Moving Southbound

Finally on the road. Snow storm ahead of me, but by the time we meet the temperatures will be warm enough to only deliver rain. I expect that meeting will occur tomorrow morning as I am ready to leave for day two. Watching the weather closely to see if I need to make Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia as my first overnight due to the changing rain/snow line. Once past that, I can slow down and take my time.

My ‘no plan’ travel plans are simple. I have favorited truck stops, rest areas, 24hr restaurants, Walmarts, apartment complexes, hospital parking, and on street overnight parking areas in google maps over the years. Most are within 30 to 60 minutes of each other. I am always within a short drive of someplace safe to catch up on sleep. While I have no set plans, I’m not exactly leaving everything to fate.

I cut and pasted a few favorites into a crib sheet I can reference while en-route. When I start feeling like I’ve driven my share for the day, I check the list for the closest stop and head for it. All the stops have restaurants, groceries, and fuel nearby, as well as alternate places to park if the primary is unavailable. Makes travel pretty easy. On every trip using that route, I update the list and make changes for future trips.

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Quick Update, and Planning Southern Trip

Sadly, the van has been put away for the next month or so. It will see sunshine, warmer temps, and ocean breezes further down south but not until the New England weather is in full swing. For the next few weeks it will be spending it’s time in the city, in the cold, buried in snow and waiting. Forecast shows temps below 0F in the coming weeks. Yikes!

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We live in a rural area with some steep hills, and without 4 wheel drive the van would be locked in for the winter once it snows. So we stored it at a friends house in the city with easy access to the highways. A quick getaway assured between snow storms.

Prior to storing it, I did a full winterization, clean up, and prep for the trip south. My first few days of the trip will be boondocking while it’s still winterized.  This presents some challenges but most are easily dealt with. Water will be restricted, but all other systems such as heat, stove, refrigerator, propane, and generator will be operational.

Boondocking without running water isn’t hard but does take a different mindset. Conservation and waste/water disposal are the two key issues. Anything put down the drains will freeze and could crack pipes and cause leaks. Disposing of used water anywhere but the internal drains is important.

I’ll use store bought water for cooking and drinking, and paper plates and cups to avoid the need to wash dishes.  The bathroom is the real issue, specifically showers and toilet use. I can use public restrooms, so the toilet probably won’t be needed save the early morning wake up when I just don’t feel like getting out in public. And in those cases I will just flush with RV anti-freeze. Otherwise, I’m usually traveling and within easy reach of a public restroom.

I can wash up and shampoo my hair from a basin in the sink thus skipping a full shower. It’s only for the two days it will take to go from New England and enter into the southern region. If I really need a shower during that time, a Planet Fitness gym comes in real handy, where I can get in some exercise and a shower at the same time.

Once out of the New England cold and into warmer temps, I can revert to normal water use for the rest of the trip. I’ll winterize again as I approach the cold weather on the return trip.

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The L-39 is back together and tested. It only needs new landing gear cylinders to be ready for my trip. I plan on doing a lot of flying and taking advantage of the warm weather and sunshine.

In preparation for the trip I’m also preparing the RC airplanes. Routine maintenance, preparation for a maiden flight, turbine run ups, and a new engine for the Yak.  I completely gutted the L-39, took everything out, closely inspected all equipment, and put it back together and tested all systems. Once I replace the landing gear, she is good to go.

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Kingtech K85G1 turbine on the Navy Cat sport jet.

I basically did the same for the new acquisition, a Falcon 120 sport jet with a Kingtech 85 turbine. It’s a great every day ‘go to jet‘ for general flying.

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Last snow before moving the van to the city resting spot.

As much as I enjoy winter in New England, I am looking forward to putting the snow in my rear view mirror for a spell, but I want to make sure I get back in time to catch the tail end. I love winter the best the first few weeks of snowfall, and the last few weeks before spring arrives. But I could easily pass on February and early March.

