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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Missouri
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    5,670

    Default 12-Day Speed Run House-Hunting Trip

    My husband and I just got home from a last-minute, somewhat spontaneous trip to Missouri and back. Its purpose was to find a house for us to move to, in June. Though it seems early to do that, when one is moving to a resort area, one has to act early in order to get something. Sometimes, that means paying rent on a place that will sit empty for a few months.

    We decided on this trip on Sunday, March 28th, when we realized that time was creeping up on us and we better make hay while the sun shines. By the end of that day, our route was planned, reservations made at hotels along the way and in the new location, and a phone call was made to my boss to ask for a few extra days off at the end of Spring Break. We'd have left the next day, Monday 29th, but I was scheduled mid-day to get my 2nd COVID-19 vaccine and didn't want to miss that. All the other things we had to do to make this trip happen, were also crammed into that Monday, including packing a suitcase. Fortunately, we almost have that (and packing the truck) down to a science.

    Day 1 - Tuesday, March 30th - We departed home just after 6 am and headed south to I-8. We stopped for breakfast in Yuma, at the Cracker Barrel. Getting seated took forever, while one employee after another told us "I'll be right with you!" but never was. Once we got seated, though, food came quickly.

    Our route of the day was I-8 to Gila Bend, AZ-85 north, I-10 East, Loop 303 around Phoenix, I-17 north, then I-40 east. Traffic was very heavy along I-10 (understandable), parts of Loop 303, and then I-40.

    Our destination for the day was Holbrook, AZ, a distance of about 578 miles which took us around 10 hours. We are very experienced at long days and know how to make them work for us, but this long a day might not work for everyone. That's why our trip is called a Speed Run.

    We pulled into the Holbrook Quality Inn on the east side of town. This is a decent place to stay, though one should realize that Quality's may have outside doors and sometimes they have doors on an inside corridor. This one had outside doors. We've stayed here before. The room and bed was very clean and comfortable. Our only complaint about the place was what happened at check-out the next morning. (To be described on Day 2.)

    One thing that was "new" since our last stay here (June 2018) was that a restaurant finally moved into an empty restaurant right next door. The new place is called Bienvenidos and came highly recommended by our hotel clerk as well as reviews on TripAdvisor. We walked over for dinner and were pleasantly surprised that the menu was pretty standard American food with a bit of Mexican. There was a LOT of food for the price and it was very good. We did not go away hungry!

    A picture from the day's drive - the mountains around Flagstaff. (This was a speed run. This photo was taken out the window of the vehicle!)

    0330Flagstaff


    More to come...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Missouri
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    Default Day 2

    Day 2 - Wednesday, March 31 -

    We attempted to leave Holbrook by 5 am, knowing that we had a long drive ahead and twice, we'd have to change time zones (losing 2 hours). We were thwarted by the hotel office. They were not a 24-hour gig, and they did not have a key-card drop. We went back to our room to just leave the cards in the room, but we were locked out - the cards did not work. Frustrated, I ended up trying to slide the cards under and between the office doors, which worked (I think). The receipt came by email. We were just thankful that we had not gone back to retrieve anything forgotten in the room.

    Our route all day was I-40. Within the first hour and a half, we crossed into New Mexico. That meant changing to Mt Daylight Time. It also gave us a very glaring orange construction sign. I swear it said "Next 172 miles". Hubby thought it said 17.2. All the way into Albuquerque, we'd go in and out of construction zones. In most of them, we were moved into a single lane for several miles and told "55 mph" (down from 75). We were at least moving, though. Watching the westbound lanes, they were moving slower and for longer numbers of miles. This did not bode well for our return trip.

    Our breakfast was at the Petro Iron Skillet in Milan, near Grants. We weren't hungry at Gallup, where there were more choices of places to eat. Iron Skillet was fine. Food was okay.

    Miles and miles later, we crossed over the Texas border and changed time zones to Central Daylight Time -- another hour lost. That's why we left at 5 am. Visitors who want to go to Cadillac Ranch will have to contend with construction. Amarillo is still working on the freeways they were working on back in summer 2018.

