January 11, 2015

Arriving in California

We left Benson, AZ and traveled west through Tucson, which always impresses us as a clean, well-laid-out city.
We continued on I-10 to Casa Grande, and branched onto I-8, which goes west and reaches the coast at San Diego. We made an overnight stop at Holt's Shell in Gila Bend. Holt's Shell is a well-known service center in the desert, with a spacious, full-hookup campground attached, only $12.99 per night.
Next day, we continued west on I-8 and crossed the state line into California at Yuma. We were waved through the mandatory agricultural inspection station at the state line. We stopped overnight outside El Centro, which is a farming community at the south end of the Imperial Valley, and only 20 miles from the Mexican border. We stayed at a large, older RV park called Rio Bend RV Resort.

Peaceful evening near El Centro
We decided that the site we were assigned was just too tight for our rig, and requested a different site that was much more spacious.We arose early the following morning, and made an early start. This was Sunday, and I wanted to avoid the weekend tourist traffic in the mountains. On a winding two-lane road, our rig tends to be a rolling road block, and I wanted to do this part of the journey in the early morning when few cars were on the road.
Our route took us north from I-8 onto SR79, which goes through the mountains past Julian, Santa Ysabel and Warner Springs, to our destination at Aguanga (pronounced A-Wong-a).

This route avoids the San Diego metro area, and the busy I-15 corridor from San Diego north to Temecula. It also saves 80 miles of distance. The downside is that the highway winds through the mountains, and has a maximum recommended kingpin-to-rear axle distance of 30 feet. We are just below this maximum.

The drive was very scenic, but required constant vigilance to avoid damage to the side of the rig. Some of the right-hand bends were tight enough that it necessitated swinging as wide as possible near the center of the roadway, to avoid the rocks on the right side, which in some places were at the edge of the pavement.

Accurate control of speed is essential going into the bends. It is too late to brake when the rig is already in the corner. The truck's exhaust brake really saved the service brakes on this part of the journey, keeping the speed in check. A tap of the brake pedal triggers a downshift of the Allison transmission, and the rig decelerates using engine braking alone. This type of driving places big demands on the truck, and I felt very confident in the ability of the truck to keep the 25,000 lbs in control.

I would do this drive again, but it would have to be in the early morning when traffic is light. At least on this road, one is the master of one's own fate, unlike in the busy city traffic where one has to contend with texting drivers passing at 80 mph. There is always the possibility of one of those inattentive drivers running into the side of the rig, which would be inconvenient, to say the least.

We arrived at Rancho California RV Resort on January 4, and we are here until April 3. We will then begin our return trip across the country, and we will be stopping for a week in the Florida Panhandle on the way back. For the next three months, we will relax, and partake of the sunny climate of SoCal.

Our westbound trip this time was the most enjoyable since we began fulltiming 4 years ago. It epitomized all the reasons we chose this lifestyle, and the entire journey was fun and stress-free, with a smattering of adventure to keep it interesting. We felt a twinge of regret that it was over.



















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