Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It began Thursday morning, after a day of cold, wet snowfall. The air was warming and the sun shining—an ideal day to begin a long journey across the country. We rose early and began preparing—little things kept popping up, that took some time to resolve. After hooking up the truck to the trailer, we noticed the tongue end of the trailer was higher than the rear end, so we removed the weight distribution gear and adjusted the coupler up a notch, then reattached the weight distribution kit. Unfortunately, now the weight distribution arms weren't popping into the sway control system correctly. We adjusted the length of the sway controls, not really knowing if it was the right thing to do—the instructions said to keep the nuts in the middle, and said nothing about adjusting them after installation—but we did it anyway.
We tested the brakes, they worked! We packed up the kitties into their carrier and around 2:30 in the afternoon we began our trek toward Texas, one slow mile at a time.
I drove first—slowly around corners, breathing away the tension that kept arising in my body. Driving under the first few bridges gave me a twinge of anxiety, but after a while they didn't bother me anymore—well, not until Hartford, CT when we drove under 2 bridges that were marked as 13' 7" tall. I slowed and prayed that we'd safely make it under them—we did. I stayed slow—about 50 MPH—I was learning how to tow, learning how it felt when a semi sped past, how it felt to be pushed down hill by a heavy trailer and how to deal with the sway. It's not easy at first—I'd highly recommend to ANYONE thinking of doing this that you learn how to tow with something smaller and lighter before trying to tow a 13' 4" tall, 10,000 lb trailer.
As it began to get dark, my anxiety increased, and unfortunately so did the wind. We were heading up the mountains in New York and needed to stop for gas. I didn't want to pull off the highway and was hoping for a service area to pull into—there was none. Eventually I pulled off the highway and into a Hess station. I used the ladies room, and noticed in the mirror that I was pale white and had the darkest circles around my eyes. My stomach was in a huge knot and I was shivering to the bone. I got back to the truck and crawled into the passenger seat and shut down. I curled into a ball and shivered. I felt bad about not being able to function anymore, and that James now had to learn how to drive the truck and the trailer at night, up a mountain, in the dark wind. Luckily about 15 minutes down the highway there was a rest stop where we pulled in and parked for the night. We were having doubts about the whole journey, and the little house and considered turning around in the morning and heading back to Massachusetts. We could store the little house for the winter and stay with our parents… but I wanted to try another day before deciding do give up. Things are always difficult in the beginning.
James and Kevin turned on the inverter so we could use the batteries for some light and heat. I sat with my head between my knees covered in a blanket. As I warmed, I ate some bananas and slowly became functional again. The power in our batteries lasted about a half hour while using the heat. With the heat off, we could keep the lights on… It was warm enough to sleep, so we turned off all electricity crawled into bed and slept for the night.
In the morning it was cold. Kevin turned on his generator so we could recharge the batteries, heat the inside and plug in our diesel truck to heat the glow plugs. Outside it was beautiful and bitter, bitter cold. We had stopped on the top of a mountain in New York—Stormville.
The truck did NOT want to start. We had it plugged in for about an hour, and tried over and over again to get it to start. It took us about 2 hours. Once the truck started we were on our way—around 10:30 AM. Heading up and down the mountains of New York and Pennsylvania—I drove again.
We kept slow again—between 40–55 MPH. I was understanding better how to deal with the hills, and the sway caused by the trucks was a lot easier to predict. I was a lot more comfortable driving. In the afternoon, James tried again, and he too felt a lot more confident than the night before. We traveled through Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. That night we stopped just over the Virginia border. This night was still chilly, but not nearly as chaotic or difficult as the previous night. We started up the generator for heat, rather than relying on the batteries.
Saturday morning we plugged the truck in earlier than on Friday, and it started with much less trouble—it also wasn't nearly as cold outside. James began driving, as he felt more comfortable driving during daylight hours, and I felt alright driving in the dark. I really enjoyed looking out the windows at the passing cows and pastures.
Virginia felt like a very welcoming state—friendly people and nice roads. Driving became second nature and we were on our way. The sun was shining, and warming the cab of the truck. There were no more doubts or thoughts about turning around, and we felt now that we could indeed make it to Texas… eventually.
Saturday night it began to rain lightly—enough for it to be a nuisance, but not enough to affect visibility or the road. Around 8:30 PM we began looking for a rest stop to pull over for the night. We were on Rt. 40 in Tennessee, and it didn't seem like there was anything available. We pulled into a gas station to see if they knew of any truck stops in the area. They said there was one about an hour in the direction we were heading. We kept going, looking for signs for a truck stop when we saw signs for a rest area—similar to what we stopped at the previous 2 nights. We pulled in, calmed ourselves and settled down for the night. We noticed a sign that said there was a 2 hour limit, but upon inspecting the rest area, we figured there was no one there to enforce it. It was raining, we were tired, fog was rolling in and there was NO WAY we were going to continue driving without some sleep. It was rainy and wet, but at least it was warm. Throughout the night I heard rain hitting our metal roof, sometimes there was a lot of it, and I often felt wind move the house. I was thankful we stopped when we did. James was beginning to come down with a cold, so I was glad it wasn't another cold night. We both slept relatively well, and kept warmer than the previous 2 nights.
In the morning the truck started right up, no plugging necessary. We were on the road by 9. There was still some fog and light rain, but nothing like what I heard hitting the roof the night before. As we came out of the mountains (again) the fog lifted and eventually we removed a few layers of clothes—we were leaving winter finally.
We continued our way through Tennessee and Arkansas—into a new time zone, and over the Mississipi, where the roads became less and less maintained, and more and more bumpy, and it seemed like the people we came into contact with were less pleasant. I couldn't wait to get through Arkansas and into Texas, but that would have to wait for another day. Sunday night we settled into a rest stop about 60 miles from the Texas border. The bumps caused one of the stands at the rear of our trailer to fall off. That will need to be replaced.
Monday morning we awoke to a bright sun, shining and warming our little house and truck. I removed another layer of clothes and spent most of the day wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt. It felt nice to be free of the bundles of clothes I'd been wearing the days prior. Today was the day—there were only about 300 miles remaining to our stopping point in Texas. We stopped quickly for gas and a small bite to eat, and enjoyed the sunny, warm day as we drove into town.
We arrived at Kevin's mom's house, where we have been invited to stay for a month or so, but it turns out the main entrance to their pasture is only about 12' tall. It is possible to get into the pasture by driving over Kevin's mom's front lawn, however the ground is soft from recent rain, and we'll wait a few days before driving over it as to not ruin their lawn. Thankfully Kevin's grandparents live less than a mile down the road, and they have space behind their garage for us to park our little house for now.
So, we're through with traveling for now—at least with long distance traveling. We're going to scope out some RV parks and campgrounds in the area to see what we can find for a longer-term stay. For now, I'll enjoy the view and peace of not traveling…