Some of you have been following along via social media during my drive from Virginia Beach to Southern California.
For those of you who haven’t and would like to read a good soap opera: Find Part One — which covered Friday, Saturday and Sunday — here.
When we ended that installment, Sharon and I were holed up in a Hampton Inn in Abilene, Texas, with a giant windstorm bearing down on the area…
MILE 1,603, Abilene, Texas
6:33 a.m. CST
We got up as early as we could, ate breakfast, loaded up the rig and hit the road. The idea: Get as far as we could west, knowing that we were headed directly into the southern tip of the same storm that was dumping a lot of snow and tropical storm-force gusts in north Texas and Oklahoma.
MILE 1,611: Abilene, Texas
6:52 a.m. CST
…and stop calling me Shirley.
MILE 1,655: Sweetwater, Texas
7:45 a.m. CST
The day started out nice and sunny. And breezy. Clearly, this large wind farm not far west of Abilene didn’t mind the huffing and puffing.
MILE 1,718: Big Spring, Texas
8:47 a.m. CST
But we didn’t get very far before the storm caught up to us. The wind was incredibly strong and incredibly cold, making it increasingly difficult for Sharon to keep our big Penske truck and trailer on the road.
Eventually, our luck ran out. A strong bit of the storm lay directly in front of us.
We saw quite a bit of snow, but with winds gusting to 45 and 50 mph, there was no chance of anything accumulating on the roads. Just keeping the truck on the road was the problem.
MILE 1,736: Lamesa, Texas
9:43 a.m. CST
Dust was everywhere. At times, visibility was affected. Eventually, it all became too much for my wife. By the time we reached Odessa, she called for a time out.
MILE 1,776: Odessa, Texas
10:20 a.m. CST
So we parked our rig, sat down in a McDonald’s at a Love’s truck plaza and bought a couple of hours of wifi time.
For what it’s worth, Odessa is where the original documentary movie Friday Nights Lights was based. The TV series by the same name was about a fictional town with a fictional name. But that was basically a sequel to the movie, filmed here.
After an hour or so, we were both itching to get back on the road. I dug up some wind speed forecasts and plotted them for towns along our path on I-20 to give us an idea when we might expect to drive out from under it all.
It didn’t look good. When I plotted it out, it became clear that a) we were in the thick of it, and b) Winds wouldn’t drop down below 30 mph until late afternoon. Winds wouldn’t drop below 20 mph until well after sunset.
Rested a bit and with lunch in her, Sharon decided she was ready to give it another shot.
MILE 1,800: Just west of Odessa
Just after noon CST
Keeping the truck straight in all the wind was about all Sharon could handle. The winds subsided as we traveled westward. But soon, she was ready for another rest.
MILE 1,850: Pecos, Texas
1:15 p.m. CST
So at a gas station in Pecos, Texas, we cleaned the crap off the truck as best we could and we switched drivers. For the first time since we left Virginia Beach, I took a turn behind the wheel.
Several folks asked me why I was making Sharon drive nearly the whole way to California. The simple answer: I can navigate, find hotel rooms and tweet our entire journey via my iPhone. But Sharon can’t read a printed page or a computer screen in a moving car: It makes her carsick. Which means she gets terribly bored as a passenger.
Therefore, she drives and I’m the navigator and social media publicity manager. We made a great team this week.
MILE 1,894: Junction of I-20 and I-10
2 p.m. CST
We had been following I-20 since Fort Worth. In Early afternoon, I-20 ended and we merged onto I-10, which would take us the rest of the way into Southern California.
MILE 1,940: Van Horn, Texas
3 p.m. CST
We made a quick refueling break in tiny Van Horn, Texas. My mother spent a couple of years here as postmaster.
I was awfully tempted to stop and buy a book of Forever stamps. But we pressed on.
MILE 2,000: A half-hour short of El Paso
4 p.m. CST
In late afternoon, we hit another major milestone: The 2,000th mile of our trip.
