Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Trip Routing

 

 

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This post is definitely more about describing how I work out where to go and where to stop than it is about how you should do so. There is a right way to do things, and then there’s my way. I’m now seriously behind in routing my trip for the upcoming commute/touring season of seven or so months, but that won’t stop me from delaying that task further with this post. Procrastination comes in many forms and with many faces.

Assuming – and that’s a big, pending assumption – that the local medicos do not seriously interfere with my departure schedule or make it necessary to closely monitor dosage results in a way that is incompatible with living on the road, I should be able to clear out of here somewhere in the last half of March, when the temperatures ramp up.

The primary goals are just two: get to Illinois in time to plague family and show up for pre-scheduled annual appointments in that area, and hunt for cooler high-altitude air along the way, at least until the true long-distance commute begins. Secondary goals are to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, and then steer counter-productively back northwest to Prescott to see about installing rear air lifts on the Mighty Furdster. Then, according to plan, I hope to attend the Overland Expo West once again this year, not so much because I need to, but because I would like to check out their new venue and camping situation just south of Flagstaff. While there, I can review all of the handy equipment that I can’t afford and wouldn’t have room to stow even if I could. Oooo, shiny objects! While still in the Tucson area, I’m also giving serious consideration to having a Ravelco anti-theft system installed.

Anti-theft? Why go to that trouble and expense for a decade-old pickup truck, fer cry-eye? Two reasons. First, the Intrepid is the onlyest transport I’ve got, my rolling home with contents representing nearly all of my most important worldly possessions, like my collection of swizzle sticks from around the world. Simple break-ins are certainly a possibility, particularly in the truck cab, but a smash-and-grab in the pop-up camper would be a bit of an ordeal to carry out in a timely and unobtrusive way. Headaches and costs aside, items are just possessions. But should I lose the entire rig itself, I’d be in a poor situation indeed.

That brings me to Reason Two. Down here, full-size pickups are hot theft property both to ship overseas and to ferry illegals and drugs across the border from Mexico, overland style. Among all cars and trucks combined, Ford’s F-series are in the unenviable number three spot for theft popularity, with Chevy pickups running a very close fourth. (Ford outsells Chevrolet in the new vehicle market, so thieves aren’t actually brand fans.) Those are national rankings, while down here near the border, local theft stats are worse for pickups. The trouble for me is, they don’t often steal the new ones, but favor the older ones like mine due to their relative lack of theft deterrents. For a pro, it’s an easy matter to crack open the steering column and ignition lock, hotwire the thing, and take off. The Ravelco is a system based on both added wiring and the OEM wiring harness in a way that makes hotwiring exceptionally difficult. It provides an electrical socket that accepts a unique plug which completes the only valid circuit(s) that will allow the vehicle to run. You keep the plug on your keychain. The odds of linking the “right” connecting pins/wires manually are virtually nil. You can add all the direct-connect jumper wires under the hood that you like, but it’s going to be a literal waste of precious time, which is the whole point. Time. Exposure time. Adding Ravelco’s approach is roughly akin to why most repair shops here that do electricals won’t touch any electrical mods that include non-original wiring. Takes way to long to reverse-engineer and then troubleshoot, particularly on billable time. Keep farting around, and you’re likely to short out a component and make it so it can’t run even if you unknowingly defeat the rewiring. Practically speaking, stealing a Ravelco-equipped vehicle requires a tow truck and a favorable parked situation so that the vehicle can be hauled to a shop, and something about that particular vehicle that makes a day or two of intense effort worth the extra nuisance and risk. Or, they could just move on to find an easier target. In the case of my specific rig, it’s not only not worth it, but the bike carrier and cargo box front and rear pose an additional towing problem to overcome for both theft and emergency road assistance. Besides, very few vehicle thefts involve towing anyway. The vast majority of vehicle thefts are drive-aways, and the Revelco, with its history of never once being defeated en situ since 1978, removes driving it away as an option. You can add a conventional alarm independently if you want a siren or beeping alarm to go off, but those are easily silenced and really, nobody exactly calls 911 when a car alarm goes off in a shopping center parking lot, do they? A tilt alarm might help a little against towing. Heck fire, I was told that underhood access to the essential connection points of my year of diesel F-Series is so poor that merely installing the Ravelco’s connections requires removal of one wheel/tire and fender liner, since Ford buried a major e-box in there. So, disabling the steering column as the Quik-‘n-EZ attack point also makes popping the hood to jump some connections just as much of a waste of time. You can’t get there from here.

This shows the plug in place under the dash. Leaving the socket exposed to view is more gain than loss. The wiring behind is armoured, and accessing it is no help to the basic problem. An experienced pro will walk away after spotting it. A stroke will simply increase his risk of getting caught.

This shows the plug in place under the dash. Leaving the socket exposed to view is more gain than loss. The wiring behind is armored, and accessing it is no help to the basic problem anyway. An experienced pro will walk away after spotting it. A stroke will simply waste more time and increase his risk of getting caught.

Just don’t lose that key/plug and its spare, or you too will be out of business until you special-order a replacement. That requires a sales receipt, code number, and a copy of your driver’s license sent directly to the factory. There is no “master key” sold on eBay to defeat it, or a mere half-dozen key variations. That the Ravelco system might be worth the expense comes down to one’s willingness to ante up for protection against the potential of an irrecoverable loss. I’m still working up the financial courage, of course, despite the fact that I don’t have a prayer of replacing this rig should something untoward happen to it. It’s not like somebody is just waiting in the weeds to hijack my truck. But since this vehicle type/brand/year is among the most preferred victims as far as odds go, and since theft is quick and easy, it’s harder to dismiss the issue with “Oh, it’s not gonna happen to me!” I had a faded and tired 9-year-old Camaro stolen long ago from right out front at work, so I know it can happen to me.

But oh, this post is supposed to be about how I do trip routing, isn’t it? Having deadlines for arrival to even one spot tends to make just taking off on a spontaneous adventure less practical. Being a doddering oldster with a preference for knowing what’s coming imposes more of a sense of scheduled adventure. I know what I want for weather temperatures for any given month, and I know where I will need to ultimately wind up, and when. In the meantime, I’ve found that I don’t like heat or arduous day-long drives to arrive on wholly unfamiliar trails in the dark, only to find that the camping situation is either unpleasant or nonexistent. The latter was a much bigger difficulty to address when I traveled in the Defiant, a 26’ travel trailer with little discernible ground clearance. That issue has scaled down very considerably with the truck camper, but you can still wind up next to a barking/unleashed dog, blaring music, an arguing couple, Party Central with drunken locals, or a cheap generator roaring its little heart out all night. Everybody enjoys the Great Outdoors in their own way, I guess. My way is not more holy or something, but silence and solitude are what do it for me. To do that effectively takes a little more foreknowledge than settling for the easy pickings, where you happily grab the first spot you see and make camp somewhere within the resettled suburbia.

Oddly, I’ve never found my stack of Benchmark state maps to be of much use in this regard. They have never justified their expense to me. Many campers claim to find them indispensable (and oddly enough, the most vocal ones are Amazon Affiliates), but I’ve found them to be too vague and incomplete for me in planning out a boondocking tour ahead of time. That is, I’d have a trip with a high nuisance factor if I relied on them exclusively, and when I go to my other sources, they become irrelevant and remain unused. For me, they are a last-ditch emergency backup that doesn’t depend on charged batteries. I still remember how I felt when I received them just prior to setting out, these ” highly recommended essentials”, and my reaction as I opened the package and paged through them. Perhaps the temperament of a happy wanderer or sightseeing tourist is better suited to them.

What I prefer to do is to look at Google Maps online. I know where I am, and if I have a major waypoint in mind, with or without a date attached to it, I will look for stopping (camping) points along the way that will hold to my preferred drive time each day. Typically, I will be road-ready no later than the crack of 11 AM after I have broken camp, and I will prefer to arrive at the next camping area no later than 4 PM. Yes, life is hard. That arrival time allows me some exploration at the stopping point to tour the trail(s) and try to locate a week-worthy Primo Campsite there that suits my fancy, assuming that this is not to be a mere overnight spot. A week is my standard provisioning limit. After that, I will need to find a place to chuck trash, refill the water tank, buy fresh food, and sometimes refill one of my two propane tanks, depending on my furnace use. What town is within reach, and what facilities does it have? Any diesel fuel pumps?

It’s easy to check the approximate point-to-point drive time with Google Maps, and hunt down the elevation and past monthly temperature averages for that area online. I can dress for cool temperatures, but can’t do much for hot ones, other than open things up, sweat, and stink. But, neither do I want to hit 9,000’ elevations in April or October, if I can help it. It’s more an issue of driving on slippery roads than staying warm in the camper. Montana in March would not be my first choice. Neither would Florida in August.

