Friday, January 3, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014 - and The Beginning of 2014 Road Trek #1

First and most important, HAPPY 2014 and my best wishes for a very happy, healthy and abundant year. I had hoped to get this article up earlier, but as you'll read it's been a hectic time ending the old year and beginning the new one.

Next, I want to wish one of my very few longest-term friends a life of joy, happiness, adventure and love as he was just remarried on New Years Eve. Below is a photo of my Syracuse University graduate school buddy, Dudley Carpenter, and his new wife, (and one of my newest friends), Mary "Muffet" Gray-Carpenter.

Dudley and I grew up in New Jersey about five miles from each other but didn't cross paths and become lifetime friends until we both ventured off to the freezing north country known as Syracuse, New York where we both were graduate students at the Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University to earn Master's Degrees in Television-Radio. That was slightly more than 46 years ago. Our friendship has withstood the test of time and our adventures over those years could fill a book. Dudley's first wife of 42 years, I believe, passed away about 2 1/2 years ago after battling a progressive case of M.S. for somewhere between 25 and 30 years. The three of us met at Syracuse U. I was in their wedding party and they were in my wedding party to my former wife and my son's mother, Cynthia, who is still my friend and who I care about, though we've been apart for about 24 years or so and we live a continent apart.

Muffet also attended Syracuse University, except she graduated from the Syracuse U School of Nursing the spring before Dudley and I arrived for the fall semester. But, Muffet and Dudley attended Montclair (New Jersey) High School together and were high school sweethearts. So, after 40+ years they reunited as friends through Facebook. I got to know Muffet, first through this blog that she was following and through emails we exchanged. I even met Muffet in person before Dudley and she reunited face to face. When I was traveling through Indiana a couple years ago on a business trip to Chicago.

So, it's almost a storybook tale with the happy, sad and tragic moments of a best selling novel. I, of course, was overjoyed at being invited to this very special event and wouldn't have missed it for the world. I'm actually writing this article to post from Dudley and Muffet's dining room table while they are gone for the day on some personal business. I'll likely leave tomorrow, Saturday, on the next leg of this trek. My McVansion is parked in the driveway next to the garage with a shore power line connecting to their house power in the garage.

2014 Road Trek #1

So, what better way or reason to launch my first Road Trek of 2014 with My McVansion. Of course, I actually left on this trip after dark on Monday, January 30, 2013, so it's kind of the wrap up of 2013 and the launch of 2014.

Here are some photos of My McVansion at Dudley and Muffet's home in the mountains of North Carolina along with a shot of their house and the views.

Dudley & Muffet Carpenter's House on the mountain near Sparta, North Carolina. My McVansion is parked to the left of the garage.

My McVansion parked by by the garage with the shore power line coming out the side window and into the garage.

A view from the front of Dudley and Muffet's house standing next to My McVansion.

The view from the back deck of Dudley & Muffet's house (the same view from the living room).

Day (actually Night) #1 of This Trek
My McVansion was almost ready to travel . . . but not quite. There were a few more things I wanted to have completed for this trip before I aimed south toward North Carolina. Unfortunately, a small, but important shipment from Amazon (with some things I am building into the van didn't arrive until Monday instead of Saturday when I was expecting the package. Then I ran out of time to actually get those things integrated into the van. So, I have them with me and actually installed one of them on Tuesday morning before the second leg of the trip to Sparta, North Carolina.
Time was getting shorter and shorter, so I finally grabbed pretty much everything I felt I needed with me for at least a month on the road and threw it in My McVansion without organizing and storing it where it belonged. I hit the road about 8:30 PM Monday evening leaving from base camp in Keyser, West Virginia to my first stopover at the Walmart Inn (Bring Your Own Accommodations) in Staunton (pronounced Stanton), Virginia arriving at 11:15 PM. I went in and asked permission to park overnight (a courtesy that I observe) and after gaining permission, I checked to see if they had a few things I was looking for (they didn't) and then parked My McVansion where I was instructed to, got everything set up for the night and went to bed about 12:30 AM. The first leg of this trek covered 135 miles, mostly through the dark, two lane roads of West Virginia and Virginia.

Day #2 Of This Trek

It was a pretty darn cold night. I would say it was probably in the 20's, however, I used the van engine and heater to keep the van warm until I was ready to climb into my bunk for some sleep. I was warm and comfortable all night in the sleeping bag and extra blanket and rested well. It was daylight when I woke up and the first thing I did was gingerly go up to the cockpit and start the engine to get some heat in the van. I went back to the bunk and crawled into my warm cocoon. Until it was warm enough to get up, dressed and get the day started.

I decided a Subway (located in the Walmart) Breakfast Combo was in order and so I walked over from the far part of the parking lot where a couple other RV's and a VW van were parked and enjoyed a nice warm breakfast (only $3.00 plus a few cents of tax). Back to the van where I did a bit of organizing and mounted a four outlet, 12 volt dc unit in the cockpit to handle all the electronics I could ever want to run at one time either directly off 12 volts DC or 5 volts of USB power.

I departed the Staunton, Virginia Walmart at 11:45AM and headed south, again. This time I used the interstate (I-81 to I-77) since I was heading to a specific destination with a time limit. I had one stop planned along the way to fill up the gas tank. There is an exit just before leaving I-81 and going south on I-77 where I usually find the lowest price gas in Virginia (at least in my experience). So, that was my first targeted destination.

