Monday, July 1, 2019

Our RV Adventure, Day 6: Early to Rise

(To start from the beginning, see Our RV Adventure: Introduction.)

Monday, May 6, Washington, DC  

At 2:53 a.m., the cats jump on the bed. I give them dry food and fall asleep again eventually.

At 5:00, our phone alarm clocks go off. I start moving around in my pajamas. Then there’s a knock on the RV door.

I say, “Yes?” thinking that it might be the police or an annoyed neighbor. It is my mother, fully dressed, asking if we want to go inside the house for anything. I slip on my shoes, open the door and say no thank you. I go out and give her a hug goodbye. She goes and sits on the front porch until we leave.

I begin to get curt with Cathleen as I get anxious. We need to be on Canal Road north of Chain Bridge before the police decide to roadblock it for Monday inbound rush hour. We pull away from the curb at 5:36 a.m.

Getting through Canal Road and Clara Barton Parkway works! At 6 a.m. both lanes will be inbound, and we would have had to go further afield. 

The DC Beltway to I-66 is smooth. By 6 am, inbound traffic is building. We are cruising in the opposite direction.

Virginia hills
Appalachian foothills in the Virginia distance.
On I-81, the scenery is gorgeous. The distant mountains look like felt blankets dropped lazily, green with black accents from clouds. Before them are pillows of ground fog in the valleys.

We have breakfast in the RV at 7:30 am at a truck stop on I-81, in Mt. Jackson, Virginia. We get supplies, use the bathroom, and stretch, but we can’t get gas because they only have diesel. We go down the street to an actual Exxon for gas. The whole process takes over an hour. But we’ve made good progress, back on I-81 before 9 am, well clear of the DC rush hour.

We have already been in DC, Maryland and Virginia today, and plan to stay in Tennessee tonight. 

While driving, I notice many different license plates. By the time we get to Sewanee tomorrow, I will have seen plates for every state east of the Mississippi except Vermont, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin; plus, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, California, and Washington state.

As I’m driving, I sense something to my right, between Cathleen and me. It is Dusty the cat, walking up to visit us, as if to say “OK, I’m here now. I got myself out of that thing.”

“What?” I say. “How did he get out of his travel carrier?”

“He unzipped it with his nose, I think. His little nose is rubbed raw,” says Cathleen as she picks him up into her lap in the passenger seat. We will zip him back in at our next rest stop.

Later, Cathleen uses the bathroom while I’m driving. “Wobbly,” she calls it.

At noon, we phone app order lunch to pick up at a Panera Bread in Christiansburg, Virginia. We eat in the RV parked at the edge of the Panera lot in some shade. They leave the apple chips off the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, so I walk back in to get some apple chips. They are apologetic. While there, I order a pumpkin muffin. They’re not apologetic enough to give it to me free, however.

The cats’ behaviors have evolved during the trip. They both seem to realize that we let them roam around the RV when we are stopped, and that we put them in the carriers before we move. However, they evolved differently. At Panera, Tallulah decides to hide under the driver’s seat, from which it is difficult to extract her. Subsequently, we will put a backpack in front of the seat when stopped. Dusty, in contrast, begins to present himself in front of his carrier when we are ready to go.

The speed limit is 70 mph on the interstate. In Virginia, a billboard informs us that exceeding 80 mph is considered reckless driving and will warrant a second ticket. We see several Virginia State Troopers openly aiming their radar guns at oncoming traffic. That’s fine with us because the RV does not seem too comfortable going 70 or faster. We are mostly in the slow lane.

About 1:40 pm, just north of Pulaski, Virginia, in the left lane, 8 white vehicles proceed quickly in tandem. All have Federal Protection Services in bold blue letters and a Homeland Security logo on their doors. All were sedans except the fifth which was an SUV. Looks like a prisoner relocation convoy. Cathleen looks for prisons on the map. The nearest is Marion Correctional Center. No other news was available. She hypothesizes, “maybe it’s el Chapo.”

Cathleen is driving when Google Maps warns of a vehicle fire on I-81 near Bristol. It suggests a detour through town that would save an hour. From Business 381 to smaller and smaller roads, when we can barely share the road with a mail delivery van, then back to Highway 421 and I-81. We did see a bright pink temporary sign stating “Emergency Situation Ahead” just before leaving I-81, so we can assume that we saved time. But we hadn’t actually seen a backup on I-81, or smoke. One mile later, we’re in Tennessee.

Three little words strike fear into the hearts of drivers: Road Work Ahead. However, though we have seen them several times today, the impact has been small and surgical, unlike Pennsylvania’s miles and miles of sometimes just vacant closed lanes.

Knoxville traffic is busy but moves quickly for rush hour.

We check in to the Sweetwater KOA at 6:24 pm, less than 13 hours after leaving DC. The clerk says my name perfectly. Cathleen is suspicious of that. I point out that he looks very similar to the Pennsylvania KOA clerk. Coincidence?

We hook up the RV, Cathleen cooks, and I investigate the campground shower situation. Most of the people here are older than us, except for a young couple with a baby in a backpack walking two dogs, one giant, one small.

After dinner - quinoa, cauliflower, peas, and chicken sausage - we put the cats in strollers and make a circuit of the camp. Many greetings are offered. Many weathered faces, I suspect from cigarettes, but maybe from sun or farming. Some RVs, the larger Class A models, have HD TVs mounted on the outside. Retirement-aged couples sit on lawn chairs watching TV with a campfire nearby.

Cathleen strolling the cats in Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Cathleen strolling the cats in Sweetwater, Tennessee. 
One couple is camping in just a tent, which is not the norm here. There is a variety of camping styles here, including tents and cabins. Most of the nature surrounds the campground. Our site has water, electric, and cable (which we don’t use – the TV is still face-down), but not a sewer hookup. We can dump the sewer holding tanks at the dump station before leaving tomorrow. We intend to leave hours before check-out, so there shouldn’t be a line or anything. Also, it’ll be Tuesday morning, not an obvious leaving time. Our site is a “Premier Site” due to the nice table and chairs on a paved area by the RV. Also, it is a “pull-through” rather a than a “back-in” site, making it easier to get in and go out.

After eating and walking around, we take showers in the office building by the pool. Yes, there is an outdoor pool, with your basic poolside showers and bathrooms. Then, I do the dishes.

I am surprised that after five nights sleeping in a strange RV bed, my back has been better than usual. No ibuprofen needed. It is a pillow-top Serta. For the sake of research, we should verify its worthiness for intimacy. We’re in bed by 10, asleep by 11.

To be continued...

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