Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Roadtrek as Refuge

As everyone likely knows the Northeast was hit with what has been described as "the perfect storm", a "monsterstorm", "Frankenstorm", and the worse recorded storm in US history. It is named Hurricane Sandy. We live in one of the areas that was hit badly by this storm. to make matters worse, this storm was followed by a Nor-Easter just a week later that brought with it heavy snow - in the first week of November. Luckily, our home did not sustain any real damage. Others were not as lucky and many just a few miles from here lost their homes completely. What we did lose was power - and while our power was not out as long as some (over 12 days and longer), it was out for almost a week. During that time we had no lights, heat, or stove to cook on in the house. We did however have the Roadtrek with all of that waiting on the driveway.

We did not go into the Roadtrek on the first night, as the storm was still going on, and we thought it best not to be sitting on the driveway on the Roadtrek as trees, power lines, etc. were falling all around us. We stayed in the house that night but on the following nights we went out into the Roadtrek.

When we heard the storm was predicted to hit that Monday, we went out to the Roadtrek on Saturday and prepared it for use during the storm - just in case. We filled both fresh water tanks. We plugged the shore power cord into our house outdoor outlet to fully charge the batteries. We had a full tank of propane. I tested the generator just to make sure it would come on. The Roadtrek was ready for us. If things were really bad here following the storm, we would leave in the Roadtrek and head for an area that was not effected by the storm. We would see.

The storm hit on Monday, October 29. We had reservations to arrive in Pennsylvania for my wife's birthday on that day. We had called the campground over the weekend and asked if they would postpone our reservation to Tuesday - we were hopeful. The storm hit Monday and the power went down in the late afternoon. On Monday we called the campground and cancelled the trip completely. By Tuesday afternoon the storm had pretty much passed, and it would be safe to go into the Roadtrek that night. We heard on the radio about the devastation all around us and also in New Jersey. Even if we were going to leave, there was going to be a problem if needed gasoline. With power out so wide-spread, there were reports of gas stations without electricity and unable to pump gas. Predictions to return power locally were 7 to 10 days or greater. If we used the Roadtrek generator when we went inside, we would have to be conservative in our use as to not use up the gas we had - a little more than 3/4 of a tank. This would ordinarily be much more than enough, but who knew at this point how long it would be before we could get gasoline - and as it turned out - gasoline was in limited supply where and if it could be found for a couple of weeks after the storm.

We had eggs and canned soup in the house. We had eaten what else we had that did not need cooking on the first night of the storm. The eggs were just still cold from the house refrigerator and were certainly edible. We had some sliced cheese that would still be good if we ate it then also. At dinner time we took a pot for the soup, the eggs, and an oiled frying pan and went out to the Roadtrek to cook our first full meal in the Roadtrek. If you have been reading along on this site, you know that we have only used the kitchen in the Roadtrek up to now to make late night snacks while we are traveling. We had not used the stove yet for anything. I turned on the propane before we went inside the Roadtrek, turned on the battery switch and turned on two overhead lights running just on the batteries, and as soon as we were ready to cook, I lit the two burners on the stove. I have to tell you that the burners can be tricky sometimes to light. Use a long reach lighter to light the burners. You have to hold the burner knob in, turning it to the first flame symbol while you put the fire to the burner and keep holding the knob in until it lights. As soon as it lights and stays lit, release the knob and give it a turn toward the smaller flame to lower the height of the flame and heat. We put the soup in the pot and placed it on the burner. We then made one small, but thick omelet at a time in the small frying pan. Not soon after the eggs hit the heat on the stove, the smoke alarm in the Roadtrek went off. There was no visible smoke but bleep, bleep, bleep, the alarm went off. We were not expecting this and scurried around figuring out what to do. Meryl reached over and pushed the button on the smoke alarm and it went off. It soon went back on again. I turned on the ceiling fan (which is an exhaust fan) and the alarm stopped but again sounded. I forgot that if you turn on the ceiling fan you must open a window or there is no air for the fan to draw through. This silenced the alarm for a while, but at various times while cooking the eggs it sounded again - with the fan running above. When the eggs were done, we shut off the burners and cleaned up quickly. We decided that it was easier to take it all back inside the house and eat at the kitchen table by candle and lantern light.

