Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Road Trip Day 1

I will never travel this far for a car ever again (repeat).

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There are few things in life worth this much bother. We took my father’s truck as it is a 2003 Dodge Diesel 2500. We married that a tandem axle bobcat trailer. I would have thought the trailer was the weak point of the rig. It has been manhandled a bit throughout its life and doesn’t have a spare tire. I had 2100 dollars worth of service performed on the truck the day before we left. By far the most expensive service, I’ve experienced, performed on a vehicle not covered by an employer.

I also took my close friend Bryan. Even through Bryan has been stranded far from home before (Vancouver 2001 ’89 Le Barren Convertible – Starter issue) on one of my misguided adventures – he was game for this trip.

We left Red Deer, Alberta at 5:30 AM on Wednesday, August 19. We crossed the border into the USA at Sweet Grass crossing, Montana at 11:30 AM. We were eating lunch in Great Falls by 12:30pm. So far, so good.

It wasn’t until about 10 Miles outside of Lewistown, Montana that the trouble began. Apparently when they rebuild a highway in Montana – they don’t mess around. We travelled 10 miles on semi-crushed pit-run which was spread over the old roadway. I don’t completely understand the methodology behind this process.

As we pulled into Lewistown, the end of the bad road, we could hear a noise coming from the rear of the truck. After pulling over and investigating we found the rear driver’s side tire was flat. It was very flat and quite messed up.

It was during the process of removing the lug nuts I noticed the lock lug nut on one of the studs. We pulled the entire truck apart looking for the key to no avail. We then borrowed a pair of vice grips from the highway patrol maintenance shop 50 feet from where we stopped. That didn’t work at all.

At this point there was a friendly local in a pickup at hand. He volunteered to give me a ride to the Chrysler dealership down the road. No relief there as they apparently don’t use wheel locks in the states or maybe just this state. They two guys at the parts desk were the worst type of parts desk guys. They were the type that had resigned to saying no and giving up years ago as an effective coping strategy and now could do so without even a hint of remorse or concern.

I then had the Lewistown Samaritan drive me to the local tire shop in hopes of a mobile tire truck with a key or at least air tools. That’s what I hoped for, what I got was an air tank and instructions to get the truck into their shop. I wasn’t in love with this idea as I was hoping the tire was still repairable but there was little else I could do.

I got a ride back to the truck, helped Bryan gather up the spare and other tools and pumped the air into the wounded wheel. Quickly we made it back to the tire place without issue but the tire was already too far gone. The side wall looked like it was corrugated.

One of the shop guys used an air chisel to remove the locking lug – he was so effective we had him do all of them – there was one on each wheel. We figured there was a good chance we might still have to drop the spare as we were barely 600 KMs into this 5000 KM trip.

With a new 200 US dollar tire and four new lugs we were off again. We had lost 2.5 hours messing around in Lewistown. I hoped that this was to be the challenge of the trip – that it was to be smooth sailing now.

Bryan and I ate dinner at a Subway restaurant in Billings at around 7pm and made it to our hotel in Rapid City South Dakota at around 1:30AM. The last 375 KM between Billings and Rapid City was gruelling but uneventful. Around 20 hours of travel time but we were now in the heart of the USA.

We crashed at the historic Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City. I had booked it on Hotwire the night before and then found it had fairly terrible reviews. We found it not too bad – although Bryan and both agreed that our better halves wouldn’t have stayed there.

Day one 1600+ KMs and one flat 21 hours on the road – makes me tired now even as I remember.

To be Continued...

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