Well, we finally made it to Maine. No easy task, I’ll tell you. The drive took longer than expected.
I’m going to write this post, kind of for my own memory’s sake. I want to remind myself, if I ever choose to look back, how horrible it is to drive from the bottom of the east coast to the top. Especially horrible with three cats, a 6,000 trailer load and a car following me. While nothing in particular happened, the drive was long and draining.
I think I’m going to go state by state here. Just to organize things a bit. It’ll make it easier to re-read in the future when I say, “Hey Pumpkin, let’s move to Florida!!!” Just kidding. Oh so just kidding. I never want to make that drive again.
I’ll start off by saying that I am a genius for buying the F-250. I’m also a genius for buying the heavy duty ball hitch and the trailer. While I haven’t exactly done the “trailer” post yet, I’m sure I’ll sneak some description in here and there. The truck is a beast, the ball hitch did better than I ever imagined (especially during the serious porpoising in Georgia) and the trailer’s load capacity and strength were very, very necessary. Now that I’m sitting next to my freshly installed pellet stove (more on that later), I can write about these things without jinxing myself.
When I was planning this trip, I had to be very careful about where I was going to stop to purchase fuel. Now that we had a diesel powered vehicle, I wasn’t sure if I could just wing it like I usually do. You know, drive until you hit a quarter tank and then start looking for a gas station. While that may be fun while driving a sedan, it’s not all that much while driving a big truck that is pulling a big trailer. I had to plan carefully.
To do this, I sat down and found some popular gas stations that sold diesel fuel. I settled on using BP for the southern states because they have a wonderful feature on their website that shows a map of where all their stations are that sell diesel. I could follow the highway online, choose the stations that were easy on/easy off and just stick with them. If I found other stations that were more simple to purchase from along the way, I’d use them, but as for planning, I used what I found online. For the northern states, I think I switched to Mobil. They are pretty popular up here and I believe they had a handy feature on their site as well. I was able to filter by fuel type while searching their map.
I also put directions in, in between stops, to make the itinerary more fluid. I didn’t want to have to look at one piece of paper for fuel stations and another for where we were supposed to go. That would’ve been a mess.
My planning worked out well. There were no snags and we stopped to fill up much more than necessary, just in case. I wasn’t used to how much fuel this truck would use while pulling a trailer. I didn’t want to be surprised by having it fall to empty from a half tank. I haven’t driven the truck much, so I wanted to play things safe. I’ll put my list of stations at the bottom of this post, just in case anyone wants to take a similar trip and they’re driving a vehicle that uses diesel. They’ll have some sort of a starting point.
Anyway, let’s go from state to state.
We left on Saturday morning around 11 because we were under the impression that everyone would be in bed, sleeping, instead of driving on 95. Either that, or having a nice breakfast at home. We were wrong. The highway was full of people. I have no idea where they were coming from or going, but let me tell you that on November 9, everyone and their mothers were out. We were out too, but not as out as they were. Things were crowded.
I noticed many RVs traveling southbound. I suppose those were being pulled by all the snowbirds returning to the warmer weather for the winter. I’m still not sure where the people heading northbound were going.
Jacksonville is getting to be a very busy city. I remember driving to Florida when I was 17 years old and Jacksonville was nothing like it is now. I think it must have doubled in size. Or more. Either way, it was chock full of people.
To avoid going straight through Jacksonville on 95, we took 295 east, to pass some of the congestion. This was fine and it worked out well. I was surprised though by the enormous bridge I was faced with. It appeared to go straight up and straight down. I wasn’t ready for this type of incline, but stepped on the pedal and made it without issue.
The above is not my picture. I took it from Google Earth just to show you what I’m talking about.
Our first rest area was right after Florida turned into Georgia. I planned that stop because I figured someone out of the bunch would have to go to the bathroom. I also wanted to check on the truck and trailer. It had only been 90 miles or so, but I thought that distance would be a good indication of how the trip was headed. From there, it wasn’t too much to turn back.
As it turns out, everything was fine. We, on the other hand, were somewhat tired. We didn’t get much sleep the night before and running around like crazy people Saturday morning didn’t help. We were kind of drained, but agreed that we had to press on. If it were up to me, I would have driven the entire trip straight through. Luckily, I had Laura who rationalized me into seeing things her way. Good thing she did too, because all of her ideas along the entire trip made sense. We needed to stop. Go to the bathroom. Eat and sleep. All things that are of little interest to me on the road.
