Let’s talk about Tolls…

We left College Park, MD briefly driving on the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) before heading north on I-95 towards central New Jersey. Being naïve (aka from the West Coast), I had no idea that on a Federal Interstate we would have to pay tolls. I fully expected to pay tolls once we entered New Jersey and enjoy the Jersey Turnpike but we had to pay two tolls just to leave Maryland and one toll just to enter Delaware.

The total damage for our 185 mile drive? $58.45

As I stated during our exorbitant 67 mile into Orlando, I am OK paying tolls to use highways. I am shocked though how much we were charged for our drive though on top of the vast fuel taxes we pay in a RV.

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Twenty First State – New Jersey

New Jersey is a pretty big destination for us on our trip and a place we have been looking forward to for a while. Jen’s aunt and uncle live in Central New Jersey and we had planned to stay at their house for three or so weeks. We have made many visits to them and really enjoy their company. After nearly nine months on the road, it will be nice to see a familiar face, take a warm shower in a house, and let our kids play with their kids.

New Jersey will also be our base for a while, allowing us to take mini-road trips in the Jeep. I personally will be flying to California for a week to visit the office and catch up with the personalities that I work with. Visiting New Jersey will be a mini-vacation within our road trip.

This will be our second time in New Jersey, the last time we visited weeks after Hurricane Sandy and saw much of the aftermath. I was lucky enough to spend a day in Atlantic City and see large swaths of the Garden State.

This time around, I suspect I will be visiting Atlantic City again, but we will take a trip to New York City, visit the Jersey Coast, and take the girls to Hershey, PA. More importantly, we will be stationary for a while and enjoy some serious family time.

I do not expect to be paying any RV camping fees while we are in New Jersey, since we will be parked outside of their house.

 

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Twentieth State – Delaware

We made an exception for Delaware and put the sticker up, even though we did not stay there. Our original plan was to find a nice campground and stay in the state for a few days but the only reviews of Delaware campgrounds I could find made the campgrounds sound horrible. After grappling with the thought we would ‘cheat’, I was greeted at the Delaware border by a Toll booth and handed over $7 to drive 17 miles through the tip of the state.

There you go… we put the sticker up and claim Delaware ‘visited’. Not much more to say about Delaware.

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Washington DC – George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Wednesday morning we packed up early and drove about forty-five minutes to Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, VA. The park was $17 each for adults and our two kids were under six, so they were free. Upon paying, you enter into a modern building where the girls saw statues of George and Martha Washington along with two grandkids. The two girls loved the statues of the grand kids, as they were about the same height of them. There was also a model of the mansion, which we would tour later in the day.

As you climb Mount Vernon, which itself is a very small hill, you are surrounded by manicured grounds and beautifully restored buildings. Since it was April, the gardens had not started to bloom yet but they were still impressive considering their couple hundred-year age. They had areas for vegetables next to the greenhouse and a small hedge garden.

We continued walking around the Mount Vernon grounds and ended up at the blacksmith. They have a fully restored, working blacksmith where they have two employees on site who use blacksmith skills to build period-appropriate items for the grounds. They have items on display that you could touch and ask questions. We had arrived just after a large school group had walked away and were able to ask questions, Evelyn herself asked questions. They were building a hatchet head when were there, Evelyn was wide eyed as they pulled out the red-hot metal object and hammer it into an appropriate shape.

After exiting the blacksmith, we stood in amazement at the view from the well-maintained grounds over the Potomac River. We stood in line for the tour of the Washington Mansion, which took about twenty minutes in total to tour; the line for us was only ten minutes long. Photography was not permitted inside, but we were able to see every room of the mansion including the room where George Washington passed away. It was moving to see the room where someone as important as George Washington passed away, the room itself was very well preserved and respectfully displayed. As you exit the mansion, you walk through the library where he spent his time and there were many artifacts from his presidency.

The rest of Mount Vernon is a working farm, so as you walk down the hill towards the tombs you are greeted with goats and sheep. There are older horse stables with replica buggies in it as well as a smokehouse showing how they used to preserve meat before refrigeration. One interesting feature of the grounds was the ha-ha wall which prevented grazing animals on large estates from gaining access to the lawn and gardens adjoining the house, giving a continuous vista to create the illusion that the garden and landscape were one and undivided.

Finally, we paid our respects to George and Martha Washington in their tomb. Their final burial was inside small brick building with white marble inside, including two marble tombs.

It was a great way to spend five hours and great to finally see the fabled Mount Vernon.  

 

 

Feeling Gassy #4 – 10K Edition

This is the fourth installment of the Feeling Gassy series. It has been almost six weeks since the last post, Feeling Gassy #3 on February 14th. We have driven just over 1500 miles since the last posting, averaging 250 miles per week. We hit another milestone recently, 10,000 Miles of RV Ownership so I thought it would be good to revisit gas usage.

