So, as you might guess from the title, the work gig in Tucson got finalized and I hastily packed and readied the View for Season 2 of snowbirding in the Southwest. I was able to make a quick appointment at the commercial truck tire shop to get my new Bilstein shocks installed, and decided to go ahead and get a set of new tires as well. The View only had 32,000 miles, but the tread on the OEM Continental tires was looking so bald, I didn’t relish the thought of winter driving on them!
By the way, the Bilsteins are indeed an improvement! They don’t completely eliminate the “rock and roll” (when going over curbs slowly for example), but they considerably reduce it without making the ride feel stiff or harsh. So, a very worthwhile upgrade for about $200 installed.
Millie and I finally got packed up and on the road late Saturday afternoon and made it to our familiar, trusty Wal-Mart parking lot in Litchfield, IL for our first evening of free overnight parking. We had spent New Year’s Eve here last year on our way down to the Southwest, and an even more bitterly cold sub-zero night here back in 2007 in the T@B. This year, thankfully, our travel coincided with a brief stretch of unseasonably warm and dry weather with overnight lows only into the low 30’s.
We divided our time between Wal-Marts and Flying J truck stops. Sure love free overnight parking after a long day of traveling! Last year, I had just about abandoned Flying J when their prices seemed much higher than local stations, and they began charging for more RV services. Well, this year, it seems like they’re trying very hard to get back in “good graces” with the RVing community. I got an email last week saying they’ll now be giving 6 cents off per gallon for Good Sam members and, following the example Wal-Mart started last year with it’s Murphy Oil promo, Flying J is offering 10 cents off per gallon when using their new Flying J credit card.
We stayed at the Joplin, MO Flying J the next night and I was eager to drive thru town the next morning to see how the recovery was progressing from last Spring’s deadly tornado.
Joplin is a decent-sized town, so by no means was it entirely wiped off the map (like the small town of Greensburg, KS had been a few years ago from its deadly tornado), but the Joplin tornado was certainly quite large and ripped a path over a mile wide and a few miles long of complete destruction--
Some businesses, like this American Mattress store, seemed completely untouched from the day the tornado struck--
Yet, many others, like this Pizza Hut, were well on their way to recovery. The people of Joplin are moving forward.
After another Flying J night in western Oklahoma, we made our way across the Texas panhandle. It always feels like my gateway to the Southwest when I start seeing those big skies and wide-open vistas--
After a quiet night at a Walmart east of Albuquerque, we headed south to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, NM. No truck stops or WalMarts there, but a nice couple of nights at the Bosque Birdwatchers RV Park, run by a fun-loving, free-spirit elderly lady named Jackie, and her middle-aged son. (more Bosque photos in the next post!)
I spent most of the next day catching up on work, and then hit the road again for the final leg into Tucson. We crossed the border into Arizona greeted by the most amazing sunset… Home, sweet home for the next 2 months!