Wall Drug

Going back a couple days to finish my trip…

Can a person NOT stop at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota?

Ya, I suppose one could but after seeing the road signs for a hundred miles or more, it is pretty difficult! :-)   Plus, I felt obligated to stop and take a look just so I could add it to my list of sites seen.

I pulled into town fairly late on Sunday evening (probably 7 pm) and activity was low. I found several parking lots around Wall Drug but only one that was not marked with “no camping allowed” signs.  Hint: it is the one that is just to the west of the store/main street.  There is also a semi-truck gravel parking area just beside it (south side) that also does not have the ‘no camping’ signs.  I took up residence and before long, three other RV’s had done the same.  It was too late to go shopping so I settled in for the night. Nobody disturbed us all night so I guess we weren’t breaking any rules.  Whenever I ‘camp’ like this, I do not put the jacks down nor put the slides out.  I know some folks do but it just doesn’t feel right to me.  Obviously, I do not put out chairs, awnings, or clothes line for laundry either.

Newmar Dutch Star Wall Drug South Dakota

Early Monday morning I strolled over to Wall Drug. It is an interesting place, not unlike many of the western tourist attractions, and appeared to have lots of good deals on knick-knacks while I was there.  However; I am not a knick-knack collector so my purchases amounted to a whole dollar for three post cards.  Since I was shopping at daybreak, some of the shops were not even open yet – this helped to make it a quick tour. Wall Drug has been around for a very long time so there is some interesting history on the walls – it is worth a few minutes to check it out.

Before many folks are even out of bed, I was truckin’ westbound on I-90 again.

I didn’t have far to go. My destination was Box Elder, SD which is where my mail forwarding company, America’s Mailbox, is located.  I stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Box Elder and tried a slightly different approach.  In the past I have let the fuel nozzle run til it automatically shuts off (full) and watched a couple cups of fuel slosh out and down the size of JBAM.  Since there wasn’t too much noise and there were many open fuel islands, I filled the final ten gallons very slowly listening for a change in the sound of the fuel.  Doing so allowed me to get more fuel into the tank than I had expected and avoid the ugly mess on the side of my rig!  I know diesel foams so I think I was giving the fuel time to settle which is why I got more in that expected.

I was too early for check-in at the America’s Mailbox campground so I parking in the Flying J parking lot for a while and rested.  Yes, I know, it was only about 10 AM but it is never too early to rest. :-)

SD Driver’s License

The goal for this past Tuesday was to get my South Dakota driver’s license and start the vehicle registration process for my Jeep Wrangler and Newmar Dutch Star (JBAM).

I am using Americas Mailbox as my mail forwarding/permanent address company. They will do the vehicle registrations for a very reasonable rate.  So, I prepared all the paperwork and handed it over to them.  Sadly, my Newmar registration was messed up by the dealer from which I bought her and this has resulted in a mess.  However; my bank is doing most of the work to straighten it out so that is good.  Nonetheless; it will be a few weeks before any progress can be made on it.

I drove over to the Rapid City DMV, got a bit lost, and arrived at about 11:40 AM.  I figured that was bad cause these offices are sometimes closed over the lunch hour.

I walked in and there was a very clear sign – ‘fill out an application and then take a number’ with a big arrow pointing to the applications.  Ok – that makes sense.  I did as instructed and before I could sit down from pulling a number, my number was called.  Wow!

The lady that helped me was VERY polite and easy to talk to.  She did not make me feel like I was spoiling her whole day nor creating work for her. She started tapping on her keyboard, asked for various pieces of paperwork (which I had ready to go – thanks America’s Mailbox for the necessary information), told me it would be $20.00, handed me a new South Dakota driver’s license and told me thank you and to have a great day.

Double WOW!!

I don’t think I stood at the window for more than 5 minutes.  I was most definitely walking out of the DMV before noon.

Triple WOW!!

I am super, super impressed!  I wish all states could operate their DMV like this.  Well done South Dakota!

I am officially a South Dakota resident!

Wiper Failure

I departed Minnesota Saturday morning and had a very enjoyable drive down highway 23 to Sioux Falls and then onto I-90. I arrived in Mitchel, South Dakota mid-afternoon on Saturday.  I targeted this spot because a great big Cabela’s store is there!

The Cabela’s store was easy to find and they had reserved the entire RV parking lot for little ole me.  I spent a few hours wondering around the store. Lucky for me, I look horrible in all clothes – I find that to be an excellent de-motivator for purchasing clothing, no matter how great it looks on the hangar.  However; my trip thru the store did cost me $150 in shoes, one of those over the campfire pie oven/cooking things, and some assorted supplies.  I spent the night in the RV parking lot and woke up to a half a dozen other rigs that pulled in during the late evening/night.  Thank you Cabela’s for recognizing the value of RV travelers and providing such a great spot and allowing overnight parking!

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Cabela's mitchel south dakota

Thankfully, the only local TV station that I was receiving was the right one and the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race was on early Sunday morning.  Yay!  So, I sat and watched the race.  I’m not much of a Lewis Hamilton fan – not exactly sure why – so I was happy with the race outcome.

Why over the air TV?  Well… I’ve not yet got my service area straightened out with Dish so I am unable to receive “local” channels via the satellite.

I then hit the road again – westbound on I-90. Fifteen minutes before the start of the Indianapolis 500 I rolled into a rest stop, raised the antenna, and found a channel airing that race.  Wow – how lucky am I!?!  So, I sat there and watched the entire race – what a treat!

