Road Trip: Changing It Up and Lessons Learned

During all of our previous trips, we have kept interstate travel to a minimum. The idea of towing in high-speed, bumper-to-bumper travel didn’t appeal to either of us. All of that changed with our recent trip; with as many miles as we were traveling, interstate was frequently the simplest way to get from Point A to Point B. Of course, interstate travel also meant that I didn’t do much driving on this time around.

This trip was a learning experience for us in many ways and one of the things we were learning was just how far we could comfortably travel in a day. The most we traveled in one day was 377 miles; we started the morning in Blountsville, Tennessee and stopped for the night in Williamsport, Maryland. Biggest lesson learned: 377 miles in one day is bit much. Going forward, somewhere between 250 and 300 miles a day will be our goal.

Most of the 377 miles mentioned above was spent crossing Virginia on I-81. If you are ever traveling the same route, I have two things to say: 1) Bless your heart and 2) I’m sorry. Virginia is a beautiful state and I would love to spend some time there NOT on the interstate. What makes this stretch so bad? First, it’s the trucks; there are semis everywhere. Second are the rest areas. Or maybe I should say, the lack of rest areas. Many of the rest areas in Virginia are Cars Only, which rules out anyone towing a travel trailer. The rest areas that do allow trucks (and therefore RVs/travel trailers) tend to be overflowing with semis. It was often easier to just keep driving than to find somewhere to stop and stretch our legs (or get away from the trucks) for a bit.

Sunset at the Unadilla / I-88 / Oneonta KOA in New York

Much to our surprise, the day we “only” drove 282 miles on mostly non-interstate roads was the day that really took the wind out of our sails. We started the morning in Unadilla, New York and stopped for the night in Lake Winnipesauki, New Hampshire. I was so looking forward to a day without being on the interstate but driving the back roads of Vermont with road work around every other curve was not a relaxing experience at all, LOL.

Another thing we learned is how much the condition of the roads impacts your travel. As native Georgians, most of our trips are in the Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina area and its a running joke with us how bad the roads are in South Carolina. Seriously, as soon as you cross the border into South Carolina, the roads become absolute garbage. (Unless you’re near Clemson University; those roads are pristine.🙄) However, the roads in the south aren’t exposed to the same weather extremes as those in the northern states. Not only do the northern roads take a beating from the weather but there is a shortened season for repairing that damage so there was roadwork absolutely everywhere. (One of our neighbors at a KOA in Maine used to pave roads in the state for a living and he said that they were required to have all road surface work completed by October 1st or October 15th depending on the location.) Also, after a day of taking a beating from the roads sometimes you go to bed and still feel like you’re being bounced around, LOL.

I try to think of each trip as an opportunity to learn. Our trip out west in 2019 taught us to take the weather at our destination into consideration when planning a trip. (Some areas actually have winter weather that lasts more than a couple of weeks. Who knew?😂) This trip we learned not to over-estimate how far we can comfortably travel in a day and also that other things such as road conditions or other unexpected delays may impact our plans and that that’s okay. We haven’t quite made the mental transition from traveling while working, which meant that we had a limited amount of time available before we had to be back at work, to traveling while retired which means that our schedule can be adjusted as needed. We’re working on it.

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!