Avion Ultra: The Return Trip (Day 2)
We roll back onto the highway for day 2 of our return trip.
We had planned to enjoy some of Florida’s natural attractions while on the return trip. At the very least, we made it to Silver Springs to experience the placid water, Hollywood history, and search for wild monkeys. More on that some other time. Suffice it to say, new revelations pushed us to take a less leisurely yet roundabout return route.
After a day of driving, we take stock. We drive onto a scale at a truck stop to learn that the truck camper is a little heaver than reported: 2,800 lbs. that isn’t a great concern, we have a one-ton truck. The addition of the camper has done little to affect the truck aside from its gas mileage. Even so, the gas milage remains quite similar to what we usually experienced with the fiberglas shell and bed in the back. In fact, the weight on the truck’s tight shocks means that the ride is actually smoother.
While the weight news is good, there is a different problem. The tie-down hooks which secured the camper onto the truck bed are working loose. We can see threads of the screws meant to secure the hooks to the camper’s undercarriage. Our hacked together restraints are only as good the hooks to which they are attached. The trip back is going to be even slower than we had anticipated. We had thought that we could continue to travel with the Avion as we improve it. But now it is clear that we will have to do some major reworking before we can safely return it to the road.
And so we cruised along country highways, past cypress trees draped in moss. Brilliant patches of pink and gold wildflowers dust the road dividers. Night two, we camp in another Walmart parking lot just after crossing into Georgia. This is the most surreal experience we have ever had staying overnight at a Walmart. Cars full of teenagers and twenty-somethings descend on the lot, lining up in a row and blaring music as the occupants mill around: chatting, snap chatting, or singing along with Carrie Underwood on the radio. At the height of the cacophony, it all abruptly ends. In unison, owners and passengers dive into their cars and tear out of the lot as a police car enters and circles around.
We watch four men meet up to inspect a boat hooked to a pickup truck. They shake hands, unhook the boat, drive the truck away, and back in an SUV. Craigslist transaction complete at the speed I had expected for our Avion.
Another transaction occurs at 2AM. I wake to a motorcycle circling our camper and revving its engine. I roll out of bed and peer through a window. Four people stand around an idling motorcycle. Then the motorcycle takes off for another loop. This time at top speed until it slows and returns to the huddle for more discussion. Again and again until there is a handshake and the motorcycle speeds away and the other four disperse. Who sells a motorcycle at 2AM?