Summer Travel Map

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On the road again!

July 31, 2008
Sunbury, OH

We're back on the road, and our blog updates will therefore return to their focus on our travels. Yeah! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Connecticut, and we're glad we were able to catch up with everyone there and attend the various family events this summer. Of course, as hard as it is to say "so long", we're also glad to be back on the move. We seem to have "waited out" the peak fuel prices, which we didn't see coming (I'd budgeted for ever-increasing prices). Bonus!

Our route for the next week takes us back to "Interstate driving" for a while. As much as we like to stay off the Interstates, the most direct route to where we're going took us from Hartford via I-91 and I-84, which we followed to Pennsylvania. A quick leg south on I-81 brought us to I-80, which we followed all the way to Ohio. We picked up I-76 where it crosses I-80 (no Ohio Turnpike tolls for us on this trip), then turned south on I-71 to tonight's stop. We're essentially doing a "stair step" route south and west for a while; we'll pick up I-70 west tomorrow and follow that for a while.

Tonight's stop is at our favorite truck stop chain, Flying J. They're the most RV-friendly, and it's easier than ever to find a relatively quiet spot to park overnight. We topped off the tank (first fuel stop since May; not bad), heated up dinner (Costco rotisserie chicken - planning ahead), and popped the cork on a nice cheap red wine. Time to call it a night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting ready to hit the road

July 22, 2008
Broad Brook, CT

I feel like this summer's activities have paralleled our winter stay in Arizona, which makes sense because there are some similarities.

First and foremost, very little of our activities are oriented toward travel, obviously. We've been doing projects around the house and cooking lots of interesting meals. One of the highlights has been Al's smoker. We've made brisket, pork roast, and ribs, and they've all come out great. We have another brisket and a pork roast left in the freezer - yum!

Second, the amount of stuff we need to do to get moving seems directly proportional to the amount of time we spend in one place. When we're "on the road", it seems like coach maintenance activities just fall into place easily. Since we knew we'd be in one place for half of this summer, we planned to do some of the more challenging tasks while we were here, and that's worked out quite well. Now that we're in the final countdown to departure, there's an enhanced sense of urgency to managing the to-do list, picking and choosing the things that "have to get done", "should get done", "can get done on the road" and "can wait until we get back to AZ". I will say, though, with Al's help, we got all of the "routine" maintenance done plus several other projects that will help in the future. Some of the maintenance doesn't really require two people but isn't quite designed for one, if that makes any sense.

One of the "unscheduled" projects we finished was a complete re-engineering of the fuel filtration for the generator. All modern diesel engines use at least one fuel filter (the coach has two - primary and secondary) to ensure that "gunk" (a technical term) doesn't clog the injectors. The original one in the generator is tucked inside the housing in a space where it's almost impossible to get hands and wrenches at the same time - and I have relatively small hands. Since paying someone to do something you can do yourself isn't the "retiree way", I've been thinking about how to improve this for a couple of years, picturing replacement of the solid fuel line with a flexible hose. When I changed the filter this year, I couldn't get the primary fitting to stop weeping fuel, so I knew something needed to be done. Fortunately, someone posted to one of our Internet groups about an "out of the box" (literally) solution involving a commercially-available filter system with spin-on replacement cartridges, mounted on the side of the generator. Talk about easy to maintain! One online shopping session and several trips to the hardware and auto parts stores later, we now have an external filter that's better than the original and will be a snap to change. Excellent!

Otherwise, things continue to be on the quiet side. The Bowers are away on vacation, cruising around the Mediterranean. Melisa and Paul have been busy (Paul's Dad is in relatively poor health), so we haven't seen them. We did catch up with Lew and Wes Goldfarb for dinner last night. Lew and Geri worked together years ago (early-70s) at Travelers and they live in South Windsor, so we generally catch up when we're in the area. We'll try to catch up with them, and everyone else, again before we head out.

