Back on the Road Again

So, I’m not so good at keeping this blog up, apparently.

Anyway, after leaving frigid Virginia with sufficient antifreeze in my tanks late last March, I had an uneventful trip north, although I woke up with snow on my rig at the PA/NY border.

Snow on vanAnd when I checked the forecast, I could see that there would be freezing temperatures in Maine for at least the following week. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh. So I stopped outside of Worcester and had my van winterized at the end of winter! Fortunately, I don’t usually use the van in the spring, summer, or fall, so I didn’t have to drain my tanks and then winterize again in October.

February 2016:

ANYWAY, I hit the road 2 days ago. It’s very hectic getting ready to leave because there are so many things you can’t do or pack until right before you drive away. I couldn’t pack anything that might freeze, including my solar batteries, because it was 9 below 2 nights before I left. And I couldn’t pack personal items, the cats and all their accoutrements until the van was warmed up. And I always wait until the last minute to break down my studio and pack that up.

So the van and the trailer look like disaster areas when I first leave. There are bags, boxes, and totes everywhere. But my goal is to get as far south as soon as possible so that I don’t have to worry about freezing temperatures.

About an hour into the trip, Nora, my eldest, started bellyaching. I wasn’t sure what the problem was. As I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw her tail up and a stream of urine hitting my new pillow. I had put a shower curtain on the bed to protect the bedding, but the pillow had been leaning up against the wall. Yikes.

My first stop this time around was southern Connecticut, where I visited my stepdaughter, her husband, and their son. (After greeting them, I asked it they could do a quick wash for me. There’s nothing worse than smelling cat urine for 4 days…)

They have a long driveway with a curve halfway down and it slopes down toward the road. So in the morning, I had to back down the driveway, navigating the trailer around the curve and between two stone walls at the end. It took HALF AN HOUR to do that. Just when you think you have the whole backing-the-trailer-up thing figured out, the trailer refuses to do what you want. You need a lot of space so that the vehicle (in this case, the van) can swing wide as the trailer is going around the curve. Between trees, curbing, and ice, this was quite, ahem, challenging. I got down to the end and almost hit one of the stone walls. It took a while to move the van forward enough to clear it because there was ice and my tires kept spinning. I could smell rubber. I was supposed to head in the other direction when I got down to the street, but I was so grateful to finally be out of the driveway, that I just went in the direction I was pointed in and let the GPS take me where I needed to go.

Unfortunately, the GPS kept leading me to the Merritt Parkway, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t allowed on that road. For non-Northeasteners, parkways are for pleasure vehicles and some of them have low bridges, so they are very, very bad for vehicles above 7 feet or so (I qualify). More than a few RVs have tried to go on a parkway and run into a “low bridges” sign with a hanging bar that indicates the height of the bridges. (They then had to figure out how to turn around to get off the parkway.)

So, I told the GPS to calculate an alternate route. The GPS kept calculating alternates routes to the Merritt Parkway. By the time I finally got to I-95, it was almost 11am. So it had taken me 1.5 hours to back out of the driveway and get to the interstate. It should have taken about 15-20 minutes.

That was an indication of the day to come.

It was raining, and I was grateful that it wasn’t snowing. But it got torrential at times, and windy. Since I had gone through southern CT, I was now driving through NYC, which I usually avoid at all costs. Stop and go traffic. Aggressive drivers. But I hung out in the right lane and tried to listen to good tunes. I have a portable  Sirius/XM that I bring along, however it uses an unused radio station frequency to transmit the signal. In the NYC area, that’s hard to find. No problem – I brought a bunch of CDs. Except it appears that some of them don’t work in the player. Huh? I temporarily gave up and found a good station in the area. It turned out to be the station I stream all the time at home in Maine – WFUV out of Fordham University in NY – 90.7. Yay! I listened to it for quite a while until it started to peter out, then went back to Sirius/XM.

I had planned to meet up with a voiceover pal, Moe Rock, in Harrisburg, PA. With all the confusion regarding the parkway, and the trouble getting out of the driveway, the time I expected to arrive there changed from 1:30 to 2, to 2:30, and finally 3pm. We had a great hour long chat.

Karen Saltus and Moe RockI left there around 4pm with 2 hours to get to VA, where I was to meet up with my friend Gil. You’ll remember Gil as the guy who oversaw the construction of the VO booth in my trailer. He was going to beef up the booth to make it even quieter. He also invited me to park in his in-law’s driveway (his place is in a much too congested area to park the van and trailer). His in-law’s are both deceased and the house will soon be on the market.

