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Day Four Of Our First RV Trip: Huntsville to Pensacola, Florida
8:00 AM Sunday, July 4
We wake early, get ourselves ready, hook up the trailer and hit the road once more. Thus far we have traveled almost 700 miles, spent well over $150 on gas and we still have miles to go before we sleep. Ready or not Florida here we come!
We backtrack a bit to pick up I65 South towards Birmingham and Montgomery. Again there are few semi trucks to draft behind so we are left to make our way the best we can, constantly fighting to maintain a decent highway speed of 60 mph while balancing our miles per gallon, and boy is it a struggle. If I push too hard to keep our speed up to 60 or 65 my fuel usage drops to 6, even 5 mpg. I swear, we have to be climbing hills again! In my mind I know we should be descending because we will be at sea level later today but right now we might as well be in the Rocky Mountains for how the truck is driving. At times it is impossible to maintain 50 mph, let alone approach the speed limit of 70. If I do try my truck winds up running 4,000 RPM's or better which I am uncomfortable with.
But on we go, ever South. Birmingham approaches and with it another refueling point. There, just ahead is an off ramp and a gas station, but even though it has people filling up it looks deserted. I pull off the highway, pull up to a pump and begin to fill the tank. I look around and notice there is no one inside the station, there are bars on the windows and doors and it does indeed appear completely deserted; but as the pumps are open I continue to fuel. As I finish a gentleman drives up and asks if I need gas. I reply that I had just finished filling up but thank you. He smiles and says that he won't fuel here, he gets his gas down the road a bit.
He was a Black gentleman, advising me of the dangers of filling up in this particular location. Evidently it is a dangerous area and me, as a White man pulling an RV trailer was perhaps the biggest target in this area in a while. They say fortune favors the brave, or perhaps it is the foolish; all I can say is God was watching over this fool on this Sunday morning. Perhaps He encouraged those who would cause problems to sleep in after a long Saturday night of doing whatever they were doing, thus allowing us to get our much needed fuel and get back on the highway once more. Thank you, God!
Meanwhile, back on I65...
Not long after we filled up and continued down the highway we ran into a road block. All of the southbound lanes of traffic were stopped dead, the only movement coming from those who were driving down the shoulder and getting off at a conveniently located exit which led to a Walmart, various food locations and another highway. We quickly determined that we did not desire to sit on the highway in the heat so we too got off and headed for the Walmart parking lot. There my wife and daughter took the opportunity to...
Go shopping! Yes, leaving Caleb and I along with Chew Chew in the truck to wait while they went in to get some "needed" items. I am not sure what they "needed" as we shopped hard for anything we could think of before leaving but off they went. Some forty-five minutes later they returned with bags of clothes, primarily for our daughter. Of course; she is a teenager and "needs" new clothes weekly if possible. Oh well.
As it was nearing lunchtime Caleb and I were hungry so to reward us for our patience (ha ha) I drove over to a DQ and picked us up a couple of meals containing chicken strips and gravy. Love that gravy!
By this time the traffic had cleared so we headed back out onto the highway and away we went. Our next stop was to be Greenville, Alabama for fuel but again I noticed how much trouble the truck was having along this stretch of road. It still felt like we were going uphill all the way and the hotter it got outside the harder the engine strained and I began to really get concerned. I did not say anything to my wife just yet as I did not want to worry her; she worries enough as it is and if I could hold this back from her I wanted to.
As I neared Greenville my wife saw that I was troubled (she is quite observant) and asked me what was wrong. Against my better judgment I told her. Together we decided to get off the interstate at Greenville, a bit earlier than I planned to. My thought was that if I got off the interstate I could control my speed and the truck's efforts better and take my time, perhaps easing the strain on the truck. We continued to push on towards Greenville, putting more miles on a tank of gas that I would either before or after on this trip: 140. Normally this is nothing for the truck but on an RV trip this meant I was down under a quarter of a tank of gas; in other words I was near the nubbin nitty gritty in fuel.
But we made it and I put in twenty gallons of gas, which is a lot for me and this truck. For this tank of gas we got 7.25 mpg. Then we were off the interstate and onto a mild two lane blacktop for the remainder of the trip to Pensacola.
This made a difference. By being able to control my speed and not worry about being run into from behind on a 70 mph interstate highway I was able to drive a more reasonable speed and as a result the truck ran better and got better mileage. Aha!!
