Yesterday was a mini-adventure day, the first order of the day being a shower. Turns out, the swimming pool in the Meade City Park doesn’t open on Thursdays until 12:30, but given the heat and apparent absence of alternatives in town, I waited. With a high of 89 the previous day, it was time. When I went over, I found A] that their shower is a cold-water rinse-off shower, and B] it is currently inoperative. Non-optimal! Fortunately, the lady behind the counter running a small herd of teenage girls there to “assist” (hang out) suggested the Meade Truck stop at the other end of town, which panned out just fine. At $8 and change, it is not a deluxe shower, but did just fine. Being built for use by semis, the station also had a real air pump, (as opposed to coin-operated air vend pumps which top out at car tire pressures).
By two o’clock, I began the day’s 280-mile, five-hour drive, which is longer than the usual. That varied from utter flatness to rolling hills, a crosswind dropping fuel mileage to 14.8 from the previous day’s 16.5. The Ford’s 6.4L Navistar diesel of that vintage has a penchant for gradually increasing overall fuel mileage the second day into a long, high-speed run, and holding the better figures for a couple of days no matter what the driving conditions are. Once returned to urban or suburban areas for awhile, fuel mileage eventually eases back down to “normal” levels. Odd. It is apparently happiest at full gallop, which might be related to its elaborate emissions system.
The only oddity of the trip was near the end, as I was being followed by a newer version of F-250 towing a large fifth-wheel travel trailer. Now that I’m no longer scrambling to get to work or appointments, I do the speed limit, period. I much prefer to avoid running faster, so that I no longer need to keep an eye out for radar, or have any concern at all about such things. Just set it on cruise and enjoy the ride. At any rate, this Ford had settled in behind me and never sought to pass in any of the numerous widened passing areas that came up. I thought it notable that it did not drop back on hills, which is the norm for all such combinations. That was sign to me that Ford’s own 6.7L diesel is indeed stout, having somewhere in excess of 900 lb-ft of torque available, which is close to a 300 lb-ft increase over what the Mighty Furd has on tap. Like me, he obviously set it on cruise and forgot about it. Not dropping back on hills is notably unusual for such a rig. Between the increase of both power and fuel mileage for Ford’s 2010+ Super Duty diesels, these dual improvements are almost annoying.
All went well until I had to turn off onto a lesser route to the left, where a special lane on the right was made for through-traffic, to avoid their having to stop for whoever was slowed to crank a Louie. Unfortunately, the intersection was located on a downhill section and was somewhat hard to discern from a distance, Busting down from 65 MPH proved to be more of a challenge than I expected, mainly since I rarely put myself in a position where I have to strongly apply the binders, and both the slope and the Intrepid’s 10,500-pound bulk were working against me. I was slowing down, but not at a rate where I’d be cruising through the turn at a gentle speed. It’d be more of a Juan Fangio at Monte Carlo-style turn. The loaded Furd is no sports car, but it would make it in some fashion or other.
A glance back in the side mirror was a surprise. The rig behind me apparently had no idea what the short run of new right lane was for, and was still behind me, closing the distance. The concept of being rear-ended by someone too dim to catch on to the basic situation had little appeal to me. The laws of physics popped into my head, and they pointed out that an F-250 with a camper that was having trouble slowing down would be nothing compared to an F-250 with a large fifth-wheel behind it. Even if he caught on to the idea of a through-lane, his distance and closing rate would make a sudden swerve no less hazardous.
With no opposing traffic in sight, I did what Mr. Fangio would do and veered into the opposing lanes to begin the turn early, binders still on. An early apex would allow more braking distance, but in turn, that would absolutely require that speed be down by the end of it, or I wouldn’t be able to complete what would become a sharper turn at the far end. And so it went. With the camper in its bed, the Mighty Furd heeled over as I cranked into it and had to ease up on the brakes to allow enough tire grip to turn as well. Another glance back, and the fifth-wheel rig freight-trained past in the left turn lane where I had been. For just a second, I internally debated the probabilities of whether he’d wet his pants during his own discoveries about braking downhill while tailgating, or whether he was one of those who fail to have a clue as to what just happened. No matter. I made the turn, thankful that the once-tall and wobbly treads of my Cooper off-road tires were now worn down to a much more stable height. I had to turn faster than I liked, but there was no bad behavior from either end.
From there, it was a calming 20-minute trip to Chanute past cropland and cattle. As small towns go, Chanute, Kansas is a sizable burg (pop. 9,000), and sprawls out all over creation. They have a very large city park with multiple baseball fields in it, along with what is called the Santa Fe Safari RV Campground. A 48-hour stay is free (including electrical and water hookups that I’m not bothering to use), while each additional day costs $10 up to a limit of 10 in a 30-day period. I arrived just before sunset and went for my walk. This being written the next morning, it’s time to pack up my bunny slippers and find places for breakfast and a haircut. Then, on to Jefferson City, Missouri to overnight in all the hot splendor of a big-box store parking lot.