Sunday November 14th 2021
This seems to have been a long time coming, but “The Buchanan’s are Rolling Down the Road” again, and today was the first of a number of days that we lovingly call travel days.
Saturday November 6th 2021: This preparation day for travel will be a little bit special for a number of reasons, and one of the first reasons will be just the preparation involved to get back on the road, when we are stationary for a while (20 months in our case) and we seem to sprawl out more than when we are moving more often, and that’s not really good or bad thing particularly, it just means to-day will be hectic, packing the basement of the coach, and loading up the truck, securing and preparing to drive our house down the highway at 100+ kilometres an hour, with each pot hole having the same effect as an earthquake might have on your home. To be perfectly honest it can almost feel terrifying when preparing, and those first few curves or potholes can leave you holding your breath, but that quickly subsides as the view from the windshield keeps changing and allows us to absorb the beauty of each area we pass through, and each area does have its own beauty, although it may not be apparent on the first glance.
The second reason this travel day is special is because it means that we personally have survived some of the worst of some very stupid people during this horrific pandemic. The arrogance and ignorance of those that were too fueled by lies and miss-truths to even protect themselves, and some will pay for that choice for the rest of their lives and for what, just an act of stupidity. We have lost personal friends, and have seem people suffer and prepare for their own demise after having contracted this virus, that they believed to just be a hoax. So to be back on the road reasonably unscathed is a feeling of some accomplishment. We have been fully vaccinated for months now, so this is a big step in our world moving closer to normality, I think the world will be affected by Covid for a number of years yet, but the countries that have been able to get protected are seeing life come back to more normality slowly, and the American border opening tomorrow is just one more step.
Another reason is we truly missed the winter warmth for the southern states and nothing reminds us more of that than this weeks snow, as the lake effect snow started to accumulated on and around the coach, it becomes very obvious that we want and need the sunny dry weather of Arizona, that dry warm climate will be a relief after enduring this rainy Ontario fall.
Just about more important that any other reason is being able to see our American friends again, to renew friendships is one of the most valuable things in our life. We have made such great friends over the first few years of our travels, and now over our three years at Lake Huron Resort, which just means we will have to return again some day.
Sunday November 7th 2021: A very hectic day, the final packing of Thunder and loading our toad, one last trip to the dump station, hooking up of the toad to the coach and we are off. Realistically a couple of hours later than planned but all the same day, and todays travel will just take us to the Sarnia area to be ready for the border opening, We picked the Walmart parking lot as did a few other people as you can see from the photo. The first stop was to refill our propane tank and top off the diesel tank in Goderich before heading down Highway 21 toward Sarnia, it was a sunny afternoon and the traffic seemed light for a Sunday afternoon.
Long time followers may recall an ongoing issue that we had back in winter 2019 and again in early 2020 with what I thought at the time to be contaminated fuel. And I have to admit that Richard had been after me to take the coach for a run before our departure day, but I was pretty confident that the issue was resolved so I did not follow his advise before departure. But the problem was still there, and while the coach would maintain speed on flat runs, the addition of hills caused the engine to stumble. I decided that we would cross on Monday as planned, limp our way south and repair the issue on the road, of course I needed to decide what the issue was first.
Travel day one ended with us covering only 89 miles (143 Kilometers) from Goderich ON to Sarnia ON travel time just a little over two hours.
Monday November 8th 2021: The US border opened at 12:01 and there were a number of rigs that left the Walmart lot and crossed in the first few hours, we waited till sunrise and headed out to wait in line to cross. The back up was at the toll booths because after paying the toll we were less than fifteen minuets getting through the line up at the US customs. They asked where we were going and for how long, asked if we were vaccinated, then asked about fresh fruit, vegetables as well as meat, and actually asked about pets which was a first in some time than of course the traditional “anything to declare“, and we were off south bound for Detroit.
Our aim was to get to Pemberville Ohio to visit with our dear friends Butch & BJ who we had not seen since November 2019 on our last pass by their home. Under normal conditions we would mooch-dock in their driveway and spent a few days, enjoying their company but this time we were on a bit of a tight time schedule and BJ had just been released from the hospital with some medical issues so we decided that a couple of hours would have to do for this visit. And Butch to save us unhooking the toad picked us up at the Legion parking lot and then drove us back to their home. As always Butch had a new cocktail to roll out (Fireball, Vanilla Vodka & Cider) and while excellent, Miss Laurie thought there was a little kick to it, Butch prepared some lunch and we enjoyed the brief visit with a promise for more unrestricted visitation time in the near future.
