Two Weeks Out…

Yeah, it’s been two weeks – and it feels like a year.

We rolled out of Asheville on September 1 – and we knew we were in for an adventure, but we really didn’t expect what we got. Our first stop was near Statesville, NC. It was late, it was raining HARD, and I suddenly realized that I am an old, blind man who should NOT be driving our family when I can’t see a damned thing. I have glasses, but they’re very little help at night. I’m just blind. So – we picked a hotel and stayed the night. We were heading to Glendon to see my father – and we could have pushed through to make it. Then again, we could have wound up in a ditch or over a bridge. It was time to stop. So – we stopped.

Saturday, we made it to Glendon. This was our second staging area. We were in such a rush to get out of Asheville and tie up the loose ends that we wound up with the “Screw it, shove it in and we’ll sort it out later” attitude. We’d intended to be a bit more organized, but – so it was. We needed a place to lick our wounds, make a repair or two and sort through all the tools, books, toys, plugs, wires, batteries, laptops, notebooks and stuff that we just kind of tossed in the Dolphin (and the van.)

Glendon was, as always, beautiful. We rested up, planned our next stop – and got everyone ready to REALLY roll. We stayed for almost precisely a week. Our hosts were gracious, the wine was delicious, and the hot dogs were on point. I would have expected nothing less. But – we were ready to hit the road. And so we did.

No, This Isn’t What We Expected…

After leaving Glendon, we decided that a trip to the Outer Banks was in order. Kill Devil Hills, to be more specific – we wanted to take Wheezie to see the home of Grave Digger. Dude likes monster trucks, and we all love the beach. We’ve done a fair amount of vacationing on OBX – so we were pretty familiar with the route and the sites. And, we had a relationship with the Alligator River.

We made it most of the way down without incident, until we hit the Alligator River bridge. The door on the RV has always been a little shaky while on the road, and this trip was no exception. I thought absolutely nothing of it – until I heard a flap and a rattle. “What was THAT?” the girls said. Then, Beth called and said “Did a piece of cardboard fly across the road? OH MY GOD, JAMES! THE WHOLE SIDE OF THE RV IS COMING OFF!!!”

I had visions of the entire side of the RV peeling off. I pulled over quickly, much to the consternation of the folks behind us (Sadie is slow – there’s ALWAYS a line behind us) to inspect the damage. Thankfully, it wasn’t the entire side – it was simply the cover of the bottom part of the door. But – it was shredded. One more project, one more thing to fix. Seems pretty typical. We pulled into a state park in Kittyhawk and I used a bit of duct tape to make sure the door didn’t get sucked off and out – and we troopered on, finally making it to a pretty dope campground in Wanchese – busted door, frayed nerves and all.

We hung out at the campground, went to Coquina Beach (an old favorite) and then decided to make it up the coast to another campground between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia. We made it in Sunday and decided to stay for a couple of days. Campfires, s’mores – the whole nine yards. I spent Monday alone at the campground and got a bit of work done while Beth and the kiddos visited Jamestowne. Loo fell down a bank and into the James river, but the injuries were mostly pride-based (her iPhone was the biggest casualty,) and a good time was had by all.

The next morning, we decided that we’d all hit Colonial Williamsburg (it was Homeschool days, which saved us a TON of money on tickets.) Very cool place – especially if you like paying $12 for a cheeseburger. We got a tour of the Palace, got sunburned and decided that we were ready to start heading north. We got about 15 miles from Williamsburg – and BOOM. Literally.

Blowing a tire going 60 miles per hour is not pleasant. Fortunately, I was able to pull to the side without event or injury – but I was absolutely terrified. NOT AT ALL what I was expecting.

Now, you would think that the tires would have been replaced in the 30 years the Dolphin has been in service – but, no. They were apparently the originals. Wow. 30 year old tires. Smart, James – real smart.

I’ve never been to Richmond. I’m not sure I want to go back. It’s not that it was bad, but being stuck in a hotel for two days with 4 reasonably unhappy kids, not knowing what’s next is a little nerve wracking. The hotel was an interesting place (got to witness a slap-fight between 2 maids,) and it was just far enough outside of town that there was precisely jack squat to do. We were bummed. Had our adventure gone off the rails before it really began?

We called every tire shop we could find – and they either couldn’t help us, wouldn’t help us or it was going to take a good week to get the proper size tires in stock. See, with a 30 year old tire, the numbers are different. “WE DON’T HAVE 18R14-C. THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER NUMBER.” No, there was no other number. But, by Thursday, we found a place that could help us – and that could have the tires in a reasonable amount of time for an unreasonable amount of money. Sadie needed new shoes, and we needed to get the hell out of Richmond.

We ponied up, got 4 new tires (replacing all tires on the dual axles) and hit the road for New Jersey. So long, Virginia. We may or may not be back.

The next stop was in New Jersey – Jackson, to be precise. The campground was weird – the first thing I saw was a gigantic gargoyle/superhero statue in the back of a truck. Still not sure what that was about, but we’d made it a few hundred miles and we were all just wiped. The campground was quiet, the bathrooms were questionable – but it was a place to crash, eat cereal and leave early. We did manage to test out most of the playground equipment, but we only stayed long enough to let the office open, pay our fees and leave. We planned on making it as far as Boston.

Now, going up I95 is an adventure. From Trenton, we made it through DC and Baltimore. Slowly. Traffic is no joke – and being in a wobbly, bobbly little RV makes it even less funny. Between going 2 miles an hour and being tossed around by semis going 90 while you’re puttering uphill, it was white knuckles all the way.

But, we kept pushing. All day and most of the night. When we made it past Boston, we realized that we were 90 minutes from our ultimate destination – so we decided to push through and spend Friday night in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. We pulled into the campground around 9:45. Again, wiped out – but stoked to be so close to our “new home” in Biddeford. We made it. New tires, no door, frazzled, dirty and ultimately excited.

Here’s What We Learned…

30 year old tires aren’t optimal.

Having a messed up door is kind of embarrassing. Although the guys at the tire shop kept going on about how “bad ass” the RV is – even with the jacked door. I have to agree. Sadie rules.

Not much to do when you’re stuck in a Microtel in Sandston, Virginia.

Cable TV is crap.

Passport America is worth every penny.

Gasoline is expensive. Food on the road is even more expensive.

Toll booths suck.

I love my family – even when they make me crazy (which is often.)

We made the right choice. This is an adventure. With adventure comes adversity – and I have to believe that the adversity will just make us all stronger. Tires, doors, $12 cheeseburgers – all part of it.

Beth is the strongest, most beautiful person I have ever met. She is patient, kind and deserving of any accolade I can come up with. She treats the children with love, decency and a peaceful spirit. She does the same for me – and I routinely act more childish and petulant than the brattiest child. Amazing woman, amazing person.

Maine is even better than we expected or hoped. We’re happy here.

Campgrounds & Hotels Mentioned