I picked The Winster up from Ed’s friend Bill who has kindly offered part of his driveway to store it until end of June. I emptied the Subaru into the central aisle, (if you don’t want it to fall, put it on the floor, was my reasoning) I didn’t have time to fool around, putting things away, so I just stuffed everything—boxes, shopping bags, plastic tubs—into the aisle. I pushed everything together tightly, so it wouldn’t slide around in transit.
On the highway, she handles really well, gets up to speed quickly--perfect. I am a bit intimidated by the size, and where we fit in the fluid world of autos moving in all directions, parking lots, etc. A work friend found 4 orange safety cones for me to practice with in an empty parking lot. First, you tap the cones with the corners of the rig, and maybe even knock them over, then you practice NOT hitting the cones. Someone moves them closer and closer, until you can “thread the needle.” I need to know exactly where I fit in the world now. It's what we did 40 years ago in the big-school-bus driver training classes. I will practice until I am sure, and comfortable about turning and parking. There is a lot of rig in the back, past the rear wheels, plus a rack for two bikes, so it pivots in ways I am unsure about. Practice, practice, and all will be well.
When I left the rig at my brother’s mechanic to have her New York State inspection. the mechanic, Derek, advised Ed to drop a steel tape from the roof, to be really sure about the height of the rig. He suggested that I write that height on an index card and tape it to the dashboard, so there will never be any question about it. Lots of people tear the air conditioning unit off the roof while spontaneously pulling into a drive-through, or a gas station, momentarily forgetting that they are 11.0 feet tall. So, I was hyper aware of the height of the rig as I began my two-hour Spring Break journey from Wallkill, NY to Old Bethpage, on Long Island.
I didn’t write out or print a turn-by-turn instruction sheet, because I am a New York driver, who has been on these roads for over forty years. But, I wanted to top off the LP gas tank. So, while sitting in my brother’s wifi, I researched a place that did it. Just thirty minutes from his home, and not too far out of my way. I plugged the address, including the zip code into WAZE on my phone. We affectionately call her “Way-zee.” But it seems that b**ch was having some kind of a bad day. First, she sent me down The Albany Post Road, despite a bridge closure. Signs told me, “BRIDGE CLOSED LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY.” Thanks Waze. Good thing this isn’t one of those new-fangled driverless trucks they invented.
OK, my first RV U-turn. A three pointer, actually, and nicely done, too, as I didn’t fall into any of the ditches, or trim any tree branches. Okay so, WAZE found me an alternate route just a little farther out of my way. It looked good to me, until I arrived. “ROUGH ROAD ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Oh great. I remembered another time, while driving my Subaru, that I had my brain in neutral, and was letting Waze tell me where and when to turn. She thought she was so funny— unnecessarily sent me up this road in the other direction. It’s a mostly unpaved farm road, but the day was slipping through my fingers in ways I hadn’t anticipated, so I drove on. Five miles an hour, dodging giant potholes, but no biggie, we made it through. And I got this photo-op out of it.
I continued on to the location where the LP fill-up place was supposed to be, and it’s regular a gas station. No U-Haul dealer anywhere in sight. I Googled it, and I was at the correct location. Cue the crickets. I need to get a move-on to be at my campsite before 5:PM when the rangers leave for the day. I have systems I want to check out and set up before dark. And I realize I have no idea where I am.
At this point I should mention, that for the last 3 weeks at work, I have been putting the school yearbook to bed, a process that involves a hundred hours of photo editing, copy-editing and proofreading text—squinting and straining to see fine details on the computer screen. I have difficulty reading fine print sometimes, and too much computer time makes that worse. Right now, it’s about as bad as it gets. I pulled out my paper map, but couldn’t read it. Squinting at it did no good. It looked like squiggles upon lines. I couldn’t locate my position, and I didn’t have a magnifying glass handy. I went back up to the driver’s seat to ponder.
Waze happily directed me to the Palisades. I know I can’t take that route with the rig. I asked her for other routes, and each one involved a road or roads I can not use. I was so fed up, I stop talking to her, and there is so much frustration in the cab, I had to roll the window down a bit to let the anger out. I drove into numerous gas stations, but the kids who work the register are barely even old enough to drive! No help there. OK. I know that If I just keep heading West on Route 9W, I will eventually find either the NY State Thruway (87), or I-84, or Route 17 in New Jersey. The stupidity of my situation is only magnified by the fact that I am trying to get out east to Long Island by heading west, into New Jersey.
