Monthly Archives: October 2013

Traveling Days – October 2013

Due to my foot injury I left Stephen MN sooner than planned, but not by much. As I was prepping the RV on 10/17 I got a phone call from the city manager saying that they would be shutting off water in the campground sometime on 10/18 due to low temperatures. So, even without the broken foot, I would have only lasted a few more days in the campground with my freshwater tank. Due to the injury, the biggest change in my traveling plans was final destination. Instead of heading due south to Kansas to work for Amazon, I drove southeast to Florida.

Departure on the morning of 10/18 was predictably cold, temps in the low 30s. I really should have put away the sewer and water hoses the night before but just couldn’t stand limping down to the bath house the night before. Other than that, the final preparations went smoothly, got the RV hitched up and headed out about 8 AM for my 2100 mile trip. I expected it would take a full 4 days but my main concern was getting into warmer weather as soon as possible since I would be boondocking in rest areas or truck stops at night.

I stopped in Grand Forks ND just long enough to finish some paperwork with Express Employment Professionals for my worker’s comp claim. Then it was back on the road heading south. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to fight headwinds getting out of the state and made it as far as Sioux City Iowa that first day. I can’t even remember if I boondocked at a rest area or Flying J that first night so I must have been tired. I do remember that it was still very cold. Between the cold, my foot, and Dakota craving attention, it was not a very good night for sleeping. I was back on the road before 5 AM.

My next planned stop was in southern Illinois. That meant I would have to finish crossing Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and part of Illinois. Traveling on a Saturday made it easy to get through Kansas City and St. Louis although there seemed to be a college football game in Missouri that contributed to traffic on the interstate. I had already checked out a rest area in southern Illinois in The Next Exit book. Just a few miles north of that rest area I noticed a lot of bright lights off to the side and thought it might be a sports stadium or industrial complex. Not even close. It was a prison, complete with lots of shiny concertina wire, and only 2 miles north of my rest area. I started reconsidering spending the night there but the decision was taken out of my hands. The rest area was closed and had a barricade across the entrance. No problem, my backup location was a Pilot truck stop a few miles further down the road.

I get to that exit well after dark and find a construction zone. Fortunately, I made it to the truck stop without getting lost or stuck on a 1 lane road. Unfortunately, the truck stop was totally full. 18 wheelers were packed in there like sardines. Even if there was an empty spot I might have still passed due to my inability to back into a tight spot, in the dark, after a long day driving. So, back on the interstate heading south to the next rest area. What a surprise! All the truck and RV spots full there also. But, trucks were parking on the shoulder in the rest area so I figured it was OK for me also. I drove head first into a large spot between trucks but the end of the 5er was still very close to the roadway. The trucker parked just ahead of me offered his advice and assistance. I pulled forward into the road again and parallel parked that RV! Many thanks to that trucker for spotting me so I could get a decent nights sleep.

The next day I hoped to make it at least to south Georgia, maybe north Florida. It was good weather and clear sailing through Nashville, Chattanooga and Atlanta. Knock on wood, I’d only had one small problem with my brake controller and was trying not to think about any more mechanical problems. The exhaust brake worked just great in the mountains as I cruised by the truck runaway lanes. That Sunday evening I pulled into the Florida welcome center on I-75, looking forward to a shower and a good nights sleep. I found a level spot so using the water pump on my freshwater tank was not a problem.

I turned on the water heater (on propane) for the shower, made a phone call, then reached in the freezer for a Klondike bar. After taking the first bite and seeing liquid ice cream run out, I realized I had a problem. In north Georgia, I had a propane cylinder refilled. Apparently, I left both propane cylinders turned off when departing the Flying J so the refrigerator/freezer couldn’t run at all the entire day. My water heater also wasn’t heating any water for my shower. Oh well, I stepped outside to open one of the cylinders, came back inside and verified the water heater and frig were working again. Made another phone call while waiting for hot water. Finally got my shower and slept with one vent open since the temps were very comfortable.

Got another early start on Monday morning. After some quick calculations, I figured I would be in Malabar FL by lunchtime. Turns out my biggest ‘big city’ hassle of the entire trip would be Jacksonville FL. I hit it right at morning rush hour and even though I took the bypass, there were several spots when all traffic came to a complete halt on the interstate. After that I stopped at the Flying J outside St Augustine. Wasn’t sure if I had enough diesel to finish the trip, so better safe than sorry. You’ve heard about ‘the ugly American’ overseas? Well, I saw ‘the ugly RVer’ in that parking lot. Someone in a 5th wheel had pulled in, taking up 2 RV spaces, had all 4 slides out and a spare gas tank under the 5er feeding the generator. It’s folks like these that give RVers a bad name. Anyway, I got in line to fill my tank and waited, and waited, and waited. The RVer ahead of me in line was attempting to get a propane cylinder filled but they were obviously having problems. When I questioned them they had no idea how long it would take so I asked the RVer to spot me in back so I could back up and take the other (empty) lane. Mission accomplished and back on the road.

