Sunday, July 05, 2015

Down Shift

After finishing my last two weeks at work, I had another two weeks to triage everything I own as “take”, “pack,” or “liquidate” and get myself ready to relocate to Florida. A relentless flurry of Craigslisting, yardsales, and countless hauls to Goodwill, recycling, and well-wishers followed, and the “take” pile finally started coalescing the day after I was scheduled to leave.

The truck's charging problem was resolved with a $75 junk yard alternator; the camper's plumbing needed some new hoses and a new toilet valve assembly. I learned minutes before leaving that there was a problem with the LP, too: gas wasn't flowing to the fridge or stove – a problem I'd have to deal with in Florida, and not the end of the world as I'd have full electric hookups once camped. Over the winter I'd re-wired the trailer, added landing gear to the tongue. It had already been rigged with a moto tire chuck for picking up the Super T in March.

The truck was crammed with tools, a mini fridge, and moto gear. The camper was stocked with clothing and enough food for a few days, plus all the housewares it normally has. The trailer carries the moto, bicycle, and whatever other garage-y stuff I could fit in. I bought a HF ramp for the trailer a few days before loading, and rigged a cheap wireless camera from Amazon looking back at the trailer, monitored in the truck.

Around 1pm on 6/12/15, I said goodbye to the first 45 years of my life.

It was a little nerve-wracking having so much financing all chained together, but once on the interstate I relaxed a little. Truckzilla's huge tank means I'd only have to re-fuel twice, and the interstates carried me for all but the first and last few miles, so giant, pull-thru, back-up-free travel stops were expected. It's a diesel, after all.

The back-facing wireless camera seems to be the best $40 I've ever spent. The trailer is not visible from the truck, being so much narrower and shorter than the camper. It being so short makes backing up a challenge in the best of circumstances.

The camera went out a few times, which turned out to be due to a loose connection somewhere in the mass of wiring I'd hastily soldered and shrink-tubed together to get the camera and monitor to each play with their respective wireless transmitter and receiver. It was comforting to be able to see everything upright and in it's place back there as I was moving. The camera also shows tailgaters not visible from the truck. The camera is stuck to the dash, and a new cheapo Nuvi GPS is right above it on the windshield. The tech relieved a lot of stress.

Heavy thunderstorms hit just before I crossed the PA line, at which point the reality of what I was doing finally started sinking in. The constant rush and preparations meant I'd had no time to think much about what lie ahead, which was, of course:

The weather cleared and I kept the cruise set near (under) the speed limit. I'm normally all for pushing 5 over the limit, but I had visions of the trailer tires exploding at the 65 and 70mph legal limits I was traveling thru as it was.

If there was any drama during the first day of driving, I don't remember it. I congratulated myself for the wisdom of taking 81 instead of 95. I stopped for fuel and sandwich at a Flying J somewhere in Virginia. The original plan was to make Charlotte, NC on the first day, nearly the midway point of the trip. Leaving a day later than planned had me arriving on a Saturday – I wanted to get to camp as early in the day as possible in case the office had curtailed hours. So, feeling as rested as I had in a month, I just kept driving. I eventually got tired enough and resolved to stop at the next rest stop for the night. It was after midnight, and I'd been driving about 11 hours. The next rest stop was closed for repairs, and the sign told me I'd have another 30 or so miles to go. With few other options, I soldiered on to the next rest stop, which was in South Carolina a few miles from 95. I parked next to a horse trailer and climbed in the back for much-welcomed sleep.

I guess everyone ignores the “no overnight parking – 4 hour parking limit” signs, because everyone parked around me was still there when I woke up. The horse trailer next to me even had a generator going.

I Cliff Bar'd up and was back on the road. Logging the extra miles the prior day had me figuring to arrive at the campground in Sanford early in the afternoon. Slog on.


Somewhere after Jacksonville, I pulled off for fuel and saw a red Super Tenere. He checked me out, because I had his bike in gray on a trailer behind me. He pulled in for gas. I followed.... and got myself stuck. The back up camera was out again, and I didn't have enough radius to get alongside the pump island. I had to back up blind, and just gave up and left. The next light turned left onto a long access road to a Camping World, (which will fix my location when I look it up). I decided to take a break and checked them out. On the way out, they were giving away hot dogs and sodas, so I let them buy me lunch. I got the camera working in the parking lot and did some full-lock turns left and right and got out to confirm the trailer wouldn't hit the camper.... the sort of thing I should've done days ago.
One more stop to get fuel (I made it to the pumps this time), and back on the road.

Daytona Beach, my last turn - onto I4:

Exiting at SR 46, a few lights from I4 is my destination and home for the foreseeable future:

I checked in and was whisked around in a golf cart to scrutinize the available sites. I picked one with shade, and the staff helped get me parked, which was made very easy by dropping the trailer first.

I found that the campsite management is pretty free with the patrons. I can store my trailer on the site, I can dismount the camper from the truck, I can put up an awning, etc. The seem laid back, permissive, and accepting. I don't know if it's this place, or Florida, but so far, so good. I deployed the bikes from trailer to have local transportation. It's getting late in the day and jerking around unloading seems like more hassle than it's worth. Tomorrow is Sunday – I have a full day here to deal with such issues. I'll spend the first night here attached to the truck.

I'm thankful that all that could have gone wrong in getting to this point, didn't. I have three PA plates on this site and a PA driver's license, but I guess I'm officially a Florida resident in that I don't expect to leave for at least a few years.

No comments: