Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gator Delivery service part II- Jethro hits the open road-

Plans had been made. I picked up my 16' utility trailer from the yard of a friend with a much larger yard than me (he stores it and uses it) and loaded up the aforementioned "Gator".  I took all kinds of hand tools, a hydraulic jack, floor jack, an air compressor and anything else I could think of. Work was slow so getting a Wednesday through Tuesday off was not a problem.

Oil was checked, tire pressures checked.  Kids and wife kissed good bye and last minute instructions left.  After waiting out a downpour, I hopped in the Dodge and was on the way. Actually half a day earlier than intended. 


I was driving from Savannah, GA to near the town of Grey Eagle, Minnesota.  The most direct route takes you right through Atlanta GA and Chicago, IL and I wanted to avoid both.  Thus I did!

Interstate 95 north up the coast to the intersection of I-26, then alllll the way through South Carolina in to western North Carolina, and I-40 thru the smokies.  Here are some pics, not totally in order, but I kept the camera on my lap and just shot through the windshield all the way up. 


Now the tires on the rig were a few years old, yet appeared just fine. Except one had blown out while the trailer was in the use of a friend, who put on the spare.  I replaced the blown one prior to leaving, and put the spare back in the truck bed. I noted some "flat spotted" "thump thump thump" as I headed down the interstate, but figured it would work it's way out.  It sure did, And not in a way I wanted it to...

Yep, the tires had had enough and were rebelling against my plans.

I stopped around twilight at the exit for Newport, Tennessee on I-40 just east of Knoxville, where I could connect with I-75 and head north. 
I jacked it up and put the spare on the worst offender, which was swelled up like a bicycle tire. I let the air down on the other two original tires (one had been replaced prior to leaving) and hoped for the best. It was about 8pm and I had steam left in me, wanted to cover more road before calling it quits for some sleep, but had no tire shop nearby.  I crossed my fingers and got back on the road. I held the speed to about 60 mph in the right lane and pressed on, in to the sunset. 30 minutes later I was connected with I-75 and heading North.  I pressed on, with the WHAP WHAP WHAP going on back behind me. I kept expecting one of them to explode and bend up the trailer fender but it never happened.
I pulled off at a rest area just after connecting with I-64 around Lexington, KY about midnight. I have covered 640 some miles in the 12 1/2 hours since leaving home.
I cracked the rear side windows and the slider in back, hung towels for curtains, used the sunshade as a shade between the front and back seats and lay down in back with my duffle bag as a pillow. The temps were in the mid 70's and there was a bit of a breeze so it wasn't bad. Not totally dark, there are always lights but I got away from them as much as I could.
Sure, could I have gotten a nice room at a motel 6?  Well that would have taken an extra 40 minutes I figure between checking in and out, finding a place to park the rig as most hotels don't have long spaces. Then I'd either be up half the night worried the Gator was stolen off the trailer (a friend had his rig with a drag racing buggy and ATV on it stolen right out of a hotel parking lot) or I'd sleep so well I'd oversleep and not get on the road early.    
I was up at 7am, found the vending machine with the coffee was broken, splashed some water on my face, and prepared to leave. I spoke with a trucker getting out of his truck who told me the next exit up had lots of places and possibly a tire shop.
Frankfort, TN had what I needed. Tire Discounters! I pulled in about 7:30 and noted the sign said they opened at 8am. I was about to leave when the manager pulled in, unlocked the door and to come on in while he made coffee. He booted up the computer and sure enough, they had three 225/75/15 trailer tires in stock.  I backed the trailer around back.
I headed over to the Waffle House across the street for a grease and carbohydrate fix.

Should have gotten bacon instead of country ham. I forgot how indelibly salty it is.  
After cleaning my plate and over tipping the wait staff (very friendly and good service) walked over to the convenience store next door and got myself some road supplies, a few apples, granola bars and a bag of ice for the cooler I kept on "the hump" of the back seat reachable while driving.
When I got back to the tire store, this young man had gotten my tires changed, and checked the air in all my truck tires to boot. It was like pulling teeth to get him to take a 20 dollar tip!
 And on I went.  I-64 to Lousiville, KY, then north on I-65 towards Indianapolis, Indiana.  I got pelted with tomatoes just shy of Indianapolis. Well, not pelted, but they were rolling off on the  bumps. At least I figure they were tomatoes, looked like Romas.
Approaching the south side of Indy, about to exit and go west towards I-74 and Illinois-
Here are some random shots from the road. The crops looked great, last year there was a major drought and everything was brown according to locals.  I noted the style of barns in Illinois differs from the barns I am accustomed to in Minnesota. They have a copula on the roof that is unique, not seen this before. Look closely at the barn pics. 
Travelin' tunes-

On I-74 in eastern Illinois, they were doing construction and I spent miles and miles of one lane stop and go, I snapped a shot of these classics and street rods headed the other way-


The truck kept rolling along, with the new tires it was smooth at 75, I never had reason to go any faster than that. And many times slower due to the construction work.  I avoid taking long stops and eating big meals, opting to snack along the way. I keep the cooler mentioned earlier with ice and water in it, keep some fruit and granola bars to munch on. I would get a quick burger when stopping for fuel but not each too much. 

Every 300 miles like clockwork we needed a fill. The tank is 26 gallons per the manual, and when on dead "E" on the needle I get 23 gallons in it. I checked the MPG with a calculator each fill up, and got between 11.5 (mountains) and 14.2 (flatlands in IL with lots of 25-45 mph contruction) which I think is decent considering a 5780lb truck ('03 4x4 Dodge with 5.7 Hemi and 3.91 gears) towing a trailer which I guess to be 2100 lbs loaded, and having a couple hundred pounds of tools and stuff in the truck's bed. 

Once in Bloomington/Normal IL, I hit I-39 north towards Wisconsin.  I crossed the border about 5pm, paid the only toll of the trip, I think a buck eighty.

On I went, north then west as I had been since leaving the low country of the Georgia coast the day before. Man, the badger state interstate was rough! The cracks in the pavement were just at the right spacing to get a jerking, bucking motion going with the truck and trailer.  Then and there I determined I would make the trip home via Iowa!

The sun set, I was about four hours from home. I was tired, but not dangerously tired. I had a phone call with dad and determined I'd be there about 12:30 AM or so.  I hit Minneapolis-St Paul at 11pm, and went right through it with no problem. I was going to use the expression "without a hitch" but that would imply I'd lost my load...

 Pressing on I kept getting closer. Familiar exits from growing up there. I turned off the AC as it was cool, down south it does not cool down at night in July or August, but here it was very nice. The smells of the lakes and farms came in. The wind kept me alert. The throb of the Hemi was glorious music with the trans kicked out of overdrive, pulling up hills with the chambered aluminum muffler it has dumped in front of the rear axle. It's loud, but not too loud. Just enough to let you know it's workin'.

I came through Grey Eagle, the town I grew up in, then on home 3 1/2 miles north on county 102. I pulled in the drive, 12:48 AM central time, a total of 1532 miles and 24 hrs 45 min since departing the west side of Savannah.  892 miles. I'd gotten on the road at 9am after the tire ordeal in Kentucky. I'd "lost" an hour crossing in to central time from eastern, but it's moot as I'd gain that back en route home.  Basically I'd driven just short of 16 hours that day.

I got in the house and dad met me at the door with a bottle of Cap't Morgan rum and asked if I "wanted a bump" Hell yes I did! Even after a stiff rum'n coke and a much needed shower I still did not go to sleep right away, just buzzed from staying awake I guess.

Stay tuned for PART III!