Monthly Archives: August 2013


Yesterday we woke up around 7am, refreshed from a good night’s sleep in the Sanders County Fairgrounds pasture. There was a train track nearby, but the passing trains in the night didn’t bother us.

I had coffee and yogurt. I took my time writing yesterday’s post before we packed up and left. We were back on Route 200 around 10:30am. It was going to be a fairly short drive and we planned to make stops along the way.

Our first stop was in Thompson Falls, Montana. We parked on the street and walked down to view the Clark Fork River. It was a cool little town. Friendly people and lots of quirky little shops. The river runs along the south side of town just a couple of blocks off the main drag.

Clark Fork River

Clark Fork River

There’s a dam and small reservoir here as well. The water level on the reservoir can vary by as much as four feet in a day!


We walked along the river and reservoir then returned to our coach via Main Street. We stopped in a little flower shop that had a sign saying they had fresh huckleberries for sale. We bought a quart of huckleberries. They’re one of my favorites and I haven’t had them since I left Washington state in 2005.

Donna with a quart of huckleberries at the Thompson Falls reservoir

Donna with a quart of huckleberries at the Thompson Falls reservoir

We cruised up Route 200 and were thankful we chose this route. The scenery was unbelievable. At one point we pulled into a turn out and walked to the river. The Clark Fork River flows from Montana westward into Idaho and empties into Lake Pend Oreille.

Turnout on route 200

Turnout on route 200

View of Lake Pend Oreille through the trees

View of Lake Pend Oreille through the trees

Further up the road, I pulled off near  the town of Clark Fork and followed a road towards the river hoping to find a picnic area. I feared I’d made a big mistake as I didn’t know where the road led or whether we would be able to turn around. A few miles down the road, we found a small RV park. I entered the park and was able to get turned around.

The park host told us we should look for a turnout on the left with geological information once we returned to Route 200. We found the turnout a short time later and stopped for lunch. It had a great view of Lake  Pend Oreille. There were also placards with information regarding the formation of the lake and the ancient Missoula ice dam there. We had a light lunch consisting of tabouleh salad and feta cheese.



We continued onwards and crossed into Idaho. At Sandpoint, we found parking on the street and stopped again. Sandpoint is another cool town. It is somewhat touristy, but not overboard. There are lots of little shops downtown and a great beach on the lake. We stopped at Starbucks and sat outside on a deck overlooking a marina.

We walked through the downtown. When we walked down to the city beach, we found a small RV park! We talked to a guy camped there and he told us the park was run by the adjacent Best Western Hotel. We walked over to the hotel and inquired about rates and availability for next year. They are completely booked up from July 3rd to Labor Day.

We may return there in June. Staying at the RV park entitles you to use the hotel amenities including heated indoor pool, hot tub and exercise facility. Not too shabby. And you’re right on the lake and within walking distance to all the downtown shops. There are also biking paths to ride out of town.

From there we drove to our destination for the day, Priest River. I parked in the grocery store lot. Donna went in to resupply our provisions. While I was waiting in the coach, someone knocked on the door. It was Jimbo’s wife, Cindy Birditt. I haven’t seen her in nearly 20 years, it took me a moment to realize who it was.

Cindy arranged courtesy parking for us in a small industrial complex on the edge of town. In Priest River the edge of town means we are looking at forest out the front windshield. Nice.

Once we were set up, I got online and found a message from another old friend, Howard Brutschy. He knew from yesterday’s blog post that I would pass through Sandpoint and invited us to cruise Lake Pend Oreille in his houseboat. Too bad I didn’t see his invitation earlier! Hopefully we can time things better next time through.

Jimbo drove over and picked us up. We went to town for a cocktail at Jammers. We were joined by Jimbo’s neighbors, Mike and Linda, and went to a Mexican restaurant. The food was delicious. I haven’t had Mexican food that good since we left Arizona more than four years ago.

After dinner we all convened at Jimbo and Cindy’s house a few miles outside of town. Donna was the designated driver – Jimbo loaned us a truck to drive back “home.”  We sampled some whiskey and had a great time talking about old times together.

Today we’ll join them for breakfast and then head westward once again. Donna is making huckleberry muffins as I type this and they smell delicious.

I don’t know where we’ll stop tonight. Tomorrow we have reservations at a KOA in Burlington, Washington on the west side of the Cascades. I plan to travel over the North Cascade Highway tomorrow.


Yesterday we took our time prepping for a day on the road. Donna started the day with walk. No bear encounters this time. In fact, I’m surprised at the lack of wildlife sightings. We’ve only come across antelope on the way here, a few deer sightings and Donna’s bear encounter. I was hoping to see big horn sheep and mountain goats.

We hit the road at 11am. Our route took us back down highway 89. This is a tough slog with steep hills and tight turns. We planned to take a short cut across MT49 to US 2. We saw a sign that advised “no vehicles over 21′ long on MT49.” Oh well, so much for the shortcut. We continued on to Browning and picked up US 2 there.

Shortly we were hit by a thunderstorm. This was inevitable since I spent 2 1/2 hours washing the coach and trailer yesterday. We didn’t have a destination today, We only knew we wanted to take Route 200 toward Idaho where we will visit my best friend, Jim Birditt, in Priest River.

In Kalispell, Donna spied a shop called Redneck Chic. It was a women’s western wear boutique. Donna has been wanting to find a pair of cowboy boots. I found a place to park and we walked to the store. They didn’t have her size in the boots she liked. It was probably just as well since the “discount price” was $450.

A little after 5pm, we hit Route 200 at Plains, Montana. Coming through town, Donna was looking for a place to park for the night. Driving through the Lewis and Clark National Forest, we didn’t find any place suitable for a big rig to pull off.

Donna saw a county fairgrounds sign. We followed the signs to the fairgrounds and found the Sanders County Fair was happening. They had RV parking and presently we are parked in a fairly level pasture. Donna cooked linguini with clam sauce for dinner and then we walked to the fair.

Linguini with Clam Sauce

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It was the usual county fair midway. The only difference was no admittance fee! There was an arena and we learned that bull riding was about to start. We bought tickets for the rodeo and watched the bull riding. I asked Donna, “Did I ever tell you about the time I rode a bull?” It’s a standing joke. She’s heard this story many times. I won’t let that stop me from telling it now though.

It was 1976. I was living in Longmont, Colorado with my high school buddies, Jim Birditt and Chris Nirschl. I found work at Anderson Fence Company. During my job interview, the foreman, Merle, said to me, “We have this opening on account of the last guy quit. You want to know why the last guy quit?” I said, “Okay.” He said, as he was looking at my shoulder length hair, “The last guy quit because the cowboys on the crew cut his hair.” I replied, “If the cowboys want to cut my hair, they’ll have a heck of a fight.” He said, “When can you start?”

