Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Worst Summer

This summer has been just terrible due to the weather. I realize this has been the case around most of the country but here on the East Coast for the way we travel it pretty much stopped us from traveling.

I am not sure I have said this before but we travel by habit. We tend to go to the same places and look to do the same things and do this year after year. We only have the Roadtrek because we will not stay in hotels - and have not done so since about three or four years before we got the Roadtrek in 2011. There is an article about that near the beginning of the articles of this site. What we needed was a hotel room on wheels or an extension of our home that we could take with us to stay in when we travel. An RV was the logical choice and a Class B was what we could deal with to be able to keep the RV on our suburban driveway at home with local ordinances about where an RV can be kept on one's property.  At times even before all of this we talked about a summer home in one of the places we would go to, but that never happened. The Roadtrek made that possible as a portable summer home. It is a bit like comfort food. Where we go makes us happy and comfortable - it is familiar. Maybe not exciting for most but when we don't do it we feel something is lacking. At times we add a few new places in along the way.

So anyway - back to the point. We have several places that we go to regularly in the summer and through the year either with the Roadtrek for an extended stay or when for a day and back the same day either with the Roadtrek or the car. Some of these places are reenacting related. Some are related to other hobbies (and businesses) that we have. This summer it was either too hot (temps in the mid to upper 90s) with heat indexes up to 105 dF or between when things cooled down, that brought in severe storms.  Many of the things we do in the places that we go to take place outdoors. When I was younger I could much more easily deal with the heat. Now being out and active in this type of heat all day has become difficult.

We have gone to the same place for Fourth of July week since we were married. When we got the Roadtrek we found out that to go to this area with the RV we needed to make a campsite reservation a year in advance - and we have done that - including this year. We avoid weekends and go during the week - to both avoid crowds and avoid tourists in general. We  had five days reserved to go this year. The weather where we were going was severe storms - not very good for outdoor events - and while we have traveled with the Roadtrek during trips in all types of weather conditions including an earthquake - I really don't like being inside the Roadtrek when there is a severe storm outside.  If the weather is going to be rain one day - sunny the next - maybe showers another day but primarily decent - fine. Five days planned with rain and "severe storms" every day. No. And this was the week of Fourth of July where we were going.  We decided that there was no way we were going to waste the money to be in the rain and whatever else that brought with it. We called the campground and asked if we could change the reservation for a week later - which seemed like a good idea at the time. They were accommodating - they had an opening for Fourth of July week and booked a week that is generally quiet. But there was one event that would only take place that week and we kept looking for a day that the weather might be better. By the end of the week - Saturday - it was going to be clear. This had not been a day we would have been there but it was clear and we were going just for the day - and we took the Roadtrek which was ready for travel. And needed the mileage. So off we went - drove with the usual traffic and the three hour trip took over four hours but that was fine because we got to where we wanted to be, had a great day at the event - and came back home in the Roadtrek that night.

We did not look to stay over as we had plans to come back the coming week - which also did not work out between more bad weather and a business problem my wife had to go to a client about. So, surprisingly accommodating, the campground changed the reservation for us the next week. That week there were only three days that were going to not have more severe storms and we decided to put up with the temperatures. We actually did get away for two nights and three days between the storms.  While we were there an event we attend was being held but we decided to skip it and spend the day around the area which turned out to be a great decision because we stopped in a musuem shop that we visit every so often and had not been there in a couple of years and found a reproduction of something 18th Century that I have been looking for for a long time. It was an expense we were not expecting but Meryl said "buy it!". I took a look at the size and did not see how we were going to fit it into the Roadtrek and get it home with damage. Meryl took some measurements and headed out the the Roadtrek and started doing her thing in arranging space where there is no space. She came back in to the shop five minutes later and said - I can fit it in - easy! And she did.