Wunderground.com has a detailed section to research any area’s temperature history. You first enter a town name into its search box. On the current weather page that results, the first two tabs of five are “Forecast” and “History”. On the page that results from “History”, the button “Trip Planner” is in a column to the right. Select that, and on the page that results is a “Weather History & Almanac” box to the right, halfway down the page. At the bottom of that box is a link to Seasonal Weather Averages. Whew! Selecting that produces a very usable graph of normal highs and lows as well as record highs and lows, month by month over a year. Some weather websites summarize and display this trending in charts instead of line graphs, which hurts usability when a temperature slope over a four-week period is replaced by a single averaged value summarizing the entire month. A historical ten or fifteen-degree rise or fall over a span of four weeks, combined with normal day-to-day trends and variations that one can expect, can mean that you’ll be more likely to arrive just in time to miss what you consider to be a comfortable temperature window.

Example: Wellton, Arizona. My concern will be my departure time. The graph shows that the normal high temperatures for the last half of March have trended from about 80-84 degrees over that two weeks, which is fine if I stay outside in the shade, which I normally don’t. The trailer interior typically gains ten degrees over whatever the ambient temperature is each afternoon, and being out in the direct sun feels about ten degrees warmer than ambient, too. Record highs in this time period have reached 100 degrees, making a simple “warm spell” a potentially juicy experience. So, if possible, I should get outta Dodge by mid-month. If later than that, I have the option of running the air conditioning in the trailer, but that gets costly fast.

What you want in presentation is similar to this. Temperature ranges over a year are in the top graph.

What you want in presentation is similar to this. Temperature ranges over a year are in the top graph.

I then enter a new search for my intended destination, to look at its weather history and see how close it’s likely to be to my preferred temperature range for that same time period. For me, a “normal high” of no more than 72 degrees is ideal because it allows for a little heat gain in the truck camper and a little warm spell, while the “normal low” overnight should preferably stay above 40, and not fall below 20 for record low temps. The camper is fine at these low temperatures, but I’m not. Since the day’s peak temps are typically reached only by late afternoon, I’d prefer not to be forced to deal with winterish temperatures all morning should I want/need to do some activity outside. Studies have shown that the greatest determiner of comfort in cold temperatures is one’s basic level of physical fitness. Oh well. Nor am I of Norwegian descent.

Typically, my departure in Spring has been a little behind the curve, meaning that I have not gone high enough in elevation early enough to reliably keep me within my happy zone. Just as “a rising tide lifts all boats”, so does a late departure screw up all the timing of a perfectly good Spring tour schedule. The first stop is skipped, and I continue on up the ladder. Finding the “next” camping stop can certainly be done on the fly, but I find it to be much more relaxing to “be in the moment” enjoying this week’s location and features, than to spend many working hours at each campsite trying to research where the next campsite should be and what that area is like. I already have other things I want or need to do then, and the current site may or may not provide a cellular Internet connection. Those who advise me “Don’t plan. Just go somewhere, man. It’ll work out,” are on a different tour. I’m sure it will work itself out, but not always in my favor. Serendipity is much easier when the exploration is little more than a choice of reruns. Do I have favorite locations that I intend to visit again? You bet. Except for refreshing my memory on seasonal weather for a given time frame, there’s no research needed. It’s Deja Vu all over again.

So, the “next” planned campsite needs to be in the general direction that I am heading, within a workable strike distance, and it needs to be free, needs to have the potential for at least modest solitude, and needs to be with the right altitude range to provide comfortable temperatures for that time frame. Oh yeah, and it needs to be either just ahead of or just after a resupply and diesel refueling point, and it sure wouldn’t hurt if there’s a pay shower in the area as well. After all, I’m not wandering about, impromptu. I’m ultimately heading for a destination, the final one being 2,000+ miles away on an arrival deadline. Intermediate waypoints such as Prescott will have their own deadlines established once I’m on the road this year, allowing the shop time to order and receive parts, and work up an appointment time. Once I get east and north of Kansas City, the “free dispersed camping” options have pretty much evaporated, and many of the lower 48 prohibit overnight parking at rest stops and/or limit stays to a few hours. A state-by-state listing is here, and OvernightRVParking also includes this information with each rest stop selected. All of this would be a slam-dunk if I stuck with fee-based RV parks the whole trip, but I don’t swing that way. It has to be free or, in the case of logistical problems, suitably cheap. Cheap, I say cheap, that is! Say that aloud like Foghorn Leghorn, and you’ll enjoy it more.

