Well, I threatened to do it and now it is done.
In May I finally said goodbye to friends in Orlando, loaded my shuttle-van from stem to stern, top to bottom, and headed up my favorite Ocean route for the North Country. It was an unremarkable trip until I reached the last rest area on the Garden State Parkway. Returning to the van from the facilities I noticed that the right front tire was low. Mainly, it was flat on the bottom! I called my tow service, and within a half hour the wrecker arrived. The driver announced that to get the spare tire to descend from under the vehicle he needed access to the rear double doors to reach the pulley mechanism (News to me!) The only problem was that I have a cargo carrier mounted in the trailer hitch, and it was packed with a huge container carrying all my kitchen gear and microwave oven. Lashed atop were two ladders. It all had to come down into the parking lot!
Tire changed, I crossed into New York on the Tappan Zee Bridge on onto rough roadways with potholes like foxholes. Not the best feelings of confidence with a new and untested spare tire. All went well, however, and in Cromwell, Connecticut I stopped for what was left of the night in a Super 8 hotel. In the morning I turned onto I 91 and cranked it up to sixty. Almost immediately I heard and felt a huge clanking from the self-same right frontwheel.
I limped off the expressway onto US 5 and proceeded very slowly, attempting to keep the horrendous noises to a minimum, and through the light Sunday traffic of church-goers until I reached E.Springfield, Massachusetts. There I found the Firestone garage that I’d scoped-out on line. They’re open for business on Sunday, and it was determined that I had burned out a wheel bearing.
They got right to the work but couldn’t get a replacement rotor overnight, so I left it and checked into Howard Johnson’s until Monday. Repairs complete ($600. later) I resumed my journey and arrived at my daughter’s place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
I’m still there, but looking for a place on the Massachusetts North Shore where I can resume my studio painting.
Next week I will be ‘On The Road’ to see my daughter and the rest of my extended family in New England. Andrea lives on the river at Portsmouth,NH. The others are scattered from Long Island Sound at CT’s shore, north through CT to Boston, MA, and onward to some NH sites.
I’m not certain which vehicle to travel in. My big van is comfortable for extended trips (this will comprise about 3500 miles) but loves to visit the gas stations enroute. My Saturn is aged, but running well enough. It shuns gas stations, endearing me to its valiant efforts, but it is not as forgiving of those long 600 mile days on the road to and fro. Decisions decisions.
Either way, I will be driving on the Coastal Highway, US Route 17, for much of the trip. I leave Orlando on US 17 and follow it up the east side of the St.John’s River to Jacksonville ( Int.4 to Int.95 if I’m in a rush), to a gas-up in Kingsland, GA. Next stop is a top-off in Savannah, after-which I take Interstate 95 until US17 leaves the highway for North Charleston, SC. I always fuel-up before leaving South Carolina. Maybe at Myrtle Beach (or Dillon on I95), since the petrol is the least expensive there!
Onward through Wilmington, NC and continuing all the way to Chesapeake, VA. I fill the tank there at Sam’s Club, and head toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel and the VA peninsula. This voyage has been on good four-lane divided highway for the most part. And the route to Wilmington,DE is relatively easy until you join US Rte.13, where the traffic gets thick. I either head for NJ over the Delaware Memorial Bridge (free going north) or into PA and Philadelphia via I495 and I95, continuing to Princeton’s US Rte.1. That’s my choice all the way to my last fuel before New England. Edison,NJ is the best choice for price…I stop at Sam’s Club.
The route in NJ is Int.295 which parallels the NJ Turnpike, without the excessive toll burden. I leave it at Burlington and use 13 till it joins US Rte.1, and on to Edison.
This one will have to wait for my October trip!