I had called the RV park while waiting for diesel to let them know I would be there early. The manager advised that she would call me back only if my spot was NOT available. No callback, so life was good. I’d stayed at this park before so I knew exactly where I was going. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me that it was lawn care day. That means that people park their cars and trucks in the street so the lawn mowers have access to the grass. After weaving through parked cars, I get to my spot and check it out. On the street in front of my spot, in my planned maneuvering area, is a pickup truck. The local manager cruises up in a golf cart, then a workamper, and they determine that the owner is off the premises. So, I look very closely and figure I can still make it in. With the workamper spotting my blindside I had the RV positioned in under 5 minutes. Get the electric hooked up and life is good. Temps are in the 80s so everything else can wait until I rest up some more.

Chinese Buffets in Grand Forks ND

Since I added the tagline “Seeing the country 1 Chinese buffet at a time” to this blog, I should probably mention the buffets I’ve visited periodically. For my stints at the sugar beet harvest in Stephen MN, the nearest decent buffets are in Grand Forks ND. For the first 2 years, our ‘go to’ spot was Great Wall Buffet on Gateway Dr. Yes, I said ‘our’. There are several of us who really enjoy buffets and almost always combine a lunch with a regular shopping trip. Anyway, Great Wall is a decent buffet. Rather limited selection of dishes but we weren’t really expecting much here. At one point, I checked YELP and found another buffet in town but it had even worse reviews.

Well, this year we decided to check out the other place, Panda Buffet on south Columbia Rd. What a welcome surprise. Much greater selection of standard buffet items, Mongolian grill, and dessert. (There’s a reason I didn’t mention salad bar – what a waste when you’re paying for a buffet!) They had chocolate cream pie in a dessert case. This place was actually crowded! We even noted numerous Asians paying to eat there. Is it the perfect Chinese buffet? No. Here are a few things I noticed. This is the first Chinese buffet I’ve visited that does NOT have chicken on a stick. If you want to eat something off a stick they have decent shishkebab with beef, onion and green bell pepper. There is one waitress who isn’t very attentive. If you need a drink refill or plates cleared, don’t be bashful. Flag her down. The hard floor areas can get very slick after a few spills. I saw one lady go from carpet to hard floor and land flat on her ass.

So, what was the deal with YELP? Well, I looked at the reviews again and spotted a link to view ‘filtered’ reviews. Apparently they employ some type of algorithm to keep pumpers and bashers off the main page. I couldn’t see any indication in the filtered reviews that they were bogus. So, I’ll know to look a little harder the next time.

A Much Needed Break

While the title of this post is entirely accurate, it’s also an unintentional pun. I’ve been working very hard here at the sugar beet harvest in Stephen MN. Right now it looks like the harvest is paused all through the Red River Valley of the North due to high daytime temperatures. There’s supposed to be an update today at noon but the weather forecast is now calling for thunderstorms (at least in my area) so the restart may be delayed another day or 2.

So, these days off would normally be unwelcome but the circumstances are a little different for me right now. 2 days ago I twisted my ankle and fell in some pretty nasty muck. I kept thinking it was just a bad sprain but some inner voice convinced me to go to the hospital a few hours after the fact. Well, the X-Rays showed a broken fibula, just above the ankle. I got a quick education in the bones of the lower leg and a walking boot. I can still hobble around with the boot but the big problem is driving my manual transmission truck. That boot is so big and clunky that it’s difficult to fully depress the clutch and still have access to the brake pedal. I’m thinking about a temporary modification to the clutch pedal to fix that problem. I tried driving without the boot and it’s just too painful. (Note to self: next truck should be an automatic transmission.)

In the meantime, the company has been very understanding and supportive. I obviously can’t perform my normal duties so they’ve offered me light duties so I can still qualify for the season bonus and stay in the campground. The current weather situation is giving me another day or 2 to let the healing process work its magic.

Full recovery will take 4-6 weeks so my next planned job, picker at Amazon warehouse, will not happen. Instead, I’ll head back down to Florida early and maybe find another job before Christmas.

Late edit on 10/13. 2 things have come to mind the last few days. First, this is only my second broken bone ever. The first was a toe. So, 2 possibilities come to mind. Am I working my way up the body for broken bones? Sure hope not! And I still haven’t required a cast for either bone. The toe was just taped, the fibula required a walking boot. Hmmmm.