Tuesday, July 9 – On my way!

Got up early this morning, dumped some ice in the cooler, kissed my dear wife so long and left home at 5am. I do like driving and generally don’t mind driving by myself; I listen to my music of choice, listen to some NPR when I can find local broadcasts along the path and to podcasts I’ve saved up just for the occasion. Heading back to Montana to search for buried treasure again this year. I have 5-6 people joining me along with a few day visits from friends and will be starting out doing raw prospecting. This will be the first year in several that I am not coming back to an already existing dig. We wrapped up and removed all we found of the triceratops parts and pieces last season and will be starting fresh to scout for a new find or two!? We’ll check out the triceratops site to see if anything has gotten exposed but don’t expect to find anything. We dug a good distance away in several directions last year and seemed to find all that was there.

Prospecting by walking around searching for the clues and cues of small fragments of fractured dinosaur bone pieces that can sometimes lead to a new find is fun and daunting and can try a person’s soul. It takes perseverance and a good eye and willingness to walk and climb and climb and walk and ….. for the payoff that can happen when you find a significant bone or lots of bones of a new find.

Had a good morning’s drive, hit a little bit of light rain a time or two, then when I reached the outskirts of Minneapolis ran into some significant traffic. Really the first slowdown of the trip so far. It looked like normal traffic around the big city but then also had some road construction, then an accident that slowed us all down then a stalled car which made traffic bog down, etc… Anyway, made it out the west side of the twin cities eventually and headed into less traffic and a little more open roads.

There is the rig in the background at an interstate rest stop where I had a nice lunch break somewhere in Wisconsin

Then, … I saw some tie shreds fly out from under the right side trailer tire. Able to pull over safely and quickly to a stop and got out to check out the status. It didn’t feel flat as I rolled to a stop. It wasn’t! Must have been some tire debris on the road that I didn’t see in front of me and I just ran over it? Cool. Then, not cool. A little bit down the road, outside of New Union, Minn. I heard then felt then saw that same side trailer tire just shred into pieces. I rolled off the highway to a conveniently located nearby exit and got to work on my NASCAR skills at rapid tire changing. It has been a long while since I last had a trailer flat though so I was admittedly a bit rusty. It was on the passenger side so I felt comfortable doing the tire switch plus I was on an off ramp with very little traffic going by. Did I say I was a bit rusty? Won’t go into all the detail, but it took a while and I was a bit nervous because although I have two spare tires, neither are in great shape; meant just to get me along to a place to get a new tire.

Drove on and stopped shortly down the highway to check and retighten the lug nuts since I didn’t have a power tool, just the tire iron to tighten them up. I could add just a little extra tighten, so all seemed good. Shooting for staying the night in Bismarck, ND so that I’d have a short drive the second day. At Fargo, ND I stopped for gas in the rain and just for giggles looked carefully at both trailer tires. My spare was doing okay, holding air pressure, looked ok. However, the driver’s side trailer tire upon careful examination, was not. It was wearing very thin on the inside tread and I could see and feel the steel belts starting to show through! Uggggggh! So, I maneuvered the trailer so it was kind of under the canopy at the gas pump (to keep me out of the rain) and proceeded to move on to my 2nd tire change of the day. This one went much faster, I’m proud to say. But, I was now out of spares and the two tires on the trailer were each in poor shape. If I were to make it to Bismarck, I’d have about 3 hours to drive and a couple hundred miles. Go or not go? I really wanted to make it there and knew I’d have tire shops to choose from that would surely have little camper tires in stock – so I went for it, slowly at first, then up to speed. Not speeding, but just up to the speed limit holding my breath hoping both tires would make it.

They did! Pulled into a hotel and got a room for the remainder of the night. Arrived there at 12:30am so I was on the road about 19-1/2 hours in total and traveled around 1050 miles. I’m sure I’ll find two new tires in the morning and hope it doesn’t delay my travels too much!