Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Most Recent Roadtrek Trip

I have not written about our trips in the Roadtrek for awhile. We have taken three trips since our Fourth of July week trip that I chronicled in 8 parts and perhaps the length of that article has been a factor in why I have stayed away from trip articles - and perhaps because the how to articles are much more popular. Since Fourth of July, we took a trip of 16 days in August, a trip of three days in September, and our most recent trip was for my wife's birthday at the end of August which we almost did not take (and perhaps shouldn't have).

This last trip was planned for months. We were going to Lancaster, PA which is our home away from home. We have been going to Lancaster for our birthdays since we got married so many years ago. Because of when my birthday falls, we can't take the Roadtrek as it is still winterized and while we could go "waterless", we just do a car trip for the day and back.  We don't travel overnight any other way than with the Roadtrek. Meryl's birthday is Halloween - and that is the reason why our birthday trips started. Meryl hates that her birthday is Halloween. When other kids had birthday parties with colorful balloons and festive decorations, Meryl's birthday was filled with orange and black, witches and goblins, and a party that involved trick or treating. I can't blame her for not liking this and it was never her idea to do this but something her parents decided would be "nice" - every year. Yes, there are somethings that one can honestly blame the parents for. (They meant well, but just didn't ask or hear when displeasure was expressed about the annual "celebration".) Anyway, since we have been together I have tried to provide Meryl with a birthday without Halloween and that has not been easy. When we were first together, I would take Meryl out for dinner on her birthday and no matter how nice or fine a restaurant I picked, inevitably we would walk in and a witch would take our coats and a zombie would come over to be our waiter. I recall one such dinner in what at the time was considered a "very fine" restaurant that our waiter had body pieces hanging from him and was well covered in stage blood. That was it for trying to find a place to go for her birthday around here. One thing that has been almost certain (though in recent years this as not been as certain as it once was) in Lancaster is that this Amish/Mennonite religious community downplays Halloween - and we both enjoy just being there no matter what time of the year it is. We have to date never encountered a restaurant among the many local restaurants that we go to there with any employee in costume or decorated beyond a Fall theme for Halloween. So this is where we spend Meryl's birthday. Last year this trip was cancelled thanks to Tropical Storm Sandy which hit our area hard and prevented travel anywhere from here.

This year there was a different type of problem. I got sick a few weeks before we were scheduled to go and then Meryl caught it and she was sick just before we were supposed to go. She was hacking and coughing so bad and was so congested that I knew we should not be going on the trip - and she agreed. We decided that since we could cancel the campground reservation right to the day before, we would wait and see how she.. and I... were feeling. As usual with our trips the weather was not cooperating and the end of the week that we were to be away it was going to rain. That added another complication - and I certainly not want either of us outside at the end of the trip having to do all that we need to do to dump the tanks,  etc in the pouring rain. It was looking pretty much that we were not going. It was Monday, Meryl was still congested and hacking and coughing - and I was not too much better myself - and we were to leave in two days. We talked about it again. The next three days were supposed to be good weather. The trip was set from Wednesday through Saturday. Friday and possibly Saturday there was to be heavy rain. Meryl suggested that we call the campground right away and ask if we could arrive a day earlier - Tuesday, the very next day. We would then leave on Thursday which was Meryl's birthday and spend the day there before driving home after dinner that night. Unfortunately, this idea did not come up until 4 pm that day. We called the campground and got the answering machine saying the office was closes at 5 p (but it was just after 4). We called several times and then just left a message asking that someone would call us back. We went out at 5 pm and started to do what we need to do before we can leave on a trip - fill the water tanks, make the bed, and pack the cabinets with what we will need that comes from the house. And we would do this with both of not wanting to get the other one sicker. It was a joint effort with Meryl avoiding breathing on whatever I would use. I thought to myself, what was the difference since for the next three days we would be in very tight quarters inside the Roadtrek breathing on each other with the temperatures cold outside. It took a few hours but we were ready to leave in the morning - providing we could then reach the campground to be sure there would a place for us a day early.

It may seem odd to some for us to wonder why a campground would be crowded at the end of October in Pennsylvania, but Halloween is a big campground day all over. When I made the reservation our usual favorite site was booked and I made the reservation months in advanced. No, Halloween week and day is not a day to just expect to drive into any campground that is open - and that is another key - many campgrounds in the North East and Middle Atlantic close for the season in October - some right after Columbus Day and some the day after Halloween. This campground stays open until January. Most others there are closed or will be closed the next week.

We got a call back from the campground the next morning. There was no one in our assigned site that day and we could come on down. Leaving two days early would be no problem. We grabbed our clothes that we packed in clean laundry bags to bring out at the last minute, along with a bag full of cough and flu medications, and were off still hacking and coughing.

The temperatures outside were colder than they had been all month but not below 40 degrees. We had our Fall coats on that convert to winter coats with a lining and we were prepared for the rain if it should come early. We had little traffic driving out off Long Island, out of New York and into New Jersey. It was a delight to see that gasoline in New Jersey on the Turnpike was $3.17 a gallon which was 40 cents less than it was at home. We stopped and filled up as we were not sure what we would find for gas prices in PA which are usually somewhere between the price per gallon in New Jersey and New York (they turned out to be $3.29 - still nice). Anyway, we were on our way despite how we both were physically feeling.

