How We Left The West

We arrived Lake Junaluska NC early this afternoon after a fun drive through the Great Smoky Mountains on Interstate 40. Our weather is fourteen (14) degrees cooler than our previous stop, Chattanooga TN. Today’s high in Lake Junaluska was 70 and it is 53 outside at 10pm.

Our cross-country road trip started last Saturday morning in Mesa AZ and ended this afternoon after seven nights, 1,900 miles, 186 gallons of gas, two dinners and overnights at Cracker Barrel Country Stores, two private RV parks, and three state parks (AR, MS, AL).

Total camping costs were $84. Gas costs ranged from $3.48 (Knoxville TN with our $0.20 per gallon Kroger discount) to $3.85 in a Shell station on Highway 72 west of Huntsville AL. We also bought a couple of cups of McDonalds coffee, one five-pack of AGC 30a fuses and a can of MAF sensor cleaner.

Our Pressure Pro tire pressure monitoring sensors became intermittent. We expected this and will trade them in for fresh ones through the manufacturer for approx $35 per sensor. Our check engine light came on soon after leaving Mesa AZ and again this morning between Chattanooga and Knoxville TN. It self-cleared both times and we think will be happier once Jim cleans the MAF sensor tomorrow afternoon.

Our refrigerator quit in Las Cruces NM, the same day we had the first check engine light issue. Jim removed, cleaned, and reinstalled the refrigerator’s gas jet and the fridge has operated flawlessly since.

The newly tightened weight distributing hitch settings are more difficult to manage. Jim increased the tension on the bars to compensate for the additional 135 pounds battery weight on the trailer hitch. The truck and trailer are perfectly level and handling was perfect for the entire 1,900 miles.

Previously we could lift the hitch sufficiently to slide the bars onto their brackets. The weight distributing bar brackets are up another inch or two and sometimes a little too high to swing the bars onto. We are, for the first time in five years, using the swans head pry bar supplied by Equal-I-Zer to lift the WD bars into place. The lever works well so not a problem, just a different strategy.

The four new batteries did fantastically on solar charging alone every day crossing the country. We never used the converter/charger. The little bit of current from the truck’s alternator would probably have been offset by driving with the running lights on all day. We had at least 12.6 volts by the time we called taps every night, so plenty of battery power to get on the ham radio the next morning if Jim wanted.

All our RV and truck systems worked really well, aside from the minor concerns with the engine warning light and the fridge gas nozzle wanting a little attention. Those aside, the truck and trailer were perfect and a delight throughout the entire trip. Kinda makes us want to go somewhere again tomorrow, you know?

This trip was probably our easiest and overall most relaxed pace of any in the past four years. We allowed eight driving days and figured on needing six and having two zero days. Instead we had two short driving days between the latter two state parks and so used up all eight driving days. We were slow to start each morning and early off the road most days, allowing afternoon time to loaf the last five days of the trip.

The first two days were a little long but we were ready to get out of the arid dusty western area and get back into green country. It’s sort of fitting our first two nights (Las Cruces NM and Abilene TX) were on asphalt in Cracker Bbl parking lots — the campgrounds would have been about as dry and hard anyway. Sure enough, our third night was on freshly mown grass in Mt Pleasant TX at Rambling Fever campground.

The only unresolved problem from the trip is the Cradlepoint CTR-500 router and Verizon Pantech UML290 modem. In Mesa they behaved very well together, displaying full signal from the Verizon tower and giving us reasonably good wifi in the trailer. Currently we are getting one to two bars only from Verizon although our 4G MiFi is showing full signal. Small stuff, but below our expectations.

These were our seven one-night stops in this cross-country trip:

Cracker Bbl, Las Cruces NM
Cracker Bbl, Abilene TX
Rambling Fever Campground, Mt Pleasant TX
Chicot Lake SP, Lake Village AR (the largest oxbow lake in the U.S.)
Tishomingo SP, Tishomingo MS (on the Natchez Trace Parkway)
Joe Wheeler SP, Rogersville AL (on TVA Lake Wheeler)
Raccoon Campground, Chattanooga TN

Tomorrow we’ll tell the three best things we’ll really miss about the West and why we’ll look forward to getting back there this autumn.

Jim and Deb
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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

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