Road Trip 2021: Pennsylvania and the Flight 93 Memorial

Even though we had begun the journey home, we still had one planned stop to make – the Flight 93 Memorial. We arrived in Lubek, Maine on 9/11/2021; watching some of the annual documentaries reminded me that the Flight 93 Memorial was in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There was no way we could be so close and not add it to our itinerary.

On our way north, we traveled through eastern Pennsylvania; I wasn’t a fan.🤷‍♀️ Our journey to the Flight 93 Memorial took us through middle and western Pennsylvania, which I loved. We stayed overnight at Black Moshannon State Park, located in the middle of nowhere. It was absolutely beautiful.

On the way to our campsite

We arrived at the Flight 93 Memorial with our travel trailer in tow. The parking area was smaller than what you might find at other memorials but there was parking for at least 10 RVs/buses. At the time of our visit, masks were still required inside all federal buildings, which included the visitor’s center.

The visitor’s center features a small gift shop (of course) and a walk-through display. The display features a timeline of the attacks on 9/11/2001 along with items found at various locations. One section also features audio clips from various cockpit recordings and voicemail messages, etc. I skipped this section; I’ve heard enough of those heart-breaking clips in the documentaries I watch every year. I moved on to the section that displays some of the items that have been left at the memorial through the years. The one that ripped my heart out was a printed on a standard sheet of printer paper; the text is on the image below.

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This is where I discovered that ugly-crying while wearing a mask is less than ideal. At this point, I got out of line and went in search of Kenn. Once we finished in the visitor’s center, we moved outside. (Note: if you are looking to stamp your national park passport, the stamp is not located in the visitor’s center. There are a variety of stamps located in the visitor’s shelter at the Memorial Plaza.)

Unlike other National Memorials (I’m looking at you, Mount Rushmore) the Flight 93 National Memorial is quiet, peaceful. We chose to walk from the visitor’s center to the memorial plaza; the walking paths were level and the walk was easy, even for Kenn’s bad knees.

On the trail from the visitor’s center
The stone in the center marks the point of impact of the crash

There are marble memorials for each of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93. This one tugged at my heartstrings the most because it also commemorates Lauren’s unborn child.

The Tower of Voices is located near the entrance to the park and has its own parking area which includes spaces for RVs and buses. The Tower of Voices was dedicated in September 2020 and serves as “a visual and audible reminder of the heroism of the forty passengers and crew of United Flight 93.” The tower stands 93 feet tall and holds 40 wind chimes, one for each of the passengers and crew. The wind wasn’t blowing hard enough to activate the chimes the day of our visit but there are audio clips available online.

There you have it, dear readers. We have now reached the end of our 2021 road trip – with the exception of a few miscellaneous things I may post about later. So, what does 2022 hold for us? We were planning a trip to Utah this autumn but have put it on hold until next year, primarily due to the increased cost of gas. (Filling up Ruby’s 38-gallon gas tank is no joke, even at the best of times.) However, that doesn’t mean that we are just going to sit around the house and do nothing. We will still be traveling, just differently. We will still be going to South Carolina to help out with the twins and taking day trips and visiting attractions/locations in the South. We’re also planning to visit friends and family that we haven’t seen in ages. And you know what? I’m not even mad about the change. I’m actually looking forward to doing something a little more low key.

Until next time, happy trails!

Little Camper in the RV Park

Okay, I realize that my experience in mostly solo camping is hardly on par with the ordeals encountered by the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the other brave pioneers who dared the unknown wilds of our country, but it’s the closest I will ever get since I don’t ever see myself boondocking. (This post is best read with Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman playing softly in the background.😉)

We towed our camper to the “wilderness” of South Carolina (aka an RV park) in mid-January 2022 where it would become my home for the next few weeks as we eagerly awaited the birth of the newest members of our family – girl/boy twins. (FYI: The twins are here! I blogged a bit about them HERE.) Shortly after we learned about the existence of the twins, I told Kenn that this was what I wanted to do. I knew that twins were likely to be born early and I wanted to be close by so that when my daughter-in-law went into labor I would be on-hand to take care of my grandson rather than being several hours away.

