As you may know, on September 11, 2014, our Dutchman Denali 330RLS self-destructed on the big hill into Prineville. There were flames, there was smoke, there were lots and lots of police, state police, and firemen. And the whole town turned out. Another town that needs a bowling alley.
We had it towed to an RV joint, and began the long wait. It took two weeks just for the insurance guy to get there and decide it was totaled. It took several more weeks for them to find a replacement. Meanwhile, we lived on our usual income, the $700 the insurance company gave us, and our available savings. Most of our money is in an IRA-type thing and takes 30-60 days to arrive so that was a non-starter. Which is probably good.
The insurance company found a comparable rig, only one year newer, in Council Bluffs, IA. It would take six weeks to be delivered, or they would give us $3000 if we wanted to go get it ourselves. We took the money, after even more delays, and finally lit out for Iowa.
We did leave the cats (who hate the car) with our friends Paula and Rosemary in The Dalles. We suspect there is some alienation of affection going on, but we won't sue.
Things we learned:
1. In Pendleton, OR, they play high school football on the rodeo grounds. I guess they don't get enough shit-kicking in during rodeo season.
2. Nampa, ID has a high school team called the Bulldogs. Jenny went to high school there, so we went to the reunion. We didn't shock as many people as we did 20 years ago at her 30th reunion.
3. Pocatello, ID is where her aunt and uncle live.
4. Jackson Hole is not a city. The city is Jackson, WY, the hole is the basin it sits in.
5. You can ski right into the town of Jackson when there is snow. The runs begin and end in the town.
6. The city arches are made of elk and moose antlers.
7. A diesel truck is not a good choice for spotting animals in Grand Teton National Park. Probably not anywhere else either.
8. If you cross the Continental Divide by driving through Grand Teton National Park, the landscape changes dramatically when you get to the other side.
9. Wyoming is mostly empty. But there is Casper, which is where we stayed. There were no friendly ghosts. Not that we looked.
10. Just outside Rapid City, SD there is an old town with lots of casinos. We had a pretty good steak dinner at a place that lots of famous people have visited.
11. We spent several days in Rapid City and visited several National Parks. Devil's Monument is back in Wyoming, but not too far. According to legend, the monument was formed by a giant bear trying to get some Native Americans who were on top of the giant rock.
12. To get to Devil's Monument, we passed through the geographical center of the continental United States. How cool is that?
13. Custer State Park is amazing. We saw lots of buffaloes just outside our car. Of course, we didn't want them inside our car.
14. The monument to Crazy Horse is huge, about 10 times the size of Mount Rushmore. It is also unfinished.
15. Mount Rushmore was a disappointment. Much smaller than I anticipated, and hard to see because of all the gift shops, restaurants, etc. We got there late so the light was lousy for photos, and we didn't have time or energy to run the gauntlet to get closer.
16. There are statues of all the Presidents on the street corners of downtown Rapid City. Obama will be added when he leaves office. These things are supposedly life size. If true, they were all very short men.
17. Wall Drug is big, sort of weird, and is pretty much the whole town of Wall, SD.
18. The Badlands are BAD. I sure wouldn't want to live there. but they were beautiful in a weird. moon landscape sort of way. Interesting geology.
19. Prairie dogs have PLAGUE. They also share their holes (not sure it's willingly) with black widow spiders and rattlesnakes. Avoid them.
20. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD has murals made out of corn. They change the murals every year, probably because the corn rots.
21. Mitchell, SD also has lots of pheasant hunters and signs like this at the motels.
22. There's a real cool museum in Sioux Falls. It was closed the day we were there, although the Internet said it was open. Another time.
23. To get to Omaha, NE you have to cross the Missouri River and drive through Iowa.
24. Omaha was the first place we encountered that had a Trader Joe's. What's wrong with these people in the mid-West, anyway.
25. If you decide to buy an RV with slides, put them in and out several times before you leave the lot. On our second attempt the kitchen slide got stuck in the out position. It took a week to fix it. They had to order parts from Omaha. Omaha and Council Bluffs might as well be the same city. I offered to drive to Omaha (about five miles) to pick up parts, but that's not the way it works.
26. If you just don't leave the RV sales lot, and you camp out in your new RV, you might get away with it for a day or two. When you get caught, suddenly they are more than willing to pay for a motel for you. And they will make your rig their top priority. The general manager will become your contact person. I highly recommend this tactic.
27. Kansas City is actually mostly in Missouri. My best friend from high school lives there. We had coffee with them because we were trying to outrun the big storm headed our way and didn't have time to stay.
28. If the salesman tells you both propane tanks are filled, don't believe it. You will find this out in Guymon, OK which is pretty much nowhere in the panhandle and it's below freezing with a wind chill factor of 2 degrees. All of your warm clothes are back in Oregon. But you have to get the truck unhitched because if you have no propane you will freeze to death. It takes two frozen people to do this.
29. Tucumcari, NM is a sleepy town with light snow. Maybe not all the time, but while we were there.
30. Albuquerque, NM has a great mobile RV guy. Ask us how we know. Okay, turns out the factory and the sales lot both missed the loose connection between the kitchen faucet and the line. Our drawers under the sink were filling up with water. Which we didn't notice until the water started leaking onto the floor.
31. Arizona is not necessarily warm.
32. Jenny's mom died while we were traveling. This was not unexpected, but it was still hard. We decided to haul ass for Palm Desert where there is a 1000 Trails campground. She flew to Portland, I stayed with the dog. And no propane, no gas in the truck and no money.We survived. But it does get cold here at night.
33. The entire Palm Springs area makes no sense. It's about twenty miles long, four miles wide, Roads don't necessarily run in directions that make sense. And I suspect telling the AAA people that you are out of gas near the corner of Famous Person and Famous Person, they'll think you're nuts. Fortunately, I finally found a station that had diesel. All the Famous Person's are Republicans. So it goes.
34. La Perlita has the best Mexican food in all of this area. The chili rellenos are to die for. We went there twice.
35. If you are going to swim here in November, get to the pool before 2 pm. At 3:30 the sun goes down and so does the heat.