SOUTH CAROLINA and NORTH CAROLINA
I’m trying to remember these two states. From what I can recall, we were introduced to autumn in South Carolina. The leaves were changing and much of the traffic let up. South Carolina was actually a joy to drive through.
For both states, we stopped at the rest areas near the state lines and we pretty much drove on through stopping for fuel along the way. Not much to talk about here.
This is where the trip gets interesting. Since I didn’t want to continue driving up 95 through DC and onward, I figured that taking 64 west would be a better ride. We could take that road and then scoot up 304, in the Shenandoah Valley to stay at the Days Inn Luray. I figured that after the 13 hour drive, we’d be wanting a break.
Okay, a few things about Virginia. I know that I just said we had a 13 hour drive. Well, as it turns out, Virginia has a funny way of adding hours to any trip. It’s a long state and what was supposed to be 13 hours, very slowly turned into 17 hours. We arrived at the motel at 4 in the morning. Also, since 64 was a pretty major highway, I thought that there would be no major mountains to climb. I was wrong. Around 2 in the morning, I found myself lugging a very heavy trailer up my first major mountain. I don’t even know what it was called, but at that moment, I was thankful that I purchased the Super Duty Diesel. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise. And my old car? That would have been in flames on the shoulder. No way with that one.
I took that above picture from Google Earth. I just wanted to show the mountains.
When we finally made it to the motel in Luray, we got to sleep around 5 and woke up at 8. I figured that we could hop in the vehicles and continue on. Appropriately, Laura reminded me that we had only about three hours of sleep. If the first leg of our trip was any indication, we’d be arriving in Vermont (our second stop) hours late as well. I listened to what she had to say and suggested that we stay in Luray for an extra night. She agreed and we just hung around trying to eat and rest. Good idea.
Monday morning, we took off nice and early. I thought that since we left so soon after daybreak, we could just drive straight through and make it to Maine by evening. Yeah.
Pennsylvania was one long state. It was fairly easy to drive through, except for the area around Scranton. We ran into a bit of construction, but other than that, it was a good time. We were very refreshed and I actually thought we’d drive straight through like I had planned. During one of our stops, Laura told me that she liked Pennsylvania because she used to vacation there as a kid. Oh the memories.
The beginning of our way through New York was very exciting. I was happy to be back up north again and was calling people all over the place. I could smell the sweet pines of Maine and thought to myself how close we were.
Binghamton and Oneonta were sights for sore eyes. I hadn’t seen those areas in years and just to drive through made me happy. And most of the rest of 88 was good too. It’s been years.
The issues arose when we hit the capital area. I had no idea that so many people had moved into the area around Albany. Where are all these people coming from anyway? Last time I checked, Albany wasn’t all too popular. Now, it’s like a bee hive. People all over the place. And Troy. Holy cow. What in the world? Stop and go traffic straight up hill. In the middle of a zillion people. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
We made it into Vermont just after it got dark. Things began opening up again and the people began to disappear. I’ll admit though, I was still slightly shaken from the onslaught of humans in Albany. If there’s ever a next trip, I am going to be sure to avoid that area.
Vermont really is an awesome state. It’s the beginning of northern New England and it has so much to offer. The only problem with Vermont is its mountains. Now, generally that’s not a problem. It only becomes one when you’re driving something that can only be compared to the feeling of running through a field, carrying your twin on your back. Trailering something so heavy becomes burdensome quickly in the hills.
The first issue I encountered in Vermont was during our very first hill climb. I’ve been worried about this mountain for some time because I’ve taken the trip so often and I knew what to expect. It’s the one between Bennington and Wilmington. Huge.
As we approached the beginning of the incline, I noticed a very large tanker truck in front of me. I knew I had to make speed as to not get bogged down in a lower gear. If I could stay around 50 mph, I would be good to go to the top. And in order to do this, I had to pass the big truck as soon as the lanes turned from one to two.
The lanes changed and I passed the truck. Soon after, I heard this awful revving sound. And with the mountain I was climbing with all that weight, I thought I had blown my transmission. As soon as I heard the sound, I checked my gauges to see that my tachometer wasn’t moving at all. It was steady where it was suppose to be. The turbo gauge was steady as well. But the revving continued, so I pulled over. Laura pulled over behind me.
Now, you can imagine the feeling I had at that moment. As soon as I heard the big roaring sound coming from what seemed to be my truck, I lost all the blood from my face. I thought our trip for the time being had some to an end and we were going to have to call a mighty expensive tow truck.
