2018: Traveling Full Time - Chapter Three

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

After those five weeks meandering the Pacific NW and Glacier National Park, we arrived back in Oregon and began preparing to head out for a grand adventure. My youngest daughter had accepted an ex-ternship position at Keene State College in New Hampshire. This was our great excuse for a longer road trip… we may never get to see that corner of the country again so let’s check it off the bucket list. We convinced her to sell her unreliable car that was no match for snowy conditions, then fly with her cat and suitcases to Boston where we would pick her up and help get her set up for her 10 month stint in Keene.

Needles Highway in South Dakota. Cars are waiting their turn to pass through one of the very narrow tunnels.

We allowed ourselves three weeks to get there, which was enough time to stay an extra day here and there while driving an average of around 200 miles per travel day and still take in a brief view of the Tetons, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument and the Badlands of South Dakota. Should be a breeze. We stopped to visit a friend in Bend, Oregon and then hit the road across the desert of Eastern Oregon. That’s when the awning decided to deploy at 65mph and destroy itself.

We had been noticing the motorized awning was skipping its gears at full extension and again upon full retraction when it had trouble seating itself. We did not imagine it would be much of a problem and we had no time to wait for weeks for a service appointment at the dealer during peak travel season so we figured it was a problem that could just wait. Boy, were we wrong. This type of awning is under high spring tension that wants to eject itself at high speed. The gearbox and motor are supposed to let out the awning gradually, then recoil it into its housing with the push of a switch. When the gears let loose of their grasp, the awning evidently shot outward and caught the wind, sending it up over the roof, pushing me slightly into the oncoming traffic. Fortunately there was no one approaching at that instant.

There was no shoulder and the roadside sloped away steeply. I stopped halfway off the road to figure out what had gone wrong. I had no ladder so there I was dangling from the side of the RV trying to wrap a bungee cord around the mangled mess so I could keep driving. An hour later I found a lowboy trailer I could climb onto and use white Eternabond tape to secure the awning. Note to self: shop for a compact ladder! To make this story short, we had no use of an awning for many weeks, then finally got it replaced in Portland, Maine.

Having survived this minor catastrophe, we marched on through Idaho and over Teton Pass into Jackson Wyoming. We kept going over Togwotee Pass and through Dubois, part of the route I followed by bicycle back in '76.

Neither of us (or Winston) had seen Mt Rushmore or Crazy Horse Monument and we were able to visit these wonders and take in the beauty of SW South Dakota. You will notice the paint outline of the shape to come at Crazy Horse. It's difficult to appreciate the scope of this project still underway. The head of Crazy Horse (the Indian) is 3x taller than the height of the presidents' heads at Mt Rushmore.

We had a beautiful sunset at Wall, South Dakota followed by an overcast day at the Badlands the next morning. The photo with the mountain goat was NOT a telephoto shot. I made sure the van was only seconds away in case this big fella went all Rambo from lots of people gawking and standing on his breakfast.

Not being a fan of freeways, we made a point of taking lesser traveled highways and back roads. There are so many small towns to see. Some are dying off but some are being revitalized, building by building, block by block, like in Herrick, South Dakota:

As we ventured east, we were able to stop and visit a very famous auto museum in Auburn, Indiana where the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg cars were designed and built. E.L. Cord was a brilliant and eager entrepreneur, owning dozens of transportation-related companies. Many of his enterprises fed his other companies directly and indirectly. Engine manufacturing, oil and gas exploration and delivery, machining companies, taxi and railway companies. It was quite an empire. His automobiles were the world's finest back in the 1930s through 1950s and were sought after by the well-heeled in dozens of countries. The museum is where the showroom was, now filled with priceless works of automotive art. This is where sales and management met with thousands of customers, vendors, and sales partners.

We stayed on their property for a night, as part of the Harvest Hosts program that we like to use an occasional night of free off-grid camping. We parked in their parking lot which had electrical power for us, very unusual for a Harvest Host site.

The next day, we met up with some of our neighbors from Costa Rica. They have a corn and soybeans farm in northwestern Ohio. We detoured a bit in Ohio to pass through Amish country, stopping at a fresh produce store and discovering the best sweet corn we have ever tasted.

NEXT: 2018: Traveling Full Time - Chapter Four


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