May 13 2009

Wisconsin I-94W

by andrew

B . I o balls if orien . Us dr is X is Drive xrng .th roogh Wisconsin trying to write witln left fingers nails on pocket pc. Letter lreccogn.izer.while focus on drive …:

Had to mentioned this mfolrnings adventure breakfast while we waiting for camping world’s repair on trailer still having to replaced converter myself as .they don’t have thenn in .The converter is what’s cavsing external GFI to trip even tho its putting out right voltage + amps. Prol..y losing volts on some tiny internal short …
So anyway about breakfast because that’s what this is really about ..: Pine Cone Restaurant in De Forest , WI jvst off of I-94 & 51… Oh mamma ! Imagine a giant cinnamon roll sliced horizontally from the bottom up and then cooked like french toast with butter & syrup drizzled on top! Oh yeah thats I .had.

Lovinj Wisconsin I-94 : 60 mph @ 700 pyro / 1800 rpm most of the way..:
Jvst .passed mile 106 on 94W. 4:30pm 5/13/09 – 120 miles to St. Paul.

May 10 2009

Day 25-29: Over the Appalachians

by andrew

We are surviving our first bout of hard-core travel and campgrounding, but it hasn’t been without … um … “events” shall we say? I think I have previously lamented the fact that there are not enough nanoseconds in the day to do these tales justice with the flowing, detailed narrative they deserve. But let me recap the last few days of adventure in bullet form lest current events overtake the record and press it with their own need to be captured.

Day 25 (Wed, 5/6/09):

  • Intended day of departure from PA… slow going with all the final preparations even though we had done most of it the day before…
  • 3:00pm, still planning to leave and make some progress, final checks on the truck… needed oil change badly… likely not going to get on the road after all…
  • 3:30pm, Jaiden (age 2) falls in the creek and gashes the back of his head open, Reayah (age 5) was right with him when it happened, watching him like we’d asked her too; she got Bennah (age 7) right away because he was close by; Bennah pulls Jaiden out of the creek and stays with him (he’s soaked head to toe, his head is bleeding, and he’s screaming from the shock; knowing Bennah is with him, then Reayah runs to the the trailer (just a few hundred feet away) to get us; I run down there, scoop up my little brave soaking wet explorer and hustle him back to the trailer; Renee cleans him up, and we get ice on his head; he shows initial symptoms of a mild concussion; we pray for him, battle our fear, and the symptoms clear… at that point we were obviously not going anywhere that day… wanted to watch him closely and make sure he would be alright.
  • Jaiden was quiet for a bit but was his old giggly self before too long and the delay worked out to let us go visit some other dear friends about an hour away who we hadn’t seen in a long time.

Day 26 (Thurs, 5/7/09):

  • On the way to get some errands done in the morning (one of which was getting the oil changed) I got stuck behind some SLOW traffic with no passing lane. There were alternate routes I could have taken into town, but I was keenly aware of YHWH saying that the situation was an example to me: He is slowing us down, every part of our lives… our previous life was lived in such servitude to schedules and TIME… always trying to get things done in a rush or having to be somewhere quickly… we are learning to slow down and become more aware of the NOW.
  • Of course, that approach leads to things like 2pm departures. But we were finally on our way.
  • And our first real mountain driving across I-80… what another example of slowing down… pulling 17,000 lbs total up some climbs brought us down to 30 mph in a couple spots to keep all the gauges in the mostly happy zones. Average maybe 45-50 mph. 60 mph on the downhill. Slowing down like that was HARD (for me because I much prefer the speed limit +5 rule of thumb). But I learned how to ride my gears on the auto tranny based on the precise position of the pedal and the current RPMs, speed, and incline of the road.
  • How do I know we were pulling 17,000 lbs? Because we finally found a scale that worked. For $5 I found out that:
    • my front axle was carrying 3140 lbs (GAWR 4250)
    • my rear axle was carrying 5380 lbs (GAWR 6000)
    • my trailer axles were carrying 8760 lbs (GAWR > 8800)
  • What a relief – we were under ALL our limits, which up until then was actually quite doubtful. We are pulling more than the overall recommended weight for the stock make / model / year, but we’re not driving a stock vehicle… and we can always sacrifice speed to make sure we don’t overwork the engine.
  • We rolled into a Wal-mart in Ohio at 10:30pm only to discover we had NO power from the trailer battery. I knew I needed to replace it, but it had never been totally drained before. This meant no tongue jack (to relieve some weight off the truck for the night and stabilize a bit) and no slide-out (which means the kids room is barely accessible and the bathroom is inaccessible – except to Jaiden and Zach who can squeeze through). Then, after getting the kids to bed doubled up on the pull-out couch and fold-down dinette, some initial checks on the wiring suggested that the trailer outlet on the truck wasn’t wired right and maybe hadn’t been charging the trailer battery during travel. It was a project for the morning, but it was going to mean a LATE departure.

