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When we first planned our cross country road trip (which I refer to as The Epic Journey East), I said if we drove 75 miles per day we would get from Niland, CA to Augusta, GA in 30 days. Now, we’re only 11 days in and we’ve already gone half the distance we need to go. Here’s what happened.
You can plan a cross country road trip, but you can’t always do things as planned
75 miles seems like a great plan. Not too much, and not too little. But when we left Niland, California we already knew we would be doing 140 miles just to get to Quartzsite, Arizona. We stopped overnight in Blythe, CA, and there were some really cool places before that we would have loved to stop for the night, in the middle of the desert on unpaved areas.
Unfortunately, we knew a storm was coming. We actually left a day earlier than planned because of this storm. It was supposed to be windy and rainy. Highway 111, which would take us from the RV park we stayed up to I-10, built drainage across the roads rather than under them. So any time it rains, the roads flood and are impossible to drive.
It started raining that night as we pulled into Blythe, so we made it out just in time.
A whole lot of nothing
From Quartzsite to Yuma, our next stop, was a trip of about 80 miles. There was not much in between. The same was true across a lot of Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. There goes half of our cross country road trip surrounded by empty desert landscape.
So we ended up driving as much as 80 miles each morning, and another 50-80 each afternoon.
I tried to pick Walmart over truck stops and rest areas because they tend to be quieter. Big rigs have a habit of idling the whole night. But sometimes a truck stop was the only thing available.
The fun stuff
We stopped at the Quartzsite RV Show (officially known as the Sports, Vacation & RV Show). This show happens every January for 34 years running and is HUGE, which is why we took a slight detour along our route to go see it. As we are always looking for more RV options for when we upgrade to a new coach, it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out. I’ll talk more about the show in another post.
One cute little place we saw in Arizona is called Dateland. As you can imagine, they grow and sell dates there. They also have date shakes (sadly, no vegan ones) and other little trinkets. We parked across the street from the gas station/gift shop in the parking lot of an empty building. We weren’t the only ones so it didn’t seem to be a problem.
Another day we parked at the Walmart in Casa Grande, AZ during my workday. This brought back some memories as we’ve actually been to this Walmart many times. We used to live about 30 minutes away back when we were homeowners. It was a very convenient location because there was a Home Depot down the street and an auto parts store, so Ryan was able to pick up some supplies while I worked. They also have a Goodwill across the street, so we were able to donate yet more items.
When we got to Tucson, we spent 2 nights in front of one of my cousin’s house. Her community allows RV parking. It got to freezing temperatures overnight, so she was kind enough to run an extension cord from her garage to the RV. We used this to plug in our space heater and set it up in the living room for the dogs.
It was great seeing my cousins. Tahoe and I also got to spend the day inside the house. I worked and Tahoe played with his fur-cousin, Bear (part lab and part chow). They had the BEST time. We had a great time, too. Plus, we got some much-needed work done on the RV to make us boondocking-ready (more on that later too)!
In El Paso, we visited one of the biggest Whole Foods Markets we’ve ever seen. It has a 2-level outdoor eating area attached to a restaurant inside. It was a huge step up from the 3-4 tables we usually see outside a Whole Foods!
Sometimes, we arrived at a place and there was no room for us to park, so we had to keep driving to find someplace else. Other times, we followed directions only to find ourselves in front of a closed, long-abandoned business or an empty lot.
In general, if we determined a lot seemed big enough, we went inside and asked permission to park there. Nobody said no to us so far. We try to buy something at each place we stop (groceries at Walmart or gas at a truck stop). Because there are so many stops, we just buy what we need for the next day or two.
I would much rather not park in parking lots every day and night. Given a choice I would park out on public lands in the quiet. But for the short-term this type of “camping” is something I can live with.
I found the time change as a gradual thing traveling state to state was much easier for my body to accept than taking a flight and suddenly being 3 time zones away. So far, I have had no problem falling asleep and waking up at the times I normally would. Meaning, I wake up at 6, so I keep waking up at 6 local time even though in California it’s 4am.
I find I’m easily ready for bed every night. We’re not traveling hard, but it is still far more travel than I’m used to. I also find I have a good appetite and everything I cook tastes delicious (the taste of freedom, maybe)?
The RV has been holding up remarkably well. I think my insulation tips may have helped a lot with that, because previous travel through very hot or cold climates were not as comfortable.
I believe we will get through the rest of this trip without a problem.
However, this cross country road trip has also reinforced for me that our RV is just too big. While we did get to stop and enjoy some local activities, there were others I would have liked to see that we just couldn’t fit. This continues to be a source of annoyance for me.
Also, we’ve had a very good internet signal from our Verizon hotspot, so I actually work while Ryan drives! That way, I have less time in front of a computer when we’re parked. More time to take walks with the dogs, see some sights and cook. =)
We spent about $300 on gas, but not a single penny in camping fees and only $10 at a dump station. I’m very optimistic we will continue the same way for the rest of the trip and spend less than $700 in gas and waste/fresh water fees.
If you’re curious where we stopped so far, I’m going to upload a PDF of the locations to our resource library. It will be titled “Free RV Parking Spots (Urban Camping).” Sorry, you can’t use my cousin’s house! =)
The list also includes a free place to dump your tanks and get fresh water! I will update it after the second half of our journey is complete, so be sure to check back if you want to know about more spots along the southern United States. It’s free to access by entering your email address here:
The video below is a tour of the inside of our RV! I finally filmed one in Niland right before we left for this cross country road trip. I’ve only been meaning to do it for months now! Now you’ll get to see live versions of a lot of the pictures I take.