Thursday, September 1, 2011

Our First Real Vacation in the Roadtrek Complete with Earthquake, Sudden Violent Storm, and Hurricane

The electrical power is back at our home four days after Hurricane Irene. I am back at my computer and I can now take the time that this article deserves.

We have waited a long time to be able to travel again as we used to and in mid-August for some many years we have gone South. Once we got the new Roadtrek we started planning this trip. It started out a little more extensive than perhaps a first extended trip should - though I know that some get a Roadtrek and the next day leave to go across country for three months. We usually go away for three weeks. We started off planning for just over two weeks and at the point that we left the trip was whittled down for thirteen days. Initially, the trip was to include a night in Pennsylvania, four days in Washington, D.C., eight days in Williamsburg, Virginia, and then two nights (three days) back in Pennsylvania on the way home. As we got close to the trip I began to think that perhaps we were planning too much and that maybe we should break in a trip like this a little shorter. At the last minute we cut out the Washington, D.C. portion of the trip and left in the rest.

If you have been reading along with me on this site, you know that we have been preparing the Roadtrek and packing it with things that we will need on a trip since the day that we got it this past April. Well, the final packing to prepare for this trip took four days of adding in things that we figured we would need and all of the clothing that we would need for two weeks out - plus spares. Before we left, every cabinet was full and packed tight.

Also over the past several weeks I have been finding every noise inside that would bang, clunk, or rattle as we drove, and made certain that it was quieted. We have just about found most - though along the way on the trip a few new ones could be heard. We were ready to go!

We planned a new route from our house to the highway avoiding some of the bumps of poorly paved roads and cutting several minutes off the trip. Of course, with construction on every road everywhere (it seems), a few minutes here or there does not mean much when you sit in traffic before you get twenty miles away.

Our first night would be in Lancaster, PA. The trip to Virginia is over eight hours of straight driving and I did not want to arrive in a campground for the first time after their office closed, so we set a stopover in PA at about the half way point. We would arrive in Pennsylvania with enough time to go to a farmer's market called Roots with time to stop before at the campground, check in and pay for the night, make sure the power at the electric post was good, and then be off to the market. With traffic, the trip was a little longer than it should be. We stayed once again at the Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, PA. The people who work at this campground are great and very accommodating. I will have more to say about them as these articles continue - as we returned to this campground at the end of our trip with a hurricane coming up the coast and forced us to make sudden last minute changes in our plans.

The next day we would leave for Virginia and head for a campground that has been highly recommended by other RVers for the Williamsburg area - American Heritage Campground. I plan to devote an entire article to that campground. It did live up to its recommendations.

I am not going to attempt to tell you all about the things that we did on this trip in one article and there will be several to follow. I will focus on the places that we went and the things to do.

I will tell you now about a few things that will make this trip stand out in our memories for a long time. These are things that go beyond traveling in an RV or specifically, a Roadtrek. During this trip - as it's title states - we encountered an earthquake, a sudden violent storm as we were driving on US 95, and a hurricane.

