Recently, I spent time driving 2,500 miles from Washington to Texas. That’s a lot of miles. In fact, in the five months since I left Alaska, I have logged 11,000 miles. That may seem fairly average. But consider this: When I arrived in Washington, I filled up my gas tank and didn’t fill it up again until I left two months later. When I stopped in Northern California for three weeks, I barely turned the van on. And then there was the two weeks in Tennessee while I was getting to know the trailer. Another week in Wyoming visiting family.
Do the math. The bulk of those 11,000 miles were packed into just a few weeks.
And here’s the thing. I hated it. And here’s the other thing. I kept doing it.
But in my defense, at least some of those miles were by necessity. The first 3,000 from Alaska to Wyoming was because my sister was driving with me. She had a job and a life to get back to. The next 1,300 got me to Tennessee to pick up my trailer. Since I was staying at motels until I had my trailer, I was financially inspired to get there in as few days as possible.
Then, the beginning of trailer life was hard and emotional. At first. It turned out to be something I was utterly unprepared for. (Next month I plan to write a post about the emotional side of those first 72 hours). I made the decision to dump all the meticulous plans I’d spent months preparing to go to Walla Walla to be around people I knew. That meant the 1,300 miles back to Wyoming (to show off the trailer) and another 1,000 miles to Walla Walla.
I left Walla Walla, drove 16 hours in one day to arrive in Auburn California. That drive was so harrowing (sleet, icy mountain roads, twisty mountain roads, fog, snow, dark) I was shaking when I reached my destination. And it took more than a week before I stopped telling myself I wasn’t driving anywhere again. Ever.
Finally I drove the last 1,400 miles to Texas.
What I Know
I hate driving. There, I said it.
Actually, I said it before. As I planned the transition to RV life, I knew this was going to be one of my challenges. I’ve never liked driving.
Because I have to drive, I end up with rational that goes something like this: The next stop is 26 hours away and since I hate driving, let me get those 26 hours behind me as quickly as possible.
With that kind of logic, I end up driving in the dark. I end up driving when the weather makes doing so downright scary. At the end of many long hours not only am I sore from sitting, my stomach aches from tension, my hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel, my neck and shoulders are stiff from leaning forward as if that makes me see the road better.
It’s terrible. And it is stupid. And, mostly, it’s unnecessary.
What I Learned…Finally
- The 3-3-3 rule is a good one. It goes: never drive more than 3 hours per day. Arrive before 3 o’clock so you aren’t getting situated in the dark. Stay for 3 days.
- For every four hours on Mapquest or Google maps, I need to add one hour. If I do that, I might be in the vicinity of knowing how long it will actually take. The extra hour allows for gas stops, human and puppy bathroom breaks. But mostly it allows for the fact that driving an RV is simply slower than a car.
I told myself when I started RVing that I would follow Lesson #1. It was always the plan. And then I just wouldn’t. After arriving in Walla Walla, I swore I had learned my lesson.
When I arrived in Auburn, I was so rattled I swore that time I really learned the lesson.
Implementing the Lessons, Driving 2,500 Miles
If for no other reason than to have something to compare it to, I committed to taking five days for the Auburn, California to Fredericksburg, Texas drive.
I successfully spread the drive over five days.
I was less than successful in that the days weren’t very even so two of the five, I arrived at my stopping place after dark.
But those other three days…I can’t even begin to express how different I felt arriving in daylight. The Super Bowl Sunday stop, I overnighted in the Walmart parking lot at Fort Stockton, Texas. It was my first Walmart stay so I had been nervous. But by arriving at daylight, I talked to other RVers and found the best place for pup to walk around. I got a feel for the surroundings and didn’t see any shady people lurking. So, I wasn’t scared at all when night fell. I wasn’t even scared when I took the dog out in the middle of the night.
Plus, I wasn’t brain and body fried from hours upon hours behind the wheel. The experience showed me that driving doesn’t have to be pure torture.
I wasn’t even close to the 3-3-3 rule. But still it was a completely different experience. And maybe the 3-3-3 rule isn’t realistic when one is trying to get to a certain destination. Maybe it is the rule when one is simply tootling about on the road.
Than Again, Maybe Not
I’m so happy I finally experienced a few easy travel days. I can’t go so far as to call it a joy, but I can say I am not filled with the dread of driving days as I once was.
I tell you all of that and yet, here I am, almost at the end of my time in Fredericksburg, Texas. My next stop is, in all likelihood, back to the Oliver Trailer factory to have some warranty issues addressed. This wasn’t the plan.
I’d planned to arrive there in September but because of the weather-related issues (including mold), the check valve on my city connection water tank cracked and needs replaced. It’s an important little piece and it’s a pain not having it working because I can’t keep the water hook up turned on. That’s why I’m leaning toward doing it sooner than later.
Hohenwald is 884 miles away and guess what I’m thinking?
Only 884 miles? Of course, I can make that in two days. Then my check valve will be fixed on day three. Then after that, I can implement the 3-3-3 rule. This time for real. Pinky promise.
And so, my vicious cycle continues. Maybe I should’ve title this post Things I Wished I Learned Driving 2,500 Miles from Washington to Texas.
Allow me a self-indulgent moment here. I have to say, I feel like a total smarty-pants for being able to say “the check valve on my city connection water tank” and actually know what it is. Am I starting to sound like an RVer? I may still have to ask for help with backing up and I may have to ask for help in hooking up the van to the trailer. But who cares? I know what a check valve is.