Maiden Voyage

Captain’s Log: Stardate 4-21-2018. These are the voyages of the USS Discovery. Our mission: to explore lands far from the nearest Starbucks. To seek out new cultures and alien lifeforms. To boldly go where only retirees and young families dared tread before… 

This weekend we set out on our maiden voyage of the USS Discovery. No champagne bottles were smashed over the bumpers. No ticker tape parades. The closest we came was a shower of leaves as we received a sudden education in what it means to be riding eye level with a semi truck down neighborhood streets.

Our satellite dish comes enclosed in a nice, little opaque bubble. This, as we have learned, is our forward deflector shield. After a few branches, we were down to maybe 95%, so it seemed to hold up well against the assault.

Later, travelling at sixty miles per hour down the highway, we made sure to take the “low clearance” signs seriously. Hit an overpass and we’re not only losing our forward shields, but all communications, and life support (this is what we call Air Conditioning in Texas…)

We’d also made the unavoidable decision to leave at the height of rush hour on a course which would take us right through the belly of the beast – the I35W Mix Master outside downtown Fort Worth.

Frankly, I’d just as soon navigate an asteroid belt. I’ve driven big trucks before. Moving trucks, box trucks, and even pulled a nineteen foot travel trailer with my pickup. This was different than all of them.

In many ways, it was easier. Riding so high with the big expansive windshield and well-placed side mirrors, the coach handled better than expected. Only two things made it a white-knuckle task: wind and other drivers.

In Texas where the speed limits are just suggestions, people aren’t patient around a 25,000 pound house with wheels. At times, you have to force your way into traffic. Other times, you’ll find a friendly driver willing to let you over only to be cut off by the guy behind them who couldn’t stand to see your wheeled palace ahead in whatever race he’s imagining.

Then there’s the wind. A giant class A motorhome is about as aerodynamic as a brick. Those tall, flat walls are like a kite. Once you reach highway speeds, every little gust is noticeable causing the need for regular, minor corrections.

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Our furry science officer…

About halfway into the trip, my wife offered to fill in at Chekov’s empty post. Having a navigator ended up being extremely helpful because focusing on driving during the first real highway test is important. It was also a decision which may or may not have had something to do with a stream of profanity aimed at Google Maps.

Once we arrived at the campsite, we got down to the business of setting up. We’re veterans of a sort, having spent many vacations in our travel trailer. All the systems are similar, but also more complex. When I joke about the Discovery being our starship, it isn’t far off the mark.

There’s a twenty point checklist for launch. Panels with flashing lights and switches (a la the original Enterprise bridge.) We even have an alien science officer… Well, at least I imagine he’s a science officer, always collecting data and marking places for future study. (This involves more nostrils than tricorders and way more pee but I digress…)

We’ve got engines, a bridge, a forward viewscreen, environmental controls, crew quarters, a galley, and we’ll soon be lugging around our own shuttle for away missions. And when the landing gear hits the ground you have to do a double take.

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An ensign enjoys rec time in Ten Forward.

The Fleetwood Discovery 39R has three slide outs, one being a full side slide. When it deploys, the bus unfolds into a living space which defies space and logic. From Enterprise to Tardis in the press of a button (or three).

So far we’ve discovered a few minor quirks and started a to-do list, but overall, Discovery has proven to be a worthy vessel for our mission. We’ll keep you updated as the mission progresses. Feel free to follow the blog or you can find me on social media if you’d like to ride along (buttons are on the right side of the page).

Should you decide to embark on your own mission, here are some trip planning tips from our maiden voyage:

Plan your route. Make sure to include the new dimension of HEIGHT which, even in your Suburbans and Armadas, you’ve likely never considered on a road trip.

Plan for the weather. Bad weather can be dangerous in any vehicle but especially in a motorhome. Wind gusts should be a consideration along with the normal extreme weather hazards.

Have a good crew. A navigator was helpful in the more hectic traffic. Having a spare set of eyes to help with both parking and deploying the slides is also a good idea.

 

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