Monday morning May 1st and we are scheduled to pull out of the arboretum this morning. It is 5:00 and I’m up enjoying another Arizona sunrise before I get going, I’m anxious to get on the road, today should be our worst driving day, well at least for elevation changes, hair pin turns, switchbacks, and slow trudging up and down many 6% grades. My hope is to make it east to Pie Town in New Mexico, only 232 miles, but I suspect it will be a six hour driving day as we are climbing from 2400 feet (731 meters) here at the arboretum to around 8000 feet (2438 meters) in New Mexico.
This was today’s route, we left the arboretum just a few moments after eight o’clock and pulled into Pie Town just around one thirty this afternoon, five and a half hours.
229 miles (368 kilometres) on US-60, the highway was mainly two lanes, and of course was in varying degrees of dis-repair, there were even glimpses of being back in the Mexican Baja.
Well you can’t stop in Pie town and not have some pie, I choose the key lime pie and it was excellent, homemade pie, you just can’t go wrong. From the Pie-O-Neer pie shop, because according to the sign in the restaurant the essentials of life are “Lard” and “Pie”, and that may just be true.
Todays drive took us through the Salt River Canyon, and the first time we drove through this canyon was in the fall of 2021, I thought it was a real tough piece of highway. But after some of our adventures down the west coast and on down into the Mexican Baja, now all of a sudden it doesn’t seem nearly as steep or rugged as it used to. Here are a few photos of todays adventures:
When we crossed the New Mexico State line we also switched from MST to MDST, we will cross a couple more time lines this week. I had planned on staying overnight at Jackson Park Campground, a free county owned park that I found on the “AllStays” app, but the entrance and many of the roads in the park are very badly rutted so we have just settled in for a nights rest on the side of the highway. There seems to be limited traffic and in the worst case we may have a trucker or two park beside us, either way it’s just one night on our trek east.
We have seen some drastic changes to the scenery, starting in the Arizona desert, then the plunge down into the Salt River Canyon, then climbing into the Ponderosa Pines up near Show Low then as we headed toward New Mexico the trees disappeared to the plains of high desert covered with grass with ranches of grazing cattle, we are climbing up into New Mexico and I expect we will feel the effect of the elevation tonight as the temperature is going to drop off to 42°F (6°C) overnight. Dinner a little television and an early night as we have another big day ahead of us tomorrow.
Tuesday morning May 2nd finds us boondocked on the side of the road in Pie Town in New Mexico. I have laid out another big day for today, looking to make it to Amarillo Texas today, there is a quiet rest stop on the east side of Amarillo that never seems to get many trucks, and we have stayed there numerous times and that will be today’s destination.
Today is going to be a long day, at the end of today we will have accomplished a distance equal to our normal three days of travel.
US-60 east to I-25 north then I-40 east, sounds simple enough until you see the 449 miles (723 kilometers). On the road by 8:00 am and pulling into the rest stop at 4:00 pm, but we did take a half an hour for a lunch break.
We also had to make our first purchase fuel today, the price is still too high for a fill up, so just 40 gallons (150 liters), for $170, fuel should be much cheaper in Texas. This was realistically too long of a day, but we are trying to plan our journey to allow some time with friends, as well as meet a timeline to be back at LHR (Lake Huron Resort) in Goderich. I figured get a couple of rough days under our belt early will make the rest of the days seem easier.
So let’s just talk for a moment about the condition and state of repair of highways that we have travelled so far, US-60 in Arizona would rate a “C“, US-60 in New Mexico a “C-“, I-25 in New Mexico a solid “B“, I-40 in New Mexico a huge “F“, I-40 in Texas to Amarillo an “A-“.
I know that a good portion of the price of fuel is “Road Tax“, so try if you can explain to me how states charging at least a dollar per gallon more for fuel also has the worst roads. Other than the obvious answer, the State politicians using the road tax being collected for things other than its intended purpose. So folks in New Mexico are being ripped off at the pumps and having their vehicle destroyed by terrible highways at the same time.
The drive today was all a repeat other than the first couple of hours on US-60 and I-25, we climbed up to over 8000 feet early then dropped down to 4500 feet, before climbing back over 6500 feet before ending up an Amarillo at 3600 feet. We have driven in and out of spring multiple times today with the changes in elevation, and seen the horizon change from mountains to the plains of Texas, we drove through the area in New Mexico where the array is located, a collection of huge dishes pointed to the sky listening for aliens. Now I’m wondering if that could explain the crappy highways, I guess I will never know the answer to this pondre.
