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Day 22: Home

550 miles
16mpg
$0: Delaware (home)

I left Airstream HQ in Jackson Center, Oh at dawn as their tractors pulled the day’s patients out of the Terraport, and into the trailer equivalent of the Mayo Clinic. After a few hours driving, I emerged from the corn fields.

After enjoying the nation’s mostly-modern roadways with speed limits of 80, the West Virginia border feel like a time portal. The gas stations become more scarce. The ones that remain are cramped, barely-maintained, and offer a key on a stick if you need the restroom. I half-expected to see pumps selling ethyl (look it up, kids). What happened?

Pennsylvania was even worse.

Slapping a 65mph speed limit sign on a road designed in 1940 does not make it a superhighway. I applaud PA’s efforts to update sections of the turnpike, but you have a lot of work do.


And I refuse to be held hostage by their “Service Plazas”, with their zombie-like staff yet oddly futuristic pricing. Having learned my lesson by being burned numerous times, I did not stop for gas or food in PA.

But enough of me sounding like a grumpy old man. Staying true to my PA theme of “roads through time”, I got off the turnpike near Lancaster (Amish country) and dodged horse and buggies on my favorite back-roads to Wilmington, shaving off a few miles.

No photos of the filthy trailer, but of course I gave it a bath soon after I arrived (after I mowed the lawn and got the held mail).


In hindsight, I wish I could have lingered at some of the more scenic spots on the trip. Unfortunately, that realization usually comes just as a trip has ended. A pile of work awaits me at my day job.

Look for a “cross country by the numbers” post soon. What would you think a 3-week, 7,000-mile trip cost? Stay tuned.

Day 21: Children of the Corn

577 miles

16.7 mpg

$10: Airstream HQ, Jackaon Center, Ohio


Today was a day for driving. And getting halfway home. I avoided the tollroads entirely, and took the Lincoln Highway, (Route 30) most of the way. Other than a scary section in Chicago Heights, filled with some very aggressive drivers, I’m glad I did. I paid zero dollars in tolls, and got one or two better MPG.

I’m walking through the airstream waiting room (morgue) as I write this. I half expect to run into Apollo 19,  although I have no reason to believe she would be here. This is my fourth time here, and it always gives me the creeps. I know it should make me happy they’re about to be repaired, but it seems like a sad purgatory of suspended camping dreams. Some damage is very obvious, but others must have “internal injuries”.


I should be home tomorrow. Has this trip really only been three weeks?

Day 20: “Passel”

550 miles

15mpg (what a headwind!)

$20: Cedar View Municipal Park (Nashua, Iowa)

I’m so glad I made it a short driving day yesterday to stop at Badlands. A very dry heat made for a peaceful view of the sunset sitting out in a chair.



I’ll sleep when I get home. While I’m in the presence of these skies, I am compelled to get up and take shots like this. It’s like a Milky Way rainbow.


The morning was no less dramatic as I left the park.

Interstate 90 was windy! The Touareg usually doesn’t feel squirrelly, but I wrestled with crosswinds for the early part of the day, even when I got on 18, south of Sioux Falls. The corn fields undulated like a stormy sea.

18, and roads like it, are my favorite alternative to the interstates. Sure, there are some stop lights, tractors, and hay trucks. But it breaks up the monotony of a 300-mile stretch of 80mph interstate, and you really get a flavor for a state through the eyes of the small towns.

Hey – watch that root beer! I just washed the trailer.


Byeeee.

And unlike I-90 and I-80, there are a passel* of reasonable county parks to camp in. Like this one in Nashua, Iowa.


$20 (includes electric & water).

*I’ve been out here on the open prairie so long, the word “passel” was on the tip of my tongue. Really.

Day 19: Just one more day, please

175 miles16 mpg

$39.04: Badlands National Park (electric site)

It was hard to leave Devils Tower. Although it promised to be a blistering day, the morning was glorious. So I took a hike around the tower at daybreak.


You’re allowed to rock climb with a permit. Check out these trail names.

I was on the fence about leaving the campground today, but decided to soldier on.

I said goodbye to the prairie dogs.

And they greeted me again in Badlands – 175 miles away. They seem bigger.

I had thought about getting further today, but I wanted to squeeze one more camping night out of the Wild West before I spent three days paying tolls for the privilege of looking at corn.

We had driven through Badlands on the way west two weeks ago, but the campground isn’t far from the highway. I snagged the last electric site (someone cancelled), and the AC is still trying to get the trailer below 80.

Note to Airstream HQ: the 23D is 21% larger than the 19, with a lot more glass, and yet it has the same BTU AC. In every situation I’ve needed it so far, I can assure you it’s not enough.

Looking forward to a nice sunset and maybe another thunderstorm.

Can I get home in 2 epically long days? Or maybe just 3 long days. 1600+ miles to go. Probably three.

Day 18 (pt. 2): Sundown

I had a great evening at Devils Tower (see day 18). After I wrote yesterday’s post, this happened.

And this.


What’s not to like about this park? Shady campground with clean bathrooms. Medium-difficulty hiking trails accessible from said campground.

And an informative and musical program steps away. I learned about Wyoming history and pride from a very engaging and talented couple: “Buffalo Bill Boycott” and “Dr. Jo”


The 50 campers who attended were treated to skilled banjo, mandolin, guitar, singing, and yodeling under the starlight. And we learned about Lewis & Clark (along with York and  Sacagawea), Colter, cowgirls, the railroad – it had it all.

Then, of course, I wandered into the prairie dog field to take some night shots.

Look familiar?


I waited and waited.

Day 18: Devils Tower

575 miles

16 mpg

$15: Devils Tower National Monument 


Twenty episodes of the old radio show “Have Gun, Will Travel“, and here I am at Devils Tower. My fifth (?) national park on this trip. The annual pass has paid for itself.

Before I left, I got up at midnight to admire the Montana sky, and the clearest Milky Way I’ve seen yet on this trip.


Here’s the 360

Rather than take I-90 the whole way, I veered off on lonely 212 on this 100 degree day, wondering if it might be too hot to take that risk. I’m glad I did, since I took the first shot in this post on my way. Sometimes, you just need to realize when you should stop the car, get out, and take a shot when the light is magic.

It’s going to be 96 here tomorrow, so I might not stay a full day. But for now, here I am in view of the tower.


The Campground host recommended camping under trees, since it would be “hit as $&#%” here tomorrow.


Had a nice thunderstorm.


Here’s some Close Encouters disco for your listening enjoyment.

Day 17: Montana

570 miles

16.8 mpg

$35: Bearmouth RV park, Clinton, Montana


I have this crazy idea that I’d like to camp at Devil’s Tower on my second day of travel, so I book on by Missoula.

The drive on Rt. 12 by Mt. Rainier was spectacular, as always.

Although I picked up bag full of trash at the vista point. Come on, America. You can do better.


Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana were hot: up to 102 degrees. Amazingly, the trailer stayed cool enough for a nap.

Lesson re-learned: don’t wait too long to bed down on a Friday night. After stumbling down a dirt road into a BLM campground that was pretty full, I kept west on I-90 and found another full state park.

Further down the road, I found Bearmouth RV park. As with most parks along this corridor, you’re never far from the sights and sounds of I-90 and railroad tracks, but the view of the river makes it all worthwhile.


The clean bathrooms don’t hurt, either.

On to Wyoming. Looking forward to hearing some prairie dogs.

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