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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default Around the US in 40 Days

    And.....we're OFF!

    The Day of Departure finally got here for our planned trip around the USA. We were planning on an 8am departure, but lots of things intervened and we didn't make it out until 8:40 am. The drive from our home near San Diego, to our planned stop in the Phoenix area, was fairly uneventful (thank heavens). Here is the link to the planning stage of this trip.

    We were expecting winds in the mountains east of San Diego, and that's not unusual. However, it was mostly a nice breeze, not enough to make any trucks get off the highway. I also decided to try taking a couple of photos with my new phone, as we went through one of my favorite parts of the drive near Mountain Springs. There are some views in that area of the old US-80, where it's not driveable, but I don't think a Smart Phone has a quick enough shutter to catch them at 70mph.

    photo(5) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    photo(4) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    We had a lovely brunch at IHOP in Yuma -- it's a favorite stop of ours when we are starting our trip by heading east on I-8. One habit for trip prep, that I've developed over the years, is to collect coupons for restaurants and stash them in a folder. We had a number of choices, but IHOP's "free meal" coupon beckoned. It was a free pancake breakfast -- I had the 55+ Rooty breakfast, and when the bill came, they took the price of the regular Rooty breakfast off our bill -- so we got $7.29 off the bill instead of just the $5.49 that my breakfast would have cost!

    Our A/C had been turned on in the truck as we came down from the mountains west of El Centro. I kept watch of the temperatures outside, and they steadily crept up to 107F in Tempe when we arrived there at 3:25 pm....360 miles, 6-3/4 hours from departure. We spent the evening visiting with my parents but wonder about my dad. He likes the house A/C set at 83 which is just too hot for us!


    Donna

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default 83 degrees is our preference too!

    83 degrees is also the temperature we set at home in Las Vegas. It was a balmy 109 degrees in the shade (north side of our house) yesterday, so 83 degrees feels pretty cool in the house. Actually at night we lower the temperature setting to 80 degrees --

    Your smart phone will handle highway speed shots -- we've shot hundreds of road shot images with Android phones over the past few years.

    Nice to hear that you are on the road!

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Our A/C had been turned on in the truck ...
    I never turn the A/C off, not even when the heating is on. Is supposed to keep it running better. (Mind you, have no idea what 9 months storage does to it. LOL)

    Any day I can get on the road by 8.40 is an early day. Today it was 8.45 and I was quite pleased with myself.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

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    What time we depart in the mornings depends a lot on how much mileage we have to go, what if any time changes we have to go through, and what cities we need to go through or around (and where they are located along the route). Long mileage, time changes, means sunrise departure (or earlier). Have to traverse Riverside and San Bernardino counties? Leave around 1 or 2 in the morning. Short mileage? Enjoy breakfast and leave around 8 or so.


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

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    Day 3 -- "Lost and alone on some forgotten highway - traveled by many, remembered by few" (John Denver) -- at 3:10 am this morning, we were on I-10 heading more or less east. At that hour, it was us and the truckers, with maybe a work vehicle or two. We knew we had a brutal day ahead of us and two lost hours due to time zone changes; thus the early departure. We also didn't want to mess with either Phoenix or Tucson rush hours. We'd both gotten some good sleep the night before, so we were wide awake and ready to go!

    It was a beautiful drive, for the most part. A stop at Benson took care of the ice problem for the day; a stop at Lordsburg, 4 hours after departure, took care of the hunger problem. I had the "Fit Fare" senior omelet at Denny's, which came with a big bowl of fresh fruit (which I really appreciated) and a big bowl of Oatmeal (nothing to write home about). So I was able to keep the calories DOWN!

    We had a few more stops. One rest area was also a Scenic Overlook, as well as a point of interest.

    photo 1 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    photo 2 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    We have decided that we dislike El Paso (no offense to anyone reading who may be from there), because the traffic is just awful. Neither of us have had any positive experiences with El Paso traffic. At least there were no traffic accidents congesting the highway.

    We had filled up in the Phoenix area the day before, so we had a full tank. About 400 miles later, we pulled into the Anthony, TX Flying J, based on the GasBuddy report of the price. It was WRONG -- by a good 17c gallon. We filled up anyway, and while hubby was filling, I had a chat with one of the clerks. She said that they hadn't had a price raise in a week, so she wasn't sure that "3.62 16 hours ago" was anywhere near accurate. Later on, pulling into Fort Stockton, we found another issue. Needless to say, I have sent a correction in to GasBuddy!

    Our stop for the night was in Fort Stockton. Yes, this is 650 miles from the Phoenix area, but we really felt we had no choice -- west Texas isn't exactly populated with hotels and eateries! Despite Internet and coupon booklet searches, there really wasn't a whole lot of choice for reasonably priced accommodations, so we pulled into Motel 6. OK -- it wa' nothing to write home about -- it was a place to lay your head for the night. No carpet on the floor, no refrig or microwave, and only the simplest of furnishings. Internet is $2.99/night PER DEVICE. So if you want to hook your iPhone, tablet/iPad up, you pay almost $3 each. Needless to say, the laptop was the only thing that got hooked to the Internet (since it has a real keyboard).

