Left Clear Lake Iowa and drove into Mason City to deposit a check and twenty miles later, said hello to Minnesota for the first time ever. The weather has been bland and after 165 miles of easy driving I reached Stillwater, MN, just west of Minneapolis and our home for the night. An oil change was done at a local shop as the engine rebuild 2,000 mile mark was reached. I supplied the oil and filter as the bus has a very specific diet and received a slight discount. This was the only viable way to go. Money well spent. A final stop at Advanced Auto Parts yielded no luck for getting more "Zinc Enriched" 20-50 racing oil but they will have it for me in the morning. I like to travel prepared and when I get down to 4 quarts, I replenish the supply. Bonus; the gasoline smell fully dissipated too from an overflow during the last fill up which will make sleeping healthier.
I met up here in the idyllic town of Stillwater, MN where my friend Randy keeps his pristine yacht for the summer season. It spends the winter in Fort Lauderdale. We walked 10 minutes into town for a bite to eat at Whitey's Bar and Grill. This historic timber mill town community oozes charm and features many shops and restaurants without a busy boisterous attitude. It borders Wisconsin on the St. Croix River and is very much like a place stuck in time out of of a Norman Rockwell work. Main Street looks like a Colorado ski village with all facades eager to glimpse the river to the east.
The meal was nice and we talked shop and about Johnny and how the school presents a wonderful award to a 3rd grader each year. I will miss that presentation n this time around. I teared up a bit just talking about how much the staff and teachers at Manatee Bay Elementary have done for us. I am grateful that he was happy every day and regarded as a shining example of kindness. I stated that the premise of the trip is for both the boys; to honor Johnny and to show Tommy that we will go on. We will be ok and we will do this together. The travel, breakdowns and triumphs will be remembered. The indelible memories created will imprint deep into his consciousness. There were two guys a bit misty eyed at the front table on Main Street.
The walk back along the river was relaxing. The sunset here is very late - 9:15 or so, and it was time to plug in the power and make ready for bed.
Tomorrow is a day in Minneapolis for some exploring and game # 2 pitting the Twins v. Indians. But that is a story for another time. Good night.
That's it. No other singular word in my vocabulary better describes a day as this.
Sure, I left the free marina space in Stillwater around 11AM, batteries all charged up. Checks were written out to a couple of vendors and such. As I climbed from the placid shoreline leaving the most prolific township behind, one surrounded by mansions of glory past, I realized that life in the fast lane is fleeting - and that time spent in communities matter. I pulled the bus into the left lane illegally towards a 'mailman lady' making her rounds, bag slung over her left shoulder. She was thin, young and pretty and I asked "do you take drive through orders" as I passed an envelope marked 'Pay to you boat rental owner'. Somehow business concerns are less important out here, but still necessary. I need to transact deals, get paid, pay others, oversee a trip, and do follow up reports for sure... else this machine falls apart. BUT, it does run efficiently on it's own.
When I stepped out of the bus in Savage, MN I knew this private campground would work just right for tonight's stopover.
I called an Uber and within ten minutes stepped into a pine scented whip heading towards the ballpark. Chris Krahn gave me ten bar / sightseeing options: two in each direction. I settled at Cowboy Jack's. Being next to a sports venue like this makes the demand a touch higher.
A visit to the sexiest woman of the 70's was taken before walking north towards "Target Field". The approach was rife with recent heroes and tributes of titans past. I scored a box seat for $20 and scanned my way into the ballpark for a look around.
Tom R. ushered me to points away from the normal flow of pedestrian foot traffic. I enjoyed 'Bats and Barrel' bar until first pitch. My seat was in section 3, a toss from the dugout. Normally this 7th row from the field would be highly coveted but the newly installed protective netting wasn't for me.
A walk around the perimeter yielded some amazing views and a realization that this wide open, ten year old ballpark is now right near the top of my favorite venues. It could be the perfect weather, the food or the views. I'm not yet sure why Target Field impressed me so much but when the trip is done I will rank them all in order.
As the game spun out of control for the Twins I continued walking around and chatting with ushers and fans about 'their really cool park'. During the 7th inning I was positioned at straightaway centerfield, and now, so is Johnny boy. A couple there was taken aback for a moment but once I explained the ritual she gave me a hug, he shook my hand. I just wept. It was perfect and sad and I miss him, always. This personal moment hits me hard sometimes. Tonight was like that. Johnny would have loved this stadium. It was buzzing with excitement all night.
