Let’s finish this winter journey by saying the weather the last few days have almost been unbearable. The temperature has been close to 30 degrees every day and the humidity is in the 90s. What little breeze we have had has been very welcome. So it is time to head home.
Originally our plan was to leave South Padre Island at the end of March and then venture over to Big Bend National Park. We were going to spend about one week exploring this area of Texas and the Rio Grand River, then ambling home from there, going through New Mexico and Colorado. With the current state of affairs with Covid-19, all the State Parks were closed so there wasn’t much use going home that way. Instead we extended our stay at South Padre Island another ten days. We left for home on April 9th.
Day 1, April 9th
We pulled out of our campsite about 8 am. It was a beautiful day for a road trip, until we got to Austin. The truck was reporting a temperature of 33 degrees and then we drove through a rain storm. In about 1/2 hour the temperature had dropped to 19. What a change in temperature.
At about 5:30 we pulled into the highway rest stop just south of Belton Tx which is south of Waco. We are here for the night. After a quick supper we were in bed by 6:30. The bathrooms and exercise yard are both closed. You don’t often see truckers stretching on the exercise equipment but you do see them using the washrooms. I am not sure what they are supposed to do.
As we closed down for the night, ready for a rest, we noticed that our water pump wasn’t working. I gave it a quick look over, there were no blown fuses and there was power at the switch. Further investigation will be required once we get home. It’s a minor inconvenience, but we can work around it.
Day 2, April 10th, Good Friday
We pulled out of the rest stop about 7:30, the temperature was reporting in at 14 degrees, the high was 19. A little bit cooler than yesterday but I’m still in my shorts. This morning, instead of waking up to the songs of the Great Tailed Grackle and the Northern Mockingbird we woke up to the sound of diesel engines on both sides of the RV.
We also had a surprise this morning, the water pump magically started working. Not sure how or why but it will make things a lot easier.
We broke out of Texas around lunch time. Imagine that, a day and a half to go through one state. Travelled through Oklahoma and then entered Kansas. We pulled over into a Kansas Turnpike rest centre around 5 pm. Again a quick supper and we were in bed by 7:00.
While driving north of Austin we commented that the highway guys should be out cutting the weeds in ditch. As we approached Temple and on into Waco we realized why the ditches weren’t mowed, the Blue Bonnets were in bloom. They really bring a splash of colour to otherwise green vegetation. Normally we see them south of Austin but not this year. As we travelled north, the ditches were first filled with Indian Blanket and then came the Blue Bonnets and then the Indian Paintbrush. It is nice to see the increase in colour in the ditch while we are watching the decrease in colour in the trees. Yesterday the trees were in full bloom, displaying their many colours. Today we see trees that are just starting to leaf out and then trees that are still in their winter sleep.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
Day 3, April 11
Well we left or rest stop around 7:30 again and drove until 5:00. We hit 4 states today, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.
We are in farming country now. At the beginning of the day the crops were up. As we progressed north we could see the farmers out working their fields. at the end of the day the fields were untouched. I think the farmers in Iowa had a meeting and today was the day they picked to burn their stubble. We must have driven through smoky skies for over 2 hours. It was terrible.
The temperature fluctuated from 14 when we got going to a peak of 20. When we stopped the temperature had dropped to 12.
While driving through Nebraska the radio station we were listening to was reporting a winter storm watch for tomorrow. You now, winter like conditions, strong winds, freezing rain, blowing snow. We weren’t sure of the area this was supposed to be affecting but as we drove the radio station signal got so weak we had to change stations. Good, maybe we are out of the storm area, we thought. Nope. As we entered South Dakota, we heard the same warning for tomorrow.
I guess we will wake up tomorrow and see if we are hitting the highway or staying put at this rest stop in Vermillion, South Dakota.
It’s time for bed. I wonder if tonight I’ll finish the book I started 2 days ago?
Day 4, April 12
Let me tell you, I did finish my book last night. The bad guy got his just rewards but at the end the heroine was implicated in something bad. Just enough to get you hooked on the next book in the series. Which I am reading right now and may finish tonight.
You see we are stuck in the rest stop in Vermillion. Around 5:30 this morning it started to blow and rain. The rain quickly turned to snow and started collecting on the ground. We checked the conditions around 9:00, the ground was white with snow, the wind was blowing fiercely from the north and visibility was greatly reduced. We are here for the day, trying to stay warm.
I went out to start the truck and put a little charge back into the RV and phone batteries, it was -3 degrees. I talked to a trucker that had driven in from the south, he said the roads were getting worse as headed north, oh joy. He thought it would only last the day and that Monday would be better. The worker at the rest station wasn’t sure of the weather forecast so he called his son in Sioux Falls. It seems this disturbance is only hitting South Dakota, North Dakota is fine, and with the weather model he was looking at, this should pass through tonight.