There may have been other earthquakes on the East Coast during my many years, but I have never felt one. If anyone told me that one took place, it would be a surprise to me. On this trip, we were within one hundred miles of the center of the earthquake and we felt this one. It is an odd sensation. We were inside a museum building on Jamestown Island. This building was built just a few years ago over an archaeological site and to preserve the site, the building was built on cement piers above the ground do as not to disturb the history beneath. We were standing at one of the display cases on a wall near the front of the museum. Suddenly, it felt like the building was swaying. It just seemed natural that it would do this - my wife said to me that the building must be moving in the wind - the James River is just feet away. I said to her that this was not possible - we have been in this building before and it cannot sway in the wind. Well, she said, if it is not the wind - it must be an earthquake. Over our heads, the hanging light fixtures started swinging. We were just standing there. My wife asked me if we should be heading for a door. I figured that if there was a problem, someone would be on a loudspeaker telling everyone to get out, but the young lady at the reception counter was just sitting there talking to some guy who had come by. There was no panic and it was like this happened there every day. The swaying stopped, of course, as suddenly as it started and it lasted about thirty seconds. The lights kept swinging but other than that it did not appear that anything had been moved out of place. The artifacts in the cases were as they were. Suddenly, a man who appeared to be an administrator came running out to the girl at the reception counter. He asked her if she felt "that". He said that he was sitting at his desk and suddenly everything started moving. I saw him pull out his cell phone and start calling to find out what happened. Now, this is National Park Service, so I would figure these guys know an earthquake when they feel one - or would know who to call to find out. He seemed to make three calls before he got confirmation that we just experienced an earthquake - 5.9 they told him on the Richter Scale. Everyone just went back to what they were doing so we continued to tour the musuem. Later, people who had been outside when it happened said that they did not feel anything. In the next few days, speaking to people at Colonial Williamsburg - just a few miles from where we were, most felt it - outside or in - and those who were outside who did not actually feel the movement, felt a feeling of dizziness or of being lightheaded. Yes, this was my first earthquake. My wife, of course, has been a much larger one - an 8.9 in Mexico - which she slept through. This occurred before we met when we were in college.

The earthquake was the big topic of conversation in Virginia for days. When we left Williamsburg, we were going back to Lancaster to spend a few days. There were reports of Hurricane Irene but there was no certainty at that point what path it would take. We were continuing with the trip figuring if it did come our way we would likely be home by then. We left Williamsburg and headed in the Roadtrek north on US Route 95 - well known for its traffic between Richmond and Washington D.C. We left mid-afternoon and planned to stop for dinner at a restaurant in Fredricksburg that we have been to before. The plan was that we would stop early for dinner, avoid the bulk of rush hour and leave when the roads were clearer heading up to Pennsylvania. What we had not planned for - and had no idea about was a sudden flash storm that violently hit several counties in Northern Virginia including the city of Fredericksburg. We were driving along with the sky cloudy, but not out of the ordinary, when suddenly the sky turned dark. At the same time it started to pour and the wind sharply blew. The Roadtrek which was traveling at the speed limit - the speed limits here are 70 mph - was taken in the wind and blew out of the lane. I held tight on the wheel and got it back between the lines while I slowed down. It handles the wind at slower speeds much better. Everyone else was slowing down as well and we were surrounded by trucks and cars. We had the radio on and again for the first time in my life I heard the Emergency Broadcast System actually come on - and not for a drill- and report that in these counties - they listed several counties - the locations of which we had no clue - but obviously we were in one - there was a severe storm with 60 mph winds, heavy rain, and large hail. We saw no hail but we certainly were in the downpour and felt the wind. I got behind a small truck with large red rear lights that I could see easily and just kept going following behind. We drove about half an hour in the storm heading north and the sky started to clear as suddenly as it had grown dark. The storm was heading south and we had driven through it.

We were just about in Fredericksburg and we f0und our exit. The restaurant is a chain restaurant and is located in a section of the parking lot for a large shopping center. There is also an incredibly inexpensive gas station in this shopping center - which we had stopped in on the way south and paid $3.29 per gallon. This may not be a big deal where you are located but here in NY the gas topped $3.89 and was headed for over $4 again when we left on this trip. Well, anyway, we are now off 95 but deep in traffic approaching this shopping center - most of the traffic - rush hour from both Richmond and D.C. was passing the shopping center by. We managed to get over to the lane to enter the shopping center - and it was eerily deserted. In fact everyone of the many, many stores and businesses were closed - and appeared to have been closed for some time. We continued along the inner roads of the shopping center to the restaurant and it was closed and dark. Those here must have know that this storm was coming - and they closed the stores and got out fast. Well, now we had to find someplace else for dinner and try to avoid what had turned into bumper to bumper traffic back on 95. I suggested that we head for US 1 - to try to avoid the traffic and also because there would be opportunities to find restaurants on a route that was not a limited access road.

