We’ve learned several lessons on this trip about traveling by motor home: (1) Always carry tie wraps and super glue—and probably duct tape too. (2) Don’t always trust the GPS. (3) A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.
Entering Montana on Highway 2, we immediately encountered road work, making the roads extremely bumpy and decreasing our speed considerably. When we finally reached a smooth road, the motor home began to complain, emitting strange noises. Finding a pullout, we discovered the back end of the motor home sitting lower than usual. Air bags? Shocks? We didn’t know, so we carefully retraced our steps to the little town of Culbertson only to discover that, being Sunday, everything was closed. So, there we sat in a NAPA parking lot, waiting for Monday when someone could help us, someone who would probably order a part which would take another day or two.
Good chance to catch up on writing and reading, I decided. And time to eat things from the refrigerator to save as much as possible from going bad without electricity. At least there was an ice cream shop, which we visited after supper. Then we read more of The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (I highly recommend it, especially if you like memoirs and animals).
Monday morning, the NAPA store gave us a number for someone he was pretty sure could help us. The man we called came immediately and was able to diagnose the problem quickly by slipping under the back of the motor home (you have to be small to do that). The air bag level control had broken loose—probably from a previously kluged job.
“Do you have super glue and tie wraps?” he asked. We did and he fixed the problem in a few minutes. We gave him enough money for his breakfast and headed out again, planning to get a permanent fix down the road.
On our way to Fort Peck Conservation Corps campground, we inadvisedly followed GPS directions—a huge mistake. It directed us down a road that quickly turned to mud with no way to turn around. A mile in, the back of the motor home slid off the road and we were stuck. We called a tow truck who couldn’t come for almost two hours. In the meantime, with the motor home off-camber, the front window went “Crack!” and continued to make cracking sounds as the motor home settled into the mud. When the tow truck finally arrived, he pulled us out with a large wrecker and then charged us nothing beyond what the insurance would pay in spite of the fact that insurance paid $200 less than what they normally charge. We’ve met some pretty nice people on this trip.
Duct tape held the window together enough that it wouldn’t fall out as we drove and then we spent five days at Fort Peck Campground waiting for the new glass to arrive. A beautiful and peaceful Corps of Engineers campground, it cost us $7 per night. We enjoyed the huge expanses of green grass, the mature trees, the nearby Missouri River, the deer who came out to feed with babies–a balm for the worries of a broken motor home and a cracked windshield. And we camped next to a couple traveling in a converted van with whom we enjoyed several walks around the campground and along the Missouri River.
In Kalispell, I met a classmate from more than 50 years ago. She took us to Glacier National Park, a magnificent place to visit with craggy spires for the tops of the mountains and gushing waterfalls along the Going to the Sun Road that took us to the top of the pass where we discovered the gift shop and even bathrooms closed in respect for 9/11. “So that’s why flags are at half-mast.” We sang karaoke that night until we were too tired to continue, her husband singing like a professional, me singing like I was having fun.
On the way out of Kalispell, we visited a former co-worker who made us fresh huckleberry shakes and offered us a place to stay with hookups in his backyard, a much-appreciated offer, although we were ready to hit the road again.
In Coeur d-Alene, we spent time with two of my former students, bicycled ten miles along the beautiful Coeur d’Alene River with their parents, learned to play pickleball, and attended a demolition derby at a nearby country fair. Between watching beat-up cars being further destroyed, we joined thousands of others shaking the stadium as we stomped our feet, singing “We Will Rock You,” “YMCA,” and “Sweet Caroline.”
We never used to have this much fun. Retirement opens up a whole new world.