At times like this when the score reads improbable I might head for the exit but the energy and crowd enthusiasm was still high and the hometown team made a heroic 8-run game tying comeback. I wound my way around to the right field deck and watched it all unfold, cheering with locals, high-fiving fans. So glad that I stayed. In the end, the Twins lost by a run in the 9th, but the experience here won me over. I picked up a window decal and walked to the corner fulfilled. Fans filed out satisfied.
A chatty Uber driver dropped me off and I returned to the bus and my cushy memory foam mattress, happy that I had fully prepared everything for a flop down sleep earlier. This post began then and went sideways, hence the edit this morning, but the memory of the game, the ballpark and the boy will long last.
Left camp at 10:15am after applying the Twins decal to the side window and headed west. The next few days are pure driving ones with a goal of pacing myself for some distance runs when suitable on the flatter portions. Later in the trek, the mountains will erode time and distance and I need to be in Seattle by the 7th, some 1,650 miles away.
Today logged 258 miles so if I can do 365 tomorrow, I will be under 1,000 for the remaining 4 or 5 days. This mini goal will put me into Montana on Saturday night.
Tonight I am in Fargo, North Dakota. This area is as busy any city and after seeing the new Star Wars movie "Solo", I am enjoying a free nights stay at a Super Walmart just off of 45th Street. It is cool and very windy, as was the ride most of the day. The breeze was on the rear bumper pushing the bus along easily for hours. A simple day with an afternoon nap was had, but it is time to sleep. Tomorrow will be an early 7am departure per policy here so I need to rest.
Left the Fargo, ND free spot at Walmart precisely at 7am. The wind and rains last night were substantial. Fueled up on 91 octane, the most potent gas available plus a large McCafe and headed west on the I-94.
The wind was pushing Sweet Pea around like a tin can on a pond. It was harrowing at times and the safe speed was a paltry 45 MPH. Enzo Ferrari once said aerodynamics are for people who don't know how to build engines. He was wrong. The 2.0 liter engine in this bus is running great but still, it is a top heavy brick and it struggles at times. It felt as if the parking brake was engaged and a parachute deployed for the entire width of North Dakota. The landscape was mostly prairie lands and the wind just swept across the gentle plains without any buffers. The grasses were dancing rhythmically and the few trees were bending. All flags seemed to aim at the smiley face too.
I took a 2 hour break in Bismarck to do laundry, catch up on email, change clothes, collect two balances from clients and straighten out the bus from last night's slumber.
The day wore on and the plan was to simply drive west for as many miles as possible. The wind was unrelenting but the sun was shining. I stopped at a rest area and grabbed a one hour nap; a bonus when traveling in this rig. Back on the road for another stretch of pavement and I crossed into the 'Mountain Time Zone'. A fuel up in Sterling, ND had me searching for a spot for the night. The border was only 25 miles away so I figured that should do it for me.
Hello Montana! I have been looking forward to coming here ever since I was a boy. And just like that, the winds virtually stopped. The bus zipped up to 65 easily.
Tonight we are in Glendive, MT at the Green Valley Campground. I say we quite a bit huh? Well, there is electricity and the space cost $20, about $10 too high in my experience - but it does permit a restful night.
The goal of getting within 1,000 miles of Safeco Field in Seattle was almost met. By GPS indicators, I am 1,036 miles away, but I did cover 381 hard fought miles today which spanned over 12 hours. I suspect tomorrow will produce 350 clicks. Good night.
"It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, and I was driving".
It started out cold enough. I had washed the soft thin yellow flannel sheets and fleece blanket but selected the 30° sleeping bag which proved wise. It was new and soft and larger than normal so twisting around once the local freight train lumbered through at 5am was no effort at all. I had set the alarm for 830am but was up and out of there by 8:15 with a hot coffee and fuel fill-up courtesy of Flying J. Interstate 94 West on Montana was the agenda for the day and the sun shone brightly, not a cloud in the sky. Too bad for Kristin.
The ride was smooth and effortless for hours. What a difference from the wind yesterday, and the sky stretched 360 degrees as if an enormous blue dome covered up the world.