One big improvement this year which the Intrepid supplies is a freedom from being absolutely tethered to dump stations, as I formerly had to cross-check my plans with rvdumpsites.net, sanidumps.com, and/or rvdumps.com. That was a pain, but not no more. An integral part of this planning process is to use online free campsite locators like freecampsites.net, which often include reader feedback on suitability. Just because a campsite exists doesn’t mean it’s any good or is suitable for you. I like it particularly because it provides GPS coordinates rather than “verbal” navigator instructions to watch for this turn or that road, approaching from a particular direction. Campendium.com is often useful as well.

The US Forest Service is an okay source for MVUMs (Motor Vehicle Use Maps) for each given National Forest. For vehicle-based camping, these offer guidance on which trails are approved for car and RV travel, and which are not. Some forest maps will denote roads which are specifically approved for camping beside, so in those forests you really don’t want to be caught camping by just any old road there just because it shows on the map as being okay for travel. Important caveat: Just because a marked trail is approved for camping does not mean that you and your rig will be able to do so. Many such areas are swamped with bushes or undergrowth, have high ridges to climb, and/or are heavily sloped. Or, that road itself may require far more off-roading capability than you would be able to muster with your rig. Just because you may legally camp there doesn’t mean you’ll be be able to.

Most people go someplace specifically to hook up with other campers and hang out, or to make "new friends". That tends to simplify things a lot.

Most people go someplace specifically to hook up with other campers and hang out, or to make “new friends”. That tends to simplify planning a lot.

This is where my peculiar insistence on solitude and quiet can unravel the best laid plans. More so in areas where camping roads are distinctly marked separately from vehicle travel roads on the MVUM, getting away from the easy pickings (if there are any) frequently presents trails that are in pretty rough shape and lacking in any usable place to pull off and camp. The map’s indication that you’re welcome to camp along here is belied by the obvious unsuitability once you arrive and feast your eyes upon it. Ooooh boy.

Seeing this photo answered my question, "Why don't I ever see even a single camper up here?" This is why. This is an MVUM camping road. Camp-suitable areas are far and few between. Access in by 2WD is questionable. I may frequently whine about the Ford's size but this particular "road" section explains why I'm unlikely to ever see a 1-ton dually under a big ol' hardside truck camper up here.

Seeing this photo answered my question, “Why don’t I ever see even a single camper up here on this plateau?” This is why. This is an MVUM camping road. Camp-suitable patches do exist, but are far and few between. Access in by 2WD is questionable. I may frequently whine about the Furd’s size, but this particular “road” section explains why I’m unlikely to ever see a 1-ton dually under a big ol’ hardside truck camper up here. That combo can technically pass here (if it can climb the loose-rock access trail), but it requires strong nerves and a bottle of touch-up paint. With much less weight located lower down, a pop-up camper or bed shell on a single-wheel truck is better suited to this brand of nonsense.

More than once I’ve asked myself, “Of all the other trails here, why oh why did they ever designate this trail for camping, of all places??”  MVUMs are a relatively new thing, ever evolving, so go back and download new ones before you leave each year. Paper versions are available free at the district’s ranger station. I use the electronic versions because, on my old iPad that has GPS functionality, I can be in that forest and see exactly where I currently am on the map, which helps a ton. Same story for a smartphone.

You can camp along either side of this road if you like, but that isn't great news.

You can camp along either side of this road if you like, but that isn’t great news.

MVUMs can also be downloaded and displayed in this interactive form via Avenza Maps on any GPS-aware smart device. That’s what I have. Avenza hopes that you will also download an assortment of tourist and topo maps from their listings, but MVUMs are also listed and can be downloaded and used at no charge. By default, listings will be for the forest that you are either in or closest to. They do outline a way to download other more distant maps and then transfer them to your device. MVUM maps used in this way are not GPS routing devices that can guide you in. They just show you where you are on the current map, which is very helpful in itself, in that when you want to know where that side trail heads off to or how close you are to the turnoff you wanted to take, the map shows you.

Lists that people have compiled can be useful. UsCampgrounds.info, run by Tom Hillegass, has camping sites on a map which include info and links to more info that are about as complete as could be. Eugene Carsey lists campgrounds by state that are free unless otherwise noted, along with GPS coordinates and familiarization info with photos. Bob’s Cheap or Free Campgrounds has a Google Maps link marked with campsites he has gone to, and a little basic info about each. Then you might also refer to campsite reviews at your favorite blogs such as Wheeling It, and others.