So it is just after midnight, and I’m moving east on the Connecticut Turnpike, I95. I’ve been driving since before noon, having left Petersburg, Virginia at late morning. I wanted to get through Richmond after rush hour, past the DC beltway before the afternoon rush (timeless), and out over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for a peaceful drive through the Maryland farm lands. That put me in Newcastle, Delaware at about 6 PM, but as I again headed for I95 near Wilmington, the traffic was not bad. Rush hour was over, around Philadelphia, going north, and the highway was hassle-free.
To digress; as I passed the Chester,PA Harrah’s Casino, I noticed a guy approaching the ramp for the highway on a HOT Kawasaki motorcycle. I was doing about sixty, but soon I spied him in the rearview, screaming up the road. He passed me like Roadrunner passed the Coyote…..Bwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! A minute later he slowed slightly to veer off toward the airport when it happened. Maybe he had won big at Harrah’s, and was tearing up the pavement in sheer exhilaration, but a WAD OF BILLS flew out of his pocket, hit the tarmack, splashed up into his backdraft and fanned out into the landscape. As I went by, a couple of HUNDREDS leapt over the right side of my windshield. I COULDN’T STOP! And the few cars in the lanes behind me hadn’t seen the paper bounty as it scattered toward the guard rails. This guy never realized his loss and I stared as he slowed for a cruiser, then re-accelerated out of my sight as I went up the bridge ramp past Philadelphia International.
Oh,woe..the mis-(missed) fortune!
Anyway, it is after midnight. I picked up the first real truck traffic on the NY Thruway, as it comes south and crosses the Tappan Zee Bridge (FIVE BUCKS TOLL for my little Saturn!), and it increased ex-potentially as I escaped the Bronx and entered New England. From the line, and to West Haven, I was literally surrounded by semi’s, threatening my rear bumper, pulling out and around with a whisker of room between surfaces, slowing and moving in unfathomable right lane convoys, flying past in the passing lane at 20 MPH over the limit. Then construction near New Haven closed all but one lane. The jockeying and intimidation really shook me as I hoped for some recognition in this bunch of BROTHER-TRUCKERS!
I often stay in New Hampshire until the first part of October. There are some real cool nights after Labor Day, but I don’t heat the RV…I prefer for it to be cool for sleeping, anyway. I generally head south to Boston. I pass Manchester on I 293 and join I 93 for the first leg of the journey. I time my departure with a last doctor’s appointment in Beantown, a last dinner with friends and a stop to see relatives before departing the area.
The first choice for a route depends on weather, and can take me down I 95 to Rhode Island, and on to the Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun Casinos. These are good places to spend a free night, and there is great dining as well. Otherwise, I will go west on the Mass.Turnpike, or the slower U.S.20, to Springfield. My sister lives in Suffield, CT, so I pick up I 91 south, and after a visit there, my second choice intervenes. At Hartford one can break for the Hudson River by continuing on I 91 to the Connecticut Turnpike (joining I 95 at New Haven), or go west through Danbury, CT on I 86, to I 686, just inside New York state. You’ve got to get into Jersey somehow (SORRY), and these are my default routes.
Both routes lead to the Tappan Zee Bridge (FREE going west!) and the Garden State Parkway, the best way to circumvent the metropolitan NY-NJ cities, and around to my next choice of stops: the Walmart at N.Brunswick, NJ. Get off the G.S. Parkway at Edison, US 1 south (Gas-up here, cause you won’t find it cheaper). You might go farther on US route 1, to Trenton, re-joining I 95 there. You’ll cross the Delaware River near where the first George W did it, standing- up in a tippy boat. Don’t get out to throw a coin across the river or you’ll never make it to the warmth. (This bridge is FREE) It isn’t far to Philadelphia Park, just off I 95, for my third night, at this stop north of the city. There is track,and a new casino with acres of parking.
My fourth day brings me along the Delaware river past the Philadelphia skyline on I 95, and into Newcastle, Delaware (Don’t head into Wilmington by mistake). Join US 13. Just past the airport ,I turn west (right turn) and head for Delaware Park, still another casino and raceway with free parking.Follow the signs…you will go under I 95, but you’ve avoided another toll!
