A Day On I-80

 Posted by at 4:04 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 092010

Yesterday morning Daryl and Judy Patterson stopped over to say hello and goodbye as we were getting ready to leave Elkhart Campground.  We only had a minute to chat before they left so we could get everything unhooked and ready to take off.

Experienced RVers like Daryl and Judy know that if you get preoccupied while doing the hooking up or unhooking chores, mistakes can easily happen. We’ve all had it happen at one time or another… somebody comes by and you get to talking, and the next thing you know, you’re pulling away from the RV site and forgot to unplug your electric power cord, or to put your tow vehicle’s transmission in neutral. Mistakes like that can be not only embarrassing, but expensive too!

After saying goodbye to Bob and Gita Patel, Jim and Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour, Greg and Jan White, and everybody else in sight, we pulled out of the campground a couple of minutes after 10 a.m. and headed east on Interstate 80.

Across northern Indiana, Interstates 80 and 90 run together as the Indiana Toll Road, and it’s a route we’ve been over many, many times. A little over an hour later we crossed into Ohio, after paying our $11.10 toll to the good people of Indiana, or at least to the private company that leases the toll road from the good people of Indiana.

We got onto the Ohio Turnpike, and stopped at the Fallen Timbers Service Plaza near Swanton for fuel. The price of diesel was three cents a gallon more than at the trucks stops off the turnpike, but it was easy access to the fuel pump, and I didn’t have to wait for anybody ahead of me. Since I only needed 75 gallons or so, it wasn’t worth the hassle of paying a toll, getting off, fueling up, getting a new toll ticket, and getting back on the turnpike. I like saving a buck or two just as much as the next guy, but there’s something to be said for convenience too.

We made good time crossing Ohio, with a gentle tail wind helping. My Silverleaf VMSpc engine monitor said we got 8.4 miles per gallon between Elkhart and the service plaza where we stopped for lunch, about 30 miles west of Cleveland. That was running at 64 miles per hour with the cruise control on. 63 to 65 seems to be the sweet spot for our Winnebago, where we get the best combination of fuel economy and power.

I like the service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike. They are clean, have lots of room to park a big rig, good restaurants, and some even have back-in RV sites with electric for a few bucks a night!

I wish I could say I liked the turnpike too. Most of it was actually pretty good, but west of Cleveland we ran into a long stretch of very rough road, and I sure appreciated the Koni shocks that Redlands Truck and RV installed on our motorhome last year! The toll all the way across Ohio on Interstate 80 for our two axle motorhome and van was $31.75. Ouch!

We crossed into Pennsylvania, and immediately the road got better, and the terrain more hilly. Pennsylvania is one of my favorite states, in terms of beauty. The interstate in western Pennsylvania is a good road, and trees crowd right down to the edge of the highway, with occasional breaks to see the pretty countryside.

I-80 Pensylvania 2 

We passed lots of pretty farmland as we drove east.

Pennsylvania farmland

Before long we were in what folks back east call mountains, though my friends in Arizona might not agree. But the hills did take their toll on our mileage. We dropped down to 6.9 MPG.

Here is a nice shot of the Allegheny River that Miss Terry took as we passed over it. I didn’t even snivel about the bridge because the scenery was so pretty!

PA River

We had planned on about a 300 mile day, but that put us right at the state line, and it was still early, so we kept driving. We decided to spend the night at the Flying J in Brookville, and by the time we got there, I was getting tired. But they only have four designated RV parking sites, one of which is marked handicapped. There were big RVs in two of the other sites, with the one between them empty. But the way they were parked, it would have been a very tight squeeze to get in between them, if we could have made it at all. We checked out the truck parking area, which was about half full, but we really don’t like to use them if we can avoid it. They tend to be pretty noisy, and we don’t want to take a space that a trucker might need.

So we decided to push on another 42 miles to the WalMart SuperCenter at Clearfield, where we arrived just as the sun was starting to set. Miss Terry had called ahead to make sure RV parking was permitted, and the nice lady she talked to said no problem, just park on the outer perimeter of the parking lot.

Pennsylvania sunset 2

Here is an example of what not to do when you boondock at a commercial parking lot. He had both of his slides out, his TV antenna up, and notice the leveling jacks down! 

Wally World Bad RV Parking 2

This fifth wheel was just as bad – jacks down, slides, out TV antenna up. They look like they’re camping! In both cases, their slide rooms are extended right into the roadway where cars are passing close by.

Wally World Bad RV Parking fiver

When we are parked like we are here, with our bedroom slide facing the outer perimeter, I’ll run the slide out at bedtime to make it easier to get in and out of bed. But we wait until bedtime, and we never extend our living room slide or jacks. That’s just poor manners.

We covered 420 miles yesterday, which was quite a bit more than we had originally planned, but the good news is that today we only have about 150 miles to go to get to the Thousand Trails preserve in Hershey, thanks to a a different route that the man on duty at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center recommended. So we should arrive and be settled in fairly early in the day.

