Return to CA: Part 1

Rainfall during the days leading up to my departure was killing my workflow. But I got things done when I could. Here’s the trailer’s interior as it was for the outbound trip. I don’t think I mentioned that I’d be traveling with a refrigerator and a battery back-up. I’ll share a photo of the setup in an album at the bottom of this page. I visited a scale to weigh everything. Unfortunately, the video of that visit got corrupted and the specific numbers are lost. BUT – I do remember that the trailer itself weighed 1060 lbs (480 kg), which included five gallons (19 liters) of extra fuel as a precaution in sparsely populated areas along my route. So much for staying below 1000 lbs (455 kg) for the outbound trip. The good news was that I expected to be past the scarce fuel areas by the time I loaded cargo and could empty the fuel can into my car’s fuel tank in California.

I left SE Virginia and set a goal to drive 480 miles (773 km) to Cherokee, NC. Cherokee is less than two hours from Tail of the Dragon (TOTD) and close to a car wash that I often use to tidy the car before being photographed on the Tail. Unfortunately, my first two days on the road was either rainy or gloomy; so, no car wash for TOTD. When I arrived, I was surprised to see just about everything closed. Either they stay closed when they don’t think motorcyclists will ride or the storms that had passed through the area were more severe than I had realized.

Regardless, I was already carrying a TOTD sticker from a previous visit. I tagged the trailer with it and hit the road, not expecting to see any photographers on a day when little money could be made. It was nice to have the whole road to myself. I saw just ten other vehicles, all going the other way. I was almost done with the route when I was surprised to see ONE photography station:, the original TOTD photographer. I was pleased to buy these photos (and others).

Next, I found a Krystal for lunch. Somehow, visiting Krystal became a tradition anytime I visit Tennessee. I like their chili-cheese pups (miniature hot dogs). I also learned that their corn pups are awesome, too! I don’t think I’ve ever had a corn dog with suc a perfect crisp in its corn bread covering. Moving along, my practice was to refuel at 1/2 tank. I had been averaging about 22 mpg and expected that to change in Texas. If you followed my previous road trip with a trailer, then you know we had a couple of unnerving experiences with running low on fuel. Once out west and averaging just 19 mpg, the bottom half of the tank disappears too fast for my comfort. I learned to refuel nearly any chance I got. I typically stopped every 100-150 miles (160-240 km), depending on my bladder. 😉

I stopped for the night in Forrest City, AR after 520 miles (837 km) of driving. By then, I was beginning to appreciate not having to unload a trailer every evening. I was quick to leave in the morning, too. From Forrest City, I was off to central Texas to visit my family and capture some photos that I had missed during my previous visit. I took a small detour to visit a Ham Radio Outlet in Plano, TX. The traffic in Dallas on a Friday afternoon was HELL. It was a reminder to stay out of major cities! My visit to central Texas was pleasant. We were not far from a relatively obscure attraction, Falkenstein Castle. This is the only place to take a “car photo” with the castle unless one chooses to spend $2000 per night to stay there.

I stayed three nights and then drove 550 miles (885 km) to Alamogordo, NM. Traveling solo this time, I was able to get on the road well before sunrise to improve my chances of getting to White Sands National Park before sunset. I stopped at the same pump jack that I had photographed at sunset in November (photo below). I arrived in Alamogordo so early that I was able to wash the car/trailer and visit Holloman Air Force Base before White Sands. Did you know that the German Air Force trains in our deserts from Holloman AFB? Here is one of their first planes to train there, starting in 1996. I call this photo “Germans” (car and plane).

I ate on base, took photos at the air power park, and then visited White Sands National Park for sunset photos. I spent a lot of time photographing different angles of the car, with and without the trailer attached. Here is one that I consider among the best. I’ve shared more in the album below. After the sunset photos, I returned to my hotel where I was able to park right under my window. HAHA! The next morning, I hit the road and traced a lot of the same roads as we did during November’s trip. This time, I stopped for a photo at the Valley of Fires, which is a lava field in New Mexico.

I also revisited the Very Large Array near Socorro, NM. They had changed the size of the array (moved the dishes into a tighter circle); so, I couldn’t get the same close shot as last time. I got this shot instead. The site has been closed to visitors for a year. So, I couldn’t move-in for a closer shot. I continued toward Flagstaff. The difference this time is that I was on the road earlier and traveling with longer days. That meant that I reached the Petrified Forest with plenty of light left in my day.

As a kid, it was easy to imagine the petrified forest as a bunch of standing stone trees. But that’s not the case. They’re all fallen trees that were preserved long enough to petrify. It was colder than when I last exited the car. So, my walk through the main tour area was brisk. I drove a little bit of the Painted Forest tour road, but didn’t want to commit to the entire 50-mile (80 km) tour. This was not a planned stop; I wanted to keep moving toward Flagstaff.

I stopped at a meteor crater near Winslow, AZ. It was even colder and the winds were picking up. Funny thing: I’m not a natural with “selfies,” as evidenced from the shot in front of the log above. I don’t “smile on command.” 😉 As a result, I don’t take many selfies. But I figured I’d shoot one at the crater for my wife. There was a patient couple waiting for me to get my shot. But every time the countdown time reached zero, a gust of wind would blow my phone. It was getting ridiculous! My laughter actually wound up presenting a decent selfie at the crater. It’s hard to capture the enormity of this crater in a ground photo. I shared a satellite image in the album below just to show the size when compared against the two parking areas at the site.

As I continued toward Flagstaff, I discovered why the temperatures were falling so quickly: SNOW. The roads didn’t become hazardous during the drive. However, visibility was becoming a problem. Traffic was light, which allow me to maintain 65 mph (105 kph). I had already booked a hotel room on the east side of Flagstaff. Translation: I was stopping short of dealing with rush hour traffic. My reservation also meant that I was guaranteed a room in case the snowfall turned into an event that caused hotels to fill. Thankfully, I got settled in my hotel without seeing rush hour or poor road conditions. I had driven 475 miles (765 km) that day.

And I thought I could avoid snow during this trip…

About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
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