Sometimes it’s the little things that matter, so I thought I’d write an entry on some of the little things that I learned along the way. So let me start with gas stations. Maybe as I get more experienced and fancy free I’ll say something totally different about gas stations but right now, on my first long solo trip, gas stations were something I had to learn to navigate. I originally planned to just go to truck stops so I wouldn’t become an embarassing YouTube video. I didn’t want to be known as the girl who took out all of the gas tanks at the gas station in some town U.S.A., or the girl who got stuck because she drove in and didn’t alredy have an exit strategy, or the girl who ran out of gas because she forgot to check ahead for the next station that actually had diesel and the five near her did not. All of those almost happened, but I’m proud to say I handled it! I drove like a pro, sometimes backing out of locations I had to stop at because I simply needed gas. Also, when driving along the highway and sighting the gas at next exit signs, often this was not enough notice to see and assess whether the station was a good one for me to stop at, or whether or not it even had diesel. And at each stop, I definitely would want to stretch my legs and walk about a bit with the dog. Actually I wanted to hit the rest stops for that, but it seemed like I’d get gas, then two miles down the road there would be a rest stop. Since each stop added at a minimum a half an hour to my trip and I had just stopped I’d decide to wait for the next rest stop in sixty miles, which inevitably would always be closed. And then I would need gas again. Anyhow… the best tools I had to prepare ahead of time, find diesel and space to pull in and back out easily were Gas Buddy combined with Google Maps. Gas buddy let me know where gas was, whether or not they had diesel, whether or not anyone had actually bought gas from that location in the last few hours (which guaranteed that the station actually existed) and of course I could compare prices. Then I could look the station up on the google maps and get a good birds eye view of how easy it would be to maneuver. Below was my favorite gas station… easy off the highway, in and out and lots of space!
Stopping for food was also a learning experience. I decided it’s better to keep a good cooler of yummy treats. It’s a lot easier than trying to find parking around food establishments that have lots of traffic and curbs. At one fairly remote stop I thought I had done well in that there was a burger joint, a gas station and what looked like a trucker home cooked meal type of restaurant. I went for the restauraunt first, only to realize I had traveled a ways down a road to an abandoned building and a road that dead ended and likely the only way out was to back it up quite some distance. So, instead I dragged the bug ridden logs blocking the parking lot entry to the side, ignored the no trespassing on private property sign, hoped for no loose nails in the lot and drove in to turn around. I went to the burger joint which made me feel like I was in one of those twilight zone movies where I might not make it out. There were three truckers standing silent near the counter, nobody at the registers and one lady and a guy way in back moving as slow as molasses. They didn’t even notice that I had brought my little dog in so he would not get heated in the car. I’m not sure how much of the hour went by before the lady finally acknowledged me and said she would help me in a minute. I decided the kill ’em with kindness route was my best bet, so I smiled and waited patiently. Eventually I ordered my bacon burger, and then joined the truckers standing silently. The lady in charge slowly sauntered to the back to get a couple heads of lettuce which she brought to the front and then tucked between her arm and her chest, no gloves, no apron… so that she could open the refridgerator door. I repeated in my head like a mantra… I’m grateful for food, I’m grateful for food, I’m grateful for food. Well eventually we got our burger and got back on the road. I took the lettuce out, took a bite of the slightly warm burger and was not impressed…. there wasn’t even any bacon on my bacon burger. I shared the rest with my dog and made a note to self…. pack my own food next time.
I say I traveled solo, but honestly I was only truly solo at one spot, a Harvest Host golf course location at which I enjoyed the quiet peace and serenity and in the morning quickly made friends with the workers who helped me get a coffee early in the morning before official opening so I could get on the road nice and early. I stayed at one private campground along the coast that I had booked a year out, where a friend who was traveling south joined me to celebrate the fourth, and then we made friends with the neighbors in the park. I stopped at a Harvest Host winery where a past coworker drove out and joined me for some great wine and cheese. I met family I had never met while parked at a state park campground. I parked on my Auntie’s Apple Farm and enjoyed good company, home cooked meals and a bath tub! And I parked on the street at my cousins where I picked her up for Canadian segment of my trip. On the way back I’ll see all kinds of folks too. I say that because I had read so much about safety and traveling solo. I realized you don’t really have to be any more solo than you are at home, and when you are solo it is a real treat, plus there are a lot of good folks out there looking out for you. Also, getting more involved in the different RV groups online and now rallies, I have made lots of friends that I look forward to meeting up with along the way. Being a healthy mix of extrovert and introvert, I do look forward to some of those remote beautiful boondock sites to come too.
As for the roads and road conditions, I have learned plot my route on google maps, talk to folks who have traveled the route and check YouTube to see if there are any videos of the roads. I don’t count on the weather apps to help much since most of the places I went I could not get any internet or phone reception. And as planned as I might want to be, I’ve learned to go with the flow because it is guaranteed that there will be surprises along the way. On my way into the Harvest Host winery I ran into a maze of narrow roads surrounded by water on both sides, I would have multiple beautiful bridges pop up in front of me with short notice to figure out whether they were big enough for my rig to fit through, tractors rolling down the road at a few miles an hour, construction zones where the two lane highway was ripped up with no middle line and drops on the edges while going through mountain roads and more.
I have to be honest each leg of the route I went through a pattern of being terrified of the upcoming drive, then delightfully relieved at the scenery and things to do at the next location, then terrified to get on the road again. The doubt had started to set in, as to whether this was for me. I just could not see continuing full timing if I was going to feel terrified every time I was getting ready to take off. Then something changed. I’ll talk abou that in my next post.
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