Me, back in the day

Me, back in the day

Shortly after I began working on the crew as a laborer, another long haired guy was hired. His name was Brad. The cowboys constantly teased us. One day as I was hauling a wheelbarrel full of concrete, a cowboy named Harvey was making catcalls at Brad. Brad had enough and said, “You guys think you’re so tough, well we’re just as tough. Mike and I will ride a bull and show you.” What? Mike and I? What could I say?

When I came home from work and told my roommates what happened, Chris said, “Are you serious? They aren’t talking about the dairy cows down the street. Have you seen the bulls they ride?” He drove me out to a ranch and showed me a proper bull. It was huge and rippling with muscle. I grew up in San Diego and had never even been to a rodeo at that point.

About a week later, Harvey approached us and said he’d made arrangements for us to ride at the rodeo in Greeley on Saturday. He said, “Wear gloves and a jock strap. A couple of cowboys will lend you bull ropes.”

Saturday we drove up to the arena in Greeley. Harvey introduced us to a couple of pro bull riders. They told us what was about to go down. I had no clue. The cowboy walked me down the catwalk behind the chutes and told me how to get the rope set up. He said not to waste too much time. Once I had the rope wrapped around my glove, I needed to go. The chute can be dangerous as you’re in a confined space with the animal. If the bull becomes agitated in there, it can be bad.

I asked him why the bull doesn’t buck as soon as I climb on. That’s when I found out how this works. He told me about a device called a flank strap. This is a strap wrapped around the bull just ahead of his hind quarters. When the gate is opened, an operator pokes the bull with a cattle prod providing an electric shock. This makes the bull jump. He said, “When the bull jumps, the flank strap pulls at his gonads and he thinks you did it.” Oh my. What have I gotten in to?

We drew lots to determine which bull we would ride and what the order would be. Brad drew a mean looking 1,800-pound Brahma bull. I drew a 1,600-pound Charolais. I would ride right after Brad.

Brad’s turn came up and he was very stylish. He climbed aboard the bull and strapped his hand in place. He held his cowboy hat in his free hand and yelled, “Let ‘er rip!” The chute opened and he had a great ride. He came flying off the bull just after the 8-second buzzer. You need to ride 8 seconds to attain a score and Brad made it.

However, when he was thrown off the bull, I watched him fly through the air in a superman pose. He hit the dirt in a belly flop. I was very close to him, watching from the cat walk and heard the wind knocked out of him. At that moment the bull swung around and one of his rear hoofs came down in the small of Brad’s back. Brad made a sickening groaning sound. Two cowboys dragged him from the arena. I was stunned.

The chute operator looked at me and said, “You’re up.” Oh man. I looked across the arena and saw my friends sitting in the bleachers. I saw Harvey, the cowboy on our crew. I saw a couple of good -looking young girls watching me in anticipation of my ride. I climbed on. What else could I do?

I wrapped the bull rope around my gloved hand tightly and sat on it. I said, “Hit it” and all hell broke loose. The cowboy that schooled me knew this bull. He advised me not to lean forward at all. This bull had a reputation for throwing his head back. If the rider were to lean forward, he would be smacked in the forehead and knocked out cold.

I thought about that for about a second before I quit thinking altogether. The ride was so violent, I couldn’t even see. My eyeballs were rattling in my head and the world was a blur. About five seconds later, I was airborne. I didn’t know up from down and had no idea where terra firma was. I found out when I landed on my head and right shoulder. I staggered out of the arena before any more damage could be done.

That was my one and only rodeo experience. I vowed to never get involved with that again.

The next Monday, Brad didn’t come to work. He was still nursing a sore back. Harvey came up to me and said, “I have to hand it to you guys. It takes big cajones to ride a bull.” Then he added, “I’d never do that. Bull riders are crazy. I ride saddle bronc.” The cowboys on the crew never teased us again.

Today we’ll head up Route 200 through Sandpoint, Idaho to Priest River. We’ll visit my old friend, Jim Birditt (aka Jimbo or JB). Maybe I’ll ask him if he remembers the time I rode a bull in Greeley, Colorado.


Pasture at Sanders County Fairground

Pasture at Sanders County Fairground

East Glacier – Bees and Bears

Yesterday I wrote my blog post first thing. This is my usual habit. Donna went for a walk while I wrote. It was overcast and windy, the temperature was around 50 degrees.

Our plan was to take the scooter up highway 89 to Babb. There’s another entrance to Glacier National Park at Babb. We were told that we were more likely to see wildlife there than on the Going – to – the – Sun – Road.

Donna packed a picnic lunch for us. While she was doing that, it began to rain. After her walk, she talked to one of the attendants at the campground and was told it was likely to rain in the afternoon. It seemed like this morning we only had passing showers with intermittent raindrops.

We decided to stay the course and go to Babb. As we rode up the highway, it started to rain a little harder. The raindrops were stinging my hands as we rode along at 60mph.

The entrance to the park is unmarked at Babb. The village of Babb isn’t much. A small store, cafe and gas station. I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to turn off of the highway. We saw a tour bus enter the highway from  a road on the left. We made the turn onto that road.

Donna was certain we were on the right road. Me, well, not so much. The only sign I saw said “Road Ends in 12 Miles.” The road was rough and uneven. It had ruts in places that made riding the scooter difficult. The uneven surface and ruts pulled at the front end. I had to be alert and make corrections to our course.

About four miles in, there was a sign on the side of the road that said we were entering Glacier National Park. It still seemed a little weird. The road quality was still poor and I didn’t see any viewpoints or other park signs. After two more miles, we came to the park toll gate.

Lower Lake St Mary

Scooter with picnic bag at Lower Lake St Mary

From here the road quality improved and it looked like a national park. There were trailhead signs, turnouts for viewing and a picnic area. It stopped raining as we rode to the end of the road. At the end, there was a large parking lot with a gift shop and restaurant.

We turned back and rode to a picnic area we saw on the way in. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we sat down for lunch, it started to rain. It didn’t rain too hard though, so we sat at a table under a tree and enjoyed our egg salad wraps.

On the way back, we stopped at a few scenic areas and pulled in to the Many Glacier Hotel. It’s on the east side of Swiftcurrent Lake. It looks very stately. We were wet and cold at this point, otherwise we might have stopped in to take a look around.

(photo taken from internet)

The only encounter with wildlife in the park happened on the way out. A wasp flew inside my helmet. I made a panic stop on the side of the road and flicked it away from the mouth guard of my helmet. A few minutes later, as we were riding along, I realized I hadn’t ejected the wasp when he crawled across my eyeglasses. I opened my face shield and he flew away. I was relieved to say the least.

Donna, on the other hand had her encounter with wildlife while on her morning walk. I’ll let her tell the tale.

Yesterday morning , I decided to go for a hike. I told Mike I would probably be back in about 45 minutes.

