Browsing "Driving"
Jan 22, 2013 -

The Lone Star State



When I received my Texas travel kit this summer, I felt a bit foolish. Sure I’ve hit some milestones, like the Chilkoot, the Dempster, a summer in Quebec, and my solar panels, but Texas had way too many variables to be a sure bet. Still, it gave me something to shoot for and if I fell short, well, there’s always next year. Dreams do not have expiration dates. And yet, against all odds, here I am! Texas was an icon of my childhood; one of my first computers was a Texas Instruments machine, so the shape of the state was close at hand for a long time.

Texas is more expensive than some of the other southwest states and wouldn’t make sense to me as a place to boondock for the winter, but it’s perfect for a pass-through journey like the one I’m having this winter. Next year, I will set my eyes on a place like Quartzite where I can drop anchor for the season or a state like New Mexico with affordable state parks. But this felt like the perfect winter for Texas and I have the Frugal Shunpiker Guide to help me keep the costs down.

It was a bit of a harrowing drive from Westwego to I-10, which I had expected. Something bizarre happened to me as I drove over the Huey Long Bridge: I got a nasty case of vertigo and felt quite ill during the drive across this very high bridge. The only thing that could explain it is that Huey was the first name of the dude who rear ended me. Yeah, that has to be it!

I-10 was a nasty 400KM stretch of rutty highway. It was really unpleasant and rough, with a lot of construction and high winds, and there were no obvious places to stop so I ended up driving straight through.

I felt quite itchy going past this town:


(Maringouin is the québécois word for mosquito. 🙂 Do not use it this word in France, however!)

The sun was low in the sky and in my eyes by the time I got to the rest area, so I was really glad not to have to push on to the Walmart in Orange. I wasn’t able to find any signs confirming that I can spend the night here, but a security guard confirmed it’s okay. I think it’s going to be a noisy night. There’s an RV parked on my driver’s side and a big rig on the passenger side. I’m hoping that big rig gets replaced by another RV.

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Boondocking/Dry camping, Countries, Driving, Louisiana, Technical, Texas, Travel, USA    5 Comments
Nov 20, 2012 -

Tips For Sharing the Road With an RV

I don’t know what it is about RVs that so enrages other drivers and makes them forget common sense. The person driving the RV is probably not from around there. Therefore s/he is under some stress from the unfamiliar surroundings and wrestling a huge vehicle. Here are some tips for sharing the road with an RV.

1) Be patient. Yes, it can suck being stuck behind a vehicle going below the speed limit, but how long out of your day is it really? Chances are the RV driver is sweating in the front seat and desperately looking for a place to pull over and let you pass. Your honking and tailgating aren’t helping. And if you see me slowing down and signaling towards the curb on a very narrow straight road with no shoulder, chances are I’m telling you, hey, the road ahead is clear, pass me!

2) Think twice before cutting in front of an RV. I was going 55MPH down a hill the other day when the light at the bottom turned red. No problem, there was no one in front of me, so I had plenty of time to gently pump the brakes and coast to a stop. That is until the guy behind me cut around me (see point number one) and hit the brakes when he noticed the red light. I lost three quarters of my braking distance and had to slam on my brakes. Had I run into this guy, I would have been 100% at fault, which is grossly unfair.

3) Give RVers time to merge. It is incredible the number of times I have noticed a gap in traffic, signaled that I was going to merge, began to merge, and the guy behind me stepped on the gas to close the gap. I am getting into the habit of merging very early, but I occasionally miss my exit or turn. Going back to point number one, do you really want to anger a stressed out person in a giant vehicle who is now lost thanks to you?

4) Mirrors only help so much. RVers have giant blind spots. If you can’t see me in my mirror, chances are I can’t see you. So don’t blame me if you pull into my blind spot while I’m underway at a gas station and I end up nicking your vehicle. You should have remembered point number one and let me get out of the way.

5) The motorhome driver towing a vehicle cannot back up without damaging the tow bar or unhook unless both vehicles are in a perfectly straight line. So you really will have to get out of the way even if you were there first (or so you claim).