I cruised into Billings, MT washed the bus, filled the tank and sat for an hour by a skateboard park. Of course I rode. I brought my board and have been shuffling it around twice daily and it went right back into the nook after I almost wiped out seven seconds into my first trick. No emergency room visits allowed on this trip. I already checked.
The scenery improved even more west of the state capital. Gentle hills formed into larger ones and off in the distance were snow covered mountains. On I drove through the twisting landscape towards the majestic peaks. The meandering Yellowstone River wound its way through the valleys, as did the freight trains. Tommy missed out these 200+ car hauls. And Sweet Pea kept humming along.
We ended up in Bozeman, MT a popular small city with recreation being the main attractor. After 351 fun-filled easy miles today spot # 19 is home for the night at the Sunrise Campground. Kids were running around playing tag and a couple of people stopped over to check out the bus. The cottonwoods are shedding their snow like a scene from Cruises "Legend" though the sun is just starting to drop here at 8:30pm.
Captain Vasily Borodin muttered in his final breath "I would have liked seeing Montana", a treat I have been enjoying all day and tomorrow too. Can you name the flick?
Scraped the cottonwood dust bunnies off of my shoes and hit first gear at 9:05am out of Bozeman, MT heading west on the I-90. With a cup of Joe and a fill-up, the roadways were as clear as the pristine cool sky was blue. The highway wound around the bends and the elevation rose as time nudged ahead. At mile marker 240 it was necessary to downshift into third gear for about a six mile climb up and over the Continental Divide at 6,393 feet. The ride into Butte from here was all downhill. This city is very congested with every fast food offering and the general appeal was lacking for the absence of building codes. A bathroom break and sandwich were had before returning to the road some 45 minutes later.
The beauty of the area grew more intense with each passing mile and after another 2 hours or so I pulled into Missoula, MT. There was a VW shop just off the highway and I stopped for a chat about a fuel spill issue I have been having from time to time. Just a small amount of gas hits the pavement every other fill up. Weird. It does not leak beyond that and I cannot wait til Friday to be squeezed in. Off I went. This city is also built up more than I expected. I planned on stopping for the night just over the Idaho border about 100 miles away. And it was only 3pm, an easy target to reach.
The winds picked up, though not as much as in North Dakota, and I could sense a sluggish bus trudging through the twists and hills. The speed was sporadic but when descending down some steep grades I noticed that the speed was not increasing as Newton theorized. I pulled to the shoulder on a straightaway downward slope and stopped. Neutral was yielding very little to any momentum and it was then that I thought oh crap, what is going on.
A rest area was 2 miles away downhill and after 95 miles from Missoula and only 5 miles from the Idaho border, I parked the bus in a no cell phone, internet dead spot. Virtually stuck.
There was a pay phone and a bathroom but after exactly 300 miles of driving today, Sweet Pea was done for now. That's why I carry a AAA card. The pay phone worked. A flatbed pulled in 45 minutes later and after initially telling the dispatcher to bring me to the VW shop in Missoula, 100 miles east, I had the business card in my pocket with the address after all, I changed it up to go 100 miles west towards Seattle. VW's are big business in Washington. The driver was a bit miffed about the change of plan only because of AAA compensation which I had assured him would work out and he carefully loaded the bus. We headed west into the Pacific time zone just six minutes away.
Cell service returned here and I found an Air-Cooled VW shop 85 miles away and just off of the interstate. They were closed but I will camp in their lot. Using a tow 7 miles or 100 still counts as a 100 mile tow so that worked out nicely. Side bonus, my fuel economy was exceptional.
These roads were steep and bumpy. I enjoyed the ride with only a handful of thoughts of the top-heavy bus careening off the truck and over a cliff. But the views were stunning all around which kept my mind occupied. I spoke with Guillermo who believes it is likely a brake issue as there was no grinding transmission and a neutral would roll even with a bad one. Time will tell and I believe he is correct.
The driver and I chatted about mountains, wildlife, snow, cold and flat Florida. I mentioned that I hadn't passed so many cars as today which elicited a very slight chuckle.
Ten miles later and we arrived at the shop where I am camping out for the night. 393 miles traveled, the last 93 courtesy of AAA. Things could be worse. I am still happy about the trip. It's a VW. Repairs are often simple.
