Saturday, July 1, 2017

Learning Lessons

This is a very long post and I don't blame anyone who skips it. But I want to document all the good and bad experiences of my travels, so here it is in all its vulnerability.

When I left Maple Bench Campground, I had my sights set on a dispersed camping area near Malta, ID called McClendon Springs. From the Google maps satellite view, it looked like a tree filled oasis in the middle of a scrub desert with several dirt roads leading into it.

Following my Allstays app directions, I drove up Hwy 77 and turned on the dirt road toward the Springs. The road seemed pretty primitive, but passable. I had only gone about a mile when I turned a curve, went down a hill and suddenly came upon a rock filled dry creek bed. I knew Minnie could not cross it.

I hopped out and unhitched the Fit, turned around on the narrow road and drove back up the hill. Then I walked back down to Minnie, turned it around (which was not easy in a narrow dirt road) and went back up the hill, where I hitched up and went back to the main road.

I decided to try another road into the Springs, but found it was just as primitive and narrow as the first one. I kept a close eye ahead, but came upon a dip in the road that I misjudged, and as I slowly went through it, I heard the scrape of my hitch. I jumped out and discovered I had actually cut the electrical cord from the motor home to the car braking system, but it wasn't broken all the way through. I checked the lights and they were working, so I taped it up with electrical tape, and proceeded on. I made a mental note to try to find a different road out so I wouldn't have to navigate the dip again.

The farther I drove, the more narrow the road got, and by the time I got to the Springs, I realized it was not a good place to camp. It was totally isolated, with a sharp turn into the camping area, and all I could think about was my challenging drive back out. I decided to get back out of there and head to Burley and spend the night in the Walmart parking lot.

I unhitched the car and drove off in search of a different road out, but the farther I went, the worse the road got, until it finally deteriorated into two deep ruts in a stony, grassy desert. I got the car turned around by jockeying back and forth about twenty times and slowly crept back to Minnie. I drove the car back down the same road I had come in on, and when I came to the dip, I got out and marked it with some paper under a rock. Then I went back to Minnie and hitched up the car again.

I slowly made my way back to the dip, got out and unhitched again to slowly drive through the dip separately, then hitched back up. I got back underway, but had only gone about an eighth of a mile when I came upon THE dip. I had mistaken a shallower dip for the problem one!

I got out again and unhitched again, and slowly pulled Minnie forward a little. I got out, got some boards to drive my back wheels onto to try to lift the back end as I went through the worst part of the dip. It was not enough. Pretty soon Minnie was in a bad jam.
My mistake (at least at THIS point) was not removing the towbar completely before attempting the crossing.  I had to dig and dig, jumping in and out of Minnie to move an inch forward, dig some more,  then move an inch back, and so on. I finally got loose enough to take the whole towbar off (which is no easy feat, and is very heavy besides!) Then the hitch finally cleared the road bed and I pulled free!

Of course, then I had to put my towbar back on, rehitch the car and drive the rest of the way back out to the main road. The whole ordeal took me over three hours. I was never so glad to be back on a highway in my life. Major lessons learned about going into an isolated unknown primitive area.  Always get out and take the car ahead to check out the area I am venturing into. Initially, I didn't want to unhitch the car, but I ended up unhitching four times with all my trouble! (On the plus side, I'm now an expert with the towbar!)

I drove the 31 miles to the Burley Walmart only to find several signs all over  saying "No Overnight Parking". I felt nearly defeated. Instead, I drove two blocks to a truck stop and tucked in for the night.

I actually slept pretty well even though there was a different truck beside me in the morning than had been there the night before. I never heard one pull out and another pull in. I was totally exhausted.

The next morning (Thursday) I drove on into Eagle (a suburb of  Boise) where I settled into an RV Park a couple miles from the Holsinger's. The first thing I attended to was getting the damaged electrical cord replaced. I've now been here for a few days preparing for the next phase of the summer trip: Travels with Grandsons. Nathan and Steven are joining me for two weeks as we visit Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and Badlands National Park. We hit the road east tomorrow morning.


  1. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...?

    I'm impressed that you held it together and did what you had to do. Now I will worry a little less about you going out alone, especially with what you learned from this experience.

  2. I can't tell you how many times I have scraped the back of my Minnie. They are made with such a long overhang that it really limits the places you can go. I have even scraped pulling out of parking lots! You did a great job of getting out of a tough situation.

  3. I'm sure you won't have any adventures quite as harrowing with the boys but it sure would have been great if they had been with you to help.

    You were very resourceful in getting out of that jam!

  4. Yikes! Maybe a truck camper could have made it in? Vernon said after the first time unhitching the car he'd have turned around and left! Way to persevere!

  5. Dale's comment about scraping his Minnie, and Donna's has a longer overhang.