Posts for September, 2012


A day of History (Hatfield, Pennsylvania)

Journal entry for Saturday 1st Sep, 2012 (day 58, miles 8959)

How do you visit and see the downtown area of a big city like Philadelphia when you travel around in a big yellow truck. This is a question that has occupied our minds a lot as we have thought about how we will travel in Europe. The answer we have arrived at is to park/camp outside the city and become foot (or more accurately public transport) tourists for the day. Today was our first opportunity to put this plan into practice. So just after 8:00am this morning we drove the beast from the campground to the local train station and boarded one of the SEPTA trains for a 50 minute journey into the center of Philly. That was easy and the day continued in that vein.

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A wet day in camp (Hatfield, Pennsylvania)

Journal entry for Sunday 2nd Sep, 2012 (day 60, miles 8959)

The latest hurricane got us today with heavy rain off and one all day. Between (and some times during) the heavy showers I spent some time crawling around and under the engine of the truck tracing wires.

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Perplexed by the Amish (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)

Journal entry for Monday 3rd Sep, 2012 (day 61, miles 9055)

Today we visited the towns of Intercourse, Paradise and Bird-In-Hand Pennsylvania to take a closer look (and learn a little) about the Amish people (no, I don't know the origin of those names but thankfully I did manage to resist making school-boy jokes about them). But to be honest we became more perplexed the more we heard about the Amish way of life. For example we saw many horse carriages with steel tired wheels running down the highway and were told that the Amish are not allowed to use motor vehicles or vehicles with rubber wheels. But when we visited an Amish farm we saw modern tractors, modern fork lifts and a variety of rubber tired trailers and trollies.

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Exhaust repair (Cherry Hill Park, Maryland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 4th Sep, 2012 (day 62, miles 9163)

A truck repair and travel day. We got going early and arrived at the Lancaster Freightliner dealer at 7:30. Our trucks exhaust system has sprung a small leak where the pipe exits from the muffler. Rather than just repair this leak we decided to have the exhaust system modified so that it empties under the truck chassis rather than onto the side of the camper. Hopefully this will avoid those big black marks you may have seen on the passenger's side of the camper. This task took some time so we spent the morning in the drivers lounge chatting with truckies and just twiddling our thumbs. We were done by 13:00 and thereafter joined the rushing freeway traffic bypassing Baltamore on our way to Cherry Hill Park Campground in Maryland, our base for a visit to Washington DC.

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A day in DC (Cherry Hill Park, Maryland)

Journal entry for Wednesday 5th Sep, 2012 (day 63, miles 9163)

Today could have been called "hopping on and off a bus day " - because that's what we did for the day. An early start (6:55am) from Cherry Hill on a shuttle bus got us to Union Station before 8:00, thereafter the day was spent on (or waiting for) one of those open-topped double decker tour buses, or in a museum or later in the day standing in front of the Whitehouse. Since this is not our first visit to DC we missed some of the big name draws like the Air and Space Museum. We spent a good deal of time at the Ford Theater Museum (which had a very good display on Lincoln's presidency) and across the road at Peterson's House (where Lincoln died) redecorated in period furnishings. The American History Museum was a bit of a disappointment. Good displays on the transportation and the presidents and their first ladies but also some rambling displays that were hard to see the point of.

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The next phase of the journey (Coopers Rock, West Virginia)

Journal entry for Thursday 6th Sep, 2012 (day 64, miles 9369)

It is interesting how a journey like this develops phases; periods with a definite focus. Today marked the start of (or transition to) what we both think of as the vehicle phase; a period where our focus will be on the truck. A week from now we will be in Nixa, MO (for about 10 days) for some upgrades and repairs to the camper and two weeks after that we will be in Colorado for a week of work (both maintenance and upgrades) on the truck. So as we drove out of the DC/Baltimore area this morning on those frantic freeways our eyes were turning west and we were thinking about how to pace ourselves for the 1000 mile leg to Nixa.

