Travel Updates

Being in an RV lets me wander about freely and spend as much or as little time in places as I see fit.  I can make plans, change them, and then modify them some more, and there’s no consequences.  It’s not like booking flights, hotels, rental cars, etc., all with a fixed schedule so you can get back to work on Monday.  This really feels like a much better way to live life.

Since my last posting, I went to a friend’s wedding, paid lots of tolls getting through Chicago to get to Elkhart, Indiana, passed back through Wisconsin, made a stop in Minneapolis, and now I’m in Breckenridge, MN.

Valerie’s wedding had a metric ton of people.  I attended the wedding and a couple hours of the reception, and that was plenty for me.  I went to bed early, exhausted.  I have no idea how the bridge and groom could keep up with everything, and all I did was attend!

From the wedding in Wisconsin to the holding tanks in Indiana, the only way to go is through Chicago.  I hope I never have to drive through Chicago again.  The bad roads, frequent tolls, and surprising amounts of traffic make for a rather unpleasant driving experience.  Then there’s Gary, Indiana… I couldn’t imagine living there.  It just seems so dirty, any time of year.

I got into the Elkhart area Sunday evening (October 8th, 2017), and found some place to park.  I think it was a Lowe’s parking lot across from a Walmart.  Yeah, real classy.  I had called my tank supplier on Friday and left a message, figuring that I should have heard from them already as they were going to call me a week before the tanks were due to arrange a pickup date.  Monday morning, I called and it kept going through the automated prompts to voicemail.  Monday was also Columbus Day, so I figured *maybe* they took the day off.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

So Tuesday rolls around, and I start calling, and keep getting voicemail.  This is starting to concern me and I’m wondering if the little reseller has gone out of business since they haven’t returned my calls or email.  I found the manufacturer of the tanks (also in Elkhart), and headed over there.  I worked with the front desk receptionist person to track down their errant reseller and eventually figured out that my tanks would be done tomorrow (Wednesday), and I would be able to pick them up from the reseller then.  It was a relief that at least the manufacturer was still in business and reasonable to work with.

Wednesday came, and I got a call around 9am or so that my tanks were ready to be picked up.  I threw ’em in the back of the Great White Knight, and left town.  I wasn’t really planning on spending that many days in Elkhart, but at least I didn’t have to pay hotel rooms or anything like that.

While in Elkhart, one of the things to do is to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame museum.  Since I had plenty of time on my hands, that’s exactly what I did.  Not a whole lot to report there, other than it was surprising how much carpet was in a lot of the rigs from the 70’s and 80’s.  Carpet plus RVs = constantly dirty.  I’m happy to have a linoleum floor in my camper that I can hand-sweep out in a matter of seconds.  It’s worth stopping if you’re in the area and have a couple hours to kill, but I wouldn’t make a special trip for it.  BTW, the image above isn’t showing model-sized RVs, those are actual full-size RVs all laid out on a “road” (path) in the museum.

After leaving Elkhart, I headed back into Wisconsin, and met up with Valerie to catch up for a while.  She was understandably rather busy the last time I saw her.  While I was there, I was able to plug in the camper overnight to shore power, and that was a luxurious experience.  We went out to eat at the local supper club, which is an entertaining experience, and they had good food.  It was nice to catch up with Val in a quiet and calm environment.

I think it was Saturday morning I headed into the Twin Cities area, and stopped to visit a friend there for a while.  Stayed overnight, then headed up to Breckenridge.  I’ll be staying here for a while visiting family until it’s time to continue on the adventure.

When boondocking, (aka, parking the rig anywhere you don’t have hookups), you’re on your own for power, water, and holding tank capacity.  In my previous trips during more favorable (weather-wise) months of the year, the solar panels have more than kept up with my perhaps exorbitant amount of electrical usage.  I could pull in somewhere around 1,200 watt-hours of power per day which was sufficient to run the fridge, laptop, microwave, and even the toaster oven, plus of course lights, water pump, and the usual RV stuff.  This trip though, I was averaging only 300 watt-hours of solar per day, with some days being much less than that.  To say I wasn’t keeping up with demand is an understatement.  I knew the solar panels weren’t likely to keep up, but it still came as somewhat of a surprise how much power I’m accustomed to having at my disposal.

I was able to conserve power by charging the phone and laptop in the truck while driving and using the propane oven instead of the toaster oven.  Those measures helped extend the number of days I could stretch out the batteries with the restricted solar input.  I of course monitored them carefully and kept them above the 50% mark all the time.  Getting charged up with staying at Valerie’s was a welcome relief though to have fully-charged house batteries.

I can’t fault the solar panels themselves, there’s only so much they can do when the days are short, cloudy, dark, and rainy.  Just not a lot of light to work with there, and when that weather patter is more or less repeated for more than a week, it’s tough.  If I had known the solar input conditions were going to be that bad on this trip, I may have seriously considered picking up my planned generator now instead of later and toting it along on a hitch carrier.  At the moment I’m plugged into shore power while in Breck, and when I leave here I’ll be heading south, so I should be good for a while.

During this trip I’ve also had some relatively minor psychological issues.  After having a blast with friends in Minneapolis then heading out to Elkhart, alone and in terrible weather, all while conserving power as much as I could, it had an impact on me.  One of my RV’ing buddies that I chat with frequently pointed it out to me that I wasn’t being myself lately, and she was right.  When I’m busy with a project or on a mission of some sort, being alone suites me just fine.  But when I have downtime, not having that special someone around is hard on me.  Of course, it’s hard (ok, nearly impossible) to find a compatible co-pilot with my lifestyle, and I’ve got all kinds of trust issues after my last “relationship”, so it’s not like anything is going to happen there anytime soon.

For the moment, it’s nice to be visiting with family, not be driving for at least a couple days, and relaxing a bit.  I’m doing laundry right now, and if the weather here continues to be as nice as it looks, I might go biking this afternoon.

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