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  • J.F. Rowan

Time To Return Home, Temporarily.

We left Columbia, SC on Wednesday about mid morning. The destination goal was a little Ostrich farm about 200 miles northeast in North Carolina. I really wanted to keep to the back roads until I had a little more time in the cab, but I forgot to change the preferences in the nav system, so we were on RT26 (envision interstate 84) within about a mile from the hotel...and it was rush hour. But it all worked out and we ended up being routed off after about 20 minutes. As it would turn out, it would be just what the doctor ordered for later on.

The trip through the northern portion of SC into NC was all back roads after the initial morning wake-up on Rt 26, with a few bathroom stops and some status checks on the rig. Fuel was procured, and I admit that I did do a little swearing on the behalf of a few engineers who designed the DEF system on the truck. I can’t wait to run into those esteemed engineers at the annual GM Christmas party…if we get an invite. The fill process, or the monitoring process, for the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) isn’t logical or user friendly on this truck. A 12 year old could have designed a better system for servicing and monitoring the alleged highly corrosive additive. Rant over, or at least side barred for another time.

Virginia, the back way.

Later in the day, we arrived at our destination, an ostrich farm. A quick hello with the farm’s owner (and about 30 bobbing heads with long legs) and we were allowed to park anywhere on the property, so we opted for a beautiful pasture with a view of a large quiet pond. It was probably 20 acres in total, and other than a couple of curious horses, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. The light was waning so photo opportunities were few. We leveled the truck, and Yvette jumped right into mixing the peat moss that we would be used in our new compost toilet. All the while, the temperature was dropping and I fired up the diesel fired furnace just enough to take the chill off. After a quick sandwich and some housekeeping, we settled into relax mood and opted for an early turn in. Both beds are very comfortable and have plenty of room, and the “Rumpl” blankets make for a toasty nights sleep. I turned out the lights and I pulled out my Kindle to do some reading when I heard what sounded like a groan from the water tank area. Yvette had dropped off to sleep and was snoring enough to make the curtains move. Ironically, it made me smile because it was then I knew, she was all in!

4am. Cold, colder than it should have been since we left the furnace on low. But therein was the problem. The furnace had kicked off due to an overheat condition. I triedr to restart it, but it only lasted another 10 minutes. So I took a picture of the screens fault code, sent the picture along with an email off to Provan and we proceeded to make breakfast. Note to self. Oatmeal gives me heartburn. The next 5 hours would result in every burp feeling like a blow torch.

About an hour or two into the second day, we received a call from Provan asking us to come back so they could fix the heater. Since we were well on our way, we opted to just not use it, and return to South Carolina on our final departure. But since we couldn’t use the furnace and the nights were forecast to be fairly chilly, our next destination would be a hotel. We set our sights on Charlottesville NC, still clinging to the back roads for some scenic and relaxing driving. The truck handled all the roads with ease. Plenty of power, smooth and my favorite part, the exhaust brake. I could just feel my wallet growing larger every time I could keep my foot off the brakes.

Holiday Inn Express at Charlottesville is probably like every other Holiday Inn Express anywhere else. But the rooms were clean, cheap and the bed was comfy. We decided on a nice little Italian Restaurant for dinner and ordered up an Uber in lieu of driving the truck, not knowing what the parking situation was. So, the Uber driver shows up. I get in the front, Yvette gets in the back and we are both swallowed up by a giant waft of liquid car air freshener. It was so rank, people stared at us through dinner. Once back at the hotel, I emptied all of our pockets and came up with enough change to launder our cloths, twice.

Heading East On Interstate 84.

The third day the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky. A quick breakfast and we’re off and running! What a great ride through Virginia as we still find our grove through the valleys and over the knolls to Front Royal. Once at Front Royal we eat a quick lunch, meet some nice folks, buy some apples and pickles at a road side stand and we’re on the road again. But now the reality of time sets in. We have to make more progress otherwise it will take us a week to get home! Time to get off the back roads. Onto Rt66 and head west to hook up with 81 East. Once on 81, I set the cruise control for the first time. I’m in love. Very smooth and stable on the interstate. I could drive forever, and pretty much stay behind the wheel until we reach the east side of Scranton. I smile all the way down the off ramp as the exhaust brake once again, does most of the braking. We stop at a little place called “Nosh”, had a great dinner and off to bed, again at a Holiday Inn Express.

I wake up at 4:15. Im not the only one awake. “You up?”, I whisper. “Yep”, she says. In about 30 minutes we were on the road in search of some coffee and a quick bite. We headed east for the final push. Hardly a car on the road as I set the cruise control again and we settled in to watch our first sunrise in our new truck. (Yea, I know. Sounds like a country western song.)

The Nav system in the truck was at the very least, interesting. It did however decide, and as it turned out, in our best interest, that the best way home was to go over the Tapenzee Bridge, hang a left and head north on the Taconic State Parkway until we reached I90, drive back down to Holyoke, then back north on 91. And, it was right. We made great time and cut 30 minutes off of our trip. Trust me when I say, you haven’t lived until you’ve driven with me with the cruise control set 66mph on that roller coaster they call a parkway! I felt like I had spent the day at the GM test track.

We arrived home before lunch, and picked up where we left off, more packing and preparations for the final departure. Our goal is to leave again for the last time on the 26th. Lots to do before then. Stay tuned!

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