Serendipities come along from time to time and just before I reached Roanoke, Virginia, I remembered there was a large intersection there with a number of gas stations, travel/truck centers and other traveler services. They very often have excellent gas prices there, too. I watched for the signs and, viola, there was a sign for gas at $2.96.9. I made a command decision. It wasn't likely to be any less expensive (I could have checked my Gas Buddy app, at the I-81/I-77 location. But, I didn't have time to check Gas Buddy. I had to make a decision. So, I exited and chose the station across from the one with the $2.96.9 price and for one that was easier to get into and out of and the price was $2.97.9. For one penny, it wasn't worth the hassle of going to the gas station across the highway. The 35-gallon tank only required 25 gallons to fill it to the top. I stopped at 12:30 PM and was back on the road at 12:42 PM with plenty of gas.

I followed the directions on my GPS and it took me off I-77 at the exit for Galax, Virginia, a small, rural Virginia town that host the international Old Fiddlers' Convention has been held there every year since 1935 attracting fiddlers, banjo players, mandolin players and other musicians from around the world to an event attended by several thousand people. I always enjoy driving through this pretty little town. This route is actually the shortest to my destination at my long time friend, Dudley Carpenter's house just four minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Sparta, North Carolina.

Finally, at 3:08 PM on January 31, New Year's Eve and a distance of 332.5 miles from base camp in Keyser, West Virginia, I arrived at the first destination of this 2014 inaugural Road Trek. I pulled into Dudley's driveway and saw where he had saved a place for My McVansion to park. He came out as soon as I pulled in and asked for "his" end of the shore power cord. In moments, My McVansion was powered, the refrigerator was humming and the small electric space heater was operating. This would be home for the next few days.

Days #3, 4 & 5

After the combined wedding ceremony and New Year's Eve party, I finally made it back out to My McVansion at about 1:30 or 2:00 AM on New Year's Day, Day #3. It was getting colder, but I was warm and toasty in My McVansion and my warm bunk. Day #3, New Year's Day was a relaxed and generally lazy day. Some gift exchanges with Muffet's and Dudley's offspring, some food and in general and quiet day to start of 2014.

Day #4, Thursday, there was some cleaning up to do and some other chores to be done. Both Muffet's and Dudley's adult children had significant distances to travel back to Indiana (Muffet's family) and Brooklyn, New York (Dudley's daughter and new son-in-law). However, due to a very powerful snowstorm cutting through the mid-west and heading toward New York State, New York City and New England, Muffet's family decided the better part of valor was to remain in Sparta one more day instead of leaving 9 AM Thursday morning, hoping to avoid driving right into the, reportedly, dangerous storm.

After some chores, dropping off trash and recyclables, a pile of food given as gifts for the local food bank and a pleasant stop at the Backwoods Bean Coffee House, no longer owned or operated by my favorite Chai Tea Latte maker, Selma (unfortunately) for a warm up. We headed back to the house for some homemade Lasagna prepared by Muffet's daughter. The evening was relaxed, at least for Dudley and me, who chatted, as we always do, about all kinds of topics, until about 12:30 AM. Then we retired.

But, as we had heard, a front causing major wind event and extreme drop in temperatures was already settling in. The wind was really howling and it had become bitterly cold. So, this was a real test for my McVansion. I hit the van at 12:30 AM and it was COLD. The wind was already a continual roar up here at about 3,100 feet on top of the mountain. I'm guessing that the sustained winds were probably in the range of between 40 and 50 mph with very frequent gusts probably ranging from 60 to 70 mph. My McVansion literally rocked and rolled in the wind like a small boat in a very choppy ocean. The temperature got down to about 7 degrees Fahrenheit. The little heater that could worked very hard all night just to keep the temperature inside the van in the 40 degree or so range. But, again, once in the sleeping bag, now with a fleece blanket, an Irish wool blanket and a Velux thermal blanket over the bag and the bag over my head, I was warm. It was just a bit disconcerting rocking and rolling all night and having that constant roar, like being next to a railroad track with a never ending high-speed freight train passing by right next to you.

I have to say, My McVansion passed the test. BUT, I'm modifying my plans for this Road Trek and heading south as soon as I visit some friends and drop off a piece of equipment in the Raleigh, Greensboro area over the weekend. I'll visit the others I had been planning to visit on my way back north. The extended weather forecast for the entire region I had planned to spend time visiting is COLD, as in bitter cold - and I'm not into pressing my luck. My intent is to find sun and warmth and it doesn't look like that's in the Carolinas or Georgia, at least not now.

Day #5, it's Friday and Kelly and Matt went back to Brooklyn yesterday. Muffet's kids, Kim, Brandon and Maggie, left for Indiana just before 9:00 AM this morning. Dudley and Muffet left just after that for Winston-Salem for some personal business and won't be back until probably after 6:00 PM. So, that leaves me here at the house by myself. I took care of a few things I wanted to do. It's still too cold to work in My McVansion on reorganizing, but thankfully the wind subsided quite a while ago. I'm writing this article to post on the blog as my first entry for the new year and a journal of this Road Trek and as soon as I post it, I'm going to disconnect the power to My McVansion and drive down to the small (very small) town of Sparta and take care of a couple things. I should be back here by the time Dudley and Muffet return and we will head out for dinner at a place we all enjoy going to.

Again, best wishes for a happy, healthy and abundant 2014 and may all your trips and travels be safe and exciting.  

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