Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sleeping on the Median Strip

Last night in Carlisle, PA, we stopped at a Flying J truck stop since they have spaces for rvs for overnight camping. Being right next to I-81 and a major on/off ramp, the roar of downshifting diesel trucks was our bedtime lullaby. It felt like we were camping out on the median of I-81. Quite different from the stillness of our Vermont home where a distant dog barking seems an annoyance.

The day started well with a safe descent of our icy driveway and a departure up over Mendon Mountain on dry roads. The trip over to the Northway and down to Albany was easy but I-88 to Binghamton was challenging. First of all, the hills. I’d forgotten that the road, built and named for Warren Anderson, had so many long climbs and descents. Snow showers, rather heavy at times, added to the drama. Soon, we were on I-81 heading south into Pennsylvania. Aside from the many trucks and hitting Harrisburg at rush hour, things went well.

It was cold and windy and the Airstream was icy cold inside. We got the furnace going but have no water because we’re still winterized. We’re running everything off the battery.

Well, we were. We awoke, after a good night’s sleep in spite of truck noise -- we were bushed from the long drive -- and found the trailer cool. I went to crank up the heat and realized that the battery was low, with not enough juice to light the furnace.

This made us decide to get dressed and packed quick-like, get some Flying J coffee to go, and head on out and warm up in the truck. After a quick run with Penny, off we went. It was early and very dark but truck traffic on I-81 was already heavy. I checked my mirrors after a few miles and realized that the trailer lights were not on. We’d been running without them.

I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and with traffic racing by, checked connections with a flashlight. I checked fuses inside and was at a loss. We sat in the truck as tractor-trailers rocked it with the sidewash.

I decided to see if the blinkers worked, and yes they did. So did the brake lights. I thought we’d have to wait an hour there until it got light enough -- and as we drank coffee I realized that the lights had been on when I first started the truck. It hit me -- the running lights must need power from the battery.

So out in the dark and cold behind the truck, with Mary holding the flashlight and me dropping tools with half-frozen hands, we got the spare battery in place and voila! lights!

The day was rather uneventful after that start. It was great to see once again the gaggles of hawks riding thermals -- something I’ve seen a lot in the south. As a sailplane pilot, it is a sight that always make me think of circling in lift, riding the rising air upward.

Another thing that was fun to see was the water tanks in Virginia. Several were painted beautifully -- one had a mural that made it look like a hot air balloon. I used to run a federal program for rural water systems and so I wondered, “ Did we pay for that fancy paint job.”

A small town along the way had two plain water tanks on a hill behind the community -- one marked “hot” and the other “cold.”

The day ended with rush hour in Knoxville heading into a setting sun. Nothing like fighting stop and go traffic after a long day on the road but I must say, Tennessee drivers are generally pretty sane. Even with a trailer in tow, I felt much calmer that I do in Massachusetts traffic. So we are settled at another Flying J and head tomorrow for the Natchez Trace Parkway where we can drive more leisurely, without trucks to deal with, and start settling into a tourist mode.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Recycling on the Road

The truck and airstream are nearly loaded for our SW trip. As I moved recycling materials to be picked up yesterday, I got thinking more about where our paper, cans, bottles will go while traveling. I know Vermont and New York have recycling at their state campgrounds, but beyond that, I don't have a clue. Anyone got any tips on good ways to recycle on the road?

I know that you can use Google Maps to find recycling centers in the area your in - but driving around with a travel trailer looking for a center is just not going to happen.

Here's some information I found on a Utah state website:

While you're on the road, pack drinks, sandwiches, and snacks in reusable thermoses and containers. If you dine at carry-out restaurants, take only the condiments, napkins, and utensils you need. If you are at a visitors' center, take only the brochures you need and recycle the ones you don't keep. And above all, don't litter-carry your trash or recyclables with you until you find an appropriate waste or recycling container.

So hopefully, we won't have an Airstream filled with paper bags of newspapers and cans when we return to Vermont in six weeks. Recycling options is something I'll start checking more closely as we plan our stops.

Got any ideas for us?

photos by recyclethis

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Survival Kit

Carry a winter survival kit in your car/truck to include:
  • sleeping bag or blankets
  • flashlight & extra batteries
  • brightly colored cloth
  • sand or a bag of cat litter
  • shovel
  • candles and matches
  • non perishable high calorie foods, (nuts, raisins, and candy bars)
  • newspapers (for insulation)
  • a first aid kit
  • jumper cables
  • small, sharp knife
  • large plastic garbage bag
  • cell phone adapter to plug into lighter
  • tow cables or chain
  • road flares and reflectors
This kit is simple to make and could save your life -- what else would you add?

adapted from: Ryeder's Weblog photo by crazytale562

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weather Worries

A little over a week to launch and I'm starting to worry about the weather -- even though I know long-range forecasts are notoriously unreliable. It reminds me of many times I've planned VFR cross-country flights, looking for that weather window that allows you to "get out of Dodge." Here's what Accuweather is saying right now:

So, while it's too early to worry, but I'm a Vermonter. Let's worry about getting up over Mendon Mountain hauling an Airstream. It will take a day or two to get out of the ice/snow zone heading south.

Meanwhile, it's time to continue to check off items that we'll need, start packing, and remembering that a day or two delay at this point is not the end of the world. Temperatures today in Corpus Christi were in the 70's so we're psyched to leave our snowy world for a little sun and sand.