One of the hardest puzzles to solve when planning this whole trip was how to handle the periodic maintenance on the kid’s braces. My oft-reused joke has been that orthodontists don’t have a Midas network where you can pull off the road and get a quick tune-up. The only real solution was a trip back home to Michigan from wherever we were at this point of the trip.
As it turned out Miranda was also complaining about a rushing sound in her ears so we wanted to get her in for a Doctor’s visit. We also took advantage of the familiar and scheduled haircuts, a mail pickup, and a meeting with a trip sponsor.
Now the question - how to get home? From our then-current spot of Richmond, VA the trip would be approximately 1400 miles. Our truck gets 7-9 MPG when towing the trailer, and 10-12 when not. That put fuel costs alone at over $400 going that route (not to mention putting many miles on new tires and wear and tear on other components). We decided instead to rent a more fuel-efficient car for the trip home and back.
This, however, brought up a new puzzle: What to do with the truck and trailer while we were gone? Initially I had found a somewhat-local Jeeper from the awesome EarlyCJ5.com community willing to let us park our rig on his property south of Richmond. However we had also wanted to get a slide-topper installed on the trailer (a slide topper is a permanently-attached awning that goes over the slide-out roof, keeping rain off the flat surface and also preventing leaves, pine needles etc from collecting on it). We also had a broken step and a toilet that still wasn’t fully flushing.
So about 2 weeks before this trip I found an RV repair business on the north side of Richmond and called to arrange the slide topper installation and repair of other issues. They were willing to also store our truck for the few days we’d be gone, so this arrangement seemed to work out well without incurring any storage fees on our end.
MsBoyink found a car rental agency just a mile up the road from the RV repair center and booked a “full-size” car for the trip - hoping that by having a larger car we could get by without a hotel stay on either leg of the dash home.
This all sounds great, right?
The first puzzle came when confirming the schedule with the RV business and the owner said he would not be open on the Saturday of our return (to be fair, his hours didn’t mention regular Saturday hours). This particular Saturday was the opening day of hunting season. No worries - they’d complete the work, we’d pay by credit card over the phone, and they’d leave the truck and trailer ready to go upon our return. OK.
The second puzzle was the rental car. Turns out these days a “full-size” car is a Chevy Impala. After having owned a ‘96 Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon for several years claiming these little front-wheel drive cars are “full-size” is a tough pill to swallow. The other option was a Ford Fuzion which looked maybe a bit bigger but had the smell of cigarettes inside which MsBoyink can’t tolerate. The Impala was OK but the headrest positioning and angle didn’t fit MsBoyink well, and I found the pedals to be in an awkward position as well as the usual limited knee-room for people of my 6’3” height. I also assumed it would have satellite radio (every rental I’ve had for the last 2 years has) so didn’t grab the cable necessary to play my iPhone through the stereo - a mistake which had us trying to find suitable music on commercial FM radio for hours on end.
We got on the road at around 10:30AM on Tuesday. On the upside - the car got ~ 30 MPG on the highway and seemed to run forever on a tank of gas when compared to the truck. We made pretty good time going up to MI, taking the quickest route suggested by the GPS which had us on toll roads through MD, PA, OH, and IN. We rolled into the in-laws place in Kalamazoo, MI at around 11:30 PM Tuesday night.
Wednesday and Thursday we took care of our tasks. Fears of Miranda having hearing issues were somewhat lessened after her diagnosis of double ear infections, one at a 9/10 and one at a 6/10. She has had these for a while so this explains her difficulty in hearing us talk while in the truck. Orthodontist checkups went smoothly - and we were charmed at the office staff’s interest in our trip. We talked at length while the kids were in the chair. I got a haircut and shopped for some better shoes.
Now - this whole trip was initially going to be somewhat secretive. We just wanted to duck home, get our tasks done, and duck back out without a whole lot of fuss and bother. At some point the word got out to family and church friends and an offer for “let me make you supper” turned into an email announcement turned into plans for a church-family potluck on one of our nights home. It’s a terrible thing to be so loved..;) We had a couple hours catching up with our church family (MsBoyink got her baby fix in).
We left Kalamazoo on Friday morning at around 7:00. Our return trip took a bit longer as we were more road-weary. We lingered over lunch and took some longer breaks. The size and discomfort of the car was starting to aggravate us worse at this point so spending more time out of it was helping us tolerate it.
The puzzle we had to solve going back was what to do once we arrived at the trailer. We knew after another 13 hours in the car we wouldn’t want to jump in the truck and drive more. One thought was to try another night boondocking - but the overnight temps were looking to be in the low 30’s which makes that tough (I still need to replace/upgrade the trailer battery so it would last running the furnace overnight).
As it turned out we just spent the night in the RV repair business lot. There was a power outlet close to where the trailer was sitting so I hooked up to it. This allowed us to run the electric heater overnight and at least get the inside of the trailer up to 60 degrees. Everyone just went to bed in their clothes - exhausted from the 15 hour trip home. In the morning I got up early, moved all of our stuff from the rental car to the trailer, and MsBoyink organized inside. I ran to McDonald’s and bought everyone breakfast, and after eating and a few more preparations we returned the rental and got on the road towards the Virginia Beach area. The drive was only ~ 2 hours and the forecast by the ocean looked great with days in the mid 60’s and overnight temps in the upper 40’s.
It was a trip. It was good to be home and see friends and family. It was odd to not even drive past our house while in town. It was good to get a diagnosis for Miranda that should help her hearing (and hopefully her speech clarity). It was a long ride. The oddest part to me is that home was at either end of the drive. The northern end was home because of people, but not because of a place. The southern end was home because of a place (even though it’s on wheels), but not really people.
Now - another 6 weeks or so until it’s the holidays and more talk of another road trip home. Honestly - at this point I’m not looking forward to it. But others in the family are more sentimental about the holidays than I am…;)