Forestcamping.com can be useful, though most of the listings there are not free. Same with PublicLands.org. The Bureau of Land Management generally allows dispersed camping just about anywhere, but lists its fee-based sites here.

In any case, GPS coordinates are helpful in that you can enter them into Google Maps satellite view to see what’s there physically from overhead. This is especially helpful if you’re towing and looking for town camps that will fit your rig, or want to get the lay of the land on rest stops and Walmart lots for a long-distance commute. Since I’m a GPS user, when I’m on the computer I find it handy to click once on any location on the Google Map view that I like, and copy down the GPS coordinates that pop up. It’s even handier to open another browser window or tab, and go to a GPS coordinate converter like this one that will instantly translate the coordinates to the GPS format that you prefer to use in your navigation device. Between that and Googling for general reviews on specific site names, you’re pretty well set.

But hey, how do you know what agency administers where you are? That’s especially important in Arizona, where the State Trust owns many scattershot pieces of land where you are subject to citation for criminal misdemeanor trespassing if you do not have a recreational permit. Trust land is not public land. It’s state land held with the goal of leasing it out to businesses. Many of these Trust areas are signed, but some are not. One smartphone app that’s handy for Federal ownership is “US Public Lands”, which locates you and paints over with color-keyed overlays of Federal agency ownership. That app has some limitations with boundary accuracy because of the nature of the Federal data the app has to rely on, but overall, I find it good. If nothing else, it can establish which agency you need to Google in order to further research a camp in that area. It includes Federal lands only, though. For AZ State Trust land, the only online option I know of is to go to their website. It isn’t that helpful for camping purposes. If you’re thinking about staying on or crossing through State Trust land, you need to purchase a recreational permit, either by mail, or online if you have a printer. Officially, it’s $15, good for a year, and allows 14 days of camping (total) within that year. The enforcement level varies depending on location. The land around Wickenburg AZ has been undergoing changes, which has ramped up permit checks lately. For 15 bucks, I consider it a reasonable cost for peace of mind, unless I’m dead certain that my wanderings will specifically avoid State Trust land. So far, the on-site signage has been pretty good.

For the long and hurried “commute” back to my “home” area across the boondocking wastelands, I lay out the 2,000-mile route and divide it up into the daily driving segments I want. I’ll then swing over to OvernightRVParking to search for spots that I can lay over in for one night. Rest stops, truck stops, Walmarts and other Big Box stores, town parks, you name it. Whatever is along the way in a workable daily drive time. Elevation and temperature needs are jettisoned for these, since you get what you get on such commutes. Only “free” or “donation” make my grade unless I have no other choice. The goal is to get there as quickly as reasonably possible, avoiding 20-mile detours for camping, otherwise I’ll spend $20 on fuel and wear just to save $8 on camping fees – and spend more time in the driver’s seat to boot. I prefer rest stops to truck stops due to idling diesel noise. I even prefer Walmarts and similar to truck stops, though this is often problematic. Walmart lots are often markedly sloped, are often located in areas with late-night traffic noise in the lot, and are increasingly prevented from accommodating overnight stays thanks to local ordinance, courtesy of pressure from the local RV parks. That’s not the exclusive reason though, as a few campers extend slides or break out stoves, tables and lawn chairs as if it’s a campground, or stay for several days. When it starts to look like Hobo Haven, that starts the complaints and the ordinance process. On arrival, it’s best to march in and ask a manager about parking overnight, even if it’s been rated online as okay by past RVers. Things change, and it helps to find that out at 4PM instead of 2AM. If I can find a town camp within a couple miles of the Interstate, or am taking secondary highways to shorten the overall trip mileage (I did that on my most recent commute), those are my first preferences – except on holidays, when they are usually filled to capacity with locals. Some of these camps are so pleasant that I’ll build a stay of a few days into the commute plan.

This small-town campsite in Nebraska was charming, as was the town. Shady, 30A power, water hookup, dump station on site. Free.

This small-town campsite in Nebraska was charming, as was the town. Shady, 30A power, water hookup, dump station on site. Free.

In terms of planning difficulty, the cross-country commute within a short time frame is the simplest type of planning to work out. The preferred route is fixed, as are drive times and climate. The only real variable is hacking through OvernightRVParking to locate stops that will work acceptably for me. Piecing together a 7-month tour (in two halves, which includes both commutes) is much more involved due to the picky list of requirements that each stop must meet. The commute also affects touring options, since a tour to the far north or northwest can add in a huge amount of additional miles. This works if you have the funds for dealing with vehicle wear and tear, or eventual vehicle replacement. Otherwise, my touring options need to be tempered with whatever final destination I have and, so far, that’s Illinois. There will have to be some years where I “stay local” in touring to delay the Furd’s ultimate and final demise, but now isn’t the best time for that.

