Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Becoming South Dakotans

From little Bighorn we followed I-90 down to Gillette, Wyoming. We pulled up in front of the office of the crazy woman RV campground and Vicki opened the door to get out sign us in. Normally that would cause the outside steps to extend so you can climb down. Not this time. The steps were not moving. Since the first inside step is about 3 feet off the ground, this presented a slight problem. Vicki slid down on her butt and managed to reach the ground in one piece. We registered and drove to the camping spot and discovered that it sloped down towards the front. By the time we had leveled out the motorhome, that front end was another eight or 10 inches off the ground, so once you got out of the motorhome by whatever means, you were looking at a 4 foot leap to get back in. It may surprise some of you to hear that I don't really jump 4 feet straight up all that well anymore. We ended up moving the picnic table in front of the door with one bench actually underneath the motorhome. We would then climb up onto the opposite bench, onto the tabletop and into the motorhome from there. Less than ideal, but it worked.

That evening we decided to eat at the local chophouse where our waitress informed us that the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area. That meant high winds and potentially hail the size of half dollars. This was not happy news. There's no garage you can hide your motorhome in when hail starts coming down. While we ate our dinner I was googling "severe thunderstorm warning" and the information I found there was not particularly reassuring. The National Weather Service sites said the warning was in effect until eight o'clock. When we finish our dinner and went back to the motorhome it was about seven. The wind started picking up, whipping around the small awnings over our slide outs. About 7:40 it started raining to beat the band. Rain in a motorhome can create a whale of a lot of noise and make you pretty nervous. This is exacerbated when all you can think about is the effect on your rooftop air-conditioners and satellite dome of being pelted by 2 inch ice balls. By 8:15, the rain had stopped and the wind was slowing down and by nine it was essentially all over. No hail, no damage done. We lived to fight another day.

The next day we drove to Rapid City. We had several jobs we had to get done over the next two weeks. The first was to get the stupid step fixed.  Our mail forwarding service is "America's Mailbox" located in Box Elder, just outside of Rapid City. They were able to get us in contact with another roadside mechanic service similar to the fellow who help us out Eugene a couple of weeks back. He couldn't see us that first evening but made an appointment to come out and troubleshoot the steps following day. In the meantime we got out a small step ladder to climb up and down on, causing our neighbors to point and laugh at us. It's rated for about 250 pounds which I clearly exceed, so I was a little nervous but it did not collapse under me. The following morning we went to a local branch of Wells Fargo and set up local bank accounts, primarily to try to convince the state of California that we are really gone. Then we went back to the motorhome to wait for Mr. Fix-it. It turned out he had a job to do on a motorhome two spaces down from ours and when he finished that he came over to examine our steps. He crawled underneath and poked around, said he found a loose wire but fixing that did not make the steps work. He then went to his truck and came back with a hammer. He climbed underneath and (I swear I am not making this up) smacked the step motor with it right sharp. That did not solve the problem so he smacked it harder. And lo and behold, the steps started working again. I looked it up on the Internet, and apparently this is a fairly common solution to this particular problem. Who would have guessed?

Our next job was to obtain South Dakota identification in the form of drivers licenses. It turns out that in addition to handling our mail, America's Mailbox helps RVers go through the process of becoming South Dakotans. They have a small campground behind their office where we stayed for three days. The receipt proved that we had "lived" in South Dakota for at least one day, which is apparently all that is required. With this in hand, we chugged off to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In California, you would have had to call the DMV and make an appointment three weeks in advance. In order to cut costs, they're only open four days a week and even with an appointment you can plan to wait in line for pretty much an entire afternoon. We walked into the DMV in Rapid City with fear and trepidation but no appointment. We filled out the drivers license request form and waited for about 7 or 8 min. to be called. We showed them our California licenses which they kept, our passports which they returned to us and our receipt from the campground.  We got our pictures taken and they printed the licenses and handed them to us on the spot. Minimal waiting, no driving test, no written test, no demonstration of even passing familiarity with the South Dakota traffic code.  Just hand over your California license and bingo, you are a citizen of South Dakota. Couldn't be easier unless they came to your motorhome and did it at your dinette table. I am starting to like this place.

It is somewhat more problematic to register vehicles, which had to be done at the county government building. We were told that we could expect to wait for 3-4 hours to get that done. The good news was that for $30 we could sign a power of attorney for America's Mailbox and they would go to the County building and wait the three or four hours in our stead. It's less of a big deal for them since they do a dozen of these almost every day and only have to do the waiting once. So we smiled broadly, handed them our $30 and the registration fee (which is about a third of what they charge in California) and went on our merry way. This freed up an afternoon for sightseeing, so we drove through Spearfish Canyon and saw Bridal Veil Falls yet again. You will recall that we first saw it in Yosemite National Park, then ran into it again along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We're beginning to suspect that it is following us because it appeared again in Spearfish Canyon, although it certainly was greatly diminished from its Yosemite glory days. I suspect we will probably see it again in Michigan but it will be such a pathetic trickle that it will hardly be worth looking at.

My brother Lyle and his wife wanted to see our rental house in Lead, South Dakota, so they were driving across the country a few days behind us. We expected to have dinner with them on 14 June but they didn't turn their cell phones on, so we couldn't arrange to get together. When we hadn't heard from them by 7:30, Vicki and I decided to have dinner at the Guadalajara restaurant, reputed to be the best Mexican restaurant in South Dakota. It was, in fact, very good and we enjoyed our meal there before driving back to Rapid City. It turned out that Lyle and Linda had finally arrived in Spearfish and decided to go out for Mexican food as well. They probably walked in to the restaurant about 20 min. after we left - a near miss.

So no pictures with this entry, but we will remedy that in the next post when we finally meet up with Lyle and Linda again.

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