Radio Control Jet Rally

Weather was looking rather dull early in the week, but improved as the event drew near. I was still carrying waste in the tanks from the Nova Scotia trip, so I decided to arrive early and stay at a nearby campground. This allowed me to dump the tanks in the morning, starting the event with a ‘clean slate’ so to speak. Being the sole person at the campfire that evening was nice as it allowed me to reflect on the last few months. But it was also way too quiet. I do like my quiet time, but I am a social person and missed the interaction. But that would be corrected over the next 4 days.

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Plum Island had various signs and plaques in the spectator areas so the public could understand what the event was all about. The airport is right on a main road, and the event so prominent to traffic that we had a steady stream of spectators all day.

After dumping the tanks in the morning, I stopped at McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. McDonalds coffee never fails to disappoint. They are consistent, I’ll give them that. I arrived at the event about 20 minutes later, where I immediately started a pot of coffee on arrival.

The nights were cool, and days comfortable. Lots of non-stop action with jets constantly in the air. While it was a small event compared to many, the number of flights each day remained high. Something the spectators appeared to appreciate.

The Roadtrek is still delivering great service with only routine maintenance. Very cozy micro studio apartment on the road for events like these. But I was without propane due to a need to replace one of the LP hoses for a suspected leak. So I emptied the LP tank and shut off the propane. I used my trusty Honda EU2000i generator which ran no-stop for 4 days to run the refrigerator. I can’t say enough good things about the Honda EU series of generators. Never a hiccup, they just run, and run, and run, all while only sipping gas.

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While the L-39 didn’t fly, it didn’t sit idle. I performed some maintenance, updates, and spent time tracking a pneumatic leak on the retracts.

Unfortunately, the L-39 didn’t make it in the air due to a number of reasons. But RC pilots  are a close knit community of people that share the same passion, and I was offered the use of others airplanes so that I could still fly. It’s this kind of spirit that makes this a great hobby. I met new people, made new friends, still got in some stick time, and overall had a great time.

A few people from my local club came to check out the event on Saturday. My daughter also came to visit and Friday and Saturday, as did a close friend. I had to keep getting more and more guest passes that they were all kiddingly known as ‘Steves entourage’. Not a way to keep a low profile 🙂  It was beautiful weather for the event, and they got to see a number of jets flying all day long.

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Assembling an aircraft for flight. Generally the wings are removable to allow for transportation, and sometimes the stabilizers and rudders are also removable.

Evenings were spent similar to other events, around a campfire, talking airplanes, telling jokes, and making connections. The event ended with a Saturday night pot luck dinner, with about 25-30 people staying for the campfire.

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Mario spent some time around the campfire with us. I think he was brought by Larry Roper.
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Grants ‘hotel’ for the night. Other then the coyote story he has to tell, it was a pleasant night for tenting. Cool nights and gorgeous sunrises.

Winter is approaching, my flying season is nearing its end, and already I can’t stop thinking about next season. It’s going to be a long winter. Only a few more events this year and the season winds down. So I’ll just have to build a new airplane to keep me busy and involved int the hobby.

Here are some other images from the event;