It must be nice if you can afford to just wander stop by stop on a whim, where all you care about is current temperatures, and can choose the next place based on someone’s personal recommendations that “you should go there sometime”. Many consider scouting a general area for a usable campsite to be “part of the fun”. “Part of the fun” has never been my experience towing a 26′ boulevard TT down remote MVUM trails. It’s more of an experience in problem-solving. The Four Wheel Grandby pop-up camper on a stock 4×4 pickup has eased that pain, but I’m still more interested in planting it and relaxing than in taking on a massive scouting mission. That is the Evelo e-bike’s job, tomorrow or the next day, and I’m not breaking camp until a week from now. As to where to head next, I prefer to exercise my whims in the initial planning stages and have some wild idea of what I can expect to find once I roll in. It does not ease my nerves to arrive late in the day, only to find that the few approved MVUM roads are trails that only a modified-Jeep owner could love, with nowhere to pull off and camp anyway. Or to find the area sodden with biting insects or deep mudholes. A lack of information is more often a problem than a blessing. Onsite, just before sunset, is a poor time to cough up a new Plan B as part of the “fun”. But that’s just me, set in my ways and burned out on “There are no problems, only opportunities” corporate gibberish. Hopefully, your own touring system and needs are working well for you (or will work once you escape the cubicle!)

Note to self: Don't plan on camping here during monsoon season.

Note to self: Don’t plan on camping here during monsoon season.

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14 thoughts on “Trip Routing

  1. Thank you for some new websites for my trip planning. Your system isn’t that much different than mine.
    I just got released by my cardiologist. I don’t have to report back in until September when I’ll be back in this area again anyway.
    Safe travels

    • Sorry to hear that someone else also suffers the effort to preplan in detail. 🙂

      Good for you on the cardio thing. I hope to get an indication today about just how much of a nuisance my own issues will be, and whether I should have sprung for the extended warranty last summer.

      • They gave me pacemaker that should keep me going a few more years. Now I’m a cyborg nomad. That’s the moniker I was given at the hospital.
        I’m a detail planner for similar reason. I have to make sure this behemoth will get to and fit in acplace I’m willing to stay.

        • Excellent, JR. I’m glad to hear that! My only concern would be that you may one day be asked to join the Borg Collective, but on the good side of that, they should be able to keep you in fresh batteries for quite a while. If you wrote off your touring as “Data Gathering”, I wonder if they would be willing to cover your fuel expenses with a Borg Collective gas card. At the least, you could deduct it as a business expense, particularly if they registered as a nonprofit. If they try to recruit you, ask. 🙂

          I was told that because my electrical issues recently cleared up nicely on their own, I did not need a pacemaker per se. But a close relative called an ICD was recommended for its ability to jump-start a cardiac arrest. This cardiologist seconds the idea that the valve repair took place too late to do much good, leaving the heart too damaged from its earlier stresses to recover normally from the trauma of repairing the bad valve. Stalling out in my sleep was painted as the most likely heart-related eventuality, since I’m bouncing around at the lowest “acceptable” fringes of pumping efficiency. Going much below where I am is likely to start some internal events rolling that involve some unpleasantness, but all he can really do is to apply Rx’s to lower stresses on my heart to give it a fighting chance to eke back a few percentage points, and install a device that attempts to counteract the most likely End Game result. I declined the device after weighing and comparing nocturnal cardiac arrest to the slow-death dominoes scenario which typically accompanies congestive heart failure with COPD, etc. The ICD in my particular case does nothing to improve symptoms, correct or slow down the process, or prolong quality of life in the meantime, like your pacemaker probably does for you. Since I no longer have any ongoing arrhythmias or anything else that needs correcting or is correctable, the ICD just patiently waits to prevent cardiac arrest from being a direct cause of death, after the heart is so worn from the snowballing original damage/load that it finally gives out. A few “second chances” would normally be appreciated, but there is nothing meaningful that can be done here (medically) to change the inevitable course, or delay it for long. Put simply, I’m not there yet now, but if or when things head south, an ICD would only do its best to repeatedly force me back into a suddenly-lengthened process of dying, which does not strike me as a strong positive. Given the very considerable life that I’ve already had, I’ve had to ask myself why I would act to ensure significantly more of a quality of life that I would specifically prefer to avoid, the kind which nobody really benefits from. I find that to be a real stumper, especially considering the certainties proven for me in my halting walk of faith. All this is not to insist that cardiac arrest is what’s going to “get” me – something else related or completely unrelated may intervene in the meantime, of course. In my situation, the majority of these devices don’t even find it necessary to fire once, so I can’t hint that I’m dying or something. I suspect that I may even be able to recover a little further, given more time, though I’m alone in that hope. I test out bad, but I feel inexplicably good, and the only fortunetelling gauge that cardiologists have is test results and statistics, which gives me a little wiggle room on deviations from the curve. Taking the long view, I’d rather be content with whatever time I may have left – short or long – maybe see a little more of Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and have just enough quality time to continue dispensing bad, misleading and possibly hazardous information and advice on this very blog. What more can one ask, really?

