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Into Pennsylvania…

June 18, 2012

It’s hard to believe we have lived in the motorhome now for almost 7 months.  The adventure still seems like it’s only just begun.

After almost six weeks sitting still in Mount Vernon, Ohio, we finally got back on the road.  Since her Mom seems to be doing much better, Nell felt it was time to go, so five days ago, after cleaning the motorhome inside and out, driving one more time down to the nearby RV park and using their dump station, and driving partway into Mount Vernon to fill up on both propane and gas, we pulled out of our spot next to the Bridges’ barn and headed south to get on I-70.

I had miscalculated how much propane we had left in the tank before we left for four days to go to Grundy, Virginia.  Knowing it was below a quarter of a tank, we had turned off the water heater, so the only thing using propane was the fridge.  When we got back from Virginia, the propane tank was empty and the fridge had shut off.  Even though it had been closed, it had been off long enough for us to lose just about everything in it.  The fridge had been set to “Propane” instead of “Auto”.  When the propane ran out, the fridge didn’t know to switch to another power source.

So with a full tank of propane and a restocked fridge, we hit the road.

At Washington/Pittsburgh KOA, Washington, Pennsylvania

We had originally planned to drive to Morgantown, West Virginia the first day, but had trouble finding a campground or RV park that we felt good about.  Even though the reviews for this KOA in Washington, PA made me uneasy about the road, we decided to try it.  It turned out to be good practice.  What seemed to be a very narrow, twisting, steeply downhill drive going in turned out to be not nearly so bad coming back out.  I tend to fret about stuff like this beforehand, anticipating the worst, so once we pulled out onto the highway, Nell just looked over at me and said, “See?  That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I had failed to notice that KOA’s online reservation pages ask if you’re towing a vehicle.  Fortunately, when we rolled in on Wednesday afternoon, the owners were very nice people who just changed us from a back-in to a pull thru site   We had only booked one night here, but decided to try to crash for a few days.  They could accomodate us through Friday night, but were booked solid for the weekend, so we spent a couple of days sitting.  I managed to get two small paintings done while we were there.  They can be seen on the art blog here.

This was the driveway going down from our campsite to the entrance to the RV park. The winding road back to the highway lies beyond this.

We had learned from online RV forums that we wanted to avoid the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Repeated warnings about bad road, lots of construction and hefty tolls for a motorhome towing a car sent us south to I-68.

We spent the first half of the day Thursday online, charting a revised itinerary and making reservations to cover us for the next few weeks.  We reserved a site at Friendhip Village in Bedford, PA, but they didn’t have a spot available until Sunday.  Since we were unable to find anything for Saturday night, we decided to try the Walmart thing.  A phone call told us that the Walmart in Morgantown, PA allowed overnight RV parking.  So we pulled out of Washington and headed south on I-79.

West Virginia

The drive from Washington, PA to Morgantown, WV was only about 45 minutes, so along the way, we decided it was silly to go such a short distance and then sit all day at a Walmart.  We activated our No Internet While Driving Backup System: Nell called one of the kids, in this case, our youngest son, and asked him to find us a Walmart in Cumberland, Maryland.

The entire drive took less than three hours, but it seemed much longer.  The highway was excellent, and traffic wasn’t heavy at all, but this was my first time to drive the motorhome in mountains.


Driving an 8 ton motorhome towing a Jeep through mountains was a new exerience for this old Texas boy who’s used to flat land and straight highways.  This was obviously good training for going to Colorado someday.  As I recall, the highest point that was marked was 7800 feet.  The motorhome, fully loaded, and hauling a 2/3 full tank of fresh water (we were prepared to dry camp at Walmart), valiantly climbed some really long uphill stretches.  At times, the V-10 engine kicked into lower gears and hit over 4000 rpm, mainly because I failed to anticipate the next hill and didn’t get my speed up coming out of the bottom of the last hill.  This stretch of I-68 has an additional right lane on uphill climbs for truckers and other slow movers, and we made good use of it every time.

I also discovered that there is big difference between a 5% downhill grade and a 6% downhill grade.  At 6%, I found myself working to hold the speed down more in order to feel like I had good control.  Exerience will smooth that out, I’m sure.   It was not only a good driving experience, but also showed us what the motorhome is capable of.

We rolled into Cumberland, Maryland in early afternoon, and found the Walmart.  Learning to live in a motorhome is one thing.  Learning to travel in one is another.  We learned another valuable lesson here.  First, especially when towing, make doubly sure that you don’t go down a parking aisle that has a deadend.  Of course, there was no way to anticipate that the Lawn & Garden Dept. would close off part of the parking lot to set up outdoor furniture, but there it was, blocking the way after we were already committed.  Fortunately, there was room for us to pull to one side and park.  We had to wait until almost 9pm for enough parking spaces to open up and allow us to relocate to a spot where we could get out the next morning.

Another motorhome pulled into the lot, and we both got out and said hello.  It was a friendly family that had been out for a week and were headed back home.  He very graciously showed me a program on his laptop that shows every Walmart, Pilot, Cracker Barrel, rest area, etc. throughout the country.  We gotta get one of those.  Also a 12 volt converter that will allow us to plug in the laptop while on the move.

Our first Walmart overnight experience wasn’t a good one.  I had parked us on an incline, and not wanting to put down the levelling jacks, our heads were downhill when we went to bed.  We turned around and slept with our pillows at the foot of the bed.  This was also a 24 hour Super Center at a mall, and there was traffic most of the night.  Cumbeland seems to have an abundance of motorcycles and loud mufflers.  The weather was cool enough that we didn’t need to run the generator for air conditioning, nor did we need to leave any windows open.  Tired from the drive through the mountains, I slept okay.  Nell, not so much.

On Sunday morning, we walked over to the McDonald’s in the mall and had breakfast, then got on the road to Bedford, Pennsylvania.

An hour later, we were checking in at Friendship Village Campground at Bedford, and learning a very valuable lesson about online reservations.  It seems these places release only a percentage of their sites for online reservations.  The very nice young ladies in the office said they wished we had called, because they did have sites available.  The RV education is ongoing.

And so, here we are.  After several travelling days with absolutely beautiful weather, it’s a dreary, rainy Monday morning in Bedford, PA.  The area around us was loaded with trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes when we pulled in yesterday morning.  But the travelers and weekenders left yesterday and this morning, and while it’s definitely not deserted, it’s pretty quiet.  In fact, it’s almost noon, and we’re still in our pajamas.

*     *     *

Coming up….

A blacksmith, the American Civil War, and Flight 93

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