As the day progressed the snow stopped and the wind subsided. The road here in the parking lot is all slushy from the truck traffic. I am sure if things don’t change the highway crews will be out tonight and Interstate 29 will be fine in the morning, ready for us to continue our journey.
Now, back to my book.
Day 5, April 13, Easter Monday
What a day. We hit the road about 8 o’clock with a beautiful sunny day ahead of us. The highway crews did a phenomenal job clearing the highway. It was perfectly dry, for an hour or two. While driving north we soon ran into “snow showers” as they called it on the radio. Snow showers my eye. There were times we were in white out conditions but travel 2 or 3 minutes and you were back in the sunshine. This went on most of the day.
To makes things more exciting, there was a detour on Interstate 29. This took us into unfamiliar territory. It’s a good thing we had just fuelled up as there were no diesel pumps along this route. As we travelled west and then north, parallel to the interstate, not knowing when we would be back to it, we thought we would be past our normal rest spot when we returned. To our surprise we weren’t, just a few miles north and we would be at our familiar rest spot on I-29 for the night. To our surprise, 1/2 the rest stop parking lot was underwater. We suspected that this was the same water that had probably closed I-29. Now what to do? The day was marching on and we needed to stop soon.
We could either stop for fuel in Pembina, just south of the Canada/USA border and try and stay the night. We could cross into Canada and get fuel in St Agatha Manitoba and see if they would let us park in their lot for the night or we could just drive until we hit Brandon Manitoba. We know of a large fuel station there we could probably stay for the night. Oh the choices.
We ended up staying in Pembina at the TrackGas filling station/truck stop. Tomorrow we will cross back into Canada and progress as far as we can. We normally stop at the Manitoba/Saskatchewan tourist booth but we will probably get there too early in the day and will continue on into Saskatchewan.
And yes I did finish book 2 in the Mason Black series. The bad guy from book one had a sister. She got what was coming to her and the detective (Mason Black) redeemed himself. Spoiler alert, there was another hook at the end of this book to try and compel you to pick up the third book in the series. It did hook me and I am starting to read it tonight.
Day 6, April 14
Well I have to say what a night. We were parked between 2 semi trailers in the TrackGas parking lot. The wind was howling down between us. There was no escaping it. With the furnace running non stop we could only reach 14 degrees which is a little chilly. Before we went to bed I opened up our last propane tank hoping it would last the night and wondered what we would do with one more night on the road with no propane.
We awoke in the morning about 5:00 just shivering wondering what the heck. We quickly considered the situation and finally jumped out of bed around 6:00 and quickly put on as many clothes as we could find, just to try and get warm. It looked like we had run out of propane. Needless to say we sat in the truck while it warmed us up. Before we pulled down the road, I went and checked the stove. Propane. Now why did the stove light but not the furnace? A problem for another day.
A few minutes into our trip and we were talking to the less than pleasant CBSC Officer. She read us the riot act regarding self quarantine and that she should be the last person we talk to for the next 14 days. She explained the possible fines if we broke the law and even gave us a reminder sheet to study. She did however wish us a safe trip.
We continued onto ring road around Winnipeg and fuelled up at Petro Canada in Brandon. Luckily I could pay at the pump because according to the CBSC Officer, I wasn’t suppose to talk to anyone. We stopped for the night at the Flying J in Balgonie, we filled up and parked and guess what, the furnace is now working. Must be gremlins. Tomorrow we should be home by lunchtime to start day 2 of our self isolation.
Day 7, April 15
The furnace kept us warm all night and in the morning we saw clear sunny skies. It was going to be a great day.
We backed into our driveway around lunchtime, happy to be home. We have always said it takes us 6 1/2 day to take this trip but here we were only 5 1/2 days in. Why a day shorter this time. Well I have to say that this was quite an enjoyable drive, well, as enjoyable as any 3500 km road trip can be. I think the enjoyment, or should I say the reduced stress, is a direct result of there being fewer vehicles on the road. Certainly the semi trucks were out keeping the county running but there were noticeably fewer passenger vehicles. If you weren’t driving in or near a major city, the roads were almost abandoned. Certainly there were more passenger vehicles as you drove into and through cities but certainly not the volume we had experienced in previous years. This made it much less stressful as you negotiated the interchanges and construction detours. One other interesting thing we noticed was the lack of vehicles in the commercial areas adjacent to the Interstate. Whole parking lots around restaurants, big box stores and casinos were empty. Almost like a ghost town, very interesting.
Well we are glad to be back home, waiting for the colours of spring to pop and getting back to my book. If you are interested, check out “Hush”, “Lady Luck”, or “Ruin” by Adam Nichols.
That’s the end of this winter’s adventure and our trip to self isolation. I wonder what the next fourteen days will bring. Stay tuned to find out.