Late January 2023
After leaving Joshua Tree National Park, we retraced our route from early December making our way back to Katherine Landing on Lake Mohave just north of Bullhead City, Arizona. We had hoped to find some of the nice weather that attracts so many snowbirds to the area, but instead we found lots of wind, rain, and below normal temperatures as the atmospheric rivers that were pounding California continued to side-swipe the Mojave Desert.
After a week at Katherine Landing, we turned north and moved to Las Vegas Bay Campground on Lake Mead. Lake Mead has become a bit of a home away from home for us. We almost always make a stop here in the fall, on our way south, and in late January/early February, on our way north. We enjoy hiking and biking from camp, exploring off the Northshore Road, and eating at our favorite bbq restaurant in Boulder City.
We’ve spent many January days at Las Vegas Bay where we typically find sunny days with temperatures in the low 60s. This year, we found lots of wind and temperatures about 10 degrees below normal. Every time we went into Boulder City for groceries or a meal out, we overheard the locals saying what a cold year it was. We sat it out for a week hoping that we would see improvements in the long range forecast, but it appeared the late winter months were trending to colder and wetter than normal. Even our friends in Quartzsite (one of the Southwest’s hot spots) were complaining about the cold. We found ourselves spending more time cooped up in the RV and that space began feeling smaller and smaller. Soon, our conversations turned to heading north a few weeks earlier than planned. We had been on the road since mid-September and home life was starting to call to us.
We decided to watch for a good weather window to make our way north. If we found one, we’d boogie home. If not, we’d wait it out at Lake Mead a few more weeks. I started watching the forecast and a few days later found a window that would just meet our travel weather criteria. If we hurried, we could make it over the highest passes without issue and we’d get the RV home and winterized hours ahead of an arctic cold front.
Day one was a short travel day as we spent the morning waiting out the worst of a big wind storm. Gusting winds persisted into the afternoon, but we hit the road and made it a couple hours north to one of our favorite dry camping locations at Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge.
On day two, we lucked out with a beautiful winter travel day. We had sunny conditions, temperatures just above freezing, and dry roads the entire day. We drove five hours before settling in at Sportsman’s Beach Campground on Walker Lake in the same site we had stayed back in September. We even had a couple hours of daylight to go for a nice walk and stretch a bit.
We awoke to a balmy 25 degrees at Walker Lake on day three. This would be a day of timing. We needed to get home by Friday afternoon to beat the Arctic cold front, but we didn’t want to hit Deadman Pass in NE Oregon too soon due to icy conditions there. We made a short day of it and moved just a few hours north to New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca. It would make for a long day on day four, but it would allow for ideal timing and road conditions over Deadman Pass.
Day four was a long day as we made our way from Winnemucca, Nevada to Pendleton, Oregon. We had sunny conditions most of the day and our timing paid off—roads were bare and dry going over Deadman Pass. Just a few hours later, the road over the pass was covered in snow.
It poured rain on us that final night in Pendleton. We awoke to 42 degrees, wind, and rain showers. We waited the worst of the storm out before dumping our tanks for the last time and making the final push for home. That last day on the road always feels a bit surreal after so many months visiting foreign locations—driving on our “home” highways where we know every curve and every small town. Then pulling into our hometown and then our own driveway. And those first few familiar steps into our home. It had been an adventurous 4.5 months on the road, but Indy, Jason, and I were all happy to be home.
The next morning, we were up and frantically working by first light. We had to get the RV unpacked and winterized before the cold front hit. As we began to work, the winds picked up and within a few hours the temperatures had dropped to freezing. The first of the sleet began to fall as we pumped the last of the antifreeze into our water lines. By that night, it was 16 degrees. We had made it home just in time.