Bonus tip: Please, no tailgating.

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Driving, Technical    3 Comments
Nov 15, 2012 -

Uneventful Drive Down I-87 To Saratoga Springs

It was a perfect day for a drive, clear with few cars on the road. Except when she was stuck behind some impossibly slow rigs or was climbing a grade, Miranda effortlessly matched the speed limit. I could only feel the truck behind me when I slowed down or was climbing a hill. I need to measure my new rig, but, truly, it doesn’t feel any longer or more unwieldy than my old one! My gas consumpition was normal for a day going up and down grades!

Just ahead of the last area before Saratoga Springs, a long column of white cars appeared in my view screen. They roared past me and I saw that they were US Border Patrol vehicles. They merged in between myself and another rig plated in Quebec that was closely followed another Quebec-plated rig. The two Quebec vehicles pulled into the rest area and the border patrol vehicles followed suit. There were no lights or anything, but it was the darnedest thing to see as they appeared to be on a mission.

One exit before the raceway, I was running on a quarter tank of fuel when I noticed a sign saying ‘truck stop.’ I figured that I’d be able to find a gas station where I could get in easily with my toad, and I did.

At the raceway, I tucked myself into the far end of the parking lot, much like I did last time. There are a lot more cars here this time, however.

I called Verizon to reactivate my phone to get internet and then realised that I’d need wifi to get online, like I did in the spring. My GPS told me where was a McDonald’s fairly close by, but was useless at providing a neighbourhood map that would set me off in the right direction on foot. I set off in a couple of directions, easily covering the distance to the restaurant, and each time my GPS told me I was going the wrong way.

Even though I’d truly had enough toad excitement for one day, I unhooked the truck and drove around a bit until I found the McDonald’s, which was ludicrously close by. It almost wasn’t worth it to have unhooked except that I would have come home in the dark.

There, I downloaded the Lion version of the VZAccess Manager and then tried to connect. No dice. I called Verizon back and when I finally got to a live person, he informed me that the first guy I spoke to forgot to authorize use of my cell phone as a modem. I hung up with him, restarted my phone, and tried the internet again. It worked!

I drove home in the growing darkness and then spent a very frustrating 15 minutes or so trying to hook my truck up. It’ll go much more smoothly as I gain experience with the tow bar… and hook up while not completely exhausted.

The disappointing news of the day is that my battery bank is not working properly. I haven’t even tried my new inverter setup yet because my batteries are so low.

I unhooked from shore power on Monday and had a full charge on Tuesday morning, but haven’t had one since then. I really should have plugged back in. What happened is that I thought the propane was on, but it wasn’t, and the furnace kicked on for hours, completely draining the battery before I caught the mistake. It’s been pretty overcast since, I spent all of yesterday in a garage, and I didn’t drive enough today to get a full charge. At this point, I can’t tell if my problem is just that I need a charge or if I screwed up somewhere in my wiring and actually have a problem.

My battery monitor says that I’m at about 80% charge with a voltage in the high elevens, (which goes to show that voltage tells you nothing about the state of your batteries), and that I could run at my current amp draw for about 24 hours. Unfortunately, my current amp draw is just the fridge. As soon as I turn on the furnace, my fridge goes haywire. Forget running the water pump or even an LED light. It’s getting chilly, so I predict I’ll be going to bed early with the electric blanket. I’m not even going to bother to have my batteries load tested. As soon as I can get a deal on a good pair of Trojans with more amp hours, I’ll be switching. I should not be shivering my first night back on the road.

Tomorrow will be the hardest day of the drive south as I’ll be heading onto the New York Thruway. After that, it should be fairly smooth sailing. I do need to find a place to overnight between St Clair PA and Hampton Roads as I want to arrive at my destination in daylight. ETA at this point is Sunday afternoon.

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Batteries, Boondocking/Dry camping, Cell Phone, Communications & Electronics, Driving, Electricity, Fridge, Furnace, Internet, New York, Solar Panels, Technical, Travel, USA, Weather    No Comments