After dinner we went out to the Roadtrek to just try to have a normal night - at least a normal night like when we are traveling in the Roadtrek. I cranked up the antenna and pointed it toward Manhattan where most digital television signals here originate. I decided that we would start out for two hours using the Inverter to run the television. It was not very cold inside the Roadtrek and we kept our coats on so that we would not have to start the heat if we did not need to. We turned the front seats, and there we were - just as if we were at a campground.

I have said before that when you are in the Roadtrek with the curtains drawn at night, you could be anywhere. Inside is always the same - your familiar Roadtrek traveling home. Outside, when you open the door in the morning you might be in Pennsylvania, Williamsburg, Virginia, or anywhere that you might travel. I like this about the Roadtrek. I am sure it would be the same in any RV or trailer.  While we were watching TV, to lighten the mood a bit, Meryl turned to look out the window around the curtain and said, "Hey, a Class A just arrived in the site next to us!"  It was funny at the time. We really could have been in a campground.

After about two hours of running 110 volt power through the Inverter, I turned off the Inverter and started the generator. We ran the generator still watching TV and also later put on the heat pump in the air condition to warm up the inside of the Roadtrek. The heat pump works nicely until the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees. The temperature was holding outside above that - and at one point it actually got too warm inside the Roadtrek from the heat of the heat pump. The generator charges the batteries - so we were also refilling what we used running the Inverter.

We are what are called late night people and we stayed inside the Roadtrek until 2 AM. We decided that we would sleep inside the house in our bedroom bundled up. I did not want to use more gasoline than was necessary. Who knew how long we would be doing this.

We repeated this each night. The next night we only cooked soup on the stove - and with just the soup heating, again the smoke alarm went off. The smoke alarm in the Roadtrek is very sensitive. We dealt with it as we did the night before. I am not sure what to do if it was really cold outside and it was necessary to open the window and run the ceiling fan. It was not so cold that we could not run the heat pump - though it was starting to feel cold inside the house. If the power had not come back when it had, we would have started sleeping out in the Roadtrek as well. When the Nor'easter hit, we lost power again for a day - and could not spend that night in the Roadtrek, again because the storm was still going on outside. The Roadtrek was covered by over six inches of snow that day and night. It had not dropped below freezing, happily, as at that point we had not winterized yet. All was fine inside and out once I got the snow cleared. It is not easy reaching the Roadtrek's roof to get the snow off.

I have to say "thank goodness for the Roadtrek!" I love it for traveling and I love it for being there as our home on the driveway, when we need it. We had done this once before for a hurricane a little over a year before. It served us well then too.  So, if you like the idea of a Roadtrek for travel, think of it as a second, self-contained home if the power goes out or worse.


  1. Interesting turn of events, glad you made it through the ordeal. Thanks for sharing.

    I just remove the smoke alarm before cooking. The alarm can't distinguish between smoke and steam so it's always sounding the alarm. It's simple - just turn it (sorry - can't remember if it's clockwise or counter-clockwise). I lay it down in a conspicuous place so I don't forget to hang it up again before turning in.

  2. Dan Wade, Marion, OhioDecember 10, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Happy you folks are Ok. We used ours in a similar way after the June storms here in Ohio and we were out of power for several days. Since my wife is disabled and requires air conditioning during the summer we took the roadtrek to a friend's house where we could plug in for the first night, and went to a campground in a nearby county the second night. We don't have a generator in our 1993 Venture model so we need to plug in to get the AC working. I have added a solar panel that recharges the house battery if we aren't plugged in and used battery power the night before.