Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 1–Finally on the Road

So, why “The Great Northern Adventure” when we really went east and then back west versus going north up toward Alaska? 

I guess that can be explained, easy enough. 

This adventure takes me on and off I-90 as I wended my way east across the U.S., going through a number of the northern states in the union, e.g. Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan…..  Easy, right? 

Next question, why now, why go so late in the year that you risk hitting winter snows on the way back?  Why go when most of the campgrounds are closed for the winter by the time you reach the middle of the US? 

Well, mainly, that’s simply a requirement of my work schedule.   For most people, taking 2-3 months off from work is not possible, for me, I’m forced into 6 months off after every contract at Intel ends, regardless of if I want to take it or not, just the nature of the rules of the job, nothing new to me, been doing it for four years now. 

So, when I took my latest contract back in 2011, I decided it was high past time I planned a return to my family’s home state of Illinois. We’ve had a number of family members pass away over the past four years and plenty more getting older every day, some already up in their 90s, increasing the odds that with every year I don’t go, the greater the chances I might never see them again.

My contract was ending at the beginning of September, early enough in the fall that I’d still have warm enjoyable weather for at least half of the journey and the added benefit of entering into the end of the Summer fuel prices and a steady decline in fuel prices as time marched further and further away from the warm days of summer. 

Another plus was by the time I left, school would be back in session and the droves of….. special snowflakes…. for lack of another polite word for them, on the road would be drastically reduced, taking more of the stress out of my long range trip. 

Thus, September 2012 became my month of departure when I started planning and budgeting this trip back in September 2011. 

Hopefully, you’ve read my previous post about preparing my rig for the return to the road, this pretty much details all the prep work it took to get ready to pull out of my driveway and start driving east.

If you haven’t, well, best to go to the bottom of the page and click the “Older Post” button to go back and read the previous blog entry first to get up to speed Smile.   If you’re reading this from a forum, well, look up my posts and there should be a Prologue or Chapter Zero or something (I don’t know what I’ll call it yet) for the trip report that will bring you up to speed. 

At one time, I’d had this fantasy about actually hitting the road on September 6th, reality was late evening September 13th, fortunately a Thursday Smile with tongue out, became the actual day that we departed. 

View GNRA - Chapter 1 - Finally on the Road in a larger map

It was around 8pm or so when we finally left that Thursday, the very last ounces of daylight fading away before I’d even had a chance to finish my shower, leaving the road ahead cloaked in that inky darkness common to most rural areas where urbanites haven’t soiled it. 

As per standard operating procedure, I slowly made my way down the road from home, watching both sides of the road at the same time for the familiar suicide attempts of our local deer population, until we finally cleared the last of the denser wooded area of the northern island and onto the straight run of Giliham road, allowing us to gradually creep up to the 55mph speed limit. 

Another advantage of this time of the year, most of the damn fool tourists that come out to the beaches (both clothed and clothing optional) up the road during the summer months are gone.   No worries about being crashed into by a fool who doesn’t understand a 35mph speed limit sign and double solid yellow lines down the center of the road. 

After about 20 minutes, we pulled off and I made a brief stop at the Park N’ Ride lot at the base of the bridge onto the island to retighten the camper’s tiedowns and recheck the cargo loads. 

From there it was first a short and sweet drive west down U.S. 30 to the Cornelius Pass Road intersection, then a slow climb up the windy and blind cornered Cornelius Pass Road itself. 

I had hoped that the lateness of the hour would reduce the number of “Cling-Ons”1 behind the truck, but by the time we reached the pull out at the top of the pass, there was more than twenty odd vehicles that had lined up behind us. 

So, we sat for a while to clear out any backlog on the road, then merged back onto the road and started the decent down the other side, once again accumulating another vast following of cling-ons in about 30 seconds. 

Roughly an hour and a half later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Cornelius Pass Road house.   The cigars were extracted from the humidor for the evening and we proceeded in to the white shed to relax and ready ourselves for the road.

Perhaps, I should stop for a moment and explain what I mean by readying in context of this trip Winking smile.  

Readying, for me means getting psyched up to stare at yellow stripes and long ribbons of pitch black asphalt for hours on end. 

Readying for Mason means, getting ready to fall asleep when the vehicle was in motion for more than ten minutes, or less, regardless of the time of day Smile with tongue out

Mason at the White Shed

It was a fairly busy night at the White Shed, of all reasons, because there was a convention of Mercedes Benz Car Salesmen going on.   Came to the conclusion really quick that the only thing scarier than a car salesman is a drunk car salesman…..

This fact actually was to our benefit as we wound up being the only two in there as it got on towards closing time when this one lone female salesman came in who wanted a beer, but didn’t want to, and I quote “Be that woman who puts a single beer on her credit card.” 

Her solution to her dilemma?  Buy us two cigars so she wouldn’t feel bad! Smile with tongue out 

In the end, we left for our grocery stop with two new, rather nice, cigars tucked in the humidor to enjoy further on down the road. 

Ready for the RoadReady for the Road

Another hour was spent at the local WinCo Grocery store in Hillsboro, before we truly got on the road, making it really the 13th of September by the time our tires kissed U.S. 26 east bound.

We drove for roughly two hours that night, till we reached Biggs Junction, Oregon, our planned rest stop for the days drive.  

Why stop so soon after departing?  

Well, several reasons:

A.) I wanted to get a few hours sleep in the dark and do the rest of my driving in the day when I could actually see something. 

B.) Mason had never seen the Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill, WA just across the river from Biggs, if he’d had, I would have likely just fueled up and kept on driving till I got closer to Kennewick, WA before stopping for some shut eye. 

C.) I had just drove for two hours with forty mile an hour winds in the mix, after having already spent the whole day laboring at getting the last of the logistics of loading worked out (figuring out how to secure the big blue rolling waste tote under the floor had ended up taking several hours as the camper had to be partially unloaded again to get the anchors finally installed in the correct location). 

D.)  Out of reasons, just felt like adding a D, for symmetry Smile with tongue out.

My original plan had been to stop at the Pilot Truck Stop for the night.   This plan crashed and burned with no survivors after an inquiry inside revealed that they did not allow any overnight parking for RVs, only trucks, something that I found to be unique to that one Pilot.

So, we decided to try Plan B, stay at Maryhill State Park across the river. 

Park was full and overpriced compared to when I had visited there last in 2009.

Plan C, shoulder of the road where I had seen some other trucks parked.

Road had a massive slope to one side, didn’t have enough blocks for a 12” height adjustment to get the camper level enough to sleep in, had I been able to nose in, I could have done it, but there wasn’t enough room.

Plan D, park at the other truck stop across the street from the Pilot.  

Truck Lot was full.

Finally, I noticed there was a motorhome parked in the auto spots of the restaurant out in front of the truck stop. 

Figured, if there’s an RV there, a second one won’t seem out of place, so found a spot and pulled in nose first and leveled up as needed.  

Swung the bike rack so that the bikes were off set to one side instead of being perpendicular to the door (narrow driveway) and took a kitchen sink shower.   This consisted of using the sprayer attachment on the sink to wash my hair and the primary areas of stink.  

Since I’d showered just before we left, I didn’t need a full shower, just enough of a scrub to remove the smell of the cigars from me so that my pillow wouldn’t retain it for several days afterwards. 

After that, it took about five minutes till oblivion hit, from which I didn’t return until my alarm went off eight hours later. 

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