Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hotter than a Firecracker on the Fourth of July - PART 2

I left off in the last article with the arrival at the campground. We wanted to get out of the campground as quickly as possible and get over to Roots Market, the local farmer's market that I wrote about a year ago when I detailed last year's Fourth of July Roadtrek road trip. This was Tuesday and Roots (pronounced Ruts by the locals) is only open on Tuesdays. There is not much to say that I did not tell you about last year, so I am not going to repeat myself.

The weather reports for this entire trip were a little of everything and they included excessively high heat warnings, severe lightening storms, rain downpours, and a mix of sun and clouds - take your pick. We had places that we wanted to go in Lancaster and had to decide day to day what we would do when to maximize the weather. Two of our days would be dictated by what is open and Roots Market is the Tuesday place to go and Green Dragon Farmer's Market is the Friday place to go. We also were going to Kutztown Folk Festival and we planned two days, one of which would be the Saturday we were leaving for driving through the Amish farms and visiting local sites and shops. The one thing that would be consistent about the weather was the heat - and as I titled these articles - it was not only hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July but it was hotter than a firecracker each day of the trip - excessively hot.

So how did the Roadtrek do in the heat?

Last winter we put a commercial product called Reflectix in some of the windows in the Roadtrek - and have left it there. This is a foil/bubble insulation that is sold in home centers and is easy to cut with a scissor and fit into the window openings. In the winter, this helps keep the heat in the Roadtrek. In the summer, it helps reflect the heat away from the windows and is supposed to help keep the inside of the Roadtrek cooler. Many RVers use Reflectix. We have it in the two side rear windows and in the window over the sink. We have pieces that we carry that we can place this at night into windows that we need visible while we are driving. The Reflectix was put to the test on this trip.

Temperatures outside were in the high 90's and went into the low hundreds. The 2011 Chevy has a thermometer on the dashboard that shows the temperature outside - which I have at times been doubtful is accurate, but on this trip it was close if not matching to thermometers we were passing on the road on business signs. We also have a thermometer inside that has a remote unit that we have placed inside the refrigerator to keep check that the fridge is keeping properly cold. That thermometer is kept up front with us and also reads the temperature around it. On one of the days, the Roadtrek was parked in a lot while we were at a local attraction. When we got back to the Roadtrek after about three hours, the temperature inside the Roadtrek was 114 degrees F! This was the Fourth of July. The dashboard A/C brought the temperature down - and was cool blowing directly on us as we drove off, but it took awhile for the inside temperature to come down into the 90's and eventually lower. So much for the Reflectix... But I must say that we were not really uncomfortable - as long as the dash A/C was running.

Twice during this trip we decided that we would have lunch inside the Roadtrek. Once at Green Dragon where we bought very good sub sandwiches from a popular stand called Raub's Subs, and the other time at Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market where we bought cold cuts at a meat counter. We took it all out to the Roadtrek. I started the generator and turned on the Roadtrek A/C. It was hot when we got into the Roadtrek - the temperature inside was over 100. The Roadtrek A/C took a little while to get things cooled down, but by the time we settled to start eating, it was comfortable. This is one of the great things about having the Roadtrek. You have your "home" and all of its comforts with you everywhere you go. We had an air conditioned dining room to have lunch in - the front seats of our Roadtrek with pull out table.

One afternoon we decided to go back to the campground and spend some time before heading out to a restaurant for dinner. We backed into our site, hooked up the electric and the cable, and turned on the air conditioner and sat in comfort watching early evening TV. Outside this site is one of the bathhouses and recreation rooms. When we got to the site there were cars parked across the front of the building. There was just enough room for us to back the Roadtrek into the site. Had a larger RV come back to do what we did, it would have been difficult getting in with these cars there. There was a large group of people inside the open building - no A/C - playing bean bag toss. Meryl asked me what they were doing. I explained to her that this seems to be the national pastime of RVers - bean bag toss. I have read about playing this game at campgrounds on just about every RV forum and here it was. We were comfortable inside and I doubt these people wanted to be intruded upon. It seemed to me that they all knew each other well and it was a private party.

As I said, the reports of the threat of severe storms were constant - but happily they never came. We did, though, not go to Kutztown on the Fourth of July as we had planned - and as we always do - because the reports were certain that day of storms. We spent that day driving around the countryside - visiting towns like Bird-In-Hand and Intercourse. The storms never came. We went to Kutztown on Thursday instead. It was just as hot but the weather threat reports were not as urgent.

Kutztown was emptier than usual. For one it was not the Fourth of July, during which we were told it had been more crowded with people, though not up to expectations. The other problem was that the Fourth was in the middle of the week. We found this everywhere we went this week. There were not the usual crowds, except at the campgrounds, which seemed to be full. This is a full day outside. There is one place of cool refuge and that is inside the quilt exhibit building which is air conditioned. This year there was another cool place to retreat to - though most of the day there were lines to get in. This is the 150th Anniversary cycle of the Civil War - or as it is known in the South -the War Between the States. In recognition of this, the Pennsylvania 150th Civil War Commission had a special exhibit inside a trailer of artifacts and story boards about the Civil War in Pennsylvania and this trailer was air conditioned. We spent the entire day - heat and all. We had lunch at our favorite stand run by a local Lions Club that serves PA Dutch sausage sandwiches cheaper than any other booth at the festival. We brought our own cans of soda cold from the Roadtrek fridge. At the Kutztown Festival there are lots of crafts demonstrated and for sale, entertainment, and lectures about the local life of the Amish and Mennonites and their culture. This year they added lectures on the Civil War in Pennsylvania and there also was a small encampment of Civil War reenactors. We stopped to chat and commiserate about the heat. One difference between reenacting the Civil War and the Revolutionary War is that you can wear linen for the Rev War period - Civil War soldiers wore wool. Try going outside in wool on a 100 degree day. These guys do.

I want to share how we were inside the Roadtrek at night with this extreme heat. While it was not in the 100's at night it stayed in the high 80's and low 90's. This was hotter than it had been last summer when we were in the heat of southern Virginia. I have commented how cold it can get inside our Roadtrek with the air conditioner running. On the nights of this trip, the A/C was on set to low fan and auto - as we always keep it. It kept the inside of the Roadtrek comfortable with no problem at all. It was not super cold up front as it has felt on less extreme nights but it certainly was cool and we did not feel the heat that was outside at all. The CoolCat - yes, this is the model name of the Chevy-based Roadtrek air conditioners - did a great job. Now, I did notice something that had me concerned. When the air conditioner ran for awhile there was a noise as if something was flapping around inside. I only heard this when the a/c was on at night - never during the time it was on in the morning when we were getting ready for the day or during the few times during the afternoons that we had it on. I began to think that perhaps at night, without the intense heat outside but with the moisture that was still heavy in the air, that ice particles were forming inside the air conditioner. We have had this happen to air conditioners at home. I looked inside of the grill behind the air conditioner on the roof of the Roadtrek and there was nothing caught inside that would make any noise. The only difference between running the air conditioner in the night and the day was the intense heat outside during the day - and no ice should be forming then. I did see inside the Roadtrek looking at the air conditioner's filter that it was thickly packed with dust. It needed to be cleaned. We decided to leave that task until we got home - which we did. I will write a separate article about this at some time in the near future. Be aware that this filter needs to be cleaned at least once a year.

In our model Roadtrek and in similar Chevy-based models there are two vents on the ceiling over the bed - which is actually under the area that the air conditioner is in. These can be directed forward and back and in combination and direct air conditioned air down upon you in the bed. We slept very comfortably in nice cool air each night.

I am not going to go day by day on what we did. We had a great time each day - despite the heat. But, we had a new experience at the campground in our Roadtrek. No, not something bad. We met our neighbors.

Since before we got the Roadtrek we were told by RVers and I was told on the forums that everyone is friendly. Everyone comes to say hello or wave. Everyone will want to see your Roadtrek. A Roadtrek and all Class B's, at least where we have gone so far, are unusual to see. We did see one other on this trip parked in a diner parking lot. There were no others in the campground. I told Meryl about how friendly everyone is and we tend to be shy people - Meryl is less so than I am. Well, when we pass anyone in a campground Meryl will make a point of waving and smiling. RARELY, does anyone ever wave back. She always then looks at me and says "I thought you said everyone is friendly?" I just shrug. Maybe it is not an East Coast thing.

