the (often) meandering travels of a student anthropologist
It was actually Juno's second shakedown...
...so I was confident that anything that went wrong would be annoying, but ultimately, minor. I was so optimistic that I fully planned to start my trip west after our return. But of course, the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men...
I chose Warrior's Path State Park in Kingsport, Tennessee due to its proximity to both home, and also to family friends we wanted to catch up with.
The campground was far enough away to give Juno a good workout on the interstate and also offer some hills to climb. Asheville sits at 2,134 feet while Kingsport is at 1,211 feet. I wanted to test out the carburetor which I understand can be finicky when you change elevations. If there were going to be any problems on the new Edelbrock I wanted to know while I was still close to my own mechanic.
We enjoyed the park–during the first week of October it was sunny and warm during the days and chilly at night. Perfect camping weather. Guessing, I would say the campground was no more than half full. And quiet. While we did overlook the dump station it was only used a few times each morning and there were never any smells to contend with. More important to me was that we had a private patio space. I'm a novice after all, and anything from figuring out how to light the fire to putting up the awning was bound to include some potentially embarrassing moments! If you've wandered onto this post researching Warriors Path camping, let me add that if you can fit, and are looking for privacy without the dump view, check out #34. Your awning/patio space actually overlooks the water (assuming there is not much foliage on the trees), it's also near a trail head, and you walk back and down to your picnic table. So small site but makes great use of the slope. It was my favorite, and if I had to do it over again we would choose that one.
We were also right on a trail head going down to a lovely beach. It was small, but no one ever joined us, it was shady and not a single bug bite. Not to say that there weren't some sand bees, but I was surprised there were no gnats or mosquitoes, and the bees stayed to themselves in the sun.
We had a great time - cooked out over the fire, enjoyed visiting with our friends, and (after a fairly dry summer) imbibed a little too many glasses of Harvey's, peach margaritas and cheap box Merlot. My mom (who was my wing-woman) sketched, and I fumbled around more with a new wide angle lens trying to master its peculiarities and manual focus limitations. It's the Neewer Meike 12mm f/2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens for Sony with APS-C (Sony a6000). It has its flaws but for shooting in tight quarters (interviewing women in their RVs and vans) I needed a wide angle and this was what was affordable.
I awoke to our last morning feeling a mixture of excitement and sadness.
Everything had performed flawlessly. The furnace kept us warm, and the fans, cool during stuffy afternoons. The stove, oven, and fridge were on their best behavior. The awning came down with a minimum of fuss and it saved us from being bludgeoned by many an acorn. Beds were comfy and while the cat was unhappy, she was much less anxious than our first outing. Looked like nothing was in the way of my leaving for the long months ahead, which is bittersweet. It was a fun summer working with mom on the renovations. I am going to miss her.
As I packed stuff up outside, and unhooked from electric and water, mom packed up inside and washed our breakfast dishes.
Defcon Level 1 was achieved when I noted the distinctive sewer smell opening the bay door. Hm. I noticed that before when we first got Juno home from Denver. A packet of deodorizer into the tank solved that problem until I could dump, and I'd never really worried about it again. This time the tank was well deodorized with two packets. Hmm. And why underneath the chassis? When Rick and I lived and traveled in the Bounder we never had a sewer smell. Hmmm.
Defcon Level 2 accompanied the sudden rush of water streaming out from under the chassis. I in turn rushed inside thinking that my plumbing had come undone. I'd replaced both kitchen and basin drains and faucet during the renovation and visions of everything under the sink flooded drenched gleefully danced in front of my eyes. Mom had just emptied the basin from finishing the dishes...but no...it was bone dry under the sink. Back outside I dropped down on my knees to discover that the water was pouring out from all sides of the gray tank where it attaches to the chassis. Ugh! Well this wasn't a happy situation. I don't have any sort of tank sensors and dripping gray water (although not sewage, thankfully) is not a situation I ever want to be in. For the moment I placated myself knowing that the soap was biodegradable and no one was around to view my embarrassment.
I sighed, collected myself, and we continued to pack. I would call my awesome RV fix-it shop and see if they could get me in on Monday.
Defcon Level 3 occurred when the awning wouldn't close. It rolled up, but the awning arm at the front wouldn't close onto the inner arm - so I couldn't lock it into place for traveling. My anxiety is spiking. Not a lot. If worse came to worse I'd go find the camp host (who undoubtedly would have more experience and more muscles) and see what he might advise. But I'm getting that "what next" feeling.
Finally, with a little wiggling we managed to get it into place. The arms had definitely shifted during the time the awning was down. Hmmmm. Interesting.
