Our 4-day trip to pick up this new truck has turned into a weeklong adventure in improvisation.

Shawn’s been truck shopping since late July. (For the reasons why we are buying a big rig, read this post.) He found three different trucks about that same time that seemed to fit the bill. For various reasons, this maroon beauty in Denver was the one we put down a deposit on.

The plan was to fly to Denver on Wednesday, pick up the truck on Thursday morning, and drive to Rapid City South Dakota by Thursday night. We’d finalize all of our domicile requirements on Friday and start the 15-hour drive back to Michigan. Shawn was optimistic that we’d make it as far as Des Moines on Friday, then make the rest of the drive on Saturday.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…. Kablooey.

The first day went pretty much according to plan, although neither of us slept well. The Frontier flight was on time, though a bit bumpy near Denver.

On Thursday we were delayed a few hours by some last-minute repairs to the truck. We picked up the truck and headed north starting around 4 p.m. — about 4 hours later than planned. We were pretty giddy; Shawn said more than once “I can’t believe we bought a big rig. It’s getting real now!”

Along the way we were fortunate to be able to meet up with Shawn’s old classmate, Randy, a full-time trucker delivering a load of plastic pallets who had time to give some advice and share some dinner at a roadside truck stop. It’s amazing that he happened to be passing through the same time we were; this was only the second time in a decade that they’d been able to see each other. And once again Facebook was the medium of contact. 🙂

Side note: Johnson’s Corner is a truck stop about half an hour north of Denver, right off I-25. Friendly service and pretty good food. And incredible desserts – just look at this pastry case! img_20160908_182912835_hdr

Unfortunately between getting a late start, a road-blocking accident, and taking an extended dinner meant we weren’t even halfway to Rapid City when it started to get dark.

Driving a semi truck on unfamiliar 2-lane roads in the dark wasn’t a big deal for Shawn. Periodically spotting 40-50 head of deer and elk by the side of the road: THAT was scary! Luckily they all stayed at the side of the road – not on it – and we made it to Rapid City unscathed but exhausted by 2 a.m. We even missed the coyote who tried to commit suicide by running under the tires. (Roadrunner nowhere in sight.)

We had pre-paid for a night’s stay at the mail forwarding business that we contracted with to get our mail to us as we travel the country, as they also operate a campground and small guest house. Unfortunately for us, the clerk hadn’t left a key for us in the mailbox as promised, and all of the surrounding hotels were completely booked. At 2 a.m., on little sleep, you can imagine my dismay! But we didn’t take it out on each other (small victory!). Instead we found the nearest WalMart and prepared to buy pillows and a blanket and spend the night in our own little motel on wheels.

From the Wal-Mart parking lot I spotted a few more hotels. The Rodeway Inn had space, so we were able to get a decent (if brief) night’s sleep AND shower in the morning. Yay!

Friday we were tired and disoriented but managed to get all of our paperwork done at the mail house and the DMV. We are now legal residents of South Dakota! Just have to spend a month here some time to be able to get our CPLs. I’m looking forward to it – there’s a lot to see and do in the Black Hills.

Here’s where the saga takes a left turn: while on the drive north to Rapid City, the Check Engine light came on. The engine also started producing a whine. Shawn did some internet research and it could have many causes. So Friday morning we spoke to the dealer we bought it from and made the difficult decision to drive the 6 hours back to Denver to get it looked at. /cry

Tomorrow: Part Two! in which Shawn describes the mechanical issues and I get to see some other long-lost friends.