Technically, the first “excitement” was Winter Storm Izzy but that happened when Kenn was with me. (I posted about it HERE.) My first solo problem to resolve was when I woke up freezing at 4:30am the morning after Kenn left. Obviously, the propane tank was empty so it was just a matter of switching over to the other tank. Easy peasy, right? In this case, yes and no. I pulled on my boots and threw a coat on over my pjs and wandered out into the pre-dawn cold where I pulled the cover off the tanks and made the switch but then couldn’t turn the valve to the On position. I even tried turning the valve to the Off position just to see if it was already open and… nothing. The darn thing wouldn’t turn either way. I noticed that the line connected to the tank seemed to be loose so I tightened it before deciding to go inside, thaw out, and redress the problem once the sun came up. Once I could see what I was doing, I realized that not only was the connection to the tank loose, it wasn’t threaded properly at all so I removed it and reattached it at which point the connection showed green instead of red. I wish I could say that I realized that everything was good to go at this point, but I didn’t. I was tired, cold, and frustrated. (Seriously? This was my first day on my own and this is how it started?🤦‍♀️) It took Kenn reminding me that the green connection should mean that gas was flowing to the camper before I tested the heat – which was working fine.🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ I reduced the temperature on the thermostat in order to reduce my propane consumption and let the electric space heater do most of the heavy lifting as far as heating the Micro Lite went.

When Kenn came back for the weekend, we took both propane tanks to the nearest Ace Hardware for refilling/topping off. (Side note: we later learned it would have been cheaper to go to Tractor Supply.) We also used this as a test to make sure that I was able to disconnect/lift/move/reconnect the tanks both when empty and when full; I could.👍 Ruby is such a big truck that getting the tanks in and out of the bed was a bit of a struggle but I could make it work. Oh, we also checked to make sure that I was able to turn the valves on both tanks, which I could. I don’t know who tightened that valve so tight the last time the tanks were filled but geez, dude. I couldn’t turn it at all and it was a struggle for Kenn.

The next problem, a clogged camper toilet, occurred when Kenn was packing up to leave so we resolved that one together. The next solo problem, no water, occurred the morning after Kenn left. (Hmmmm. Does anyone else see the pattern developing here?🤔) I discovered the lack of water when I made my pre-dawn visit to the necessary. Fortunately, after Winter Storm Izzy, we began keeping a few gallons of water on hand for just such an emergency. Honestly, I was surprised. Yes, the temperatures the night before were in the 20s (Farenheit) but so were many others and I had left water dripping just as I had on all of those other nights. Once the outside temperature rose above freezing, I went outside and disconnected the water hose so I could move it into the sun; that’s when I discovered the problem: the water had frozen at the connection where the flow enters the camper. I used some of our stored water to melt the ice plug at the connector and then flushed the hose to make sure there was no ice in it. (There wasn’t.) Before reconnecting the hose to the camper, I MacGyvered a protective cover for the connection out of a zippered plastic baggie and a dish towel. It wasn’t pretty but did it help? Yes. Maybe.🤷‍♀️ There were several more nights in the 20s and we only had issues one more time,

My MacGyvered protective cover

It may not seem like much, but I’m proud of the not-quite-a-month I spent sort of on my own. (Kenn was with me on weekends and when the twins arrived.) You see, I’m one of those people who’ve never lived on their own. I didn’t want to move home after college, but I did since I wasn’t sure I could afford to live on my own. I wound up staying there until Kenn and I married. I’ve proven (at least to myself) that I can live on my own and deal with whatever comes my way.

Until next time, take care and happy trails!

Road Trip: The Wheels on the Trailer Go Round and Round

We have had our Micro Lite since January 2019; prior to our recently completed road trip it had less than 3,000 miles on it. In just under a month, we added almost 5,000 miles. Needless to say, this extended “shake down” revealed a few issues and we came home with a list of repairs to be made. However, the first – and biggest – issue was a major one.

Yep. We had a blowout. These tires were the original equipment and one of the main recommendations in the travel trailer groups I’m in is to replace the original tires as soon as possible for a couple of reasons. First, manufacturers by tires in bulk and they may sit in a warehouse for 2-3 years before being placed on your trailer. Second, the original tires are frequently called “China bombs” for their supposed country of origin and propensity for blowouts. We discussed replacing the tires before our road trip but that discussion was as far as it went. I was driving on I-81 near Frackville, Pennsylvania when this happened. However, when I think back on this incident, I count my blessings:

  • This section of I-81 wasn’t busy and we weren’t surrounded by semis like we had been in Virginia
  • Our Micro Lite has two axles so we still had three tires to keep us rolling (slowly)
  • I was approaching an exit where I was able to get off the interstate and pull onto the shoulder where we could inspect the damage
  • There was a whole lot of nothing at this exit but we saw signs for a Cracker Barrel and limped our way there and availed ourselves of their RV parking while we changed the tire. (We also treated ourselves to lunch. At this point we both needed and deserved a break.)
  • While we ate, I did a quick internet search and found Ken’s Tires less than two miles away in Frackville. My Kenn gave them a call and they had a tire in stock that could become our new spare. Our server gave us directions (including drawing a map) and, once we finished lunch, we made the trip to Ken’s Tires and had the new tire installed on the wheel. They had us back on the road in less than 30 minutes.