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I believe this is a BVM Bandit, although not positive. It flew very well.
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This is Jeff Lynds gorgeous ‎CT-114 Tutor in the Canadian Snow Birds colors. It flew beautifully and very scale.
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The nose hatch opened to expose the various operating systems. Fill connectors for fuel, smoke, and air fill valves for the pneumatic gear and brakes, electronic connectors and switches for the turbine EDT, batteries, receivers, and data access.
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Glen fired up his turbine one night just to see the flames. You don’t see the flame during the day, but very obvious at night. Note the red hot color of the stainless steel nozzle.
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Airplanes are tucked away at night in a locked full scale hangar. Always nice to see all the RC airplanes in one place, as well as the full scale airplanes we share space with.
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I didn’t miss an opportunity to take a few interesting shots of my own airplane. I just love the lines on the L-39.
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Morning sunrise, coffee, then off to the hanger to retrieve the airplane.
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We were greeted with great sunrises and sunsets most days. Weather turned out great for the entire event.
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Aircraft lined up for a impromptu photo shoot arranged by the Darin. The L-39 is my favorite full scale airplane, so of course I took the photo from this end of the line 🙂
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Another awesome morning sunrise. This was the morning after the coyote incident 🙂
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Larry Roper giving a RC Turbine Jet 101 class to some of the spectators. This happens to be some of the ‘entourage’, a friend and pilot from my local club along with his family.
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Larry Roper from Boomerang Jets answering some questions for the spectators.
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Jeff Lynds spending time with some spectators and guests explaining the aircraft operations.
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Spectator viewing area. Most events have the spectator area well back from the flight light. Due to the layout of Plum Island airport, the spectator area is right on the flight line and just off the road. This gives the spectators a perfect view of the flight line and operations. basically the same view the pilots get from their own canopies and pit area.
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View of the flight line just in front of the spectator area.
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Mario must have had too much to drink, and spent the night by the fire. Although, he doesn’t look too hung over in this image taken first thing the next morning 🙂
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This is what I like about waking up at first light. This was taken from the chair in my pit area while having coffee and watching the sun rise. I could have slept in another hour, but I would have missed many scenes like this.

 

I almost died at Meat Cove

After exploring the Bay of Fundy, our next destination was Meat Cove. We heard of an interesting campground that sits on the top of a bluff overlooking the ocean and cove below. You are literally camping on the edge of the cliff. Sounded intriguing, so off we went.

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Meat Cove campground sitting on the hillside overlooking the cove.

It was an 8 hour drive, so we decided to split it across two days. The first was a lazy crawl to Linwood Nova Scotia with sightseeing along the way. We did enough sightseeing that we left at 11am, and arrived at Linwood 9 hours later. Most of the morning was nice, but toward late afternoon it started to rain once again.

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We found a small hidden turnout off the road and along the cliff overlooking the ocean. A perfect stop for lunch. There were many seals playing in the surf which made for a fun spectacle. If we were in a larger motorhome, as in the past, we would’ve had to pass by this great spot. I love the trade off on size versus convenience of the Class B RVs over larger versions.

The rain was on and off, but the issue was the wind that came with it.
30mph sustained with frequent gusts made for some white knuckle driving. We arrived fairly late at the campground, around 8pm, but the owners kept the office open for us. Very accommodating owners, greatly appreciated, thank you.

I loved the wind whistling through the windows during the night. With 25-30mph winds, there was plenty of it. But then again, I am one of those nutcases that you will find wandering around photographing during a hurricane. Stormy weather always fascinates me, and I try to experience it, albeit safely. Other than the heavy rocking of the RV that sometimes woke me up, I slept very well, helped by a full day or driving to tire me out.

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Another class B RV was here when we arrived. I noticed far more class Bs, and a distinct shortage of class As, while in Canada. The opposite of what I see in the US. Canada knows how to travel light 🙂

Linwood Campground was on a hill overlooking the harbor. A small campground, but clean and friendly. We didn’t see much of it, due to arriving late and then leaving first thing in the morning. Rather than have breakfast at camp, we like to find a nice place along the road with a great scenic view. We have the capability to do so in the Roadtrek, and it was one of the draws to a smaller RV versus something larger. So we take advantage of it whenever possible.

Oh yea, back to the topic, Meat Cove.

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One of the campsites at Meat Cove Campground is on the other side of this rock. A picnic table barely pokes out from behind the rocks. I wouldn’t want to have to walk to the bathrooms from this site at night. There may be a liability waiver that needs to be signed to camp on it.

The final portion of the drive to meat cove was adventurous. The road turned to a mix of dirt, gravel, and occasional paved sections. The paved sections were on the steeper sections to allow for better road conditions during the winter months. A few sections were literally driving along a very steep and long drop off. Important to keep your tires on the road and pay attention! Pot holes were everywhere.  Due to the rain and wind, everything was muddy.  It really felt more like off-road back country driving.

