LIFE ON BOARD – PART TWO
There’s more to traveling in an RV than you might imagine.
And because nobody ever talks about the little, stupid stuff you have to
go through, this series documents exactly what it takes to…
Hit The Road
Yay! It’s travel day. We’re up early and will be on the road by the crack of Ten. Yup, that’s just how it happens. Doesn’t matter what time we roll out of bed, it’s always ten o’clock when we head down the driveway.
There’s a last-minute flurry of Do Not Forgets to round up – the dog’s tie-out cable, food and water for the three cats we’re leaving behind, deadbolt all the doors, set the alarm. Got your wallet? Oh wait, I forgot the GPS. And on and on.
Once the coach is unplugged from the garage and rolled out of its carport it’s time to load the motorcycle on the carrier rack. It’s a two-person job, and even though we’ve done this a hundred times before it’s still a challenge to heave the bike up the ramp and secure it with a system of ratcheting tie-downs. A final wiggle back and forth to check the straps and I’ll habitually ask, “Is that tight enough?” To which Tim always replies, “Same as ever.”
And with that, we’re off.
Making it down our own driveway is the most nerve-racking part of the whole day’s drive. We have a quarter-mile gravel road with plenty of potholes to bounce over, a blind curve around a limestone cliff that looks like you’re going over the edge, and low-hanging limbs we have no way to trim without extensive scaffolding. Then there’s the turn onto the blacktop road that always elicits shrieks from the passenger because from that seat it looks like the back wheels are headed into the culvert.
Whew! Glad that’s over with. Now…where are we going?
Regardless of our travel direction we’ve got to take the main state road out of town. It’s a heavily used byway that has become a really bumpy ride, and it only takes a couple of miles before something we’ve forgotten to secure takes flight. Drawers slide open, a soap dish bounces off the counter, the shampoo bottle crashes to the floor. Yikes! What was that? Oh, I forgot to pack away the [insert random object here].
Unhook seatbelt. Walk down moving aisle like a drunken sailor. Secure [random object]. Return to seat. Buckle up. Repeat as needed.
The pets travel with us. Well, just the dog and parakeet actually. The three cats remain at home in the garage with a giant bucket of food, multiple sleeping accommodations, and frequent visits from the neighbors. And while the cats always seem glad to see us when we return, there’s an unmistakable look of dismay when they realize the dog is home, too. Oh. You brought that thing back.
Coco the dog has a couple of preferred travel positions; lying on the floor looking out the special patented Thor Pet Window© or curled up in the passenger’s lap. She’s a good traveler. Hardly complains and mostly just naps the hours away. Which means that by the time we stop for the evening she is primed to party while we are ragged and ready for an adult beverage.
The parakeet, Billie, has a small travel cage and rides in the kitchen sink. It’s the only place he won’t bounce out. Coming through customs from Canada several years ago the agent came aboard and asked if we had any animals. I pointed to the dog at my feet and causally mentioned there was also a bird in the sink. He rolled his eyes as if we were the stupidest Americans he’d seen all day. Back then Billie the Bird was in love with the screen door on our old motorhome. In humid weather the door squeaked and squawked and Billie would spend all day trying to have a conversation with it.
We take turns driving, Tim and I, usually in two hour shifts. By then we’re ready for a pit stop and a stretch of the legs. Maybe a snack, too. If we’re on the interstate we might pull over at a rest area (I have an app on my phone that lists all the rest stops) or we’ll look for a truck stop. We like to fill the tank when it gets to the half-way mark and that has saved our bacon more than once, like in a 6-hour traffic jam or out on the lonely stretches of Wyoming desert.
We prefer Flying J truck stops (there’s an app for that, too) because many have special RV islands that are easy to pull into. If we’re traveling the back roads, which is pretty often because state parks are always in the middle of nowhere, then we’ve got to search for a local gas station that can handle this beast. It’s not easy to find. Either the pumps are pointed in the wrong direction, or the turn is too tight, or the station is too crowded. Making matters worse, Thor opted to place the gas cap on the ass end of this RV, meaning we need to pull ALL the way forward at the pump, usually blocking all other pumps and half the exit aisle. Why they didn’t put the gas cap on the side like every other vehicle on the planet is yet another mystery known only to the inscrutable Thor engineering team.
Because we have packed food for eight in the RV we are well equipped to lunch on the road. So of course we eat at McDonald’s. Or Subway. Or whatever fast food chain has attached itself to the truck stop we just pulled into. Tim will get the gas pump going, I’ll walk the dog in the slim, littered margin of weeds, and then a hot meat sandwich will be consumed at our dinette. Usually this involves extracting ourselves from the gas island and maneuvering to a seedy parking area between semis. Wash up with some of that water we’ve been lugging around and we’re on our way again, with a change of driver.
Yikes! What was that? Oh, I forgot to put away the [insert lunch object here].
Out on the road it’s Driver’s Choice of entertainment. Could be the radio, talking books, or Coast-To-Coast podcast. But mostly just chatting. We do a lot of planning and scheming on long road trips. Solve world hunger, plan our next million, play road bingo. Important stuff like that.
We like to keep our travel days to five hours or less of road time. Beyond that and we get a little punchy and start whining for that kidney belt. Actually it’s a comfortable ride, but 250 miles a day is about our limit. And we’re slow. Really slow. Like lines of traffic behind us on a country road slow. Out on the interstate our top cruising speed is 62 mph. Not that the engine won’t handle more, it’s just hard to keep a big, tall rectangle centered on the road at wicked speeds. So we take our time and try to tuck into a campground around 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon. Then there’s plenty of time for the dog to romp and have that adult beverage.