A drive I’ve already forgotten

I woke up this morning knowing that it would be a long day.  Yesterday I realized I’d made a mistake in our trip planning by not allowing enough time to drive from Denver to Jackson Center.  As I mentioned in the previous blog, it is about 1,250 miles and we wanted to be located on Airstream property no later than Saturday morning, which meant we needed to cover an average of just under 400 miles each day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

That’s far more than we usually travel (as a family) in a day, but there was nothing to be done about it now except get going.  But first, I needed to get a mail delivery from the local post office.  Our mail forwarding service had sent a Priority Mail envelope on Thursday and it was supposed to be in Aurora by Monday but when Eleanor went to check, it wasn’t there.  So I had to battle morning rush traffic to try again this morning at 7:30 a.m.

I was told the package still wasn’t there, but then I got the Delivery Confirmation from the mail forwarders which proved it had actually been delivered on Monday.  After a second wait in line, when presented with the irrefutable evidence of delivery the clerk took another look and found the envelope.  With drive time, this episode took about an hour, so my hope of an early departure was already dashed.

E&E were still packing up anyway.  Our Airstream friends Forrest & Patrice, who had shown up in the site next to ours on Sunday, dropped by to say goodbye, and the owners of another Airstream pulled up to ask a few questions, and then the volunteer camp hosts dropped by to wish us a good trip (they’ve seen us there every year for at least four years), so it became a leisurely departure.  I also got a call from a local paper in Shelby County Ohio, wanting details about Alumapalooza. In between all the chatting, I took the time to lube up the Hensley hitch, fill the water tank, and charge the cordless drill batteries.  We finally got going around 10 a.m.

The drive ahead was nothing we wanted to contemplate.  We’ve done this run too many times: I-76 from Denver to I-80 in Nebraska, and then the long straight drive through ranchlands and grasslands as far as possible.  Like last year, the winds came down the prairie from the north and gave us a strong & steady crosswind all day, which eventually eroded our fuel economy to a fairly poor 11.8 average for the day. Of course, the fact that we were towing at 70 MPH might have had something to do with that too.  It takes a lot of discipline to tow at 60 or 65 when you know that 400 more miles of Nebraska lie ahead.

520 miles later, just past sunset, we landed in Lincoln NE and parked the Airstream for the night.  We get to do this again tomorrow, thanks to my error in planning.  You’d think that after doing this a few times, I’d know that 2,000 miles is a helluva long way to drive, but for some reason I’m always struck by the magnitude of the trip.  Emma has been a good sport about it, although having an impressive array of diversions in the backseat is probably the key there.  She’s either reading, playing a game, studying dog breeds, or corresponding via email to one of her friends.  I am grateful that we don’t have to entertain her any more on these long car trips.

For those who are interested, the car seems to be operating perfectly, with no further Check Engine lights.  Our local dealer has agreed to credit us $132 against a future service, for the mistake, which is fine with me.  Driving across the windy plains today I was reminded that when you’re out on a long trip your satisfaction is very much tied to how you feel about your tow vehicle.  A purring car or truck is like a faithful friend, and a balky or unreliable vehicle is just a nightmare.

The Airstream is equally happy.  We’ve had to chase quite a few moths out of the trailer over the past couple of days (not sure how they got in) but other than that there have been no issues.  The only concern is that the interior is looking quite tired.  The 6+ years of heavy use are really starting to show.  Mechanically the Airstream is in great shape, but the curtains are splattered with stains, the vinyl floor has a couple of rips and is turning permanently gray, the countertops are riddled with scratches and knife cuts, the dinette foam is going flat, and the front bedroom carpet needed replacing a couple of years ago.  Eleanor and I had a discussion about this and are considering a DIY makeover in our carport this fall.  We’d outsource the floor covering installation and upholstery, but do everything else ourselves.  This would also give me a chance to do some electronic upgrades I’ve been wanting, like a permanently-installed inverter.  We’ll keep thinking about it.

The rest of the Alumapalooza advance team will be hitting Jackson Center starting Friday.  Tomorrow we’ll decide if we are going to get to J.C. on Friday or Saturday, but either way we’ve got to keep hustling if we are to make it on time.  Alumapalooza is just around the corner.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine