BC to Arizona – Every trip is different

By | 27 November 2015

This is our fourth trip from BC to Arizona in three years. Weather is always a big factor because we leave in mid-November (and once in early-January). For November, we always plan to leave on the 11th. The first time we left on the 8th, the second time on the 10th, and this time on the 11th.  The one time we went south in January we had planned to leave late in the month but left on the 5th. Every time, the decision has been based on weather.

Every Trip from BC to Arizona is Different

The first time, we were learning. The second time, we were modifying our route based upon our learning. The third time, we were refining our route. This fourth time, we were just tweaking. But, every trip is different and what made this most recent run challenging was the need for repairs to our truck while en route. And once that was done, the weather regained the priority position. And always in the background is my on-going debate with TomTom.

Day One – Oliver to Pendleton

We stayed in the trailer the night before leaving in order to be ready to leave early. A quick stop for breakfast, a fast border crossing – no lineup – and a short stop for groceries in Oroville made promise to arrive in Pendleton in daylight. That didn’t happen.

You’ve read about my on-going tete-a-tete with TomTom – any other GPS would probably be the same – and this day was no different. We hit the GPS black hole at the Tri-cities. I had a plan but she defeated me and we ended up on US 12 headed for US 730. She had done this before so I had a plan B.

The last time she did this, we took – as she suggested – OR 37 into Pendleton and vowed ‘never again’. My plan B was to stay on US 730 until we came to US 395. When she suggested OR 207 I demurred – fool me once … fool me twice – even though I now know that I should have given her the benefit of my doubt.

In any case, we pulled into the casino parking lot at the south end of Pendleton after dark and joined the crowd.

Just before we got to Pendleton, I could hear this whine – it reminded me of a turbine engine on a helicopter but not that loud.

Day Two – Pendleton to Jackpot

We were on the road early from Pendleton and Cabbage Hill was both deserted and dry. We were in the window a few days after and a few days before snow in the Blue Mountains. Life was good. We made the Boise Stage Stop for noon and the meatloaf – and the coconut cream pie for Mrs B – was as good as ever.

On our first trip, we followed Ms TomTom along I-84 to and through Twin Falls. Then we discovered the back road through Buhl leaving I-84 at Wendell and regaining the route to US 93 from US 30. This time we left I-84 just east of Bliss and took the scenic US 30 all the way to US 93. Well worth it. Beautiful. Restful.

We pulled into Jackpot in daylight and stayed in the park behind Cactus Pete’s – like we always do. There were more RV’s than usual – probably they were in the same weather window that we were – but not nearly as many Canadians – probably the dollar.

The whine was worse today so I sent an e-mail to my trusted mechanic back home, described the noise – turbine-like whine, no difference climbing, cruising, or descending, only dependent on road speed – and said, please call if I need to take care of this urgently. He called – yes, important and urgent, may be a wheel bearing, take the truck out alone and zig-zag to see if the sound changes – I heeded, I did, it didn’t. So, I got on the web looking for a local Chev dealer – there’s one in Elko, 100 miles south, some distance off our route. I went to the AC Delco site and found Blue Lakes in Twin Falls – 100 miles round trip. Made an on-line appointment for the next morning (Friday the 13th) but was too late in the day to get a confirmation. I informed Mrs B of my plan – she was OK with staying in the trailer in Jackpot while I went to Twin Falls. Next morning I filled the propane, bought more bottled water, shaved and showered.

Then I called Blue Lakes. No openings. But they recommended Twin Falls Automotive. I called them – they said, come on in. In by mid-morning, out by mid-afternoon. Attentive, thorough, experienced, articulate. Reasonable. Highly recommended. They showed me the damaged bearings in the rear differential and replaced all with new SKF. And because they are a Napa Auto Care Center, I have a 24 month/24,000 mile warranty. I prefer independent automotive repair shops over dealerships – and I was thoroughly pleased with the resolution of this untimely  experience.

Day Four – Jackpot to Alamo

That’s right – day four. Day three was spent in the shop.

Jackpot to Alamo is our longest single-day drive on our BC to Arizona run but it is also the easiest – when there is no snow. Good roads. Good skies. Very little traffic. Lunch in Ely. Arrive in Alamo in daylight.


Day Five – Alamo to Quartzsite

Usually we drive from Alamo to Needles. Usually we begin the day to transit Las Vegas when traffic is lightest. Today was different for three reasons: 1) today was Sunday, 2) very high winds were forecast to begin tonight, 3) I was looking for a way to avoid US 95 from just south of the junction with NV 163 to the bridge in Parker – in other words, avoid California.

In this part of California, they pave the land the way it lies. The road is smooth enough but it is a roller coaster. I had planned to avoid this by taking NV 163 east to Laughlin/Bullhead then the old Needles road. As it turned out, we had a strong tailwind and I stayed on US 95 to I-40 to avoid the crosswind.

But, because of the building wind, we changed our destination for this day from Needles to Quartzsite. At Needles, I went across the Colorado River on I-40 and south to Parker through Lake Havasu. We won’t be doing this again – I’ll take the roller coaster US 95 to Parker and save at least a half-hour. The Havasu route has good roads but too much traffic and too many traffic lights.

We made Quartzsite before dark and settled into a pull-through between Main Street and I-8 aligned roughly NNE-SSW parallel to the wind. I was setting up with dark skies and wind in the west and calm clear conditions to the east. Just as I was finished, the rain began.

Day Six – Quartzsite to Ajo

We had a tailwind out of Quartzsite all the way to the I-8/AZ 85 junction and then a strong crosswind all the way to Ajo. Despite that I was happy to be south and east of the big blow behind us. Overnighting in Quartzsite was the right decision.

And here we are in Ajo … life is good.

BC to Arizona - all set up in Ajo

Lessons Learned

1. Go with the weather. I don’t mind rain. I don’t like snow. I don’t want to fight the wind if I can avoid it. I use Weather Underground.

2. Find and keep a good mechanic who knows you and your vehicle. I listen to my truck but I don’t speak the same language. When I hear it talking to me, I ask my mechanic.

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