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Country Roads, take me ... (Grayson, Kentucky)

Journal entry for Friday 7th Sep, 2012 (day 65, miles 9617)

John Denver's song Country Roads kept rolling through my head today as we drove I-79 and then I-64 through West Virginia (though you would hardly call these highways "country roads"). Perfect warm fall weather and beautiful rolling hills with mixed forests as far as the eye can see - I could feel why someone would want to sing about this country.

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Resting; the Nada Tunnel (Lexington, Kentucky)

Journal entry for Saturday 8th Sep, 2012 (day 66, miles 9734)

This morning we were a bit disenchanted with truck stops. We were surrounded by refrigeration units last night and to say it was noisy would be an understatement. A poor nights sleep plus heavy rain put a hold on our plans to venture south of I-64 for some sightseeing in the Red River Gorge area (part of the Daniel Boone National Forest) and we spent much of the morning in a quiet rest area west of Grayson recuperating.

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Just traveling (Mt Vernon, Illinois)

Journal entry for Sunday 9th Sep, 2012 (day 67, miles 10010)

This morning it was clear that we are now in get there mode. Hence today we simply traveled down I-64 at a leisurely pace but without any effort at sightseeing or exploring off the highway. Our talk was about cleaning the vehicle and other preparation for the GXV visit.

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Getting ship shape (Eureka, Missouri)

Journal entry for Monday 10th Sep, 2012 (day 68, miles 10132)

From last nights rest area it was a short day into St Louis and a KOA camp ground. We spent the afternoon sorting through and tidying drawers and other storage areas.

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BassPro, fix-ups, upgrades and hospitality (Nixa, Missouri)

Journal entry for Wednesday 19th Sep, 2012 (day 77, miles 10132)

As per our arrangement with GXV we arrived in Nixa, MO on Wed 12th for what was planned as a week of fixes, and upgrades to the camper. But before making it to the GXV factory we paid the mandatory visit to the Springfield BassPro shop. This is the original and first BassPro store and boy is it impressive. To give a sense of its popularity, the town of Springfield and surrounds has a population of about 400,000 people yet this BassPro store gets approximately 4,000,000 visitors per year. We have been to this store on previous visits but it was only on this occasion that I noticed the ceiling of the store - it has been decorated to portray the underside of the surface of a lake. So as one sits in the cafe looking up one gets a good view of the underside of some ducks, among other things.

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A new map (Rest Area I-44, Missouri)

Journal entry for Thursday 20th Sep, 2012 (day 78, miles 10473)

You might have noticed, in previous photos of the truck, the world map on the right hand side of the camper box. We had this put on during the construction so that we could discuss with people where we were from, going etc. At the time we chose to have the map land masses "cut out" so that the camper yellow showed through and also to color the land masses a muted grey. As a result some of the smaller land masses got deleted (for example NewFoundland and PEI) and country boundaries were hard to see. Nina was unhappy with this so a new map was called for, and today it was installed. As you will see in future photos of the truck the new map is a traditional rectangular multi-colored map of the world.

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Lovely lake (Elk City SP, Kansas)

Journal entry for Friday 21st Sep, 2012 (day 79, miles 10603)

Our appointment in Colorado has been put back a day allowing us to have a lazy day. We pulled into Elk City State Park early and spent a pleasant afternoon beside the lake in summer like temperatures. Nina busied herself putting route lines on the new map while I continued the study of my new electrical device (FLEXnet) and tried to work out how our sophisticated charging equipment works.

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Visitors, the plains (Cheney SP, Kansas)

Journal entry for Saturday 22nd Sep, 2012 (day 80, miles 10757)

This morning we had a rush of visitors curios about the truck. We noticed last night that a number of our fellow campers were looking at us and our yellow truck and were a little surprised that none approached us. But by this morning curiosity had overcome any reluctance and we had more than 20 people drop by over a period of an hour. It is a while since we had such a large group in one place asking us questions. As always the visitors are curious, but polite, and as always we tell our story, show the vehicle and also seek to be polite and friendly. The way we see it; if we did not want visitors we should have chosen a different truck and different color.

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Fixes and upgrades at GXV

Posted Saturday 22nd Sep, 2012

As promised in our Journal entry for 19th Sept 2012 (click this to see the entry) here is some detail of the actual fixes/upgrades accomplished at the GXV factory.

