Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Final Trip of the Season - Part 2

We set off on a pleasant Thursday morning for Virginia. A few days before the trip I checked the air in the tires of the Roadtrek and decided to bring the front tires up to 60 psi. Roadtrek's manual recommends that the front tires be 50 psi and the rear tires always be kept at exactly 80 psi. I once spoke to Roadtrek and asked about the tire pressure and I was told that 50 psi in the front is where to start, but add 5 psi at a time up to 65 psi and no more and see how you like the ride. I have been keeping the front tires at 55 psi and the ride seemed fine. Many speak of keeping the front tires at 65 psi. Roadtrek had told me that the ride gets a bit rough at that, so I have not gone that far, but I wanted to try the tires at 60 psi. I have to tell you that many of the bumps and bangs have diminished greatly now that the tires are at 60 psi. The trip off Long Island on what must be the worst road surfaces in the country was a whole different and much smoother experience.

Anyway, we were off. No trip out of this area lately does not include stopping in traffic and it was almost an hour and a half to get to what should have been a forty five minute ride. Once we got on to the New Jersey Turnpike, despite the construction there, it was an open run. We were taking Interstate 95 almost all of the way. Many hate this route because of the traffic around Washington, D.C. on both sides of the city - especially if you get there between 4 and 7 for their three hour "rush hour". We were going to get into this no matter what and this was the most direct route to take.

We did have to diverge off of Route 95 when we approached Baltimore. No propane is permitted in the tunnel that travels under the city of Baltimore and that means getting off of I95. There are two ways to go - to the west of the city on I695, the Baltimore Beltway 0r around the east side of the city on the same I695. I asked on an RV travel and routes forum and everyone recommended taking the eastern route. We did and had no problems and we moved quickly through the Baltimore area taking one of the bridges to get to the south of Baltimore. If you are ever traveling this way, this is the route to take.

We approached Washington, D.C. without any traffic at all and went around the city on the Capital Beltway which is I495. It was approaching 4:00 pm. On the other side of Washington we were not so lucky and went directly into stop and go traffic. Our plan was to stop in Fredricksburg, Virginia for dinner which is about 40 miles south of D.C. and it took us more than two hours to get there. Of course, along the way between the two cities, Meryl needed to make a pit stop - and we were stuck in the middle lane with no way to move to the right lane in the bumper to bumper traffic. Let me explain, that the Roadtrek is a very long and large vehicle. It takes some planning to change lanes and the one thing that you never really want to do is make sudden changes - unless you wish to crash into the car that suddenly comes up out of nowhere in the lane next to you (and the way the mirrors work you will not always see a car along side in just the small blindspot that exists). In this case, there was just no way to get into the non-existent spaces between car bumpers along side of us. We did wind up passing the rest area, moving gradually over to the right when we could and then getting back on in the opposite direction to go back and try again.

We finally arrived in Fredricksburg and had dinner. This is where this great WaWa gas station is also. It always has the cheapest price for gas and this time I paid only $3.03 a gallon. This may not sound like a big deal to some but at home gas when we left was $3.57 and higher at most stations. And the Roadtrek takes A LOT of gas! (On the way home just a week later, the gas at this station had gone up six cents per gallon. Still good - but really, six cents in one week?!?)

Well, after dinner the road was finally clear and we headed south to the turn off that goes around Richmond and takes you to I64 which travels along the peninsula into the Tidewater that leads to Williamsburg. It was after 10 pm when we arrived at American Heritage Campground. The office closes much earlier and our space was posted on a bulletin board next to the front door. From the map I could see that the space was two down from the bathhouse. We traveled through the main road of the campground and counted rows to row 6. When we got to where the space was shown on the map we could not find a number for the space, but where we were was exactly where we should be. With a bit of maneuvering and guidance from Meryl I backed into the space.

