Sunday, April 15, 2012

1st Camping Weekend & 1st National Park

This weekend I went out to Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park.   This was hopefully the 1st of many camping weekends!


Thursday afternoon I left school earlier than usual so I could hit the ground running with pre-departure chores!  As soon as I got home I did all my regular evening chores and then went to get the PW.  This took a lot of thought – what need I need to be sure to get from my VUE (my id badge for school tomorrow) and what needed to be done to the PW so I could drive her out – blinds/curtains put up, fridge closed, tag for the storage removed from the window and put away.  I was going to back the PW out of the storage site and put my VUE in it’s place.  This meant that I had to think about where to park the VUE so it wasn’t in the way when I got the PW and where I could get it right in the spot.  Yes, I did have to drive around the storage lot once to get the car on the right side of the spot! 

On my way home I stopped to show of my RV to my friend Andy then came home and started loading and turning the systems back on after a week in storage.  Before I turned the water pump on I had to close the low point drains and then get the air out of the lines.  It took longer than I expected for that and the pump was acting peculiar until Sat AM when it finally got all the air out.   I’d had some trouble deciding what to do about the fridge since I don’t have a level spot to park it on at home.  I wanted to turn it on so I could load it up and get it cold because I probably wouldn’t be able to get it level when I parked at school on Friday.  I ended up deciding to level the coach in my parking spot! I needed to learn how to level it and figured if I couldn’t do it it wasn’t a big deal.  I have a set of leveling block that look kinda like big orange Legos, you just make a little pyramid and drive up on it!  I took a few tries to get the right number of blocks to get the bubble in my level into the circle and even then it wasn’t exactly in the circle but close enough for me.  I made sure to put the bag of leveling blocks on the passenger seat so that I wouldn’t drive off without them in the morning!

I spent most of the evening thinking of random things I just might need and certainly couldn’t leave behind and running back and forth between my house and the RV to get everything I could possibly need into the coach!

Friday I drove the RV to school!  It was quite fun and when I arrived at school several teachers saw me park it on the street right in front and they ran out to look at it!  The day proceeded to be the longest Friday ever, especially since I could look out my office window and see it.  Finally, after an especially brutal Friday Afternoon Meeting, it was time to go! 

The Drive

I decided I’d take 29 into Warrenton and then take 211 to Sperryville and go up to Thorton Gap to get into the park.  This would give me a chance to see how she handled on a steep mountain road!  

Traffic wasn’t so bad through Gainesville and soon I was heading out of Warrenton on 211.   About a mile out of town I noticed that the engine was straining and I had the gas pedal all the way down and she was losing speed!?!?!  At first I thought something was seriously wrong with the engine,  but then I noted that I’d hit the first big hill.  I realized that possibly 55 mph was too fast for her on a big hill and backed off on the speed.  When I let her go a “just right” speed the hills were no problem! Diesel engines are little like myself when going up hills, they like to pick a slow-ish speed and go steady all the way up!  Going up 211 to Thorton Gap we didn’t top 40 but she didn’t strain and we made it!

I stopped at what used to be Panorama for a snack and what turned out to be my last email/facebook/twitter check until today! I thought about eating dinner there but decided to push on to the campground.

Just like diesel engines need different consideration going up hill they also need special considerations going down! A gas engine will mostly hold it’s speed on a downhill, a diesel won’t. Even a small downhill will cause the speed to soar rather quickly unless you drop to a low gear.  I’d figured out how to drop to a low gear, but I was having a hard time figuring out which one was appropriate – I had 4 choices!  And usually as soon as I got it dropped into a low gear for going down the road was suddenly going up again and I had to get back to Drive. 

I was quite glad I was learning mountain driving on very familiar territory and I wasn’t trying to take in the scenery at the same time!  Once I master driving the PW in the mountains it will be a great way to check out new scenery!  You are up so much higher than in a car and the windshield is huge so you can see so much more!

I arrived at the campground in time for dinner!  My parents had gotten me a site and made dinner!  I backed right into my spot – turned a little too soon but I fixed it without needing to get out.  My site was perfectly level so all I had to do was put it in park and take the key out!

The Camping

After dinner my dad and went up to the Ranger Kiosk to pay for my site and decided to walk over to the amphitheater to see if there was cell phone service and ended up walking about a mile down the AT to a rock outcropping to check out the sunset.  The sunset wasn’t very impressive and I hadn’t brought my phone with me since I didn’t expect to have coverage.  By the time we walked back it was getting dark and chilly. 

Friday night was very cold in the mountains! I was glad I’d brought my sweatpants & sweatshirt, and ended up sleeping in them! I was still cold though and about midnight I pulled out my sleeping bag.  I was still cold and I was wishing I’d thought to sleep in my pink long underwear. 

