After the long, hot day in Pikesville (See Hatfield, McCoys, and Street Car Racing) we continued on the road again that night. It had been a sweaty, wet day but we were many hours from our next campground and wanted to put some serious miles on. That led to our nighttime adventure cutting through the mountains.
Pikesville is located in the southeastern portion of Kentucky. It was well off the interstate and we needed to continue to head east towards Virginia. The only way to get back on track was going on county roads through West Virginia. I am always more on edge when traveling with the 42 foot trailer behind us, and this proved to be well justified that night.
Having a large fifth wheel in tow inherently has challenges of its own. We have to keep the height in the forefront of our mind. I always check http://www.aitaonline.com to verify our desired path does not have any bridges lower than 13’6”. These are common in inner cities and mountainous areas. But they can also be found in older communities as well. Even some major highways may have some. Also out east, they do not believe in tree branch trimming. Dodging those upper branches are critical as they not only scrape up the sides, skylight, and roof; but also have taken off antennas, etc. But for the most part, height has not proven to be a critical issue yet, other than at some gas stations.
The width was the next obvious hurdle. The sheer size of the beast demanded driving precision. Joel has become quite skilled maneuvering down any road, especially the narrower, back roads. Often very little shoulder existed, leaving no extra room for wind, bumps, or obstacles in the path, let alone a wayward oncoming car. Many times I watched the side mirrors going through road construction zones with only a matter of an inch or two on both sides while still traveling close to highway speeds.
Height and width are the standard issues, but that night we also had our 65 foot length to contend with. We are used to taking wide turns and still cutting it tight to the curbs, but these roads brought back the Rocky Mountains memories of the West. Though the altitude did not exceed that of the Rockies, some of the switchbacks were tighter. With headlights as the only light shining through the blackness, Joel had to cross into the on-coming traffic lane at each of the tight curves. The steeply banked roads assisted him as he cranked the steering wheel sharply to the right. The rear trailer tires edged closely to the roadside. No sooner once the trailer was straightened out behind us again, Joel had to turn sharply to the left. The rear trailer tires trailed the opposite edge on the on-coming traffic lane.
Back and forth, back and forth he went. He would have had a time of his life if he was in a corvette or the like… but he wasn’t. What if another vehicle comes? At least their headlights cued Joel in time to allow them to pass before he hit the next curve. Being flatlanders, I felt we were much more cautious than the other trucks passing us in the other direction. They were obviously confident that theirs was the “biggest truck that wins”.
I listened as the exhaust brake screamed, keeping us at a reasonable pace on the declines. The engine roared equally on the inclines, as the diesel was sucked down. Most of the way that night was like this. I was grateful for the lack of traffic that daytime would probably have brought. Shortly after 1 am on Sunday, we started seeing an increase of traffic in the area. I prayed it was a mining shift ending rather than a pile of people leaving remote bars. Fortunately, no issues.
We finally made it to an interstate after 2am. Enough traveling for one night. We put on a good 5 hours and were less than an hour from the next campground. God kept us safe once more.
Until we meet again,
ps: A note on the picture…Fortunately this one was taken when we did not have the trailer behind us. Those switchbacks were intense.