And being such a bad blogger I didn’t even get any pictures, but lets just leave it as we were so thrilled to visit, that posing for a photo was not high on my priority list that day. After three hours we decided to head out and after Butch brought us back to the coach he gave us a “Pemberville Care Package” consisting of some of the local brats, cheese, and sauces, we fired up the coach and limped a little further down the road.
Travel day two 171 miles (275 Kilometers) from Sarnia ON to Findley OH to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant for the night, a travel day of eight hours less a three hour visit.
Tuesday November 9th 2021: On the road before eight in the morning and while still limping under load I had a plan of attack for the repair. My main source of information for any coach issues is the BAC (Beaver Ambassador Club), it is a group of fellow Beaver Coach owners that help each other as well a newbies like myself. I had posted a description of the issue on the forum the night before and by morning I had three responses all aiming me in a similar direction, all fuel related which made sense to me, but instead of a fuel blockage issue they indicated it was more likely an air leak, so to explain in simple terms the coach’s CAT engine has a high volume fuel pump that draws fuel from the fuel tank that is located at the front of the coach through a fuel/water separator then through the pump to a fuel filter and then to the injectors. And they were suggesting that under heavy load that air was being drawn into the system at the fuel/water separator or possibly from a leak in the fuel line that is nearly forty feet long, so I found that by purging the air from the separator that the performance was much better for a few miles.
So we headed further down I-75 and made a right onto I-70 to start our western trek, so as we neared Indianapolis I was able to source a new separator filter kit form a CAT dealer which I wanted mainly for the new gaskets and seals, we limped along stopping regularly to purge the system and we settled into another Cracker Barrel just on the outskirts of Indianapolis, where we unhooked the toad and I drove to the CAT dealership to collect the required parts. This had the appearance that it could turn into a messy repair so we decided that the next morning we would go to a nearby rest area where I could change these parts out without everyone’s prying eyes watching.
Travel day three 224 miles (360 kilometers) from Findley OH to Plainsville IN, a reasonably short travel day, at less than six hours with many short stops to purge the fuel system.
Wednesday November 10th 2021: Well a breakfast of biscuits and gravy (a true breakfast of champions) at 7am at the Cracker Barrel and I was ready to tackle this running issue on the coach, we reconnected the toad and headed to the rest stop just a couple of miles down I-70. I was able to get an outside spot at the rest area and immediately got to work. When I disassembled the fuel/water separator I was pleased to see hardly any fuel contamination, and while I could not see where it was drawing air into the fuel system the purging on the previous day had proved it was drawing air from someplace, and it also became apparent that the fuel from the tank was being gravity feed to the separator, because I was spilling fuel everywhere. Don’t get alarmed I had prepared for some spillage with a catch pan to collect any fuel but I was just a little surprise when it did happen, so with one finger plugging the flow of the fuel, so now I had to assemble the separator with my other hand, but just a few moments latter the new separator was in place and the purging of the system was underway.
So by nine o’clock we were back on the road with the engine stumble quickly becoming just a fleeting memory, we were racing up hills like the champ that the coach used to and by noon we were crossing the mighty Mississippi where I missed my exit for I-44 in St. Louis which made for so excitement but after a few minutes of downtown traffic and we were back on I-44 headed for Arizona. Because the coach was running so well and it was another good weather driving day, we slipped on our big boy undies and we pushed a little harder to make up on some lost time, and settled into a Walmart parking lot in Marshfield MO for the night.
Travel day four 420 miles (675 kilometers) from Plainsville IN to Marshfield MO, and while not totally back on schedule this eight hour plus day put us within less that 50 miles of our travel plan.
Thursday November 11th 2021: Not the most restful night we have ever had, but not the worst by any means, we had company in the Walmart parking lot overnight, a class “C” pulling a cage on a trailer, and they had wolfdogs that they let into the cage for some exercise, this has to be one of the wildest things I’ve seen in a Walmart parking lot and while entertaining they ran their generator all night. Then later we had a Super “C” on a tandem chassis towing a huge triaxle cargo trailer pulled in right beside us and because they could not get their generator to fire up they left their coach idle all night, just some of the joys of Walmart lot-docking.