          And you’re right – when the rig size goes up, all of the inherent compromises that come into play make whim and hope no match for Google Maps Satellite View, for one. With a heap of weight behind me, I even like to know which rest stop fork to favor to get to the area that looks like a best fit. It doesn’t always match the signs. Even though the “little” Intrepid has removed the angst, I still prefer to already know that I should hug the left curb and park going in, or head for the SW corner of a parking lot. There were many developed camps where the Defiant didn’t have a chance unless a few certain slots turned out to be open, to give maneuvering room or avoid blocking an aisle. If I arrived and they weren’t open, I instantly knew to head for Plan B instead of wasting time there figuring it out.

          • I’m with you. It’s quality more than quantity. If the pacemaker wasn’t going to improve the quality of my life I think I’d chosen as you did. I have no desire to journey down the lingering death road.
            Going in one’s sleep does not sound bad at all. 👍
            I do appreciate Satellite View. It’s saved me a few times.

  2. Your timing for this post couldn’t be better.
    I’m debating if I want to cough up the $25 for the Overnight RV Camping site…have been for several months. If I could determine beforehand if it would be useful to me, the decision would be simple. But the way the info is walled completely off behind the paywall makes things harder.
    If you have the time and iniciative, would you be willing to give some details about what it offers/how it’s presented? Can a traveler type in a road and get a list of spots? Is it based on just the area you’re presently in? Does it show parking options? That (or whatever else might be useful inyour opinion) would go a long way to helping me make up my mind. Or, maybe you know of a link that already contains helpful details….my google-fu has been lacking!
    Here’s hoping you get the best medical news possible. 😀🍻

    • Parker, once you go to OvernightRVParking.com, one of the tabs along the top of the home page is “Demo”. Clicking that will place you on a random but preselected search results page which displays what you would see for that location if you were a paid subscriber. Clicking on any of the little color-coded parking site balloons on the presented map brings up a column of data on the right. That will always include a site name, address and phone (if applicable), GPS coordinates which will also allow you to get a satellite view of the site on your own on Google Maps, and a driving description of how to get there. Depending on the nature of the site, the info given may also include a description of how it appears, parking or access limitations, apparent security (safety), advice, WiFi availability, and nearby restaurants, fuel stations or other facilities, if any. Hit your browser’s back button to get back to the home page and try demo again, and a different random results page will be shown. Searches are by zip code or correctly-spelled town names only. There may be nothing actually in that town, but it doesn’t matter. A wide surrounding area will be shown, which can be zoomed in or out, or dragged around in any direction. Personally, I like its completeness of descriptions, as well as overnight spots showing up where I didn’t think there was a prayer. They now offer a “free” smartphone app which will by default show what’s around your current location, once you have entered your website login info once. Sites range from pull-offs in the middle of nowhere to restaurant lots, Walmarts, casinos and any other usable spot for a single overnight. It may also include sites especially marked as attractive but no good due to store or club policy, or local ordinance. Places which you might assume are okay if you drive past, but are not. RV parks and such are left out completely, so the map isn’t clogged with counterproductive crap. I use FreeCampsites.net for places to hang out in, but this website for when I’m having to cover ground to get to Point B. You can extend your subscription at no cost by either confirming listed spots as accurate, submitting corrections, or by submitting new places that worked for you.

      Thanks for the well-wishes! The most recent test results were great, which represents one less source of contributors to deal with. Judging by all of the test results combined, however, it appears that my heart surgery was too late to do me much good. Damage done, and it will progress. But, it has also provided me a short-term gain that will hold for awhile – it’s hard to argue against a valve that is suddenly working well again. I feel good and am once again able to march around without wheezing to a stop, so I’ll take it gladly and recognize that the situation could, as always, be a whole lot worse. Oh my, yes. My own prognosis is a bit more hopeful than my cardio guy’s – I think there is still the potential for some additional recovery over the next few months which, if realized, could mean more than a few extra years of annoying my children and corrupting my grandchildren. Kind of makes it all worth it, don’t you think?