    Our destination for the day was Shamrock, TX. There isn't much between Amarillo and Shamrock except 90 miles. At Shamrock, we stayed in the Best Western Plus. One reason we chose it was to be able to use the indoor pool. Nothing doing -- closed!!! Not for COVID-19, mind you, but something about a storm and some issues and needed to be inspected. So disappointing, because our room was right across from the pool and it looked SO inviting! This was especially true after 10+ hours on the road doing 612 miles. The hot tub was calling.....drat!

    One drawback to Shamrock is its lack of eateries. You have several hotels with lots of rooms to choose from. But there are three fast-food places currently open, and ONE sit-down restaurant. That was Mesquite Canyon Steakhouse. It was open for dining or take-out, so we dined in. The food was plentiful, delicious, and the service was excellent. This is definitely a hidden gem along I-40.

    Oh, about mask-wearing......I wear mine on a lanyard around my neck. This was because I never knew what I would expect. New Mexico - better wear a mask around everywhere. You can dine in, at 6' social distancing, but leave your mask on unless you are sitting at your dining table. Texas? More open. The hotel wanted everyone to wear a mask, but the steakhouse was pretty much mask-free.

    The photo of the day was the giant cross at Groom, Texas. That is between Amarillo and Shamrock, on the south side of the highway. It's hard to miss.

    0331Groom

    Still more to come...

  3. #3
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    May 2011
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    Central Missouri
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    Default

    Day 3 - Thursday April 1st (and this is no-foolin'!) - We left Shamrock close to 7 am, knowing that we didn't have as long a drive as Wednesday and no time changes. We also knew that our daughter was not going to be available on Thursday evening, as it was Maundy Thursday, and as a church leader, she was at church that evening.

    Our first stop was Weatherford, OK, where we needed to fuel up. As always, we let my fingers do the walking over Gas Buddy to find the best prices for diesel. Weatherford was a prime candidate. We also found a good place for breakfast there, Lucille's Roadhouse. It's a 50s style diner, Route 66, but when we walked in, we commented, "Flo's Diner in CarsLand!" (Disneyland's California Adventure) which is also a Route 66 diner style. The food was great, too -- much better than the Iron Skillet the day before.

    I dislike the I-44 turnpike system in OK. The first length cost us $5. Then we hit Tulsa, a terrible traffic jam because of construction. We probably lost about a half hour in that. Then the second length cost us another $5. We started to debate the pros and cons of moving ourselves this summer and finding a way to avoid this turnpike because more axles meant more money.

    Once we crossed into MO, we felt like we were almost there, but of course we weren't. A little fuel in Joplin, and one of the rest areas (mm111 is set up in a Route 66 theme), gave us a stretch of the legs. We then took I-44 up to MO-5 in Lebanon, which took us to US-54 and up to the Lake. It was a 543 mile day in 9-1/2 hours. Probably would have been 9 hours without that construction!!!!!!

    We situated ourselves in the town of Lake Ozark where it meets the town of Osage Beach, at a Quality Inn where we've stayed before. It was a good place to light for 7 nights, close enough to our daughter (or, as she says, the closest non-fleabag motel to her) and to reach any place in the Lake area. It had a working indoor pool, which we took advantage of right away, but the hot tub was closed for repairs. The hotel is in sections with corridors indoors so that you can reach the office without going outside. The indoor pool was near the back of the building. The outdoor pool, only open during the summer months, is closer to the front. We were in a room very close to the back end of the building. Going to the office and breakfast room meant about a 350 step walk.

    Hotel breakfasts - we don't generally use them unless we're staying in a place for several days. Often times, on travel days, we leave as they are opening or even (as in Holbrook) long before the breakfast room opens. The breakfast room was open at Shamrock and indicated that there was "breakfast to go". The Lake's Quality used to serve a great breakfast which included biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, either bacon or eggs; since COVID-19 hit, they've reduced themselves to the same bagged "breakfast to go" that every other hotel has gone to.

    For dinner on Thursday, though, we were on our own. Hubby felt like going to a bar, probably because the Lake was "wide open". We drove into Osage Beach and went to Backwater Jack's for dinner. Food was okay, just bar food, but the drink he ordered was amazing. We took the empty container with us and eventually gave it to our granddaughters to play with. Oh, if the name sounds familiar, Backwater Jack's was the place reported as a "super spreader" last Memorial Day weekend. Don't ask the staff about it. They all rolled their eyes.

    Photo of the day: the drink we shared at Backwater Jack's.

