We woke bright and early as we were planning to drive all the way from Tucumcari to the Big Red Barn RV Park in Carthage Missouri – a 600 mile day. I’ve driven farther in a day, but never in an RV while towing a car, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.
I switched on the news (free cable!) to see if the storm had hammered Oklahoma only to see images of a very windy and flooded Albuquerque. I’m not sure if it was the same storm system, but Albuquerque was hit by 90mph winds and enough rain to flood the downtown we’d driven through a couple days earlier. Fortunately Tucumcari was far enough away that we had no wind and no rain – in fact it was a beautiful day.
We got a reasonably early start and headed toward Amarillo. If you’ve driven through Texas then you know it’s a relatively featureless and boring drive. We got through Amarillo with no problem, and then began looking for gas.
Here’s the thing about Texas – there’s relatively little sprawl around the cities. That means you go from Amarillo to absolutely nothing in a couple miles, so when you see a travel center advertising gas for $3.49/gallon you take it!
I confess I was still spooked by our experience in Barstow and looking for the easiest highway on/off situation I could find, so I missed my chance to get cheap gas in Amarillo and instead headed back out into the texas plains.
A ways up the road I found a relatively easy to access gas station in the tiny town of Alanreed, TX for a painful $3.84/gallon. Ouch. The difference between $3.49 and $3.84 when buying 50 gallons of fuel is almost $18. Lesson learned – stop when you see cheap gas and fill up!
Start: Pilot Travel Center, Jamestown, NM
Finish: Alanreed Travel Center, Alanreed, TX
Elevation Gain/Loss in ft: 6,868 / -10,741
Net Elevation Gain in ft: -3,873
Total Miles: 471
Total Gallons: 49.15
Notes: You can see how a large net loss in elevation (almost 4,000 ft) results in better MPG.
Now Entering Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a slightly more entertaining drive than Texas, but not by much. We took the beltway around Oklahoma City and got on i44 which is unfortunately a toll road. Oklahoma dings you twice on 44, and both times cost us $9.75 as we had 4 axles – 2 on the RV and 2 on the car.
The one thing that caught our attention in Oklahoma was a bad accident that happened in the southbound lanes. We could see the smouldering husk of a big rig and the twisted remains of a pickup truck. We found out later that the accident was caused when the pickup passed the big rig and then cut in front of it trying to exit.
Quick rant – this happens to us ALL THE TIME. For some reason even though people’s exit is a couple hundred yards ahead they feel the need to pass us and then cut across to the exit while braking hard, which forces me to brake hard to avoid hitting them.
If you’ve ever done this, keep these 3 things in mind:
- RVs, Tractor Trailers, Buses, and other large vehicles can’t stop anywhere close to as fast as you can in your car or truck.
- My RV + Car weighs 17,000 pounds. That’s 8.5 tons. Big Class A RVs weigh up to 3 times as much, and Tractor Trailers weigh even more. If you get hit by any of these vehicles there’s a good chance you’ll be severely injured or killed. That’s why many highways have lower speed limits for trucks and autos pulling trailers.
- By pulling this maneuver you’re at most saving yourself 10 seconds and risking everyone’s life in the process. It doesn’t matter how important your emergency is, you’re not gaining enough time for it to be worth the risk.
Next time take a deep breath and stay in the exit lane, and exit calmly. If you feel the need to drive aggressively then schedule some time on a race track. Please don’t risk your life – and mine – so you can save a few seconds.
The last thing I’ll say on the subject is if you’re pulled off on the side of the road and you see a large vehicle coming don’t pull out in front of it. Sounds obvious, but not 20 miles past the accident I had a woman in the breakdown lane pull out in front of me. I was lucky that the passing lane was clear as there was no way I could have stopped in time.
Fuel stop in Chandler, OK
We stopped for gas a second time in Chandler, OK. After the first few hundred miles of driving my legs get increasingly twitchy and I stop more often. It’s a good reason (among many) to keep driving distances on the shorter side. Ideally we’d travel no more than 600 miles a month, but as it was already late in the season we needed to make time to make visiting New England worth the drive.
Start: Alanreed Travel Center, Alanreed, TX
Finish: Phillips 66, Chandler, OK
Elevation Gain/Loss in ft: 3,413 / -5,616
Net Elevation Gain in ft: -2,203
Total Miles: 235
Total Gallons: 25.38
Notes: Our MPG dropped a bit as there was a lot more traffic around OKC, plus more stop and go with the toll booths on i44.
The Big Red Barn RV Park
We reserved 2 nights at the Big Red Barn (BRB) RV Park in Carthage, MO. One of the big challenges while traveling long distances is that we both work – and while Kathy was somewhat successful working while I drove, I was barely treading water between a few rest stops and what I could do in the morning and at night.
BRB is slightly out of the way – it requires a couple mile jog up i49, and then a few back roads to access, but once there we were both glad that we’d chosen it as our destination. Almost all the sites are pull throughs with full hookups including cable tv. The sites are all level, and the park is far enough away from the highway to be quiet – all good things.
As we arrived at BRB late at night we checked in the next morning and were given complimentary coffee and pastries. Anyone that gives me free coffee in the morning is A-OK in my book!
We both needed to stretch our legs and we had a few things we needed to pick up at the store, so after working for most of the day we walked into town. It was quickly clear that no-one had ever attempted such a foolish thing before. Not only was there no sidewalk, but there isn’t even a walkable side of the road. Fortunately there was minimal traffic, so we walked on the road and made it to town without incident.
I checked my google maps for an ice cream shop as I have a weakness for ice cream, and found a listing for Shake’s Frozen Custard right near Walmart. For those who don’t know, frozen custard is similar to ice cream but it’s made with eggs also, which makes it thicker and creamier.
Not only is Shake’s incredibly delicious, but it’s also very reasonably priced. We had 2 (large & medium) of Shake’s Reese’s ‘Concrete’ and paid around $3.50 each. A ‘concrete’ is essentially a DQ Blizzard made with frozen custard, which is to say it’s much thicker and incredibly delicious!
Suffice it to say, we enjoyed our stop at BRB, and if you’re near Joplin, MO and looking for a campground I recommend it.
I’m going to finish blogging about our cross country drive tomorrow. I know these posts are a bit light on entertainment and focused more on driving and RV fuel economy, however as this was our first major cross country drive I felt it was worth sharing my observations as well as our MPG numbers. I hope you find it interesting, and if not then rest assured that future posts will be a bit less road centric.
Until tomorrow, take care and happy trekking!