Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What is six?

"I'll take 'The Keller Summer 2013 RV Trip' for $400, Alex."
"The answer is: Of 54 days on the road, the largest number of days in a row nothing went wrong with the truck or the RV."
"What is six?"
"That is correct!"

We're back.  The trip has been completed.  We covered 6,675 miles (5,300 of them towing our 5th wheel RV) in 54 days.  To say that the Griswolds had an easier time getting to Walley World than we had getting to Rapid City, South Dakota is an understatement!  Here is a list of everything that failed in the truck and had to be replaced during the course of the entire trip: Cooling system thermostats, brake sensor, rear window, four tires, a cracked wheel, all ball joints, left-hand inner tie rod, steering drag link, steering stabilizer shock, all four shock absorbers, exhaust gas temperature sensor, transmission seals, rear brake rotors, rear brake calipers, rear brake pads, air conditioner belt, air conditioner compressor clutch adjusting bolt.  How about the RV?  Replaced on it were: All five tires (4 plus the spare), all four wheel hub assemblies, all four shock absorbers, all suspension shackle bolts, nuts and links, all liquid propane piping, the 12-volt power converter/battery charger; hot water heater thermostat and main burner assembly, rear stabilizer jack motor, smashed side window, left side fender skirts.  The cost of all this mechanical mayhem?  A mere, eye-popping $16,000!  I'm still suffering from a severe case of PTSD (post-trip savings drawdown).  Naturally, most problems occurred on a Thursday or Friday, in the middle of nowhere.  That ensured we'd be spending three or four days stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting for parts to be shipped from somewhere!  In the end, we prevailed, having laughed in the face of adversity.  (Or perhaps adversity prevailed, having laughed in our faces.)

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that the RV's roof has to be replaced because it somehow got torn on the left side!  (Thank goodness insurance will cover that lofty expense!)  Word to the wise: Never take an RV trip without lots of duct tape.  (Fortunately, we had several large rolls, and wound up using most of it.)  A good towing service is also a must have (which we had).  Lots of patience and an overly-optimistic attitude are helpful too!

Lest you think we didn't have any fun, here are some photos of things we did and saw between breakdowns:

The SPAM Museum, in Austin Minnesota.  Yes, it's for real.  The museum houses a complete retrospective of that classic American food product, Spiced Ham (SPAM)!  If you're ever traveling on I-90 across southern Minnesota, be sure to check it out.  By the way, if you put your email address on their mailing list, guess what you'll get?

Easily the friendliest town we've ever visited.   White Lake is located at I-90, 36 miles west of Mitchell, South Dakota.  Everyone who was in a car waved hello as we rode by on our bikes.  We had breakfast and dinner at the local cafe.  Eat your heart out, Garrison Keillor!

The Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota.  The murals and decorations on the building are made entirely of corn plants and cobs!  Inside is a venue for basketball games, concerts and events.  The Green Giant is mighty proud of this place.

Wall Drug, in western South Dakota.  Sure, it's a tourist trap, but where else can you get a cup of coffee for a nickel?

Why did the buffalo cross the road in Custer State Park, South Dakota?  So the tourists could watch it get to the other side.  Buffalo are really big; the nickel didn't do them justice!

If you take the twisting back road to Mt. Rushmore, you will come to this tunnel...
And when you're inside the tunnel, this is what you'll see!

Mt. Rushmore.  The South Dakota landmark demonstrates fine sculpture work can be done with lots of dynamite!

Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.  A work in progress that shows what can be done based on the assumption Mt. Rushmore just isn't big enough!

Downtown Sturgis, South Dakota -- two weeks before the annual motorcycle rally.

Downtown Sturgis during bike week!  (No, we weren't there at that time.)

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Climbers on Devils Tower.  Talk about close encounters!  Not for us, thank you!

In the heart of Alzada, Montana, population 38.  Oddly enough, the food wasn't lousy!

The bar inside the Stoneville Saloon.  "What'll you have, mister?"

South Dakota badlands.  Bad lands, good wife!

A prairie dog.  Cute?  You decide!

Yup, it's Nawlins!

 The Big Easy -- where boozing it up in the streets is O.K., just as long as the libation is not in a bottle or glass container!

So what did we learn from this trip?  With lots of fortitude, and a big wad of cash, RVing is a great way to see and experience the good ole U.S. of A.  And since we didn't kill each other, Janet and I must have some kind of crazy, enduring love!  When it comes to Final Jeopardy, you may as well wager it all.