When I left Pittsburgh, I realized that from then on, I’d be traveling on roads and staying in campgrounds which are new to me. Most of my routes this year – Georgia to Bucks County to Pittsburgh – have been routes I’ve traveled before, and I’ve even stayed in the same campgrounds. But now, I’m breaking new ground, going into upstate New York and Vermont. And this makes me just a little anxious on travel days.
The thing is, I never want to get into a situation where I might take a wrong turn, and get stuck. I have to study my route closely to avoid it. And Eric taught me that I always have to know my escape route – I can’t pull into a place without knowing how I’m getting out – so I work very hard in advance to minimize the possibility of a mistake. Thank goodness for Google Earth!
For every trip, I plan where I’m going to stop. If you’re in a car, you just go until it’s time to stop for gas, and you find a gas station, right? Not so for me and my rig – I have to know EXACTLY where I’m going to stop. You can’t always tell from the road whether or not there’s an exit route once you pull in to the pumps, so I need to do major reconnaissance.
I know about how many miles I can comfortably go on one tank of fuel, so I plan my gas stops accordingly. And, my general rule of thumb is to drive about 120 miles (2 hours) before I need to stop for a stretch and a bathroom break. So when I start out a day of driving, I have to know how much gas is in the tank, and how many miles I can go before needing fuel. Then I can decide whether that first stop should be a rest area or a gas station, or if I’ll need gas sooner than my normal two hour stretch. Once I know that, I search my route on Google maps to see where I’ll be in about that many miles. And then I look in that area for a place to stop.
This process is more difficult and time consuming than it sounds. My objective is to find a gas station near the highway with an approach to the pumps which is parallel to the station’s building rather than perpendicular. Or, if it’s perpendicular, it has to have a pump at the end of the row which would allow me some sort of exit strategy – either going around the back of the building, or another driveway to the street. Here are some examples:
Above is a gas station layout which I would never want to stumble into by accident! I would have to enter the pumps nose first, perpendicular to the building, and then pull up pretty far to get the RV’s gas tank to line up with the pump. Then when finished, I would have to try to turn sharply enough so I miss the building and any cars parked in front of it, while at the same time hoping that the RV’s rear end and towed vehicle don’t crash through the pump. Not a good option for me!
Below is one that would be OK. The pumps are perpendicular to the building, which isn’t ideal, but the gas station is roomy and on a corner. I could probably pull into the far pump and then exit out the other driveway.
The configuration below is the one I prefer. See how the entrance and exit is so easy when the approach to the pumps is parallel to the building? But it’s amazing how long I have to search sometimes to find one like this on my route.
Rest areas are easy – as long as they’re available along the way, they’re perfect for me. They always have an area for trucks, and I pull in right there next to them!
In addition to scoping out rest stops and rest areas, I carefully examine the map to make sure I know exactly what exits to take, and where to turn. No wrong turns allowed, cause I can’t easily un-do it! I download campground maps from the website so I’m very familiar with exactly where I need to go to register, where I can unhook my car (need a straight and flat spot), and where to find my campsite.
Sometimes a campground is remote enough that neither Google Maps nor the GPS can find it. For example, the address for my campground in Lowville, Lewis County, NY was a highway name and a town, and, alternatively, latitude and longitude. Google Maps recognized the campground name, but when looking at the satellite image, there was no campground to be found. When I plugged in the latitude and longitude, there was still no campground. After playing around with it for a while, I found it up a side street, two turns off the main highway. So I don’t just rely on the GPS – I spend the time to do my research.
This system has worked very well for me so far. Since leaving Pittsburgh, I traveled about 300 miles to Hamlin Beach State Park near Rochester, New York, for four nights, and then another 200 miles to Lowville, Lewis County, New York where I’ve spent the past week, all without incident.
Today, I’m planning my 200 mile trip to Salisbury, Vermont. I have a GPS which is specifically programmed for RV’s. Supposedly, it will put me on the best route to avoid low bridges and other big-rig hazards, and it has a preference for interstates. The GPS tells me that the best route from here to Vermont is along Route 3, which is a scenic route through the Adirondacks, past Lake Placid. I’ve gone through much hand-wringing, trying to decide whether or not to take the chance that my rig will struggle with the hills on that route. The other alternative is to go way south and then north to stay on interstates, which is longer but seems much safer.
Well, I’ve decided to be brave and take Route 3. I’m leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning (Sunday, July 16th). I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!