Trip Report – The Drive Home

Why drive?

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.

Crossing Texas

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.

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…

In Conclusion

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 ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to Trip Report – The Drive Home

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    @ EMSmith; Sounds like you are getting “Itchy feet” Best to do that now while you have the chance. There is a lot to see out there. Sailboats can be pretty damn boring and spring is coming soon in the southern states. Have a lot of good trips, see good friends, drink interesting Beers and a lot of this country…pg

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve had wanderlust since I was about 5 years old! Yes, the “itchy feet” are having trouble dealing with the repeated schedule disruptions. At this point I’ve pretty much decided on “Plan Z”…

    I’m booked for “physical therapist, cook, housekeeper, GoFer, etc.” duty for the next roughly 4 weeks. As soon as the spouse is recovered and “on her own”, I’m on a plane to Florida and going to book a “trailer” of some sort or an RV in Florida. Enough for parking a car next to it and having a base of operations. Selling the California house moves to late in the process instead of early, and stuff goes to a storage unit.

    This lets “buy a house” move to whenever the Spouse can travel to Florida and decide living in a trailer isn’t what she wants … so buying will then be her priority…

    Per “seeing the USA”: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve crossed the country and seen things. Once around the entire perimeter in a VW Fastback 1967 era (in about 1974). Once across the middle, up to the Montreal Olympics, and back across a diagonal of the North in the very first year of the Honda Accord. “A Few” times to Chicago and back. A dozen+ to Orlando (via just about every freeway / interstate possible.) And a lot more. I’m sure there’s still a bit more to see, but I can’t think of a State in the Lower 48 that I’ve not visited. Just places in States.

    I have a fantasy of doing a trip from Alaska to Florida, but the timer is running out on that one. Alaska would be new to me.

    I’ve lived on a sail boat for a couple of years, so know what that’s all about. Yeah, boring at times. It’s mostly Florida Friend who has that as a new fantasy. OTOH, never sailed the Caribbean nor the Atlantic. He’s got the hots to sail to the Bahamas. Supposedly a “One Long Day” (i.e. close to 24 hours) sail from south Florida. We’ll see if I still have my ‘sea legs’ of if age and time have caused a bit more “toss me cookies” problem ;-) I know I’m good for “around the bay” and in the intercoastal. Worst case is he enlists some crew from his club and I fly to the Bahamas to meet the boat there and join the party ;-)

    While I’d like to make that trip, ability / durability TBD.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    I drove/moved to Alaska in December of “73”. Pickup truck and 24foot travel trailer and wife to try my luck there. Settled in Whitter on the edge of Prince William sound.
    Had many adventures in that area before driving/moving back to California in the fall of 75 with my wife and new son.
    Alaska is a young man’s country with long winters and short spring/falls. Summer is said to last but 1 day. Lots of government land, very little of it private or even accessible except by light aircraft or boat. Prince William Sound is a vast protected area of water of over 3,200 sq.miles:
    A perfect place for a young man to boat or sail, So vast that it would take years to see all of it. But, all of it, a hard place to Live, and so life moved on because god and family intervened.

    By all means drive the ALCAN up and take the Ferry back as a summer/fall extended trip/adventure. The Alcan was mostly gravel road when I drove it up and mostly paved by the time I drove back, My brother motorcycled it 2 summers ago. A glorious trip he said. Just remember to be prepared as it is a long way between towns. Everyone that can should do it at least once. It would take lifetimes to explore all of that area but winters can be brutal and dangerous. And wild life needs to be respected as some of them are not friendly at all!. But NO snakes or scorpions to fear. Moose will attack and they are BIG and the BEARs sometimes eat people. And the airborne bugs! can make a spring trip miserable as they are hungry and numerous. Also the roads are in bad shape after the spring thaw. By late summer/early fall the bugs are down and the roads are fixed and the weather agreeable…pg

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    I guess at present any trip through Canada is out of the question due to the Plandemic but that should end in a year or two. The GEBs are loosing their battle to remake the world into their new Feudal Communist Utopia where they are the new aristocracy. Heading South seems to be the direction towards Freedom at the moment…pg

  5. philjourdan says:

    Hmmm…. Gas is about the same here as in Texas (about a dime more). Been across country and seen all the sites as well about 8 times. May do it once more for the bucket list, but not my favorite way to go these days.

    Glad you are back and safe. Sorry that back is still Cali. But you have your plan, so you should be free soon.

