Saturday, July 16, 2011

We're On the Move Again!

We're finally on the move again!  Yay!!  We were in Goshen/Elkhart, Indiana a full three weeks.  That was a week longer than what we planned.  It sure feels good to be moving - but we are doing it a bit differently this time.   No pics today as we are in highway mode.

Thursday morning we packed up the RV and took it to a storage facility in Elkhart.  "What the heck was that about?" you ask.  Well, we are car-tripping to Wyoming and Colorado to visit family and friends.  Because we have friends and family we can mooch off of, we decided to leave the rig in Indiana and save LOT$ of $$$ by driving.

The RV gets around 7 mpg.  At close to $4/gal for gas, it costs about 50 cents per mile to drive.  It is a minimum of 1400 miles each way, so for easy calculations it would cost about $1400 in gas alone to go out there.  By the time you add RV park fees etc. and the fact that we have a Prius (can you say 50mpg?) it was a no brainer to leave it and take the car.  And, we are taking advantage of the no-rig opportunity to work on our tent camping skills.  Those skills we be in constant improvement mode as we have only tent camped once and that was at least 20 years ago.  It only seems fair that we get free camping at the various campgrounds along the way since we will be providing the evening's entertainment.  Lucy and Desi had nothing on us...

Speaking of tent camping, let me take a few moments to expound on Robin's comment regarding REI.  That is one fine company.  I did not ask for, nor anticipate any sort of compensation when I called them regarding the tent poles that were incorrect and/or missing in the tent we bought over a year and a half ago at one of their local "garage sales".  REI is very upfront at these sales that all sales are "as is" and final.

We did not even try to erect the tent until a week or so ago.  We had no idea that it was incomplete.  The tags from the sale said that it had only one blemish, and I quote - "Demo- Don't sell.  Kid peed in it."

At the sale they reassured us that it had been thoroughly cleaned so we were not concerned with that, and it was good fodder for conversation anyway.  So we bought it and went on our merry way.  Our original need for it did not come together so we never set it up and so remained unknowing of it's issues.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago.  When we decided to take the car tip west we decided to see if we could set it up without killing each other.  It immediately became clear that something was amiss.  BTW- we got along just fine - neither party was injured in the attempted erection of said tent.

REI does not do their own pole repairs or replacement.  They refer you to another vendor, Tentpole Technologies, who handle all the polish dirty work.

I talked to TPT and was guided to order a specific pole.  We wanted it quick so I paid an additional $10 in shipping to get it to us in two days.  Two days later we had it - the wrong pole!!!  Sheesh.  To say we were a bit miffed is putting it mildly.

The ensuing calls to TPT to resolve the problem ended up with neither of us knowing exactly which poles were needed.  This was because I had never seen a complete version of the tent and TPT's expertise left me a bit wanting...  So, I decided to call REI to get their official readout on the exact model of tent and exactly what poles were needed.

REI was great.  They patiently walked me through the steps to identify which model of tent we have and exactly which poles are required.  Together, REI and I determined what was needed.  I was shocked when they offered to reimburse us the cost - remember this was purchased "as is" and final a year and a half ago.

I actually talked to the guy in the Austin store who originally cleaned the gift left by an still-unknown child.  He laughed as he recalled the situation.  He said that he knew that it was complete at that time but he also knows that during their garage sales people do a lot of picking through and assembling things from like models.  So, having said that and also because we did pay a pretty penny for the tent, he felt he should make us whole!   As I write this there is an REI gift card winging its way to my sister's house in Cody, Wyoming.  I am sure we will put it too good use.

Meanwhile, back at TPT:  With my new-found expertise in all things polish, I got the proper poles ordered and on their way.  I was miffed a bit again as TPT would only split the new-second-day-air shipping rather than footing it all.  Remember, the original purchase was based on their so-called expertise.   Had I not been so elated with REI's outstanding customer service I may have pushed it, but overall, we are way further ahead than I had expected.  The incorrect pole is on it's way back to TPT - snail mail - cheapest and slowest possible.

So far the trip from Indiana to Wyoming has been interesting to say the least.  I routed us along Interstate 90 through Chicago.  I had no idea what an ordeal it was to creep along their expressway, stopping periodically to pay the toll takers for the privilege of spending three hours of stopping-and-going until the skyline was in our rear view mirror.  I'll gladly drive 200 miles extra to route us away from that mess if we ever pass near there again.   Our way back to pick up the RV will take us the southern route on Interstate 70 from Colorado.  I've already made sure we do not get caught a second time.

Traveling on the highways together in one vehicle has been fun.  Driving separately, Robin with the car and me in the RV is not fun for us.  The Prius cannot be towed "four-down" which means all tires on the ground.  This is do to the unique hybrid drive train.  We have opted to NOT buy a tow dolly just yet.  We want to know more about our travel habits before making that commitment

We stopped last night in Edgerton, Wisconsin.  A neat little town not too far from Madison.  We did not do much other than lounge around the hotel.  Nothing of note to report.

We left this morning and headed to Home Depot to get some bungie cords and velcro strips so I can better secure the bicycles to the rack.  That took some time but the end result is two bikes riding comfortably and secure without banging together and causing damage.

This afternoon the fun began.  We were in south east Minnesota when we ran into an incredible rain storm.  For a while it was coming down so hard that all the vehicles had their hazards going and slowed to around 30mph.  I was still not feeling too secure so we pulled off at the next rest area to wait it out.

Guess what!!   Minnesota is shut down!   Their leaders have not resolved their budget so the entire state government has been shut down for two weeks.  No rest areas, no state parks, and even more important, employees are off.  I must assume that no child support payments as well as other forms of aid are being made too.  BTW - I did hear that the legislators passed a provision so THEY WILL BE PAID!!  I have not verified this so I'll leave it at that.....

So rather than being at a rest area, we stopped on the exit ramp of said rest area.  I figured that would be the safest spot to sit as there were barricades blocking access in or out.  We sat there about 30 minutes before it let up enough to proceed.

We listened to the radio as they talked about man-hole covers being blown off sewers in Rochester, MN.  There was also a lot of power outages and the like in the area.

We were going to stop in Austin, MN for the night but as we approached the exit ramp to town, the through traffic was stopped in both directions on the interstate.  Fortunately, we took the exit and missed the mess,  Apparently there was so much high water on the interstate it had been shut down.  We meandered our way in a westerly direction hoping to hook up with the interstate and move on.  We had decided that it was too early to stop.  Apparently the authorities came to the same detour conclusion as we did because just as we were about five vehicles from our turn out of the mess, here came all the detoured vehicles from the interstate.  We ended up waiting a bit of time as the cops directed the traffic through town.  It was not too bad tho and we were kind of impressed with ourselves for having come up with the route on our own.  I must insert here that our friend Tom-Tom was driving me crazy as he repeatedly told me to "turn right and then turn right again"  Tom, would you just shut up as it is clear that neither of us knows where are going at the moment.

Anyway, we continued on down the road and are safely bedded down for the night in Jackson, MN.  We have only 73 more miles left in Minnesota.  Next is South Dakota where we will be in full-blown-tourist mode for the next few days - Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse monument, SD Badlands and who knows what else.

We are having a ball and hope you enjoy traveling along as we continue Chasin' Our Dreams.