I headed down through the campground toward the lake. I came to a sign that said “Lake Trail” and followed it a short distance to a small beach dotted with kayaks. I recalled reading that the campground rented kayaks and I wanted to run up to the office and get a paddle because the lake was like glass. I could just picture myself out there paddling through the morning mist.

We already had plans though to scooter up to Babb and then to Glacier National Park through the Many Glacier entrance. It might be nicer to go kayaking in the afternoon anyway when it warmed up. So I continued on my walk.

I hiked the long way around the park to the road that leads to the highway. I decided to walk to Route 89 and back, which is about one mile in each direction.  The road crosses the St. Mary River – a  shallow, rocky creek. I wondered if there might be a path along the river, so I crossed to the other side of the road for a look. No path. But it was a pretty river.

As I turned around, I saw a black bear come out of the woods about 50 feet in front of me. I stood still. He never even glanced in my direction. I watched him cross the road that I had just crossed and head into the bushes. I bet he had watched me walk down the road. Figuring I was safe, I continued on.

Just then, a pickup truck was coming down the road behind me and I pointed in the direction of the bear. The truck slowed and then stopped as the driver and passenger looked in the direction in which I had pointed. After a few minutes, they continued on and slowed again as they approached me.

“Did you see the bear?” I asked.  They did.

Laughing, the driver asked, “Do you want a ride?”

“Nah,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”

Prior to crossing to the river, I did notice what I thought was fairly fresh bear scat on the side of the road.  And I had heard a rustling in the trees across the road, but just figured it was some birds. As Mike would say, “Doh!”

Anyway, I walked to the highway and back with no further incident, though you can be sure I was keeping eyes and ears directed on the woods on either side of the road. This IS bear country after all.

When I told the desk clerk at the KOA Campground that I saw a bear, she said, “Yeah, you should carry bear spray if you’re going to go for a walk.” Hello? Now you tell me!

“So how does that work?” I asked. “Is it like mace?”

“Yes,” she replied. “But you have to spray it in the bear’s face. You can’t be running and spray it behind you.”

Hopefully, I’ll never need to do that.

After we returned to the coach Donna took a hot shower to warm up. It stopped raining during the ride back and began to clear up. Within half an hour of our return, the skies were clear and sunny!

I’ve needed to wash the coach for a while. I haven’t cleaned the exterior, except for removing bugs from the front cap and windshield, since we were in Minnesota. I got the ladder and cleaning supplies and hooked up a hose. Many campgrounds forbid washing RVs. The rules and regulations for this KOA made no mention of it. I took that mean it was okay and spent the afternoon washing the coach and trailer.

I put everything away about two and half hours later. At 5pm, Donna and I rented two kayaks. We paddled across lower St. Mary Lake near the river feeding it from the upper lake. It was windy. The wind made it hard to hold a steady course. After half an hour, we’d had all the fun we could stand and paddled back in.

Donna fixed an outstanding meal for dinner. We had Beef Ragu over spaghetti squash with Stuffed Zucchini. It was very tasty. She picked up the zucchini for free from a basket in a liquor store. The store clerk had a garden that supplied more than she could use.

Today we’ll pack up and head west. Our route will take us back down highway 89. We’ll cut over to Highway 2, then make our way to Route 200. This route will avoid most of the high passes into Idaho. I have no idea where we’ll stop for the night. I hope we can find a nice boondocking spot in the forest.

Beef Ragu with Stuffed Zucchini

Beef Ragu with Stuffed Zucchini

East Glacier – Logan Pass

Yesterday we had a leisurely morning. I posted to the blog before breakfast. After breakfast I unloaded the scooter from the trailer. I reset the passenger side view mirror on the coach to a forward position like the driver’s side. This reduced the overall width of our rig by a few inches.

Donna ran a couple of loads of laundry through our Splendide washer/dryer and changed sheets on our bed.  She packed a picnic lunch and started our dinner in the crock pot.

We studied the map of East Glacier and decided to ride up to Logan Pass. I’m usually pretty good with maps and directions, however,  when we left the campground I went the wrong way. I turned left on highway 89. After about a mile I saw a sign indicating Babb was 8 miles ahead.  I knew this wasn’t our planned route and turned around.

In the village of St. Mary, we turned right and entered Glacier National Park. When we entered the gate the attendant looked at my National Parks pass and asked me for identification. This was the first time that happened, but it’s what they’re supposed to do.

The pass is actually called America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. It’s an interagency pass that is honored by the Bureau of Land Management,  the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service and the National Park Service.

This pass will admit vehicles (one car or up to two motorcycles) into areas that charge a per vehicle fee or will admit up to four adults in areas that charge a per person fee. Two people can be listed as owners of the pass. Donna and I are listed as owners on our pass. We received our pass as parting gift from my colleagues when I retired. It was a great gift and we’ll make good use of it.

We rode the scooter up the Going to the Sun Road. We stopped at a picnic area at Sun Point and ate the lunch Donna prepared. We had roasted chicken with avocado, bell pepper and lettuce wrapped in whole wheat tortilla. We also had hard boiled eggs, carrots and homemade sweet pickles we purchased from the Amish in Wisconsin.

St Mary Lake at Sun Point

St Mary Lake at Sun Point

The view across St. Mary Lake we stunning. We saw a couple pulling their canoe from the lake. They said the water was really choppy today. We continued our ride up the road. The views were incredible. The scooter is an excellent mode of transportation in the park. We could pull off most anywhere we wished to take in the scenery.

There were a few sections where road work was being done. The road was single lane at a couple of points, controlled by flag men. There are a few rough spots and even a mile or so of gravel.

On the way up, we decided to limit our stops. We figured we could take it all in, then make stops on the way back down. When we reached the visitor center at Logan Pass we found motorcycle parking areas and had no problem parking. The visitor center there is mainly a gift shop.

Roadside waterfall

Roadside waterfall

From the visitor center, we hiked up the Hidden Lake Trial. This trail takes you up from behind the visitor center to spectacular view points. Much of the trail is boardwalk. The park service tries to keep people from wandering off of the trail in order to preserve the natural flora. Nonetheless, we saw people ignoring the signs and going off of the trail. We also saw people feeding bread to ground squirrels. It’s hard for me to understand why rules don’t apply to some people.

Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

Ground squirrels

Ground squirrels

When we were getting ready to depart from the parking lot, a guy standing in a group of motorcyclists noticed our South Dakota plate. He asked me if we rode the scooter here from South Dakota! I should have pulled one over on him, but I admitted that we trailered it here.

We made several stops on the trip back down. At one stop, as I got off of the scooter, it slipped off of the side stand. I didn’t realize how much of a slope we were on. I grabbed the bars as it was falling and saved it from crashing onto the pavement. In doing so, I wrenched my back and left hip. This getting old stuff is not for sissies. Sometimes it hurts.

Goose Island, St Mary Lake

Goose Island, St Mary Lake

There are two campgrounds in this section of the park. We rode through them to check out the sites. The campground near Sun Point is definitely not big rig friendly. The sites are small and the road is narrow and twisty. Also the trees overhead could be a problem.

The other campground is near the park entrance. This campground was comprised of three loops. One loop has possibilities, we saw a couple of class A motorhomes shoehorned in there. I’m not so sure if I would chance it though. There were one or two sites that could accommodate us, but it would require some tight maneuvering.

We returned to our coach and were greeted with the aroma of country style ribs cooking in the crock pot. We visited the hot tub. It was soothing to my back and hip. We returned and enjoyed a great meal.

Maple Country Style Ribs

Maple Country Style Ribs

There’s one technical issue in our current location that I find a bit puzzling. Verizon has 4G coverage here for data only. I cannot use my smartphone as a telephone here. I wonder what’s up with that. The first night here, our neighbors from Texas mentioned they have no coverage at all with AT&T. They were worried because they usually check in with their daughter every night.

I had them send her a text message from my phone to let her know they were okay and would be out of touch for a few days. Last night I received an urgent message from her asking me to tell her folks to call as soon as possible.

In today’s world, not being connected is bothersome for sure.



The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…Part Two

My last post left off with us sleeping Sunday night in a Walmart parking lot crowded with RVs.

Monday we were up around 7:30am. We had breakfast, showered and hit the road at 8:30am. We were on a northwesterly course on I-90 with the wind blowing us down the road. We faced another 300+ mile day, but I was optimistic. We had the wind at our back and a fairly easy drive ahead.

I thought about a couple of maintenance items I needed to do on our coach and figured I might have time to do some of them while were camped at Glacier National Park. One thing is a strut that pulled loose from a overhead cabinet door in the bedroom. The strut holds the door up when you open the cabinet and because of its geometry it also holds the door closed when you shut it. This door is equipped with two such struts and is working fine, so it’s not a high priority task.

The other thing is a large dresser drawer that holds some of my clothes. I overloaded the drawer. One of the roller guides broke loose. Things like this happen when your house is rolling down the road a few thousand miles. Things like this can happen when  your house on a solid foundation for that matter. It’s my own fault for over loading the drawer.

We decided to go to East Glacier and booked a site at the KOA in St. Mary. Our route had us leave I-90  and follow route 287 through Townsend to the state capitol, Helena. This route had us cross the Missouri river again. The Missouri River originates in the Centennial Mountains in western Montana. The official starting point of the river is near Three Forks, Montana.

The Missouri is the longest river in the USA. The Missouri empties into the Mississippi just north of St. Louis. Where the Missouri flows between Helena and Townsend, a dam was built in 1954. This created a reservoir called Canyon Ferry Lake. It also covered the site of an old town called Canton.

I’ve driven past Canyon Ferry Lake many times but have never stopped there. We decided to stop and stretch our legs. We parked near a boat ramp at the Broadwater County campground. We walked to the shore and had a snack.

Canyon Ferry Lake

Canyon Ferry Lake

From Helena, Route 287 joins I-15 for about 35 miles before it splits off and passes through the towns of Augusta and Choteau. I-15 had a few steep grades. Once we were back on 287 there were steep grades and sharp curves. The favorable wind shifted and became a cross wind. My day of easy driving was not so easy after all.

We stopped in Augusta. The main street is wide and we found easy parking. There were several combination bar/cafe/casinos in this small town. There also was a market. We strolled over for a look. Donna asked the store clerk for a lunch recommendation. She directed us to The Buckhorn. Donna also asked if it was smoky in there from cigarette smokers. We were happy to hear Montana banned smoking in buildings open to the public.

Wyoming hasn’t enacted such a ban. The cafes there smell like an ashtray. I think I’ll have to download an app developed by the folks at Technomadia called State Lines for iPhone and Android. It gives vital information for each state. We wouldn’t have to ask so many questions or figure out how to buy beer, wine or liquor. It’s all in the app.

We tried The Buckhorn. The people were friendly, but I can’t recommend the food. I had a burger and Donna ordered chicken. My burger came with greasy fries and Donna’s chicken was deep-fried and also came with greasy fries.

Once we were back on the road, the cross winds became gusty. It made the drive tiring. There was an eight-mile detour on dirt where they had removed the tarmac and were rebuilding the roadbed. After we were back on pavement,  we were able to get up to a reasonable speed.

Donna was snoozing in her co-pilot’s seat while I was fighting strong wind gusts. At one point on the narrow two-lane highway, an oncoming tractor-trailer rig blew by us at high speed. The strength of his wake in the atmosphere combined with the cross wind from the left really slammed our coach.

The driver’s side view mirror was knocked out of adjustment by the blast. A few miles later, the arm holding the large mirror swung around towards the side of the coach! There was no shoulder, so I had to continue driving on for a few miles before I found a place to pull off. I was concerned about losing the mirror. After I stopped, I found the mirror mounting arm bolt had loosened.

I opened the trailer and found a 19mm socket and ratchet. I repositioned the mirror and tightened the mount. I made a discovery in the process. The previous owner had positioned the mirror mounting arms away from the center of the coach. They could be positioned in a more forward fashion thus reducing the overall width of the coach. I put the driver side mirror in this position before I tightened the mounting bolt.

In hindsight it seems crazy to me that the mirrors we”re so far outboard. Many times when a large semi or RV passed in the oncoming lane, our mirrors would barely clear each other. When we’re stopped in the campground, I’ll reset the passenger side as well.

We resumed driving. The wind continued to blow unabated. Shortly before we reached Browning, Montana, another big truck blew by in the oncoming lane. This one had a load of uncovered gravel. Just as we were passing by each other he hit a bump. Gravel flew out and of course the cross wind blew it right into the front of our coach. Crack!  I can add windshield repair or replacement to my “things to do” list.

We checked into the St. Mary KOA around 4:30pm. I got things set up. The last thing was to put the slides out. The front went into place as always. The bedroom slide was going out when I heard a noise, it cocked to one side and I heard a bang. Oh no!

Before I put the slides out, I always make sure nothing has fallen behind them. I make sure the driver’s seat is in position and won’t interfere with the front slide. This time I missed something. My camera bag had slid out from its place on the shelf slightly. The right side of the bedroom slide got caught on it. That’s what caused the slide to cock sideways a bit.

The bang I heard was the welds on the aluminum stanchions supporting the bed breaking. The hydraulic ram that moves the slide is very powerful. I was able to reset the stanchions to support the bed and get the slide out. I need to have someone weld them in place in the future though. I was not a happy camper and wondered what else could go wrong.

I turned on both roof A/C units and decided it was cocktail hour. I poured a martini and tried to get happy again.

As I said, these things can happen. I learned a couple of lessons. I’ll get everything fixed and be more diligent about checking fasteners to make sure things aren’t working loose. I’ll check more carefully before I operate a slide. The windshield I can’t do anything about other than chalk it up to bad luck.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Monday evening's view from the front of our site

Monday evening’s view from the front of our site

Monday evening's view from the rear of our site

Monday evening’s view from the rear of our site


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s 7am Tuesday morning as I write this. We’re at the KOA campground near St. Mary, Montana. It’s at the east entrance to Glacier National Park. It’s a bit chilly this morning, 47 degrees. The elevation here is 4,500 feet above sea level. The sun just rose over the eastern ridgeline across the St. Mary River. I expect the day to warm up quickly.

The past few days we covered a lot of ground. I’ll have to break this up into two posts as the tale will get too long.

Sunday morning we left the Walmart in Sheridan, Wyoming. I topped up the fuel tank with 44 gallons of gas. We left I-90 and headed west on WY14. This route took us over the Big Horn Mountains. It has several long, steep grades and finally tops out over 9,000 feet above sea level at Granite Pass. It was slow going. Compounding the effort of the steep grade was a stiff head wind from the west.

In a situation like this, it’s tempting to just mash down on the pedal and give her all she’s got. I’m more sympathetic to machinery than that. In my opinion, running at wide open throttle for extended periods of time is not conducive to long-term durability. So, on long, steep climbs I gear down, allow the vehicle speed to drop and maintain a reasonable load on the powertrain.

In the Big Horn Mountains and later in the Absoroka Range, it meant dropping to second gear and slowing to 35-40 mph or less at times. Our rig is powered by an 8.1 liter (496 cubic inch) GM Vortec gasoline engine. Normally aspirated gasoline engines suffer from a double whammy when traveling through high mountains.

Climbing up in the atmosphere, I’m requesting enough torque to propel a rig weighing over 25,000 lbs upward against gravity. We also have the drag coefficient of a barn door to overcome against a headwind in this case. The real issue that becomes a factor though is called density altitude . As we climb higher, the air becomes thinner.

Internal combustion engines work by combining fuel with oxygen in the air and burning it. As the atmosphere becomes thinner, there are fewer oxygen molecules to combine with the fuel. The fuel injection system senses this though the exhaust content and regulates the amount of fuel injected to maintain the proper air/fuel ratio. The ambient temperature rose into the 90s, further thinning the air. Bottom line is less fuel equals less power.

So here we are, climbing over a 9,000-foot pass with a heavily loaded RV and our engine isn’t capable of producing maximum power. That’s why I’m in second gear and plodding along. I was wishing for a turbo diesel engine at that point. Turbo chargers were originally developed for aircraft. Turbochargers negate the effect of altitude as they force air into the engine.

Alright, back to our story. Once we crested the summit, we had to contend with steep downhill grades. When I say steep grades, WY14 has grades as steep as 9%! I used second or third gear on the down grades to utilize engine compression to retard the pull of gravity. Engine compression alone isn’t enough to stop us from speeding down the mountain. I would stab the brake pedal hard enough to quickly reduce our speed by 5 mph, then release the brakes and allow them to cool.

I repeated this procedure as necessary to maintain my desired speed. Riding the brake to keep a steady downhill speed results in over-heated brakes which become ineffective. Scary thought.

We stopped in a little town called Graybull. I parked on the street and took a stroll while Donna made our lunch. The town was quiet; all of the shops were closed on Sunday. After lunch we continued west. The terrain was mostly flat. It had the appearance of badlands at times. Other parts were agricultural. The headwind became even stronger as the day wore on.

Bicyclists know headwinds can be demoralizing. This is also the case in a big vehicle with poor aerodynamic qualities. The slightest uphill grade required me to de-activate the overdrive and run higher rpms for power.

Eventually we began the climb up the Absorokas into Yellowstone. This climb is every bit as hard as the climb through the Big Horns. We were in second gear through much of the ascent. The viscous coupling on the radiator fan was fully engaged most of the time, drawing air through the engine coolant radiator and transmission cooler. When it’s fully engaged, the fan makes a roaring sound. Normally the speed of the vehicle passes enough air through the radiator and the fan is not engaged.

While climbing in second gear at 30-35 mph, the engine and transmission are heating up and the normal airflow through the radiator isn’t able to keep the temperature under control. The fan does a good job though. Our coolant temperature would quickly drop to 195 degrees with the fan engaged.

At the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, we pulled in behind a car at the toll gate.  As we sat there idling with A/C keeping us cool, I was mindful of how narrow the gate was. I was concerned about catching a side view mirror as we passed though. The car in front of us must have been playing 20 questions with the park ranger.

We sat for several minutes before they pulled away and we could enter. I showed the ranger our National Parks annual pass and was given some literature and waved through. I pressed the accelerator and felt the engine start to pull, then I felt a loss of power. The engine rpms went down to 300, fluttered a bit and then the engine died.

This never happened before. I restarted the engine. When I put it in gear, the rpms went down again and it stalled. Uh oh. I cranked it over again and it started. I revved the engine once it started and it seemed okay. I put it in gear and it was fine as we pulled away.

The east entrance to Yellowstone is a steep uphill grind. Here we go again in second gear with the radiator fan roaring. The speed limit was 45 mph but at times, I couldn’t maintain that without running pedal to the metal. At one point I pulled into a turn out to let a few cars following me go past.

I sat there idling for couple of minutes as more cars appeared from below. Finally there was a break in the traffic and I started to accelerate out of the turn out. I felt the engine lose power, the rpms dropped to 300 and then it stalled. This time it wouldn’t start when I cranked it over.

I got out and looked in the engine compartment. The under hood temperature was quite high. I thought about the series of events. It wasn’t a misfire that would suggest an ignition problem. It felt like a fuel delivery problem. Donna asked me what I was going to do. I said we do nothing. We wait a bit and the let wind cool the engine compartment.

My theory was that we had fuel boiling in the fuel rail. The fan was pulling hot air through the A/C condenser, the transmission cooler and the engine radiator. This was creating high under hood temperature when we were stationary or moving slowly. Boiling fuel in the line is known as vapor lock.

After ten minutes or so, the engine fired up and we were on our way. I was pretty confident in my diagnosis. We climbed to the summit in second gear. As we crested the summit, I put the transmission selector into drive and released the pressure on the accelerator pedal so it would upshift. When I did that, something didn’t feel right. I watched the tachometer drop to 300 rpms, flutter, then fall to zero as we coasted down the other side of the summit.

I told Donna the engine quit. I said we can coast down hill and it will quickly cool. I also told her I no longer had power steering without the engine running. She wasn’t thrilled about coasting down a steep grade without power steering. She asked if we had brakes. The ABS brake system on our chassis has a back-up electric motor on the ABS pump. I told her brakes were not a problem and concentrated on steering.