Wait, that is pretty much what we are doing!

Meat cove is in the middle of no where. My wife said it very well, “We are driving to the edge of the earth, and the top of the world”. Somewhat of an exaggeration, but the furthest tip of Nova Scotia high on a cliff sounds close enough.  I wouldn’t venture to Meat Cove in a anything larger than a Class B. While you could make it on the road to the campground, once you are there it’s really only big enough for cars, vans, and tents, and maybe a small class C up by the parking lot.

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Campfire overlook the cove. Wonderful sunrises and sunsets each day. Wind was constant being on the ocean and up high.

Now the ‘How I almost lost my life at Meat Cove’ story. Click bait? Not really, but maybe a little. Remember the rain and mud along the drive? The howling wind and rain the day before? Keep that thought.

After finally arriving and pulling into the campground, we needed to find a spot and park. We were directed to a great spot right on the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean. The attendant dropped the rope separating the camp area from the road. A nice grassy knoll with small tiered campsites. I put the van in drive and slowly crept forward toward the edge. Once the rear wheels left the dirt road, I might as well have been on a sheet of glass covered with olive oil. The rubber tires had no grip on the wet grass. I knew immediately what the problem was. While the rain stopped an hour or so ago, everything was still wet and slippery.

I skidded for nearly 20′ and stopped 10′ from the edge seeing nothing by ocean below me through the front windshield. I can’t tell you what it did to my heart rate, but my doctor would most likely tell me I just passed the cardio stress test. Luckily, my wife was outside the van and had no clue what just happened. Only later when she saw the skid marks coming back from the restaurant did she panic. And yes, the campground at “the edge of the earth, top of the world, in the middle of nowhere” had a restaurant. And surprisingly an very good one.

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Definitely got my heart pumping. After it finally stopped, I slowly rolled into the position where it now sits. Wet grass and tires from the rain caught me by surprise. The hill wasn’t that steep.

Nearly on the very edge, I had two choices. Either abandon the idea and let it sit, or continue on. I’m adventurous, so you know what I did. But I am also cautious. I sat for a minute to evaluate my predicament, then unbuckled my seat belt, cracked open the drivers door, and proceeded very slowly to the left and got the van sideways to the to drop off. Any hint of sliding and I was bailing out.

Luckily, it slowly rolled into place without further incident. I was level and safe. Emergency brake, wheel chocks, and the van isn’t moving until we got a couple days of sun to dry out the grass. And we did, several days of sunshine and great sunrises and sunsets from our perch. The weather was perfect for the rest of our stay there.

This part of the trip was worth every penny, inconvenience, hours on the road, and accelerated heartbeats. No obstructions between us, the ocean and cove below, and Newfoundland in the distance. You couldn’t walk around the campfire pit since the back side is on the edge of the drop off. Needless to say, midnight walks after an evening of adult beverages are not recommended.

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Some of the campground sites behind us, and the cottages in the background.

A very unique campground in a very unique location. Spectacular views, no services per se, yet a restaurant that had the feel of any decent restaurant in town. Water is available at a single tap for the whole campground. No electric, no dump station, no other services. They did have showers which was nice, although they are in a building mimicking a 1950’s back country hunting shack. Pretty rough, but the water was warm!

Most class As or Cs are likely to bottom out coming off the road and into most of the campsites, so not recommended. It literally is a campground built on a sloping hill on the cliffs to the ocean. Which makes it unique and precarious, but great nonetheless.

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1500 miles ago, the van was clean and shinny. The rain washed off most of the mud and dirt, but the trip from Massachusetts to the tip of Nova Scotia still shows. The bugs on the front of the van may never come off.

The sunsets and views were so spectacular, we extended our stay for an additional day. Then another. Considered it yet again, but did have other interests we wanted to pursue. Next year, we will book a week and just stay.

Just you, the ocean, and spectacular views. Roughing it done right. A unique place worth the travel time to get there.

