I’ve already done something of a ‘Trip Report’ on the time in D.C., so this will be a Trip Report of the outbound segment to Florida. You might not think there would be much to say about a 2800 mile drive in a little under 4 days, but there is.
Gas, in California, runs about $1 / gallon more than in the rest of the States (at least, those in the lower half of the country where I usually drive). It can be $1.50 higher than the lowest cost areas (middle of Texas). So planning a drive out, I usually try for the fewest miles IN California. That’s I-80 through the mountains. But that route can be treacherous and full of snow and ice in winter.
The longest paths are to go north into Oregon or Washington, then east ( I-90 is nice in summer when the southern desert is hot…); or to go to the L.A. Basin and across on I-10 or even I-8 from San Diego. Freeways in the USA are even numbers going E/W and odd numbers going N/S, and then lowest numbers in the far south, highest numbers in the north. (Similar rules for N/S freeways and E/W numbers, so I-5 in California, I-95 on the East Coast… and Hawaii has numbers under 5, IIRC I-3 is the “interstate” highway in Hawaii… No, don’t ask how you can have an “interstate” on an Island of one State.)
So IF I want the minimum miles outbound AND it is winter, the middle line, I-40, into Northern Arizona is the best one. This is the old “Route 66” of ’50s song fame.
The added complication is that California, in theory, has a Curfew in place. 10 PM is a shutdown time. So I needed to escape California before 10 PM. But could not start until after 5 AM. In reality, it’s one tank of gas to Bakersfield, and then another gets you to Kingman Arizona. Folks who are nervous or have small tanks, top up in Tehachapi or Barstow. It’s I-5 to hwy 58 to Barstow, where you pick up I-40 and head out of State.
The Plot Complication is that I-40 also crosses high mountains. Flagstaff in Arizona is at about 7000 feet, and it gets snow in the winter. New Mexico has similar snow issues, even if at lower altitude. So in general, crossing the mountains on I-40 in winter is problematic. BUT, it’s faster out of California… so what to do…
Just immediately over the border, you can turn on Arizona 95 south. (There is a California 95 on the California side that I’ll talk about in the return trip report). The Arizona 95 follows the Colorado River and in just a few miles you are at Lake Havasu City. Which is where you will find the London Bridge. (Go figure…) Arriving near empty, I tanked up at a Very Nice Price a good $1+ per gallon less than in California.
I also was hungry. I’d not gotten started until about Noon and it was about 8:30 PM. Wanting dinner, I saw a place selling “Broasted Chicken”. IIRC, this is chicken deep fried in a pressure cooker. At the entry there was a counter where you order, then a seating area. I got to have a real, sit down, no mask, served to me at my table, indoor restaurant dinner! What a wonderful experience after a year of that being forbidden.
It was just amazing to me how much it felt good. Like I was back in America again. Just to order a meal, sit down, and eat it. Most of the trip, I’ll just eat fast food from a window or sandwiches and snacks packed in the car. (At 2 AM middle of nowhere Texas, you better have your own food on board. More on that below…) But for this first meal, I had a real treat.
From there, I headed south toward I-10 and I-8. Phoenix has decorated I-10 from about 50 miles outside of town with Photo Radar Cameras that auto-ticket you for just about anything. As traffic arrives at them, you get a sudden lurch slower as the locals know to hit the skids. This causes no end of traffic risks. Best avoided on both counts. So there is a “bypass” from I-10 outside of Phoenix to I-8 further south. Since I-8 then merges with I-10 on the other side of Phoenix (after it, too, turns south) you do not take any miles penalty.
Highway 95 joins I-10 at Quartzite. This little town gets visited by hundreds to thousands of campers and RVs every year. Partly due to massive areas of BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) land where you can camp for free or nearly free (depending on property). There were a LOT of RVs parked all over the desert. Again, nice to see folks just “Living the life” in America.