To get to US 1 it is necessary to drive through most of Fredericksburg - and like the shopping center - it was closed. There was no electric power in any of the buildings and everything was deserted. It continued along like this down to US 1 - and US 1 was not much different - though it was bumper to bumper traffic with a mile traveled in about a half hour. It took us an hour and a half until we found an open road back up to US 95- which by this time had opened up significantly and was moving. We eventually found restaurants open nearer to D.C. and had dinner. Another experience to write home about...

And then there was the hurricane. At this point the reports were uncertain as to when this hurricane would reach NY and whether or not it would be as strong as it was reported to be in Bermuda. We were uncertain what to do - stay the two days as planned in Pennsylvania or leave the next day after arrival this night. My wife was concerned that we had left things out in our backyard that would blow up and damage the house. I was concerned that we were putting ourselves into the storm and that Pennsylvania - perhaps more west than we would be - would be a better place to be than at home in the direct path of the storm. We would have until the next morning to decide when we went into the office to pay for our stay.

We hooked up that night in the mud. The storm that we drove through in Virginia must have made its way through Pennsylvania also. The next morning the sun was shining and you would never know that there was a hurricane in the forecast. We went into the office and explained our situation. The ladies who work at Old Mill Stream Campground are very nice and very accommodating. She completely understood and told us that if we needed to leave there was no problem and we would not have to pay for the second day even though it had been reserved. They were uncertain what the weather would be like there. They had heard reports from nothing to heavy rains. Meryl was anxious that we would have a problem with the things left in our backyard and the decision was made to head home. We would spend the day in Lancaster, have an early dinner and head home.

Throughout the day we heard weather reports getting worse and worse for NY. I started to think that perhaps we should head west to where there would be no storm at all and avoid the problem all together. That place - where there would be no storm - would be Pittsburgh. We pulled into a McDonald's parking lot and connected to their wifi to find a campground in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I was not finding any - not that I was not finding vacancies - I was not finding campgrounds. OK - we would head home.

The rest you know. The storm hit NY hard and heavy (though not as heavy as anticipated). We sat in the dark - actually in the Roadtrek in our driveway using the generator and the inverter alternately to be in the light and be entertained by the TV at night. And waited four days to have the power restored. I still think we should have gone to Pittsburgh.

There you have the excitement. In the next several articles I will write about the fun of our vacation trip in our Roadtrek!


  1. What a trip! Hopefully your next one will have sunny skies and nice weather.

    My Hubby and I have been campers and RVers for all of our 37 married years. We've had just about every kind of RV from pick up truck pop up camper, trailer (Sunline 18'), Motorhome Class A (Winnabego Adventurer 34'), Class C (Chinook 22'), 5th Wheel Travel Trailer (NuWa Hitchhiker Discover America 34') and now a Class B (Pleasure Way Excel 21' 4"). We retired three years ago traded in our Chinook for the 5th and took the 5th to CA, TX, MN/AZ, FL and Alaska. It was a great home on wheels, very comfortable, and easy to tow. But we missed being able to go anywhere without a thought and stopped anywhere too like we could with our little Chinook. So we decided to downsize again. The final choice was between the Road Trek and the Pleasure Way Excel. Although the Road Trek handled slightly better on the road (for the driver) the Pleasure Way won the battle. We loved the bigger bathroom and it was very comfortable riding in. And it was quieter inside while on the road too. We've been busy like you getting some kinks fixed and slowly packing it. We had a ton of stuff packed away in our 5th wheel and now must just take the essentials. We have packed like this before so it isn't new to us to carry less. We have yet to take our first trip. We did park it in our driveway and spent two nights trying out the couch/bed. We have to take it back to the RV dealership next week to have the toilet replaced and then it will be ready for our first trip in the middle of Sept.

    We enjoy reading about your adventurers in your Road Trek. Happy Trails to you.

    Link to some photos of our RV:

  2. Meryl and Me Hit the RoadSeptember 5, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Congratulations on your new Pleasureway Excel - we looked at the Excel. I liked it but it was too wide to fit on our driveway.