  6. H.R. says:

    I’ve been seasick twice. The first time was on the Great Lakes back around 1967 or so. The second time was on a cruise ship back in 1988.

    For a Summer family vacation, dad decided to take a car/passenger ferry across Lake Erie to Canada, and then we made our way to Detroit to see the various Ford works.

    My brother and I had bought some candy for the trip. About 1/2 way across Lake Erie, we decided we wanted to snack on some candy. So went went to the car, got in, and started eating some candy. After only a few minutes, my brother and I were starting to get a bit green around the gills. The waves were only two feet or so. The ferry was gently rolling side to side, but the car springs had the car rolling dead opposite of the ferry. Woozy time! We both recognized what was happening right away, looked at each other and said, “WE gotta get out of this car NOW!”

    We headed up to the bow and had a nice cool breeze in our faces. With only the one-way gentle motion of the ferry, we recovered in about 15 minutes or so, all while having a good laugh at ourselves. Not too many people can say they got seasick on the Great Lakes, let alone on a fairly calm day. 🤢🤢 🤣 🤣 🤣

    The second time was at night on a cruise ship. It was the smallest of the first three cruise ships Carnival had to start up their business.

    There was a storm at night, and I awoke to some severe rolling. The Captain announced that all passengers were to stay in their quarters unless it was absolutely necessary to leave. It was downright dangerous to walk the passageways and above deck was impossible.

    Many passengers got seasick. I got a touch of seasickness, and then hopped into my berth and just rolled with the flow. I started feeling better after I quit fighting the motion and went to sleep. We cleared the storm sometime during the night, and when I woke up, the ship was back ti its usual very slight movement.

    All in all, I’ve never tossed my cookies from seasickness.

  7. Terry Jackson says:

    RE Alaska
    Great Alaska Holidays rents Class C motorhomes. Every year they order more from the Winnebago factory, then they rent out the opportunity to drive from the factory to Anchorage, Details from GAH, but the scope of the thing is apply the previous summer, get selected, sign a rental agreement and pay a fee (call it $1,000) and you buy the gas and you get 14 days to deliver it. That should give you about 6 days for sightseeing rather than just driving. Then take the Ferry from Whittier to Bellingham with a stateroom. All this has been early May, so still snow in the high country at Jasper and Lake Louise, and the Icefields Parkway is driveable. May still be ice along the major rivers, like the Liard. The bears are out, as are the moose and Caribou, and Sheep in some areas, and Bison along the Liard River. And lots of daylight.

    Alaska was a bit hard in the ’60’s and ’70’s, but not so much any more. We still have a bit over 9 acres on the Kenai, but unable to transit Canada the last few years. She is 80, I’m a bit younger. Maybe we will go again this year.

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    NASA has a nice device where the can tune the frequency of “wobbles” until they hit your frequency… Everyone upchucks at some setting.

    I’ve had ONE bad episode. It was on a ship near 60 ish feet long with a huge Diesel putting out lots of subsonic vibrations. I was sick as a dog for weeks. I’m hoping that the shorter ship frequencies once again let me be nausea free at sea… Similar length power boat was OK.

    @P.G. & Terry Jackson:

    I figure I’ve got maybe 2 more years to do an Alaska run. I want to arrive as far North as I can get as early as the weather allows (i.e. drive up slowly, no further than comfortable for the weather then wait for improvement). Then turn around and scoot as fast as required down the entire run to Florida. Hopefully staying well ahead of decaying Fall / Winter weather the whole way. As we have an existence proof I can to 2800 miles in 4 days reasonably OK, I think that’s not going to be a problem. I have zero desire to experience an Alaskan Winter Storm ;-) I also expect to do this in some kind of 4×4 (or “All Wheel Drive” with limited slip differential or traction control via auto-braking single wheels based drive) with medium off road tires… (i.e. all terrain like Geolanders or such).

    Also don’t plan on setting myself out as “bear bait” in a tent ;-) Actual hard sided gear “TBD”…

    IFF 2 years from now we’ve still got an “Impassible Canada”, I’ll just fly to Fairbanks, buy a vehicle, do the drive across Alaska, fly out of Juneau back to my car in the lower 48 (say in Montana) and continue the run to Florida from there. A compromise, but better than nothing ;-)

    When that time comes: ALL Advice about Alaska cheerfully accepted! (And yes, I’ll be carting Giant Bear Spray and a 3 gallon sprayer of Mosquito Death & Repellent!! /sark)

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