So, with one disaster averted, we began a renewed discussion on what to do with the remaining tires: try to find somewhere to have them replaced while we were on the road or wait until we got home. We decided we’d feel better if we went ahead and got the remaining tires replaced. We were flying by the seat of our pants for most of this trip – the only reservations we had made in advance were in Lubek, Maine. We couldn’t afford to get off the road in search of new tires and miss our arrival date. Lubek is a tiny town but we knew one of our next stops would be in Farmington, Maine and there were several places to buy tires in that area. Kenn settled on Tire Warehouse in Farmington and the phone calls began.😂 (Kyle and Brandi deserve some sort of award for all of the calls from Kenn that they patiently fielded over the next several days.) The GE Endurance tires that we wanted are back-ordered and wouldn’t be available until February 2022 so it was onto another brand. After much research, Kenn settled on Hankook tires and Kyle was able to get them in prior to our arrival in Farmington. When we arrived at Tire Warehouse, the staff replaced and balanced our tires and had us back on the road in about 30 minutes. Oh, and as for our decision to go ahead and replace the tires while we were on the road… the technician changing our tires sliced his hand on the exposed steel belt on one of the other tires. So, we had at least one more blowout in the making. Yikes.😬

Stay tuned for more (probably not as exciting, LOL) posts about our road trip over the next few weeks. Until next time, happy trails and check those travel trailer tires y’all!

The Great Road Trip of 2021

I’m baaaaack! Did you miss me?😄 The Great Road Trip of 2021 is officially in the books. This trip was originally planned for the Fall of 2020 but with COVID and everything, including campgrounds, shutting down, we postponed it until this year. This was the longest trip we’ve ever taken with a travel trailer. We were were on the road for 28 days from September 7th to October 4th.

The map on our travel trailer at the beginning of the trip

Over the course of the trip we covered 12 states (including our home state of Georgia), and a total of 4,856 miles. States visited:

  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine

True, some of those states were only overnight stays but that all it takes for us to get a new sticker on the map. (My rule: if we don’t overnight in the state, we don’t get a sticker.) We changed our route back to give us a chance to overnight in a couple of states that we otherwise would not have. Even just overnighting in a state gave us a chance to see a new-to-us part of the country. Looking at our updated map makes me feel very accomplished, LOL.

Our map now

I took my laptop with me so I could work on blog posts and the short story release I had planned for October. (I write under the pen name Isabella Norse.) I never took the laptop out of the closet, LOL. I spent my time just relaxing and enjoying the trip. I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing details. In the meantime, I’m glad to be back home and am busily getting caught up on all of the things that accumulated while we were away.

Until next time, happy trails!

Meals on the Go

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. It doesn’t come naturally or easily to me and it’s never been something that I have particularly enjoyed. That said, I did the cooking for the first few years of our marriage; Kenn took over a few years in. (I think he was tired of watching me stress out over every meal, bless his heart.) However, once I retired, it was only fair that I take over the responsibility once again. Less than a year later, the pandemic hit and eating out was no longer an option. Cooking may not be fun for me, meal planning is even less so. We had used the Hello Fresh meal kit subscription a few years ago and decided to sign up once again. Using Hello Fresh works for me on two levels: one, it gives us a chance to try things we normally wouldn’t and two, that’s two less meals I have to plan each week. Surprisingly, I’ve also discovered that I enjoy the prep work; I don’t mind getting in the kitchen and zesting, chopping, an mincing up a storm.

Now, we are planning our first long road trip with the travel trailer which means meal planning without the assistance of Hello Fresh. It also means meal planning within the limited storage of a travel trailer. We sat down and listed a few of our favorite meals and the ingredients of each. I know we’ll eat out occasionally during our trip. After all, part of the travel experience is trying new/regional foods. (My love of all things huckleberry is a direct result of our 2019 road trip. It’s too bad we don’t have huckleberries here in the South.) However, we know that we have a tendency to repeat the same handful of meals over and over. Pasta also features frequently since it’s so easy to prepare.

Image courtesy of Depositphotos.com

So, dear reader, I need your help. What are some of your favorite meals to prepare when you’re on the road? Do you have any cookbooks or online resources to recommend? (Insert puppy dog eyes here)

Until next time, happy trails!