I would love to say that when we reached Pennsylvania and all through the stay we felt wonderful. We probably both got a little worse while we were away. We were out in the cold night air that we would not have been in at home where we had no need to be outside at night. There were pollen alerts in Lancaster (while at home and for some time the pollen counts were zero) and that did not help me any. But despite how we felt we made the best of it - and enjoyed ourselves between the hacking and the coughing.

The Roadtrek gets nice and warm inside with the heat pump (the air conditioner is also a heat pump) and that works as long as the outside temperatures are over 40 degrees F. When we settled in at the campground each night, I put the heat pump on and it warmed down the inside of the Roadtrek fairly quickly. In fact, I had to adjust the thermostat several times to keep the heat off more than it was on because it was getting too hot inside to be comfortable. We rarely turn on the propane, but for the end of October I always turn on the propane when we get settled for the night at the campground. If the temperatures should drop below 40 outside, it will be needed for the furnace, and while we don't need hot water in the summer when the temperature is near 100 and the water in the fresh water tanks get close to that temperature on its won.  we do want hot water in the hot water tank when it is cold outside and the water coming from the sink feels it.

What I did find with the hot water heater on, is that the water in the tank gets VERY hot and the hot water tank is very well insulated. The water about twenty minutes after starting the hot water heater was so hot that it could not be turned on unless mixed with cold water without feeling burned. When I found that, I shut the hot water heater switch off - and the water stayed hot in the tank all night. I suppose that has we used a lot of hot water at one time, then the cold water replenishing it would have needed the hot water heater switch on to reheat it, but every night of this trip we did fine putting the hot water heater switch on for twenty minutes and then shutting it off and the hot water stayed very hot all night and the next morning.

We were able to prop up the pillows enough for both of us to keep the congestion down while we slept. The king bed in the 190 as we have it made up is very comfortable and keeps the warmth in. It is also large enough for us to sleep without breathing on each other. Not an issue when all is well, but we were both still sick. We had an extra blanket for each of us if we needed them but they were not needed. The heat pump stays set to on all night and turns on and off keeping the inside of the Roadtrek nicely warm.

I will not get into what we did and where we went because you have heard most of that about this area before from us. We have a routine that we enjoy when we are here and we go out to all of the places that we enjoy spending time at. The original trip was to include Green Dragon Farmer's Market on Friday and since we would not be in PA on Friday now, and we arrived on Tuesday, we went to Root's Farmers Market, enjoying that instead. I did head into some farm roads, encountered horse and buggies always going up a hill blind to traffic coming up over the other side, and even found a road to get lost on and hoped that I would not encounter anything that the Roadtrek was too large to handle (close but we were fine).

As occurs more often than we would like, this trip was not without a problem with the Roadtrek. On the last night of the trip, I heard the water pump start running very briefly for no apparent reason. I thought perhaps it was topping off the hot water tank as there were no faucets open. A little while later I heard it again and I started to investigate checking that the sink faucet was completely off and that the toilet was not running. Then I reached around the back of the toilet where the valve connects to the water pipe and it was wet. The pipe connection was screwed tight. I then felt on the floor behind the toilet and it was wet. We had some things stored on the sides of the toilet and I moved those to find that on one side of the toilet they were wet on the bottom and seemed to have been wet for some time. I then saw the water coming out from under the edge of the toilet where the base meets the floor. This has happened to us once before we we had first gotten the Roadtrek and that time it happened in early October when we had the heat on inside and the hot water heater on as well - same conditions as this. At that time it was a bad toilet valve that needed to be replaced. This time, I started to wonder if it could be condensation but the water pump would not run from condensation. No, very likely the toilet valve was leaking again and would need to be replaced again. I shut down the water pump, mopped up the floor around the toilet that turned out was a lot more water than I had first realized and we spent that last night turning the water pump on only when we needed water and then right off again. What to do about this was the question. We were an hour and a half away from dealer/service and it would be a lot easier to go the next day if they could take us to fix this than to make the whole trip to PA again - in the Spring because as the weather was turning colder I needed to winterize within the next week or so. But the next day was Meryl's birthday and I was not going to have her spend her birthday in the service center waiting room - and besides, the weather report now was changing it was to rain on Thursday as well as Friday now - so this was no time to be outside around dealer/service if this took all day while we were both still sick. We would go home with the leak, winterize, and next Spring make the trip to have the toilet valve replaced - again.  We had had the opposite problem with the toilet valve during our trip in August. The night we arrived the toilet had no water pressure to flush. The toilet valve was clogged and was like that for almost eight days until the clog seemed to work its way through and clear. Another unexpected and unpleasant surprise on what is supposed to be relaxing. We are on a first name basis with the people at the service center. They are wonderful but I really would rather not see them as often as we seem to have to do.

Anyway, Meryl spent her birthday in Lancaster. We went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants there - Shady Maple Smorgasbord - which on your birthday gives you a free dinner. After dinner we drove through the rain home. All through the trip we had thought that if the weather report had changed we might stay over one additional day on Friday and go to Green Dragon, but all reports were heavier rain on Friday until the mid-afternoon. On Thursday before we left the campground and while the rain had not yet started, we dumped the tanks, filled with water in case we needed water before we got home, and the left for a last day in Lancaster and dinner that night. The rain did not start until almost 4 pm - right on schedule as predicted by  Traveling in the Roadtrek when sick is not really that bad but not something that I want to make a regular thing... And when we arrived home, the entire interior of the Roadtrek got a good spraying with Lysol disinfectant.

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