Week 1 Update


Week 1 of the trip brought a lot of excitement, stress, and anxiety. We started out on Monday morning leaving my uncle’s house in Minnesota on our way towards Rapid City, SD. First off, I guess I didn’t give the driving time on these pre-planned legs as much consideration as I should have – some 500 plus miles to our destination. We started of good, finding a Costco for low-price fuel. However, about an hour in, the fuel starvation issue we experienced from Chicago came back.

I fought the problem all the way to Rapid City. I tried a repair in Sioux Falls by replacing filters again, with no luck. We arrived in Rapid City at the KOA at about 9:45 pm – just before the check-in office closed. This after leaving at about 8 am. And that included an time-zone change to our favor.


On Tuesday, we went to Mt Rushmore (and got there right in the middle of a brief rainstorm). We saw the monument and hiked the trail there – taking lots of photos. It was much different than I imagined in my head, but in a good way. We followed the road signs to get there, so no GPS to get us “lost”. After Rushmore, we headed down to see the Crazy Horse monument. Interesting place. It’s hard to believe that they have been working on that for over 60 years and expect to take another 40 – 50 to finish it. We then took a drive up a road headed towards Sylvan Lake. When we got to the top of the mountain we were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm cell, with hail failing on us and lightning all around. We stayed in the car for a while to watch and then drove back down the mountain.


We packed up everything and left the KOA and drove about 5 miles to the Pilot truckstop on I-90, where I intended to install a new fuel pump to try to solve the fuel issues. When I crawled underneath, I discovered a new problem – coolant leaking down from the front of the engine. Yay (not). I called around a bunch a places and finally was referred to a place called Dakota Truck Service about 6 miles down the highway. He said he could take a look at it for us right away. We got there and left the RV with him and took the car to run a few errands. When we came back he told us the water pump was shot (as opposed to a leaking hose). He had a guy to put right on it, but it would take a day to get it all apart and put back together. So we gathered up some clothes etc for a motel night, and took off to see some more sights. We went out to Sturgis and then south to Deadwood to see the old town. Then back to Rapid City and a motel for the night.


We were able to finally pick up the RV at about 3 pm. A lot later than I had hoped seeing as we wanted to get to Billings for the night. On the bright side, Dakota Truck installed my fuel pump for me and all my new belts (for free – since they had to take all the old ones off to get the water pump out) plus I had them replace the hoses and thermostat too since it was cheap and no extra labor. About Sturgis the fuel starvation issue reared it’s head again. In case you aren’t aware, it is all hills (mostly up) when going west. We crossed briefly into north-east Wyoming and then into Montana. Had to stop several times and let the RV cool down (and discuss the symptoms with my brother Jason). We ended up running the rest of the day with the cover off the engine and the heat blowing into the coach just to try to get some cool air to it. We made it to a rest stop about 40 miles from Billings at about 11:30 at night when I was too tired to go any further.


On Friday we drove into Billings and picked up fuel at Costco. The GPS had us taking a north-west route to Glacier as opposed to taking I-90 south-west and then I-15 north. Fuel issue all day long. The worst was the second-to-last 5 miles. There is a steep uphill climb with tight switchbacks on US-89. We stalled out several times on about 10% grade. Not fun at all. We pulled into St Mary’s campground inside the park at about 10 pm, set up, ate, and went to sleep.


On Saturday, we took the car and went to see Glacier National Park. It is a 50 mile drive from St Mary to Apgar Village on the west end, so I figured a few hours and grabbed some waters ad light snacks. Mistake. It was an 8-hour round trip journey. We ate the snacks and grabbed some trail mix at the camp store at Lake McDonald to tie us over until we got back to the campground. This was a really great day for us. We saw some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever witnessed. We climbed up some trails at the waterfall next to Weeping Wall. I rented a boat and the kids and I went out for an hour on Lake McDondald. We also saw our first wildlife of the trip – two elk running across a field near St Mary Lake, and on the way back there were Mountain Sheep lazing on a rock outcropping right next to the road at Logan Pass.


On Sunday we pulled out of the campground at about 10:30 am. We made it through the boarder on US-89 to Alberta 2 at Cardston, AB just fine. I had to give up my firewood as they don’t allow that into Canada. We then headed towards Calgary with an intended stopping point of Whitecourt (west of Edmonton). The night before I had worked on the RV installing some thermoshield wrapping on the fuel line around the engine, trying to fix what I was thinking was vapor lock as the fuel problem. Well, you can probably guess – it didn’t solve the problem. We spent probably 1/4 of the trip into Calgary driving on the shoulder of the highway because I couldn’t keep up speed. Ugh. At Calgary we stopped for Costco fuel again and found a Auto Value to check the ignition coil.

On the way out of town we ran into a cold air mass and rainstorm. This helped immensely as the fuel problem is worse when it is hot. We were able to run with traffic between 55 and 65 mph all the way to Edmonton. We got in late and pulled into a shopping center and parked for the night to wait for the Bell store to open and get a cheap pre-paid phone and see about getting this fuel problem solved once and for all.

Stay tuned.

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One Response to “Week 1 Update”

  1. Janet Anderson says:

    Wow, what a trip! You guys are very adventurous. Keep up the positive chin and you can experience some beautiful scenery.

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