Travel Travails of Our Winter Road Trip: Part 1, Phoenix Fun

Phoenix Fun Graphic

Although I am on a blogging break from my photo challenge feature, Sunday Stills, and now that I am back from my Arizona road trip, I couldn’t wait to post about it! This saga will continue in three parts.

You notice the word “travails.” Where do I start?

If I start at the beginning, I admit to planning this road trip in my head 20 years ago after reading author Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime-mystery novels. His detailed descriptions of the American Southwest intrigued and inspired me. Who could resist the call of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Monument Valley and countless other places along the way?

I couldn’t. So, when we bought our new travel trailer and finally my hubby’s new Ford F-150 in 2018, the dream became a reality.

With the help of real maps (from Triple AAA), several bloggers and my own research, I crafted together an epic road trip that began in Sacramento and ended in Las Vegas. I booked several reservations for three different RV parks and a hike through Antelope Canyon for early January.

Have you ever pulled a 27-foot trailer? There is a lot to it, so my husband, Hans, did all the driving. You need to buy gas every 200 miles (or less) since the gas mileage the truck gets averages 8 mpg. You also need to plan at which gas station you will stop because RVs can’t just whip into any station.

Normally we drive my Toyota Rav4 which gets great gas mileage and gets us to Southern California in 9 hours or less. We knew pulling the trailer with the truck would lengthen our trip and we prepared to take slower routes once in Southern California.

We also had our two dogs with us, Aero and Brodie, who are accustomed to road trips and love the trailer after spending summer weekends in it at the delta.

Off to San Diego!

Our first leg of the trip involved driving from Sacramento to San Diego, about 600 miles. We travel each year to spend the holidays with our adult children and the rest of our families. We chose to drive on the Saturday before Christmas thinking the traffic would be better than on a weekday.

Our second fuel stop was in Tehachapi, a long slow climb up a mountainous, windy grade. This route is better than groaning up the “Grapevine,” the traditional gateway to Southern California. Thinking we had enough gas for the Loves Travel Stop, we estimated to stop there for our next gas.

Travel Travail #1. Fueling Up the Gas Tank. Don’t wait until you have 2 miles to go to “empty” before you arrive at the next gas station. So much for planning! The Ford F-150 has that nice feature that tells you exactly how much fuel you have left.

We coasted in on fumes to the first fuel stop available. Hans put in $20 worth and off we went to the travel stop two more miles down the road. Insert eye-roll here!

We knew it would be a long day. I didn’t want to sweat bullets just getting gas!

Travel Travail #2. Holiday Traffic. Expect Delays! We hit two big traffic snags. The first one was in, of all places, Kramer Junction, where Highways 58 and 395 intersect in the Mojave Desert.

It took an hour to drive 6 miles through the intersection. We just knew there must have been a terrible accident, but no, it was just a lot of company all at once heading toward Las Vegas for the holidays. Meanwhile members of my family were calling and texting asking about our ETA.

Once we got on the I-15 South, we hit another traffic jam in San Bernardino.

12 hours later from when we pulled out of our driveway, we arrived at my daughter’s home in San Diego, exhausted, hungry and excited.

The Christmas holidays came and went with the usual family fun and drama.

Fun in Phoenix

Saguaro cactus

Friday, December 28, we pulled out of San Diego and on the road to Phoenix, Arizona. We were to join Ingrid, fellow blogger from Live, Laugh, RV and her husband for happy hour upon our arrival. 7 hours later, we pulled into the Pioneer RV Park and joined our new friends, right next door to their RV! Ingrid and Al are amazing and live the retired RV life. We had some great laughs bonding over margaritas and nachos!

Saturday, Al took Hans shooting at the nearby gun range, while Ingrid took me to several spots in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area to go shooting with our cameras.

We toured a Farmer’s market, shopped at boutiques and stopped at two trailheads to take in the desert sights before stopping for lunch in Cave Creek. Near there we hiked about an hour and took loads of photos.

Desert Beauty
Beautiful Cave Creek
Cactus Flower among the Saguaros

We enjoyed our last night with Al and Ingrid and will have fond memories of their generosity! Meeting other bloggers in person is such a thrill, and you bet we talked about blogging!

Travel Travail #3. Stay a day or two longer if your itinerary allows! We had such a blast with these two the next day, that we should have stayed another couple of days. North Phoenix was “warm” and sunny at 50+ degrees, although the nights were cold.

Ingrid
Fab Photographer Ingrid

I want to thank blogger Ingrid from Live, Laugh, RV, who, when I commented on one of her posts, offered to share information with me about Arizona. If you haven’t met her yet, stop by her blog!

I will leave Part One on a positive note because, like many trilogies, the sequel can be full of strife. Join me as we travel to Sedona, Arizona and experience unusual winter weather!

