haven’t traveled the Panhandle since 2010, and we were still unsure if the weather was going to cooperate with our plans to turn north toward Colorado. There were inklings of snow in Colorado Springs, and if that continued, our plan was to spend the night in Amarillo, and continue west toward Albuquerque.
Checking the weather, messaging with Erin, and looking at options for routing, we finally decided that it would be OK to make the journey north. Instead of stopping in Amarillo, we continued north along highway 87 toward the little town of Dumas, Texas. Using All Stays, we found the Dumas City Park, called Texhoma Park, a free camping spot with free electricity. Free? yeah, it really is free, with a limit of 24 hours only. There is a donation box if you wish to help keep the place available.
Once again we were almost the only rig there for the night. Our only company was a gray RV with signs all over it in Spanish, basically advertising their travels from Chile to Alaska. I did a bit of sleuthing, I found a photo of the same rig on Facebook, and ended up messaging with the person who posted that photo who had seen them in Chile. Crazy world. He and I did some more hunting, and actually found the Facebook page of the family, who have been on the road for two years.
I had a lot of questions about that entire process. Do they have to get visas for each country they pass through? Their facebook page says they are supporting themselves by selling things, but how do they do that in the US? It is a mom and a dad, two kids and a dog. They left their ordinary lives and ordinary jobs of teaching in Chile to travel all the way to Alaska. I guess the RV dream is everywhere.
When we woke up and planned a leisurely 200 mile drive to our next destination, we were shocked to see that the plug-in voltmeter was showing 18 volts and we were on store! It dropped down to 14 part of the time, so we really didn’t understand what was happening. We tested a few things before deciding that we needed to find some help. I found a mobile RV repair guy, Bob’s Mobile RV Service, who was back south of Amarillo, but he was so kind and helpful. He said it could just be the meter itself, but that driving between 14 and 15 volts might not be a problem to get us to a repair service. He then made some calls and set up a visit for us at the local Ford Dealer. What a sweet guy. He even called back a few hours later to be sure that we were OK. If you are ever in the vicinity, and need help I would highly recommend his service.
After driving to the small Ford dealership in Dumas, we waited a couple of hours for a technician to check our batteries, and alternator. Everything was fine, and as Bob had suspected, it was our voltmeter that had failed. The Ford dealer didn’t charge us for the service and we were on our way just a few hours later than planned. Nice that we had a shorter mileage day ahead.
Eroded limestone at a rest area near Two Buttes, in far southeastern Colorado
Speaking of the RV dream, I am definitely not a full timer. We have been traveling for 2 months now, and it has been wonderful. I am so glad we can do it. I am also so glad that we are heading home. I have lost a bit of the excitement, and the thrill of exploring new places has taken a back seat to the thrill of once more getting back west. The thrill of returning to our little town, and our green lovely acre, and our comfortable home is overshadowing the thrill of seeing more brown barren trees and brown barren grass on the high plains of the United States.
The Texas Panhandle isn’t completely flat. We might have liked to explore Palo Duro Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Texas, second largest canyon in the United States
Following the snow predictions for the east side of the Rockies, we knew that it would be cold but not snowy for a night at John Martin Reservoir State Park. We stayed at this park back in 2010, even spending an evening kayaking. It was September then, not March, and wasn’t as cold. We knew the temps on this night in March were going to drop to the 20’s. I discovered by pure chance that the park is now reservation only, and made a reservation at the last minute as we drove north. When we arrived, signs on the posts said do not occupy without a reservation, but same day reservations were allowed. Only problem, there is limited cell service at the park and one would have to return to the little nearby town of Hasty to attempt to get service.
Once at the park, my choice of a site seemed really stupid. On the website it is very nearly impossible to get any kind of idea of what a site might be like. There are no photos. We ended up all alone in a loop over by the dam. It turned out nicely, however, since it was completely quiet, and I could take Mattie out running off leash without any problems. It was too cold to be on the lake anyway!
On the road by 9, we knew we had a short day ahead driving west toward Interstate 25 and our final miles toward Colorado Springs and the USAir Force Academy Peregrine Pines Family Camp.
We have read about this beautiful camp over the years, and seen beautiful photos from Erin’s blog about the trails and the chapel, and knew it would be a good place to stay.
Erin and Mui loved this area so much, it called to them when they made their choice to end their full time lifestyle and settle down once again to a sticks and bricks home. (You can read about it here). We look forward so much to seeing their new home and spending time with them here in Colorado Springs.
Still not quite sure about our return route. Once again, weather will be the determining factor. Mo isn’t too excited about returning back south to the 40 and I am not that excited about traveling over the mountains on the 70 or through the cold windy country of Wyoming on the 80. That route on the 80 is actually 400 miles less than my choice of returning back to the 40 and then having to go back north. Ah well. As I said, the choice will be made next Sunday morning when we exit Colorado Springs.
Hoping that a few extra miles going back south will be rewarded with warmer temperatures and maybe even some desert flowers as we continue our run home west toward Grants Pass. Either way, home is the prize waiting at the end of the journey.