The week after that trip, there is another all outdoor event that we have taken the Roadtrek to overnight at a campground and to the event the next day. That week more severe weather is predicted and it hit this area bad. Not far away from this we are seeing streets flooded to rooftops, cars under water, and roads broken away.  Parking for this event is in a large open dirt field. I decided that there was no way I was taking the Roadtrek - even if the ground was not flooded - as having once gotten a passenger van stuck in the mud with four wheel drive (which only pulled it down into the mud deeper) I was going to avoid even the slightest possibility of that. So we decided we would still go but with the car just for the day and back. I called the day before and asked if they were or had been flooded. I was told - "Oh, no, we have been fine". When we got there half the field to park in was roped off and flooded. A number of exhibitors had not come at all because of the flooding.  The rest was soft. I was very glad we left the Roadtrek home.

At this point we are heading into August and we usually travel for a week to two weeks during August - and I was looking to get to Virginia for the majority of that. I started looking at forecasts and dates we could go. This started to get ridiculous as the weeks started to pass. I was down to looking at where is it not going to rain and have at least a week of travel and sightseeing weather.  I was looking out as far as the Mid-West where there seemed to be more good days than bad but by the time we got there - I really don't know where there would have been but it was west of Ohio - it would have been time to turn around and drive home back through the storms.

Another event that we attend annually - an 18th Century/19th Century folk life festival - is always the weekend near our wedding anniversary and this year it was right on our anniversary. I have never taken the Roadtrek to this event because it is another grass field to park in and this one is a lot of slopes and ruts when it has been a good summer. With the excess rain, I decided that there was no way that I would start bringing the Roadtrek this year - so again we took the car. While we were there - again an all outdoor event - there was a downpour mid-afternoon. We heard later that the next day, there was heavy rains there all day. 

It seemed that this pattern of severe storms and high heat was just not going to change (and it hasn't as it is still happening as I write this). We were at the last two weeks of August and decided we would try to get away for a week if we could - to one of the usual places which seemed to be a maybe as far as the weather. We decided that we would call for a campsite on the morning we would leave and see what happened. We had planned to leave on a Tuesday morning and it was raining where we were going. We had the Roadtrek packed and ready to go. We would try the next morning and when Meryl woke up that morning she felt sick. She had been going through all of this with a pretty bad cold with chest congestion and had started to feel better. She was much better the night before, but that morning she said she felt worse than she had the whole time with this cold - and by then I was starting to get it as well. This was Wednesday. She said that if she felt better by the afternoon we would call the campground and see if we could get a campsite for two nights - there Thursday and Friday and back Saturday (at night). Not what we had planned on but it was something and it was one of our comfort spots.

That afternoon she felt better and she called. The woman on the phone from the campground was a bit uncertain about booking a campsite and she did not say why. Friday was no good - they had nothing open. When we suggested just Thursday with hesitance she said yes - and there are just a few campsites in this campground that we know we can get level in, we asked for a specific site and was told yes - reservation made. It was sunny that day here. I saw on Facebook that night that there had been bad flooding in this area from Tuesday night into Wednesday. We called Wednesday afternoon and nothing was said about flooding so it must not be here. We set out the next day. This campground has a 3:00 PM check in time so we went around to some of our haunts and arrived at the campground around 4:30 PM. Nothing looked unusual. We went into the office and told the people at the desk that we had a reservation. The man behind the counter and the woman were saying something we could not quite make out and then the man handed us the map with the site (that we have been in many times) and said, "The site might be a bit soft. If it is too soft come back and we will give you another site." I was not happy at hearing that and asked why. They had been flooded for the past two days - really flooded. The campground was 3/4's empty - the reason there were no sites for Friday was because they had to move all of their reservations to sites that were usable. Had the woman on the phone said they were flooded we would have understood the hesitancy about making our reservation. On the drive from home, Meryl had suggested that we make a reservation when we got to the campsite for the next Monday and Tuesday - two days that were supposed to be dry but extremely hot. We made the reservation there in the office and the woman said, "The sites should mostly be dry by then!"
As we drove the Roadtrek to the campsite around the empty sites we could see that they were moving new gravel into many of the sites. We could see a lot of mud and big ruts where large tires had gone through the grass and the mud. It may have been RVs that had made the ruts or the small tractor that we heard the next morning moving gravel into more campsites. We got to our site and there was mud around in the dirt and grass that surrounded the gravel. I found a level spot well enough away from the edge of the gravel so that getting out there would be no mud to step into. Luckily the gravel was firm and the grass area between where we needed to bring the power cord over the grass to the campground power box was actually solid. The temps were cool those two days and we had a nice, but very short time, knowing when we were leaving Friday that we would be back Monday for another two days.