My personal selection for the succeeding leg of the trip: back to US 13 in Newcastle, and down the state of Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. The Delaware Turnpike is inexpensive, and congestion-free. Jump back onto US 13 just above Dover. You can park at the Dover Downs raceway and casino, or the Walmart/Sam’s Club just north, near where you exit DE route 1 . Just beyond Dover you will find a Walmart Supercenter at Camden. My next stop is in Harrington,though, at the state fair location there. There is a raceway there, and a 24/7 casino. I slow down even more on this route since I like to stop at Salisbury, MD. There is a Walmart Supercenter/Sam’s Club with a gas station there (usually the best gas prices until the Tidewater area), and good outside dining choices, too.I like the Chinatown Buffet. There are also Supercenters at Fruitland ,Farmington,Seaford, and Pokomoke City, MD. I go over and under Chesapeake Bay using the bridge/tunnel complex. and arrive in Virginia Beach.There is a newly renovated rest facility before you pay the toll for the bay crossing where you can overnight if you choose. On the mainland again, you can stay at the Walmart on US 13 ,Veterans Highway in Norfolk, or continue to Battlefield Road in Chesapeake, to the Walmart/Sam’s Club there (w/gas station). Another Walmart Supercenter is found in Chesapeake, off US 13 south, just before Dismal Swamp, and the North Carolina line. We’re headed for the Ocean Highway. You want to go a little farther, you say? Okay, proceed through farming country on the Elizabeth City by-pass, and you’ll come to Route NC344, Halstead RD., and still another Walmart Supercenter with fuel. Then we are headed for Ablemarle Sound. Side trips to the Outer Banks, anyone?
For years I followed the other good possibility from Newcastle, DE. You go south on US 13 to the curving right turn onto US route 50, for a few miles to US 301 South. Bang a left! For decades, until I 95 was completed, US 301 was the alternative to going south via US 1 all the way ( Maine to Key West!) and seemingly through every population center east of Chicago, and it’s still a good way to go. You cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (you gotta pay in this direction) and continue to Waldorf,MD.( I have stayed overnight, without incident, at the K Mart near Kent Island, just before the bridge, or in Waldorf at the shopping plaza behind Wendy’s). 301 is a nice drive. It goes through Annapolis, the Capitol. Don’t bother stopping at the Walmart in Waldorf,as overnights are verboten. ,
You like traffic? You can continue on toward DC and the Beltway on US 50, where you join I 95 south to Fredericksburg, VA. There’s the Central Park shopping area there, where I95 meets VA route 3. You’ll find a Supercenter with good gas prices, and many shops and restaurants. History abounds in this area for Civil War buffs,too. Keep on I 95 to E.Parham Road (VA 73) and the Northgate Shopping Center (Walmart Supercenter, of course) at the US 1 intersection. Or take the I295 by-pass to Petersburg to avoid city traffic. This fast way south is good for making time and distance. At Colonial Heights there is Southpark Shopping Area . Again…all the stores and restaurants and a Walmart and Sam’s Club. Petersburg National Battlefield is close by. Crossing into North Carolina this way,I always head for Dunn, NC. Ernie’s Restaurant is there! It’s a buffet-style presentation of some terrific southern cooking. There is whole -hog pulled pork to die for, greens, corn bread, fabulous spicy sausages, and all the favorites you would expect, including fresh fried chicken with all the fixin’s. You won’t find closer to home cookin’ ! Need RV fuel, too? There is a Walmart gas station at Dunn, just west of town on US421.
If you had stayed on 301, you’ld cross the Rappahanic on the narrow and scary Nice toll bridge, and west into Fredericksburg on Route 3. This area figures prominently in the early life of George W (the smart one). Or keep on truckin’ 301 to Richmond. Either on the by-pass I295 or south on I 95 from the smokin’capitol of the country to Petersburg, and Colonial Heights,and Southpark, where you find those good parking and eating choices. A Sheetz gas station on the other side (east) of Southpark has good prices.
