Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything
Monday, January 9, 2012: Up, dressed, hitched, loaded (well Kit was loaded…..I tried to stay sober) and on the road by 0415!!! What an ungodly hour on a winter’s morning to be up and about, you say? Well we discovered last year that leaving early allows us to miss the commuter traffic in Boston (AM) and in New York (PM). So why today, you ask? Well, we had some very enjoyable social engagements this weekend. And it’s likely that tomorrow would have been a madhouse on the roads, what with all those republication candidate’s exiting New Hampshire and heading to South Carolina…..so today is our window of opportunity!
Speaking of politics…..I’m no student of the silly game; however we should think about that former Massachusetts governor who was honored by having a prestigious technology institute in Cambridge named after him. That dude’s got some clout…..or at least a lot of money!
Yesterday, I removed a wreath from the house next door and affixed it to the rear of our trailer.
It is a clear cold morning with a full moon, perfect to begin our fourth annual winter RV trip. We generally stick to the Interstate Highway System the first few days to get south and warm as fast as possible, hence the quote selection for this issue. We follow the traditional New England Snowbird Route and whiz (well not continuously…..however at our age, we do stop often) through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and on into Pennsylvania.
The crew of the Bill and Kit 2012 Excellent Adventure consists of Bill, the driver:
And Kit the Navigator:
Not to be alarmed…..she wakes from time to time to tell me how to drive, or to contradict Lucy. (Remember Lucy the GPS?). Well the old girl is showing her age and is beginning to suffer from CRS. Lucy, not Kit…..Kit’s still as perfect as ever……honest, just ask her.
Just heard on the radio that today would have been Elvis’s 77th birthday, wonder how he would look today…..you know, had he lived.
On I-15S traveling through Connecticut as we pass the exit sign for Yale University, the finest institution in the country…..if you seek an advanced degree in hollering.
A few miles further we spotted a topiary sign on a hillside that spelled “Hubbell”…..at least I think it said Hubbell, couldn’t be sure as it was a bit out of focus.
At 1108 we crossed the Hudson River by way of the Tappan Zee Bridge. The river looked a bit funny, as if people had been polluting it for hundreds of years. Wonder if that is where the NY folks dig their clams…..could account for the unusual look of the Clam Chowder sold here about. A rather unique toll collection scheme has a tool booth only on the eastern side of the Tappen Zee Bridge. Since we are heading west and will likely return in 5 months through Canada…..we make out!
At 1325, we decide to pull off the highway in Clinton, NJ for lunch. Since Kit has been such a trooper about getting up early I treated her to a fine meal at a nice Irish restaurant. Ron, the owner, agreed to sit for a photo op. Nice quiet fellow, however he had a rather plastic personality and was flashing a fake smile. And check out his Afro and bright yellow Leisure Suit…..so 70’s!
At 1630 we entered the town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania and decided to call it a day. Couldn’t call it a night as it was still daylight. After picking up some Subway sandwiches we locate a very nice Fairfield Inn and scored a military retiree discount. In addition, they assigned us a room overlooking where we parked the rig for the night.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012: Up and on the road at 0825 under clear cool skies. Had to scrape some frost off the windshield with my ID card. No ice scrapper onboard…..removed it and the snow brush last week….no sense tempting fate.
Jumped on I-81S where we continued down Pennsylvania and then rolled through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and on into Tennessee. It always amazes us that we can travel 11 states in the first 2 days of these trips. Out west it might take 11 days to travel through 2 states!
We are enjoying an easy day of traveling; however there are reports of a storm system to the south of us. At 1730 we pull into the small town of Blountville, Tennessee and since it is 53 degrees we decide to try camping. Finding a nice little grocery store, we stock up and head for the Rocky Top Campground (yep…..that song stayed in my head for days, if you must know). In years past we stayed in motels for 2 or 3 nights due to cold temperatures. However with overnight lows predicted to be in the mid 40’s we decided to re-commission the trailer and go for it. The campground was sparsely populated and we were able to score a special “winter rate”.
The trailer is a four season unit with heavy duty insulation, thermo pane windows and heated holding tanks. However since I winterize her in October we usually don’t start camping until we reach Georgia, Alabama or Mississippi. The unseasonably warm temperatures allowed us flush the anti-freeze from the pipes and start a few days early.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012: I am up early and took a walk around the campground and into the surrounding woods. I soon came across this neat cabin high on the hillside.
Fearing a shotgun welcome, I didn’t approach any closer. However it looks like cabins you would find along the rivers of northern Maine.
Returning to our campsite I noticed a shiny penny lying on the ground which I picked up and pocketed. Not being overly superstitious, this discovery had little meaning…..however the events of the day caused me to think otherwise.
Left the campground at 0910 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 49 degrees. The roads were wet, so it must have rained at some point overnight. Before getting back on the Interstate, I pulled into the lone gas station and general store. Being low on fuel, I was nervous when I saw a paper sign taped to the gas pump. However it read: “Out of unleaded, help yourself to the premium, same price”. In talking to the store clerk, she mentioned that delivery problems cause that to happen every few weeks in these parts. (Stroke of good luck #1)
Back on I-81S we merged onto I-40W toward Knoxville, Tennessee. The temperature had risen to 56 degrees and the sun was shining below dark and ominous looking clouds.