Thought For The Day – Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  13 Responses to “A Day On I-80”

  1. Nick,
    Do you ever make copies of the “Good Neighbor” document that Escapees has for us to print up and give it to people who “camp” at Wal-Mart instead of just parking there? If not, why not? If yes, how have people reacted?

  2. Last spring I pulled into the truck spaces in a highway rest area next to a fifth wheel with his slides out! As I was walking back to the fiver for a quick nap a young man came out and asked me if I had seen the reflectors he put on the back of his slide as I was pulling in!

    It was late and I was to tired to get into a discussion of rest area manners, probably should have.

  3. Joyce,
    When I was a young eager beaver Escapee, I did print out the Good Neighbor letter explaining proper boondocking etiquette, and tried to spread the word. After about the fourth or fifth person just handed it back and said “not interested” and a half dozen more told me to go to hell, and a couple others threatened to kick my @$$ I stopped. As my friend Frank Hinman says, you have to decide which wars are worth fighting and which mountain you want to die on.

  4. All of you motorhome people Please remember that most 5th wheels cannot be entered unless at least one slide is out.

  5. I have no problem with people raising their TV antenna. They would need that in bad weather to catch local weather bulletins. That is one battle not worth waging.

  6. We did the reverse route from eastern PA to Elkhorn CG on Monday/Tuesday. With the Monday holiday we had very little construction. We DID stay at one of the three Ohio Turnpike RV lots and paid the $15 for a wide space with 50amp service. No guilt with slides out, jacks down, and HD antenna up for Monday Night Football. They had a food court, too. Not very convenient, but they did have a dump station on the outbound left side of the RV exit and fresh water on the right-hand lane. We didn’t need them, but I could see that as a bottleneck area if someone was using those services while rigs were trying to exit. Security did come by and checked we had our paid receipt (exact change at pay kiosk) in our window.
    BTW, on Tuesday we had a headwind but the Horizon handled well.

  7. We have a 5th wheel that we cannot access the living area while the slides are
    in including our refridg. However, we can get to the bathroom and bed so we
    do not put our slides out while hooked up except for the bedroom one occasionally.
    This is even staying in campgrounds because we don’t park in Wal-marts, etc.
    You need to be level to put out slides and while hooked up this is not always
    the case.
    Hope you have lots of sales and new subscriptions while at Hershey Nick.
    We really enjoyed our time in Elkhart.

  8. Today’s post is nostalga city. We made the same trek last Friday. We wound up at the Brookville J; Our shorter rig fit just fine in the outside RV space. There was a big rig parked at the edge of the lot, overlooking the T/A. We have stayed at the Clearfield Wal-Mart on previous trips, and found it perfectly satisfactory. We were disappointed to be turned away the next night at the Wal-Mart in Milford, PA (local ordinance), but found space at the Elks across the river in Port Jervis, NY. Thanks again for a great rally, and for the photos across PA. We hope you do well in Hershey.

  9. Nick. . . Although we have a Winegard DTV Dome, in the past we have used out “bat-wings” TV; what’s the difficulty with that. . . we like to “zone down” in the evening watching the old boob tube. We too only put the slide-out for the bedroom on the grassy side: never into a traffic pattern. As always, oRV

  10. As others have stated 5th wheels are difficult if not impossible to enter with the slides in. The few times we have Walmarted or stayed @ truck stops we put out enough slide to cook & eat. We then pull the slides in to go to bed. It’s not ideal but is functional. The only problem is the dog can’t figure out where the rest of her home has gone.
    PS Landing gear? NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!!!!!!!!!!

  11. One of our primary criteria when we bought our fiver was the ability to access the refrigerator, bath room, and bed without extending any slides. We will open the bedroom slide if it is on the side away from the traffic pattern, otherwise we never open a slide unless we are in a campground.

    My opinion? If you have to open a slide to access your interior find a campground.

  12. I just don’t agree with the boondocking etiquette policy. When I boondock, I look just like the motorhome pictured in the article. I am camping there for the night and I’m not going to pretend I’m not. Walmart doesn’t care if my jacks are down or if my slides are out as long as I’m not blocking other customers. I do agree with not grilling or putting out tables and chairs. The only party that cares is the campground owner that might be somewhere in the same town who won’t be getting $40 for my 8-hour overnight stay. Give me a low cost alternative and I’ll take it.

  13. The entire slide debate is pretty much nonsense, IMO. AND you will note that the “etiquette” letter says “if you can” to not put out your slides.

    There is nothing wrong with putting out a slide IF IT IS SAFE to do so. Only an idiot would extend slides into a roadway. To “pretend” that you are not camping is not fooling anyone – everyone knows you are spending the night – and having your slides in does not change that.

    We find parking places where we can put out the bedroom and drivers side slide. Usually over the curb on a grassy area, or against light poles with stripped off areas. It is perfectly safe to do so and IMO there is no reason not to. If we can not find a safe place then we either continue on or use a campground.

    Now, in the case of landing gear, that is just rude behavior. It WILL damage parking lots, and you should not use them for ANY reason.

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