Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again! Part 1

Dewinterized and ready to go, what better first trip of the season than to not only leave home but also the present. Our Roadtrek would be our time machine to take us into the past. We were heading for Fort Frederick in Big Pool, Maryland, an historic fort that saw service in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the home of the annual 18th Century Fort Frederick Market Fair, a  market of reproduction clothing, weapons, gear, and miscellany of the 18th Century all for sale that attracts reenactors from around the US and beyond.

An ordinary trip in the Roadtrek takes us a few days to prepare.While we keep a lot in the Roadtrek that we use daily when we travel, with the first trip of the season we have to make sure that everything that we took out for the winter has been put back inside for the new season. We have been doing that over the course of a few weeks. It involves finding where we stored it and getting it out to the Roadtrek. We also check on things that we left inside to see what needs to be replenished. The day before the trip we spend filling the fresh water tanks, making the bed so it does not have to be made when we get to where we are going, and moving the clothing for the trip out to the Roadtrek's cabinets. For a trip like this - time travel - it means having clothing for two different centuries - 21st Century clothes and 18th Century clothes. And because the weather has been so unsettled this year, we had to prepare for the possibility of cold, warm to hot, or rain and this in two centuries of clothing. As it turns out we had a little of all three weather conditions.

Reservations were made at a campground in Hagerstown, Maryland -the largest city near Big Pool, Maryland - two months before. We were going back to the Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground that we had been to a year ago when we went to Fort Fred. Our reservations were for a "preferred" site which according to the website was the same cost at this time of the year as the "standard" sites. What "preferred" means here is unclear. After the difficulty maneuvering the narrow tree and boulder lined roads in this campground we requested this site area as it is more out in the open. Since there had been a problem last year when we arrived discovering that the space that was supposed to be ours was occupied, I wanted to be sure to get to the campground before the office closed at 7:00 pm. The trip according to our GPS routing would take about 6 and a half hours including a stop for lunch along the way. We started out at about 10:30 in the morning on the Thursday that we left. The time is about right to avoid the traffic on the avenue in front of our house to be able to back the Roadtrek out of the driveway and into the street. Earlier, we would be met with a steady stream of cars.

I have written a lot about our trips leaving Long Island with poor roads, continual construction somewhere on every highway, and the bridge tolls just to get to what is considered the mainland United States. The trip that morning was not too bad. We got off Long Island, crossed Staten Island, and headed into New Jersey to travel to and across Pennsylvania and then south into Maryland. We were going a different way. We were not taking the turnpikes but traveling on Route 78 which crosses PA. It involves riding through hilly and mountainous interstates where most of the other vehicles are large trucks that seem to be in more of a hurry than those on the turnpikes. We have traveled this way several times in our car and often the car is overwhelmed by both the inclines on the roads and the trucks. We would see how our 6.0 L V8 Chevy engine in our Roadtrek would fare on this route up against the 18 wheelers.

The Roadtrek handled the hills and mountains nicely. It never hesitated and had the power to keep up with and at times even pass the trucks. The trucks seem to command this route. Often traveling in pairs they do not hesitate to come up very close behind and also cut into the lane in front of you. During this trip we not only encountered trucks like this but also a several motorcycles whose drivers seemed to know no fear and foolishly road next to the Roadtrek in the blindspot and one tried to pass just too close for his own safety. It was a little unnerving as I had not encountered this in the Roadtrek before.

We arrived at the campground at about 5:30 that afternoon. I am going to write about the campground in its own review article so if you read this tale here and then that article you will hear the same story told twice - and I am doing that because the story of what took place over the next two days at this campground needs to be seen by anyone considering staying at this campground. I do not intend to stay there again. So - we arrived at the campground, went into the office and were told where I site was and that one of the "Rangers" would take us there - just follow his golf cart. Fine. This is Yogi Bear land and "Ranger Smith" the park ranger character in the cartoons is who is taking you to your campsite. We followed the golf cart to the "preferred" sites. We arrived at the site. He showed us the hook up connections and then was off.

I was on the long gravel site that was large enough to accommodate a Class A and most of the other RVs that were there were large trailers or Class As. I started to move the Roadtrek around the site to find a spot to stop that was level or at least very close to level. (Level sites are advertised here - and for the price paid that should be a given.) Well, I pulled all over that site and with the side of the Roadtrek with its connections on the side of the space with the electric box and hookups, the space was on an incline. I did not need the levels on my dashboard and my door to tell me that the front of the Roadtrek was pointing up. The space was a pull through and the front of the space was higher than the road in front of it while the rear of the space was higher than the road behind. OK. We would get out the leveling blocks.The space actually was near level side to side.

I carry a set of Linx leveler blocks. These look like very large, square "Lego" blocks.  I will do an article just on leveling the Roadtrek so I will not go into the mechanics of this here. Meryl went into the outside cabinet of the Roadtrek and pullout two blocks from the bag they come in. We put one in front of each rear wheel and I backed the rear tires up onto the blocks. I looked at the front back level and the bubble was still all the way forward as far as it can go. Putting the tires up two blocks high requires the assembly of a three block unit. We did that and there was no difference. The position of the bubble was still all the way at the front end of the level. Three blocks high requires an assembly of 6 blocks under each of the two tires and the set of leveling blocks only comes with ten blocks so three blocks was out of the question. I was not going to sleep with my head lower than my feet and it was not comfortable inside the Roadtrek up at this angle. This space would not do. I looked around at the other RVs and since larger RVs and trailers have built in leveling systems, they were using those PLUS several blocks of wood to raise them even higher to get level. I could not see any difference in the spaces around me. Meryl said to stay with the Roadtrek and she would walk back to the office and tell them that we need another space.

She was gone for about fifteen minutes when "Ranger Smith" came driving up in his golf cart to take me to a "level" spot. He pointed at one in the row behind us. I moved the Roadtrek there and that space was not only equally off front to back but also side to side. He pointed to another - same thing. And another back in the row we started in - same thing. I tried five spaces until we found one that was very close to level and good enough. Meryl had just arrived back when I tried that site. Fine. He told us that he would go back to the office and have them register the change of our space to this new one and that we should change the number on the hang tag that is required to be on the rear view mirror when in the campground. We then went though our usual routine and checked the electric box that we would be hooking up to for polarity and also voltage. The polarity was fine and the voltage was in range. The electric box was much newer than the box that was in the space we were given the year before - this one had circuit breakers just like all of the other electric boxes I have hooked up to except for here - the space last year had glass fuses - so when you hook up the outlet is live, rather than plugging into an outlet that is off and then clicking on the circuit breaker to make it live which is much safer!

OK - we were settled.  We then put out my level markers on the gravel at the tires to tell me where to pull back to when we came back to the site after leaving to go out for dinner or coming back the next day after our day at Fort Fred. One last thing was something new. On our last trip last September we bought a small wrought iron banner/flag holder that is made to stake into a garden or grass lawn.
We saw them put out at sites at campgrounds and thought that it would be a nice way to mark the space as ours. We bought a banner with a primitive colonial flag to go on it. We put the flag on the bar of the holder and staked it into the grass at our space.

It was too early to eat dinner so we headed off on foot for a walk around this end of the campground. We walked for about an hour and along the way we passed "Ranger Smith" in his golf cart who waved to us. After that we got into the Roadtrek and drove off to Hagerstown for dinner.

When we returned that night we hooked up - using our Surge Guard power/surge protector - to the electric box and hooked up the cable TV connection on the Roadtrek to the cable connection on the side of the power box. It was a cold night and I turned on the propane in anticipation of needing hot water - a very rare thing for us, as usually it is so hot outside when we are traveling that the water from the tanks is hot on its own - and to use the furnace if it dropped below 40 degrees F during the night as the heat pump does not work when it is that cold. We then settled in for the night, happy to discover that a few of the unusual channels with vintage TV shows from the fifties and sixties that we enjoy at home were on this cable setup. Nice. We had a very pleasant night in anticipation of driving the Roadtrek in the morning in our colonial clothes back in time to the 18th Century at Fort Frederick.

End of Part 1.
Part 2 Next Week.

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