We are now settled into the rest stop in Texas, and Miss Laurie prepared us a pork chop with a salad for dinner, our internet provider uses the AT&T network and it sucked tonight, not a big deal as we were both tired, and because we crossed another timeline as we moved into Texas. So we are now in CDST (Central Daylight Saving Time) and only have one more timeline to cross, the weather had been good till now, but we did have some wind and rain overnight, in fact enough wind to wake me.
Wednesday May 3rd and we or at least I was a little slow getting going this morning, the night in the welcome centre was quiet enough other than that wind. Miss Laurie made bacon sandwiches while I mapped out today route, it will be a much shorter day but we have to go through Oklahoma City today, and while not the worst city to transverse but still one we like to go through near mid-day, and we will stop once we get onto I-44 east of Oklahoma City, but the first task is to fuel up Thunder.
Today our fuel cost $294 for 75 gallons (284 liters) of diesel some 80¢ a gallon cheaper that in New Mexico or Arizona, from the Pilot station less than a block from the Welcome Centre / rest stop.
Today took us east on I-40 into Oklahoma City the north on I-35 to I-44 a toll highway as we continue north east in the direction of St. Louis.
295 miles (474 kilometers) today and while we started at 8:00 it was 8:30 before actually getting on the highway and we were off the road in Chandler OK by 2:00 even after an accident back up in Oklahoma City.
In keeping with the grading of the highways we have travelled, I-40 out of Texas still an “A-“, while the first 100 miles of I-40 in Oklahoma was a “B+” until we hit Oklahoma City then it took a nose dive to a “D“, but then I-35 north through Oklahoma City was a “F“, and I-44 which is a toll road so far is a “B“, I will report on tomorrows route which will only be I-44.
Tonights stay is a little different, we are in a church parking lot, the church is a member of the Harvest Host network, so we are expecting a quiet night, although there is a church service going on right now and we are working on our route for tomorrow. All the deciduous trees are in full leave here in Oklahoma and our elevation is down to 950 feet, there is thunderstorms forecast for overnight and we may hit some rain tomorrow and we did see some wet roads today on our route, but no rain.
Hamburgers tonight for dinner, as I’m catching up on this blog and watching some news from Phoenix, one of the disadvantages to streaming your television is that my provider “YouTube TV” only allows me to change locations twice a year. Our internet is better tonight but still disappointing, compared to what we normally have been experiencing.
Thursday May 4th and this morning finds us leaving the church in Chandler OK and getting back on I-44 eastbound, it was a cloudy start to the day and we ended up driving in rain for a couple of hours this morning our end destination is Conway in Missouri. We were on the road at a few moments after eight o’clock and were shutting it down at two o’clock this afternoon
Today we only travelled on one highway, that would be I-44, we started out in Oklahoma on a toll road and end up in Missouri on just a regular interstate highway.
We covered 325 miles (523 Kilometers), we made one stop just inside of Missouri for fuel some 60 gallons (227 liters) for $200. I even topped off the fuel tank on the toad with regular fuel for $2.95 a gallon.
While it is fresh in my mind let’s give todays highways a grade, I-44 in Oklahoma the toll road from Chandler to Tulsa was solid “B“, I-44 through Tulsa was still under construction as it has been for the last two years and rates a “F“, I-44 from Tulsa to the Missouri State line again a toll road was not a good with multiple areas under repair so I’m going to rate it a “C“, and I-44 in Missouri was also a “C“, with multiple areas that need some repair but we did not see a lot of repair crews.
Our route did not end just exactly as planned, these things happen when traveling, but it was not an issue, we just adjusted and visited an old faithfull for a nights rest, yes we ended up at a blue sign store is St. Roberts Missouri which meant I had ice cream for dessert. So what happened to our planned stop? Miss Laurie had requested a Harvest Host overnight stop in Conway MO at a visitor center, basically just a huge parking lot but the directions to the location were somewhere between poor and non-existent, and there was no signage on the highway so we decided rather than exit the highway and search for the location we would just continue a few miles up the road to a Walmart. We ended up in the outer parking lot and were joined by one other motorhome, it was a quiet night.
Friday May 5th and I woke this morning with a tickle in my throat, not sure if it’s just the change in climate from Arizona dry to the wet humid eastern states. But we did wake to dry conditions, the forecast had been calling for rain most of the overnight, but it appears to have stayed mainly south of our location. We were on the road a few minutes before eight o’clock and were at our end destination at two o’clock because we crossed that last time line today as well.