Back to the Ocean Highway from Chesapeake, VA. The little-traveled US 13 beyond Elizabeth City, NC is a fine highway now. It is joined by US 17, and continues to these NC Walmart locations: Williamston, Washington, New Bern, Jacksonville and Wilmington, where you can find gas at the Market Street location. There is also gas at the Sam’s Club on College Ave., a few blocks away.
I am a fan of buffet-style restaurants, mainly because of the variety in choices. I probably dine out more than most, because I am single, and don’t find cooking full meals-for-one an easy thing to do without dealing with tons of left-overs. Good Chinese buffets are my personal favorites, and there are many on this route (Google ’em, they’re easy to find). All the Golden Corral restaurants on the Delaware stretch have closed! But you find them again when you get farther down the peninsula. Sure, you’ll probably eat too much; it can be difficult not to.
I like to stay overnight at the Walmart Supercenter in Leland, NC. It is just over the bridge from Wilmington in a new shopping area. It is quiet and uncongested, and also has fuel. Unless I go on, to stay at Shallotte; this is the last night in NC. The next will be in Myrtle Beach, SC. Stay at the Walmart in North Myrtle Beach, at King Road where there is an outlet center, a Golden Corral and gasoline at the Supercenter, and on the US 17 Bypass, at Sam’s Club at 10th Street,and a few other locations along the highway. After I have “done” the ” Grand Strand”, it is on through Pawley’s Island, to Georgetown. As you approach Mount Pleasant you begin to see the roadside stands offering sweetgrass baskets that are woven by the native Americans of this region. They are quite elaborate or charmingly simple, but each is unique. I hope that you’ll consider buying something; help sustain this wonderful tradition (they are NOT inexpensive,however).
One can spend lots of time in Charleston. If you’ve got to just pass -through, stay on the highway and over the elegant Ravenel Bridge. But be advised…..there is a heap of history in this area, and before you head up and over, you can stop to see the USS Yorktown moored in Charleston harbor at Freedom Park, and take a ferry tour out to Fort Sumter. If that tempted you to stop, you’ll have to go downtown to the Battery, where the guns of the bombardment of the historic island are placed. The bayside homes will have you marveling at the antebellum architecture preserved there. Also lots of other historic sites nearby; the French Quarter and Waterfront Park.You can stay overnight in North Charleston, near the airport.From I 26 take Exit 213B. From I526 take Exit 16B onto International Blvd. to Colluseum Drive (Opposite the Colluseum )There is a terrific chinese buffet there, next to the Dollar Tree, and near the Supercenter/Sam’s/gas station/outlet center/convention center/fire museum. Whew! It’s all just off the interstate. From I26, continue on Montague to International Blvd. and Mall Drive (at the Starbucks). If you are drawn to tools and Harbor Freight, there is one within a mile, guys!
I get back onto US 17 south toward Savannah. The “low country” doesn’t get any better than this part of SC, and a side trip to Beaufort is worthwhile. This lovely spot can be toured easily in your RV. Many bridges to many pretty islands. Parris Island is also here, with its Marine base and a Marine airbase. You can cross the Savannah River (after your side trip to Hilton Head) by heading for the clouds on the steep US 17 suspension bridge. It brings you right into the picturesque city, where myriad city ” squares ” abound. Stay on US 17, or better, follow Abercorn Blvd. all the way to GA route 204. Get off onto US 17 south here, toward Richmond Hill, and you find a Walmart Supercenter with fuel, and a night’s stay if you choose.
