Musings from the Road Issue #1

For those not already aware of our penchant for naming our vehicles, the Jayco camping trailer we own is Mocking Jay and the Honda Ridgeline we tow it with is The Hulk.  I decided to write a kind of travelogue during our trip to Eugene, Oregon and back.  Here's the first issue.


We agreed to try leaving for our camping journey west by 0700, with 0800 as a “must leave” time.  We were on the road at 0758 after I struggled to attach Mocking Jay to The Hulk’s hitch. I just wouldn’t drop over the hitch ball.  Finally, I put a dollop of what Carol identifies as Funny Purple Grease on the ball and voila!  


I had The Hulk checked out, oil and filter changed, fluids topped, tires and brakes checked, etc. a few days earlier and intended to pump the tires up to forty pounds from the usual thirty-five before we left to improve mileage.  I didn’t.  I also intended to check and pump Mocking Jay’s — also didn’t.  Our 495 +/- journey over the Appalachians, was accomplished at 10.4 mpg — quite a change from the normal 21-24 The Hulk delivers.  The frequent fuel stops yielded our first adventure on the trip.  


The vehicle monitors the fuel usage constantly, informing me of the mpg and, when the level becomes critically low, warning me about it.  I knew how far we had to go to our first overnight stop, one of the Ohio Turnpike service areas with overnight parking for RV’s, the two mile monitors were very, very close but the fuel level was dropping faster than I had hoped and quickly fell below the required distance to goal.  We were reading two miles remaining when I pulled off at an exit.  I remembered that I had a full 2-gallon gas can in the truck bed so I decided to empty that into our tank.  Couldn’t do it.  The damn can has a release that lets the fuel flow when it’s pressed and the release released the fuel before I got the nozzle past the tank valves.  The result was about a half-gallon of gas divided between the side of the road and the side of the Hulk.  Using my best vulgar vocabulary, I serenaded the gas can as I closed and stored it, then got back behind the wheel and took the right turn off the exit.  (One mile left on the monitor.)  A gas station appeared on the horizon well within that limit so I pulled into it and found an open pump that wouldn’t have our rig blocking any vehicles trying to negotiate the lot.  


For a while before we left the Turnpike, I’d been noticing angry dark clouds building in the west.  When I got out of the truck to fuel up the rain began. No big deal.   I fed our credit card to the pump and began fueling.  As the rain turned into a monsoon, both our phones sounded the familiar weather alert and the wind kicked up to the point that I was hanging onto the truck bed to keep from being blown across the lot.  A display of gas cans took flight in front of us while I struggled to both hang on and continue fueling.  Finally, I pulled the pump nozzle out of the fill tube, noted that we now had ten gallons of fuel, and scrambled back into the driver seat.  In my hurry to begin fueling I’d left the door open, as a result the interior on the driver side was as wet as I was.  Ever the stoic, Carol said, “You won’t need a shower tonight.”



We made it to our target stopover last night, one of the amazing Ohio Turnpike service areas with RV slots.  It was nearly full of RVs of all sizes and shapes by morning.  We had our morning coffee then got on the road with the idea of stopping at the next service area for breakfast and fuel.   No more waiting until we were almost empty to refill.  We had a nice breakfast at Einstein Bagels: asiago cheese bagel with eggs and other tasty toppings and good dark roast coffee.  With a little over 500 miles to our next stop — Rocky Arbor State Park near the Dells in Wisconsin, we knew we had to keep moving as much as possible.  Jezebel, our GPS, told us we’d be there by about five.  She didn’t factor in the parking lot that was the Chicago Skyway or all the construction on I-90/I-94 that delayed us over an hour past our arrival time.  I left the cruise control alone and tried to maintain about 65 mph with my foot.  Got a satisfactory 12.5mpg for the day.      


When we arrived at the Dells, leaving I-90 for US 12, Jezebel led us through the bizzarro Disneyland that Wisconsin Dells has become, finally, ordering a left turn that led us to a firehouse and our “destination.”   

I entered the park name into my phone and it got us to the park, a few miles farther along US 12 than the advertised address.  I loaded enough potable water into our tank to allow us to wash our accumulated dishes, brush our teeth, and perform other bodily functions as needed.  Then made for our reserved site.  After about twenty minutes of jockeying Mocking Jay into site 25 we settled in for the evening.  The rearview camera I struggled to install and get working reliably was worth every rant it took to make it happen.  We ate dinner, drank wine, and went to bed.  Tomorrow was to be a relatively short trip 345 miles to a three-day respite at Woodlawn Resort and Campground just a couple miles around Lake Minnewaska from Glenwood.  



This morning we decided to have breakfast after being on the road for an hour or so.  We dumped the holding tanks and drained most of the remaining potable water in order to keep the towed load as light as possible, then had Jezebel point us in the direction of Glenwood.  


We stopped for gas and breakfast on schedule, first opting for a restaurant called Culvers.  I parked with exquisite precision in a double slot at the end of the lot.  A friendly gentleman helped let me know how far back I needed to go before stopping.  When I thanked him, we got into a typical dialogue triggered by our New York license plates.  In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he had driven in from Minnesota and was waiting for his daughter to deliver his grandkids for a week-long stay.  He said they often called it their prisoner exchange.  It took me back to when our grandkids, Phoebe and Philip, were preteens and would stay with us for a week.  They called it their week alone. 


Inside Culvers, a quick scan of the menu on the wall told us they were not a breakfast place so we decided to go back across the highway overpass to a large service plaza that had a Perkins Pancake House.  We parked in the large and nearly empty lot and stepped into a surprisingly crowded restaurant.  In spite of that we got seated quickly.  Breakfast did not happen quite as quickly, but the coffee was good, as was the people watching.


After the meal, we gassed up and headed west to Minnesota.  Just east of St Paul we encountered major construction on the interstate, that slowed us to a crawl for nearly forty miles.  Jezebel’s four o’clock predicted arrival, became five, then six.  We finally pulled into the campground about six-thirty.  Checking-in was an interesting experience.  The elderly woman (a term I hesitate to use considering my age) came out to greet us, a clipboard with a top-sheet of unlined paper containing many penciled notes in what appeared to be random order.  My name was in the top right corner along with 18, which turned out to be our site.  She checked her notes, reminded us we’d paid a fifty-dollar deposit, asked us how long we were staying.  We told her three nights.  I figured the fifty was for one so I gave her a hundred cash for the other two.  It became apparent that she wasn’t able to remember from one minute to the next where we were in the transaction.  She said Scott would help us get settled.  Scott was the young man walking toward us.  I remembered his name from the second phone call I made to Woodlawn, after not receiving a receipt for our deposit.  He directed us to the potable water, helped me fill the tank, then showed us where the site was and suggested we keep to the right on the loop to easily get in position to back in.  


I think I’ll save a description of our “resort” for later.