I-10 toward Phoenix a little, then the bypass route, hwy 85, from Buckeye to Gila Bend. There had been a very nice gravel area where you could pull off, catch some zzzzs, and gas up across the street. It is now posted with poles every few feet as “no parking”, so scratch that stop from “the usual” list. Close enough down I-8 is the I-10 merge. This is where gas starts to get insanely cheap. From $3.40 in California, to $2.20 in Lake Havasu City, it drops to $2, and even $1.95 ish at one place. (Gas Buddy is your friend here). From here to Central Texas, the price slowly drifts down to near $1.65 (at Sam’s Club and Costco) or $1.75 at other more convenient stores. Then rises again toward $2.20 in Florida.
I found a nice exit off I-8 in Arizona where it was road one way, dirt turn around the other, and that was my “hotel” for the night. No real traffic to speak of, and nobody bothers you. It’s interesting that they have the “stub” for a road one way (the dirt area) and a road only going to ‘middle of nowhere’ the other.
There’s similar “1/2 an exit” places in New Mexico that are good for a nap too.
Nothing much of interest happened through New Mexico and El Paso Texas; another good gas stop place. Walmart on the hwy 375 ‘bypass’ was something like $1.82 for gas. I pressed on and arrived in Fort Stockton about sundown (and another Walmart fillup cheap). I pondered parking there for the night. It had snowed some day or so before and there was slush on the roads, about 3 inches on the dirt off the road. Ought to have done that. Instead, I thought, well, I can make San Antonio for New Years. This being New Years Eve, spending it in Middle Of Nowhere didn’t sound as much fun as a bar outside San Antonio. So off I went.
Well, about 30 minutes to an hour outside of town, the freeway came to a halt. This was the start of a Very Long Night. The water and slush on the road was freezing up to ice. In short, we went about 20 miles in the next several hours, mostly in a few fast creeps, then long periods of sitting. 3 Big Rigs were in the center divide snow. A few more 1/2 jackknife bent off the shoulders. Dozens more parked on the shoulders or in any available exit. Then the hundreds stopped in front of me…
Several hours later, listening to the radio, I celebrated New Years with one sip of ‘wine from a 1/2 liter box’, to wash down the ham and mustard sandwiches and Ritz crackers that were both dinner and party snacks. I also had a flat of water, so a bottle or two of that was used over the night. One trucker got out to let his dog dump on the ice (then picked it up… something about lots of headlights and a walking around cop maybe?). Long story shortened, about 4 AM? the trucks in front of the trucks in front of me, slowly crept away. The Sheriff who had been walking around in the stopped cars banged on the cab of the truck one lane over to wake him up, while the one in front of me realized everyone else had left and was trying to get his very cold engine started. The truck wobbled amusingly from the starting motor torques.
Eventually, they too, slowly crept off and we were off!… but about another 10 to 20 miles down the road came to a halt again… Where we sat until about 5 or 6 AM. Then THAT Sheriff (who had stopped the trucks to avoid yet more in the ditch) managed to orchestrate getting them all onto a shoulder. No small feat. I had gotten out of the car and stretch a few times (between episodes of ‘dinner on the dashboard’ and running the motor for just enough heat for heavy coat and covers). The road was like a giant very slippery ice cube. I’d known this already as cars tended to ‘wander’ if you moved and would oh so slowly slide to an angled halt when braking…
After all the trucks were cleared from one lane, the Sheriff told us “I’m letting the small stuff through, try to keep it at 5 mph”. I was quite happy with that guidance. The lady behind me not so much. The trucks behind her even less. Several times I saw the car behind me slowly starting to crab sideways a little as it slid toward me… Eventually, we made it out. All up, about 98 miles in 12 hours. At San Antonio I got gas again. From about Ozuna down to San Antonio the road drops and warms. Speeds increased accordingly.