I was traveling near Baltimore and other busy areas right during rush hour. Darn. Then, there was a 2 car crash on the interstate that bogged everything down for about 20-30 minutes. I was so tired and just wanted to be done for the day. Finally I arrived. Gil had given me the code to the back door. The heat was on. There was hot water. Life is good. I took a shower and then Gil arrived with beer. Life is very good. It was supposed to get down to 31 during the night, so Gil gave me a space heater from the house and we plugged the van in. I just didn’t want anything to freeze, especially my solar batteries. In the middle of the night when I woke up it was 64 degrees in the van, so I shut off the heater. Small spaces heat up pretty quickly!

Gil is coming over this morning and we’re going to take a drive and visit an investment property we own together. He’s moving pretty slowly today (he works hard and has a lot of stress), so I’m in the house working on this blog. As I was coming in, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn’t have internet here. I could use my iPad for these updates, but I had a few other things I wanted to use my laptop for. I booted it up and it found the house WIFI. I looked over in the corner of the living room and voila! There was the router with the password on the label. Yay!

I’m anxious to get back on the road because I still have 11 hours to St. Augustine, so I want to get 5-6 hours in today. I probably won’t leave here until 2pm, so it’s going to be a late night. I suppose the good news is that once I pass Richmond, I shouldn’t get stuck in any more rush hour traffic until possibly Jacksonville. I think.

A Setback, or Four…

SnowstormFour snowstorms, that is. Here in the northeast, we’ve gotten 4 (or is it five…?) snowstorms in the past month. Adding up to about 6 feet. Yikes. I actually don’t mind shoveling snow all that much (I kinda like the exercise), BUT, there’s so much snow that you have to lift your shovel up 7 feet to get it over the snow that’s already piled up. My neighbor bought an electric, cordless, rechargeable 32 pound snowblower that you can use on walkways and decks. Oh to have had that a month ago! I’ve bookmarked the page and will be getting one of those for next winter.

Oh, the mound you see behind the van? That’s my friend’s car. She’s in Arizona and wanted to leave it in my driveway. She’s due back at the end of March. I haven’t actually seen that car in about 3 weeks. Hopefully all of the snow will be gone by her return. Or at least enough so that she can get into her car. If not, she can use my car until I return in early April.

I parked the van so that it would be easy to maneuver out of the driveway once I leave. I’m not sure what I would have done with the mobile studio with all this snow. I may have to park it at a storage facility next winter.

So, I talked to Pete today and he thinks the mobile studio will be ready by Thursday, two days later than when I’m supposed to leave (which is tomorrow). Oh well. I thought I was going to have to drive to Connecticut, pick up the trailer, drive back (a six hour round trip), pack everything up and then head south. Then someone suggested getting a U-Haul. Not a bad idea and not expensive in the least. But a bit of a pain nonetheless.

So I started packing, and packing, and packing and I’ve managed to cram everything into the van. There’s no room to move around, but it’s only a 3 hour drive to get the mobile studio trailer, and once there, I can load a bunch of stuff into it, thus freeing up lots of room in the van.

Another challenge is getting away from the cold.

I’m supposed to visit with friends in Maryland on my way south. Now, Maryland is a 9 hour drive from here, so it might be more like 11 when you count in gas stops, pit stops, and driving a little slower when hauling 3,000 pounds with a 6-cylinder engine. The last time I checked, the temperature on Thursday night is Maryland is supposed to be around zero. Apparently they’re having a cold snap. Great. I suppose I can sleep in the house, but my poor cats are going to be stuck in the cold, cold van. Along with my solar batteries, which are not supposed to freeze. I’ll have them wrapped up in the van, but my friends are going to have to help me take them out and put them in their house, and those things weigh around 70 pounds each. I could bypass my friends this time around, but that still wouldn’t solve the problem of the cold night and the batteries. One solution might be to plug in the van and turn on the heat. If it works.

See, I never got to do a “dry run” with the van and the mobile studio. I did that in the RV, and it was great to know that everything worked fine. But this is the wrong time of year for trying a dry run in a camper van. Plus, the mobile studio hasn’t been ready…

I’ve ordered Comcast internet at the RV park where I’ll be staying (why does it take nearly an hour on the phone to order internet service? Why???) And I’ve also reactivated my Mifi hotspot device, just as a backup. (That only took 1/2 hour…)

And today I stocked up on cat food and canned soup. I’ll stop at the grocery store just down the street from the RV park once I arrive in St. Augustine and stock up again. I’ll only have 2 bicycles this time around (no room for the Vespa in the van!), so I’ll be shopping for groceries using one of those and a backpack. And cat food and canned soup are HEAVY, so I figured I’d get a head start by buying those today.