When I woke up Saturday morning around 7 and  it really cold in my RV!  I jumped out of bed to turn on the hot water heater then crawled back in for a few more minutes of warm snoozing.  Soon I knew it was time almost time to get up so I decided to turn on the furnace to take the chill out.  I reached up and turned the thermostat a few notches up.   I then decided I needed to check to see if the water was hot so, without getting out of my sleeping bag I shuffled to the sink and turned on the hot water.  I was standing, in my sleeping bag, right in front of where the hot air comes out of the furnace.  Nothing came out of the hot tap – just air, then a little water and more air.  I instantly spun around and shut off the hot water heater because I was worried that somehow in my draining of the lines I’d drained the hot water heater and having it on with no water in it is very bad for the hot water heater.   I then shuffled into the bathroom to see if hot water came out of that tap.  It did, with no air.  Hmmm… I was contemplating this and why the pump was still acting funny (not running when I ran water then running after I turned the water off), when I was rudely interrupted by a wailing alarm.   WTH????  It sounded like a smoke detector, but I knew I wasn’t on fire.  I turned off the fridge & the furnace.  It was coming from under the bed so I figured it must be the LP/Carbon Monoxide detector so I started taking the bed apart so I could get a good look at the detector.  I then remembered that if there’s an LP gas or Carbon Monoxide leak I needed to get fresh air into the coach so I went to open the door.  The sliding door locks from the inside (which I find to be a major safety issue.  The driver/passenger doors open from the inside when locked) so I had to fumble with the lock before I threw the door open.  With the door open and fresh air coming in I proceeded to try to take the bed apart.  Then it occurred to me that maybe I should turn the propane off.   I ditched the sleeping bag and ran around the outside of the coach and flipped the remote shut off.   Then I decided to go see if dad was awake.  He was, but he hadn’t gotten up yet so I walked back to PW while he got dressed and the alarm had shut off!  I went back into the coach and picked up the sleeping bag where I’d dumped it and went to put it on the bed, as soon as I drug the sleeping bag across the floor the alarm started again!  I threw the sleeping back between the driver and passenger seats and waited for Dad.  By the time he got out there the alarm had stopped again and it didn’t start when we got in.  We looked at the alarm panel and read the book about it, no indication of what might have just happened.  The alarm did say “if the alarm sounds evacuate vehicle and call 911”. cell phone service will slow down the calling 911.  Obviously in a National Park I could get the Rangers but, I wasn’t sure what they were going to do.  Even if I had a LP gas leak, there wasn’t much they could do about it other than shut the gas off, which I’d already done.   Dad and I let the RV air out then turned the propane back on and turned the appliances back on and there were no further issues.  Our theory for now is that one shouldn’t shuffle through the RV in ones sleeping bag while the furnace is running.  Glad Dad was there to help with this little glitch, but now I know how to handle it if it happens again! I will say that when I had to go over to Mom and Dad’s coach in my PJs I was very glad I wasn’t wearing skin tight pink long underwear!

After breakfast Dad and went out to hike to Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls.  It was the same loop we’d done the last time we camped at Big Meadows and the same loop I’d done in October, but it’s a nice loop!  Today the woods were still leave-less and it’s been so dry that the creek was down.   There wasn’t a lot to see, but we did a bunch of trillium!  I thought it would be too early, but it looks like they are just getting started!  We walked about 6 miles and ended up back at the visitor center & wayside so we had to get some blackberry ice cream!  We got back to the campground around 4:00. 

We just hung around the campground for the rest of the day.  Dad and I uploaded pictures and then we had about an hour until dinner so I got my bed all set up and sat in my camp chair and read my book.  After dinner we took a walk around the campground to try and find a gal I’d cyber met on an RVing forum who was supposed to be there in her Roadtrek.  We didn’t find her but we got to chatting with the neighbors until about 9:00 and then it was time for bed! 

It didn’t get quite so cold Saturday night, but it was windy!  I heard the wind howling around the campground and my van wasn’t even rocking!  After a few sleepless nights in a tent due to wind I was very glad I was snug inside Roxy and not in a tent!

Sunday morning I packed up my stuff – tried to separate out the stuff that needed to go into the house and the stuff that stayed in the coach, but I didn’t bring a bag or box to put it in.  I’d put a bag, a tub and a cooler in the VUE for this purpose but I realized that I need something in the coach, especially for the dirty clothes! After I was mostly ready to go I enjoyed my coffee and finally finished a book I started reading in FL almost 2 weeks ago.   I finally pulled myself away from the mountains at 10:30.  

Before I left Big Meadows I needed to dump my tanks.  The last time I’d dumped was in Waldo, FL and now the black tank was almost full, the grey tank was finally registering 1/3 and the fresh water was empty (it’d been saying it was empty since last night but so far I hadn’t run out of water).  When I arrived at the dump station there was someone already dumping so I decided to use the bathroom one last time – when I flushed the pump was straining to get the last few drops of water out of the tank!  Perfect!   I opted not to fill with fresh water since I was putting it into storage for at least 2 weeks (hopefully not much more!). 

The Drive Home

The drive back down Skyline Drive was much better!  I learned that she likes 3rd gear when going downhill between 30-40 mph – I still had to use the brake more than I expected but I could mostly hold her in the 30s in 3rd gear.  When I dropped it to 2nd the RPMs surged and it sounded like the engine was straining.  

On 211 I set the cruise control and that held the speed on the hills!

I stopped at Wegmans in Gainesville and parked next to another Sprinter!  This one was fire engine red! I think it was work truck of some sort. 

I then took her back to Holly Acres!  It only took a few minutes to switch the cars, unload the RV into VUE, and close down the PW so she’ll be ready for next time!  I do have to go back and visit this week though, I didn’t put toilet chemical in after I dumped because I didn’t have water. 

I got home around 3, which was perfect to get all my weekend chores done for school tomorrow!  It was a great weekend and I can’t wait to do it again! :-)

SNP: Rose River 4.14.12

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