One interesting bit I noticed was “shadow snow”. Bushes with snow INSIDE them, where it was shaded by leaves on the sunny side. Trees with a very tree like shaped patch of snow on the North slightly west side, where shade from the tree kept it cold enough to not melt, and all around it melted. Cuts in mountains where snow on the south facing side was gone, but plenty survived on the north facing side of the road / cliff. How do you account for the effects of topography shading on temperatures and snow persistence in a climate model?
Somewhere in there I had a few more “hour or three” naps. Nothing much happened from Central Texas on to Louisiana. Houston was heavy with traffic. Something like 18 lanes wide at one point (what with fastpass toll lanes, regular lanes, frontage road lanes…) but lighter than usual. Unlike New Mexico (who basically said “come here, 14 day quarantine” unless you read the small print that said “if just passing through keep going”…) Texas was more “wear a mask if you want”. As Mississippi and Alabama are about an hour or two each to cross at that point, I just zipped through them.
Somewhere in there I hit a Buc’ees gas station. These are giant things with dozens (hundred?) gas pumps and a giant store. They have a GREAT pulled pork sandwich. Their breakfast burrito was OK, but I’d rather have the brisket ;-0
I parked in a Rest Area in Florida for a long sleep time. A fully reclined seat with added cushion and a very nice big wide sleeping bag work wonders. It was drizzly when I woke up. I had “lunch” via a can of Dinty Moore Stew warmed over an alcohol stove in a “pick-nick” area out behind the rest stop parking. Strategically placed bags and lack of any sound or visible fire make an alcohol stove ideal for this stealth cooking. The open sided area has a pick-nick table and roof and 4 posts. Water nearby. Sort of 1/2 way between camping and pick-nick.
Then it was just one long run into town and arriving at my Florida Friends place. And a real bed. And real meals. And a shower. Heaven.
Later in the week, we went to a bar. A real, honest to gosh, sit down and be served, bar. I WAS back in America again! And loving it. It was $5 Burger Night at Beers Of The World, where we had a “Dodgy Codgers Meet Up” last time I was there with some of y’all. Between Burger, Fries, and more, plus a selection of online draft beer, it was a wonderful time. First bar visit in over a year. The waitress was wonderful (and cute, even under her mask…). Cat, as in Catalina. Knows her beers too.
So that’s the trip out report. I rediscovered America. Found again the joys of a real sit down restaurant and bar. Had a generally great time, and only a little bit fatigued by the drive, what with the “sleep on demand” bedding in the passenger seat.
I did vow to check for “ice AFTER storm” issues on future runs over “ice free” I-10… And on the return trip, avoided that section of the road (via hwy 90) at a longer theoretical time but much shorter without 12 hours “iced”…
Overall, I’m much happier in The South. California feels like a prison in comparison. Jumping ahead a bit, but I’m definitely accelerating the “Get out of California” activities. I’d paused them waiting for “end of lockdown better selling opportunities”, but now I’m thinking that may never come what with Gov. Nuisance and all.
Sidebar on Chinese Wuhan Covid Exposure:
I chose to wear a mask even when 1/2 or more of the locals were not. It also was applied at “border inspection” stations cameras and at Toll Road Camera locations. The “border stations” now have a cluster of cameras on the OTHER side of the road too, so even if not going through the station, put the mask on. 2 exceptions were the restaurant and bar where a mask gets in the way of eating and drinking ;-) (And NO, Gov. Nuisance, I’m not going to be constantly touching the mask to put it off and on between bites / sips)
I also did an Ivermectin prophylactic dose prior to departure, and one just prior to the return trip. So far, so good. ZERO issues or symptoms of any kind, despite all the stress of the trip. (poor food, general stress, lack of sleep, cold, all the usual Bad Things.) IMHO, it works a champ.
Then a few days later, we did the D.C. Run. That was 12 hours about 800 miles drive up, then a nap in a rest stop, a whole day on the Elipse, and then 12 hours / 800 miles back non-stop.