Tag Archives: travel trailer

Do I Tell Him the Truth? Oh No!

Complicit in the stupidity of towing through a major city at rush hour we’d planned a route through Chicago to a campsite just south of it, changed the route to skirt round the edge of the city, then seeing a straight shot through Chicago on a bold blue streak of Interstate on the map (surely that would be quicker?) changed it back to the original plan.

The population of Chicago in 1830 was 50. Now it is closer to 3,000,000. They were all on I90 with us chatting, drinking, talking on their cell phones and – God help us – texting.

I captured the moment in a photo of the Chicago skyline taken through the windshield with eight solid lanes of traffic in the foreground.

40 miles of this - taken when I wasn't wincing with terror.
40 miles of this – taken when I wasn’t wincing with terror.
Doesn't look so bad in the photo. I must have picked up the camera when there was a gap in the traffic.
Doesn’t look so bad in the photo. I must have picked up the camera when there was a gap in the traffic.

Who knew rush hour started at 2:30 in Chicago?

Jimmy has an extension on his rear view mirror so can see behind the trailer. I can see nothing behind the car except the front of the trailer. Whenever Jimmy brakes sharply I cringe and hope there is no impact. If the rear of our trailer was smashed, the slide wouldn’t function and our living space would be reduced to kitchen, closet bathroom and bed.

Jimmy is a good driver and usually relaxed at the wheel. When he grips the wheel with both hands and his eyes narrow to slits I tend to sit up and tense up. It was from these postures that the following conversation took place:

“Have we got far to go? I’m getting tired.” We’d been on the road for about seven hours.

“No. Not far,” I lied.

“How far?”

“About this far.” I held up thumb and forefinger two inches apart. “I’ll work it out in a bit,” I said evading his question and pointing out road signs, reckless drivers, stray dogs, out-of-state plates, anything to avoid telling him it was another 20 miles into the city center and 20 miles out the other side. At stop/start speed that would take . . . oh, no, I couldn’t tell him that.

To pass the time I read out facts about Chicago. The Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower but Chicagoans won’t say it) at 110 stories and 1450 feet, was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1973. Its distinctive square “shoulders” became visible as we crawled along and distracted Jimmy from his ire at our lack of progress.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is the only shipping link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Better known as the Chicago Drainage Canal, it also serves to flush out the Chicago River that runs through the city, sending its sewage (treated, they say) down the Mississippi to St. Louis, Memphis and on to the Mississippi Delta and into the Gulf of Mexico. St. Louis has got its own back on Chicago by bottling the Mississippi water and sending it back to Chicago – as *********. I can’t say that. It’s libelous. It’s just Chicago humor anyway.

Eventually we motored through the city. The campsite was a dump but central Chicago (we took the train back) was modern, slick, dynamic and pedestrian friendly. Who cares about traffic jams when you are on foot.  We picked a perfect, temperate day to visit but with hot, humid summers and extended periods of below freezing temps in winter it wouldn’t be an area for us to live.

A mixture of Interstates, toll roads and states routes took us from Chicago through Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and finally Maine. At Ogunquit we spent a chilly day huddled together at the beach (actually at the edge of the parking lot with all the other old tabs who couldn’t scramble down the rocks to the ocean).

Like a wimp, this photo was taken while fully clothed at the top of the rock bank in Ogunquit, Maine. We didn't join the hardy Mainers in the water.
Like a wimp, this photo was taken while fully clothed at the top of the rock bank in Ogunquit, Maine. We didn’t join the hardy Mainers in the water.

I had a nice view of the lifeguards from the parking lot.Lifeguards, Ogunquit, Maine

We watched the lifeguard hustle people out of the rip tides, then for his trouble get into an argument with a nutter who insisted he was infringing his right to be in the water. He’d no intention of swimming, dressed as he was in jeans, socks, shoes and sweatshirt. He just wanted to make his point – loudly. From the safety of the parking lot, the retirees murmured with outrage on the lifeguard’s behalf.

Cool, blustery weather greeted us at Cape Cod where we watched the wind surfers from the car, (again from a parking lot, this time the Cape Cod National Seashore). Cape Cod, MassachusettsContinuing from Massachusetts, through Rhode Island and Connecticut, New York City (more traffic horrors), New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland on I95 – as the only sensible way to motor south through the northeastern states – we finally abandoned the Interstate to wing our way across to Rehoboth Beach and the Delaware Seashore State Park where gale force winds rocked our trailer for two nights. Jimmy feared we would blow over in the night.

Cold, gray, bleak, uninviting. Welcome to the Delaware Seashore!
Cold, gray, bleak, uninviting. Welcome to the Delaware Seashore!

If it seems that we hurtled through the northeastern states, I have dismissed all the states north of the Mason Dixon Line – taken to mean the dividing line between The North and The South – as a potential home purely for reasons of cold winters. That summer didn’t entice us either.

I didn’t lie to Jimmy about the Mason Dixon Line. He still doesn’t know what it is, or care. He is entranced with Florida, Arizona and California.

Dee’s Road Kill Café

The trailer magnifies every bump in the road for us in the car so on a bad road I feel like a kid bumping down the stairs on my bottom – for hours. Hastily contrived Plan B’s after we’ve juddered along Interstates have not been the ticket to marital harmony as we have gotten lost on local roads not shown in the road atlas. We’ve checked out the Interstates in most states and tend to want to avoid them, hence my unpatriotic comment about the Interstates in my Friday post.

