Departure day

Departure day is always a little bit sad, as we wave goodbye to the Vermont summer scene and begin our annual migration back to the southwest.  It was even more so this year because we are leaving much earlier than usual, in early July rather than late August or September.

I’ve explained why we are leaving early in previous blogs, so I won’t repeat that here. However, the timing of this trip has caused us to face unusual choices, both because we are obligated to tow the Airstream back to Tucson (2,700 miles at a minimum) in less than 12 days, and because we normally would swing through the southeast for visits to friends along the way and perhaps a little Gulf Coast beach time.  The prospect of Florida in July is not particularly appealing so we are obligated to consider alternate routes, but we don’t have time to really do the northern tier well.  Catch-22.

That leaves us with a route that isn’t making any of us jump for joy: lots of Interstates, a diagonal through the muggy climates of Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri (or alternately Ohio, Kentucky, and Arkansas), and hardly any opportunities for exploratory detours.  Well, you can’t win them all.  We will have to make up for this with some fresh travel at high altitudes out west, in August.

Per our usual style, we’ve made few solid plans for this route back.  We’ve just set some general goals and researched a few possibilities for fun along the way.  This bodes uncertainty, which makes many people uncomfortable.  I find it to be a break from the otherwise-certain monotony of the Interstate, especially Interstate highways that we’ve traveled many times before.

Today was a fine example.  This morning, departing at a leisurely 11 a.m., we set out sights on Buffalo NY, approximately 400 miles away.  With stops for lunch and dinner, we arrived in the area around 8 p.m. and decided to visit a state park.  We had completely forgotten that this is considered a “holiday weekend” even though July 4 was on Wednesday, and of course it’s peak season for northern state parks, so there was no room for us even in the overflow area.  The one commercial campground in the area that we called held firm to their requirement for a three-night minimum, a foolish request at 8 p.m., but it was their campground to run as they saw fit.  Meanwhile, the state park staff was distraught that we were in such a “bind” but we were more calm about it, pointing out that we knew where we were going to sleep tonight, we simply didn’t know (yet) where we were going to park.

When you look at it that way, there’s really little to get excited about.  We always travel with plenty of supplies (water, propane, food) and parking is always available somewhere.  We settled on a Cracker Barrel near I-90.  There were also a few Wal-Marts and other such places that we could have gone.  We’ll make it worth their while to have parked us overnight by buying some breakfast in the morning.

The only real issue is that it has been hot, and a little humid.  This won’t be our worst night of boondocking by a long shot, but all three fans have been running tonight and a round of quick rinses in the shower were prescribed to cool our bodies down before settling into the sheets.  The interior of the trailer is 82 degrees and the night air outside is 72, so it won’t be long before everything’s reasonably comfortable.

At times like this I am reminded of Wally Byam’s writing about the methods he used to locate free overnight parking all over the world.  The Airstream owners manuals for decades also included a simplified version of his philosophy, saying “You can park anywhere the ground is level and firm.”  This seemingly left quite a lot of terrain for the taking, but in today’s more complicated world it’s a matter of knowing the few spots where overnight parkers are generally welcome and how to take advantage of them without running into hassles.

There are still plenty of places to go, especially if you can take the time to just talk to people and open a few doors for yourself.  Since we didn’t have much time tonight, we just chose a default place, but if we’d had more time I would like to think we would have come up with something interesting.  Perhaps we’ll get another chance, on another night on this voyage.