Almost Heaven

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shenandoah River –
Life is old there
Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Growin’ like a breeze
Country Roads, take me home

I was very excited yesterday morning as I hit the road knowing that I would be at my friend’s within the day. It has been four years and one month since we last saw each other. I have traveled more than 27,000km since I last saw her. I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter after such a long journey than to fall into the arms of my oldest and dearest friend. A few more days now…

Because I had some mountain driving ahead of me, I planned yesterday that it would be a short driving day and that I would not be arriving at my friend’s. I took my time getting on the road and had a long break at the rest area after Charleston. This was my first time ever seeing a restaurant (snack bar) at a rest area!

I was purposely setting myself up to make arrival at her place too late to be feasible so that I wouldn’t rush through the day, get distracted, and get into an accident. Now that you know my mindset yesterday, it becomes even more evident why I don’t blame myself for the toad’s demise.

The section of I-64 between Charleston and Beckley is the West Virginia Turnpike, a toll road. I had reviewed the list of tolls ahead of time and felt that the information was very clear. I was a motorhome towing the equivalent of a trailer so I would have to pay $3.25 twice. I made sure to get a bunch of singles and quarters when I bought some things at Walmart the night before so I would have exact change. The first toll booth guide was visibly surprised that I had my exact fare in hand!

approaching the second toll booth

So that was yesterday. The accident happened just after the second toll booth.

This morning, I set off in good spirits. Miranda was purring and nothing felt amiss. I have done a lot of mileage in my rig and know how she behaves. She never hinted at been hurt today. Oh, sweet Miranda, aren’t you supposed to tell me you’re hurtin’ before you keen?

I hadn’t been on the road long today when I got a hint that the big challenge of the day, the 7% 5-mile long descent, was upon me:

Almost there:

At the summit:

Here we go! *gulp*

Motorhome goes into D2 and we start the hill at 40MPH.

What is it about those Blue Ridge Mountains?

Halfway there!

Recommended truck speed is 45MPH. The engine would start strain at that speed, so that’s when I’d hit the brakes, about four times total over the five miles.


Have I mentioned in this post how much I love the Blue Ridge Mountains?

It was coming on lunchtime when I hit Lewisburg, so I did something I just about never do when towing the car, I made an unplanned exit from the highway for something other than fuel. In plain English, that means I saw a sign for Applebee’s and I heeded its call. 😀 I barely eaten anything the day before and had very little for breakfast, so that was just what I needed to get those gastric juices flowing again. I headed in the general direction of the Applebee’s and noticed a Walmart, so I decided to park there since the Applebee’s would be nearby. It turned out to be right next door. I ordered a pasta and salad lunch deal but only had room for the salad (and a one-bite brownie with ice cream), so I got a to-go box for the pasta. $11 for lunch and dinner, not a bad deal, huh? I ended up having the pasta while waiting for the tow truck. But I digress again.

I made it to Virginia!!!

The Virginia Welcome Centre is not RV friendly as there is only car-sized parking and no pull-thrus. I couldn’t have done this with the toad attached!

I had to back out of that parking stall!

Nice-looking welcome centre:

I stocked up on a ton of tourist information material.

Then I drove through some more beautiful scenery marred only by a dirty windshield:

Approaching Richmond, I was due for a break, so I turned off the interstate to go to a ‘tourist information centre’ that I never succeeded in finding. That put me on a lovely rural route that paralleled I-64 for about five miles before merging back onto it.

A wave of emotion hit when I reached the I-64/I-95 junction and hit familiar territory. I’d only been that way once before, but there were a few familiar landmarks; a building, the city names on the exits, the stench of tobacco at the Philip Morris plant.

The last bit of my journey was on back roads and I looked forward to pulling over just shy of my destination for a bite to eat and to text my friend to let her know I was incoming. Well, we all know what happened there.

RIP My Faithful Toad

It’s tough to know how to start a post like this. I guess that “I’m fine, the cats are fine, and Miranda is more or less fine” should do it.

I’d been on the road about an hour today and was approaching Beckley on the West Virginia turnpike. Traffic was heavy and there was construction. I merged into the left hand lane around some construction when the semi in front of me slammed on his brakes to the point that there was smoke coming from them. The man in the pickup behind me was riding my car bumper and had no room to stop. He slammed into the back of the car, which slammed into the back of the motorhome.

The state trooper took me aside to say that the fact that I did not hit the semi and that the guy in the pickup did not get rear ended suffices as proof that he did not give himself enough braking distance. Because I was rear ended there is no question that the guy behind me is responsible, but the state trooper assured me that I couldn’t have done anything to prevent this. So, please, no comments like I got after the brakes incidents asking me to rehash every single moment of this. It happened, it’s being dealt with, and I can continue on to Virginia tomorrow. I am parked at the wrecking yard for the night and was given the go ahead by both insurance companies to go ahead with my travel plans.

The first photo I am going to share is going to be shocking. You can see that my tow bar assembly is sheered off and that I was pulling the car only by the cables. This is important, folks. Look at the tow assembly. It isn’t dragging on the ground. You need to crisscross the cables so that if something like this were to happen, the cables would act as a net and catch the tow bar. My system worked flawlessly.