After Beaufort and/or Hilton Head, you can do what I do, as a rule. I go through Hardeeville,SC and through the GA wildlife preserve to Garden City, and then Savannah. If passing through, I get back onto I 95 and pass by to the west. There are truck stops just beyond the Richmond Hill exit, at the re-joining of the Ocean Highway US 17. The newly -widened I 95 is super from here to Florida. Wait a second!…I didn’t say I was taking that road! No, I roll at a leisurely pace on US 17 with LITTLE or NO company, to Brunswick. I go out to I 95 on the Golden Isles Highway, Route 25,(Walmart here!) and head south to US 17s (AGAIN), thereby avoiding another hummungeous steep bridge on US 17 from the city. I follow that little traveled, mostly forgotten artery, to Kingsland. Left on E.King Ave (GA40) to Saint Marys. and more less-expensive gas. There is a nice State Park here near the Submarine Base. Yes, there is a Walmart with fuel, as well. Git yer petrol afore y’cross the river into the Sunshine State.
For the past few years, when making the transition between New England and the sultry south, I’ve avoided the usual route that took me from the Garden State Parkway to Delaware. It was off onto US Route One at Edison, New Jersey, and onto Route 130, to Interstate 295, and over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
We who drive pay gas taxes to keep the roads in good condition. That this revenue ends up in the general fund, and the roads are left wanting is not of our doing. But we all suffer the broken promises, as well as the broken suspensions and worn-out tires as a result. Crossing bridges is kind of necessary when one approaches the Delaware, the Susquahannah, the Hudson and myriad other rivers that obstruct our smooth journeys
I HATE TOLLS! Why, I ask you, should we pay tribute to the state for crossing these structures? Tax monies have been collected for their upkeep, and the Federal Highway Fund kicks in for them as well.
Okay, so I try to avoid crossing a bridge in the direction in which the toll booth is raking it in. Heading south, I now take the Garden State (tolls here have increased dramatically in these poor economic times) to US 1, but now I stay on US 1 through Princeton, and pick up Interstate 95, around Philadelphia, past the airport to Interstate 495, and into Delaware. This route is the ONLY one where a toll is not collected for crossing the Delaware. And I didn’t have to do it standing up in the front of a boat, ala General Washington. In a car it may seem insignificant, but the tolls required of an RV can really sting.
I recently travelled in my Saturn S1 to New England from D.C. ….Baltimore Tunnel: $2.00; crossing the Susquahannah: $5.00; the Delaware toll road: $5.00; the Garden State Parkway: $2.50 (The Jersey Turnpike would have been $7.50 for this stretch), the the Tappan Zee Bridge: $5.00. That’s $19.50 to travel with crazed drivers and tractor-trailer rigs with more crazed drivers, a total of 250 miles or less.
By skirting D.C. on the beltway, through Annapolis on US 50 to US 301, and north on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; zoom along through lovely Maryland farmland, to meet Route US 40 in Delaware. Then joining US 13, proceed through New Castle to Interstate 495. This joins Interstate 95, which traverses Philly to Trenton, and on to Princeton, NJ. Then grab US 1, and follow it to Edison, and the Garden State Parkway. YOU JUST SAVED MONEY! It was no longer; it was more enjoyable, there was less trucking and (unexplainably) fewer crazed drivers. There was the north-bound toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but the savings are still dramatic and the scenery is worth it!
This week, just to see what might be different, I went north in the RV, into New Jersey by going up and over the Delaware Memorial Bridge (no toll northbound), and proceeded on Interstate 295 toward Camden and Trenton on the east side of the river.
The roadway is GREATLY IMPROVED. Until you get past Route 38 (Morrisville exit). Then, the road ceases to be navigable. It is a series of unconnected pot holes and broken pavement. Really dangerous stuff! I got off at US 130, the Brunswick exit. Route 130 is HORRIBLE! New Jerseyites cruise blithely over this sea of destruction, never realizing that there are actually places in the USA where you don’t sacrifice your wheels (literally) to commute to the next stop in Hell. I’m swearing off NJ totally!
My next jaunt south will be via Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on the Interstates. More mileage will be repaid in better gas mileage, and less concern for the chassis beneath me!