Sunday, June 19, 2011

Central to Mountain Time
By Michael

Eleanor on the Nebraska plains

We laid our heads down last night in Bozeman, Montana. Today we head over the Continental Divide and hopefully make it to Windy’s aunt’s home in Stevensville, Montana, where we offload about 350 pounds of solid oak in the form of a dining room table and four chairs.
We’ve driven over 3000 miles to date and the car is still chugging along—though it seems to me we’ve lost a bit of power from when we started the trip. Most of our time underway is spent with the gas pedal to the floor, just to maintain highway speed. We downshift on every grade, however slight, sometimes all the way down to second gear. Otherwise…
  • We’ve lost just over a quart of radiator fluid in that time (and not a drop in the years before this trip). I suspect a small leak someplace. Twice on the driveway in Scottsbluff, I noticed a small puddle of the stuff, but I can’t tell where it’s leaking from to save my life. The temperature gauge has not yet budged from the normal position. Fortunately our northern route is providing relatively cool temperatures.
  • We’ve also developed an exhaust leak, either at the manifold or very close.
  • Our power windows have begun to work intermittently. So far this has happened only a few times. If any window gets stuck up or down, our quality of life will deteriorate significantly.
Saying goodbye to Grandma,
Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Pioneer covered
wagon replica
beneath Scotts Bluff
Crossing the Great Plains was a pleasure this time of year. Everything is still surprisingly green. From the road we saw buffalo (bison), antelope, prairie dogs, and what we think were wild horses. Traversing Nebraska, we followed the Oregon Trail along the Platte River. The National Park Service interpretive center at Chimney Rock featured a letter from a pioneer addressed to his family and townspeople back east who may follow in his lead. It was filled with best practices for making the monumental journey. Correspondence from another pioneer warned would-be followers to not overload wagons with weapons and ammunition to defend against “savages.” He advised others to practice the Golden Rule and to not display arms to natives they encounter, as it may signal a hostile intent and create problems for no reason. I think the similarity between these correspondences and today’s cruisers’ pursuit of information from sources out there now, is fascinating.
Hole in the Bluff, on the hike to the top
Prehistoric-like views from near the top
of Scotts Bluff

There is a strong cultural theme in Sturgis, South Dakota.

South Dakota was also lovely. Her Black Hills are filled with small towns like Hot Springs: with a strong western feel in the form of a narrow main street where it is still easy to imagine wooden sidewalks and hitching posts, surrounded by towering rock formations, shaped by a river running through it, accented with a waterfall, and colored with pine trees.

Eleanor at her swearing in, having passed
her Junior Ranger exam at the Battle of the
Little Bighorn. Both girls enjoyed earning
their badges here and at Mount Rushmore

In Wyoming, we were taken by the town of Sheridan. It was miles from any large city or other influence (or revenue source), yet appeared like a bedroom community to a larger city. A large residential area was anchored by a main street that featured no vacant businesses, flower baskets hanging from the old-styled lamp posts, and bustling coffee shops with patrons at tables spilling onto the sidewalk. Sculptures large and small, permanently exhibited, were everywhere in the public spaces of this small town. Windy took (and passed!) her second HAM radio exam in Sheridan and while she studied in the morning, holed up at Starbucks, she met a Sheridan resident who spends the summers on his ranch here, the winters in Nice, France, and two weeks every year on his friend’s Amel 57 in the Caribbean. Seeing Sheridan a bit, this demographic seems oddly suited.
Exploring the outskirts of Sheridan, I came to an abrupt stop when I saw four young girls, probably 8 or 9 years old, two on each side of the road, stretching a piece of string or fishing line across the road, about windshield level. I was cursing under my breath and shaking my head when they all burst into a fit of laughter and dropped the imaginary string. Now that they had my attention, they all assumed their positions behind their makeshift stand, hawking lemonade. We bought four cups on the condition they tell us where they learned their trick. “YouTube!” they sang in unison. This episode reminds me of that Modest Mouse song, Float On: “Well, a fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam; it was worth it just to learn some sleight-of-hand.”

A riviting lecture at the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Outside Sheridan, we stopped at the National Monument of The Battle of the Little Bighorn. This type of history doesn’t generally interest me and I was reluctant to stop. Fortunately, it does interest Windy and she demanded we stop. We were treated to and outstanding 20 minute lecture by a Park Ranger who is a former high school football coach. His telling of the battle and of the larger context, before and after, was riveting—and informative. Standing with a vista behind him, he told his story with props in hand and pointed to the actual hills and valleys as he referenced them. He summed up his animated, graphic, and impassioned lecture with a poignant reminder of the real cost of human warfare.

Fortunately, it doesn't always look like this. After all this time cooped up in the car and living as
transients, the boat will seem large and we will all welcome her as a permanent home.


  1. That picture of Eleanor in Nebraska is beautiful.

    I loved South Dakota when I did my cross-country-and-back trip ages ago.

  2. I agree with Peter: What a shot of Eleanor on the plains. It's amazing. It sounds like you're all doing well, boil is gone (hopefully), and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the long trek uphill you have ahead of you.

  3. Thank you so much for taking us along! Love Eleanor's picture in Nebraska. :-)

  4. I feel like I am traveling across country too! so beautiful. We miss you all terribly.

  5. What a wonderful trip...and your comments about the pioneers and their communications to those who would come after...what an interesting connection to those of us seeking a path to the cruising life.

    Since I just found your blog about a month ago, I went back and am reading my way through from the beginning. I am somewhere in 2010 right now. This record...this very much to me like the pioneers' writings you mention. Thank you for sharing your experiences. This is gold!


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