Greetings from North Platte, NE, where once again night time temps will be dipping below freezing, requiring me to pay for a RV park so that I have electricity to run my little heater and keep plumbing and stuff from bursting. Having a RV site also means having WiFi in this case, so yay post time! 1,500 miles down, a relatively short 275 more to go tomorrow. Here’s the travelogue for Hardeeville, SC to Wentzville, MO. The rest will be coming as time permits.
4/16/12 – Tuesday
Running on not enough sleep as usual before the start of a trip, my 8:30 alarm offers a rude awakening. The next two hours I spend dumping my tanks, eating breakfast, getting all my hoses put away, making sure nothing in my fridge will break or tip over in transit, and other odds and ends.
It’s a glorious spring day in coastal SC, meaning it’s already pushing 75 by 10:30 am and the combination of humidity and sunny skies mean I’m sweating by the time I say my goodbyes to Hardeeville RV park. I’m going to miss the ocean, kayaking in salt marsh, Spanish moss in huge old live oaks, and most especially all of my friends down here, but now is definitely the time of year to be getting out of Dodge so to speak, before the really hot and humid weather hits.
It’s very hard to explain what it feels like, to be facing the first day of a big trip like this. Nervous excitement probably sums it up best. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 miles of driving to accomplish in the next 5 days, and while the driving part can get tedious I really don’t mind it too terribly. The nervousness more stems from waiting for something on Cas to break, because I never make a trip like this without something happening.
So far it’s all been little stuff, like the valence over the emergency exit window coming down and breaking, losing my propane tank cover, or one of the rivets holding my A/C cover on tearing out, but my active imagination always likes to imagine the worst case scenario. I’ve written plenty on fear and how to overcome it before so I won’t go into details here, but I just wanted to bring up that just because I can put a lid on it and go out and do something exciting like drive across half the country to work at a National Park this summer, doesn’t mean it goes completely away. I’ve just learned to stick the fear on the back burner where it belongs and be able to enjoy the excitement part of it: I mean c’mon, I’m going to be working at the Badlands this summer, how awesome is that?
After crossing the Savannah Bridge, I’m in Georgia for most of the day, following the same route I took to get to Sioux Falls last year with one big difference. When trying to take 275 to bypass the heart of Atlanta I somehow end up in a wrong lane and exit off toward the airport. My iphone’s GPS compensates by taking me back on to 75, right through the middle of the city. It’s nearing 4 pm at this point and traffic is starting to get heavy, but other than a few slow downs and having to stay hyper aware of what lane I’m in it doesn’t go too bad. That’s one thing I can say for my truck + trailer combo: I don’t feel as worried about skinny lanes because I’m narrower than most rigs, and lots of traffic isn’t as bothersome because even with normal mirrors I can see behind Cas to some degree.
I also pass over the southernmost tip of the Smokies in the late afternoon. Like before, Bertha has no problems towing Cas up and over. At the top, just before the descent out of them there is a rest stop with a bit of a view through the trees. Since the leaves aren’t nearly as full up here as in Hardeeville a ridge is visible behind them, and I attempt to snap a picture of Bertha and Cas with the sun setting behind. It didn’t turn out too great, but I tried! Taking epic panoramic shots with my rig in the foreground is a skill I plan to work on.
Nighttime finds me at a Love’s Travel Stop a bit south of Murfeesboro, TN. It has a built in McDonalds, which means free WiFi to catch up on comments and e-mail. Depending on where you park your rig the WiFi can even be connected to from the comforts of your RV. I sleep alright, but the temperature has barely dropped from the daytime, the low is upper 60’s and inside Cas it’s much warmer than that with the sun beating on him all day. I traveled 471 miles today, more than what I needed to do to make it to the Badlands on time.
4/17/13 – Wednesday
It’s still hot, shouldn’t I be moving out of the hot and into cooler weather? My iphone’s Weather.com app says the Badlands is under a winter storm warning and getting snowed on again, somewhere between TN and SD it’s going to have to cool down considerably, but it certainly isn’t yet. The mountains of Tennessee give way to the hills of Kentucky, and then I abruptly drop onto the flatter plains of southern Illinois, and the temperatures remain in the low to mid 80’s throughout.
In Illinois, I end up stopping at a rest stop I ate at when I came through last September. It’s a lot warmer this time around, and the sky has been threatening rain but there hasn’t been anything but sprinkles so far. I take a little bit of video at the rest stop, and wish that it would rain properly so that Cas would get a good washing off.
Not twenty minutes down the road I’m driving through pea sized hail and kicking myself for wishing for rain, but not as much as I’ll be kicking myself tomorrow…but now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Driving through the hail isn’t too bad, it’s small enough where I know it won’t dent or damage anything, but I keep one eye on the sky and one on the road as I continue on to Saint Louis, which is under a tornado watch along with most of Missouri. I pull in for gas at Wentzville just on the West side of Saint Louis, and when I see a Walmart on the other side of the interstate from the gas station I decide to call it a day.
I pull in at a Home Depot across the way for WiFi, and I like to think I have good timing because when I step inside Cas I realize that one of my cabinet doors underneath the side dinette opened along the drive again like it sometimes does but this time it rattled around enough to pull two of the hinge screws out of the fiberglass and cheap pressed wooden board behind them. One of the screws is missing in action, so I wander inside to buy a small pack of them along with some WD40 to spray the hinges with since they like to stick and put more pressure on the screws than they probably should.
My attempt at a fix fails when I realize that the holes are stripped and the screws won’t stay put when I open the door, hinge lubricant or not. To minimize damage to the hinge that isn’t stripped I pull out all the screws and take the door off – it’s something I’ll work on once I get to the Badlands and have time to fully analyze the problem. Luckily what I have stored in that compartment will stay put whether there is a door there or not, so it’s really just a cosmetic issue at this point.
I also notice while I’m parked at Home Depot that the cover on my spare tire has shifted considerably, which it has never done while driving before. When I pull the tire cover off to see underneath I see that the nut keeping the tire pinned on the screw to the back of the trailer has come quite loose, allowing the tire to shift around – that’s not good. So once again my el-cheapo Walmart toolbox comes out and I use a wrench to tighten the nut back up so that the tire is once again snug. I’m also a bit worried by the state of the caulk around where the screw enters the back of the trailer, although the screw itself seems firmly attached still. Pulling the tire off to re-do the caulk there has also been added to my list of things to do once I reach the Badlands. In addition, taking the tire cover off to tighten the nut has stretched the elastic out of shape some – the UV exposure during my time in SC last summer probably did a number on it, and I’m just crossing my fingers that I don’t lose it on the drive like I lost the propane cover last year.
With all of that more or less taken care of, it’s across the street to spend the night at Walmart. Once again it’s warm and muggy, but at least the storms hold off until dawn, allowing me to get some sleep. Which is good, because my wish for rain comes back to haunt me big time, and Thursday turns out to be the most trying day I’ve had on the road so far.
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Cliffhanger! I’m evil, aren’t I? But in my defense it’s getting late here and this is getting long. I should be reaching the Badlands tomorrow where I am told there is currently “a lot” of snow. I kind of hope that’s true so I can get some pictures of it. I’m going to be put up in a temporary site until the snow melts enough for me to be able to park in my permanent one. Then I’ll have the rest of Saturday and Sunday to myself, then orientation is at 10am on Monday. I’ll do my best to get the rest of the travelogue up before the weekend is over, but I will say that Thursday really wasn’t too horrible in retrospect – it’s all a matter of how you choose to look at it. In the meantime, Julie has kindly updated my 2013 travel map under The Adventure if you want to peek. Have a good weekend all!