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55 thoughts on “Travel Travails of Our Winter Road Trip: Part 1, Phoenix Fun

  1. Pingback: Football, Nachos, and Friends | Live Laugh RV

  2. Pingback: VIVA Las Vegas: A Positive End to the Winter Road Trip – Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

  3. My husband and I love to road trip but we drive a tiny Malibu and have never pulled a trailer. That sounds so scary to me. Arizona is such a beautiful state. I hope to explore it more! Visiting from MSTL

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  4. Loved those gorgeous blue skies (a nice change from all the US snow pics I’m seeing on FB etc) and it was an interesting insight into the beginning of your roadtrip – look forward to the next instalment.
    Thanks for linking up with MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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  5. I love road trips and in Australia we have lots of options to hit the wide open spaces. I loved your account and photos and despite your ‘travails’ it sounds as if you had a great time. Coming today from #MLSTL

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  6. While our RV gets good mileage for a van (22 miles per gallon), we have been pushing our luck as well. Diesel is so expensive in California, that we always look up the cheapest stations and we might not get there until the light is on. Unlike Hans’ truck, our 2005 Sprinter van doesn’t tell us how much fuel we have left. 🙂

    When we drove from Ojai to San Diego in December, we counted on four hours. It took us seven! Luckily, nobody was waiting for us.

    I’m so glad you met Ingrid and Al. I hope we get that chance later this winter/spring as well. I’d love a day of hiking and photography with Ingrid!

    As far as your travails, what can I say? Life on the road comes with ups and downs and lots of unpredictable events. That’s why we don’t even bother to plan, most of the time. 🙂

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  7. I love road trips except I hate the traffic and the other drivers. I’m familiar with many of the places you wrote about here as we live in Orange County and took our sons with their Boy Scout buddies all over the area. Love all the photos, Terri.

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      1. Lots more people in lots more and much bigger vehicles. Some lady parked a behemoth of a car (or something like a car) on a diagonal rather than directly into her parking space, with about 5 feet in front of her car, so the monster “car” was sticking way out into traffic and blocking me from leaving. Fortunately, she was still there so I pointed out to her that she was nowhere near to being parked. She took a look and said she’d try again. And this is why I hate to drive. LOL

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  8. Pingback: Travel Travails of Our Winter Road Trip: Part 2, Snowed-in Sedona – Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

  9. Traffic jams always seem to happen when we don’t want them to, Terri. What a long trip on that first day – 12 hours! I bet you were glad when you reached your daughter’s house knowing that the whole family were waiting for you. I mean Christmas can’t officially start until everyone has arrived, can it?
    I’m glad you met up with Ingrid and you two had a great day taking photos, shopping, and stopping for lunch. I’m not surprised you two also talked about blogging. I don’t think there is ever a silent moment when bloggers get together.
    Looking forward to reading the next parts of the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Hugh, it was nice to be done with that long drive to San Diego, although navigating through 5 adult children and the rest of the family drama was exhausting…I love them dearly but Christmas 2019 may be spent in Germany or Hawaii! We had a great time with Ingrid and Al, we want to go back to Phoenix!

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      1. I’ve had Christmases like that, too, Terri. I alway look forward to Christmas, but am always glad to get back home and away from the dramas, being all together, Christmas can sometimes bring. We hosted the family this Christmas. When I finally closed the door to an almost empty house, I opened a bottle of wine and we toasted a job well done. But it was so nice to have the house back to ourselves again.

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  10. Glad to see you had a good time, despite travails. That’s what traveling is all about. Nice photos too. I love the landscape of the southwest. Less keen to go back to Phoenix I must admit.

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  11. This sounds like a fabulous trip. I have never spent much time in the Southwest and it intrigues me. I am traveling along vicariously with your adventures! Hopefully we will be able to take some road trips like this once my husband retires. I’ve built a life I can do from anywhere. I look forward to the day we can take longer trips. Have fun on your adventures and I will look forward to reading the rest of the story.

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  12. Frank Simpson

    May I suggest another author in addition to Hillerman…WALLACE STEGNER. You have to be of a certain age (at least 40) to appreciate his works. Excellent reading at home or while on the road. My favorites of his–“Angle of Repose” “All the Little Things” “The Spectator Bird” & “Crossing To Safety

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  13. Ah, thanks for the kind words. We loved meeting you guys and sharing the uniqueness of the desert. I felt so badly that you encountered such bad winter weather that caused you to reroute your whole trip to northern AZ. You’ll definitely have to revisit. I look forward to hearing the rest of the saga!

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      1. I have to laugh, John…I will be posting about our last days of the road trip in Vegas next week…GPS took us in such round-about ways in Vegas, my husband gave up and went by memory as we drove in the area (he had lived there briefly some years ago). We enjoyed LV while we were there, at least it didn’t snow on the ground 🙂

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      2. I look forward to your posts! GPS is certainly not always accurate. I moved here six years ago from Michigan, never wanted to move back after the big D. It never snows on the valley floor, it stays in the mountains around us thank God. ❤️

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  14. Sounds like a great road trip, Terri, even if it was long. I would freak out if we arrived at a gas station on a fume. Of course, it is very dangerous in South Africa if you get stuck. You can get attacked and even murdered. Your photographs are wonderful.

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  15. Frank Simpson

    “I admit to planning this road trip in my head 20 years ago after reading author Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime-mystery novels”—HILLERMAN IS ESSENTIAL READING ALSO WHEN YOU ARE TRAVELING THE AREA. Trust me on this!! 🙂

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