Weather changes

Through September I kept saying, “We’ve got to get out of Vermont by mid month or things are going to get tricky.” It wasn’t really news. After living in Vermont for years we all knew precisely what was coming, and when. The campgrounds shut down, water hoses freeze, and in an RV the daily propane burn becomes enormous.

The benefit of waiting was beautiful foliage everywhere.  My brother and I took a last ride on the BMWs just to tour some of the dirt backroads of central Vermont and see it at peak.

VT BMW bikes and foliage

Departing this late is always a dangerous game, as sudden weather changes are to be expected in fall this far north. We picked Friday Oct 16 as our departure date and it seemed like a good bet until we got to western Pennsylvania along the shore of Lake Ontario on I-90. Then we hit a sudden storm of sleet and ice pellets.

Ohio sleet Airstream 2015-10Eleanor and I watched in horror as the temperature plummeted from 47 degrees to 33 degrees in less than five minutes.  Heavy sleet was pelting the car and the front of the Airstream, and covering the road in a rough sheet of treachery.

When that happens you have to start looking for options to bail out. There is no point in plowing forward with a trailer in tow when conditions are that bad.  We got off at the next exit and filled up with fuel (where I took this photo).

Ten minutes later the storm had passed. It was just a little reminder of how things can change quickly in the north in October, especially along the shore of a Great Lake that produces its own special weather.

Sleet in October?  I wouldn’t have been surprised up in northern Vermont, but down in Pennsylvania I felt fairly immune. I won’t make that mistake again.

For the rest of the drive along the lake and past Cleveland we were in and out of storms. We pulled over a second time at a rest area to consider options again, and decided that we’d make a choice at the split of I-90 and I-271. If the weather continued as it had, we’d spend the night boondocking at one of the usual commercial establishments known to allow overnight parking and we’d call our friends to tell them we weren’t going to make it to their house that night.

Far better to disappoint your friends by saying you’ll be arriving the next day, than to call them to say you won’t be arriving at all because you slid off the road. “Get-there-itis” is often fatal.

By the way, this experience is a very good reason to travel with both propane cylinders as full as possible during the late fall and winter season. You can easily find yourself spending an unexpected night along the road with only your propane supply to keep you warm, and on a freezing night the furnace will burn a lot of it.

Ohio sunset Airstream 2015-10

In this case we were lucky.  The weather got better as we turned south away from the lake, and we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset, and we made it to our friends’ home with no problems.  Here’s one shot of us towing happily to the west, near the end of the sunset and a safe trip.

Now, two days later, we are in Jackson Center at Airstream. It’s not any warmer here. Last night I had to disconnect the water hose because it would have frozen solid. I’ve got a day of prep work to do for Alumapalooza 7, and then we will make a rapid exit to the south with the beaches of the Florida panhandle on our minds.  We are definitely “chasing 72 degrees,” as many full-timers do.


  1. says

    Based upon our experience last fall going down I-81 in Pennsylvania in late November, the problem isn’t having full propane tanks but rather battery capacity. Two nights and one full day waiting out a snow storm in a casino parking lot left us with batteries at barely 50% capacity and was one of the prompts leading us to buy a generator.

  2. P. Ferguson says

    install 2000 w inverter in tow. maybe add a battery.
    plug tt in….set furnace to medium…run refrig on LP..
    if wish short run of micro…pump works good…
    run engine…as needed…….stay warm……..maybe buy a portable jump battery…always can help others or yourself.
    shut down….relax…..start up and get warm as needed.