    0401BWJ2
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 04-11-2021 at 08:11 AM. Reason: added info

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Missouri
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    5,670

    Default

    Day 4 - Friday, April 2 - This was our first full day at the Lake, and it started in the morning with a ton of research online regarding house rentals. There were plenty of condos and apartments available, but not so many houses. We haven't lived with shared walls and limited parking spaces in years, so we decided that a rental house was the way to go until we either buy something or have one built. (The latter doesn't seem likely with the cost of building materials going up up up right now.)

    Then came the phone calls to property managers and landlords. By the end of the morning, we had 3 houses lined up to view. One viewing was later that afternoon, and not at the lake - up in Jefferson City. Another was scheduled for Saturday morning at the lake, and then another on Monday morning back up in Jefferson City.

    With our afternoon appointment later, we took ourselves out to lunch for fast-food. Though they had every other table cordoned off, Arby's at the Lake was open for dining in. We knew we had a heavier dinner planned and decided to eat lightly!

    The afternoon appointment took us to a neighborhood just south of Jefferson City proper. I loved the neighborhood, but the house was not that wonderful. Still, we took down information and kept it as a possibility, as this would be a rental, not a purchase.

    We were finally able to visit with our daughter after our appointment. The whole family was off for a 3-day weekend, with daughter and g-daughters off for 4. We'd brought her a bunch of stuff from California, so we had to empty the load. She was lost in memories for part of the afternoon as she delved through a box of her stuff from high school.

    Our dinner that night was to the local Outback Restaurant - always a favorite place to go. Dine-in was open, just wear your mask to the table and you can take it off there, only to put it back on if you have to be up and about again. We all ate well. Our granddaughters each tried a Bloomin' Onion but, like onion rings, it's an acquired taste. I was proud of their behavior in the restaurant, though.

    After eating out together, the family headed home and we headed back to the hotel. After eating all that food, a good walk on a treadmill in the fitness center (open) was in order!

    Visitors to the area should know that the road and sidewalk across Bagnell Dam will be closed beginning the day after Labor Day (I think) to rehabilitate both. Getting to the Strip from the north will mean going around "the long way". There is also a lot of construction going on at the intersection of US-54 and County Road W. Instead of a light at that intersection (which causes a lot of accidents because people aren't expecting one on a 4-lane-freeway-quality road), MODOT contractors are putting in a full blown freeway-type intersection, complete with two traffic circles.

    So our photo of the day is taken from the road on top of Bagnell Dam.

    0402LotODam
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 04-11-2021 at 09:19 AM. Reason: corrected grammar

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
    Posts
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    Default

    Days 5 to 9, April 3rd to 7th - These days were filled with appointments, shopping, and enjoying a place where we were free to roam without a mask on (in most places).

    Saturday, April 3 - Our first appointment was for a home on the north shore of the Lake, not all that far from our daughter's place. The home was purchased by a couple for investment property, who closed on the purchase on Wednesday. They listed with the property manager on Thursday, we called on Friday and he had not even listed the property yet, and after looking at it on Saturday morning, we took it. It felt "right" and the owners were not adverse to a 1-year lease with the possibility of our purchasing our own property and moving out before the lease was up. That's how fast home rentals, as well as home sales, were moving in the Lake area, as well as in other areas of the country.

    Saturday afternoon, and Sunday, were reserved for family. My daughter's church building had been rebuilt since a tornado hit it more than a year ago, so we were able to attend church on Easter without reservations. However, they did require masks, especially if one planned to sing. We went up to see the Columbia family for Easter afternoon - something we hadn't done since Spring 2012.

    On Monday morning, we went for a country drive to see the area that surrounds the Lake without being on it - Iberia, Tuscumbia - and by the time we got back, our lease was ready to sign.

    We also went for a long walk with our daughter, to see other parts of the neighborhood. Dinner was chicken.

    Tuesday, we had to go shopping. The house had nothing covering the windows, so we'd worked a deal with the property manager about that. We bought all the hardware and coverings, they install it and reimburse us.

    We ate dinner at one of the better places at the Lake, Baxter's, which has a lake view. The food was good but it's not really a budget place. It's one you go to when you're celebrating something - there are several places for that at the Lake (Baxter's, Bentley's, JB Hooks to name just 3). Our daughter had a meeting, so we went on our own.

