Well, primarily as I didn’t know when I’d be “done” nor did I want to pay “almost Christmas Very High Season” air fare rates of about (or over…) double. I also thought I might need to bring back some stuff, like the scooter.
I unrolled the sleeping bag next to the scooter and it fit nicely. Camping kitchen loaded and small ice chest too. I took a more scenic route out of Orlando this time. Up to 44 and then 441 or some such. Several county roads.
Near “The Villages” (an “old folks community” with commercials that grate…) I stopped into a Publics supermarket and bought some road grub. Wheat Thins, canned soup, bread, ham, mustard, bananas and more. Then hit the I-75 out of town. I’d thought of going all the way to the Gulf Coast, but I’d done that before and figured I’d just get some miles under me.
I stopped at a rest area on the Florida Panhandle and made a thermos of travel coffee. As I’d started out about 5 AM… Seems that Florida Friend had a 2 day training sail scheduled so not a lot of reason to hang around and tasks done, I just headed out at the same time.
The Coffee From Hell
This was just water boiled over an alcohol “Mini-Trangia” stove. Add instant Folgers “crystals” and be done. I’d had it many times and it was OK. This time it was quite bitter. I wondered what I’d done wrong? Too much? Old jug of a couple of years? Whatever. About a pint of it got choked down over the next 8 hours or so.
Later, in Quartizite, I figured out why. Jumping ahead to that moment:
While camped in Quartzite I heated some Campbell’s New England Clam Chowder. Nice and thick, just heat and eat from the can. Very nice. UNTIL I got to the bit that was viscous stuck to the “pan” of this kit. Suddenly an intense bit of bitter when I scraped that off with the spoon.
Then I realized that they must have put a “Bittering Agent” in the methanol fuel for the stove and some of it had gotten on the pan (that is the case for this kit too) and evaporated, leaving the bittering agent behind.
Note To Self: Pack stove OUTSIDE the kit designed to hold it or risk bitter food and drink when cooked in it. Maybe find a way to test which alcohol has a bittering agent in it (without actually putting methanol in my mouth…)
Why oh why can’t Government Idiots In Charge just not screw up things that work just fine. I’ve used methanol stoves for 50+ years without issue. Now it’s a risk of crap cooking. Sigh.
Back at the Panhandle of Florida:
Took a nap in the back. Realized that sleeping bag on floor was a bit hard. In about Mississippi or maybe Louisiana, I pulled off the road and went looking for a camping supply source. Found a store I’d never heard of before that was dedicated to just that. Bought a foam insulating pad about 3/4 inch thick and a “camping pillow” that stuffs into a 1/2 gallon sized bag.
That worked well enough, but was still a bit harder than I’d prefer. Next time I’m adding an air mattress to the bed… but will keep the insulating pad too as it will mask some of the air mattress irregular surface.
Somewhere in Texas I slept from about midnight or 1 AM through to about 4 AM. I usually only sleep about 6 hours, and a 4 hour sleep when “on the road” has me wake up ready to go and unable to sleep further. So off I went.
It’s a career at 55 MPH (I did it once under Nixon). Now large parts have a speed limit of 80 MPH. You can cruise at about 85 to 88 and not get pulled over. I crossed Texas in one day and once again hit the sack at a rest stop near El Paso.
Why blast through? Because I’ve seen West Texas way too many times already. Just not a lot I feel like looking at. The weather was good, but news said rain was coming. Figured better to be gone by then.
Gas in Texas is Way Cheap. I was getting regular for under $3 a gallon and Super at about $3.25 a gallon. Lowest I saw was about $2.74 but I’d already filled up with $2.88 or so by then. Compare to California at $5.50 or more… you can get double the Texas price. For this reason alone it is worth it to cross Texas the “long way” (i.e. not at the Panhandle of Texas).
The Mercedes has a knock sensor and it backs off the timing to prevent knock (at least, that’s what I think it going on). Fill it with Regular, it runs OK at modest throttle but floor it and it just doesn’t have the expected zip. On very long stretches across the country, I’ll use Regular on the flats, or at altitude. When arriving at destination or with mountains (and thus hill climbs) I’ll start filling with Super.
