After the seriousness of my last two posts, I thought I would write about something lighter today. We have traveled from Michigan to Alabama, Alabama to Texas, Texas to Kansas, and Kansas back to Ohio in the last few months. Most of the time we try to limit the amount we drive in a single day to 150 miles. We can do that without stopping or refueling (getting diesel is easier when you aren’t hitched to a 35 foot trailer). But sometimes the bigger moves require longer days of driving or driving several days in a row. Today I thought I would write about what we do as we prepare to get on the road, travel, and set up at our destination.
Those of you who know me, know that I love lists. So of course we have “setting up” and “getting on the road” checklists. Even though we are pretty experienced at it now, I still go through the whole taking off checklist every time. Getting on the road and having your propane tank explode because you forgot to turn it off would not be fun. Getting to our destination and finding clothes strewn all over the bedroom because I forgot to latch the door would not be fun either. So we go through the checklist.
I latch all the doors, put the laundry in the toilet room, and stow all the items that have been sitting out on counters, tables, or desks. I put the pole in the pantry to keep the drawers from moving. I strap in the television and move the two computer screens to the bed with pillows over them. I close all the windows and make sure all the cabinets are latched. I turn off the water pump, water heater, and furnace or air conditioner. While I am doing the indoor things, Tom puts away the satellite receiver, dumps the tanks, and unhooks from the water and electricity. He also turns off the propane if we have been using it.
Once the inside and outside things are done to this point, Tom climbs on the roof of the RV and checks the tops of the slides. I pass him the broom so he can sweep off water, leaves, or acorns that have accumulated during our stay. Once he is off the roof I pull in the slides and lock the front door. Then we hitch up the truck, raise the jacks and get on the road.
We have two tools that we rely on while we are on the road. The first is the Allstays app. This has been really valuable because it has so much information we need on the road. It tells us where there are low overpasses (we are 13’6″ so we have to be careful about that). It tells us where we can get diesel fuel and where the next truck stop is. It tells us where there are campgrounds, gives us the website for the campground, a phone number, images, reviews, and – most important at this time of year – the dates of operation. Most campgrounds in the north are only open in the summer or through the fall. A couple of days ago we had to stop earlier than we wanted because there wasn’t another campground that was open within 150 miles.
The second tool we use is the Rand McNally Motor Carrier’s Road Atlas. This highlights all the roads that are “trucker approved” – roads where we can fit. It also describes low overpasses and shows the trucker routes through big cities. I check this out before we drive a route and then use it as we are on the road. Tom also likes to check Google maps for construction updates. Yesterday we got stuck in stopped traffic on I-70 for 90 minutes because a semi crashed in a construction zone. So even though we use our tools, we still get stuck sometimes. We can handle stuck in traffic – we are trying to avoid stuck under a too-low bridge.
Once we reach our destination, we pull in and reverse the list from taking off. Setting up is less rigorous than getting on the road because the consequences are less drastic if we forget a step. We can always do it later. Some friends of ours didn’t get the hitch completely latched when they were taking off, and the nose of their 5th wheel crashed into the the bed of their truck. Yikes!
Life on the road is adventurous enough without doing something stupid. Our checklists help our brains think things through. Our tools help us look ahead to avoid danger spots and find helpful places. As nice as it is to stay put for a while, we are getting comfortable with being on the road.