When we were at this campground in the summer I found that the concrete pad spaces were perfectly level. I rolled back and forth on this pad to find the most level spot and found it - exactly level. This was important tonight because after we hooked up our electric and cable I wanted to install a pair of levels inside the front of the Roadtrek, one on the dash and the other on the inside of the door. Up to now we have been using a round level that we place on the only flat spot of the inside of the Roadtrek that we have found and that is between the seats and back on the enamel floor. It means leaning into the side door to see the bubble, move out again, and move the van until that bubble comes level. It has been a pain. To install levels inside, the Roadtrek must be on perfectly level ground - or made level. This spot, I knew, would be ideal for this and I came prepared with a pair of adhesive stick on levels. This would be an easier task if you are screwing the levels on and not using the adhesive, but I, at this point, was not into the idea of putting holes into my new Roadtrek. So with a great bit of maneuvering and adjusting I got the right left level on the middle of the dash (where you really cannot screw into anyway) and the other for front to back level - well, we tried a lot of spots for that and none were easily visible on the door. We wound up putting this on the cloth header above the driver's door. Perfect. I was so happy. For the rest of the trip - well, almost the rest of the trip - I could just glace up and on the dash and see that when I pulled in the Roadtrek was perfectly level. So you ask, why not the whole rest of the trip. Along the way, back north while still in Virginia, I glanced up at the level on the header and it was gone. The adhesive did not stick to the cloth very well. I figured it was lost out the door when we had opened it along somewhere that day - but when we stopped for dinner on the way, Meryl found it stuck to the back of my pants. No longer usable, but at least not lost. And, of course, I had to stop and buy another pair and get the RT level in the Pennsylvania campground, and put the front back level in some other spot where it would stick. We decided on the passenger door - where with a flashlight pointed at it, it would be visible from the driver's seat. And when we got home, I bought two stainless steel screws and screwed it place permanently.

A few tidbits about the trip. On the third day at the campground as we were about to leave in the morning, I realize why we could not find the number for the space that first night. It was on the back of the electric box. It was there because this was a pull through space. There was nothing but road in front of us or behind us. This discovery made it so easy to get into the space. No backing up - just pull straight in from the road behind. Now, we know to look for this type of thing.

About the toilet bags. First, they smell, even after use like vanilla sugar cookies - an odd, but interesting observation. They really worked well. We used the campground toilets before we settled in for the night and took care of all posterior business then. Once we closed ourselves in for the night, however, we did need to use the toilet for urination - several times (when you get older you will understand). We kept the same bag in the whole night -and I must admit that each morning it was quite full, but wearing gloves, I would remove it from the toilet and seal it up - get it outside immediately and add it to the garbage bag that we were leaving for the trash pick up. They had to wonder what was so heavy inside that garbage bag. It really was quite heavy when full - and it really never was completely full.

Before we left I had purchased - because of our unusual encounters with the weather this past season - an emergency broadcast weather radio that receives the NOAA forecasts and warnings. I had this with us and on just in case. The weather in Virginia was beautiful and just about every day went well over 60 degrees. Nights were warm enough that I did not need to turn on the heat most nights. We had been discussing whether we should stay on Tuesday in Williamsburg, as planned, and leave on Wednesday OR if we should leave on Tuesday. Before we left we learned that a commitment that we had with a local museum at home at which we do a holiday history program had changed dates and if we returned on Thursday night as planned, we would be out on Friday to do this program. We were thinking that perhaps this was pushing ourselves too much and it would be much more comfortable to be home on Wednesday night instead. When we paid for the nights at American Heritage, we told the woman at the desk that we might decide to leave on Tuesday and not Wednesday, but we wanted to keep it open. We paid for five nights instead of six and the space would be available to us if we wanted to add that sixth night. Nice! On Monday, I listened to the NOAH forecast - rain was expected on Tuesday night into Wednesday with flooding expected on the I95 corridor. That made our decision for us- we were leaving Tuesday. We would spend most of the day in Williamsburg and head off around 2 or 3 pm. This was a good decision because it was raining when we got to Pennsylvania (we had called ahead to change our reservation there). It was a better decision when I put on the NOAH radio in Pennsylvania and heard an emergency SNOW alert for Lancaster County to start on Wednesday evening at 7! Here we go again, in PA with snow on the way. OK - we were getting used to fast get away now. We spent part of the day in PA on Wednesday, had dinner for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and I was determined to be out of the snow zone before it started at 7:00 pm. It did snow - about four inches but we never saw a flake. We closed out our camping season true to form - with an unanticipated storm warning!

So how was Williamsburg? Come back next week to read all about Grand Illumination and Colonial Williamsburg in the Christmas Season!

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