Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New Milford, New Jersey

There is much to report since my last post here, from Nashville.

We are now in New Milford, New Jersey, at the Elks Lodge (map). We are here because my dad will be having surgery this week across the river in Manhattan, and my mom will be staying at a hotel in Englewood, NJ, just a few miles from here.

After we left Nashville Saturday morning, we had a nice drive east through Tennessee, turning off I-40 onto I-81 east of Knoxville. We stopped for the night at the Wal-Mart in Bristol, Virginia (map). This turned out to be a nice spot, with several restaurants in easy walking distance (we ate in, though). The trucks found it useful, too, so we had a diesel idling nearby on and off through the night -- just like home.

We deployed the dish there, but I did not post here because we were trying to make a stealthy approach to New Jersey, lest my folks start worrying about us driving in winter conditions. (As it turns out, we had great weather all the way -- no winter conditions to be found.) So our arrival here was something of a surprise to them.

Sunday morning we stowed the dish and rolled onto 81 heading north. Now somewhere just north of Bristol is a low overpass -- clearance 14'-0". The clearance is well marked, and there is a sign indicating that overheight loads should take the exit to bypass the underpass. I checked with Louise to make sure the dish was, indeed, stowed, and she indicated it was. The loud noise and shower of debris as we hit the underpass at 60+, however, indicated otherwise.

We pulled over immediately to asses the damage. The steel overpass had cleanly sheared off the feedhorn and LNB assemblies from the end of the support arm. The reflector and, more importantly, the automatic mount came through the incident unscathed. The transmitter is still on the arm, with the waveguide broken off about three inches out. The rest of the waveguide, the receive LNB, and both TV LNB's along with their support arms were smashed into fragments, along with the shroud and the fancy blue triple-LED device that produces the trademark MotoSat blue glow. Also, the F-connectors ripped right off the thin coax running to the LNB's.

After several moments of shock and disbelief, followed by mourning (not anger, though -- that lasted all day), we re-stowed what was left of the dish, and pulled back onto the highway. After all, we had a schedule to keep, and our next stop would be the Flying J at exit 80, for the cheapest diesel we would find for the remainder of the trip.

When it's not your day, it's not your day, and, as fate would have it, I-81 was shut down completely between exits 54 and 60 due to an overturned hazmat tanker at exit 58. Southbound truckers warned us on the CB that there was a huge backup at exit 54, so we bailed off at 50 and headed up US-11, Lee Highway. That, too, was backed up for at least two miles south of exit 54, so we decided to be adventurous. With Louise reading map detail from the computer, and me dodging low trees, we navigated a series of squiggly little roads, mostly paved but some dirt, along the eastern boundary of the Jefferson national forest. We saw no other traffic to speak of, but everyone we passed stared at us in disbelief. We ended up back on the interstate at exit 60, saving easily 45 minutes of backup. Likely more, because we got back on with no other traffic, suggesting that something had happened to completely stop the detour on US-11.

Between the dish episode, the detour, and the fuel stop, we decided to make it a short day. Also, we needed to find Wi-Fi, so I could get on-line and start dealing with repairing the dish. Louise found us a commercial park with included Wi-Fi in Winchester, VA, called the Candy Hill RV Resort (map). Ironically, there was a Wal-Mart just across the street, a fact made even more ironic since our site was right next to the freeway, noisier than many of our Wal-Mart boondocks. We paid $30 for this privilege. In addition to the Wi-Fi, I did take the opportunity to charge the batteries, top off the fresh tank, and dump our waste. Still, $30 is pretty steep for a spot on the freeway -- Wi-Fi only costs $10 at Flying-J. Welcome to the east.

In any case, within a few hours of stopping, I had run the MotoSat mount through a full calibration, verifying that the mount itself was fine, and found a replacement dish/feedarm/transceiver assembly on eBay for $150. That hardware is already on its way to the hotel in Englewood, so I should have what I need to fix the whole shebang by the end of the week or so. Until then, we are stuck wardriving for Wi-Fi, or using the clunky desktops at the New Milford Public Library for access (limit: 60 minutes per day).

Monday saw us through small fingers of West Virginia and Maryland and into Pennsylvania. As long as we were driving right past it, we made a couple-hour detour to the Neopart facility in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania, to pick up a few much-needed parts (tag axle steering damper, replacement leveling valve, and some new hinge rubber for the bay doors).

Even with the stop, we made it into New Jersey, spending the night at the Wal-Mart in Clinton (map). We did do a little wardriving, but the northeast is more paranoid than elsewhere -- all the networks we found were buttoned up. (And, before anyone jumps on our case about this practice, we deliberately leave our satellite internet access open, so others parked around us can share. While we were in Death Valley, some random camper parked next door stopped by to thank us -- I can't imagine how he thought he was going to get on in the middle of the desert.)

We will be here in New Jersey at least until my dad is released and able to get around on his own. Until I have the dish on-line again, though, we will be on email only very occasionally. Also, blog posts will be spotty (I am typing this whole post off-line, in the hopes that I will find some access long enough to post it.)


  1. http://www.wifimaps.com/

    not that I recommend it, but these resources might help

  2. We used Wifi spots exclusively for a year of travel. We had good luck with coffee shops (Marathon, TX :)), Auto Zone, La Quintana Hotels, Visitor Information centers and dense residential areas (think developments). We did the residential areas in the van (without the trailer) so without a toad, it might be obvious. :)

    Amazing you could get replacements so cheap on Ebay.


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