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So peaceful. This was a common activity.
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Another great morning sunrise to start the day.
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This never gets old.

Bay of Fundy

Arrived in Alma New Brunswick, Bay of Fundy National Park, and stayed at Chignecto Campground. It was our base camp for the next few days of exploring.

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For the most part, we were greeted with great sunrises and sunsets throughout the trip.

During the days we explored around Alma, Bay of Fundy, and Cape Enrage. The evenings usually ended with a sunset, a Manhattans and Lindt chocolate around the campfire, and an episode of a new series we started to watch called “The Americans”. Basically Russian spies posing as an american couple living among us and carrying out KGB operations. Done well, and interesting.

One morning I drove to the Bay of Fundy overlook at 5:30am for a sunrise, as the weather forecast was heavy morning fog. I had hoped to catch the fog lying below the overlook as the sun rose in the distant. I was disappointed as there wasn’t a spec of fog anywhere. Just a mediocre sunrise that morning.

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View from dinette in the van with the doors open. Had breakfast here while planning our destinations for the day.

So we headed off to sight-see and found a nice spot overlooking a marsh area to have breakfast. Then headed to Cape Enrage where there were some very nice scenic spots to hang out, hike, and enjoy the day.

At one point we were driving slowly on a hillside road that dropped off to the ocean below enjoying the scenic vista. A bald eagle flew nearby and was nearly pacing us hovering in the wind about 50’ outside my drivers window. The sensation was as if I was flying beside him. I reached for my video camera just as he started a slight left turn away from us, and then descended to the cove below. An opportunity for an outstanding image vanished.

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Lunch stop along the way. New Brunswick.

Later in the day we found another scenic spot to stop and have lunch. We lingered there for a while just enjoying the view, warm temperatures, and cool breeze.

We traveled along a nice scenic drive, captured a few good photos, and walked along the bay as the tide was out. I met a woman, Liz, who had been traveling for the last three weeks in the areas we were heading to. She gave me some great tips on out of the way places. She also reaffirmed that heading up to Meat Cove was worth the effort. That was our next destination.

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Restaurant view during dinner in Alma harbor during low tide.

Here are some images from the areas explorations.

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Alma Harbor, low tide. Looking down on the boat from the dock 15′ above.
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Low tide, Alma Harbor
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Leaving Cape Enrage. Stopped to check the map for another destination.
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Another roadside breakfast.
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5:00 am rise, only for a mediocre sunrise and no fog 😦
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Fundy National Park welcome center at sunrise

Nova Scotia-Camping on the Border

Heading to Canada, Nova Scotia to be exact, rain was a constant during the drive. Seems to be a constant theme in all my travels this season. I’m always driving through rain storms, and high winds. Makes a long drive seem much longer, more tiring after such long periods of intense concentration trying to peer through the rain drops looking for hidden dangers down the road.

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Walmart, Calias ME. Our first stop on the way to Nova Scotia.

After 5 hours of driving, we arrived in Calias ME. Our goal was to spend the night on the US side, and cross the border in the morning. That would give us a fresh start for the next 5-6 hours to the Bay of Fundy the next day. Basically, breaking a 12 hour drive in half over two days.

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We parked in the far corner next to a stand of trees.

It made no sense to go through the call, make reservation, check-in, plug-in, sleep, unplug, and check-out process of a campground. So we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. Pulled in, turned off the ignition, and went to sleep. In the morning, made coffee, bought supplies, then turned on the ignition and left. Simple, easy, fast.

I always appreciate Walmarts policy to allow travelers to overnight in their parking lot. Walmart is not a store I frequent when not traveling, but to return the favor, I leave the area I parked in cleaner than when I arrived and I stock up on supplies while there. Seems only fair. I do the same for truck stops and other over night parking areas.

 

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With the side doors open, looking in the dense trees, you would be hard pressed to know we were in a Walmart parking lot.