We picked up speed and were coasting down the hill at about 40 mph. At that speed, the steering effort wasn’t too high. There was an incline ahead. The incline would slow us down, possibly even to a stop in the middle of the road. There wasn’t a shoulder to pull off of the narrow roadway. At the bottom of the grade I spotted a turn out on the left side of the road that looked just big enough for us to fit. I muscled our rig into it as I braked to a stop. If my vapor lock theory was correct, coasting down the hill should have cooled the engine compartment. I started the engine. It fired up and we drove away.

At this point, I smartened up and turned off the dash A/C. Air conditioners convert refrigerant from liquid to gas (thus cooling) and back to liquid in the condenser. To convert back to liquid the condenser must remove heat from the refrigerant into the air. How stupid could I be? Running the dash A/C in these conditions was adding heat to air pulled by the fan into the engine compartment. We quit using the dash A/C and had no further stalling episodes.

We found suitable parking at Lake Junction and walked to the information center. The information center had taxidermy displays of a variety of birds found in the park. I like to identify birds and enjoyed the displays.

Behind the center is Yellowstone Lake. The lake is large and we found sandy beaches here. A couple asked if I would take their picture with their camera. I did, then I realized I didn’t have a camera with me. I left everything back in the motorhome. Doh!

We dove through the park to Mammoth Junction. Driving through Yellowstone National Park in a large RV is not ideal. With our cargo trailer,our overall length is about 50 feet. We couldn’t stop in most of the pull outs. There were cars in them and not enough room for us to stop without having the trailer in the road. We cruised along and took in the scenery. There was a six-mile stretch where stopping was prohibited. There were fire crews working. We didn’t see the fire though.

The roads were narrow with no shoulder. If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone in a class A motorhome,I recommend staying in a RV park nearby and entering the park in a smaller vehicle.

We saw several bison. It was a novelty at first, but it became a nuisance. Anytime buffalo were near the road, cars would stop. People would hang out the window to take a picture or shoot video. Traffic jams formed as the scene was repeated. I can understand stopping your car when buffalo are in the road, but to come to a stop in the roadway because you want to take a picture of a buffalo nearby makes no sense to me. . Maybe I was just getting tired and cranky.

While we were stopped in traffic Donna snapped a couple of pictures through the windshield



We exited the park and entered Montana at Gardiner. Outside Gardiner, we stopped and had a snack while we stretched our legs. From there highway 89 follows the Yellowstone River north to I-90. We drove to Bozeman and stopped at Walmart there.

I’d read tales of Walmart RV parking in parts of Montana. So many RVers pass through the area during vacation season, the Walmart parking lots fill with RVs. We found quite the assortment in Bozeman. To be continued…

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Walmart parking lot in Bozeman

Walmart parking lot in Bozeman

Upscale coaches in Bozeman Walmrt

Upscale coaches in Bozeman Walmrt


Home built medium duty truck RV conversion

Home built medium duty truck RV conversions

You see all types at Walmart!

You see all types at Walmart!




Devils Tower

Yesterday we left the Heartland Campground in Hermosa, South Dakota. It was our last day in our newly adopted home state.

After coffee and breakfast, we had the slides in and the jacks up a little after 9am. There were a few things I wanted to do before we departed. First I wanted to photograph a couple of unique RVs in the campground.

The first one is a Vixen 21 TD. This was a futuristic RV produced from 1986 to 1989. Less than 600 were ever built. It featured aerodynamic body work and light weight. This unique RV claimed a top speed of 100 mph and also claimed to attain 30mpg. It was powered by a BMW M21 turbo diesel. The deal breaker for me is the inability to stand fully upright in it.

Vixen 21TD

Vixen 21TD

The other unique RV was built on a Mercedes chassis. This in itself isn’t unusual. What makes this one unique are the license plates. This vehicle was brought over from The Netherlands! I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owners, so I don’t know the story.

Note the license plate. Netherlands (on  the rear also)

Note the license plate – Netherlands (on the rear also)

Before we left I decided to fill our propane tank. When we left Michigan the gauge indicated 2/3 full. After a month on the road it still showed 2/3 full!! I was concerned about the accuracy of the gauge.

It only took six gallons to fill it. It’s an 80-pound tank so six gallons works out to about 1/3 of the capacity. I guess we don’t burn as much propane as I thought. At least I know I can trust the gauge.

In Rapid City I added $170 worth of gas to the tank and then we hit I-90 west. We drove through the Black Hills into Wyoming. We exited I-90 at Wyoming exit 199. There is a visitor information center at this exit. The center i s fairly large and clean with several covered picnic areas outside. They offer free road maps (we love good old-fashioned paper maps) and brochures on tourist attractions. Volunteers there can give directions or advice on local restaurants and whatnot.

Donna at the info centerr

Donna at the info center

We followed WY111 north to WY24 west. This led us to Devils Tower National Monument. You can see the tower of stone jutting up into the sky from several points along the highway. Devils Tower was the first national monument in the USA. Wyoming also boasts the first national park – Yellowstone.

We entered the park and drove three miles to the parking area. The road goes through a prairie dog community;we saw several of the little critters poking their heads up out of their holes or running around.

Devils Towerr

Devils Tower

The RV parking is limited, but we found a space. It was very warm with temperatures in the 90s. At 1pm a National Park Service ranger gave a presentation. She spoke of the geology of the tower and the history of the area. She also spoke about the spiritual customs of the Native Americans.

We took a short hike up the hill to get a closer view of the formation. It was too hot to do much hiking. Donna wanted to walk the path that encircles the monument. I wasn’t up for that, so she settled for a short hike to get a closer look while I waited on a bench in the shade.

We drove south on WY14  which brought us to I-90 and into a little town called Moorcroft. We were hungry, so we stopped at a little diner. I found a parking spot on the street next to a park. We didn’t have high expectations, but were hungry and would settle for what they had to offer.

We were pleasantly surprised. Donna ordered a chef salad and I had a French dip sandwich. Her salad was made with a fresh assortment of lettuce and peppers and chunks of ham and turkey  (not deli slices). My French dip was made with roast beef that looked to be shredded from a home-cooked roast. It was tasty.

We got on the interstate and droned west. The route climbs gradually. The climbs weren’t bad but the headwind was relentless. I can only imagine how many (or should I say how few) miles per gallon we were achieving.

We amused ourselves by spotting antelope along the roadside. We arrived in Sheridan around 5pm and found a Walmart Superstore where we could park for the night. It was hot so I ran the generator to power the A/C units. Since I had electricity, I also turned on the TV and watched a pre-season football game. By bedtime there were 10 other RVs parked here.

Donna resupplied our provisions in Walmart and also got a pedicure. This morning we are debating whether we should take WY16 to Yellowstone for a drive through the national park or should we continue to drone up I-90. I think I know which route our readers would suggest.