After I pulled over, with Laura behind me, the tanker truck passed. The revving sound began to fade. I knew I had to get to the top of the hill, so I pulled out again and started to drive. As soon as I began getting some speed and closed the distance on that truck again, I heard the sound. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t me making all that noise, it was the tanker truck. The very loud tanker truck. Thank the lord. We continued on.
We made it to Bennington when Laura informed me that we could go no more. Night had fallen and if our trajectory was to remain true, we’d arrive at the house in Maine around 4 in the morning. Neither of us were in the mood for another trip like the one in Virginia, so we agreed to drive through the very mountainous roads to Brattleboro. There, we’d stay in the Motel 6 we planned on staying at the previous night. While it wasn’t the ideal scenario, it would allow us to arrive at the house in the daylight, like I had wanted to all along.
We slept the night away, woke up and hit the road again. We made it all the way up 91 and crossed over into New Hampshire.
Just to let you know, I had never stepped a foot in New Hampshire or Maine before this trip. I had no idea what to expect. Good thing I was pleasantly surprised.
New Hampshire is awesome. We ran into some snow, but nothing that slowed our trip any. That’s not to say we weren’t concerned, because there were a few times we pulled over and expressed our dismay to each other. When you know there are mountains in front of you, but you can’t see them because they are white, it’s reasonable to hesitate a bit. Especially when you’ve never traveled the roads before. We had no idea if there would be huge mountains to climb again.
I took the two pictures above before the snow began. When we hit the Mount Washington area, things got a bit hairy. It didn’t matter though because I was so excited to get to Maine, I would’ve just about driven through anything. Laura – umm, let’s just say she’s a bit more level headed than I am. And I needed to remember that as I made decisions about the more risky areas. I knew she wouldn’t appreciate certain ventures, but I will tell you this – she had a fire in her eye. She didn’t stop driving and she didn’t call me on our walkie talkies telling me to pull over. So off we went.
When we crossed the border from New Hampshire into Maine, I could hardly keep my pants on. The sun was shining and the mountains were huge. The trip was turning out just as I had planned, albeit a day late. But at least we would arrive at the house during the daylight hours and we’d be able to see what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. Sure, the internet installation would have to wait until Friday, but at least we’d have a chance to smell the fresh Maine air and drink the fresh Maine water.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I will tell you this. Maine is an amazing state. Actually, the northern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are amazing. The areas aren’t very densely populated and wildlife and nature are abundant. I’m sure I’ll get more into this as time goes on, but for now, please enjoy a few pictures of what we found in our back yard. Remember, we’ve got 5 acres up here, 4 of which are wooded with a fairly dense pine forest. Two streams flow along the back and the side of the property.
And now, for that itinerary I promised for the trip from Florida to Maine, including stops for diesel and directions. I put “good” and “bad” next to each gas station, indicating whether or not it was easy on/easy off.
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 318 – 2375 State Rd 16, Saint Augustine, FL – GOOD
EXIT 323 – 125 Center Place Way, Saint Augustine, FL – GOOD
EXIT 329 – 100 Gateway Circle, Jacksonville, FL – GOOD
EXIT 363 – 14679 Duval Rd, Jacksonville, FL – BAD
