Skipping ahead a little bit because our trip to Canada is about to begin! I thought I would get more blogging done while we were in Montana, but we have been busy!
In just a few days we’ll be embarking on our journey to Alaska. It’s something we’ve both wanted to do for a long time, but it’s not a journey to be taken lightly! The route we have planned from the Canadian border to the Alaskan border will take us just over 2500 miles. To put that in perspective, it’s almost exactly the same mileage we drove from northern Texas to the Canadian border. And we were in northern Texas in mid-March. Gulp! Once we get to Alaska, portions of our trip will be on unpaved roads or roads that have been damaged from winter temperature extremes. Cell coverage can be sparse and the nearest garage could be many miles away, so you need to be as prepared as you can possibly be. We wanted to take a little time to make sure that the RV was in the best shape possible and to install some gizmos to help with sparse phone coverage, so we decided to stop in Great Falls Montana for a few weeks. We decided to stay in town, and Dick’s RV Park fit the bill. They accept mail and packages for their campers and, in what turned out to be an added bonus, they’re less than a mile from a Home Depot! Here’s what we got done over the last couple of weeks:
- Ordered a hitch-mounted spare tire carrier and new wheel and mounted a new tire so that we now have a spare tire. [Most non-RVers don’t think about it, but most RVs do not carry spare tires. This is partially due to space/weight considerations, but also due to the fact that RVs are heavy and you need heavy-duty commercial jacks and torque wrenches to change a tire. When we had our blow-out back in Mississippi, the hard part wasn’t finding a road service to change the tire: it was finding a compatible tire. We ended up with a very expensive tire intended for use on a semi. If/when the time comes again (knocking wood!) that we need to have a tire changed, at least we won’t have to wait 4 hours for them to locate the tire!]
- Ordered and mounted a new bike rack on the spare tire so we could get the bikes off the back of the Jeep. We tend to take a lot of off-road excursions in the Jeep and had to take the old bike-rack off for clearance almost every time. Sold the old bike rack on Craigslist.
- Took both the RV and Jeep in for oil changes, new hoses, belts, etc. etc.
- Ran the necessary wire to mount our WiFi Ranger on a pole strapped to the RV ladder. Makes a huge difference in picking up the RV Park’s WiFi!
- Ordered a cell phone booster & mounted it and its antenna.
- Ran power for and mounted exterior tank monitoring sensors for our black and grey tanks. Now we can actually tell how full they are – novel concept! And kind of important when you’ll be doing as much dry camping/boondocking as we’ll be doing.
- Ordered & replaced the slide-out awning toppers after one began tearing a few weeks ago.
- Installed an LED light strip on our awning.
- And a bunch of other minor tweaks to storage and interior finishings that we’ve been wanting to do as we settle into life in the RV.
But all work and no play makes for cranky campers, so we’ve taken time to play and explore our surroundings too. The Missouri River runs through Great Falls, and a little research reveals that the town was indeed named for falls on the River; specifically, the 96′ tall great falls that were the beginning of a 30-day, 18-mile portage for the Lewis and Clark Expedition,and one of the most arduous and dangerous parts of their journey. Today, only the first of these falls remains visible as a dam was built immediately behind them to supply power to the area (the remaining upstream falls being submerged by the rising water). The falls are still beautiful, but they are overshadowed by the large dam which has literally stolen their thunder. The black and white photo below shows the falls prior to the building of the dam and much as they would have appeared to Lewis and Clark.
We finally got to meet Jason and Nikki Wynn of Gone With the Wynns! We have been followers of their blog for a long time and have conversed with them online, but it was a real pleasure to meet them in person. They are also going to Alaska this summer and we’re following more-or-less the same route. We chatted “Alaska”, explored a few local breweries together, we got to see their brand-spankin’ new home, and they unselfishly helped us drink down a little of our liquor supply prior to the crossing into Canada! In fact it was Nikki who told us about one of the best places we visited in Great Falls: The Sip ‘N Dip Mermaid Bar and Tiki Lounge. With a name like that, it’s got to be great, right??? The Sip ‘N Dip is upstairs at the O’Haire Motor Inn, and it’s a local institution. The bar has large windows looking into the hotel pool where you can watch the hotel guests swimming or the mermaids who perform 6 nights a week. Pull up a seat at the water-blue formica-topped bar or at one of their booths, order your meal from the restaurant downstairs, and enjoy the show. It’s no secret that we love a good bar, and this one was definitely a stand-out that we’ll no doubt revisit.
Although we’ve had some fun and we’ve gotten a lot done, we’re itching to get back on the road and head to Alaska! We’ve been here longer than we intended but are sitting in the garage as I write this post, having the last of the preventative maintenance work on the RV completed. Barring complications, we’ll be pulling out our passports and crossing the border tomorrow. Let the adventures continue!