Sunday, April 9, 2023

Heading East


Well....  after 18 days at the shack, we loaded up and are now on our way east headed for our rendevous with the Queen Mary2 scheduled for April 30.

Arriving back in Tucson, we had that short window to complete a number of pre-trip chores, get packed, and back on the road.

First on the list was a Doodle wash and wax.
Both of the dogs were in dire need of some TLC.

A Woolly Bear Lucy needing a bath and haircut

And Gracie after a bath and cut - sporting her Cunard Coat

While out for our winter travels, you might remember that one of the retraction springs on my hydraulic leveling Jacks had broken and I jury rigged it with bungee cords.

Now that the correct springs were back in stock, I had a set of 4. (2 each per front jack) delivered and decided to get that job off of the to-do list.

First thing however was I needed to make some ramps to drive the front of the bus up on so as to raise it up a bit and give me some safe working space,   I could do the job without them, but if something was to happen, like a sudden loss of air pressure, the airbags on the bus could deflate and the weight of the bus would settle down onto me.   Not a happy thought.   Safety first.

I picked up some 2x12 planks at Lowes in Yuma and cut them down in various lengths to make ramps that would raise the front of the bus about 6 3/4" - just enough to give me the needed safety margin.

Ramps to raise the bus

Those now done - it was time to tackle the springs.   These are very strong springs and you cannot pull them by hand.   So I stretched them using cargo straps.   One attached to the truck trailer hitch, and the other to the bus trailer hitch.   I had Kate slowly pull forward while the spring was stretched out longer.

New spring needing to be stretched longer so it can be put in place

Then I placed about a dozen wooden shims in the spaces between the stretched coils.
This allowed me to then back up the pickup and release the tension on the springs while leaving the spring still stretched about 3" or so longer.   Just enough to allow we to hook them up to the attachment points under the bus.

Springs stretched between bus and truck with shims put in place

Here I am working under the bus with the front tires up on the ramps.

And here is a set of springs installed on the driver side jack.
I can now start the jack system and lower the jack which will stretch out the spring and all the wooden shims will fall out.    Then when the jacks retract - they will go all the way up but still be under about 3" of spring tension.

Jack all the way retracted but with shims still in place

That job went pretty smoothly and in about 90 minutes I had installed all 4 front springs.

While at the shack, I also installed a new 43" TV in the bus.    I had installed one about a year ago and decided at that time to go the budget route....  Bad Move!    

We have never been real pleased with that TV so finally I bit the bullet and got a Samsung QLED TV like we have in the house.   Just smaller.    The difference is night and day.

It took a bit of modifications to get it to mount correctly, but it only took a few hours and we are both very pleased with the new system.

Soon, all of our tasks complete,  it was time to hit the road.    We packed our suitcases for the trip and I loaded them into the truck.

Locked & Loaded

Hooked up and ready to go.

We left Weds morning April 5.   First stop was in Las Cruces, NM about 4.5 hrs east.   I never did get a photo there, but we stayed at the Hacienda RV Resort.  It's sort of our go-to first night stop for eastbound routes.

Our second night - Thursday - was at the Valley of Fires BLM campground in Carrizozo, NM.
It is only about 2.5 hrs from Las Cruces, but I've been wanting to take Kate here so we made a late departure from Las Cruces.

Valley of fires is a campground on a ridge that over looks a lava flow from an eruption that took place about 6,000 years ago.   The lava flow is over 20 miles long.

Our stay here was marred by some very strong winds (30 mph with gusts in the 40's)

Being very exposed it was a cool night with some rocking and rolling.

Site 17 at Valley of Fires

Our campsite was up high and fully exposed to the northeast winds.

We enjoyed a nice New Mexico Sunset from our perch on the ridge.

We only stayed one night and then continued Friday morning, heading Northeast on US 54, hooking up with I40 east in Santa Rosa and eventually settled into the Oasis RV Park in Amarillo for the night.   It was an easy 4.5hr day.

Again - I had no pictures of Oasis, but its a decent place.  Nothing special.  It used to be a really nice park.   We've stayed here a bunch over the years and I see it going downhill steadily as it seems the ownership does not invest any of the $$'s back into the upkeep of the property.   I will start looking for an alternative for our stays in Amarillo.

Now Saturday is the big change day...   

It is where we go from the brown wind swept, wide open endless skies of the West,  to the green, tree-filled world of the east.   

For those of you who live in the east - this might not make sense, but when you spend your time in the west you know its a really different world.   The change from the wide open skies of the west to east is quite dramatic and always a treat.   The transition between the two worlds on I-40 seems to be the most dramatic of the east/west routes.

Our next stop was about 8.5 hrs east.    A favorite of ours - its an Army Corps of Engineers campground on the Arkansas River called Aux Arc Park.

We've stayed here about a half dozen times or more on our back and forths.   It was here last year that I blew out my newly repaired knee and had to cancel our plans.   Our hope is that we make it out of here on Tuesday.   We are staying 3 nights and as I write its Easter Sunday - our second night.

Site F13 in Aux Arc

We love the Army Corps Parks.  They are always on water, and usually have electric and water hookups.  With our geezer pass we get to stay for about $10/night.

Its a green world indeed

So within the space of about 2 hours, we quickly left the west behind and once again immersed ourselves in the green world of the east.   It will be in this green world where we will now spend the next 7 months till we eventually work our way back west in November.

So, here is our trip map so far.     After here we head to western Tennessee for 2 nights, then to eastern Tenn near Gatlinburg for 2 more, and slowly we will work our way to upstate NY where, in 12 days we will arrive at a state park, and make our final preparations to board the QM2 and begin the main event.

Stay tuned!


  1. While camping across country back in '86 Tim B. and I threw the tent down in both Aux Arc Park and the Valley of Fires campground. We also found that the Army Corp o' E's were a good choice. How time flies!! Great post. Glad you were able to get some new springs in your step.:)

  2. Hey Charlie, Great to hear from you. Looks like I'm walking in the footsteps of two great guys! Stay well my friend.

  3. What a great post! Brought back some wonderful memories of our times spent at Valley of Fire. I’m not certain but looks like we may stayed on that very site. It’s written down in our travel books but I can’t go looking right now. I had my torn meniscus repair this morning and it was way more intense that I imagined so it’s been quite a painful day but moving forward and doing everything I need to for full healing.

    I know exactly what you mean by the “changing world” between East and west. The topography makes it seem like a whole different planet.

    Greg, you are an amazing genius my friend. You always find solutions to every problem that jumps up in your way. I like reading how you approach things. I can see a gerbil running on his little wheel inside your brain thinking up solutions.

    Big hugs to you, Kate and the girls!

    1. Safe travels and enjoy your cruise. Stop by on your way home in November.

  4. As soon as I hit publish I saw I had not added my name so it says anonymous. ARGH!!! But it’s me… Linda Hatcher!

  5. Thanks for letting me know, but I had a feeling it was you Linda.

    Not many people that I know have made it to the Valley in Fires as it’s sort of out-of-the-way and I know you guys really “Did“ New Mexico, pretty thoroughly.


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