    Wednesday - We had debated leaving a day earlier than scheduled, since our business at the Lake was concluded. But we decided to stay. Our day was spent shopping for new furniture (didn't buy any), going out to lunch at a new place on the Lake, and swimming with our daughter and granddaughters at the hotel pool when they were done at school. We had to say goodbye to them after that, as it was a school night for them and an early departure for us the next morning.

    The new(ish) place at the Lake is Bonnie Cafe. It's located in the building that had been Kay's for years. The new owners took it over, then last November, there was a fire in the kitchen. They rebuilt and restored, and the new place looked great. The food was definitely "home cooking" and there was plenty of it for reasonable prices.

    Photos to share - Dinner at Baxter's; The long walk in our daughter's neighborhood
    0406BaxtersSalad

    0405WalkNearDau

    Next up....the return to California...
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 04-11-2021 at 02:28 PM. Reason: added bold print to make it easier to follow

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
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    5,670

    Default

    Day 10 - Thursday, April 8 - This was the start of the return trip. It had been a successful trip as far as we were concerned. Now there were about 28-30 hours to fill in the vehicle, talking about how to make the move happen.

    Before we left, we made a couple of decisions. First was not to return by the same route that we took going out. That construction in New Mexico, on I-40 west of Albuquerque, was just not something we wanted to face. I should add that most of it was not on the NMDOT construction website, either, and we knew if we went another route, we could come up against non-published construction anyway. A couple of different routes were discussed, and reservations for overnights were made.

    We left Lake Ozark at 6 am heading south on US-54. Our first stop was a brief one at Camdenton, to buy some ice. It was still mostly dark at this hour, and we knew we had to watch for deer, so we were careful.

    The next stop was at the Cracker Barrel at exit 8 (Joplin), for breakfast. We experienced the exact same thing there as we had in Yuma ... slow to get seated, then it was fine.

    Still not enjoying the turnpike, we were concerned about the construction in Tulsa that had delayed us quite a bit. We'd planned to stay a little further away on the return trip, meaning a longer day on the road, and didn't want to be held up by that mess. Going our direction, it turned out to be a non-issue, though we could see that traffic going the other way was stopped (as we had been, a week before). The only good thing about the 2nd turnpike was that we found diesel to be a little less in price than what Gas Buddy had told us about Tulsa. Too bad the pump was so slow!

    After 11 hours on the road, 644 miles, we made it into Amarillo to the Comfort Inn. Hubby really wanted to go to the Big Texan again, as we had both enjoyed the place back in summer 2018. At the hotel, we found out that the Big Texan runs a free transportation service "limo" to/from their restaurant for folks in the local hotels and RV parks. That sounded great to us, as I-40 is under construction through Amarillo and we were afraid of getting lost again. Tipping the driver is a good price to pay, to avoid getting back on the road.

    The food was good and plentiful. Hubby and I both had the same thing: Fort Worth 12oz cut of ribeye, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, and a salad. We came away full; so full that Friday, we didn't want to go out for breakfast!

    Riding back in the "limo" was fun; we rode with the same folks coming and going, and shared with them about RoadTripAmerica.com.

    Pictures from the Big Texan dinner:
    View from my side of our table:
    0408BigTexan4

    Looking out over the dining room:
    0408BigTexan3

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Central Missouri
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    Default

    Day 11 - Friday, April 9 - This was another travel day, but not quite so long as Thursday.

    We set out from Amarillo with two more delays. One was a problem with trying to pay with one card when the reservation had been held under another. We'd had this issue with Quality Inn at the Lake, but weren't expecting it from Comfort Inn. At this point, I'm still not sure it's been resolved. Then we had to get fuel.

    As stated in the previous write-up, we were both so full from dinner on Thursday that breakfast wasn't even on our minds as we crossed into Mountain Daylight Time and gained an hour back. We stopped as we needed to, but fuel on the eastern side of Albuquerque was the next "big" stop.

    We made the Big I interchange and headed south on I-25 in Albuquerque. Once the city traffic left us, we could decide where to pick up lunch. Settled on a Long John Silver's/A & W combo at a travel center in Belen. (I wish we'd had time for me to find the site of the old Harvey House there in Belen.) This was part of NM that was not very open. We had to wear masks to place our order and then either could eat outside (in the wind) or inside our truck. We chose the truck, glad that we have a seat that folds down and acts like a console in between the driver and the passenger seats.