By mid-afternoon I was truckin’ westbound on I-90 again and then the rain started!  Lots of rain!  Driving was fine but I was watching the streams of water building into large pools in the ditches and fields.  By late afternoon, it looked like I was driving thru a flood zone. And then it happened.  The passenger windshield wiper started looking odd, within a minute or two the metal arm itself was slapping against the glass at the far end of each wipe. I had to pull over and see what was going on before I destroyed my windshield.  It only took a moment to see that the bolt holding the wiper arm onto the shaft was loose.  I can fix THAT – says I!  A couple quick turns with the wrench and oopsies… something was stripped!  Ack!  No wonder it wasn’t staying in place.

Thankfully they use a brass bolt to avoid stripping the shaft, which would be a major repair.  So, off to my spare parts bin to find a bolt that would work.  I put it on and cruised down the road. Another ten miles down the road and the same problem was occurring with the wiper.  So, I stopped and tightened the bolt up some more. I was being super easy on it as the spare nut that I found was steel – not brass – and I really did not want to strip that wiper shaft.

Newmar Dutch Star windshield wiper brass nut failure

After this final tightening and limited use of the wipers, I was able to make it to my destination – Box Elder, SD.

So, that’s the big story – the first failure of my new motor home!  I am super pleased – probably a thirty-five cent repair!!

Chilly and Wet

This week I am boondocking on my sister’s farm near Kimball, MN (about 80 miles west of the Twin Cities).  I am quite happy to be out of the Twin Cities – I forgot what a rat race those people live!  It is a beautiful place and most of the people are very friendly but it is simply too much rush-rush-rush…

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM boondocking RV motorhome Minnesota

We had a big thunderstorm and tornado warning this past Saturday night but I slept like a baby knowing I had 33,000 lbs holding me to the ground!

Hours and hours of rain this week revealed a tiny leak in one of my roof vents. I think I may have seen more rain this week than over the last two years in the desert southwest! This was the vent from which I cleaned off a bunch of old lap sealant when installing the vent cover.  I thought I had it sealed back up but perhaps not.  So, another trip up top with the sealant was required.  No rain since the repair so I’m not sure I fixed it yet.

It has been rather chilly this week – a low of 31 degrees one night!  That’s too close to winter! :-)   The furnace has been doing a fine job keeping me warm.

I’ll be here at my sisters for about a week and then starting the journey to Rapid City, SD next Saturday.

Missouri to Minneapolis

I’m not doing very well with frequent updates!  Sorry…

After departing Saint Clair, Missouri, I traveled to Minneapolis. Specifically, Eagan Minnesota.  The company for which I work is based here and l planned to spend a few weeks with the troops.

Early morning northbound driving on I-35.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM early morning shadow

Crossing into Minnesota.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Crossing into Minnesota

The only option that I could find for RV camping near Eagan was the Lebanon Hills park campground. However; it didn’t open until the week after my arrival.  So, I opted for boondocking the company parking lot!  The office is in an office park so I attempted to be discreet to avoid attracting attention.  It worked as I was undisturbed for an entire week.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Boondocking parking lot

When I lived in Minneapolis (a decade ago), I completely failed to see what a fantastic cycling area it is (at least the Eagan, Apple Valley, St. Paul area).  I met up with a friend and rode from Eagan all the way to downtown St. Paul on paved trails and never once had to battle with automotive traffic.

I then moved Lebanon Hills for a two week stay. The Lebanon Hills park area is very nice. I believe it has been developed and cared for by Dakota county so I’ll give them credit. Fabulous job!!

The walking/hiking/x-country ski trails were great!  They are buried in very nice forest/tree’d area with some nice ups and downs.  I put in lots of miles walking them.  There is a dedicated mountain bike section as well!  What an awesome setup!  The MTB trails are dynamite, of course, but they also have a building with changing rooms, water, air pump, picnic tables, and so forth – very, very well done.  Sadly, due to lots of rain, I was unable to spend as much time on these MTB trails as I would have liked – maybe next time!  Of course, there are several small lakes – it is Minnesota – but I never found time to take the yacht off the Jeep and give them a try.  Again, maybe next time…

I am definitely not a fan of large cities (people, traffic, rush-rush-rush, etc…) but it seems that I may also not be a fan of campgrounds.  The campgrounds I have used in New Mexico are pretty spread out – Lebanon Hills campsites are much closer together.  This was ok until the weekends.  I’m not sure what draws some of these folks out but apparently it is a place and time to behave poorly (and allow your kids to do the same).  Loud outdoor televisions, screaming kids, and drinking adults making as much noise as possible is apparently the way some folks “get away from it all.”  Lebanon Hills wasn’t “terrible” by any stretch but, as always, it only takes one bad apple – too bad it was there both of the weekends that I was there.

Newmar Dutch Star JBAM Lebanon Hills Dakota County Camground

Finally, it was time to get out of the big city.  Saturday morning (yesterday, June 16) I took one last long walk on the Lebanon Hills trails and packed up the rig.  A short two hour drive west had me at Kimball, MN where my sister and her family lives (on a farm outside of town).  I pulled onto their 120 acres, lowered the jacks, and setup camp and then IT STORMED!!  There were all sorts of tornado alarms going and the clouds rolling thru were very mean looking.  Thankfully, it was just wind and rain – both of which JBAM weathered just fine.

While in Kimball I filled up my propane tank.  The gauge on the tank reported that 1/4 of the 38 gallon capacity remained which, according to my match, is about ten gallons.  However; we were able to put in only 20 gallons so my gauge may be a bit pessimistic.  In any case, I was happy to get my first propane use numbers of approximately ten gallons per month (very roughly; $40/month or $10/week).