As we posted these pictures via Twitter and Facebook, a few of my friends back in the South remarked about how similar they looked. Yes, indeed. Once you pass Fort Worth, the terrain can look awfully similar — along our route, at least — until the very end of our trip. Lots of desert, lots of sky, lots of scrubby bushes and lots of mountains in the distance.
MILE 2,055: El Paso, Texas
5 p.m. CST
After 200 miles behind the wheel, I pulled over for dinner in El Paso. Sharon chose a nice parking space for our rig. You can’t see that sign to the left, above, but that’s a “gentlemen’s club.”
Our dinner choice was Texas’ famous Whataburger chain.
I’ve had Whataburger before and I love them. But I wanted Sharon to try one.
Despite the look on her face there, she says she liked it quite a bit.
At dinner, we talked about where we wanted to spend the night. If we wanted to get to Southern California before too late Tuesday, we really needed to put a few more miles behind us. So we decided to press on into the night and aim for Tucson. I made online reservations at a Days Inn in downtown Tucson and we resumed our journey into the night.
MILE 2,184: Rest stop near Deming, N.M.
8:15 p.m. MST
Let me tell you, my friends, New Mexico is very empty and very lonely at night.
As soon as we crossed the state line, we noticed the strong smell of cow patties. Not the greatest of impressions on my wife.
In fact, we crossed the entire state in the dark. Which is a shame, because I’ve been to New Mexico. I know how beautiful it can be.
MILE 2,220: Lordsburg, N.M.
8:55 p.m. MST
This was our last refueling stop of the night. Sharon had misplaced one of her shoes in the cab of the truck and was standing on one foot here.
MILE 2,378: Tucson
11:15 p.m. MST
We arrived at our hotel very late and very tired, only to find we had moved into a complete dump of a place. The room smelled bad and was in dire need of maintenance.
We just shrugged, climbed into bed and fell asleep. What else could we do?
We were so exhausted that I decided to let us sleep in a little later yesterday. It was nearly 9:45 a.m. before were packed and ready to go.
But not before Sharon gave one final salute to the folks at Day’s Inn.
We didn’t bother to get up at the crack of dawn because the crack was already supplied by the hotel… in the form of the giant ass on this inflatable promotion.
Apparently, gemstones are big in these parts. Big enough to attract the attention of 15-foot-tall, four-armed women.
We loaded up the rig…
…and went next door to Carl’s Jr., a restaurant chain that is a corporate sister of the Hardee’s we have in the South. We had been told that Carl’s Jr. didn’t serve Hardee’s style breakfast biscuits, but, in fact, they’ve started.
As we enjoyed our biscuits at 9 a.m., we realized the day was in danger of getting away from us. But we also knew we had only 500 miles — and some change — to go. The idea was to get to our hotel — in Yorba Linda, Calif. — before sundown. That should be doable, especially we expected no mechanical failures and no freak windstorms to slow us down.
We took a moment to shoot portraits of each other.
Because that’s what you do in a Carl’s Jr., right? Shoot pictures of each other?
It was close to 8:30 a.m. Mountain Time before we were on our way.
MILE 2,400: Just west of Tucson
9:50 a.m. MST
The area of Tucson along I-10 west of town is nothing to brag about. I’m sure Tucson is nice. But you’d have to venture away from the interstate in order to prove it.
And then, once you get out of town, you go back to seeing the same type of stuff you saw in West Texas: Sand. Shrubs. Not much else.
MILE 2,414: Pichaco Peak, Ariz.
10 a.m. MST
This, in fact, was one of the most memorable sights along the road from Tucson to Phoenix.
MILE 2,489: Phoenix, Ariz.
11:20 a.m. MST
Phoenix itself was massive. Much larger than I had expected.
We had 345 miles to go.
MILE 2,500: Glendale, Ariz.
11:30 a.m. MST
Back home in Virginia, exterminators advertise their services using pictures of roaches, ants and mice. In Arizona, they advertise with huge drawings of scorpions.
MILE 2,618: Quartzsite, Ariz.
1:30 p.m. MST
By lunchtime, we were truly in the middle of nowhere, Arizona. Rest stops and refueling joints became further and further between. And my trusty 3G service began crapping out.