    One of my favorite views from that day, out the front window of our pickup truck:

    photo(6) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    We also learned a little lesson about our truck, that day. Temps outside were in the high 90s to low 100s. Hubby had the A/C on shortly after Lordsburg. When we got to the east side of El Paso, and he saw the 80 mph speed limit, he set the truck to go. Then we watched the newly-replaced tranny oil cooler gauge slowly creep up to the very top of the "green" section. The tranny fan came on pretty often. When he decided to slow down to 75, the tranny fan didn't have to blow as often, and the gauge stayed right in the middle of the "green" section. Moral of the story: diesel truck does not like that heavy speed stuff.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 06-11-2014 at 06:27 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    DAY 4 - This was another day of driving, but not nearly as brutal as Day 3. This time, going from Fort Stockton, TX, to Webster, TX, it was 543 miles and almost all of it on I-10.

    However, as one gets into central Texas, the terrain goes to rolling hills, green ranches and beautiful trees. Rivers and creeks actually have WATER in them. Parts of this terrain reminded us of I-70 through Kansas. Even some of the towns reminded us of that, particularly Junction, where we ate breakfast at a place called Isaack's. (The food, BTW, was delicious and very filling!) The rest areas in Texas are even pretty -- California could take some lessons in that. I took some pictures; unfortunately I'm at a connection where I can't send photos from camera via email.

    We have hemmed and hawed about which route to use around Houston. After dealing with the traffic and the weirdness of routing I-10 through San Antonio, we chose to try Sam Houston Tollway 8. At first we thought we'd regret that, then the traffic eased off and so did the immediate construction, and so we appreciated it. There were 3 stops between entering Tollway 8 at I-10 and getting off at I-45 South, and the tolls were $5.25 total.

    We settled in Webster at the Super 8, which is about the closest mid-priced chain to the Space Center Houston. The room was a VAST imrovement over the Fort Stockton Motel 6 -- a lot nicer everything, and only about $10 more per night! There was a small outdoor pool which was almost too warm to do any swimming in, though it felt good after unloading ones pickup to a room on the 2nd floor. (We asked about a 1st floor room, but it would have cost us $50 more per night because they were jacuzzi suites.)

    Since we were in so early, an exploration of the Webster/Nassau Bay/Clear Lake/Taylor Lake Village was in order. We found the "restaurant row" along Bay Area Dr in Webster -- lots of choices down there. Then we managed to find Timber Cove, where many (but not all) Apollo astronauts had homes built in the 1960s. We even found, thanks to a helpful hotel clerk, the Gemini-capsule shaped swimming pool in that neighborhood, and there's a photo of it yet to come out of my camera.

    Dinner was at Outback -- we hadn't eaten at one in 2 years. Then we came back to the room to prepare for the next day's outing -- to Houston (Johnson) Space Center.


    Donna

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default

    Nice! I'm looking forward to the photo of the Gemini-shaped pool.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Here's one of the things we saw in a Texas rest area:

    photo (1) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    If you can't read the words, it says, "Don't mess with Texas".

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    More photos from the Texas travel day (Day 4):

    Texas had some unique picnic shelters:

    photo(8) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    A different rest area:

    photo(7) by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    Poking around Timber Cove in Nassau Bay (area around Houston Space Center), we came across this Gemini-capsule-shaped pool. Our hotel clerk had told us to watch for it when we inquired about the whereabouts of this neighborhood:

    NASA Houston 925 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    DAY 5 - NASA's JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, HOUSTON

    Alas, finally, some real sight-seeing! After a stop at the local grocery store (H-E-B) for some picnic food, we went to Space Center.

    NASA Houston 937 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    We got in line right away for the Tram Tour, choosing the "Blue Tour" because its main feature is a stop to see the Historic Mission Control. If you are old like I am, you'll remember the hey-dey of Apollo, whose Mission Control was located in Houston. There was relatively no wait for the Blue Tour at that hour of the morning -- right at opening (10 am).

    Before it was Johnson Space Center, it was land owned by a university and mostly grazing fields. Here are some of the longhorn cows that still live on the property, maintained by local branches of the FFA.

    NASA Houston 946 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    One climbs 80+ steps (or takes an old elevator) to get to Historic Mission Control. Once seated in the area where astronaut wives and other guests could watch what was going on out in space, a docent spoke about the room we were in, and the room we were looking at.

    The room we were looking at (through plexiglass, which unfortunately reflects):

    NASA Houston 962 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    NASA Houston 967 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    Then it was off to Rocket Park!

    NASA Houston 944 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    Inside there was a Saturn V rocket on its side, very similar to the one inside the Apollo building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Outside were two other rockets, and a rocket engine. Unfortunately, our time there that morning was aborted, due to an impending storm. They recalled all trams, and pulled people back to the main exhibit area as they brought the trams back. We were dreadfully disappointed.

    NASA Houston 988 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    We had our picnic lunch in the grass next to the parking lot, then went back into the main exhibit building to enjoy the 18-minute film about the history of the space program. After viewing that film, one can go into the gallery, which was the 2nd best part of the whole day (in my opinion). So much to see!

    There was Friendship 7:

    NASA Houston 1067 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    Splashdown capsule for Apollo 17:

    NASA Houston 1095 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

    A mock-up of the space shuttle:

    NASA Houston 1176 by jeanniesisters, on Flickr

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