A half hour south of Knoxville we merged onto I-75S and then all heck broke loose…..rain, wind, thunder, lightning, hail and reduced visibility. I was able to tuck in behind an 18 wheeler that was traveling at about 30 MPH with its 4 ways flashing…..behind us was another prudent trucker content to travel at the same speed. Feeling somewhat safe cradled between two professional drivers, we caravanned along as less cautious travelers zoomed past on the left. I-75 has a speed limit of 70 MPH which, on clear days, is often exceeded. This morning most folks had lowered their speed however. At one point the truck in the lead stopped…..right in the travel lane of the Interstate! Realizing he was having mechanical problems and not wanting to sit idle in such a vulnerable position we carefully passed him in the breakdown lane with the trucker behind following suit…..all in all, a bit scary. However all ended well as we drove out of the storm within the half hour. (Stroke of good luck #2)
Arriving in Chattanooga, we moved onto I-59 crossing the northwest corner of Georgia and entered Alabama at 1355, where we confronted the Central Time Zone.
About an hour later, Kit noticed a billboard above the trees that indicated a Wal*Mart close by. She felt an overwhelming need to support the protestors in New York and decided we needed to stop so she could Occupy Wall*Mart. Bill walked laps around the parking lot as Kit gathered up all the must have things that apparently aren’t sold in our hometown Wal*Mart.
Just north of Birmingham we stopped for fuel and coffee. A nice elderly southern gentleman manning the counter noticed our camper and asked where we were from and where we were traveling to. After some great conversation he treated us to the coffee. (Stroke of good luck #3)
It is now nearing 1745 and we are both very tired. I started looking for a campground, or even a safe wide spot in the road to pull in for the night…..nothing. However, within 15 minutes we enter the town of McCalla, Alabama and spot a Flying J Truck Stop sign and take the exit. Of all the nations many truck stops, the Flying J Company caters to RV travelers the best. Not only do they feature a complimentary dump station but they have designated RV parking away from the big trucks and close to the offices with plenty of lighting for security. Pulling in we find a spot open and we park for the night…..within the hour the remaining RV spots fill up with other travelers. (Stroke of good luck #4)
Needless to say, I’ll pick up every penny I encounter from now on. Besides, as pensioners, we need the extra cash.
Thursday, January 12, 2012: After a restful evening, we are on the road at 0705 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 47 degrees. Pulling back onto I-59S, we cross into the state of Mississippi a few hours later.
In years past we head to the Mississippi gulf coast and then travel US-90 west through Louisiana and points west. However since the weather is so temperate, we decided to travel more southwesterly. So, just outside the thriving town of Chunky, Mississippi we merged onto I-20 heading west. At 1030 we stopped for fuel and a break and I was able to acquire my first treat of regional cuisine on this trip. However, I couldn’t decide between the Cracklin, the boiled peanuts or the salt and vinegar pork rinds. The gas pump jockey recommended the pork rinds and a wise selection it was. A flavorful bouquet escaped as I opened the plastic bag and the subtle flavor of dried pig skin dusted in salty vinegar danced on my palette as I enjoyed each and every morsel. The experience was so complete that I immediately lost three front teeth and had an overwhelming desire to date my sister. In addition, living in a 22 foot trailer for the next few months all of a sudden seemed normal!
Rolling through Vicksburg at noon we encountered a brisk headwind which lasted the rest of the day. Our average MPG of 10.5 at our average speed of 55 MPH dropped to the mid 7’s…..Yikes!
We soon crossed the Mississippi River and entered the state of Louisiana. Stopping at the welcome station we enjoyed some complimentary coffee and retreated to the trailer for lunch.
Hours later, as we neared Shreveport, Louisiana we were both getting a bit tired. It was 1600, it has been a long four days of constant travel, and we needed a break. Fortunately Kit noticed a sign for Barksdale Air Force Base so we took the next exit, parked and looked up their number. Sure enough, they have a campground and had a few spaces available. Pulling in we set up for the night and just might stay another.
Oh, and before we close, it turns out that Charles Kuralt wasn’t completely right…..there are things to see as one travels the nations Interstate Highway System. Items I guess I’ll call “objets d’art”…..various human belongings that have been lost or cast off by the motoring public. We are keeping a list of these unusual treasures and will publish it at the end of the trip.
Also, of course, we encounter many mortal remains of hapless woodland and desert creatures that have tempted fate by crossing the road. These we will not keep track of in deference to their families and to our readers sensitivities. Suffice it to say, if it slithers, crawls, walks or flies…..it has met its doom on the nation’s highways. Actually I have a theory…..a couple of critters are standing alongside the highway, one sez “bet you can’t make it”, the other sez, “Oh yea, here hold my beer and watch this”.
Kit’s Corner: So, we’re off on another fun winter getaway! How is it that most people go to fancy resorts with nice duds and we make our way around the US noticing all the weird things? Must be due to the pilot. And, he can pretty much make anything funny! One thing I did see along the way that he missed was a huge Santa Claus in a cluster of trees, it looked like it was made out of paper mache but it had to be something different. Anyway, his head had been knocked off and was sitting on the ground. Didn’t get a picture but it was a funny sighting.