FL to CA: The Return Trip / Trip Summary

Almost forgot to wrap up our last "trip"--which turned out to be less of a camping trip and more of an intense driving trip punctuated by using the RV as a hotel room.

The return trip started at 9AM on Monday morning; we were pulled into our parking spot at home Saturday noon. We could've made it home late Friday night, but it's way better to arrive home in the daylight (you should see the tricky turn-around procedure that involves steep driveways and dodging trees). So, it's clear that 5.5 days is what it takes (us) to go from home to St. Augustine. At least we tried a few new roads and campgrounds on the way home.

But, boy oh boy, was it hot. Driving all day really was the only option. It's not like we wanted to stop at 3PM, find a state park, and go for a hike when it feels like 104.

Monday: St. Augustine to Tuscaloosa, AL
On our new-to-us route north on 231 (very nice drive), we managed to visit a roadside farm stand for "Sweet Dreams" peaches, some nice plums, and some gargantuan tomatoes.

Saw the horrible tornado damage and the clean-up efforts. Got some very tasty 'que, and camped at a very nice state park--Lake Lurleen. Mid-week travel after a holiday week = empty campgrounds. Or maybe it was the heat. Who knows? We shared the place with the birds.

The heron flew off rather quickly, as I tried to shoot pictures, but the ducks came a-swimmin' and demanded food. They like campers.

Tuesday: Tuscaloosa to Aux Arc, Arkansas
Excellent driving day through beautiful Mississippi. We whimpered as we bypassed some of our favorite places--the Natchez Trace, Lorman, and Hot Springs, Arkansas--but we FINALLY found a good place for Delta hot tamales, which we first heard about on Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt show, but have since learned are quite interesting. There's even a Tamale Trail. Man, oh man, was this a great lunch (that morphed into a great dinner, too).

The Tamale Sampler:

Tamale Pie (with deep-fried corn on the cob, for heaven's sake):

This restaurant had outside-only seating. Suffice to say, it really DID feel like 108, so we ran the generator to power the AC and ate inside the RV.

Decided not to try to squeeze in Hot Springs visit, but instead forged ahead to the Aux Arc COE campground on the Ozark river, after a wonderful, winding drive down off of I-40 through the wineries. Very cute area, and I'll be darned, but the wine was good! Favorite meal: leftover 'que from 'Bama, leftover tamale pie from Mississippi, Alabama tomatoes, and Arkansas chardonnay.

Sunrise. I got to take pictures, while Lisa dumped the tanks. I prefer my job.

Wednesday: Arkansas to Tucumari, NM
All I-40, all the time. We saw the very nice-looking casino in Oklahoma that Linda S. recommended--another time, perhaps. It was only mid-afternoon when we passed it, way too early to stop, but the RV spots along the river with the shade trees did look nice. We were reminded again that next time we're through OK, we need to slow down and visit some of the many well-advertised sights. The state does a very good job with interstate signage that makes one want to exit and explore....

Stopped for lunch in Texas at a Roadfood (Jane and Michael Stern) recommended place outside of Oklahoma City in Clinton. Strike 2 on the Sterns for Texas BBQ. This place has a great vibe, but the meat was, well, just weird. Sort of an "ABC" quality, if you'll recall what that means from childhood days (e.g., ABC gum, remember?). And Michael Stern gave it his highest rating: "Legendary. Worth a drive from anywhere." Au contraire, Michael....

We were pushing to make it to Tucumcari because, well, if you don't stop in Amarillo, then you sort of HAVE to make it to Tucumcari. And, boy did we HAVE to. Ran into a severe weather cell (it is monsoon season) with 60 mph gusts. Thank goodness we missed the hail. But it was definitely creepy:

We visited our new friends at Cactus RV and had THE best breakfast by walking just up the road to Kix on 66. One of the best green-chile omelets ever!

Thursday: Tucumcari to Williams, AZ
Another all-day I-40 run. My big brother (a former Arizona resident and master tour guide) gave us the idea to push for Bullhead City and a great city park right on the Colorado River. We could've had a dip and a little casino entertainment. But we were soooo tired on this 4th day of pushing that we had to get off the road at about 5:30-6PM in Williams. I, for one, was just vibrating. It's high season in Williams (gateway to the Grand Canyon), but of course, all we wanted to do was stop driving. A pricey stop at a pretty marginal park (Canyon Motel & RV Park), but it was worth it for the cool mountain air and the lack of road noise and motion.... No pictures.

Friday: Williams to Bakersfield, CA then Home on Saturday
We detoured through Bullhead City to see what we missed (that city park looked like fun!) back to our favorite pit stop, A Country RV Park, which is almost exactly 4 hours from home. Staying here allows us to  dump, regroup, and make it home early enough the next day to clean out the coach. And on this particular instance, it also allowed us to join a group to see the Harry Potter movie ;-)

Trip Summary

Total miles: 4,562

Number of days: 25

Average mpg: 12.95 (heavy foot and heavy winds--our worst average yet! But we did have one day of tailwind and got 18.2 for that tank!)

Average camping fee: $29.43 (boy, the need for AC requires a commercial park, and the lack of guard dog has us staying at NICE parks!)

Number of states: 10 but no new ones :-(

Number of public parks: 4 (2 state parks, 1 COE, 1 national seashore)

Favorite New Parks: The Bluebonnet RV Park in Terrell, TX, is a new good find outside of DFW area. Gotta go back to the Redneck Riviera in Florida and stay at Grayton Beach. (Now I know why there's a View/Navion rally there every year.) And our little Cactus RV in Tucumcari--very cute and great price. And gotta go back to try the Davis Camp in Bullhead City....

RV Maintenance: Had Camping World in St. Augustine replace the #*$& Fantastic Fan with a Maxx-Air fan with a remote control. Yes, the Fantastic Fan has a lifetime warranty, but when it keeps breaking, it stops being worth it. Three strikes and you're out! Had to add 1.5 quarts of oil, which is par for our course. Only one other issue--on our last day in St. Augustine, the engine didn't want to turn over. We suspect humidity, but will have the Sprinter tech check the codes to uncover the mystery. Engine seemed to heal itself well.

Roadfood: This was our real treat--roadfood for lunch (or breakfast) every day we were on the road. I usually love to cook, but the heat and the driving delirium did not help. We had our green chile fix, our Texas (and Alabama) BBQ fix, Gulf seafood, and Delta hot tamales. Happiness.

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