Eighteen thousand miles. Nineteen states. Hundreds of gallons of fuel. The year 2020 in our rearview. Were there hiccups, oopsies, mishaps, problems as we began our U.S. tour? YES! But all were minor and manageable, with a few maybe even laughable. Here’s a recap…
Our second stop was at the Lynchburg RV Resort for a couple of nights. The sites, unfortunately, were deceptively level. We selected a site that seemed easy to back into with a great view of the little lake that is part of the park. The site, however, was not even close to being level, and Carl employed the jack as well as every piece of wood and leveling device we had to get one side high enough for our Airstream to get level. A good rain would have easily washed out his contraption. Luckily, our stay was short and rain-free.
Be on the Lookout for Grocery Cart Rails!
Carl does most of the driving, especially when pulling the Airstream (not my choice, but that’s another story altogether!). But I have driven the pickup truck a few times while not pulling. One of the first was when we were in Hershey, Pennsylvania last June. I was driving while we were running a few errands. Somehow—I have no idea—the rail to a cart corral got hung up in the crack between the truck and the truck bed, and I dragged it around as I tried to maneuver out of the parking space. No biggie; just a small scratch and dent. Carl almost revoked my driving privileges!
Every state has its share of rough roads, but the eastern states seem to have more than the rest. As we were heading toward New Hampshire last June, we encountered some jaw-rattling stretches of interstate between Pennsylvania and New York. After a particularly jarring pothole, I happened to see in the side mirror a hubcap roll down the road. At the next rest stop 10 miles down the road, we pulled in to check all of the tires and discovered FOUR—two off the truck and two off the Airstream—had been lost to the bowels of interstate hell!
During our stay in New York, we found a bike path (see A New York State of Mind) we were eager to ride because it crossed over the Hudson River into Poughkeepsie. Bike helmets are mandatory in New York, and I didn’t have one. AND, at that time, bikes, helmets, and other accessories were in high demand and hard to find because it was a new hobby for those stuck at home during the pandemic.
We were making our way across another bridge to find a Dicks Sporting Goods (where we scored a helmet!), but the bridge was tight and a construction crew was taking up some space. Our driver’s side mirror was smacked hard by the side mirror of a passing work van. We aren’t sure if the van’s mirror met the same fate, but ours was shattered. Luckily, it didn’t break off, and Carl was able to manage for a couple of weeks. He ordered a replacement to be shipped to my Uncle’s house in Ohio, and he replaced it while we visited them at the beginning of July.
Prized Solar Lights Abandoned
We had six nice solar lights for which Carl had made simple wooden stands so they could easily be placed around our site and moved as needed. Typically, as we packed up to get ready to move, Carl would position them together in the sun somewhere so they could soak up some juice before we left. As we packed up in Rondout Valley (New York), he placed them across the street and neither of us thought to check for them as we pulled out. We were over an hour away before Carl realized that he had left them behind. They were good, cheap lights he had bought at Big Lots a few years before, and we tried to find the same lights but could only score two. It is now on my checklist to make sure these two lights make it into the back of the truck before we drive away!
This was WEIRD. Carl checked the fuel filter in the truck (that’s a guy thing in my house!). To do this, he unscrewed the fuel filter cap and, once checked, screwed it back on. We had just enough fuel to drive from Arrowhead RV Park (Wisconsin Dells) to Madison to pick up Rachel at the airport, and then we were going to a specific gas station to fill up because their price was good. We had driven about one mile when we realized we had not lowered the back window to the truck cab, so we stopped to shut it. As I opened my door, I noticed diesel fuel GUSHING out of my side of the truck, and I mean GUSHING! Carl popped the hood and checked the fuel cap, discovering that he did not tighten the screw when he put the filter cap back on. That small, missed tweak caused us to lose what little fuel we had to get to the airport, and we needed to get a few gallons before going to the airport.
Bike Tires Beware of Cactus!
While in Idaho, we bought a refurbished bike from a nice guy with a shop near downtown Boise. He offered some advice which is good to heed. There is a certain type of cactus that sheds these white, pointy thumbtack-like needles that, when riding “off road” on a bike could pierce the tires and cause a flat.
A few weeks later we were on a lovely paved bike path in St. George, Utah, but Carl wanted to pretend he was riding a mountain bike by riding in the dirt on the sides of the path. I am sure I reminded him of what we were told. Anyway, a few miles down the path, he noticed his tire going flat, saw something sticking on his tire, and, thinking it was a pebble, pulled it out. No … it was a white, pointy thumbtack-like needle. His tire immediately started losing more air. And his tire was COVERED in these white needles. He suffered through riding the bike back to the truck with a partially-deflated tire. Once back at the Airstream, we pulled out a few dozen needles from one tire. Carl bought Slime to fill all of the holes in the inner tube, using A LOT of it over the course of several applications. Although it has helped, Carl has realized that new inner tubes are needed.
Although we don’t have a four-wheel-drive truck, it desires to be one. We have discovered that one of our favorite things to do is to go (what I call) “dirt roading,” usually on roads recommending a four-wheel drive. We have not had any issues maneuvering on these back roads, and it is so much fun to get off the beaten path! However, we chose a popular boondocking location outside of Moab, Utah, and, as we were pulling our Airstream in to find the perfect spot, we got stuck in one soft area of sand. Within five minutes, some kind 4x4ers came by and plucked us out, and we drove a little further to find the perfect spot for the next few nights. We weren’t the only ones to get stuck in that spot while we were there, and we were told by some “regulars” of that area that it hasn’t been that soft in the past 20 years!
New Wolfpack Fan Somewhere…
While at the boondocking site outside of Moab, there was an especially-rough spot in the road getting in and out (not the sandy spot), and we had a very bouncy exit one morning. So bouncy, in fact, that the side window to our truck cab flew open and our Christmas flamingo box flew out! Later that evening, we discovered that Carl’s nice NC State Wolfpack bag chair was missing. We looked everywhere, and came to the conclusion that it must have flown out during our bouncy exit earlier in the day and we just didn’t see it. We kept looking for it over the next couple of days, but it never turned up. Somewhere out there, we unintentionally recruited a new Wolfpack fan. Enjoy the chair!
Talk about someone losing driving privileges … We were staying at a large RV park in Mesa, Arizona (1667 sites!). Some of the sites are permanent, some are annual, and some are for those who come and go (like us). But all of them have a mailbox in front, and there is daily mail delivery by the USPS. I had no problem backing in and out of our driveway, but Carl miscalculated at least once, and the nice big scratches on the front side of our pickup are evidence. Given the hardy rockiness of the earth in Arizona, the flimsy mailbox held firm when the truck scraped by it.
- Don’t be afraid to use the tire jack to jack up the RV if the site is not level.
- No need for expensive hubcaps when traveling.
- Pull in side mirrors on tight bridges. Who needs to see what’s going on behind you when you need to keep your eyes on the bridge in front of you?
- Don’t leave anything behind. Double check your site before leaving to make sure you have everything.
- If you unscrew something in the truck engine, be sure to screw it back correctly and TIGHTLY.
- Don’t ride your road bike in the dirt in the desert of Idaho and Utah.
- The next truck needs to be four-wheel drive. But THUMBS UP on having a tow strap and front hitch in case we get stuck!
- If the vehicle seems big to you, then park far way from cart corrals and other vehicles. Also, be very aware of mailboxes near your driveway and back up accordingly!
All in all, we have been very fortunate that all mishaps were minor. Carl is a very capable DIYer and has kept the truck and the Airstream in great working order, making our journey across the states enjoyable and adventurous. Here’s hoping we have as great of a success in 2021!