John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

Family Bon Voyage February 24

Big Blue Leaves Home Februaury 26

Big Blue Sits in California Weather February 27

The Blue Coyote March 1

Our departure on Monday, February 26th meant packing Big Blue (our Honda Odyssey) in the pouring rain. Knowing that we were heading for warm sunshine made it much easier. Crossing the border 20 minutes later, we were delighted to be able to use our new NEXUS passes for the very first time, avoiding the 20-minute line-up.

By the time we hit Bellingham the rain was gone. We cranked up our new tunes from Kevin and Sheila and locked in the cruise control. A mere 8 hours later, we pulled into the south Oregon town of Roseburg and a nice motel we had stayed in 2 years ago. It is super clean and has a great workout room for Brenda's morning run. On the road for the easy 100 mile ride (so we thought) into northern California.

Just south of Medford, we encountered a flashing sign urging us to tune our radio to a highway-warning channel. A recorded voice informed us that past Ashland just ahead, chains were mandatory due to snow....just terrific! We got to the last exit before the chain-up point, where we thought we may have to turn back and consider our options (go out to the coast and lose 5 hours?). Lo and behold, an enterprising gas station had a sign out advertising chains for sale.

30 minutes later, we were under way at a blistering 30 km/hour thumping along on the wet bare pavement. We passed an estimated 500 semi-trailers and motor homes pulled over and chaining up on the shoulder. After about 4 miles, we were forced onto the shoulder ourselves, as most traffic was passing us, either exceeding the safe speed of their chains or having no chains at all. The snow indeed began flying and visibility decreased substantially as we crested the summit. The problem was, the pavement was still bare and now everyone was roaring by us. Retuning to the warning station, we found that (probably minutes after our chains were on) the %#$)*& mandatory rule had been lifted! I was able to pull over to remove the chains on the slushy shoulder where both Big Blue and I were doused with muddy spray from the passing semis.

As we got up to highway cruising speed and turned up the ipod tunes, we were back on track. Just past Mt. Shasta, God got us again! We got stuck for an hour in a long line of traffic for who knows what delay ahead. Time to reflect on my Dad's old maxim, "Never pass up a chance to have a pee!". Finally under way, we found a service station about a half hour later and, mercifully, there was no line-up for the restrooms. We drove on to the northern California town of Willows and checked in for the night. Our nice little trip into California had taken us about 3 to 4 hours longer than it should have, but what the hell, we've got nothing but time. We called Mom, as this was her 81st birthday.

The next morning, we got underway for the next leg of our journey with cool but clear weather. This section of I-5 is mostly 70 MPH so we were able to really haul ass. At Bakersfield we got off the I-5 on to Highway 58 to climb into the high Mojave Dessert. Once again, the temperature plunged and recent snow was on the side of the road. This route however keeps us away from the LA freeways and their rush hour.

We arrived in Barstow, California in no time at all and checked into the Day's Inn. Our first impression of Barstow (since confirmed by others) is that Barstow is somewhat of a pit and the Day's Inn certainly added to that feeling. Our tried and true method of using the Motel Coupon books for cheap and cheerful accommodation certainly has its hits and misses...C'est la vie! We decided to walk to dinner and boy was it cold and windy. Dinner was great and the restaurant was nice and warm but they wouldn't let us stay the night so it was back into the cold and the reality of the Day's Inn for the night.

We took a walk in the cold but bright sunny morning along historic Route 66 which looked a lot like King George Highway through Whalley. We got back on the road (I-15 the major route from LA to Las Vegas) toward San Bernardino (making it 2 towns on the Route 66 list) and on to Palm Springs. We always delight in watching the thermometer rise as we drive along Highway 111 into town.

It is our tradition to meet our PS roommates, Kurt and Heather, at the Blue Coyote Mexican Grill on Palm Canyon Drive and we connected like clockwork. Customary Margaritas were had all around in spite of the fact Heather was still suffering from a flu bug that had followed her all the way down...what a trooper! Along with her flu, Kurt and Heather had struggled with the weather just like us, including on the the Coast route. After a delicious lunch we moved on to check into our condo and get settled for the next month.

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