So when we came to a town called Quartzsite, Ariz., we decided we’d better eat while we could. We had Subway.
However, I was struck by the town itself, which — except for a couple of truck stops and restaurants — seemed made entirely of campers, trailers and RVs.
Sure enough, it turns out that Quartzsite is where thousands of gem traders and dealers gather in the months of January and February to sell and trade their wares.
So what looked like a “tent city” essentially was a “tent city.” Go figure.
Shortly after, we finally made it to the…
MILE 2,636: California state line
2:30 p.m. MST
There was a lengthy line for trucks to be inspected. The little guy asked us of we had any fruit, pets or houseplants aboard. No, no and no. So he sent us on our way.
We had just under 200 miles to go.
MILE 2,707: Joshua Tree National Park
2:32 p.m. PST
Again, we drove for hours with the scenery constantly changing. But never really becoming different. We were surrounded by desert and mountains in the distance. In the case of the photo above, however, those mountains are part of the Joshua Tree National Monument.
A nearby fueling stop included an additional attraction: A museum devoted to Gen. George S. Patton, who was originally from near here.
Wow. I’m going to have to go back over there one day and check that out.
MILE 2,729: Coachella, Calif.
3:20 p.m. PST
After staring at a gorgeous — but nearly unchanging — scene for about a day-and-a-half, we finally were treated to a change of pace when we followed I-10 over a ridge and came face-to-face with a smoky row of mountains. Southern California features several rows of mountains and I’m looking forward to learning the names of these mountains.
The little town just before that mountain, however, is Coachella. Just past that is Indio, Palm Desert and then Palm Springs.
We were now down to less than 100 miles left.
MILE 2,750: Palm Springs, Calif.
3:44 p.m. PST
“Is that snow on top of that mountain?,” Sharon asked me. “Or is that a trick of the light?”
That’s snow. And at the foot of that mountain is Palm Springs.
What I didn’t know about Palm Springs is that it’s home to an enormous array of windmills.
This wind farm put to shame the one I had photographed the day before in Texas.
There are more than 3,000 of them, I’m told. An amazing sight.
But this was to be the first of many amazing sights. In a very brief amount of time.
MILE 2,790: Moreno Hills, Calif.
4:17 p.m. PST
As we drove over the next ridge, I noticed the scenery was completely different from what we had been subjected to over the past several hours. These hills were rounded and covered in grass. And they went on and on.
And they were beautiful. Because we were heading into the afternoon sun, I had a very poor angle with which to shoot. So these iPhone pictures really don’t do the hills justice.
These were quite unlike anything I had seen in England or South Africa.
MILE 2,809: Riverside, Calif.
4:39 p.m. PST
On the other side of the hills lay Riverside. I’m a little familiar with Riverside — it’s one of the cities in which I’ve been online shopping for apartments.
It, too, looked very nice. At least from the freeway.
However, Sharon found it hard to drive directly into the setting sun. So she borrowed my hat.
We were now less than 25 miles from our hotel.
MILE 2,803: Corona, Calif.
5 p.m. PST
West of Riverside is Corona, Calif. And I’ve named it as one of my target areas. You can see the heavy traffic crawling away from the metro area. Naturally, we were headed into town. We ran into backups only once or twice.
Presently, we circled this large mountain…
and emerged on the other side just in time for our exit. Because we had reached the end of our journey.
MILE 2,835: Yorba Linda, Calif.
The Extended Stay America hotel in Yorba Linda.
Sharon was nearly giddy that her ordeal was over.
Our room is huge, with a king-sized bed…
…as well as a small kitchen area.
Once we unloaded our suitcases, the next task was to unload the Deerslayer from the trailer on which it had traveled across the continent.
My PT Cruiser nailed the dismount.
So we cleaned up and went out for a fast dinner. Much to my amusement, I got the perfect fortune.
A day like Tuesday just couldn’t end any better, could it?
The plan for the rest of this week: We’re going apartment hunting. With luck, we’ll find me something suitable and get me moved in.
I start work at the Orange County Register on Monday. Sharon flies back to Virginia Beach on Tuesday.