Some road ramblings…………😊
After spending the last 2 years on the east coast traveling between my home in Vermont and my seasonal park service work in Maine, I needed a “long road trip” fix and longed to gaze upon the deserts of the southwest once more. So, here we are – traveling west on Interstate 40 heading towards Nashville and ticking off the miles. As Jim says whenever anyone asks where we are headed: “Lynn has chosen to go about as far away from Vermont as you can get to the southwest and still be in the USA!” We both felt a bit rusty as road-trekkers during the first two days, but we are getting into the groove now! I’ve got John Prine loaded in the CD player belting out his poetic country-folk tunes for Jim’s amusement while I write.
It was a rocky road to get to this point in our trip. We had been delayed making our exodus from the frigid, snowy far Northeast for several reasons – some by choice, some by necessity. By choice, we wrestled with how best to “winterize” the house and decided to spend the time to install a hardwired generator plug so that our caretaker (AKA our wonderful, responsible nephew) could easily keep the house above freezing if the power were to go out. As do-it-yourselfers, this process involved countless hours on the phone to both our sons seeking advice on how best to wire it up. Our electrician neighbor also gave us some of his time-worn wisdom. We also exhaustively researched generators – brand, size, volts, wattage and amperage – were all considerations in narrowing down our choices. Decisions had to be made on just what we wanted to power in the event of an outage and then calculations done for wattage and amperage requirements. I learned a bit along the way as did Jim who had to actually do all the work. In the end, we settled on the reliability and quality of a Honda generator. Jim got the whole thing wired and up and running successfully! 😊
By necessity, we had some repairs that needed attention on the truck before we could depart. Again, Jim gave it his best effort to do these repairs himself. Rusted steel fuel lines had contributed to a small leak in the line and Jim attempted the repair himself after seeking professional guidance from two of our local diesel mechanics. He tried to replace the rusted sections with rubber fuel lines. Unfortunately, it did not work and we had to make an appointment with a Chevrolet dealer near us. Turns out it was a good thing that Jim’s fix did not work. While replacing the fuel lines, the dealer’s service department noticed that the brake lines had also degraded over time. As a result, we are embarking on this western adventure with new fuel and brake lines which is certainly reassuring.
Eventually, we deemed that it was time to go – the house was all set, the truck repaired and we had grown weary of the snow/ice/rain weather that has been the norm in the Northeast. Off we traveled to our son’s house in New Hampshire to retrieve the Airstream and head south. Our first stop had to be south-eastern Pennsylvania for a brief visit with Mom. We were thankful to her retirement community for closing off a section of one parking lot so that we could “moochdock” here for two nights. There are no campgrounds open this time of year!
Before leaving Vermont, I had created a spreadsheet detailing our trip with potential mileage each day and possible places to stop over along the way. Our first day out of Pennsylvania and that spreadsheet was obsolete!! We made really good time the first day through Virginia and traveled over 100 miles further than anticipated. I scrambled to find an alternate “free” stopover, and found a Bass Pro Shop in Bristol, TN that was reviewed on Campedium. A reviewer who I’m familiar with had given it positive marks and I trust their judgement. It was the perfect place to pull in and spend the night. With the exception of a tractor trailer who pulled in briefly near us, we were alone and it was quiet.
Most important, there was a choice of a Starbucks or a McDonald’s for early morning coffee on our way out! We opted for McDonald’s because it was easier to get in and out of their parking lot with our rig. While I never frequent this food chain while stationary, their coffee is good and cheap when traveling! 😊
Leaving McDonald’s – a typical travel conversation ensued:
Me, speaking with authority: You should have turned right out of the parking lot.
Jim, answering with authority: That’s not the way we came in
Me, saying pointedly: Not the way we came in from the Pro Shop, but it is the way we came in off the highway last night
Jim, countering with exasperation: (while sitting in the middle lane of the shopping area with cars going on either side of us) Which way do you want me to go?
Me, reiterating: Back through McDonald’s and make a right.
Jim, responding touchily: I don’t think that’s the way we came in.
Me, reconsidering: Yes, it is but – hold on while I check the map – oh, actually we came in that way, but we can’t go out that way. You’re fine to keep going and make a left at the traffic light.
(We are just trying to get out of this mega-shopping center at this point!)
We have fun while traveling by keeping a virtual “tally” as we drive – who’s right/wrong on a given decision. I had to admit to being wrong on this one! It’s one to one right now – as I won the bet regarding payment accepted for a toll in New York – which was cash only as I indicated.
As we drive and stop at various places for fuel or just to take a rest, we always meet people and engage them in conversation. We’ve already had some nice interactions at this early stage of the trip. The early morning staff at McDonald’s was very accommodating and put up with me asking for half decaf/half regular in my own coffee mug. Some McDonald’s will not do this. They also took it in stride when Jim requested that they not put everything into a separate bag. We have become minimalists with regard to packaging, etc and have made it a point to ask for less wherever we travel. 😊
Fuel stops are always interesting. You hope that access is easy and the place is relatively clean. One stop this morning turned sour and I could sense Jim tensing up beside me as we made the approach. We had to make a U-turn on a busy 4-lane highway to get over to the station. In order to do that, we had to go over on the shoulder and stop – then re-merge back into traffic to turn into the station. A pick-up truck went by us and pulled into the station, then stopped and waved to us. Once we pulled into the station, he came running over. I was initially thinking the worst – that he noticed an issue with the trailer as he went by us. Turns out, he noticed our Vermont tags and wanted to talk and assist us with directions if we needed them. He moved to Knoxville from Vermont – in one of the town’s adjacent to ours. He chatted with us for a bit, wished us a good trip and went on his way. So, what started out as a bad choice for a fuel stop immediately turned positive! It only takes one smiling, friendly face!!
More ramblings to come as we head west!
For minute there I thought that spreadsheets would be the new you in travel planning. I’m still hooked but occasionally we forfeit a booking and sometimes can get a refund if we plan ahead. But the security of knowing where we will stop avoids a lot of hassle.
Toni and I will have to try the “Tally” method for “Who’s right” on our next road trip–Is there a prize at the end of a week?
Happy Trails! Glad to see you have some canoeing in your future. I’ll be in Southern AZ from April 14th to 23rd. Any chance of a rendezvous? Then on to SLC for a week.
I’ll be in south-central Colorado in April. My next NPS posting is Great Sand Dunes NP 🙂