Pensacola, Florida At Last!
Finally, at around 3:00 PM we arrived at our RV park destination. It took us eight hours of travel to cover 340 miles; not exactly the best driving time. But we arrived safe and sound and found our slot to park in without any trouble.
Then we saw that our next door neighbors had parked one of their vehicles so near to our location that it was going to be difficult backing in; yes, for the first time on the trip I was going to have to back into a slot and of course it would be where it was tight; of course it would.
But I pulled up my big boy pants, positioned the truck and as the gentlemen who was there to assist me stood by waiting for something to either happen or be needed to direct I proceeded to maneuver the truck and trailer and put that RV into the slot the first time with no jockeying around, like I had done it a hundred times instead of never. The assisting man stood by with his hands in the air as if to say "You sure don't need me here!" and asked how many times I had done this; I told him. He was amazed and stood there with his mouth hanging open. About then the owners of the truck in our way showed up and asked him if they needed to move it. He told them no and that I had backed in like an old pro rather than a rank novice. They too congratulated me on a job well done. My head began to swell as I set about placing the jacks, unhooking the trailer and hooking up the water, sewer and electric.
It was then that hubris decided to bring me back to earth.
The pad for the trailer was loose gravel, the surrounding area grass and the two were separated by a narrow six inch ledge of concrete. I was tired from holding my right foot just so jockeying the truck and trailer at a constant speed and as I walked around to set the left rear jack, I stumbled. For whatever reason I was unable to get my hands up as I took several more stumbling steps before I face planted myself right smack on that damn concrete strip. My head bounced like a basketball and I lay there for a moment, angry at myself. Then I smiled at the stupidity of it all before I stood up and touched my lower lip.
It was bloody. Boy oh boy was it bloody. I walked around and went into the trailer, to the bathroom and turned on the light to look in the mirror. Pulling my lip down I saw a huge gash in the lower lip, almost an inch long and almost as wide. Crap! This is gonna take stitches! Stitches! Emergency room visit! What a way to spend the first night in Florida!!!
I came back out of the trailer and spoke with Tina. We immediately tried to get online with my laptop to find out where we needed to go. You see, my district had just gotten a new insurance provider effective the first of July. I had contacted them prior to leaving to see what I would need to do just in case and was told there was coverage in Pensacola, no problem. Yet when we began to call and research where to go we could not find anything out. And as it was Sunday night the day before the Fourth of July it was unlikely we could reach anyone to get answers but we tried; oh how we tried.
I was on the phone with the only person I could get for twenty minutes and this person was infuriating. She kept asking me if I needed additional coverage; I kept telling her no, that I needed to know WHERE I needed to go for my injury. I finally got borderline nasty and told her I was speaking to her with a washcloth in my mouth to absorb the blood that was pouring out if it and I did not have time to talk with her about additional coverage! I ended up hanging up on her and it was hard to feel bad about it; she just would not listen to me!!!
Tina finally got ahold of the local hospital and they said for us to go to the clinic. We headed that way and somehow ended up at the hospital itself. A trip inside and we set off with new directions, but once we arrived there and were seen by the doctor we were told they did not do cosmetic surgery. Excuse me, I drove my teeth through my lip and I do not think this is cosmetic surgery, thank you very much. The doctor dismissed me off hand and away we went, right back where we were an hour before.
Then we had the normal hour and a half wait to be taken back, another hour waiting to be seen and then...
Behold! The Emergency Room Doctor blesses us with his presence. The first thing he asked was, of course, what happened. I said I fell, took a header on my face. How? Stupidity and fatigue. Any LOC (loss of consciousness)? Nope. When? Five hours ago. Let's take a look. Five seconds later he is telling me that the mouth is a nasty place full of bacteria; they do not normally put stitches in if possible as they just get infected and look here it is already healing.
All this for that? Are you kidding me?!
So we leave the hospital, go to a corner pharmacy and buy some peroxide to keep my mouth clean (no jokes from the peanut gallery!) and head back the ten miles or more to where we left our children on this first night in Florida. I am so pissed at myself I can barely pay attention to drive but we make it back safely and tell the kids what happened. Then we find something for dinner (for them, not me! I'll just have some Jello thank you.) and get ready for bed.
Tomorrow's gotta be better than today!!!