Monday, August 8, 2016

In the Beginning; It Was the First Day

Originally posted: September 29, 2014


All shiny and new (to me, anyway) on her maiden voyage.
As it was in the beginning, … oh, wait … this IS the beginning. After all advanced preparations had been made, the car and the travel trailer stuffed to exploding with stuff (I might need someday), I decided two weeks ago, that today would be the day to strike out in my New Retirement Traveling Adventure. Nervous? You bet. Apprehensive? Right again. Happy and sad simultaneously? Definitely, “YES”. I was leaving beautiful north-central West Virginia and heading West to new and unexplored territories .. eventually. I wanted to visit my friends and family in my home state of Indiana and to visit the Feast of the Hunters Moon Rendezvous, which will be the topic of it’s own adventure monologue.

During these past Summer months, I began to transfer my necessities into the travel trailer from what was a two-bedroom apartment. I loaded up the pots and pans, dishes and glassware, bed and bath linens and all the chemicals required for good housekeeping. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you add in my clothes and other camping supplies, personal records, music and DVD collection,  my computers and guitar, there just isn’t much room for me to sleep. Clearly, something will have to go. It seems I have an inordinate amount of socks and t-shirts, summer and winter pajamas, microwave-safe glassware and plastic food containers. Obviously, I’m well over-stocked.

The move-in complete and all required supply lines and drain hoses, pipes, cables, chemicals and such – also required for good travel trailer maintenance – present and accounted for, I added wheel chocks, leveling blocks and trailer hitch locks, but there remained one problem. Getting the trailer hitch from the trailer to match the tow vehicle  in order for the trailer to be pulled on the level and therefore equal give weight distribution on all four trailer tires. Since I purchased my travel trailer second-hand, I also received the weight-distribution hitch that goes with it.  However, it was set-up for the previous owner’s vehicle. My hitch ball sits about one-inch higher.

I watched the YouTube videos and it looked like a piece of cake to fix. However, the mule of a manwho tightened up the bolts on this hitch made it a two-man job to loosen those bolts. Since I have had my travel trailer in a protected storage facility during this process, the owner of the facility who also happens to also be a U-Haul Leasing Agent, volunteered to help this old neophyte get started on this adventure by putting the best foot forward by paying extra special attention to details. Between his strength and two huge wrenches, together, we managed to break loose the bolts, rearrange the hitch to the correct height, then reconnect all the hardware, safety devices, electric brake and lighting connection. There sure is a lot to do, it seems, but safety on the road is a major concern.

When completed, I was finally ready to roll, with one more little exception. I needed a small pin that holds the hitch ball locking lever in place, which my friend just happened to have many in stock. On top of all his help, he threw-in that little pin for nothing.

Have I forgotten anything? Is everything inside the trailer secured? Gee, I hope those two bottles of wine I purchased in upstate New York will be all right. What I’m saving those for, I don’t know. I’m thinking they are over-due for consumption. Maybe at my very first night in a real campground, by a real fire-ring while having a delicious fire-grilled steak. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Driving as cautiously as the day I brought home my wife and newborn son from the hospital, I eased forward, over the driveway curb bump and onto the roadway. I heard a couple of pops of the hitch hardware, slowed to a stop to see what had happened, but nothing seemed damaged or out of place. Turning right, I headed toward the Interstate highway connector for the short trip down to the main road which would take me home again to Indiana.

I was so busy attending to the details of driving that I couldn’t occupy my mind with the fact that I was also leaving a wonderful girlfriend who has been my closest friend and confidant for many years. This was the toughest thing I ever had to do. I won’t get into that, but suffice to say it is true. I was also leaving a beautiful part of the hills and valleys of West Virginia – slowly donning it’s Autumn colors – for my former homeland of Indianapolis (area), Indiana. While I enjoyed most of my time in West Virginia, I just couldn’t make it feel like “home”. Its true of this trip, however, I was going to the homeland of my birth.

I turned onto Highway 50 for the Westward leg out of West Virginia being as carefully ginger as I could. Usually, I don’t mind a little extra sideways G-force when I corner, but not this time. Let’s keep all the wheels on the ground, please. Driving through Clarksburg on Saturday, without the daily commuter traffic was easy. Past town boundaries, things got more tense. My inexperience clearly had me spooked, but I had faith that everything would be all right if I just took it easy – which I definitely did.

Traveling UP-hill, was rough because the Envoy really revved to a bit over 4,000 RPMs even while slowing down in the process. Was I somehow doing this wrong? Going DOWN-hill was easier and I took advantage of gravity – every chance I got. Then came the curves in this hilly undertaking. I’m towing almost everything I own in this trailer and in my car. I sure wouldn’t want (a) to blow an engine or (b) lose control of the situation. This may sound cliche, but the knuckles on my hands were indeed white at the tension of my grip on the steering wheel. Meanwhile, in the background, my CD changer plays some smooth jazz for some easy traveling music, but my nerves aren’t soothed.

I knew that once I got into the agricultural lands of Ohio and Indiana, where the lands are flatter and the roads are straighter, I would be all right. This was only my first  trip out and I also have never hauled any other sort of trailer before. This was truly all news to me. As I crossed over into Ohio, through Parkersburg, I decided to stop at a convenient place, check my bearings with a map, have a Coke or candy bar and give my white knuckles and the seat of my pants a break. I’d been on the road just two hours. A little South of Athens, Ohio, there is a travelers’ rest area on the left. I waited for traffic to clear, then slowly made my turn, eased into a space reserved for the 18-wheelers and cars with trailers, shut down, got out and slowly walked around the entire rig to look for anything suspiciously wrong – just in case.  So far, so good.

Time for a pit-stop, hand wash and a Coke. After consulting my 2012 road atlas, I determined I was on the right road in the right direction. As a double-check and for a traveling “companion”, I guess, I hooked-up the Garmin GPS that my girlfriend had gotten me for my birthday last summer before my trip to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, in Red Hook, New York. I say “companion”, because, like many other such units, “she” tells me where to go, but in a good way.

Out of necessity and near panic, I was glad the GPS system pointed out potential fuel stops ahead. My thinking was not vehicle or situation accurate. In my last car, this would have been a one-tank trip, but not for this load. No way.

I drove through Columbus, Ohio along a pathway I’ve traveled many times before, then continuing westward, eventually finding the Indiana Territory and my friend’s house. We tried backing into his driveway. Its IN all right, but its crooked as a dog’s hind leg. I didn’t care and neither did he. I was out of the driver’s seat and at my destination safely. What more could I ask for?

When I shut-down the engine, I opened the trailer to give my friend, Steve, the cook’s tour. It didn’t take long. There isn’t much to it. We drank a beer and ordered a pizza. While normally, I hit the sack and read a little bit in bed before I go to sleep around midnight to one a.m., tonight I was red-eyed and beat by 10:30 pm. I can’t tell you what I watched on his big screen TV for the past few hours while we talked through our melted cheeses and salt-cured meats. This night, sleep would be easy.

Ready to roll ... from the driver's side.

My future plans were all in my head, but they were definite plans without reservations. Additional episodes to follow. I hope you'll stick with me.

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