Woke up at 7am and again at 7:05, 7:10, 7:15. It was chilly outside of the cocoon sleeping bag but the sun filtered through the curtain gaps and I wanted to straighten up the bus and enter the property across the street promptly at 8am. I swung into "Hook's Auto Repair Plus" and met two guys sitting outside likely guessing what my issue was before I parked. "What broke?" said the man with a mechanical arm. I saw 'The Fugitive' movie so that must be Hook. I said "she hasn't rocked for awhile and now she's not rolling either."
He said it's likely a hung up brake or bearing and that he could get it on a lift in an hour. I offered to make extra coffee but he declined and stuck with his Mountain Dew. The coffee was perfection.
This shop had a cool snowplow reminiscent of a Rankin - Bass winter classic, plus a collection of beetles, buses and a yellow Thing too, each in various states of condition. Hook asked if I'd like some popcorn for breakfast, that it's the best around, to which I said of course. He was right. Magic Mushroom brand sold in 50# sacks. No, not that kind. It did make me say Orville who? though.
Sweet Pea was brought in at ten and a for real 'wheels on the bus go round and round' test was performed. Driver side rear was off. Both wheels were pulled, drums were yanked and it was clear then that something had prematurely worn the shoe. The wheel cylinder was leaking and the brake lever was slightly bent. A repair was done a year ago and the Pep Boy guy did a fix which was later addressed but the job was not as thorough as what could have been done. Blake the younger guy at Hook's Auto said he'd done 1,000 of these and had the right parts. I said ok, fix it so it brakes? Nothing but a faint smile. He's heard it all. We chatted California V-dubs, fishing, boating and such while he worked. He explained everything he was doing and why which was clearer the the Chilton book I read the night before. They went over the undercarriage thoroughly and both mechanics said the work that Guillermo did was excellent. He had been correct in his 3,000 mile away diagnosis. WTG.
I chatted with Hook for a bit and he asked what brings me out this way, work? Vacation? And when I told him about Johnny and how this was my way of taking him out to the ballgame he said what many have said, 'way to go dad, best of luck'. He told me that he lost his hand in a Harley crash some 17 years ago and he died right there on the spot, leg twisted every which way, hand gone, loss of blood, no life signs. But he just wasn't ready. His life changed that day. He started living. It was inspiring. Hopeful even. That at times, we can all hurt and that you just must keep going forward.
The job was completed in two hours, road tested by Blake and I wished him well. I went into the office to settle the bill and Hook said how much cash do you have in your right pocket? I pulled out $73 and he said that'll do. That he thought what I was doing for my boys was really cool and that the price paid on this repair was good with him. That big burly dude teared up only slightly faster than me as we shook hands for 8 seconds. I muttered thank you through pursed lips and walked out the door. It was a really special and generous gesture and moment. I will never forget it it. His phone rang and he cleared his throat before saying in that deep gravelly voice, "Hook's Auto".
Sweet Pea is back to normal and after a stop for fuel at a 76 Gas Station, I met a Vanagon owner touring the area. This was the first vintage VW being driven that I've seen since Florida. He was searching for a VW shop and I pointed the way while nodding approvingly.
I drove 125 miles after that heading westbound on I-90 to the Sun Basin RV Park in Ephrata, WA and paid the $20 rate.
Probably one of the best days I have had in quite some time.
Was stuck in second gear all morning. Me, not the bus. Packed up, showered and left camp at 10:20 driving about 90 minutes to Ellensburg, WA for lunch, bank deposit, a grocery store reload in anticipation of Tommy's arrival Friday and a fill-up. Spent 2 hours here just moseying along.
The dessert like topography near the Columbia River eventually turned green and mountainous after the long break and the bus is performing great. Plenty of power for the climbs and two hands on the wheel for those thrilling descents.
The Camp RV App yielded a number of campgrounds in the greater Seattle area many of which were not suitable matches (age of RV, no showers, no vacancy, or horrible reviews). I did find one 85 miles away on the outskirts of the Emerald City and here I sit on space # 73 at the Issaquah Village RV Park for $54.95.
A good travel day was had, mixed now with email and business follow up work. Will continue the search for the right camp tomorrow after a cruise through the city.
