|This is oversimplified, especially coming back through Louisiana where we had to circumnavigate the record floods and closing of both IH-12 and IH-10. But this was the gist of it.|
(1) It is unhealthy to drive an Airstream Interstate 700+ miles per day, day after day. I realized this at the outset, but we wanted to try it anyway. There wasn’t much choice for us, as my family lives almost 3,000 miles to the northeast of our home in Houston Texas. Given that my husband and I are both employed, we could only take a limited amount of time for this trip – 18 days total, door to door. That meant about 8 full days of nothing but driving, dawn to dusk, and on two of those days, we drove into the night (which I do not recommend, because driving an Interstate is challenging enough under optimal conditions). Given that I normally exercise vigorously at least once every 48 hours and often more, that’s at least 4 exercise days lost which, at my age, has a detectable impact on fitness (I could feel muscle converting into fat). It added up to about 96 hours of complete immobility for each of us, which is really harsh. I worried that one of us would succumb to deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In the future, we would like to break up the trips more with activities along the way, but again, it’s difficult to do that within our work constraints.
|On such a long drive, we saw far worse than that. But let me not even get started.|
|Brother from another mother. Two Sprinters side by side taking on the maximum amount of diesel in central Mississippi, because neither one of us knew what we would face trying to cross Louisiana. The ambulance appeared to have been based in Lafayette, which was partly under water at the time this photo was taken.|
|No way no how were any of these convoys going to break formation. Their travel intentions got a bit confusing for the rest of us at times.|
|Having a lot of time on my hands, I made up nicknames for all of the different categories of pavement and sub-base degradation. I called this one the "Delamination Disaster". More in a future post.|
|It's not an ordinary laptop and it would be quite costly for me if anything happened to damage it. I had a multi-chambered camp cushion that I partially inflated and placed beneath it (see this post for the development of this computer table). Then I joked to my husband that the computer was first component to get air suspension in the Interstate (he really wants air suspension; see (5) below). But even this arrangement I only used on a very small number of relatively smooth freeways. |
If I can't do computer work, how am I supposed to keep my small business running across long trips?
(6) Small things can make a huge difference when travel conditions become intense and exhausting. My husband and I occasionally get picked on for being so thorough and meticulous about customizing our Interstate with both infrastructure improvements and accessories. “Don’t worry – be happy and just enjoy!” is the typical refrain by some of those who prefer to pay less attention to detail in their own lives. But try, for instance, driving 14 hours in a single day without the benefit of a side window screen to block the sun and see how you feel about the details at that point. My guess is that those details will take on an outsized importance.
|Close up of the sun interference pattern through the fabric of my side window shade, the development of which is described in this post. BTW, I wasn't driving when I took this pic. I had moved it over to the passenger side. Pic taken somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley near sunset.|
|Not quite as small a thing - our custom hitch carrier. I can safely say that, in almost 6,000 miles of travel, we saw absolutely nothing that even came close to it in terms of design elegance and functionality, and we saw a lot of stuff attached to the rear of vehicles - pretty much every conceivable contraption. An incredible amount of work went into this carrier, but once on the road, we could relax knowing that we had the best possible device, one that could withstand any conditions including the worst roads America could throw at us. And I think it looks cool, too.|
|Well, that's not very neighborly of you, now, is it?! Not surprisingly, this was in a northeastern state. We find the northeast to be less hospitable generally.|
|I never thought I'd get to the point in my life where I would experience joy every time I saw this sign.|
|Spinach, green pepper, mushroom, and diced ham omelette with hash browns. Exactly what I wanted. Fresh vegetables are hard to get on the road.|
|I can't look at this view from the campground and not think of him. We had spectacular fun on a geology field trip as children, climbing the cliffs of Partridge Island in the distance and generally defying every adult in the tour group. "GET DOWN FROM THERE!" they would collectively roar at us. "Um, no," we replied with delight, knowing they could not physically reach us. It was pure magic. Plus we found better stilbite than anyone else.|
|Seriously, what more could you possibly need?! Plus if your Sprinter breaks down in any way, they can fix that, too.|
(13) There will always be unexpected supply challenges of some sort on cross-country van trips. Lo and behold, in Nova Scotia it ended up being propane, of all things. We live in the vanilla suburbs of Houston Texas, and we have two propane suppliers within about three miles of our house – it never occurred to me that there might be challenges getting it anywhere else. But at this point I’m not sure that there are two remaining RV servicers in the entire province of Nova Scotia. I intend to try to work with the NS tourism department to improve this situation, at least in terms of communications if nothing else.
|It's not that friggin' difficult, as services go. A connector is screwed on, a valve is opened, and propane flows into the tank. This is what it looks like at Dysart's.|
|This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip.|
(16) Certain goods and services in Canada are absurdly expensive by American standards. Cellular data is about $2.00 per megabyte (via my regular American carrier which is Verizon). Even if I cut my usage down to the bare minimum, it would still be hundreds of dollars to access maps, sourcing information, etc. It’s out of the question and so what tourists do is crowd around public internet hotspots to use the free wireless (with Tim Horton’s being the hands-down preferred destination - Timmies! Timmies!). Depending on the nature of the travel, this can be very inefficient. Our civilization survived for hundreds of years without Googlemaps, but life was a lot simpler back then, too. We need it now for everyday functions that have migrated almost entire to the web (such as local vendor identification).
The other unexpected commodity shock was ice. In our part of Texas, bagged ice costs about USD $0.08 per pound. Throughout NS, we consistently saw CDN $0.70 per pound – more than five times the cost when the current exchange rate is factored in! That expense became non-trivial as I was keeping our Yeti 50 cooler packed with ice en route to Ingonish NS, where we were rendezvousing with family at a cottage. We had started out from Houston with dry ice, but after that got done subliming itself away, we switched to water ice. Given that our cooler is custom-mounted on the outside of the van, we used a lot of ice (hotter out there than in the air conditioned interior, as it was during our 2014 trip by minivan).
And yet another high price was that charged for wastewater dump services – CDN$38.00 at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Broad Cove campground, which is the only place we could locate that would offer the service (same price as a full-hookup reservation, in other words). Fortunately we only had to dump once during our entire stay in Canada. Segregating “lightly used” toilet paper for trash disposal (an idea that was floated on Air Forums recently) helped to reduce the volume and minimized costs.
(17) Advance planning pays off. As in 2014, I had the luxury of having a family vacation without the burden of cooking, because of the cache of home-made frozen food that we had hauled from parts south. Hauling it then was easy because we simply put our Yeti cooler inside our minivan. No such convenience was possible with our Interstate, and the massive amount of time and energy we spent designing and executing our custom hitch carrier seemed a bit questionable right up until the moment when I was staring at the stove and saw the likes of this.
|OMG, I'm on vacation and I don't have to cook for 4 adults! What a treat, again! Mexican stew served many, many miles from its point of origin.|
|Our 10-year-old Sprinter functioned flawlessly across almost 6,000 miles, and in many places, it got the crap kicked out of it by the condition of the roads. Pretty impressive vehicle!|