We had some possible work in the Raleigh area show up on our radar, and since the Onwired folks, Ryan Irelan (of both EEInsider and Mijingo), part of the Viget folks, and Dean Peters of HealYourChurchWebsite are all in the area we aimed that way after leaving the Outer Banks area on 11/23.
The North Carolina state parks were all closed for the season, so we settled in at a private park about 20 miles SW of the Raleigh area. The park was little more than an ex-farm-field turned into a gravel RV parking lot, but with full hookups, wifi, and on-site laundry for $12.50 a night (yay Passport America!) it served us well for our visit to the area.
Our time in the Raleigh area was a bit different from much of our trip in that we did little sightseeing. It was more about meeting people we’ve known for years online and fixing some issues we were having with our on-the-road setup. Some highlights from the visit:
We joined up with Dean Peters and family for a Thanksgiving service at their home church of Resurrection Lutheran in Cary, NC (note that Dean has yet to “heal” anything on the church website..). The service was very traditional, and we took the Lords Supper kneeling around an altar, with real wine being poured by the Minister dressed in full robes. This was a new experience for all of us (and whether Miranda was almost served real wine instead of grape juice is still a matter of great debate). Afterwards we joined the Peters at their home for pie, coffee, and several hours of fun conversation while Data and Miranda played with the Peter’s daughter. We had such a good time we returned another night for a cookout and more kid time and adult conversation.
We also conned the OnWired folks into hosting an ExpressionEngine meetup with OnWired generously providing beer and pizza to fuel the EE conversation. We had a great time connecting with some of the local tech scene and talking EE and Technomadism.
As it turned out Mr. Irelan and wife welcomed their first child into the world during this time, so we were unable to meet them but wish them all the best in their new adventure.
We haven’t been to a real movie theater as a family much over the years - it’s just too expensive. However after a day of errand running and faced with another quiet night in the trailer we sought out a movie theater. Our surprise upon rolling into the Carmike Blue Ridge 14 Cinema is that all shows are $1.50. Elated at a $6 family movie night we saw Despicable Me that night and returned the following night for Toy Story 3.
The truck got a tire rotation and a headlight alignment, but the bigger project was bikes. We wanted to take all 4 bikes on this trip - to potentially save gas running errands, give the kids something to do in campgrounds, and (hopefully) start some family rides.
Our trailer came with a receiver hitch mounted on the rear bumper and we owned a hitch-mount bike rack so it seemed like the perfect setup. We added a heavy duty cover and hit the road that way.
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What I hadn’t really thought about or expected was the amount of bouncing the bikes would get on the back of the trailer. And just how bad some roads would be (Pennsylvania - man!). In Erie, PA I found the rack hanging at an angle, with the hitch bolt loose. I tightened things up and added a ratchet strap from the bumper to the rack top to take up some of slack. That lasted a week or so before the ratchet strap broke. The next idea was eyehooks on the rack and trailer bumpers with 5/16” steel cable and chain tighteners running between the eyehooks. I also double-lock-nutted the bolt on the hitch. It felt solid - but the first trip found the cables hanging loose. There was enough bounce that the hooks on the chain tighteners came loose. I replaced the hooks with threaded “D” rings so there was no way for them to come loose. Coming into Raleigh I found a cable dragging with the end broken. One of the 12,000 LB eyehooks I had used on the bike rack had broken, in addition to some of the rubber straps used to secure the bikes to the carrier.
Frustrated, I went into research mode and found many stories of similar issues with bikes on the back of travel trailers. There is so much bounce there that trailer manufactures sometimes void frame warranties for bumper mounted stuff, and the bike rack manufacturers state “not for use on travel trailers” in their legalese. It was clear we needed a different solution. I wanted all 4 bikes in the same spot, and didn’t want to look at them hanging off the front of the truck, so the only option was a roof rack. I had priced these out in the past and knew they weren’t cheap, but I saw no real alternative.
So - I called a Raleigh-based Yakima dealer and ordered the entire setup for four bikes. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, they are high up when on the truck. But once the bikes are mounted they feel solid and, using a team approach (one person on the ground, one in the truck bed, and one standing on the front edge of the truck bed) they aren’t horrible to get up there. The biggest disappointment is that they won’t be covered so we’ll be dealing with rust issues from rain. I do have to say the roof rack really adds more of an “adventure” feel to the truck…;)
Oh - we also had to buy new winter coats all around. Temperatures in the area were maxxing out in the 50’s and dipping into the 20’s overnight and we just weren’t prepared for temperatures that low. The kids needed new winter coats anyway, so off to Lands End we went (we wanted their warranty based on our expected heavier usage).
We spent another library day at the Cary library. I joked we could have called this trip the “Tailgating at America’s Libraries” tour as we once again heated up soup over a campstove on the truck tailgate for lunch.
We also spent a day a the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. We initially were drawn to the “Animal grossology” exhibit they are showing. While the museum itself is free this exhibit has an admission cost which we paid with great expectation. What we found is that the exhibit is a curious mix of displays that are visually designed to appeal to kids younger than ours while also containing large blocks of text that even the older kids had trouble finding the attention span for. The exhibit held our attention for about 40 minutes then we were done. The rest of the museum was more our speed - but the kids really found their home in the museum’s hands-on room that contained thousands of different insect, rock, shell, animal and plant specimens. It was here that we finally identified some of the shells we had found in Virginia Beach.
Not much sightseeing means not many photos, but here are a few to cover our time in Raleigh.