Winter is supposed to have ended just over a week ago, but we just encountered four straight days of nighttime temperatures in the mid-twenties as we head up the East Coast of the US. We have filled up Propane three times in six weeks, almost once every two week. Overall, we have only filled propane 12 times in nine months, once every three to four weeks.

As winter burns off, we have noticed gas prices have started to drop. Our most recent fill up in Virginia was only $3.139 per gallon, compared to $3.429 in Northern Florida just over a month ago. As I write this post, we are only 180 miles from Jen’s Aunt & Uncle who live in central New Jersey, where we will be staying for a month. This means the next time we put any more gas into the Unicorn RV will be April 27th; almost a month without a single cent spent on RV fuel.

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Gas Breakdown

Number of Fill Ups: 34 (4 fill ups since February 14th, 2014)

Miles Per Gallon

Maximum: 7.43 MPG (09/15 – 09/18/2013 — Driving between Bozeman, MT and Missoula, MT on I-90; only one major mountain pass; no Toad) – Unchanged

Minimum: 4.81 MPG (11/08 – 11/11/2013 — Driving between Phoenix, AZ and Lordsburg, NM on I-20; I was driving with a heavy foot and the generator was running the Air Conditioner; Toad attached) – Unchanged

Average: 6.30 (up from 6.28 as noted in Feeling Gassy #3)

Gallons Per Fill Up (US Gallons)

Most: 69.73 US Gallons (11/08/2013 – Driving between Prescott, AZ and Eloy, AZ; misjudged the distance and the MPG so pulled in on fumes) – Unchanged

Least: 24.40 US Gallons (01/08/2014 – Emergency fill up near Inglis, FL @ $3.65 per gallon, underestimated remainder of fuel and availability of gas stations in Central Florida; did not fill the tank as $3.65 per gallon was $0.40 more than we had seen in major cities) – Unchanged

Average: 47.82 US Gallons

Total: 1625.91 US Gallons

Distance Between Fill-Ups

Max: 488 Miles

Least: 44 Miles

Average: 301.97

Time Between Fill-Ups

Maximum: 73 Days

Minimum: 0 Day (Stopped for Gas in Inglis, FL and filled the tank in Chiefland, FL)

Average: 10.45 Days (up from 10.28 Days as noted in Feeling Gassy #3)

Total Cost of Fill Up (US $)

Maximum: $236.34 (69.53 gallons at $3.399 per gallon in Goldsboro, NC … almost on fumes)

Minimum: $50.00 (Emergency fill-up in Inglis, FL; paid outrageous $3.65 per gallon)

average: $162.68 (up from $168.90 Days as noted in Feeling Gassy #3)

Total: $5531.17 (US Federal Taxes Paid: $804.84)

In the past six months we have been moving north from Florida to Maryland. There have been a few cold fronts we have encountered, the tail ends of the Winter Vortex which have caused us to use the propane more to stay warm.

Propane Breakdown

Number of Fill Ups: 12 (3 fill ups since February 14th, 2014)

Gallons Per Fill Up (US Gallons)

Maximum: 20.33 US Gallons

Minimum: 6.00 US Gallons

Average: 14.79 US Gallons (up from 14.69 US Galons as noted in Feeling Gassy #3)

Total: 177.51 US Gallons

Time Between Fill-Ups

Maximum: 37 days

Minimum: 6 days

Average: 16.09 Days

Total Cost of Fill Up (US $)

Maximum: $58.25

Minimum: $22.50

average: $47.45

Total: $569.40

Honorable Mention – Washington DC

Washington DC isn’t really a state. Our map on the Unicorn RV doesn’t even have a sticker for Washington DC. Let us face it though, it is pretty much our 51st state by default. Although our visit will not count towards or overall stay I want to give it a honorable mention.

Washington DC is a pretty big destination for us. I was here once when I was 10 years old and once in my early 20s, neither time was I able to really explore the city. This visit is different as we can explore the city and the monuments.

Washington DC also is a culinary destination for me for two reasons which will make no sense to anyone but myself. The first exciting place to eat is Pret a Manger, the British fast-food restaurant where all of the food is premade for you to pick up and good. The second place I am excited to eat at is Nando’s, a Mozambican–Portuguese restaurant which serves the best Chicken Sandwiches in the world. Both of these restaurants were some of my favorite chains while I lived in London and to see them stateside brings a smile to my face.

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Nineteenth State – Maryland

We entered Maryland without much fanfare. The original plan was to stay in Northern Virginia but there is a lack of RV campgrounds that looked ‘good’. I did find a recommendation for one in College Park, MD a city I have heard about and wanted to visit someday. As it turns out, we only spent five days in Virginia although there was so much more to explore.

I do not expect we will spend much time in Maryland; its proximity to Washington DC is our main pull. We may visit Baltimore but I have read mixed reviews. Annapolis is near College Park, MD only a 30-minute drive. I hope to go out there to explore and possibly enjoy some Maryland blue crabs during our stay.

No matter what, Maryland is our nineteenth state!

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