We are now officially back on the road. For how long, I can’t say. We have a trip of about 3,500 miles planned, and that’s if we don’t dip into Florida (then it becomes closer to 4,500 miles). At our pace, that’s a good long time in the Airstream — at least a month. I’ll get back to my usual posting schedule as long as we are on the road, which means several times each week.
Our last days in Vermont ended with a weather whimper. There was a final respite of passable weather on Sunday for the belated birthday celebration (maple themed edible gifts abounded), and then the beautiful late-summer days faded into steady cool showers that lasted all of Labor Day, while we took care of the final Airstream packing chores. Then the remnants of Hurricane Lee slid up to New England and the result has been three days of fairly continuous rain, which is something nobody up here needed. Flooding became a threat again in many areas.
Despite that, we had set a schedule and so we left on a chilly Tuesday morning, with wet decaying leaves stuck to our feet and tracked all through the inside of the Airstream. I normally like to leave with the trailer interior cleaned up, but it was not possible under the rain forest-type conditions, so we’ll do a better job on the interior floors if this endless rain ever lets up. Once I had pulled the trailer off the leveling blocks in the driveway, I could see the rear dome for the first time in months (it had been obscured by trees) and it looks miserable, stained with tannin and leaf mold. Another roof washing session is due, but I think since we are on the road it may become a job for the Blue Beacon boys.
I am very pleased that all systems seem to be “go” with the Airstream. After three months of sitting in fairly inhospitable conditions you might expect a few problems to crop up, but we’ve been lucky and found no major issues. Even the Michelin tires held their pressure at exactly 50 psi each. Sitting is really one of the worst things for an Airstream (or indeed, any brand of RV). That’s when the rodents get in and start nesting. That’s when spiders and mud dauber wasps begin to clog the furnace vent and water heater venturi. That’s when water from a small leak gets a chance to cause rot, unnoticed. Left without exercise, tires fail more quickly, axles stiffen, batteries go flat, wires get chewed … I always recommend that anyone who has to store their trailer for long periods of time make a point of getting inside regularly to check things out, sniff for strange smells, inspect for signs of insects or critters, etc.
Using the trailer is a good way to find issues, if you don’t mind fixing them as they crop up. So far we’ve found the need to lube the entry door hinges and entry step with silicone spray, replace a cabinet latch, and replace a couple of light bulbs. Nothing really of consequence. I expect to replace a lot more of the bulbs soon, since they are mostly original and reaching the end of their expected lifespan. I’ll buy a 6-pack of the 1141 bulbs and a few of the 10-watt halogens at the hardware store next time we go by. The darned cabinet latches are another story: they wear out with distressing regularity and so far the only source I’ve found for replacements is Airstream and Airstream dealers, at $7-10 per latch
Our route has been conservative, at least initially. With flooding closing many lesser roads, I opted to take the safest possible route via the Charlotte-Essex ferry, I-87 (the Adirondack Northway) and I-90 (the New York State Thruway), connected by Rt 8 through the Adirondack Park. This kept us away from detours but it wasn’t particularly exciting since we’ve covered that route many times in the past.
At least we ended up at a different place, Verona Beach State Park on the shores of Oneida Lake. On prior trips passing through New York we’ve tried many state parks, including Cayuga Lake, Delta Lake, Letchworth, Darien Lakes, Fish Creek Pond, Mills-Norrie, Thompsons Lake, and Watkins Glen. They’ve all been good. New York has a great & huge state park system, so there are still dozens more to visit, even if we are trying to stay within a reasonable distance of the Thruway.
I had no idea when we randomly picked Verona Beach that it was next to the famous old Sylvan Beach, with the small but active downtown (at least during summer) and the old-time Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. It had stopped raining for a while, and I didn’t feel like unhitching the trailer for just one night, and we needed some exercise after being in the car for five or six hours, so we hoofed it about a mile and a half from the state park to downtown Sylvan Beach and found Eddie’s beckoning to us with a giant neon sign. There wasn’t much else open in town, being a gray cool day after Labor Day, but even if there were I think we would have had to try Eddie’s for dinner just because it’s a historic piece of Sylvan Beach.
Camping and traveling in the off-season like we are right now, is a bit of a crapshoot. On the plus side, reservations are generally unnecessary, crowds are absent, and we can be as spontaneous as we want. On the negative side, the weather can be iffy and lots of attractions are closed or have severely reduced hours. Arriving at Verona Beach we found the entry building unmanned, so we just picked out a nice site and settled in. No camp host or ranger was evident, and the park was about 90% empty. In the morning a nice lady came by in the pouring rain (“and I’m driving an electric golf cart!”) and accepted our check for $22.75 for a night of camping near the shore of the lake. Even with the steady rain it was a nicer experience than many a peak-season summer stay I’ve had in other places, just because it was quiet and uncluttered.
Tech note: I’ve been trying out some apps on the iPhone to see how they help us on the road. GasBuddy (free) has been pretty good for us, usually allowing us to find diesel at $0.20-0.40 less than the going rate without detouring more than five miles. This morning it directed us to the station closest to the state park and we saved about 20 cents per gallon on the fillup compared to the stations along the Thruway. It hasn’t been 100% accurate, since the fuel price reports come from ordinary folks who sometimes get it wrong, but I’ll trust it enough to go a few miles out of my way.
The other app I’m evaluating is the Allstays Camp & RV app, which costs a few bucks. So far I am finding it interesting but I need more time to be sure if I can recommend it. Like GasBuddy, some of the data comes from volunteers and so may not be entirely accurate. It’s useful for finding campgrounds, Wal-Marts, and various other popular stops for RV’ers.
We’re going to hunker down near Buffalo for a couple of days to get some work done, and then continue onward on Friday. It won’t be an exciting period, but hopefully we’ll wait out the rain and have nicer weather for the next few stops that are planned.