Posted from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States.
Although we seem to have “departed” at least three times already (the day we stopped residing in the Twin Cities, the day we completely left the Twin Cities, and the day we left Joe’s parents’ house after the final preparations), this past weekend in Joe’s hometown we found ourselves continually answering the question, “When do you leave?” We thought we already had. But now, having left all those places, it’s safe to say we are officially, unquestionably, inarguably on our journey. For real.
But there were some adjustments that needed to be made before we could take this final step. While at HQ (Joe’s parents’ house), clothes were continuously evaluated and reevaluated for their necessity and worthiness on the trip. (For those interested, we each have one travel luggage system made by Eagle Creek, which will contain all clothes and toiletries; we also have one extra suitcase that contains clothes that we think will be useful while in the States and Canada but will be shipped back to HQ before we cross the border into Mexico; we also have one duffel bag to accommodate our shoes and sandals.) We also had to organize our tools and pack our camping gear, which includes plates, cups, silverware, etc., a camp stove and cooking hardware.
The big snags last week were due to the sophistication of our roof top camper, Maggiolina (Maggi) and our need to have everything absolutely perfect. Getting Maggi atop Apollo was not too difficult (see Apollo: Pictures). But we thought positioning Maggi would take a few minutes; it ended up taking the entire day. We had to constantly reconcile the need to have Maggi completely flat on the roof top with the fact that Apollo’s roof top isn’t truly flat. And we had to have Maggi positioned forward enough so that too much weight would not be resting in the back and that Apollo’s back hatch could open properly, but also positioned far enough back so as to prevent too much wind resistance. Trust us, because of these and other factors, this was way more difficult than we anticipated.
The other big challenge came from inside Maggi. Maggi came equipped with a 3” foam mattress, and we purchased a mattress pad specifically to use inside her. Within the four corners of Maggi are scissors-like hinges that compress as the tent is lowered. Although the mattress came modified with 4” x 20” notches cut out of each corner to accommodate the compressing of the scissors-hinges, our custom-made mattress pad did not. Therefore, we had a difficult time getting Maggi properly closed. Once we realized what the issue was, the options were few.
The 11th-hour solution: to cut notches into our mattress pad similar to those of the mattress and thereby eliminate the problem (and most likely void the warranty). We planned to leave Joe’s parents on Friday; this excitement happened on Thursday. The measuring and cutting were time consuming but easy; it was sewing shut the new L-shaped openings that was the long and arduous process, especially because the fabrics used on the mattress pad were not amenable to this type of impromptu surgery and there was no sewing machine on the premises so it all had to be done by hand. After many hours on the living room floor, Erik and Joe’s Mom worked their stitching magic and saved the day. (Meanwhile, Joe was busy organizing supplies and making Margaritas).
Thursday night we did a test run to see if everything would fit into Apollo as we had hoped. Believe it or not, everything DID fit with one allowable exception: the extra suitcase. We were both stunned but no one was going to question it or jinx anything. It fit, so just leave it alone. That evening we did a couple more walk-throughs of Skype with the parents and then it was time for bed.
On Friday was the big moment: we left HQ and drove about 130 miles to West Bend with Apollo fully loaded and Maggi on top. All went splendidly and our gas mileage was as good as we could have hoped. There was little to no wind resistance, thanks in part to the design of the tent. The weekend in West Bend was spent saying farewell to Joe’s extended family.
Monday morning we headed to Milwaukee to visit good friends and make time for a two-day (via Amtrak) trip to Chicago and back.
It’s really strange to think that in one week we will be in Tennessee, in two weeks we will be in Washington, D.C., and in three weeks we will be in Manhattan. Game on.