Greetings from the Sleepy Hollow Campground outside Oxford, Iowa! We are three warm, well-rested and well-fed folks. While we arrived much later than I’d hoped and with a slumbering child, our first night and morning of living in an RV have been very nice. We’ve figured out the shore power, the bathroom and the kitchen.
Last night’s dinner was Taco Bell. We had originally planned to make a simple meal in the van and have dinner out tonight, but we switched things up because we got in so late. In fact, XY ate a cold bean burrito for breakfast! This morning, we had coffee, fruit and oatmeal. I don’t love all the disposable cups and bowls, but we can’t wash dishes in a winterized RV.
The first couple hours of our trip were a bit uncomfortable for me as the driver. First was getting used to the sheer size of the RV. Second, the road reflection from the cab overhang makes it look like you’re constantly about to hit something. Third, we started with afternoon rush-hour traffic in the Chicago area and then ran right into heavy rain, followed by snow and sleet. And fourth, once we’d left the suburbs behind for western Illinois, the wind made it feel like we were constantly tossing back and forth in our lane. This was worse whenever a semi passed us.
Then, we were treated to a magnificent prairie sunset, and I felt like I finally got control of the vehicle. It’s a pretty straight and flat shot across I-80. Unfortunately, our late start and many bathroom stops meant it got dark fast. We completely lost our data signal on both of our (T-Mobile via Ting) phones, so the Waze app wasn’t consistently functional. And the RV rental place had run out of antifreeze, so I was hurtling toward an unknown destination with the knowledge that we weren’t yet equipped to flush the toilet. We tried several different truck stops to no avail. I spotted a Wal-Mart, known for stocking RV supplies, but we missed the exit and had to double back. After roughly 8 hours of travel that day and evening, I had a steering wheel-pounding mini meltdown about Wal-Marts, directions and the damn antifreeze.
I pulled myself together and pulled us into the parking lot of the Iowa City Wal-Mart, where several RVs had already set up for the night. The last time I’d been in a Wal-Mart was in Northern China, for reasons I won’t get into here. I’m not a big fan of that chain of stores, but I emerged victorious a few minutes later with four gallon jugs of bright pink liquid and some chocolate to make amends.
We got to the campground just a few minutes later. We had made a reservation online, but the check-in station was unstaffed. We simply drove around until we found an open space, pulled in and hooked up the shore power. Making the beds was easy, so we resettled the sleeping kid and eventually ourselves.
Daybreak brought a better picture of our surroundings. It looks like there are permanent residents in trailers and year-round campers with RVs, and we’re otherwise surrounded by dormant cornfields and the interstate. I picked this place because we’re a stone’s throw from I-80. We’ll be hitting the road soon.
- Flashlight batteries, thanks to TSA. We got the note that our suitcase had been opened, and Lindy found all the flashlights turned on inside. Naturally, they’re almost out of juice.
- T-Mobile data coverage. Big surprise that this wasn’t even working along I-80. We’re fortunate to have a Sprint mobile hotspot that I own and a Verizon one from work as backups, but the lack of directions last night was nerve-wracking. I wrote up a paper set this morning for today’s trip.
- Cruise America. You want to have antifreeze on hand when you’re renting out winterized units. Also, the dinette that converts into a bed came loose from the wall, leaving 8 screws in our hand and a wobbly table. Keep in mind we are the first people ever to rent this RV.
- Wal-Mart. The destroyer of small business and depresser of wages comes through with a specialty item.
- Starbucks Via. We’ve brought this instant coffee along while traveling before, and credit The Fit RV for the suggestion. It’s expensive, but it tastes good and spares you from having to deal with coffee grinds.
- Sunbeam hot water dispenser. I bought this for my desk at work and decided to bring it along. We’ve had coffee, oatmeal and hot chocolate without using a kettle. It takes up very little space and uses very little power.
- Zojirushi coffee mugs. We don’t go very far without these.
- Cruise America. Antifreeze and table aside, this is a nice unit. We’re very comfortable in it. We’re doing pretty well on gas, though I can’t say exactly how well until we fill up next.
Also published on Medium.