Happy Hour

Yesterday we didn’t do any tourist activities. I took care of a few chores while Donna caught up on some work she needed to do.

After breakfast, I took a load of laundry to the campground laundromat. We have a Splendide combo washer/dryer on board, but it is limited to smaller loads. It really needs to be run every day, otherwise too much laundry piles up. The campground has full-size commercial washers and dryers, so I did all of our laundry at once.

While I was doing that I met our neighbor, Sheila Pennington. She and her husband, Charlie, have a Newmar Kountry Star motorhome a couple of sites down the road from us. They are from Hamilton, Ohio (near Cincinnati).  Sheila is just beginning her retirement and like me, she isn’t missing work at all. Charlie has an insurance agency and can work while on the road.

They’re on an extended vacation that they’ve been planning for more than a year. They will be on the road for three months. They plan to tour the northwest. Eventually they will meet friends and attend a Doobie Brothers benefit concert in Glen Ellen, California. We agreed to get together in the evening to share stories, snacks and adult beverages.

After I finished the laundry, I rode the scooter to Rapid City. I picked up a few items Donna needed at the grocery store. Finding a grocery store in Rapid City wasn’t easy. I should’ve looked online first. I thought I could cruise in to town and find a supermarket. After riding in circles in town I gave up and rode out to the store near the credit union I visited on Thursday. I knew there was a grocery store there.

I was out and about for a couple of hours. This gave Donna a chance to have some space and quiet time to get her work done. After I returned, I loaded the scooter into the trailer in preparation of today’s move. When I opened the trailer it was hot; the outside temperature was near 90. A strong wind was blowing from the south. With the trailer opened up, the wind quickly cooled it down.

Around 6PM Charlie and Sheila joined us. We sat at the picnic table in the shade and snacked. We talked for for about an hour before the flies and mosquitoes chased us indoors. I had a couple of glasses of the Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Cream Stout I picked up in Custer State Park. I thought it was a local brew, but it turns out the be brewed in Tallgrass  Brewery in Kansas.

Buffalo Seat Stout

Buffalo Seat Stout

We continued to chat in their motorhome. It’s great how we meet new friends on the road. In addition to running an insurance agency, Charlie is a musician. He plays bass guitar. We talked about music and countless other topics for another hour in their coach. He showed me a beautifully crafted guitar stand made of wood that also is an amplifier! What a great concept, perfect for use in a motorhome. I wish I’d taken a picture of it.

Donna, Sheila and Charlie

Donna, Sheila and Charlie

Charlie and Sheila will stay here over the weekend, then head west to Yellowstone. We’re leaving this morning. Our plan is to stop at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, then continue on through Gillette to Sheridan, Wyoming. Tomorrow we’ll continue on I-90 into Montana.




Black Hills Tourists

Yesterday we closed out our first month on the road. Donna and I talked about how the time seems a bit warped. On one hand, it seems like the month flew by. On the other hand, when we think about all of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve visited and the things we’ve seen, it doesn’t seem possible that it all happened in only a month’s time.

I am humbled by the fact that more than 4,000 hits were recorded on this blog at the end of our first month. I hope our readers will continue to follow our travels and find our adventures interesting.

Yesterday I rode the scooter to Rapid City. I went to the Black Hills Credit Union to deposit checks. This has been an ongoing quest since we picked up our mail in Madison. The Black Hills Credit Union is affiliated with my credit union in Michigan. I made the 19-mile ride feeling confident that this task would finally be completed.

Along with my checks I brought my Genisys Credit Union debit card, the bank routing number and my checking account number. To my dismay, the teller asked for my credit union member identification number. She couldn’t help me without that number! After a couple of failed attempts I was able to contact Donna and get my member identification number. Attempting to deposit these checks has really tested my patience. The people here in South Dakota are so friendly and genuinely apologetic when they can’t help and that makes it easy for me to keep cool.

When I returned from the credit union, Donna was working on her newsletter. She was having trouble with the formatting for viewing via smart phone. I don’t know how that works, but apparently there are certain things that have to be specially formatted to be viewed properly on a smart phone.

After eight or nine test versions were sent to my phone, she was still finding errors. I was getting impatient. It was after 11am, I was hungry and wanted to head toward Mt. Rushmore and get something to eat along the way. Donna decided to take a break and finish the formatting after we returned from our sightseeing trip.

During Donna’s early morning walk, she talked to the owner of the Heartland RV park (where we are staying). He gave her tips on which route to take to Mt. Rushmore and other sights to see. He told her I should stop by the office and he would give me a map.

While Donna was working I walked to the campground office around 10:30am. It was closed with a sign on the door saying they would return at 11:00am. There was a UPS driver at the door making a delivery. I talked to him and he suggested taking route 40 to Keystone, then go up the hill to Mt. Rushmore. He described Keystone as a “tourist town.”

I went back to office at 11:00am and found a note saying they would be back at 11:30! I gave up on getting a map of the local attractions and decided to follow the UPS driver’s advice. We rolled out of here a little after 11:00am. Route 40 was a scenic ride on a smooth winding road that gained elevation over the 20-mile ride to Keystone.

When we entered Keystone, I saw a sign that said the population was 397. As we rode through the town at 30mph, it didn’t look like a “tourist town” at all. It looked rather shabby and run down. With a population of 397, I didn’t think it would extend more than a few blocks. I was really hungry at this point and stopped at the first place that offered food.

We went into an establishment that was a combination antique/junk dealer, bar and restaurant. I use the term restaurant very loosely. The man behind the counter said he had pulled pork but it was cold (apparently he had only just turned on the crockpots) or he could serve us pizza. This wasn’t a good start to our day trip. Donna asked if there were any other places to eat nearby. To my surprise he said we just needed to go up the road to the “new Keystone.” Apparently we were in “old Keystone.”

A half mile up the road we found the “tourist town” the UPS driver described. The new Keystone is a couple of blocks of buildings with old west facades. It has numerous restaurants and shops including the usual souvenir shops and of course, Black Hills gold jewelry.

We had lunch at the Red Garter Saloon and were entertained by the staff and cowboy re-enactments in the street. We walked up and down the street to take it all in before we rode up to see Mt. Rushmore. My take on it is this; the “old Keystone” is where the population of 397 lives. The “new Keystone” is where they work. Without the new Keystone there wouldn’t be much reason to live in old Keystone.

When we entered the Mt. Rushmore parking lot we stopped at a toll booth and were charged $11 to park. I guess they justify the $11 fee by telling us it’s good for a whole year. I forgot about my National Parks Pass; actually I didn’t realize it would cover parking fees.

I remembered visiting Mt. Rushmore when I was kid in 1967. Things change over 46 years. My recollection is of an open parking lot and short walk to the viewing pavilion. There were telescopes that cost a dime for three minutes of viewing.