Damage to the front of the car:

Damage to the rear of the car:

Motorhome bumper:

I don’t believe that the damage to the motorhome requires immediate attention. She drove fine the 10 miles or so from the crash site to the wrecking yard. There is damage to the under carriage where the receiver hitch was welded on. However, none of the damaged parts are attached directly to the main part of the chassis. I feel comfortable driving to Montreal but I will have the rig looked at once I get there and won’t be taking the road again until the repairs are done.

It will take a few days for an appraiser to come out and look at the car, but I reasonably certain that I am looking at a total loss on it so I am okay with leaving it behind. So long as the other party takes responsibility for his idiocy, my insurance companies will not charge me a deductible. So it would make sense to have the car repaired if the appraiser says it needs to be, and I’ll be close enough by to come back and pick it up. But I seriously doubt that will happen.

At this point, there is no sense making guesses about how I am going to proceed. I will know more once the motorhome damage is appraised and dealt with next month. The big question is my towing assembly; it could cost almost $5,000 including parts and installation, to get a new vehicle set up for towing.

I’ll be renting a car in Virginia and will see what my options are when I get to Montreal regarding getting a new toad. I’m fairly confident that the car is worth twice what I owe on it, so there is a chance that I could get the loan cleared and have enough left over to buy a decent used vehicle. One thing is for certain; I have no intention of financing another vehicle.

The big question now is, how do I carry the bike and extra propane tank? I stuffed the car roof rack and whatever I had in the car trunk into the motorhome basement, but the bike and propane tank are going to be tricky.

To my surprise, my insurance company is paying the absurd towing bill for the car, $250. It cost half that to have Miranda towed after she lost her brakes and she was going further! Anyway, the wrecking yard is letting the insurance company settle the bill rather than making me pay it and then be reimbursed, so that’s fine.

As for the inside of the rig, I need to do a thorough evaluation, but I lost one external hard drive and a bunch of dishes. It looks like everything else was secure.

It has been a very long day. The accident happened at 10:30AM. I got to the wrecking yard at 12:30 and called my insurance broker. He told me to stay by the phone and that my insurance companies would call me. I spent about an hour emptying the car (thank you so much to the nice man who helped me get the bike out of the car through the passenger side door since I couldn’t get the trunk open and to the other one who carried my 30lb propane tank the equivalent of a full block). Aviva called me around 3 for the motorhome. I hadn’t heard from Intact for the car so I called my broker back at 4 and he gave me the adjuster’s number. By the time I hung up with her, it was 5:30. It is now 7:45 and I’ve only had a small slice of pizza to eat all day (damn those nerves), so I think I will go grab a few things at the Walmart next door to make a quick cold picnic. Sitting in Miranda today was like sitting in an oven, but at least I was home.

Into West Virginia

While I will be traveling through at least another half dozen or so states on this trip, I am done adding new ones to my roster, with West Virginia being the first state to officially herald that I am back east and nearly in familiar territory.

I woke up feeling slightly disoriented this morning because of the time change. Guess what, you can get jet lag when traveling overland! 🙂

I pulled out of the Cracker Barrel at 7:45 and rolled into the nearest rest area (Midway) at 8:15. By 8:20, the kettle was on, the French press was ready, and my email was downloading. How did I ever manage in my early days of RVing when getting down to actually living in my rig was a treat reserved for when I was spending at least two nights on full hookups?!

That said, it’s amazing what can happen in a half hour. I swear my front door was whole when I left Shelbyville. What the heck happened to it?!

Can you see it? Here’s a closeup:

Not to self: find a new window frame for the front door. Anyway, what’s left is solid and the window is secure, so I can deal with this when I arrive in Virginia.

Having only about four hours to drive today, including stops, and having only three and a half or so left, I decided to spend the bulk of the day at the rest area catching up on some things. I enjoyed this bucolic view out of my office window today:

I stayed until just past two, taking the time to charge everything under the sun (literally) since I had more than 6A coming in from the solar panel:

There is nothing like a fully charged battery to make a boondocker happy!

Before leaving the rest area, I did something unprecedented: I remembered that I was out of windshield wiper fluid and actually topped it up. I usually remember these things when I get splashed with mud and am blinded. 🙂 The bugs on this trip have been nasty!!!

From Midway, it was then a rather windy but otherwise easy drive out of Kentucky into West Virginia:

I passed an facility:

I took advantage of the fact that I am going to be in the US for a bit longer to use my latest Amazon rewards to get a ton of stuff that is being shipped to my friend’s place. I wonder if some of it is shipping out of here?

From there, it was just a few miles to where I am parked for the night, the Walmart in Cross Lanes (according to Google) or Charleston (according to my GPS). There are ‘no RV parking signs’ in the lot, but was told that that’s just to encourage folks to come into customer service and be directed to the proper part of the lot to park. You actually park as far from the Walmart as possible in front of the discount store and against Nitro Boulevard. When looking at Nitro, you need to park across from the Dollar Tree, not the Loews.

Well, the pizza I have in the oven is calling my name. It’s going to taste pretty good with the cold beer I just opened. 🙂