2010 Summer Vacation, Day 4

Sunday morning was muggy.  The schedule had us leaving Walmart in Beloit, Wisconsin, and driving to a dispersed camping location in the Fort Pierre National Grasslands.  The planned distance was 670 miles, a long day of driving.  Unfortunately, we were 364 miles from Beloit, so our total drive would be 1,034 miles, definitely too much for the kids (or us) for one day, especially since we decided not exceed 60mph to try to avoid another blowout.

Knowing that we had a long day ahead of us, I got up at 5am.  We were on the road at 7am.  As the day wore on, our air-conditioning-less SUV became more and more unpleasant.  As we passed through Elkhart, I tried calling RV repair facilities, but none were open.

We had the “pleasure” of going through Chicago.  After 15 minutes of traffic, we were on our way.

All day long, it was “hey, Indiana!”, “hey, Illinois!”, etc.

Here we are at a gas station in the afternoon.  There are lots of windmills in South Dakota:


Random exit at sunset:


In the end, Mom, David, and his kids left Minneapolis a bit late, so we ended up meeting at the Sioux Falls KOA.  We drove about 850 miles today.


2010 Summer Vacation, Day 3

Shabbos was nice.  It was a hot day, but the RV was plugged in (as it would have been had we made it to South Bend) so the A/C was working.  We went for a couple walks to check out the campground’s marina and playground.  The campground is 99% seasonal, meaning that the residents bring their RV there and stay for the whole summer.  They then move to somewhere like Florida for the winter.  I don’t understand why anyone would want to stay here for half the year.  Then again, the steam rising out of the cooling tower a mile or so down the road is pretty in the sunset.

The campground is right off of lake Erie, so lots of folks had ocean-themed accessories in their “front yard”, like waist-high lighthouses and rope-lashed driftwood faux pilings.  A lot of folks were playing Cornhole, which we have never heard of, much less played.

Motzei Shabbos, we were supposed to be traveling from South Bend to the Walmart in Beloit, Wisconsin.  We realized that, even if we were in South Bend, it was hardly worth packing up (and later setting up again) only to drive a couple of hours, so we decided to stay put for the night.

On Friday, I had realized that the brakes on the RV were acting funny.  The RV didn’t brake well, and when it braked, the trailer was pulling to one side.  I decided that the RV brakes needed adjustment, so I crawled under the RV in the pouring rain and got to work.  Basically, the RV is jacked up, and the brake tension is adjusted until the wheel doesn’t turn, then backed off so the wheel spins freely.  During this procedure, I realized that the passenger-side wheel didn’t spin all that well regardless of brake tension.  I decided to buy new bearings for that hub, but that would presumably have to come on Monday.

2010 Summer Vacation, Day 2

Last night I learned that there’s a certain science in selecting an overnight parking spot at Walmart.  For example, don’t park next to the dumpster, because it gets emptied at 4AM.  Grr.

We got on the road at a reasonable hour.  The plan had us driving 386 miles from Clarion, PA to South Bend, Indiana.  We would be spending Shabbos there.

Since we stopped in Stroudsburg, we would have to drive 626 miles.  It was doable, but we would have to skip our planned stop at the RV Hall of Fame.  I wasn’t that disappointed, as it was expensive, but I thought it would be fun to see the museum with its antique RVs.  Oh well, next time.

image Everything was going well until exit 91 on I-80, a bit Southwest of Toledo, Ohio.  I felt the trailer lurch, and Trish could see chunks of tire flying off the passenger side of the RV.  We pulled over to see what was up.  I didn’t take a picture of our blown out tire, but it looked something like this one I found online:


We called AAA, but they only cover our SUV.  We would need to have AAA-with-RV (or whatever) to cover the trailer as well.  I guess we need to re-evaluate our choice roadside insurance provider.

Using the SUV’s bottle jack, I was able to install the spare.  I’m glad I checked and inflated the spare before we left.

We assumed that the blowout was due to overloading, so we drove to the next rest area and moved as much heavy stuff as we could from the RV to the SUV.

imageIt was about at this time that we noticed that the SUV’s air conditioning wasn’t working.  The RV’s thermostat showed an ambient temperature of 100 degrees, and we were definitely uncomfortable to say the least.


The next priority was buying a new spare, in case we would have another blowout.  A couple of calls later, we found a Tractor Supply in nearby Freemont, OH.  They didn’t have any 215/75 R14s, but they did sell mounted 205/75 R14s, so we bought one and installed it in the RV’s spare carrier.  We left the mangled rim in the dumpster.

At this point, we knew we weren’t going to make it to South Bend.  We looked at spending Shabbos in Toledo, but even that was a stretch.  We found a nearby campground, Paradise Acres, and made our way there.  We got set up just in time for a huge thunderstorm.

In the end, we drove about 500 miles.  Here’s our route:



“B” is the blowout location, and “C” is tractor supply:


2010 Summer Vacation, Day 1

I started planning the trip in June.  Here’s what I came up with:




As planned, the trip was 18 days and would cover 5,291 miles, with 76 stops along the way.  I was intrigued by the idea of doing a 3 week trip mostly without staying in a formal campground.  Our camping would either be in Walmart parking lots that allow overnight parking, or dispersed camping (primarily in the Western US, camping on federal Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, in which camping pretty much anywhere is allowed).  This would be dry camping, that is, camping without hookups.  We would carry our own water and electricity (on-board water tanks and batteries with solar panels), as well as propane for refrigeration, heating, and cooking.  Basically, 3 weeks of truly off-grid living.  The trip was not only a family sight-seeing trip, it was also a sanity-check for the idea of spending a good amount of time RVing when we retire.



We were supposed to leave today at 7pm.  This turned out to be wishful thinking, as we weren’t packed yet.  We left around 11:30pm.  We hadn’t even started and we were already 4 1/2 hours behind schedule!

As we entered New Jersey, I noticed that the truck steering was quite jittery.  We pulled over, and visually I confirmed what I was feeling at the wheel – the additional load in the RV and SUV was causing the front axle of the SUV to have less weight on it.  I adjusted the weight distribution hitch so that the SUV had equal weight on both axles, and the problem went away.

We were supposed to sleep at the Walmart of Clarion, PA, but instead stopped at the Walmart of Stroudsburg, PA at about 1am.  We had only travelled 81 miles.  Our first Walmart camping experience!  By 1:45am, we were asleep.