In any event, we've only got a few remaining things on the "before we leave" list and I'll wrap up most of them this week. Next week, we'll do a thorough cleaning inside and out, finish up our stocking up for travel, and hit the road!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not much new to report

July 13, 2008
Broad Brook, CT

Sorry for the lack of postings, but there hasn't been much new to report here. The lousy weather pattern (stationary front right across southern New England) has broken, and I've gotten almost all of the coach maintenance work done, with Al's help for several of the trickier tasks. We headed to Melisa and Paul's at the lake on the 5th, and had a good time even though the weather was poor (pictures here). We've continued to eat well, with Ahi tuna salad, smoked pork loin roast, and Mexican steaks on the menu during the week. The culinary highlight was "Pinot Night" on Friday, with Mike Bower contributing three great bottles from Oregon (a Ken Wright, a Lemelson, and one I didn't write down) and us throwing in a bottle from Sea Smoke. Al made grilled lamb chops and Geri and Pat made a great roasted potato/zucchini/parmesean dish (they're way long on the zucchini in the garden this year).

During the week, I finished up the chassis lubrication on the coach, then got out the power washer and washed the roof. Yesterday, Al was around to help with some of the tasks that required two people or extra analysis before tackling. We ended up changing the fluid in the rear differential (had to go to 3 places to get the 15 quarts of synthetic gear oil it takes!) and replacing the air dryer cartridge (lots of extra things on these big beasts that you don't have to worry about in a car). I'm feeling pretty good, as we've been able to tackle almost all of the scheduled preventative maintenance items due this summer. Several (like the differential) are on a multi-year schedule (e.g., 3 years or 100,000 miles), so there were some extra tasks this time around.

Over the next two weeks, I'll finish up the remaining tasks and we'll give the coach a good cleaning inside and out. We'll be ready to hit the road on the 31st, heading west.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

July 4, 2008
Broad Brook, CT

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

I feel like we're in the middle of a battlefield as I write this, since there are renegade (i.e., illegal) fireworks going off all around us. As expected, the dogs are terrified and alternately hiding, pacing, and crying. You'd think the local constabulary might drive by and maybe put a stop to the "festivities" for a while but, no.

There's not much to report, as the last few days have been more of the same. Boring, I suppose. Between the showers and thunderstorms, I managed to do the generator (oil and filter, fuel filter) and furnace (change fuel filter and nozzle, clean chamber - just like a home oil burner) maintenance and get half of the chassis lube done. Since I had changed the engine oil and filters, fuel filters, and coolant cartridge in late-June, I'm in pretty good shape on the maintenance. I have the front-end lubrication and changing the drive axle oil left, and then it'll be simply be running through the monthly checklist before we hit the road. Our departure is currently planned for July 30, which will be here before we know it.

Other than that, it's been relatively quiet. Geri made a great pulled pork shoulder during the week, which went over well. Last night was "sushi night" for us, Pat and Al and their girls, and the Bower clan. I put "sushi" in quotes because, even though we all ordered from the same menu from the same restaurant, there was only one out of ten people who actually had some. You guessed it - me. Everyone else had rolls, soup, tempura, lo mein, fried rice, etc. Nice, but not sushi. I had an 8-piece tray with tune, yellowtail and striped bass. Yum!

Today, everyone but Geri and I went to the beach. Apparently, it worked out well for them since Rhode Island had sun while we had more - yes - showers. Since we're not really "beach people", it was fine. I started making a simple pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and capers for dinner, but got distracted (dogs gone wild) and burned it. Since it wasn't edible, out it went. That hurt. I recovered with a different sauce, and was surprised when the beach crew showed up for dinner, but was able to throw on another pound of pasta and stretch the sauce without anyone really noticing. Geri cooked up a storm today as well, making up a batch of sausage and peppers with potatoes, olives, chicken, and who knows what else. That's for tomorrow, though, as we're heading back to Melisa and Paul's place at the lake for the day. It may rain, but we'll eat well!