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Metal art, Milo(?) crops, and a little bit of 4x4 (Hamilton County SP, Kansas)

Journal entry for Sunday 23rd Sep, 2012 (day 82, miles 11000)

We are beginning to feel the effects of the time of year. The sun seemed late to rise this morning and the morning air was fresh (could not call it cool/cold yet). We were on the road by 7:30am continuing west through more pretty Kansas country side; though now the land is flat and a little drier than previous days. At Mullinville, KS we passed a fence decorated with metal "art" - it seems to represent the property owners impressions of various people. Throughout the day we passed lots of fields with a low crop with brown tops (photos 4 and 5). A lady at the Wichita Visitors Center suggested it was milo, but I guess we were not convinced, so a bit of internet research revealed that the crop is sorghum and is nicknamed milo.

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Santa Fe Trail, Old Bent Fort (La Junta, Colorado)

Journal entry for Monday 24th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

We saw off the last of Kansas this morning and entered flat dry farming land of drought plagued eastern Colorado. Signs along the road reminded us that we were, and had been since St Louis, pretty much tracing the route of the original Santa Fe Trail the southern most route by which settlers traveled into the West. This trail brought many settlers to what is today New Mexico and was then Mexican territory and eventually precipitated the Mexican-American war. In the hey day of the trail one of the few outposts of supply and security was Bent Fort, a fortified adobe trading post built by the Bent brothers and a son of a French nobleman a few miles from todays town of La Junta. The fort burned down in 1849 but was rebuilt in the mid 1970's as a historic monument and filled with historic artifacts and is today staffed by Park Rangers and volunteers in period costumes. We spent a pleasant, though hot, few hours there enthralled by the fort structure and the old tools and other implements. An interesting point of trivia was a discussion with one of the staff about the word Arkansas, which of course we all now know to pronounce as Ar-kan-saw. However it seems (or at least we were told) that when the state of Arkansas joined the Union its two Senators differed on their pronunciation of the word. One used the now accepted pronunciation of Ar-kan-saw while the other called his state Ar-kan-sas. Soon after statehood was granted the state legislature adopted the >Ar-kan-saw pronunciation as the officially correct form. Just to confuse us foreigners apparently many people from Kansas still call it Ar-kan-sas.

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Rob P's shop, Hanagan's Farm and Koshare (La Junta, Colorado)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Sep, 2012 (day 86, miles 11119)

Our four days in La Junta were like many travel experiences; one arrives in a place with some plans but really little, if any, conception of how events will actually unfold. Our La Junta visit was that type of experience in spades.

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U500 work program

Posted Friday 28th Sep, 2012

A brief run down on the work carried out during our visit with Rob Pickering in La Junta, CO during the week of Sept 24th 2012.

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The Rockies (The Crags CG, Colorado)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Sep, 2012 (day 87, miles 11311)

The early morning fog had burned off by the time we merged onto I-25 heading north to Colorado Springs. It felt strange to be back in the hustle and bustle of an interstate after so many days on the more relaxed secondary roads of Kansas and Colorado. After shopping and other chores we did a quick tour through the Garden of the Gods Park then joined highway 24 heading into the mountains looking for a place to pull over for the night. However improvised camping spots proved hard to find and before long we found ourselves at the town of Divide at 9000ft. Camping at 9000ft was certainly not part of our plan but there seemed to be no alternative. The nearby state park campground was full so we eventually turned onto a narrow gravel road towards a forest service campground called The Crags at 9600ft.

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Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Sep, 2012 (day 88, miles 11392)

After a lazy start to the day we alighted from our snug camper to a sunny but cool morning (the truck computer told us it was close to freezing overnight) and spent an hour or so strolling up the road to a trail head, then along part of the trail reaching well over 10,000 ft before returning to the truck to get underway. We were both more than a little surprised how well we were reacting to the altitude. On previous occasions a sudden climb to this kind of level has had the usual side effects of head aches and shortness of breath. The truck was reluctant to start and even with the aid of the new air-intake heater coughed, spluttered and belched smoke for a few minutes before finally settling down.

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