A day on the road

Driving the Interstate hundreds of miles can be dull, but it gives me plenty of time to think, and I like that. With the weather cleared and mechanical problems gone, it was a fairly peaceful experience (except for Houston) driving I-10. We covered the concrete from Seguin TX to Lafayette LA, 370 miles, so I got to air out a lot of cobwebs in the brain pan.

The plan was to get up early and hit the road around 8 or 9 a.m., but that hasn’t worked out even once on this trip. Each day we have something that needs doing in the morning (like shopping for a new power cord for the GPS today, or waiting for the frost to melt yesterday), and we also seem to kill a fair bit of time bantering with Alex & Charon in their trailer.

That’s because Alex is recording about 10 minutes of ad hoc discussion each morning, when we talk about the day before. His plan is to edit it down into a short podcast series, so you might be able to hear that on the Internet later. We have a lot of fun doing the recording each day.

We finally got on the road at about 10 a.m., which was not great but still early enough to make it to Lafayette before dark. When you’re traveling as we are, covering lots of miles and boondocking occasionally, you also have to allow time for stops to replenish supplies (mostly diesel, propane and water), and dump the tanks. Even with a big pause at a Love’s truck stop, we made fairly good time.

Propane has been a big thing for us on this trip. The cold weather means lots of furnace use, and we have already stopped twice to fill 30# tanks. Electrically we are doing pretty well. The furnace has chewed up a lot of battery power each night but we are getting enough sun on the solar panels to keep us afloat since we left Sonora TX on Wednesday morning. In the summer we wouldn’t even think about it because we never run out of power when the sun is high and no furnace is needed, but this time of year it’s something that I watch closely.

In addition to the re-supply stops, this trip has reminded me of the necessity of on-the-road maintenance. This is a habit from our full-timing days, but just as relevant now. For example, every 500 miles I have to grease the Hensley hitch. Two days before we left, while camped at Lazydays, I had to replace a worn-out grease fitting on the hitch, too. When you are moving fast there’s always something that needs attention: cleaning, lubing, tightening, adjusting, inspecting, or airing.

Things don’t break in the driveway (usually)—they break on the road, as our city water fill did just two days ago. So you have to be ready with a tool kit and some knowledge, or face the prospect of stopping at a repair shop for every little thing. I don’t like on-the-road breakdowns any more than you do, so I do what I can to maintain everything at home, but I’m realistic: stuff happens.

The other big maintenance item is personal mental health. Driving like this isn’t really fun, and without much exercise day after day, the entire body starts to rebel—at least mine does. A walk at the end of the day is helpful if we have time (even if it’s just a stroll inside the Wal-Mart), and taking time to tell jokes to our caravan-mates (Alex & Charon) on the radio is nice, and decompressing at the end of the day over a movie or dinner is very comforting. We are trying to find the little things in each day that make it less boring to be in the car. There are a lot of such things if you look for them.

We still have 800 miles or so ahead of us, so our pace isn’t going to slow yet, and we won’t be doing a lot of sightseeing. Eleanor and I are noting things to check out on the way back, instead. It’s a sort of small consolation for the tedious nature of our travel eastbound. For now, Florida beckons, and we want to make it to Sarasota by Sunday if we can, in time to help with Alumaflamingo setup.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine