Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Trip Without a Challenge? Part 3: The Historic Storm

When last I ended, we were on our way to the campground in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania after a day of service on the Roadtrek. We arrived at the campground knowing what space we had as I had been told when I made the reservation. This is Halloween weekend and Halloween is a big deal at campgrounds with campers decorating their spaces and RVs. I was not sure what we would find at this campground and was hoping not much of that as Halloween is my wife's birthday - and she hates that it is. When other kids were having pretty parties with pink and yellow balloons, her parties were decorated with black and orange balloons and decorated with witches and ghosts. This was her parents' idea and not hers. Anyway, we have been traveling to Lancaster County for years for her birthday because IN THE PAST in this predominantly religious community, Halloween was downplayed. In recent years, this has not been the case. Anyway - when I made the reservation I asked for "not a T-Space" (see my article about Old Mill Stream Campground to understand what a T-Space is) but I was told that all that were available were T-Spaces. The space assigned was not bad as it had entrances on two roads and if necessary we could come and go even if the main entrance was blocked. We went into the office and paid for the weekend - four nights. We drove over to the space and at that point we were the only RV in the T.

When we arrive at a new campground space we always check the polarity and voltage at the outlet that we will be hooking up to. This is necessary as the wrong polarity or the wrong voltage - too high or too low - will damage your RV electrical system. We carry meters to do both and the tests are very quick. We went through this ritual and were ready for the evening. It was really too late at this point to go anywhere as it was after 5 and it was too early to go yet for dinner. I suggested that we drain the exterior fresh water tank as we had time now that we did not know what to do with.

The proper way of draining the fresh water tanks is to remove a cap from a pipe that is under the Roadtrek under the area of the driver's door. This requires that one get on the ground and go under. It had rained there as much as everywhere else that day and the ground was soaking wet and muddy. This was not going to work. We had found at home that another way to empty the tank is to open the outside shower faucets with the water pump running. This runs all of the water out and with some force - faster than the slow moving drain plug. That is what we did. In about fifteen minutes the tank was empty. We had previously switched the water lines to cut the interior tank from the exterior tank and that tank was still full - and that was just what we wanted. Our fresh water was now safe from freezing.

We headed out then for the restaurant to have a very nice dinner. After dinner it was - as always - a stop at the 24 hour Walmart to buy RV antifreeze. Others must have been rushing the shelves as all of the Walmart brand, less expensive antifreeze was sold out. I purchased the name brand for a dollar more and we headed back to the campground to put it in the tanks. I was really exhausted now from my lack of sleep the night before and I knew that I would have no problem sleeping in the Roadtrek that night.

Before we had left, I went through a number of internet/Roadtrek sites to learn how much antifreeze to add to the waste tanks while they were still in use. The answer that kept coming up was about two quarts each - and one gallon bottle would do that exactly. Half the bottle went down the toilet and the other half of the bottle went down the sink drain. It was getting colder outside, but the temps while we were still up were around 40 degrees F. No problem. I put on the weather reports to check the local forecasts. It was almost 2 am and they were still reporting the same cold nights but warmer days with Saturdays rain showers mixed with snow showers. Still no problem, especailly now that our water tanks were set for the cold.

I turned on the furnace to make sure it would work, but preferred to go to sleep with the heat pump that is part of the air conditioner unit. We also had the hot water heater running for the first "real" usage. The heat pump kept us plenty warm. When we went to bed I left that running. I set the alarm for 10:30 am - this was now to be a relaxing vacation and there was no need to get up any earlier.

At 8:00 am I awoke, cold under the blanket. The vent over my head in the ceiling was pouring cold air on me. The heat pump was working but it was blowing cold. I looked at a thermometer that we brought with us, and the temperature inside was in the thirties. I remembered then reading that the heat pump is only good to 40 degrees and should not be used below that temperature. I turned it off, and turned on the furnace. It came on right away, and heat started to fill the Roadtrek in just a few minutes. I went back to sleep.

When we woke up and went out to unhook the Roadtrek from the electric and the cable connections, it was a bit cloudy but a really nice day. It was not cold. Fridays in Lancaster for me mean a trip to Green Dragon Farmers Market. I have written about the market before so I will not go into details again. We had a wonderful day at Green Dragon and spent the whole day there. While there we went into one of the stores and overheard the owner and his wife talking - about SNOW. He was telling her she was crazy and she was saying that the weather reports had changed and that there would be at least two to three inches of snow on the ground on Saturday. Later, when Meryl and I spoke about hearing this, she and I both felt that two to three inches of snow was manageable - but here we go - our relaxing weekend was about to have a new challenge. Walking around outside after that, we again heard another group discussing the snow that was coming. I, now, was getting concerned. We were ready to leave Green Dragon anyway and when we got into the Roadtrek I put on the local radio station.

The announcer on the radio said this, "IF you are hearing this broadcast you are in a winter storm warning zone. There will be seven to twelve inches of snow falling on this area on Saturday. Stay inside." Oh boy! I changed the station to another to hear the same warning but this time with a prediction of six to ten inches of snow falling locally on Saturday. Now, we had a real challenge.

The Roadtrek has a ground clearance of only about six inches. At the top of that there are pipes, plumping, tanks, a generator, and a lot of things that should not be scraped along the ground or through deep snow. There was no way that I wanted to be anywhere only with the Roadtrek in snow higher than its clearance. The snow would stop by Sunday - but it would remain on the ground. I looked at Meryl and said, "We have to leave and go home - tonight." We had paid for the campground for the whole weekend but it was worth losing the money than damaging the Roadtrek or being inside of it in a heavy snow storm. We could have just gotten on the road and headed home, but we decided to go back to the campground first - just to make sure the reports would remain the same.

Of course, the reports remained the same. It was hard to believe that less than 14 hours before there was no indication of this storm in any of the weather reports, but it was coming. Meryl suggested that we go into the office and let them know that we were leaving and maybe ask for a two day credit toward another stay. This is by no way expected and more than likely at most campgrounds would be laughed at. Meryl asked. I added that we would, of course, pay for that night even though we were leaving. The ladies at the counter completely understood. They offered to refund us not only the two remaining days but also that night. I could not believe it. Wonderful - despite my wish that the weather would magically just go away. They handed us a credit slip for a refund on our charge card for three nights. Now let me say this -


We left the office still not believing that we had the money back, but very disappointed that our wonderful and relaxing weekend would end before it even had a real chance to get started. We left and stopped for dinner at a favorite restaurant - though even that did not make up for the disappointment that I felt.

By 1:00 am we were home. No snow fell where we live but in Pennsylvania where we were - and in New Jersey and north of us in Connecticut the storm hit hard, dropped a lot of wet and heavy snow, and did a lot of damage.

They are calling this an "Historic Storm". There has not been a storm even close to this since the Civil War - that is 150 years. How lucky we are that we got our Roadtrek just in time to experience this phenomenon.

This has been quite a season - an earthquake, a freak rain storm, a hurricane, and a historic snow storm. Luckily, there are no volcanoes anywhere around where we travel.

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