Sunday, January 16, 2011

3 Days on the road & gonna settle down tonight

After waiting out the storms and dealing with the electrical problems noted in my last post, we launched early Friday morning with the temperature holding below 10 degrees. The first trick was to get down our snowy driveway. I took it easy, in first gear, but halfway down, the truck and trailer all started sliding with brakes full on and I just got it down and around the corner and could then slow down on the sanded Wood Road. Fortunately, it was very early and no one was coming down the hill in the dark. Once our heart rates slowed, we trundled down through sleepy Montpelier and had an uneventful drive down to Bethel, Killington, and up over Mendon Mountain. Roads were dry, snow flurries were minimal, and traffic was light.

The first day brought us down to Albany and then down I-88 to Binghamton. We then join the rat race south with truckers headed home on Friday and driving like crazy. With gas stops (we paid $3.30 a gallon at a ripoff joint on I-88) every 180-200 miles, my debit card was getting a workout. We made it as far as Chambersburg and stayed at a Walmart in very cold conditions. There was a Hoss’s restaurant on site so we ended up having a good dinner storing up calories for the night ahead.

The Airstream, when operating on battery power, is heated with a propane heater up at one end. It’s not easy to get the sleeping end heated when it’s 15 degrees so it was not the most comfortable night we’ve spent. We tanked up on coffee in the morning and were again on the road before seven.

Saturday is a good day to travel. The truck traffic is reduced as is commuter travel. We were out of Pennsylvania at once and zipped through the ends of Maryland and West Virginia and then spent a lifetime in Virginia. I-81 has some pretty scenery through this stretch and we thought we’d got out of the snow cover -- but after an hour of bare ground, we came back into where last week’s storm had dumped a lot.

Knoxville is a tough city to negotiate, even on a weekend. The merging of interstates, the ever-present trucks, and some event at UT made this trip through town stressful. We decided to stop at the Walmart in Athens, Tennessee, having called ahead for permission.

I had talked to a local cop patrolling the parking lot -- just letting him know we would be there overnight, with permission. We had a nice chat about Vermont and he told me to call them if we noticed any problems. Well, for a bit, I thought we’d have to take him up on it. For an hour or so, several hot cars seemed to be doing laps around the parking lot with loud engines, tire squealing, and lots of sitting, idling, and whatever. The scene quieted about 9:00 and I later figured that the kids were waiting for buddies working in the tire/lube section of Walmart.

Today was a relatively easy Sunday drive -- if you call driving 370 miles hauling a trailer easy. The traffic was ok and we negotiated Chattanooga and Birmingham and then encountered a stretch of concrete highway that was hell. It reminded me of the NY Thruway where decades of truck traffic had trashed the right lane, leaving the left lane relatively smooth. The road was horrible -- I was very concerned about the trailer tires. So, we drove 20-30 miles primarily in the left lane -- watching the mirrors as best we could. Of course, we then hit construction and had a twelve mile stretch with only one lane -- the right one -- and it was painful. The truck and trailer did ok in spite of the thumping.

The rest of the journey, through Tuscaloosa and into Mississippi, was easy. We have stopped at a state park in Clarksdale where for the first time, we can activate the water system and have power. There’s no one here -- just a couple of families -- and it’s a good place to bird and run the dog. We’ll catch our breath for a few days before moving on to Louisiana.

The park in just south of Meridian, Mississippi. I learned to fly jets at NAS Meridian many years ago and we live in Meridian during the height of the civil rights movement. We were sort of insulated from the events but did get a taste of southern attitudes from our neighbors -- so the airfield has good memories for me but the town still leaves a bad taste in our mouths. We may check out the air station while we are here -- just for nostalgia’s sake. And find a wifi hotspot.

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