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.


Lisa said...

OK.....I am on the edge of my seat now. I would like to read about your lounging on a warm tranquil beach now....

I guess it is the mother in me. I want to know that you are both warm and fed and tucked in safely.

I will keep reading!

Motherjude said...

Enjoying your blog so much and my vicarious Airstream adventure with you. Thanks for doing the blog. Traveling mercies and peace be with you.