Day 27 (Fri, 5/8/09):

  • Renee entertained the kids in Wal-Mart the next morning while I discovered that positive cable connector had completely snapped off the terminal (hence, no juice). Battery also needed replacement. Not satisfied that the trailer plug on the bumper was resolved, but it could wait; new battery and cable rewired, we pulled out around 1:30pm, gassed up and hit the interstate once more.
  • We entered Sabbath with an Indiana sunset and a spectacular visual reminder of what we love so much about traveling.
  • For whatever reason, I was determined to get to Chicago that night, and be done with it. But wondering if we shouldn’t heed the lessons of slowing down I tried to stop at a Flying J around 10:oopm but it seemed to be rigged only for trucks (or cars) but there didn’t seem to be anywhere for RVs to park… which was very strange… but we pressed on…
  • YIKES. 90/94 W through Chicago at 10:30pm on a Friday night… talk about some serious prayerful towing driving… that is an experience I’d rather not have to repeat… ever…
  • 11:01pm pull into Wal-mart on the other side of Chicago and join the ranks of a couple trucks and a couple motorhomes.
  • Stabilized on the tongue jack but still not using the slide-out after confirming that the new battery did not charge during the day of travel.
  • Settled in for a crazy night of some of the most insane wind we’ve half-slept through ever. The Windy City’s way of greeting us I suppose. The trailer rocked and shook like a dingy tossed around at sea, and that next morning Wal-Mart’s array of plants outside the Garden Center in the parking lot had suffered the damages of a tornado through a trailer park on a botanical scale.

Day 28 (Sabbath, 5/9/09):

  • 9:00am on the way to our final intended resting spot for the area – Illinois Beach State Park – another hour north.
  • 10:00am pulled in, found a site, set-up, registered, Jonathan (my brother who lives in the Chicago area) arrived, and we thought to ourselves – smooth sailing from here!!!!
  • or not
  • Discovered that the fridge wasn’t on and wouldn’t turn on.
  • Zach (age 4) found a small bead the exact size of a 4-year-old ear canal and he had not been previously, properly trained about what things (i.e. everything) should NOT be inserted an inch or so into one’s ear.
  • Between Zach lying on his side on the couch, ear hanging over and down, Jonathan holding his head level, me underneath looking up from the floor with a headlamp shining like some sort of mechanic pulling his ear down and forward while squirting water into it with a syringe while Renee consulted her mom (a nurse) on the phone regarding the correct angle to pull a child’s ear when it has become the container for a foreign object… and MUCH prayer… we finally got the crazy thing out. I’m not kidding, initially you couldn’t even see the bead without pulling the ear back first and shining some light.
  • I finally found the access panel (on the OUTSIDE of the trailer) to check if the fridge was even plugged in… which it was not (shaken unplugged in our travels) and that was working again so we could finally explore the campground a bit.
  • Came back and headed to Jonathan’s (an hour a way) for an awesome home-cooked meal (thank you Jonathan!)
  • Back to the trailer after that only to discover NO power – AGAIN! Even though we were plugged into the campground 30 amp service. No matter what I did, every time I plugged in, I tripped the 30 amp GFCI breaker….

[historical background digression]: there is a story here. When we first got the trailer, I discovered that the ground pin on the main 30 amp shoreline cable was broken. Now I suspect that this was done by the previous owners intentionally after having some frustrating electrical issues with GFCI circuits at campgrounds, but at the time I was thinking… this is not right, it needs to be fixed. So, I cut off the old broken plug and wired in a spiffy new 3-prong 30 amp plug… and I immediately started tripping the breaker in the garage that I had previously been plugged into without any problems. Safety = Pain in the Bum. Just like in the programming world. (Security = Pain in the Bum). In fact, the overkill in both arenas of Safety and Security largely result from the moronic behavior of a few individuals who make life much more complicated for the rest of the human race. My solution a few months ago – plug into a different outlet in the garage that was not GFCI protected, and forget about the whole thing.

  • Ah… the GFCI incident came back to haunt me didn’t it, here months later, in the up-until-2-am-with-a-multimeter-and-internet-forums kind of way. Current theory: electrical systems in RVs can be a Pain in the Bum. Solution so that we could have heat, keep the battery charged, and I could go to bed: break the ground prong off of an extra 30 > 15 amp adapter and plug into the 15 amp service (also GFCI) for now. [THIS IS NOT SAFE. DON’T DO THIS. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED…. but if it comes down to survival… ;)]

Day 29 (Sun, 5/10/09):

  • Renee and the kids out for a walk while I narrowed down the electrical issue at least to a specific circuit in the trailer… the one that has most of the receptacles (outlets) and the converter (which converts the AC to DC for charging the battery and running the DC appliances). Now if I can just dig up a little more electrical know-how than I currently possess I might not have to pay someone to fix the whole mess for me. I get the feeling that it could get involved. Especially if most or all of the outlets on that circuit were wired with the ground and neutral bonded. Ugh.
  • Met Jonathan for a tasty lunch, because life must go on.
  • Got some grocery shopping done and other errands.
  • Including a couple outlet testers from Home Depot that ended up telling me nothing I didn’t already know (they say all the outlets check out just fine, so the mystery continues).
  • Took the kids to an amazing playground. There will be photos of it posted somewhere eventually.
  • Brought them home, fed them, got them to bed.
  • And here I am typing this.

Congratulations, you have passed the very useful course: Reading Andrew’s Long Winded Posts (Even When They’re Written in Bullet Format) 301.

For further entertainment:
Updated Trip data
Updated Map

I also have a bunch of photos queued for upload (and more that I have to sort and queue) but I have to wait for a decent hard connection to get the upload done.