Today’s journey was 301 miles (484 kilometers) there were no stops on the route today, but we finally got off of I-44 when we jumped onto I-55 then finally I-70
We crossed the Mighty Mississippi today, always an important marker on our travels west. No more elevation changes as we head east across Illinois and Indiana, with lots of flat farmland.
So let’s look at today’s highways I-44 through Missouri was a solid “C” until we reached St. Louis where I-44 dumps on to I-55 both were terrible and not even any sign of improvement so a “F“, then over a rough bridge into Illinois on I-55 and again just a terrible rough mess (if there was something worse than an F, this is where it would be used) “F“, now we jump onto I-70, there was construction on I-70 almost all the way across Illinois. It seems that the contractor in Illinois failed to learn how to join asphalt, the edges of the highway are all crumbling, and down the center of the highway that joining has been cut out and refilled giving two new edges to crumble now so I-70 through Illinois rates a “D“, we are only a few miles into Indiana the road surface seem better, but the joints to Indiana’s many bridges are almost like a launching jump.
I needed my sunglasses today, a warm day with endless sunshine, the storms are staying south of us and we have decided to change our plans again tonight with one more stop at a Walmart. We had planned to stop at a Cracker Barrel that we had stayed at before but decided to get lazy and not unhook the toad, we love staying at Cracker Barrel’s for either a breakfast or a dinner but to fit in their RV spots we do have to unhook the toad so we just decided against it, justy being lazy and a Walmart stop usually gets me some ice cream … jus saying.
So tonight’s stop was a Walmart in Terre Haute Indiana, not one of the nicer Walmarts, but all reviews said that there was overnight parking allowed on the outer parking area, we found a spot along the very outside of the lot and while not the quietest night, it was certainly not the worst by any means.
Saturday morning May 6th and today will just a repositioning day, it will be a normal day, and we have also decided to change our route today as well. As we get into a position to visit with “Butch & Betty” at their summer RV Resort tomorrow, a spot that we have never been before, but to get the most time possible we have decided to pull in to their park on Sunday morning as early as we can, we have been told if our site is not available when we arrive that there is a spot to put Thunder until our site is ready, so today we want to get within an hours drive. So instead of heading north past Indianapolis toward Fort Wayne Indiana we are going to head east to I-75 then north to spend the night in Bowling Green Ohio, a choice made strictly on the reviews from prospective overnight spots and the Walmart in Bowling Green won out.
Today we travelled 299 miles (481 kilometers) and and are now in position for a very short drive tomorrow.
Today’s drive was I-70 to the Indianapolis city bypass and back to I-70 across the Ohio State line then north on I-75 and other than a few construction areas one of our better road days. I-70 in Indiana was for the most part in good shape other than the joints at the bridges and we scored it a solid “C” there was some single lane through construction but still OK. Through Indianapolis the bypass was much better than our last visit with much of the construction being completed scoring a “B“. Ohio always seems to have some of the best roads in the country with just a few minor areas in need of attention I-70 scores a “B+” and I-75 starting to show its age is still a respectible “B“.
Our drive today took us through miles and miles of fertile farmland, with lots of equipment working in the fields to get crops planted. We went through Indianapolis just before the noon hour and traffic was reasonably light, maybe being Saturday helped with that. The juncture of I-70 & I-75 is always a busy spot but as we headed north the congestion was left behind we stopped at one of the rest areas for some lunch before finding our way to the Walmart in Bowling Green Ohio where we found tree lined parking lots with lots of open areas. This Walmart looked reasonably new and Miss Laurie said it was a large store when she picked up some supplies
Sunday morning May 7th and we are just an hour away from today’s destination, this is the day we are going to get to visit with Butch & Betty. So it will be a latter start to the day and we will be only on secondary highways today, if some of the major highways could only be as well maintained.
Our shortest driving day yet 51 miles (82 kilometers) just a hop, a skip, and a jump.
This was most likely the easiest driving days ever, less than an hour on well maintained secondary highways, it is Sunday morning and traffic is light
The Resort at Erie Landing has a massive footprint, set on 375 spectacular acres, and situated along the picturesque shores and islands of Ohio’s north coast region, guests will enjoy spending time exploring manicured scenic grounds, waterways, and activities. It is constructed on what was previously an eighteen hole golf course, so camping areas are separated by undulations that used to separate the fairways, it is a work in progress and will someday be home to close to 1000 campsites, both seasonal and transient. At the front gate we were greeted and sent on to the recreation center (I suspect the original clubhouse) where we were assigned a site and then some one led us to our site. It was a back-in site which meant that we would have to unhook the toad which only takes a few moments, and just moments later we were settled into position with the toad parked in front of the coach.