Today there’s a parking deck. The walk to the pavilion is longer and there are more buildings. They have the flags of the fifty states of the union displayed. You can rent headphones for an audio tour. There’s a trail you can hike called the Presidential Trail. The 10 cent telescopes cost 50 cents now.

State flags on the pavilion

State flags on the pavilion

My recollection might be flawed after all this time, but it seems to me that the sculptures have deteriorated. I remember being struck by the way Teddy Roosevelt was depicted with wire rim glasses. Now the wire rims are barely there. That’s not to say it isn’t still an an awesome sight. It’s incredible. It’s also an American icon with international appeal. We heard a few different languages spoken among the crowd there.

By the 25 cent telescopes

Here again after 46 years

From there we made the 11-mile ride to the Crazy Horse monument. This is another impressive sight. It’s a work in progress and won’t be finished in my lifetime. We backtracked to the Hwy 16 junction and followed it to Custer State Park and the Needles Highway.

At this point we were over 6,000 feet above sea level. The RV park we’re staying at is about 3,500 feet above sea level. The route we followed into Custer State Park was a winding road with tight switchbacks. The first switchbacks had speed advisories of 15mph. Then we saw 10mph as the switchbacks tightened. Eventually there was a switchback marked 5mph! This road was steep and tight. I wouldn’t want to take an RV up it.

We stopped at Sylvan Lake. I can’t describe the beauty of this lake. It was so peaceful and an awe inspiring sight. From there we rode the Needles Highway. This road has a few tunnels that are one lane, only 8 feet wide and about 12 feet high. At  one tunnel we saw a tour bus inching its way through! The driver had to fold the mirrors in for clearance. I don’t know how he made it.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

We saw a mountain goat with two kids along the roadside. I also saw a bull bison five feet off the road (somehow Donna missed seeing him). We stopped at scenic overlooks with vistas beyond description. We took a break for ice cream at a shop along the way. Donna was gushing over the sights she had seen. She’s loving our new home state. I wish I could find the words to describe this magical place. I’ll just have to say, you must visit the Black Hills and Custer State Park.

Mountain goats

Mountain goats

Today will be a maintenance day rather than a tourist day. I’ll ride to Rapid City for groceries and do laundry here at the park. I also need to lube the rams on the hydraulic jacks and slide outs on our motorhome. Maybe I’ll find an interesting book to read at the campground office.

Tomorrow, we’ll pack up and head to Wyoming.


Across the Wide Missouri

Tuesday morning we made the 34 mile ride to Madison on our scooter. I’m really impressed with the performance of our Kymco Downtown 300i scooter. We’ve ridden just about 200 miles in the last week “two up” at 60 – 65 mph and it just purrs along at 6,000 rpm.

It hasn’t missed a beat, It doesn’t burn any oil and we’re getting better than 60 mpg. We have storage space under the seat and it also has a folding hook to hang a grocery bag between the rider’s knees. This makes shopping a breeze. I can even situate a case of beer between my knees and ride comfortably!

In Madison we obtained our driver’s licenses (Donna was happy with her photo on her license) and also met with the insurance agent. Elizabeth at Kundert-Williams Insurance had sent me a quote for the RV, trailer and scooter. We went with her package which is a Progressive Insurance full-time RV policy that also covers the trailer. The full-time RV policy is an important point. When you live in your RV, you shouldn’t insure it like it’s a car. The coverage we chose is more like a hybrid auto/homeowner policy. We also chose Progressive for the scooter.

Yesterday we packed up and drove the motorhome to Mitchell. We enjoyed the scenery and quiet time at the Camp America RV park in Salem. But there was a trade off.

We had to deal with flies which kept us from dining outside. Also the water pressure was erratic, ranging from zero (no water!) to more than 60 psi. Their wifi was also erratic. When the campground filled up with visitors, the wifi was either very slow or wouldn’t connect at all. Overall, next time through here I think we’ll choose another spot.

Sunset at Camp America RV Park

Sunset at Camp America RV Park

We parked in a large lot next to the Ford dealership in Mitchell and walked a couple of blocks to the attorney’s office. We signed our wills and health care directives. This was our final order of business establishing us as South Dakotans.

We hit I-90 westbound and were uncertain of how far we would go. It was already after 10am. We made a stop at a super rest area just east of the Missouri River. I call it super, because it’s more than what you would expect to find at an interstate rest stop. They had an RV dump station and a visitor information center that was practically a Lewis and Clark museum. In the back was a scenic overlook of the Missouri River. Impressive, right? That’s how they roll in our new home state of South Dakota.

Donna at the Missouri River scenic overlook

Donna at the Missouri River scenic overlook

Across the Wide Missouri is the title of a book written by historian Bernard DeVoto. It’s about the mountain man era (1820 – 1840) and the Rocky Mountain fur trade. I read it about 20 years ago and remembered it as we looked at the river. When we crossed the wide Missouri, I truly felt that we were entering the western US. The terrain immediately changed from flat prairie farmland to rolling hills. I love this part of our country. The open space, the expansive vistas and the wildlife are a treat and I was smiling as we drove along.

The wide Missouri

The wide Missouri

Donna worked in her co-pilot’s seat on her laptop. She was writing her monthly newsletter while I drove. She looked out and spotted deer in a field at one point. We snacked instead of stopping for lunch and drove straight on through to Wall, South Dakota.

On I-90 for about 300 miles in each direction from Wall, South Dakota, you’ll see signs luring you to stop at Wall Drug.  According to Wikipedia, Wall Drug spends $400,000 per year on billboards. Wall Drug is a store that occupies a city block in the town of Wall, South Dakota. It’s sometimes described as a mall, but it’s all one store consisting of gift shops, outdoor supplies, cafes and yes, a drug store.

Wall Drug

Wall Drug

They offer 5 cent coffee and free ice water. This store with it’s marketing gimmicks draws two million visitors annually to a town with a population of less than 800 people. We had to stop. There are several parking areas designated for Wall Drug, we found an RV-friendly spot. We had lunch in the cafe and wandered around.

Donna's new friend at Wall Drug

Donna’s new friend at Wall Drug

It was raining lightly while we were in Wall. We got back on the road and I decided to push on to Hermosa where we had a reservation at Heartland RV park beginning Thursday. Donna phoned them and found we could come in a day early.  As we drove west, we left the rain behind and had blue skies. We’ll stay here three nights. We want to see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument while we’re here. That’s our plan for today.

Before we go traipsing off on a tourism quest, I have another task to accomplish. About 19 miles from here is a branch of the Black Hills Credit Union. They are affiliated with Genisys Credit Union which means I can finally deposit the proceeds from the sale of my BMW motorcycle. That is my first order of business after breakfast this morning.

last night's dinner -

Last night’s dinner – Carmelized Tilapia with green olives and lemon