I wish I knew how to do an emoji in a post, because I’d make that word in the title an emoji if I could.

First Montana rest stop

First Montana rest stop

When I decided to do my epic cross-country run to play with people in Seattle, I planned a couple days in South Dakota — the halfway point of the long drive — but anticipated the rest of the trip going by in a blur of highways. No real stops in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota (although I did spend the night in Indiana and Minnesota), and no real stops on the other side of South Dakota, either — Wyoming, Montana, Washington. I was just going to drive until I got to my destination. I knew I’d need to overnight on the road, but I figured I’d make it most of the way through Montana first, probably stopping in Missoula, and then reach Seattle the next day.

The temperatures in South Dakota changed the first half of that plan and the plumbing problems changed the second half. I wound up spending Wednesday night in Billings. On Thursday, I was waiting to see if Merta RV could squeeze me in. It was the fourth place I’d called. The first, Pierce RV, wanted a $150 priority charge — money for nothing except moving me to the front of their queue — plus $175 an hour after that. The second wouldn’t have been able to take a look until August 1. The third could see me on August 9th, but gave me some other names to call. Marta said that they were really busy but would see what they could do and call me back, and when they called back, said I could come by at 3 on Thursday and they’d try to squeeze me in.

So there I was in Billings, waiting for a 3PM appointment. What to do? On the spur of the moment, I decided to try to take care of the other things Serenity needed or would need in the near future: an oil change, her tires rotated, her 20K mile inspection. I stopped by the Dodge dealer to see if they could fit me in. They could, they did. They let me bring the dogs inside and every single person I spoke to was so nice and so friendly. I probably chatted to five people along the way and everyone was welcoming and cheerful.

They were finished by 11:30 or so. On my way out, I spotted CostCo. Living without water makes washing dishes difficult and I’d been wanting more road-friendly snack food. My preference is definitely to cook delicious meals, but not when I don’t have electricity, or water to wash dishes with. So I swung into CostCo and bought some snack-type foods, plus bear spray. Yep, I’m finally ready to go hiking in the western woods. The bear spray seemed expensive (and I really hope that I don’t wind up spraying myself with it someday) but I looked it up on Amazon and it was actually a good deal, $40 for two cans. While I was standing in line, the guy behind told me it was both a good deal and even better, a long expiration date. Apparently he has a closet full of expired bear spray at home.

Done at CostCo, I decided I might as well go wait in the parking lot at Merta and do some email, maybe even write. The writing didn’t happen, because I’d barely been there twenty minutes when the service guy came and took the van away. He very nicely let the dogs stay in the van. I closed the bathroom doors so he could work on the bathroom while they stayed in the interior, but it felt like such a luxury to be able to leave them in a safe place. And in no time, he was back, handing me the keys and telling me I was done. Again, everyone I spoke with — probably six or seven people along the way — was friendly, cheerful, warm and helpful.

By 2PM I was on the road, debating what came next. Four nights in parking lots (the Billings parking lot was at a Cabela’s and lovely), plus some stress, had left me pretty tired. Did I want to push into the driving zone, knock another five hours off the trip? Maybe more? Or did I want to find a place to relax, maybe take a shower, eat a good dinner?

And I am out of time. Must get moving! So… to be continued.