It was a quiet night, peaceful, no road or traffic noise. Other than the sound of rain drops on the roof, it was uneventful. The night was cool and we had a nice cool breeze flowing through the camper all night with the overhead fan on and windows open. Perfect sleeping weather.

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The morning started in what would become another constant theme during the trip. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets!

In the morning after packing our supplies, we jumped into the front seats and headed to the border. Still raining, we drove the 10 minutes to the border crossing. Not much traffic, but a short line of about 8 or 9 cars in front of us.

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At the border station, we were asked to pull over and wait. When a border agent appeared wearing latex gloves, I was unsure if I was at the doctors office or a police station. Either way, I knew it wasn’t good. She had me open everything up on the camper and asked me to step aside. 30 minutes later, we were on our way.

They have a job to do, and I understand that, so I wasn’t upset. That is until I turned a corner and a cabinet she forget to close spilled it’s contents all over the back of the camper.

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We finally made it in. What have they done! What have they unleashed on their citizens!

It did take an hour or so of driving and adjusting things to get rid of all the rattles. When packed properly, nothing rattles or squeaks inside while driving. After the search, I had to spend time to figure out what she touched and then repack it to eliminate the rattles. Coffee cups banging together, pots and pans rattling, cans rolling in the cabinets, DVD’s sliding around. She touched everything! After an hour or so, we had everything quiet again.

 

 

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 4

Return Trip, Warbirds over Westover.

The return trip started off normally, then took a turn for the worse. On the trip down to South Carolina, I noticed a noise from the Roadtrek that I attributed to something in the suspension, frame, or front end.  I stopped at a mechanic in Pennsylvania, but everything looked safe and secure, so I continued on to Triple Tree. During that leg of the trip, it eventually stopped altogether.

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WWI and WWII both represented in this image

Shortly after leaving Triple Tree on the return trip however, the noise returned. As the miles ticked on, it got worse, went away, and then returned. I couldn’t correlate it to anything specific, such as suspension sway, bumps, steering position, and it was not reproducible. It would just come and go as it seemed fit.

Feeling uneasy again, I decided to cut this leg short and stop at a local campground while I sort this out. I was in the Natural Bridge area in VA, strangely enough, the same exact area I stopped early in May (Joe Nall) when drenched in a torrential rain storm and had to pull over. Jinxed? 10 hrs to Westport will be a long drive the next day.

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A small sampling of the aircraft at the event. This was the left half of the runway, and the right side was nearly a duplicate.

My decision was to stay for the night, then in the morning do another inspection under the chassis and see if I can’t find something. If nothing was found, and the noise persisted as I departed, I’d seek out a mechanic and motel room, and not leave until it was resolved.

The morning inspection, an hour of poking and prodding, I found nothing. I departed and listened. Quiet as a mouse. I kept driving willing to invoke plan B if it returned. I was not going to spend 9 hours driving with the anxiety that the font end is about to fall off. But it was silent all morning, and all afternoon.

Then around 8pm, about 45 minutes from Westport, after all the mechanics have closed up shop and went home, it was dark and I was in the middle of nowhere, it resurfaced. Argh! Occasional thumps, but building. I decided to continue on to Wesport unless it got really bad. Luckily it didn’t and I made it safe and sound around 9pm.

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Evening around the campfire is always a great time after a day of flying

I arrived late and tired, I usually plan for no more than 6 hours driving in a day. This was nearly 10 hours including a stop of two to check the van. It was a very peaceful night, windows open, nice breeze, night lows in the mid 50’s. Perfect sleeping weather.

With this problem looming in the back of my mine, I focused on the event. It was well attended by pilots from Canada, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New York, and growing each year. Beautiful field, unlimited overfly area, great view of the Adirondacks as the flying backdrop. I love flying at this site. I try to never miss an event held here.

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And lets not forget the master fire making skills of Kenny

I’ll attempt the trip home, all back roads, low speeds, and see what develops. Then its off to the mechanic and won’t be picked up until the problem is resolved.