Because we already had our big boy undies on we decided to take another big run at the day finding our way all the way past Oklahoma City onto I-40 to Weatherford OK and another Walmart parking lot, the day was mostly uneventful just putting on miles as we pushed our way west. The weather remained sunny and clear with only a few puddles from the previous nights rain
Travel day five 376 miles (605 kilometers) from Marshfield MO to Weatherford OK, and now we have officially moved close to 60 miles ahead of the schedule.
Friday November 12th 2021: The night was quiet but quite chilly in the Walmart parking lot, but nothing unbearable, and as we start the climb to elevation the nights will become even cooler over the weekend. We normally will not try to cover as much ground on the weekends because of increased traffic on the roads but we have rescheduled our remaining few travel days to land at BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum) on Sunday afternoon. As we look at the distance left (845 miles / 1360 kms) or about 13 hours of driving time we have decided on a couple of five hour days and finish with a final three hour day.
One of the really neat things about this route along I-44 to I-40 that we are now on as of Oklahoma City yesterday afternoon is that much of it has replaced the old “Route 66” that ran from Chicago to the Pacific ocean at Santa Monica pier in California. So now there are just pieces of the old Route 66 left, so each little town that has been bypassed by the interstate kind of clings to the Route 66 connection as a drawing card. And if you spend much time on the old Route 66 you have to find it amazing that it was at one time the main link between so many destinations, and to keep in touch with some history we have picked the “Silver Moon Cafe” in Santa Rosa New Mexico as todays destination, they offer free overnight parking and we are looking forward to experiencing a little piece of Route 66 nostalgia.
Today we start our climb leaving Weatherford OK at 1634 feet to Santa Rosa NM being at 4616 feet, so an increase of nearly 3000 feet today and we also pass into our next and final time zone, mountain time once we cross into New Mexico and after crossing the state line we stopped at the welcome centre for lunch and an hour of down time. We then pushed further west up to over 5000 feet and back down to Santa Rosa where we refueled $277 US (no body ever said it was cheap moving your home across the country) then slipped into the lot behind the Silver Moon, there was already a fifth-wheel from Georgia in the lot, its going to be chilly tonight at 34F (1C) thanks to the elevation.
The meal at the Cafe was excellent, but can not recommend the parking lot as a place to stay, it filled with trucks to the extent that we could not even get out if we wanted to, trucks and reefers running all night, no as great as the cafe was it is not a spot we will return to.
Travel day six 354 miles (570 kilometers) from Weatherford OK to Santa Rosa NM, which puts us well in excessive of 100 miles ahead of our plan
Saturday November 13th 2021: Well woke up this morning at 4:15 and in actual fact that would have been 7:15 a week ago, but because of the clocks rolling back, and two time zone changes this week my internal clock hasn’t caught up yet but it is what it is. And it was damn cool in the coach as the overnight temperature here in New Mexico dropped to 27°F (-2°C) so it was 48°F (9°C) in the coach, so for a quick warmup I fired up our big buddy propane space heater as it’s the quickest way to warm the coach.
This is our last big day on the road today we are headed to a brewery, near Show Low AZ, where we will boondock at this harvest host location before making the final push down US-60 to BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum) we have been members of the “Harvest Host” since we started travelling and to be honest we have not taken as much advantage of the service it provides as we could have. The concept is very simple any tourist motivated buisness with a parking lot big enough to accommodate RV’s offers a parking spot or two to travellers that have signed up with Harvest Host, the business provides no hookups and the cost is nothing to us as travellers, but the expectation is that you will support the buisness while you are there. This is no different than what we do where ever we stop, we always support the buisness whether it’s a meal at a Cracker Barrel, groceries at Walmart, or whatever we always support the buisness so Harvest Host just makes it easier and a brewery, I’m pretty sure they will find a beer or two that I may enjoy. And there is live music from 4 to 8 with possibly a food truck.