Left camp and drove 22 miles into Seattle for the first time thinking that if Marshawn Lynch ran the ball, the perpetually gray skies would somehow look bluer. No sunglasses were needed. I wanted to hit the city highlights of course but Tommy arrives tomorrow and thought that we should see those iconic places together for the first time. Besides, parking in a major city in a vehicle containing so much 'stuff' would be such a pain that I headed south and away from the hustle and bustle, potholes, constant gear shifting, and the pedestrians too. Ate lunch, did emails, and left the city behind.
I stopped into a local VW shop to talk shop stating proudly upon entry "everything works, no issues". Fredrick chuckled and we chatted about trips for a bit and he showed me his shop of eight vehicles, some restoration projects, a couple service jobs. It dawned on him that I had been on the road solo for 19 days and he asked do you ever get bored or tired? The simple answer is... Never. Not an instant. Never boring. No regrets. So much to see, to do, so many places missed too. There is no time for any of that.
I asked him about the local KOA down the road which had poor reviews about service and tight spaces, and he gave me a really useful tip. Due to the petite size of Sweet Pea, a 'tent' space in the back row along the tree line and away from the roadway can be had for nearly half the price AND those spaces, though shallower, are much wider.
So today was a fairly simple one with only 78 miles of driving and space # 55 is set and I'm hitting the sack. Tommy arrives tomorrow and the fun will really start! Never a dull moment.
Left the Sea-Tac KOA at 10:59am after showering and making use of their dumpster. I wanted to stay as long as possible for the one task of today was picking Tommy up at the airport here in Seattle. He was flying in solo as an unaccompanied minor which he's done before in 2016 but still, both Roseanne and I are as guarded as can be about the boy. He is fearless and very independent, does not get rattled easily about traveling and had zero issues. I reviewed his karate defense techniques over the phone and said just flop on the floor if needed, it's the best maneuver a MacDougall has; besides hurling insults, a skill he has no clue about yet. A person is assigned to such travelers from gate to gate and the supervision is good.
I arrived at the airport 90 minutes early, reorganized his gear, stowed unneeded items and cleared TSA. A 45-minute delayed landing gave me time to catch up on work too.
Flight 1045 touched down and as per protocol, he was escorted off the jet last by a nice woman who asked for my ID. After the hugs and hair tussle, we made our way to the garage and the longest stretch of 30 miles I have ever encountered.
Plans were made for a night’s stay beside towering pines in Port Ludlow at a superb campground with THE BEST reviews ever written aside from those by a business owner's mom.
You think traffic in your city is bad? Danny Dywer can run further and faster. It could not be the light drizzle inherently falling since the Lincoln Administration- these guys are used to that. Well whatever it was, it made Friday Cape traffic seem easy.
On the plus side of course was the fact that Tommy was here! He explains things in such detail that I could envision his long travel day. I just wanted his first impression to be wow - this area is cool. Well, it was chilly. Hoodie weather as he calls it, as the locals must too as they each dress accordingly.
We trudged on to the Edmonds Ferry Terminal north of downtown to catch the next ride across Puget Sound, we spoke of what this leg of the trip would bring us; geographically to the ultimate corner of the continental United States and symbolically to the far reaches beyond what was originally planned back in 2015. We had intended on flying here. It was just too far for a ballgame, some 3200 miles out of the way. But in putting together the final leg of this season's trip I said that we were going to do it. To stretch a bit further and dig a bit deeper and push for a little more, no problem. A 'plan your work and work your plan' mentality. The boy said ah yeah sure dad as we inched closer to the ferry terminal, now just one mile and one hour away from pay dirt.
This area ferries more passengers, cars, etc. than any other region in the nation. The line was long but efficient, and after setting the brake, we explored the ship and the outer deck for many seconds. It was raw and dank with a steady wind of horizontal mist chilling my bones. Tommy ran around, leaned over the rail looking for Orcas and then we settled into seats for the 20 minute ride across to Kingston.
The drive to camp was only 15 minutes from the terminal and the small hamlets with crab shack eateries were inviting, but setting up in the light far exceeds a dark arrival so we went straight to site # 32 for $35 cash. I had made a call yesterday to the Port Ludlow RV Park and as right as rain an envelope with my name and simple instructions was taped to the door just like he said it would be. The money was paid via the drop box and in no time, we set camp and are enjoying the sweet sounds of absolute silence, except for when Tommy emits Pungent Sounds. What a scamp. The fun has just begun.