On regular it’s a bit slow to accelerate onto the freeway, but downshifting to 3rd gets it going (as at higher RPM spark can advance). IF I’m expecting to do a lot of accelerating on ramps, I’ll stick with the Super and a zippy engine. But on long boring flats for hours on end with easy long on ramps, RUG (Regular Unleaded Gas) can save a lot. About $1/2 / gallon for about 100 gallons…
I did take a little time to explore a few back road bits. Plenty of opportunities to cross State Borders not on a freeway ;-)
New Mexico was a bit of a blur. It’s about 120 miles on I-10 and you are rapidly in Arizona.
Instead of turning up early, I stayed on I-8 all the way to Yuma. It was full of RVs and RV sales and the Fry’s Grocery Store was full of retired folks stocking up. Me too ;-)
While there, checked out a couple of border crossing options. One went through a US Military Proving Grounds, so got scratched. Another was simple, easy and looked great. Then I headed north.
I wanted to spend a night at Quartzite with all the Snow Birds at peak season. About 5 miles north of town, got a space at a BLM LVA (Bureau Of Land Management Long Term Visitor Area). It is free, no services so boondocking, and all you do is fill out a form saying you will stay no more than 14 days before you move on.
I picked a flat spot near an edge with a fire ring, set up my stove on a protective pad, and heated some soup. That’s when I discovered why the coffee was so bitter…
It got down to about 36 F that night. I was comfy in the bag. I’d have been more comfy with a better mattress, but it was OK. Between the car being protective and the sleeping bag and the thermal insulating pad, I was pretty well off. I added the hood from my jacket as head cover and draped the rest over the entry to the bag and stayed very nicely warm.
Sunset was about 5:30 PM and it was wonderful to see a full moon rising in the East as the sun set in the west. Desert of green Palo Verde bushes (it is rainy season…) to Purple Mountains ringing the distance. A very pleasant experience.
A note on Boondocking in a wagon:
There are no bathrooms. Nor water. I camp with a flat of water bottles and a “jug” for any liquids needing disposal. It is also a good idea to “take a dump” before arriving for an overnight or bring a camping toilet for longer stays. It works, but planning is important…
As there was not much to do once the sun set, I found myself asleep about 6 PM. Woke up at 4 AM to a wonderful moonlit landscape. But… 10 hours of sleep and I’m just done. Fully caught up and restless. Car was pretty cold by then, so I just slipped into my driving clothes, fired up the engine and puttered away.
Breakfast was 2 Breakfast Jacks at Lake Havasu City about an hour and a half later. With real coffee ;-)
Headed out of Arizona, I checked some more border crossing options. One went over a dam and forbade trucks and trailers, so not good for a travel trailer bug out. Another was Just Fine. Back road out of a California town into Nevada, then another return via Arizona to California on a road that didn’t even have a “welcome to California” sign on it. Lots more exist too.
After that, it was mostly just crossing California to home. Only Bad Thing was Valley Fog. Had I thought about it, I’d have remembered that winters in California have the Great Valley turn into a fog soup bowl at night and assured I was home early. Instead I had been playing. Reaching Bakersfield about 8 PM instead of home by 9 PM. In the end, I got to crawl up the valley in the fog and got home about 3 AM. Oh Well, Done it before…
Overall, I’m loving the “just crawl into bed in the back” of the wagon. Soften the mattress option a little and clean up the mess kit issue and I’m golden. I’m going to try something similar in the Subaru. As it is, for solo travel, I’m sold on it. No more issues of Hotels with various stinks, sprays, allergens galore, and Air Conditioner Noise From Hell. All for $80 or more a night.
Quartzite was fun, but to really enjoy it longer term would take a bit more gear (like a portable potty and “camp shower” set up). Fine for one night in the wagon though.
It was fun to set up the new Burner Phone as a Hot Spot and log in with it from “middle of nowhere” ;-)
But entertainment options are limited as the sun goes down and it gets cold.
I was also very pleased with the notion that I was sleeping inside a steel and glass box and not where “whatever” might investigate a tent on the ground. It was also nice to not deal with gravel and rocks under a tent.
Taking some time to explore back roads was a lot of fun too, but maybe paying a little more attention to “weather home” was in order. But under a clear blue desert sky it’s hard to think of fog…
I’m now home, unpacked, and rested. Spouse has some surgery coming up, so I’m likely to be AFK for a bit. Just a day or two. I’m off to make dinner, but still thinking about a night on the desert floor and a very full moon ;-)