The long, empty highways of the west

 The long, empty highways of the west

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed driving as much as I have in Wyoming.

After leaving Yellowstone, we headed south through the Grand Tetons, only to be terribly disappointed that these magnificent mountains were covered by haze. Partially from the heat, which has baked the west as it has the rest of the country, and partially from wildfires, which have sprouted all over Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park all summer.

We leisurely drove out of Yellowstone. Goodbyes were hard, and we stopped to have a picnic along the shores of Lewis Lake near Grant Village.

In the Tetons, we moved west to the ski resort community of Jackson Hole and rode 4,139 vertical feet in 15 minutes to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. Down below, the temperature was 86 degrees. Up top, 63. But even up this high, the haze made it hard to see the rest of the Tetons.

Heading back out, we were stopped by a park ranger and told the road ahead was closed because of  a mother Grizzly and her two cubs. What, we wondered, they were sitting in the road and refused to budge? We were sure the bears had moved on. But they closed the whole stinking road. Go figure. So we retraced our steps back through the town of Jackson and started south, driving the entire width of Wyoming.

One out of the mountains, here’s what much of the road looked like:

 

Just before dark, we stopped in the town of Dubois, a delightful cowboy town and ate burritos, a decision that cost us dearly later that night.

Darkness fell and we drove long, lonely bleak miles through pitch black country, the Wind River Reservation. Home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, the reservation covers more than 2.2 million acres in central Wyoming’s beautiful Wind River Basin. The Wind River Basin, the traditional home of the Shoshones for centuries, is called “The Warm Valley of the Wind River” by its native inhabitants. The reservation is the third largest in the United States.

It took over an hour to drive through. We encountered maybe two other vehicles until reaching the town of Lander, where we spent the night at a campground that, of we were to stay in such a place again, would make us buy a condo instead of RV.

Then came the longest drive yet, through beausy of a different kind – Nebraska. Flat farm land, drought struck with stunted corn and blowing dust bordered the interstate for miles. A stiff southern wind buffeted the Roadtrek. Jennifer wanted no part of driving. Neither did I, to be frank. And the highway had these weird expansion joints or something that made the tires thump unless I was in the passing lane.

Maybe we were going through Yellowstone withdrawal. We stuck in an audio book to pass the time. It didn’t help much.

We spent Wednesday night in the town of North Platte, and went for a walk along a running trail that bordered a small man-made lake – a lake the Nebraska Fish and Game service had just doused the day before with a pesticide so as to kill all the existing fish and “restore” the lake into a better fishery. The sign warning you not to go too close to the water said that would take three years.

It the morning, the lake was filled with dead fish, their white, bloated bellies floating on the surface. We wondered what would happen to the waterfowl that we saw landing on the lake, and animals that don’t know how to read signs.

We had to be in Lincoln by 4PM Thursday for a live interview at the studios of KOLN-TV. We pushed ourselves 1,000 miles over two days to get to this interview, which lasted maybe three minutes and 45 seconds. We now regret leaving Yellowstone early and not being able to take the time to stop and enjoy the beauty of Wyoming. Memo to self: Next time I commit to a media interview, count the cost.

Then, we found a solution for a nagging problem that developed after our turbo vane motor repair last week in Billings, MT. For some reason, our house battery – the one that powers the inside lights and appliances – wouldn’t hold a charge. I posted my dilemma on lots of RV sites and there was lots of differing suggestions, none of which worked.

Then reader Jim Gatewood, of Livonia, MI, called my cell phone. Jim also has a 2006 RS-Adventurous and had the same problem. He had me open the hood and look at some fuses on my battery.

 

See the one I’m pointing at? It was blown. It’s a 70 amp fuse and it charges the house battery when the diesel engine is running.When the battery drains down, as happened in Billings during the repair, it takes a lot of amperage to get it going. Often, the fuse blows in the process. That’s what happened to us.

That led me to five stops between North Platte and Lincoln. I visited truck repair sites, auto service shops and auto parts shops. No one had ever seen a fuse like that. At an O’Reilly Auto Parts store, I bought an 80 amp fuse that was different than those I had but looked like we could get it to work. And after the TV interview, I found Leach RV, a big dealer and service center. They even sell Roadtreks. They had no fuses that would match but said the 80 amp one I had would work with a little tweaking. They installed it for me and didn’t charge me a cent.I don’t think I ever encountered such nice people at an RV shop. For a few minutes I thought that maybe it helped that the parts people had just seen Jennifer and I on TV a few minutes before. But I watched them with other customers and they treated everyone nice.

Here’s what the rigged up 80 amp fuse looks like. You can’t miss it. It sort of stands out.

 

But it works. My house battery is charging once again.

We plan to be in Indianapolis by Sunday for the Family Motor Coach Association Reunion and Convention. Meantime, we have a lead on a pretty cool part of Nebraska to visit Friday, and also, if we can, a swing by Hannibal, MO and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn territory on Saturday.

Roadtreking on…

 

Mike Wendland

Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, kayaking, video editing, and all things dealing with technology and the outdoors. See and subscribe to his RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where he has hundreds of RV and travel related videos. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations.

3 Comments

  • Mike, I’m the gas mileage guy. How is your gas mileage overall and about how many miles per tank are you getting between fillups? Is it better now that the turbo has been replaced?

    The pictures are great. Thanks again for continuing on and treating us to a great story with pictures!

  • I’m getting between 21 and 23 miles per gallon…about 450 miles a tank. I usually fillup when it shows a quarter tank… That’s the same mpg as before. Diesel prices have ranged form $3.99 to $4.09. Highest ws in Yellowstone where it was $4.40.

  • Mike – My RT RS Adventurous must have been built in a later production run. I’ve noticed a number of apparent differences in your comments. The fuse link panel in this article was attached directly to the positive battery post, with a protective cover over it. Pole 4, the one you are pointing to, was empty. However, it appears there is another feed from the positive post which goes to a non-resettable (Canadian distinction) relay fastened to the inside fender well above the battery. From there it goes over to the coach battery isolator located under the wiper motor. Resettable relays are preferable, but if they mounted anywhere exposed to water or other corrosion sources they can easily “freeze” up. They also are often redundant, and can be simply “jumpered” over with no negative effect.
    I’ve really been enjoying your columns. Hope we might meet sometime.

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