There was a trailer in the site next to us every day of the trip at the campground. There seemed to be a couple similar in age to us there. They were out a few nights sitting under their awning when we came back in. Remember, we go out in the morning and come back relatively late at night when we travel. So if we are going to encounter anyone it is at night when they are sitting around their fire pit or in the morning when we are unhooking and getting ready for the day. We started out the trip with some water in our waste tanks left from testing the repairs to the leak that I wrote about several articles back. The tank monitors started to read full way before they should have and I was not taking any chances so I decided that we should empty the black and grey tanks on Friday morning before we set out for the day - and replenish the water in our fresh water tanks which did seem to be getting low. So, we went out in the morning to dump the tanks. While we were setting up to do this, Meryl was outside and I was still inside pouring water down into the black tank through the toilet to make sure there really was enough water to dump. It turned out from doing this that I found out the tank was only half full - but at that point it was full and we had to dump it. When I got outside, there was Meryl talking to some lady. It was the lady from the trailer next door. She was asking about the Roadtrek as they had never seen one up close before. She said that others in the campground had been curious about the Roadtrek also. We told them all about it and the conversation got to RVing in general and she shared some concerns and I offered some of my stumbled upon wisdom as I share with you here on this site about ways to deal with what she was concerned about. Then she called her husband over and we all got to talking. We spent over an hour talking - we had intended to get away for the day sooner - but this was great. Our first neighbors that actually talked to us. I don't think they ever saw anyone dump with a macerator before so they watched. It went without a hitch or a splash...

Day to day, as I say, there were storm warnings. They never came until Saturday evening. We were driving home that night. We always drive home at night so that we can enjoy one more full day of the trip. We stopped at a favorite restaurant - Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA which is both a local favorite and a popular tourist restaurant that is off from the main tourist area. As we were heading there the radio was now pinpointing storm hits and the sky was getting darker when it should have remained summer late afternoon bright. We got to the parking lot of the restaurant and it was full of cars which is not unusual for a summer Saturday night at this particular restaurant. There was no place to park the Roadtrek as the few spaces remaining in the main lot were too tight together with cars on each side and no place to pull into two spaces front to back for the added length of the Roadtrek. There is a lot on the far side of the restaurant that had open spaces and spaces that I could park over a curb of grass which makes it easy to park a Roadtrek without sticking out into the lane behind. We parked. Meryl asked if we should bring umbrellas and I said, "Nah, too much bother."

It was crowded inside the restaurant and we were seated in a small dining room off from the main dining rooms. There were no other open tables. It happens that these side dining rooms which can be used for private parties have windows - and no place else in the restaurant can you see outside from your table. We were not even started with dinner when the rumble of thunder could be heard. Then the flashes of lighting and the bolts could be seen and the skies opened up and all of the moisture that had been collecting for days and days came down to the ground. Oh boy!

Driving in the rain is not one of my favorite things and driving in the rain at night is way at the bottom of my list. I watched as it poured. I did not need this with what I wanted to be an end of the trip relaxing dinner. But almost as suddenly as it started, within a fifteen minutes, the rain stopped. The black sky turned light the evening sun could be seen through the clouds. How nice. So the threatened storms and rain did make one appearance and it was just long enough to be noticed. We drove home on wet roads but with clear skies.

There will be more trips to come this summer. We may try dry camping for a night but that depends on a few things. We will also be out for an extended trip of almost three weeks and you will come along for the trip.


  1. Dan Wade, Marion, OhioAugust 9, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    Whenever we travel in our Roadtrek I take a portable weather radio along on days with weather advisories I leave it in a standby mode to let us know about any warnings or watches. I also try to park with the front of the RT facing into the wind when Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are issued, that way the part of the vehicle that is used to taking 60 mile an hour winds when driving and take the brunt of the storm.

    1. After last summer's wild weather, we bought a N.O.A.H. radio for emergency alerts and advisories. It can be run on battery or AC and works great inside the RT. Leave it on at night in alarm mode and it will wake you up to alert you to a storm warning.

      Problem lately is every weather report includes scattered or isolated thunderstorms just about every day.