Wasn't I just wishing for no mechanical problems this winter?!
Well, what do you do - that's part of travelling. I've learned over the years to take these things as they come. Although I can say that now that things have worked out well enough - if we needed a new transmission or engine I may not be so good with it all.
But I am getting ahead of myself - I'll get back to our van problems in a bit.
First, I have the photos from our continued trek along the #1 highway loop in Montana.
Oh - wait - I forgot to mention - but have been asked - about our utility trailer. Well, it's not with us this year. Honestly, we really found it to be a pain in the butt last winter. With it we had too much stuff and it was much harder to maneuver around - and backing up?! Not so fun with a little trailer.
It's a bit tight now in the van but I think that I have finally - after five winters south - finally, gotten a bit better at packing. I ALWAYS bring too much stuff for us. Derek and I are fine but it was a little more work with Cassia. She was given a large and small container for her toys (read dinosaurs) and a bag for her stuffed animals. With that and some books and drawing materials she was cut off.
We may still have a few things we don't need but really it's going pretty well so far. The cubbies we built in back are working out great and store a lot of stuff. I forgot to mention that the space between the new shelving unit and the door is Rufus's area - a place for his dog food and treats. I'll have to take a picture of that sometime to show you.
Just south of Philipsburg.
Most of the ride along the #1 is in the valley. Just south of Phlipsburg there is a bit of a climb. Beautifully coloured rocks along the way.
A quick view of Georgetown Lake.
A stop and a quick walk around the historic downtown of Anaconda - pretty quiet on a Sunday morning.
The colour of the trees on the hills was breathtaking - challenging to take a good picture from within the town however.
A stop in the park gave Cassia a chance to take a few pictures of her own - I can't remember now what Derek was looking at.
On the way out heading east I got a not so great picture of the Anaconda Smoke Stack which is now the location of a State Park. The smelter stack dates from 1919 and is the tallest free standing brick structures in the world at 585 feet.
A few days ago while looking at one of our maps we noticed Fairmont Hot Springs written just east of Anaconda. To know us is to know we LOVE hot springs - we particularly like the natural ones but we aren't so fussy when on the road. We were all in need of a good cleaning. A bit pricey for us at $23 but since that is one night in a RV park, which we don't do, we figured it was worth the splurge.
A warm and hot pool inside and a warm and hot pool outside. We tried both but preferred the warm one inside. A nice way to spend a couple of hours.
After lunch we carried on. Just south of the interstate turn off west of Butte we stopped for some tea at the rest area. A nice stop and very warm - we hung out at the picnic tables for a while watching the ravens.
When we headed out I took over as the driver. I don't do that often but don't mind on an easy stretch of interstate plus Derek looked a little too relaxed after the hot springs. Since he slept for the next 94 miles to the next rest area there aren't any pictures - just this one he took during one of his moments of lucidness.
Around this time things took a turn for the worst.
Here's the storey - for the last month or so our battery gauge has shown a drop in the charge. The strange thing was that it would decrease only to jump up again if we decelerated or put on the brake. Thus we have been able to continue driving with this issue not sure what the problem was.
Well, today we found out. By the time we reached Lima the gauge needle was in the red. When I pulled off at the exit it jumped up again but it was a little to late - by the time I pulled into the gas station it died.
We let it sit for a while - the solar panel was charging it for a bit but then Clint came up - the husband of Dianna who works at the Exxon Station. He gave us a boost and we parked across the street. A little later he found us by the sub shop with Cassia and I playing at the playground.
He invited us to park in their driveway for the night until we could get in to see the mechanic in the morning.
How nice is that?! That are some really lovely people out there - right?! Right.
So, while Derek visited with Clint and then Dianna by the fire I was able to spend some time with Cassia and get a post up.
A nice night spent in Lima, Montana.
Our generous host and hostess, Clint and Dianna. A friendly, sincere, interesting couple - we had several really good conversations. Thanks again you two - keep in touch and we'll definitely stop in for a visit if we are back this way.
Monday morning we stopped in to see Justin at Big Sky - he looked at it right away and determined fairly quickly that the alternator - which was replaced last fall - was the problem. Cassia and I were at the park at the time.
We decided that we would spend another night in Lima and return Tuesday around noon when he would have the new alternator to install.
We drove back to Clint and Dianna's place taking this picture on the way.
Once back at Clint and Dianna's we decided to look up our receipt for our alternator from last year - it must be under warranty we figured. Sure enough it was. We called O'Reily's in Dillon 50 miles north. The problem was how to get our alternator back up to Dillon to get the new one.
In the end we decided to head to Idaho Falls where everything was in one place.
We googled 'mechanics in Idaho Falls' because how else do you find a mechanic in a place you have never been. A list came up as they do - we read some of the reviews and chose Jon's Auto. Derek gave them a call - they were great on the phone told us to come by and so we were on our way.
We had about 90 miles to go from Lima to Idaho Falls - we were holding our breaths a little unsure if we would make it but the alternator was still working enough to get us there - as the battery charge dropped we stepped on the brake and it jumped back up.
Amazing to see green grass this far north in early October.
We were so happy to arrive at Jon's Auto.
And here's Jon of Jon's Auto Repair. In the end we decided not to go with the O'Reily's alternator - we trusted Jon and his crew that it wouldn't be a good investment - not difficult for us to decide since the one we had lasted less than a year.
A nice clean shop.
What was really great was that even though it was a Monday afternoon and Jon's Auto was super busy they still squeezed us in. We were there for a comfortable three hours or so complete with a comfy couch, electricity, internet and some good conversations. With Derek is JR - he was our mechanic on the van. Thanks again JR - now get out on the road too!
Jon (far right) and his team. We took this picture this morning after Jon generously let us stay overnight in his parking lot complete with a plug in.
We have a feeling that we'll be stopping in at Jon's each fall to get some work done. We were really impressed with their service and workmanship. So - now you know where to go for your mechanical work in Idaho Falls. When we find a good business we like to let everyone know about it.
So - hopefully our mechanical issues are behind us. But really - I have to say that when things go wrong - as they always do - it is amazing to find such generous people who are more than happy to help you along. We have been on the receiving end so many times I've lost count. It's a great comfort as we head down the road.
It's now Tuesday afternoon and we are ready to continue south - we found another hot springs to visit.