Moments before eight and we were headed west on I-40 gaining altitude steadily and before we we would hit Albuquerque we reached an altitude of 7100 feet and as we crested this hill and we get our first incredible view of the mountains, before plunging back down into the bowl that is home to Albuquerque then back up to the Continental Divide at 7275 feet around fifty miles east of the Arizona state line. This elevation thing is real and to try to give you a little better idea 7275 feet is 1.38 miles or 2.2 kilometres, that’s over 4 CN Towers high (who knew the CN Tower was over 1/2 a kilometre high), like we are talking serious high!
As we crossed into Arizona at 12:30 we had just ticked off 275 miles in a little more that four and a half hours, and were back down to 6100 feet, not bad for having multiple construction zones and Saturday traffic. Our route has changed from what I expected, as the RV Garmin always wins this situation, it is the one programed to our coaches size and weight. At the Arizona border welcome centre and rest stop we have shut it down for some lunch, and a little break. One last fuel stop before leaving the I-40 corridor and we head due south on AZ-77, just a two lane road but plenty of passing zones, through the villages of Snowflake and Taylor till we catch US-60 and drive through downtown Show Low AZ.
On the west side of Show Low we jumped on US-260 and headed about 7 miles out of town, then turn on to some country roads for a quarter of a mile to the Black Horse Brewery by 3:45, for the quiet evening at an elevation of 6400 feet. Here is their website http://www.blackhorsebrewery.org if you want to check them out, the “Not So Frail Ale” was my favorite of my samplings but the “333 IPA” was good as well.
The Black Horse Brewery could be called rustic at best, but they had a good variety of beers, I tried a flight and chose a couple from the flight to take with us. We sat out around a big tractor rim that they had used as a fire pit, as the temperature just plummets in Arizona when the sun sets, so the fire felt good. Miss Laurie not being a beer drinker, always struggles when we stop at a brewery to find a beverage, at least they tried with a fruity beverage but it was just too sweet and one glass was was all that a person could handle, they had at least eight beers on tap but a lot were fruity flavoured or sours and not my preference. The Black Horse is obviously quite small and new, they actually took plain aluminum cans and filled them from the beer tap and spun the lids on each one and applied a label and hand wrote the product on the label. I enjoyed the beer but unless in the area would not drive far from my route to have another. It did provide a great dry camping spot although it was a little tight getting to them with our rig, but I was able to maneuver it without unhooking the toad which is always a bonus.
Unlike the website suggested there was no band or food truck, which was not a big deal to us as Miss Laurie warmed up some of those burgers I cooked before departure, and we went to the brewery after dinner. I have to admit as this trip rolls on I’m still have battling to get used to the time change, as we changed three hours in seven days, so I’m ready for bed at 7pm and awake and up at 4am , its Sunday morning the temperature in the coach was 48°F (9°C) so I fired the propane heater again, its now 6am local time and the first signs of dawns morning light are showing on the horizon.
Travel day seven 404 miles (650 kilometers) the final big push day which included the best part of an eight hour driving day I think we will retire the big boy undies for a while.
Sunday November 14th 2021: And a little more relaxed start to the day, oh it got damn chilly over night but we had a very quiet night, and intentionally did not plan to start the final leg till around 10am because as short as today was going to be on mileage it was going to be long on adventure. The elevation changes alone told me it was going to be quite a amazing day Show Low 6400 feet, to Boyce Thompson Arboretum at 2400 feet which is enough but what you did not know was that halfway down US-60 it plunges into the Salt river canyon and climbs back out so there are almost as much uphill as downhill and unlike on the interstate system these hills and slopes are steep and the road curvy.
We arrived at BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum at 1pm almost as I had planned, well within a day or two, there was a little confusion over where we were to park, but when your the last volunteers in you pretty much park where ever is left, so I tucked in beside a concrete pad that will be our patio, proceeded to level the coach and connect the utilities. At 3:30 the temperature is 86°F (22°C) so window shades out, windows wide open, chairs on the patio, beverage in hand, I’m not even going to tell you why we love Arizona again, here are some view of and from our coach … jus’saying.
Travel day eight 120 miles (193 kilometres) and while just a little less than three hours, it was not a day for the faint of heart. ♥️
Update: Spoke with Butch via text today, and I’m pleased to report BJ is recovering well, be well you two kids!