Many of you who know me IRL (in real life) know that the hubs and I have a 2005 19 foot Airstream Bambi travel trailer. We use it mainly for recreation and sleeping accommodations on trips to see our families out-of-state. We’d never been able to take it on a long road trip and we’d always dreamed of hitting the open road.
Well, we finally got the chance. My husband’s aunt hosted the family out at her home near Bozeman, MT – which gave us the perfect excuse to take the camper for our long awaited road trip. We didn’t plan nearly as much as we should, but we did throw together a budget, started saving and estimated our costs. A few months ago, we sat down and mapped out the route, identifying “goals” of where we’d stop each night. After a few years of towing, my husband is finally convinced that towing the trailer at a lower speed does indeed save us time and money in gasoline expenses. In our years of owning the trailer, we’ve agreed to tow around 60mph on the interstate. Not slow enough to drive us completely insane (we both like to drive fast), but slow enough to allow us better reaction time if something were to go wrong with the trailer (a tire blows out, perhaps?). We could also eek out another 3 miles per gallon towing at 60 vs. the 70-75mph we were towing at (while I sat in the passenger seat, biting my nails and hoping nothing bad happened!)
Since our tow vehicle (a 2005 Tundra Double Cab) only has a 20 gallon tank and we get about 10 miles per gallon while towing, so that means we must stop every 200 miles. That’s a lot of stopping on a cross country road trip and stops take time! Time is precious when you have limited vacation time (we are both corporate drones), so we decided to drive a max of 10 hours a day, approx 600 miles. We planned on 3.5 days to get out to MT, we’d take our time coming back home. Needless to say, we tried to cram too much into our time away from work, but the trip was a great one. Here’s a summary of our 2+ weeks on the road and the corresponding flickr sets for each day of our road trip:
Friday, June 19
We were scheduled to leave after work on Friday and all went according to plan until we hopped on the interstate heading out of Atlanta and one of the tires on our trailer promptly blew out. We spent two hours on the side of the interstate before we were able to get the spare tire on the trailer. The blow out was on the driver’s side of the trailer and there were mere INCHES between my husband, his helper and the semi-trucks barreling up I-75 North of Atlanta on their way to TN. It was a harrowing experience that I don’t care to repeat and one hell of a way to begin a vacation. When all was said & done, we ended up returning home for the night with a plan to go to a local NTB store to get two new trailer tires installed promptly at 7AM, when the store opened. The two hours I spent in the truck consoling our dog while the husband worked on the trailer came in handy as I had time to research and call various tire stores in town to see who had what we needed. Thank goodness for Smartphones – they are wonderful when you need internet access on the go!
Saturday, June 20 – Flickr Set
Saturday began early – we left the house around 6:15 in order to get to the NTB store with plenty of time before they opened. While my husband worked out the details of the new tires with the NTB staff, I went to work in the trailer – organizing, putting away groceries and getting all of our gear stashed. We made ourselves at home as you’ll see in the pictures – my husband got out his camp chair and relaxed while we had two new tires installed. We even were able to snag breakfast from a Chick-Fil-A around the corner! We were out of the NTB store – all paid and ready to go – by 7:45 and we were on our way. Our original goal was to get to Kansas City by Saturday night – to see my sister and her family. When we left Atlanta, we weren’t sure if we’d make it, but we did. It was a late night, but the little munchkin (my nephew) was still awake to greet us. We had a quick visit with my sister and hit the sack. It was a 14 hour day of driving and we were tired!
Sunday, June 21 – Flickr Set
We woke up early, eager to get back on the road. We had a long road ahead of us and we needed to get going. My brother in law (Ed) – treated us to a wonderful breakfast of pancakes (made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal – sort of healthy!), then a quick visit with an old friend of mine from my high school days (who happens to live a few blocks from my sister) and we were on our way by 9AM. We traveled through Iowa and on to South Dakota – stopping in Badlands National Park for the night.
A $10 (so inexpensive!) camping fee and we were all set. We were struck not only by the beautiful scenery, but also by the lovely smell permeating the area. I can’t put my finger on it, but it was the most wonderful, fresh smell….maybe wildflowers? I wished I could bottle it up and bring it back to smog-ridden Atlanta. Sunday was also our first experience in hunting for gas stations in rural South Dakota. We didn’t anticipate or plan on the area being so rural. At one point, we began to panic that we were going to run out of gas before we could find a station that was still open. Someone was watching out for us when we stumbled upon a small town with ONE functioning gas station on a slow Sunday afternoon. We were both very thankful to find that little gas station!
Monday, June 22 – Flickr Set
After waking up early in Badlands National Park, we took the loop road through the remainder of the park and back to I-90. We gave into the never-ending advertisements for Wall Drug and stopped in Wall, SD before getting back on the interstate. I must say that even though it’s a “tourist-trap” – we were glad we stopped there. We had breakfast, some of their advertised $.05 coffee and each took a homemade donut to go – I must say that Meche’s donuts in Lafayette still take the cake for the best donuts ever, even better than Krispy Kreme. Seriously, you MUST try them if you’re ever in Lafayette, LA.
We finally hit the highway at around 10:00 AM and decided to forego visiting Mount Rushmore – it was too far off the interstate and we’d frittered away too much time at Wall Drug. We had to get to Montana tonight! We arrived at our final destination just before sunset – and after a quick stop at the Bozeman Wal-Mart for some supplies we needed. We were both struck by the cool air in Montana – it wasn’t nearly that cool in South Dakota – it was much warmer! It was at this point that I learned that my husband didn’t pack a SINGLE pair of long pants for the trip. Not a one! I was stunned. I had a few pairs of capri’s and 1-2 pair of long pants, but nothing really warm. The temp was in the 40′s (I estimate) and that’s cold for a girl born & raised in South Louisiana!
After arriving at the home of Joel’s aunt, I gave up my navigator post in the passenger seat to his uncle, who was going to direct us on how/where to park. The path took our poor truck and trailer up a neighboring golf course and around the back of their house – backing up the driveway was impossible because of the long, winding path. Thank goodness I was distracted and didn’t have to see the entire episode, but Joel did admit that if he’d stopped to think what he was doing, he probably would have worried much more than he did. Thank goodness everything turned out okay! We visited for a while with the family and said goodnight – returning to our camper parked in the driveway. Our home away from home for the next 4 nights.
…to be continued….