    We moved on, enjoying the terrain, interesting rest areas, and then the city of Hatch. Hatch is where all the Hatch chili peppers come from. It's also one end of NM-26; the other end is in Deming.

    At Deming we picked up another small load of fuel, and headed east again on I-10. We pulled into the Comfort Inn at Lordsburg, to find that their indoor pool was closed due to COVID-19. Too bad -- when we stayed there a few years ago, it was a lovely pool and hot tub. The latter was also closed! Fortunately, the fitness center was open. I've started to use treadmills when I'm traveling as a safer alternative to walking in strange areas.

    Dinner was at a place called Kranberry's. It was open to inside dining. We were certainly spread out more than 6' from any other customers. Food was good, plentiful; hubby and I shared a peach cobbler with ice cream on top for dessert.

    I do like Comfort Inn more than Quality Inn, and often they are only a few dollars extra. There's been more space in the room, and several have had a sink in the bathroom and one in the room. We also like Best Western Plus.

    This was our last night of hotel rooms.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Missouri
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    Day 12 - Saturday, April 10 - We were awake early, so we just decided to get ready and depart. We left Lordsburg a little after 7, buying ice for the ice chest before we left.

    I enjoyed this drive most of the day. We'd just come through this in summer 2014, February 2018 and then in November 2019, and part of it was very familiar territory. For instance, I love the rest area at Texas Canyon. As my daughter stated, "Rocks!"

    Tucson has just grown so much since I lived there in the early 1970s. I've marveled at that every time we go through it. We stopped for fuel at what used to be an exit that just led to rural roads. Now it's got a bunch of shopping centers, some fuel stations, and a Cracker Barrel, all on the south side of I-10. (Cortaro Road.) We got fuel at one station and tried to go to Cracker Barrel. That was so busy, there was very little parking and we could see that a lot of folks were waiting outside, so we moved on.

    Before making a 5-mile trip out of the way, to a restaurant off Florence Blvd in Casa Grande, we called ahead. I'm glad we did. They were saying it was a 45-minute wait for a table. We didn't take the extra miles, and instead, just got off at I-8.

    One place that I've mentioned on previous reports has been a kitschy fuel station at Butterfield Trail exit in Gila Bend. Hubby and I exited the freeway to go there to pick up a snack and use the restroom facilities. THE WHOLE PLACE WAS GONE. We were shocked. We'd been going to Holt's Shell for years and years. I guess in the past year, Pilot bought it out, razed the old buildings, and built a new truck stop in there. Holt's Shell had character....Pilot does not (IMHO). We were so disappointed. I realized that I'd seen the old metal dinosaurs and gila monster in Gila Bend when we went through last week, and had assumed that the artist was now branching out. Now I know, Holt's sold out.

    We had a very long stop in Yuma. For years, it has been a fuel stop and a restaurant stop. Over the years, both have changed. We ate first, this time at Texas Roadhouse. They were busy but we had seats at the bar and got served quickly. Then, before leaving town, we wanted to pick up fuel (because at home it's $1 per gallon more). Our usual station had only one set of working diesel pumps, and those didn't have a card reader. The guy wanted me to prepay (with a credit card) for our fuel, and I had no idea how much it would take. So we left, he lost the sale, and we went down to our second favorite station in Yuma.

    We stopped only once more, and arrived home with 563 more miles on the odometer, and 10-1/4 hours after we started (including the time change).

    I haven't figured the statistics yet - what was spent on food, lodging, and fuel - will post that another time. In the meantime, I went back to work today.

    Photos from the day, Texas Canyon AZ:
    0410TexasCanyonAZ2

    Donna

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,579

    Default RTA Amabassadors

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Riding back in the "limo" was fun; we rode with the same folks coming and going, and shared with them about RoadTripAmerica.com.
    Always nice to hear that you are serving as ambassadors for RoadTripAmerica.com!

    Congratulations on finding a new place to call home. That will be a big change in culture and weather!

    Mark

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,665

    Default Getting back on the road !

    It's nice to see some activity here Donna so Thanks for the report, hopefully things will improve as more and more vaccinations get out there and we will see more Roadtrips ! (We hope to hit the road soon in the UK, fingers crossed) I really like the look of the Big Texan !!
    Enjoy your new home.

    Dave.

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