We almost never do this—this is only the second time we've spent the night in a parking lot in two years—but the exhaustion forced us into it. Exhaustion, and some good luck.
It started a couple of nights ago, when a vast storm system blew through New England. We were parked in the driveway at Virginia and Jim’s. The cell signal was not good enough to track the approach of the storm on radar, but it didn’t look like there was any thunder associated with it. High winds on the coast, but the local forecast only called for 19 mile per hour winds. I didn’t worry about it.
Overnight, Roo was as upset as if we were surrounded by thunderstorms. The wind was blowing the occasional branch and a ton of pine cones down, but those don’t spook Rooki much. She spent the night in her thunderstorm position, which behind my head, jammed behind my pillow. None of what was going on seemed to account for how frightened she was.
She had good reason. Tall pines all around us were snapped in half. One of the trees at the Raker’s, 50 feet or so behind us, spilt in two at an upper fork and crashed down. Jim, in the house, heard what he described as an explosion at one point. Two houses down, eight trees came down. Roo had been hearing the renting and snapping of the trees and branches all night. I never heard a thing beyond the knocking of debris falling on the camper. All night I kept telling Roo not to worry, that there was no thunder. She just trembled and kept her head buried behind my pillow.
The next day, the entire neighborhood looked like a Christmas tree yard at the end of the season. The roads were carpeted in pine boughs and branches and millions of pine cones. Power lines across the state had been so badly damaged that only about 100,000 of Maine’s 1.32 million total population didn’t lose power.
Coincidentally, Virginia had been talking about getting their generator going. It had just been sitting in the garage for years, unused, unstarted. They were going to need it now. It didn’t want to start, but it was just a wet plug and once we swapped that it cranked right up.
If you ever have to rely on a generator, there are a few things about electricity in a hurry. For example, a small 1000-watt generator like ours, which is just a gasoline engine turning a thing similar to the alternator on your car, can power all the lights in a camper and a ton of other stuff, like all the chargers you want. It can’t handle a coffee maker or a tiny space heater.
I have a little generator, but it’s been broken for a long time. I can tell you how sick and tired I got of taking the carburetor off in the snow to try to get it going again. It puts some electricity out, enough to charge a battery, but not enough to run anything you have to plug in. The thing has been a thorn in my side for a year. It’s beyond repair, but those things cost about a thousand bucks, so even though it can’t be fixed, I keep trying to nurse it along. I would prefer to take it out in a field and machine gun it without so much as according it the honor of a final cigarette.
I had been planning to leave Maine for a while. I always hate leaving Maine. You couldn’t ask for more supportive or kind friends than Jim and Virginia, and it’s great for Roo. But we had to leave and I was planning it for a couple of weeks. It’s way too pricey up there to rent anything and when it gets colder the camper can’t handle it. The storm finalized the decision. The camper took on a lot of water, for one thing, and all sorts of other things on it are broken and they’re easier to get fixed in the backwaters. And maybe we can find a place to live somewhere cheaper. If I don’t find an actual place to live and get us out of this crate I’m going to lose my mind.
Anyway, with my generator on the blink, I had to glom onto the Raker machine, which was fine with them. But withy heightened generator sensitivities, I was more aware that they that if they had to make even a marginally higher demand on it, it wouldn’t be able to deliver. I tried to get mine going, but it died instantly.
It was principally the generator that kept making me delay our departure. Most of the campgrounds in the Northeast close at the end of October and they don’t have electricity anyway. There’s something wrong in the electrical system in the camper that depletes the battery quickly, and without the battery charged, there is insufficient current for the ignitor in the propane heater. As it gets colder, that becomes a problem. The generator is essential if you’re not plugged in.
We had all sorts of stuff to do, and even though I tried getting on the road early, we didn’t, and what with stops for Roo and a trail I found for her to have some fun on beside the Willamantic River (which she catapulted herself into before I could stop her) and being exhausted, then even more so by half an hour of bad traffic in Connecticut we stopped at a rest stop somewhere. I looked campgrounds up, but none were open. We had only made it a couple of hundred miles of the 800 to West Virginia.
I thought we would just drive as long as possible and then pull over in a parking lot or rest area fora few hours, but then, for some reason, remembered hearing that Cabela’s allows overnight RV parking. I looked to see if there was one nearby and there was one just a few miles ahead. I figured they must be everywhere, but they’re not. The next one is 200 miles away.
At Cabela’s, there’s a big field that Roo loved running around in. She had a blast. Grass and wide open, filled with mouses of some variety. I hadn’t been in a Cabela’s in 20 years, but remembered that the one I was in in Nebraska once had some stuffed deer on display. I thought Roo would get a charge out of it and brought her in. Everybody said, “Hi, Buddy,” to her, as usual. There were not only stuffed deer of every imaginable taxonomy, there were stuffed badgers and marmots moose and even a prairie dog village. Roo loved it. She was fascinated. It put her in a great mood.
We walked by a display of generators and I was looking at them longingly. They were all going for the usual thousand bucks. A salesman walk by and said, “You know, , I’ve got one of those that the only thing wrong with it is it doesn’t have a box. Three-fifty.”
I can not adequately describe what a break that was. This electrical problem has been the biggest headache. We are powered up.
It’s eleven PM and it’s been running for three hours. When any engine is new, you have to change the oil after the first few hours to clean out any metal in the engine from the it was built.
It’s 34 degrees out there, and I’m about to go out and change the oil. I’m strangely looking forward to it.
Sorry for the rambling post — I should know better than to post when this beat up.