Dumping, happily, went well. The new valve gates and stinky slinky performed admirably. I'm breathing again. The ride over was absolutely lovely and I expect the same on the way back.
But that's when I noticed ...
Defcon Level 4 rose with discovering the low tire pressure. My own fault. The mechanic who fixed the rear main seal was also going to check and air up the tires. They were under inflated. But, and this is why it's my fault, I didn't check for myself. We'd come all the way over the mountain on tires that were, to my mind, dangerously low. All six of them. They were between 50-54 lbs. The next hours were devoted to dealing with getting them aired up. Mistake one–I tried to air them up at a gas station. They often have lousy chucks anyway (this one definitely did), they charge an arm an a leg, and of course they don't have truck or dual-headed chucks. These are chucks that are both straight and also angled for taking care of dually tires. So, we had to go find a tire place. This produced a comedy of errors - wrong turns as my wing-woman and I had long discussions on whether to follow the GPS or the paper map into town. It's a generational thing.
Ultimately we did find a Tire Barn that fixed us up and also appreciated the advice on what to set them at. I haven't weighed Juno yet, so for safety we are going for 65 on the rear tires (the door panel says 60 and the tires max cold is 80) and 70 on the front.
Now I can breathe, right? Onto the interstate, a quick stop for lunch (and this is where sitting in the RV at a table, with the fan going is a nice way to have lunch) and gassing up (which included a compliment on Juno's pretty shiny self) and we were off.
Defcon Level 5 hit hard as started up mountain. Juno began bucking and missing and stumbling as I tried to accelerate up the increasingly steep rises. The more I tried to give her gas the slower she went, and, the more she stumbled. I did the only thing anyone could do. With my wing woman offering soothing words of encouragement, I dropped into lower gear, turned on the hazards, clenched the steering wheel, and sent up a prayer to any guardian angel (that might not be too busy just at that moment).
At the top of each rise Juno would straighten out only to start misbehaving again on the next. At one point I was falling below 30 mph and my mind was going into freeze mode. Trucks and cars whipped by. How many more of these rises before we reached the top?? One, two, three sweaty foreheads later, we topped the last hill, and with only twenty miles or so to home, I finally took some deep breaths.
This was that fussy carb I was now justified to be concerned about. Doesn't like the changing altitudes. That's all it is. Needs some adjustments. We cruised the last miles homes with no further problems.
But then! As if to let me know how serious she was, once back in town on a straight away from a stoplight, Juno started bucking again. The last quarter mile home is a steep rise on a highly traffick'd two lane road. I'm thinking, there is NO WAY she's going to make it. She's going to stall and I'm going to have to reverse back down the hill with people honking and glaring at me. My own personal doomsday has come.
Well, gripping the steering wheel worked before...
Long story short, we did make it up that last hill. She hesitated. She threatened to stall. She chugged.
But she made it. Later that weekend I rev'd the engine, moved her around the yard–and she perversely acted like nothing was amiss. My mechanic couldn't get me in right away on Monday so instead I took her over to the repair folks where her tanks are being dealt with and the awning arms looked at. She didn't stumble once on the way over to their shop.
So...spark plugs? bad distributor? clogged fuel filter? misbehaving choke? Only time (and my mechanic) will tell.
But, then that is the frustrating part–time–missing my already delayed launch date and having not one but two things could potentially keep me stuck two weeks or more.
However, isn't that what life on the road is - learning to go with the flow? Maybe NOT being on the road? Not making too many plans?
At least that is what the women I've started interviewing tell me. That, and a pinch of faith, would serve me well. Especially as I watch Denver get it's first snowfall...
From an anthropological perspective, it is interesting to note that the study of mobility–how migration and movement affects culture–is also about the restriction of mobility. As I move forward in my fieldwork I'm keenly interested in asking more questions about the definition of freedom. It's a word that is often used by bloggers and vloggers describing the nomadic life yet my own experience (from living full-time in an RV in the mid-2000s) and trying to get Juno road ready) that's an elusive reality.
Public campgrounds have limits on how long one can stay and private campgrounds often restrict rigs that can camp to being ten years old or younger. There are limited places to boondock, or camp free, and those are often restricted by the geography. It's easier to find those places out west, than in the east.
Our culture doesn't readily accept nomadic lifestyles–with the exception of high end rv resorts, snowbirds and weekend campers, it's often equated with poverty, fringe subcultures and correlates with social bias towards the homelessness.
Yet there are towns like Quartzsite, Arizona that embrace the swell of their population each winter for the economic advantages the nomadic population bring.