I know it has been forever since I last posted on this blog. I’m sure I am now a candidate for the Bloggers Hall of Shame, but life got in the way somewhat once we returned from Indiana and I haven’t taken the time to update things on this site. It takes more time than one thinks to blog, at least for me. I want to try to, not only talk about our adventures, but also relate some type of RV related information that could be helpful to others out there on the road. I have received some feedback from a few folks who do read my posts and that is incentive to keep on posting when I can. So thank you to all those who read about our adventures or happen to stumble across these posts and take the time look at them. Doing this allows me to keep a record of our experiences and provides a little “expressive relief” to how I’m thinking at a particular time.
The post below was started back in October when we first picked up the Ventana but was never finished and consequently not published. I will post it now and then begin working on additional posts to bring us to the where we are now, which is the beginning of an 8 to 9 week trip to southern Florida and then to South Texas. We plan to return to Brunswick sometime in mid to late February.
Needless to say that the first time I had to go through the process of lowering the jacks, airing up the bags, hooking up the tow vehicle, bringing in the slides, making sure everything was locked and stowed properly, etc. made me more than a little nervous. Not only is this the first time I will be driving without an experienced technician aboard, but also the first time I will be towing our Ford Edge. I have to make sure that it is properly set up so that I don’t damage the transmission or the brakes. I believe that I am ready and know how to do it all, but there is always that small doubt in the back of your mind that I could do something wrong. I did very well in our test drives during the week, but it’s just not quite the same as getting those first hundred miles or so, by yourself, under your belt. Ready or not, her we go!!
Our first drive involved going south from Nappanee for about 50 miles or so and then heading west to Illinois I 57 to head south to Effingham, IL to visit my mother. We decided to go this way instead of the usual route so that we could avoid the construction on I 70 between Indianapolis and Effingham. I didn’t feel ready to deal with a lot of narrow one lane construction zones. It is about a 275 mile drive.
The initial part of the drive went well, and I was starting to feel a little more comfortable behind the wheel. I did, however, constantly check the gagues and listen for any noises that seemed out of the ordinary. The only thing that worried me was the air pressure seemed to slowly drop from the 125 to 130 to about 110 and stay there for awhile. It did eventually go back up and it appears that sometimes it takes a little time for the pump to kick in and pressurize the system. Other than that, the first part of the trip was fine until we were approaching the Illinois border on a 4 lane limited access road. I was traveling along at about 50 mph. when a car pulled up next to me and slowed. The passenger pointed towards the lower front of the coach as if something was wrong and then they sped off. Initially, I thought that they were “kidding around”, but I decided to pull off the road and take a look. Fortunately, the shoulder was of sufficient width that I could do so immediately. When I stopped and started to walk around the coach everything seemed to be fine, then I walked to the drivers side and lo and behold there it was. The first bay door on the drivers side was swinging in the wind. I thought oh crap, I’ve screwed up the bay door on the first full day of driving. Fortunately, the door hinges so that the wind would force it in the direction of its normal closing action so nothing was damaged. Lesson #1 – Double check that your bay doors are secured before leaving and LOCK them!
Once we got to Illinois we stopped at a Pilot truck stop as I have secured a Pilot/Flying J RV Plus Card. It allows you to pay at the pump with no purchase limit instead of having to go inside with your regular credit card. It is a convenient and time saving advantage, in my opinion. This was my first time filling up at a truck stop, but I felt confident that it wouldn’t be too much of an issue. I had heard stories of professional truckers not liking “amateur drivers” in RV’s taking up diesel fueling truck lanes. However, so far everyone has been friendly and pretty much ignored us. So I confidently queued up behind a semi in one of the lanes and waited till he finished and pulled on through. I pulled up to the pump and Liz and I both got out. She walked the dog while I went to pump the fuel. The nozzles on the trucker pumps are larger so that fuel flow is much greater than it is at the auto pumps. Truckers many times putt a couple hundred gallons in their tanks. The Ventana tank is 100 gallons, but the gague is showing a little less than 1/2 tank. I put the nozzle in and began filling the tank using the little latch to hold the valve open so that you don’t have to manually hold it. I then went to clean the windshield and everything went fine until the tank was full. The automatic shut off is slow to react and the fuel flows so fast that diesel will spurt out of the tank like a geyser before it shuts off. I had fuel all over the side of the new Ventana and a puddle on the ground next to the pump. Plus I got it on my hands a little on my clothes. What a mess! Lesson #2 – Don’t use the automatic shut off on the diesel pumps!
We continued on to Effingham and parked at Camp Lakewood for a week while visiting my mother. We had a great visit and the campground there is well maintained and the hosts are attentive and friendly. We asked and received one of the only sites where using your satellite dish is not problematic. Other than a couple of state parks, this is one of the most wooded campgrounds that we have stayed in. We brought my mother out for the first dinner that Liz cooked in the motor home and she was amazed at all the features we had in it.
We left Effingham after one week and started our journey home stopping at Harrah’s Casino in Metropolis, Illinois for our first try at boondocking in their parking lot. The weather was terrible as it was misting and raining. It took some getting used to those giant wipers swooshing back and forth on the “picture window” windshield. It was as much a distraction as the rain! We successfully made it to Metropolis and had a good overnight stay. “Cousin Eddie” (from the movie Vacation) parked next to us at the Casino. I guess they were down on their luck. We have 8 house batteries in the coach and they supported us throughout the night including watching tv.
We only had one additional mishap during the remainder of our trip. We stayed in RV parks most of the rest of the way, but did stop at a Cracker Barrel over night in Jackson, MS. In the morning, Liz went to Dunkin Donuts with the car and I could see that the parking lot was beginning to fill with folks coming for breakfast so I quickly made the coach ready for travel and pulled to an area where we could hookup the car easily. When she returned, we departed and stopped at a Pilot truck stop to fuel before heading out on the road. A trucker hollered at me from across the parking area and asked, “Do you normally travel with your satellite dish up?’ I looked, and said to myself Oh S**T. Sure enough, in my rush to leave I had forgotten to lower the dish from the previous night. I’m not sure what would have happened once I got up to 60 mph or worse yet, gone under a low bridge! Lesson #3 – Never rush to get ready to leave your site and use a check list if you need to, to remember everything!
Well, despite a few missteps our first trip was successful and fun. We are certainly looking forward to making many lasting memories with this RV.