This is the story of our mad dash from Tucson to Indianapolis. In the winter. In our motorhome.
First, our thanks to everyone for your condolences over the past couple of weeks. They, and you, are appreciated.
If you read our last blog, you know that Brian’s dearly-loved aunt pass away recently. As is typical, we thought we had more time. We had plans to visit the area in August and had recently decided to change our plans to be there in late March because we were told she was worsening. We wanted some time with her, not really to say goodbye, but to just be with her. We wanted to wait because we didn’t want to be in Indianapolis in the winter.
Unfortunately, we received a call from Brian’s mom one Friday afternoon telling us his aunt had had a stroke. It sounded pretty major and we were waiting for Saturday morning to see how things went for her. We spent the rest of Friday discussing our options. I was supposed to be flying to Seattle in two days. I knew the moment we got the call from Indy that I wouldn’t be going. There’s no way I could leave Brian in these circumstances. Should Brian fly out? If so, that means I couldn’t get me, the cats, and our home to him if it ended up being a longer stay. I’m not familiar with driving the RV and we still didn’t have the tow package set up for our Jeep. We both couldn’t fly out because we couldn’t leave the RV, or the cats, for the amount of time we figured we’d be gone. Should we get a tow package connected? We’d only have Saturday to get it done and that probably wouldn’t be likely to happen. Do we drive the RV to Indianapolis? Do we stay a few weeks or longer? I so strongly felt we needed to take this last option, leaving by Sunday at the latest, and stay for a month or more. I was practically vibrating with how strongly I felt about it. Yes, it meant making a lot of changes to plans we’d already made and not hanging with my dad for a month like I wanted, but this is family too, and it’s important; so I started mapping routes.
Planning the Route
This was the week that the huge snowstorms hit Seattle. Those storms were heading east and temperatures were low. We obviously wanted to avoid all of that if we could. We knew there’d be no avoiding them once we got to Indianapolis, or even as we turned north, but we hoped we could find a way to not drive in bad weather or be stuck somewhere halfway to Indy. We ended up taking a sort of middle route. It wasn’t the most direct, but it allowed us to go directly east for a bit – staying away from the extreme cold and potential snow for a while – before heading north. We could have gone as far east as Alabama before turning north if the weather had turned really bad.
We started out with only one reservation – for Las Cruces. The rest of the stops were reservations made a day or two in advance since we didn’t know exactly where we’d be stopping and didn’t want to guess how we’d be feeling by the end of the trip. Keep in mind this was February, so most places on our route were bound to have availability. Though, we barely got into our park in Indianapolis and can’t stay as long as we’d wanted. In addition, there’s the limitation of many parks being closed this time of year, narrowing your choices.
All total, we drove about 1,852 miles. We took six days – Sunday through Friday. Why that long? There were a few factors.
We were stretching our drive limit to six hours a day, but no longer. Remember, there’s no tow package; so we’re both driving and have no way to share and allow one of us to rest. We prefer 3-4 hour drives. Brian had done five before and it was exhausting. We recognized that it was early in our experience and on the very curvy Highway 101, so we decided to try for five hour drive days and would stretch if we felt good.
Our goal was to get there as fast as possibly – safely. We knew that emotional stress and weather could play a factor and we kept that in mind while planning and while enroute.
In addition, we’d not heard good things about El Paso and along the border there, so we decided to avoid an overnight in the area. We already had reservations in Las Cruces for a week in a March, which was about a four-hour drive from Tucson. It was either stop there or drive over six hours. Considering our emotional state and knowing we were going to have a slightly longer first day due to getting everything packed up, we opted to stop in Las Cruces the first night.
After our first three days, we looked at our last bit of driving. There was going to be either a day of a little over seven hours or we’d have to break it down into two. By then we knew that a seven hour day wasn’t going to work. We were tired – not exhausted, but tired and only halfway through the trip. I also knew if we drove five or six hours one day, we’d try to push to finish instead of staying overnight an hour and a half from Indy. On top of that, we’d have to find another place to stay in Indy before heading to our reserved spot the next day; so it was just better to split it equally into two days of just under four hours each.
It was winter. Not only that, but a huge winter storm that had caused serious snow in the Northwest was heading our way. We already knew temperatures were going to be super cold once we turned north and the forecast through our more southerly route was for high winds; but no snow or rain storms.
It did rain most of our entire first day on the road. The winds started building as we got further into Texas and were fairly strong at times. None were strong enough to make us want to stop. They were strong enough to make us a little more tired at the end of each day. The wind was strong through most of our drive into Illinois and we were definitely tired by the end of four days of that. But…there was no snow, no ice, and no massive rain storm. We could see well and really only had the wind to deal with. There was one minor dust storm, but visibility through that was only barely limited. We were smart about the route we took, and we got lucky.
Driving the Route
I have a few photos I’m including here, but mainly took videos some of which we’ve already made into a daily wrap-up video. We also plan to incorporate other videos of the actual drives and some thoughts on the road into a second video. Once we have that ready, we’ll put a link to it here and on our Facebook page.
Leaving Tucson (AZ)
This was really difficult for me and for Brian too. We’d planned to be in this particular RV park, Far Horizons RV Resort, because my dad was going to be there. It was going to be a whole month of relaxing, spending time with my dad, exploring the area, and getting some things done on the RV. I hadn’t seen my dad for about a year and a half and we had only seen him a couple of times in the six days we’d been there. Yes. I’ll admit it. I cried a bit after saying good bye to him. I’ll do my best to figure out a way to see him again soon.
We’d also paid for a month at the resort. I called to let them know we had had a family emergency and had to leave. They said they’d get me a refund. Unfortunately, it comes via check and they only cut checks twice a month; so it’ll be a little bit before we get that, but at least we’re getting it. We’ve heard of people in similar situations who didn’t get partial refunds. Thanks to Far Horizons for having a heart.
Las Cruces (NM)
Las Cruces is about a four hour drive from Tucson, though we had a longer day because we had to finish packing up the RV and get gas. (It takes forever to fill a Class A’s gas tank if you’re using a regular pump! Tip: If you can, use the truck lanes at places like Loves, Flying J, etc. The gas flows faster.) It rained pretty much the whole drive, but it wasn’t stormy; so the drive was still decent.
Las Cruces seemed like a nice town and we definitely plan to go back someday and explore the area. We were at the Las Cruces KOA, which is up on a hill looking out over the town and toward the Organ Mountains. They were very nice about changing our reservation from a week in March to just an overnight with two day’s notice. It’s a KOA Journey, so is a basic RV park; but it was nicely kept and a great location.
It doesn’t take long to get from Las Cruces to Texas and the scenery is quite pretty until you get to El Paso. We went through our second border patrol checkpoint since leaving Seattle last year. They had the dog sniff the outside of our RV and asked me if I was a US citizen. That’s it.
Honestly, I didn’t take any photos of the Odessa/Midland area. It’s full of oil derricks, some refineries, and a lot of trash. I feel for people who might be stuck there, unable to leave due to responsibilities or finances. Yes. We need oil and gas. We are unfortunately dependent on it right now. But…that doesn’t mean the area surrounding that machinery has to be trashed. A ways down the road, we came across several windmill farms that each had dozens if not hundreds of windmills. The area there was clean and beautiful. Enough said.
Caddo Mills (TX)
Once we got about an hour east of Midland, the land became more picturesque for a bit and even the Ft Worth/Dallas area looked nice. In fact, what I could see of Ft Worth from the freeway looked very pretty. Of course, it’s a bigger metro area and there was definitely slow and go traffic getting through downtown Dallas at 3:30pm.
Caddo Mills itself is on the north east side of Dallas. It’s a typical big city suburb with plenty of stores and restaurants. The RV park, Dallas Northeast RV Park, was nice. It wasn’t a resort by any means, but it was smallish, the people were friendly, and the property was pretty. It even had a small lake, so I was able to get some water time in!
Forrest City (AR)
The drive from northern Texas to Arkansas made me happier. There was more water and, therefore, more green. We started seeing some evergreens and more birds. It made me realize that I much prefer water over desert. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the desert and want to explore it more. I just love water.
I also have to say that I’ve never been to Arkansas before. I’ve never even driven through it. I realized that this was the first state I’d never been to before starting our full time RV life nearly a year ago. It was a new first! I’d also not thought much about Arkansas ecology and geography. It was beautiful! It was so green, even in February, with lots of trees. I was back to seeing hawks along the roadway (something I’ve apparently missed) and there were bayous everywhere. In fact, they’d had so much rain lately that some of the waters were very close to the highway and I received flood warning notifications about every hour as we drove through.
We stayed at the Delta Ridge RV Park in Forrest City, Arkansas. It’s basically a gravel parking lot tucked into a little area beside a small shopping center. That said, the owner was super nice. When we talked on the phone he said to just pull into any spot and we’d figure out payment later. He ended up stopping by our RV and taking payment shortly after we arrived. It doesn’t sound like much, but it makes for a great one or two night stop because of Gary’s friendly service and a grocery store, McDonald’s, and a few other stores within walking distance. I highly recommend it if you are driving through Forrest City and need to stop.
The drive to Marion, Illinois, was much like the previous day. Blue skies, trees, and water with a few small towns along the way. We did go through just a tiny bit of Missouri. I have been to Missouri before, but have never spent the night there and still didn’t this trip; so we can’t count it as one of our states on our map – yet.
We stopped for gas, as we did every day, and filled our propane to ensure we’d arrive in Indianapolis with a full propane tank. (Our furnace runs on propane and we knew we’d be using it a lot.) We also re-drugged the cats. We give them homeopathic ‘travel drops’ on move days because otherwise they get stressed when we start packing up. The drops are a light natural sedative and I usually only give them 1/3 to half a dose – just to take the edge off. We give them a little more when we stop for lunch on longer travel days.
Marion RV Park was a nice overnight. I have to admit I was so exhausted by then that I didn’t pay much attention to the park itself. The person who checked us in was friendly, and the park was cute and seemed well-kept.
The drive into Indianapolis was blessedly short (about three and a half hours) and we got into the RV park without incident. We’re in a pull-in spot where our front windows look out onto some bare winter trees that screen a large field. We’re in a fairly commercial area, but the field buffers us and there’s great shopping within 5-10 minutes. The park also has a small lake/pond with a little wildlife. I think most wildlife is hunkered down right now due to the weather. It’s a pretty park with friendly people and I’m glad we got into it on such short notice. It’s actually very full! And, yes, most people have some sort of weather skirting around their rigs. We were going to do that, but we think we’re okay.
We made it in time for the memorial and spent some time with the larger immediate family before some of them took off back to their homes. We’re happy to be here for another three weeks with time to visit the family that still lives in Indianapolis. It seems like a lot compared to our normal fly in and fly out a few days later trips, but it’s never really enough. That, again, is part of the reason we’re living and traveling in an RV; so we can take time to be with family and friends. We have people we love all over this country and absolutely could not afford to fly to all those places every year or two, nor would we have had vacation time to make it a quality stay. We’re so grateful we’re able to have this way of life!
That’s it for now, friends. Be groovy and remember to live your journey…