Route 9W is one lane in each direction that travels up and down over the mountains. Good driving practice I guess, with some great scenery thrown in. The trip I have been planning is just this: a meandering mosey around the country. Not an 80 MPH trip on the thruways. I pass through the aptly named Highland N.Y. I’m looking at the ski slopes of Hunter Mountain, past the Croton Power plant, and finally Bear Mountain. And I do eventually find the Thruway. I didn’t get out to kiss the ground because it was raining.
I’m fine on the Thruway, until it dumps me onto the Saw Mill Parkway. I think I am not supposed to take parkways. I watch for a minute and see trucks going on, so I follow the big boys. All fine and good until I have a choice to go to White Plains or take the Sprain Brook Parkway. Thought I wasn’t supposed to…oh to hell with it. I drive on. I had put Waze back on to get my ETA to the campground and I see many messages from drivers out ahead of me, saying to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway at all costs, due to a multi-car pile-up. “Complete standstill, haven’t moved in an hour.” So I rethink the route I had in my head, and swing back towards the Sheridan Expressway and the Triboro Bridge. I know I can hop off onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, to the Long Island Expressway, (the world’s longest parking lot). The LIE has two things going for it: it’s heading East and trucks are allowed.
As I came off the Triboro, there was a sign that said, “Truckers, if you are less than 12’5” in height, you may use the Grand Central Parkway.” Alrighty-then. Don’t have to tell me twice. Traffic is fine and good, overpasses are guaranteed to be high enough. Great, until I get near the LIE and it’s at a standstill. This is a Friday night rush hour during Passover, and a school-holiday getaway drive time in NYC. I opt to stay on the GCP which turns into The Northern State Parkway. I wonder if that sign about 12’5” truckers still applies? Arched overpasses begin to appear. The first ones either aren’t marked at all, or are higher than 11’ so I’m ok. Then, I see one that was marked 10’8”—I slowed down, put on my flashers and rolled up to it with my shoulders near my ears. Center lane looked high enough, so I crawled under it, and out the other side. Whew! I drove on, pass a few more that weren’t marked. Then I saw one that was marked 10’5’—same deal, flashers on, slow way down so the cars behind me don’t pile up, and I look—it looked high enough in the center. I try it, and get through ok.
“The Limbo Rock” started running through my brain, "How low can you Go?" I decided that these markings must be about the far right and left sides of the arches. But at the same time, I remembered the story about the developer, Robert Moses, and how he intentionally built Long Island roads so there wouldn’t be high enough clearance for busses to be bringing poor people out of the city and onto Long Island Beaches. Was that just the Southern State, or also the Northern State Parkway? I drove on, and didn’t see any warning signs about over-height vehicles. I stayed in the center lane, and all was good until I came up to one overpass that was marked 8’5”. OMG! Flashers on, slowed to a crawl, and stopped. I opened the door a little and stuck my head out, but it looked ok. So I crawled under. By this time, my nerves were shot. The Limbo wasn’t funny anymore, just an anxiety-driven ear-worm. I exited the parkway and crawled along local streets to the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, which took me up to Sweet Hollow Road, and the Battle Row Campground.
I learned a lot from this trip. No, there isn’t a setting to change on Waze or my Garmin GPS to tell them I’m a truck, not a car. Truckers use other apps or buy GPS with Truck/RV friendly settings. I do need printed or written turn-by-turn instructions to avoid tearing my AC unit off the roof of the rig, so yes, I am going to need a portable printer. And, yes, I need a dang magnifier so I can read a standard paper map! I also need to do everything I can to avoid being that jerk in the Winnebago that all those drivers were hating on, and justifiably so! I was lucky this time. The people driving around me were lucky. I was absolutely a hazard on the road during this trip. If I were in a car behind a rig behaving this way, I’d have been pretty upset.
I pulled into the campground about 7 o’clock. It was coming on dark and the fog was rolling in. I pushed the shoreline into the socket. Turned the fridge on and unloaded my cooler bag into it. Cleared an aisle to the head. Ate a peanut butter/jelly sandwich and crawled into bed. After a while The Limbo stopped playing, the white lines stopped flashing in my eyes, and I stopped feeling like the world’s biggest idiot. I slept.