English: Map of the present Interstate Highway...
English: Map of the present Interstate Highway System in the United States Labels: Two-digit interstates (dark orange line) Selected three-digit interstates (blue line) Selected planned interstates (green dashed line) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Eisenhower’s grand scheme, approved in the 1950’s to open up the country with a grid work of limited-access highways, made long-distance motor transport in the U.S. quick and easy. I was a little girl when I95 scythed through my grandparent’s dairy farm in Maryland, spoiling the country tranquility.

Currently running to 46,876 miles, the whole of the Interstate Highway System was completed . . . . well, it’s not done yet. And thanks to a complicated system of funding with federal, state and toll authority funds, we will probably rattle our brains out on the poorly maintained Interstates for years to come. They’re not all in bad repair but you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for until you are committed to at least that day’s route.

State and county roads usually have smoother road surfaces and less traffic hassle so that when we arrive at our destination at the cocktail hour Jimmy’s beers don’t explode, the contents of the bathroom cabinet don’t fall into the sink the first time it’s opened (so funny when I hear it happen to himself, “ARG*#@*&GH!”), and the frozen orange juice doesn’t launch itself onto your foot with the first visit to the freezer.

The country roads offer a slice of Americana as well.

Description unavailable
Description unavailable (Photo credit: LunaMoth116)

Had we stuck to the Interstate, we’d never have seen Whistle Binkies on the Lake in Rochester, Minnesota or the hair salon Curl Up and Dye in Georgia or Dee’s Road Kill Café on the back road to Atlanta; we wouldn’t have towed down Main Street in Brockport, New York and hooted with laughter at Fast Buck Fanny’s and Trader Shag’s Emporium.

If we hadn’t tooled along The Great River Road – Highway 52 – Iowa would have remained 56,276 square miles of beans and corn in our minds and we’d have missed the pretty town of Guttenberg nestled invitingly on the valley floor between the Mississippi River and the limestone bluffs, its limestone block buildings harking back to its origins over 150 years ago, a long history for this young country.

If we’d stayed on the Interstate instead of taking route 41 south in Georgia, we wouldn’t have seen fields of cotton and  the roadside littered with tufts of cotton, like so many wadded up tissues – real cotton – blown off the plants, the harvesters and the trucks hauling the cotton harvest to the train depot. Cotton was now a crop to be labored over in our minds, not just a shirt fabric in a store.

Cotton on porch of sharecropper's home, Maria ...
Cotton on porch of sharecropper’s home, Maria plantation, Ar… (Photo credit: New York Public Library)

There’s so much to see off the high speed roads and it’s a shame we can’t appraise every square mile.

What is your favorite back road?

Whistling Sid

I could do the weather forecasting here. “It will be mostly gray and will probably rain.” In our experience that would cover most days of the year.

We think that we rely on weather forecasts to plan trips in our trailer, where in fact we were oblivious to imminent wind storms that crushed RVs and blocked roads and then snow and ice that caused fatal accidents. Both storms followed us at a discreet distance up the west coast to our cosy apartment in Olympia and we viewed the all damage on TV. Still, we watched the forecasts in the belief that they would be correct before the weather happened. Often they are not. Predicting the capricious weather thrown at the Northwest by the Pacific is not easy so was often incorrect but the forecasts could be very entertaining.

Our favourite presenter by far was Whistling Sid. My guess was that he had some dental enhancement done and he hadn’t quite got the hang of his new pearlers. We listened eagerly for severe storms, snow and sleet, scattered showers, snow showers and scattered snow showers especially if they were predicted for Saturday and Sunday. Any weather in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s ended with whistle – about a high C I would say or perhaps a C sharp.

We don’t need a weather forecast to tell us that!

One night Siskiyou Pass and Stampede Pass were expecting heavy snow with isolated snow showers in Seattle and Shelton. Heavy snow was expected on the eastern slopes and summits of the Cascades with scattered snow showers into Saturday and Sunday east of the Cascades as far as Spokane and Boise. Try saying all that with an emphasis on all the s-s-s’s. If it hadn’t been snowing outside our window we would have thought that a devious script writer had made it all up.

Sunny wasn’t mentioned. Whistling Sid didn’t seem to have much use for that word around Western Washington.

With or without Sid, we were just lucky to miss all the bad weather while puttering down the coast in our little box house.

Electrical Geniuses

We had a little blip with the electrical system in the trailer this morning. It turned itself off. Somebody plugged the toaster in when the fan heater and microwave were on. I’ll spare you the boring science lecture about watts and amps and volts and just say that you can’t do that. You’ll blow a fuse, or at least that’s what we thought.

A trip to the local “country” market – which sold and wildly overcharged for everything from dune buggies to beef jerky – ensued for a replacement fuse. When we returned to the trailer several dollars lighter, but with coffees, postcards, huggies with funny sayings for soda that we don’t drink, decorative fishing lures when we don’t fish and fuses, we spent ten minutes looking for the fuse box as it was cunningly hidden behind a camouflaged panel.

I thought I could fashion them into earrings!

We pulled each fuse out of the fuse box squinted at the old fuse, shrugged, put the new one in the empty slot – nothing – pulled the new one out, put the old one back again and went on to the next circuit, seven times. With the same result each time – nothing. This involved a prone position to get to the conveniently located fuse box and a pair of needle-nose pliers to pull the stubborn little devils out. Marital harmony was displayed as we each took a turn – neither trusting the other to do it correctly – without arguing.

Let’s put this in the corner near the floor and make it as awkward as possible for the lucky so-and-so’s swanning around the countryside.

Whilst reclining on the cold floor staring helplessly at the fuse box, the machinations of the circuit breaker, repeat circuit breaker, suddenly became evident. Flip the switch, whir, whir – sorted! Toaster, heater, action! Fuses weren’t needed at all.

There’s only one good thing to say about this latest ordeal. That “somebody” mentioned at the start wasn’t me!