Day Two: The Road Will Share Its Lessons and Its Secrets

In Gallivan's Travels on March 18, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Our first night in Pennsylvania proved, let us say, interesting.
The overnight temps dropped into the low twenties, and we were not plugged in. We misestimated a few things: how high the thermostat needed to be set to keep us warm (underestimated) , how much the battery would drain overnight with the refrigerator not on propane (underestimated), and how much propane the heater and refrigerator would use (overestimated). As a result, we had to run the generator at midnight to recharge the battery, and we froze all night because the temperature wasn’t set high enough. Okay. New strategy for nights we are parking without utilities, rather than hitting a campground. Refrigerator on propane, heater set a tad higher.
We did, however, discover that it is relatively easy to park in truck stops, highway rest areas, and certain public parks and natural areas for little or no cost. Shopping center parking lots also work, but one has to be careful of locations.
We also discovered that it is possible to get along without much water from the cabin tank, because our water pump has sprung a leak and I have not yet been able to seal it until it can be replaced. Potable water is readily available, and any water can be used to wash dishes, clean ourselves, and flush the toilet.
So many things to learn.
But on to better things.
I should say, first, that I really enjoy driving. I most enjoy the secondary and rural roads, where one can discover unexpected gems in the people and places away from the interstates. But this trip will be mostly along the major roads, because we have a specific destination and an only somewhat flexible deadline for getting there and back again.
Not to worry, some of the nation’s highways are as beautiful and pleasant to travel as the nation’s byways. I have long enjoyed, for example, taking I91 and I89 through Vermont from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian Border in the Northwest. Route 90 from Spokane, through Idaho and Montana, and on into Wyoming is another spectacular drive.
Today, we travelled I81 from the Pennsylvania line through a bit of Maryland, a bit more of West Virginia, and more than half the way through Virginia. And through a lot of the Allegheny Mountains. The road is easy to drive, with the mountains running along with you on either side, always seeming just a little ways away, even as you roll through valleys and skate along the edges of the foothills and lower slopes. As we passed by, we made note of so many places we will return to when we can take the time to stop – perhaps on our way home.
We had travelled the same route north in January, passing through the mountains, driving a 15 ft UHaul box truck, in the middle of a wet, cold, snowy night. It was spectacular even then, but I do think I enjoyed the drive a bit more today.
And there is always, on any road, the possibility of surprise and discovery. And modern GPS technology can help.
Around lunch time, Sue began to look for a place to get off the highway for a bite to eat and a chance to relax. A short distance down Route 11 just outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and only a few miles from I81, she found us a trifecta – a little plaza with a terrific restaurant called A Bowl of Good, that shared a wall with a coffee shop called Merger Coffee Brewers, and across a small parking lot from an amazing thrift shop. Sue ate an Asian slaw with tofu over a salad bowl. I had the Nigerian chicken stew over rice. She got her customary cup of hot water for tea, and I had some coffee. Then we went across to the thrift store and bought some books, a game to teach a grandchild, some bluegrass sheet music for my Banjo, bits of fabric for quilting, and a shirt for Sue. The lunch was less than thirty dollars and the thrift purchases less than twenty. And the more than an hour with bright, cheerful and charming people was priceless.
Tonight we have camped at a KOA at Natural Bridge/Lexington, just north of Roanoke. We have electricity, potable water, showers and (if we were interested) cable. It’s not free, but forty-two dollars, including tax, is not going to break the budget, either.
Tomorrow we will head for Black Mountain, North Carolina, to visit friends. And then it’s on through Tennessee, Arkansas, and on into Texas, with plenty of time to dawdle a bit and see the countryside, both from the highway and a few byways.

  1. Dave,

    I’m sorry but, as I read the first part of this page out loud to Tom we laughed out loud. In our first year on the road, we encountered pretty much everything you outlined. One advantage you have with Gallivan is being able to park in the car parking at truck stops. We usually have to park in the truck area with since Cougar is 29 feet long and the truck is 20. Unfortunately, even though there are signs posted that diesels engines should not be run at night, no one adheres to it which, of course, leads to us having a mostly sleepless night.

    Do you and/or Sue have a Senior Pass? I think it’s also called America the Beautiful pass. With it, you can get into national parks and monuments free and pay half price at Army Corps and National Park campgrounds. Tom and I personally like those campgrounds because the spacing between sites is greater than independent campgrounds and the sites are well maintained. Also, Tom is wondering if you have the Allstays app. He uses it to find campgrounds and route our trips.

    Carry on and enjoy the adventure!!


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