The site was amongst seasonal sites but was much closer to Butch & Betty’s site than the original site they had assigned us, it is a full hookup site and we will dump our tanks in the morning before departing, today just power and water are required. And before I even had completed my tasks Butch was at our site greeting us, it had been over a year since we had last seen him, these are moments that we cherish forever. We suggested he return to pick us up in thirty minutes, giving us a few moments to prepare some snacks. The campground is so large that almost everyone has a golf cart to get around, and Butch has a new cart all done up in the Ohio colours, and a few moments later we were at the Ward site a few sections away.
It was a wonderful afternoon just catching up with Butch and Betty, we enjoyed a couple of beverages and some snacks as we enjoyed the sunshine. We decided to go out for dinner so that no one would have to cook or clean up, and we decided on a little diner “Jolly Rogers Seafood House” as they specialized in Lake Erie perch, always a treat and the diner is also located right on the lake shore. We enjoyed a good feed of lake perch and some more conversation before calling it a night.
Monday morning May 8th and we will be a later start today as we are having coffee this morning with Butch & Betty before checking out and making our final push north today. At days end we should be parked in site 217 at Lake Huron Resort just north of Goderich Ontario, of course there are a few small obstacles in our path like a border crossing and such. But our morning started off with coffee and warm muffins with Butch & Betty in their trailer, it has been great to catch up with their lives and family and seemed to make those few longer driving days early in the week all worth it.
Thank you Butch & Betty for everything, the love, sharing your family with us, taking interest in our travels, as well as big thank you for the Pemberville care package. You will always be a great part of our RV family, be well and we hope to see you in October.
The final day of our trek north, only 237 miles (381 kilometers) with a trip over the Bluewater bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia and a stop at Canada customs.
We were on the road by 10:30 this morning and even with a stop for lunch, a diesel fuel stop, the border crossing, and topping off the propane tank I pulled into LHR around 4:00 in the afternoon.
Today is actually the stretch of road I’m looking least forward to, as Michigan is not well known for their road maintenance and having to go through Detroit is always an adventure. But it is the most direct route so we will just prepare the best we can and accept what is given.
A couple miles of secondary highway and we entered I-80 the toll road that transverses Ohio, for only a few miles then exit to I-280 to skirt the eastside of Toledo and it then dumps us on I-75 just south of the Michigan State line, it’s at this point that my expectation for some of the worst roads in the United States comes to mind, but we are pleasantly surprised to find I-75 undergoing major repairs. And while traffic was restricted we were almost completely on the reconstructed highway, so to say we were pleasantly pleased would be an understatement. Now my next fear was Detroit, a city that declared bankruptcy almost a decade ago and the roadways in the city showed a total lack of maintenance the last time we had been through the city. And again we we amazed at the improvement since our last visit, and while not up to Amarillo Texas standards they were well above St. Louis Missouri standards.
In Detroit we switched from I-75 to I-94 which will take us to the Bluewater bridge in Port Huron and our journey back to Ontario, I-94 once outside of Detroit was in good shape and we stopped at a rest area to grab some lunch before our final refueling stop in the States. We reached the border early afternoon and found the traffic light at the Canada customs checkpoint, a couple of questions (Where had we been? & How long had we been away?) and we had cleared customs and were through Sarnia on the 402 heading east and just a few kilometers later we found the junction on highway 21, the final leg of our trek to Goderich.
Highway 21 is a two lane secondary highway that hugs the shoreline of Lake Huron as it transverses north, through some small towns and villages. We stopped in the mall parking lot in Goderich where we unhooked the toad and while Miss Laurie went to get some supplies I had the propane tank topped off before the last 10 kilometers north on highway 21 to Lake Huron Resort (LHR), where we backed into site 217 for the summer.
Ok the last set of road scores, I-80 in Ohio “A“, I-280 around Toledo “A+“, I-75 to Detroit (even with the construction) a ‘B+“, I-75 to I-94 in Detroit a solid “B“, I-94 to Port Huron a “B+“. In Canada the 402 from Sarnia to Hwy 21 an “A-“, and Hwy 21 other than a couple of short rough areas would score an “A-“, as well, making for a far better than expected final driving day.
Our return to Ontario and to LHR (Lake Huron Resort) just felt like we were coming home after an extended vacation and we will just leave it there for now, the next blog we will get into more details of our homecoming!
Bring on the Summer of 2023!