EXIT 373 – 462487 Sr 200 A1a, Yulee, FL – GOOD
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 1 – 2574 Scrubby Bluff, Kingsland, GA – GOOD
EXIT 3 – 1371 Highway 40 E, Kingsland, GA – BAD
EXIT 7 – 1409 Harriets Bluff, Woodbine, GA – GOOD
EXIT 29 – 185 Dungeness Rd, Brunswick, GA – GOOD
EXIT 76 – 27 S Coastal Hwy, Midway, GA – BAD
EXIT 87 – 4401 Hwy 17, Richmond Hill, GA – GOOD
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 5 – 6194 S Okatie Hwy, Hardeeville, SC – GOOD
EXIT 8 – 448 Independence Blv, Hardeeville, SC – GOOD
EXIT 33 – 675 King’s Hwy, Yemassee, SC – GOOD
EXIT 86A – 5463 Vance Rd, Bowman, SC – BAD
EXIT 119 – 3014 Paxville Hwy, Manning, SC – GOOD
EXIT 150 – 2215 Cale Yarborough, Timmonsville, SC – GOOD
EXIT 164 – 2301 West Lucas St, Florence, SC – GOOD
EXIT 181a – 1375 Hwy 38 West, Latta, SC – GOOD
EXIT 193 – 1105 Radford Blvd, Dillon, SC – GOOD
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 2 – 119 E Main St, Rowland, NC – BAD
EXIT 17 – 3080 W 5th St, Lumberton, NC – GOOD
EXIT 41 – 327 Chickenfoot Rd, Hope Mills, NC – GOOD
EXIT 49 – 2101 Cedar Creek Rd, Fayetteville, NC – GOOD
EXIT 90 – 280 Us 701 S At I95, Four Oaks, NC – GOOD
EXIT 107 – 402 South Church St, Kenly, NC – GOOD
EXIT 116 – 6127 Nc Hgwy 42 W, Wilson, NC – GOOD
EXIT 141 – 5102 Dorches Blvd, Rocky Mount, NC – GOOD
EXIT 173 – 1910 Weldon Rd, Roanoke Rapids, NC – BAD
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 11a – 103 Cloverleaf Drive, Emporia, VA – GOOD
EXIT 37 – 20250 S Crater Road, Carson, VA – GOOD
EXIT 54 – 961 Temple Ave, Colonial Heights, VA – GOOD BUT NEED TO MAKE STRANGE TURN IN PARKING LOT
EXIT 61a – 2421 W Hundred Rd, Chester, VA – BAD
*** TAKE EXIT 62 ONTO 288 VETERANS MEMORIAL HIGHWAY ***
*** TAKE 64 WEST TO CHARLOTTESVILLE ***
EXIT 167 – 1420 Broad St Rd, Oilville, VA – GOOD
EXIT 159 – 911 Cross County Rd, Mineral, VA – GOOD
EXIT 124 – 241 Rolkin Ct, Charlottesville, VA – GOOD
*** TAKE EXIT 96 TOWARDS 340 ***
1864 Eastside Hwy, Crimora, VA – GOOD – FILL UP – CLOSED EARLY
596 Mt. Hermon Rd, Elkton, VA – BAD – CLOSED EARLY
*** TAKE 66 West to 81 ***
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 5 – 4688 Gerrardstown Rd, Inwood, WV – GOOD
EXIT 13 – 1619 W King St, Martinsburg, WV – GOOD
EXIT 23 – 8812 Williamsport Pk, Falling Waters, WV – GOOD
SWITCH TO EXXON/MOBIL
*** REST AREA ***
EXIT 5 – 705 E BALTIMORE ST, GREENCASTLE, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 80 – 480 BOW CREEK RD, GRANTVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 85A – 1805 N RT 934, ANNVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD – MUST TURN AROUND AFTER EXIT
EXIT 100 – 418 SUEDBERG RD, PINE GROVE, PENNSYLVANIA
EXIT 104 – 10 MOLLEYSTOWN RD, PINE GROVE, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 170A – 2550 E END BLVD, WILKES BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 175 – 345 HWY 315, PITTSTON, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 219 – 1588 OLIVER RD, NEW MILFORD, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD
EXIT 230 – GREAT BEND TRAVEL PLAZA, RT 11 & I-81, GREAT BEND, PENNSYLVANIA – GOOD – *** FILL UP ***
*** TAKE 88 EAST ***
EXIT 20 – 1168 STATE ROUTE 7, RICHMONDVILLE, NEW YORK – GOOD
EXIT 23 – 211 SR 30A, SCHOHARIE, NEW YORK – GOOD
*** TAKE 90 SOUTH ***
*** TAKE 87 NORTH ***
*** TAKE 7 (EXIT 7) EAST IN TO BENNINGTON ***
*** STAY STRAIGHT – TAKE 9 EAST 91 NORTH ***
IN BENNINGTON – 735 E MAIN ST, BENNINGTON, VERMONT – GOOD
IN WILMINGTON – 87 E MAIN ST, WILMINGTON, VERMONT – GOOD
*** TAKE EXIT 3 TO 5 (PUTNEY RD) NORTH *** – *** FILL UP ***
1114 PUTNEY RD, BRATTLEBORO, VERMONT
*** MOTEL 6 ON LEFT ***
*** TAKE 91 NORTH ***
*** TAKE EXIT 20 (RT 5) ***
*** TAKE RT 5 INTO TOWN – MAKE RIGHT ON TO RT 2 EAST ***
202 MAIN ST, LANCASTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – GOOD
*** TAKE RT 2 INTO FARMINGTON ***
*** USE GPS ***