      • Oh, definitely! Great news (combined with not-so-great news). I don’t know if this helps, but I used to work with cancer patients and people with a positive outlook in life absolutely tended to do much better and live longer, happier lives. I also know of a local gentleman with a similar issue as your own and he’s beating the odds given to him by his doctors….for years now. My point being you are doing things right in my experience, fwiw.

        I’m embarrassed that with all my fretting I missed the samples given on the app. 😒 going to check it out right now. It does sound like an actually useful site. My son always tells me I get in my own way when I panic, which I agree with but find hard to stop. Bleh!
        So, thanks once again. I’d hoped I hadn’t overstepped by asking for an in-depth answer, and I’m sure your information will help others.

        • It helps, Parker. Although I’ve puked out a more complete description of my situation to JR just now, I think that it’s easier to find the good when I can flush whatever’s in my head, step back, and take in a more complete, objective look. My heart surgeon in Indy had told me that foregoing the valve repair would leave me with a prolonged sequence of events which he knew all too well. “Believe me, it’s not a good way to go,” he summarized. In the office out west here, the cardiologist said said something like, “You don’t look to me like you’re going to sign up for the ICD, but as your doctor, you understand that I am obligated to at least offer you any options I have that can potentially prolong your life.” And what he didn’t need to add was no matter what kind of living that may be. With everything kind of up in the air all this time, it was too bad that not much else could be done for me, but at the same time I felt almost relieved that whatever train of ailments poor efficiency and congestive heart failure may present, not waking up some morning as the “worst” possible event looks like more of a help than a problem to me. According to his experience in the field, it could be tomorrow or it could be well over ten years from now. Completely unpredictable, time-wise. I suppose my face must have read like, “Sooo…then, dying peacefully in my sleep is…a…a bad thing?? Seriously?” In the meantime, I’m not Superman, but I feel pretty darn good, I’m off closely-monitored drugs, and I could hit the road tomorrow if I like. I have lifted and lowered the camper’s pop-up roof a couple of times now (veeeery carefully) with no issues, and I’m impatient to roll despite the fact that my “planning” reaches all the way out to Week 2.

          You did kinda “overstep” in asking about OvernightRVParking, but that turned out well, since it motivated me to search for the lazy-butt way out, rather than having to write another short novel that involved actual thought. I’m so pleased with myself! Doing what I do, if I were seriously bucks down myself, I’d still find a way to pay that annual cost, and then do what I could to extend the time with contributions. That said, I do not use it to find campsites. A few are in there, but only as especially appropriate for hit-and-run. ORVP is only for when I’m booking along to cover ground and need a one-night stopover, or nine in a row along my chosen route.

  3. I have to admit we have gravitated to the opposite extreme of trip planning. I have a general idea of where I want to go, and a general idea of when, but noting much more firm that that. My sig other’s every three month medical visits are hard and fast, with our other planning having to do with when to hit cities like Houston or Atlanta. When we first started RVing a few years ago we’d been on the road a few weeks and decided it was fun. I asked my sig other where she wanted to go next and she said Alaska. I made a left hand turn and we had a blast. I have some envy of you methodical planners but one has to work with the tools in the toolbox in one’s possession. I know in late summer were going on a Canadian Maritime trip, along with the Great Lakes region and the upper east coast, but I won’t know the exact route until after we return. Since I just sold our latest RV, as I’m prone to do, I don’t even know what we’ll be going in, but it’ll most likely happen. And we don’t always find free, acceptable, sites, but we usually do. I think this next trip may put our cheap travel/camping skills to the test though.

    • That is fabulous! I may try to go comparatively fast and loose for brief portions of the start of this tour. At least I like to think so. The showstopper for complete improvisation for me is driving along not in Federally-owned land at the end of a day and realizing I’m going to have to cough up a place to overnight despite appearances making that an impossibility, or when heading into a massive national forest with no clue as to what is where. On the other hand, I’ve found that my tolerance for complex tedium is slowly going bye-bye, so perhaps my planning approach may become “ever-evolving”. I agree with your suspicion that a trip eastward may test your capacity for finding the cheap option! Good luck on finding a form of RV that you can comfortably live with.

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