The Monday and Tuesday we were going back were predicted to be the hottest days of the summer so far - with temps in the high 90's and a heat index advisory over 105 due to the extreme humidity. We left early Monday morning trying,again to avoid the rush hour traffic. It was still stop and go. We spent the day in the van driving and then when we arrived in the area we went to the places we had not gotten to the Thursday/Friday before. With the dash A/C we were able to get some relief between stops. Tuesday was to be the hotter of the two days.  During one stop on Monday the temperature in the Roadtrek hit 105 degrees F.  And the campsite as almost dry - but there were many signs still evident of the flooding and my guess is that the big tire rut in the mud in the grass next to this site will stay there for a very long time.

We had not dumped the tanks on the Friday before when we left as we decided that it would just be easier to dump them before we left the campground on Tuesday. Dumping with the macerator went just too well - not complaining. I filled the black tank with fresh water to top it off by pouring water from the campsite spigot down the toilet from a collapsible bucket that we had found at the end of last year.  The bucket holds a little over a gallon and I topped the tank at 5 buckets of water on top of what was in the tank. The tank emptied to the point that the water just stopped coming out. None of the usual spurts to show it is just about empty. It was mostly liquid and that might be why. I got nervous that there was something wrong with the macerator and I went inside the Roadtrek to the monitor panel - and rare of rare occasions - the tank read EMPTY - actually empty!  I went back out and we dumped the grey tank - and this went the same way - and the water flowed out steadily - there is nothing wrong with the macerator. I never leave the black tank without water in it so that it does not dry out. I filled the bucket again with water and dumped that down the toilet. I checked the monitor and it still read empty - then flashed the 1/3 - which it should as the tank as soon as there is anything in it will start to show 1/3 full (per the RT manual).  Seeing the tank read empty was short lived.Later in the day it read 1/3 and still reads 1/3.

We headed over to a Farmer's Market that we like to go to and spent most of the day there in the heat - with no buildings air conditioned. Before we left the RT in the parking lot I opened the roof fan vent to allow hot air to escape out the vent (not running - just the open lid).  We usually buy lunch from one of the stands and eat outside but we were not going do that in that heat. We went back to the Roadtrek and started the generator and turned on the A/C and had lunch on the front table.  After I opened the fan vent again before we went back out. When we came back to leave later in the afternoon - despite the vent being opened and having run the A/C just a few hours before- the digital thermometer that we have inside the Roadtrek was reading 107 dF. So much for the vent helping to let the heat out.

A few days after we returned home, we learned that a sudden storm came up on the area that we had just been in where the farmers market is located and 11" of rain fell within a few hours. This caused serious flooding and damaging roads.  It is just unbelievable.

The summer is still not "officially" over though I started writing this article on Labor Day. I had thought about a trip up to Connecticut at the end of this week but it is going to rain - and we are currently in another heat wave with advisories until tomorrow night. I am sure there are some of you where this is all normal and usual. It has never been so here. During the summer we had a sudden and not expected severe thunderstorm and streets flooded that have never flooded - and we are beyond the flood zone - in the well over over 50 years that I have lived in this area.  Lightening hit the ground all over - not common here at all. I don't really remember when I have seen that.  And, of course, the power went out which I wish was not that common but tends to be. There are "usual" trips still to come and hopefully we can take them. Once September comes there are a lot of things that involve us that keep us from just taking off - if the weather did improve.

So was there a point to this ramble- only that the weather this summer stunk and still stinks! 😬   Go figure that my article in April - "Pre-Season Opener for My Roadtrek" was going to be typical of our travel for the whole summer!   😩