Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mickelson Bike Trail + goodby Sacajawea!

Roger here....  A disappointing morning, followed by the fun arrival of a new electronic toy....

The plan for the day was to load up the bikes, drive 15 miles to Custer, SD and do a five-mile (ten mile total) stretch of the (110-mile plus) Mickelson Bike Trail.  The Mickelson Trail is part of the Rails to Trails program -- the conversion of old railroad lines into lengthy biking and hiking trails.  I picked this particular stretch because it was nearby, and would afford us a view of the Crazy Horse Sculpture.  

The day started well.  It was sunny with a forecasted high in the mid-sixties.  Rain was predicted later in the day, but not during the morning hours.  As we approached the town of Custer, the skies clouded up and the temperature dropped.  By the time we unloaded the bikes, purchased our $3 permits, and biked to the trailhead there was no sunshine and the temperature had dropped to 50 degrees.  Oh, and a cold wind started blowing.  

I brought a thin windbreaker, just in case.  Dianne (being totally unprepared, in shorts and a thin t-shirt --  D.)  donned a bright blue rain poncho that was in the car, that seemed to inflate like a balloon when we started down the trail.  We figured that the exercise would keep us warm.  (Believe it or not, the thin poncho helped a lot by stopping the cold wind, at least when the wind was behind our backs.  It was a "Maid of the Mist" poncho from Niagara Falls.  I have no idea where it came from, because I've NEVER been there! -- D.)

The trail was smooth and very pretty, after we got out of town.  At the two-mile marker, we stopped to assess the situation.  My hands felt like ice.  Dianne was not happy about the gradual uphill ascent.  (Why are bike trails always uphill?  This was uphill all the way.)  We decided it was not worth being miserable on such a crummy day, so we turned around.  

We hardly pedaled on the two-mile return trip due to the gradual descent;  however, the wind was in our faces, and it was cold.  Here is a shot of Dianne upon our return.  She is standing between a painted buffalo and a bust of General Custer.  Notice the big smile -- very happy to be back.

Dianne dove into the warm car while I reloaded the bikes.  We decided to salvage the morning by having lunch in one of the many restaurants in downtown Custer.  We picked the Wild Sage Grill on the main street.  It was a good choice. The hot salmon wild rice chowder was delicious and warming.  I opted to try what I thought was a local dark beer named Buffalo Sweat.  Despite the name, it was actually pretty good.  I was disappointed when the waiter told me it was brewed in Kansas.  He told me that if I wanted a local beer, I would have to order a Pile 'O Dirt Porter, bottled in Spearfish.  After enjoying the Buffalo Sweat, I decided to wait for another time to drink a Pile 'O Dirt.

After lunch we dropped by the post office to pick up our general delivery mail.  It was full of goodies, including a french press coffee pot for boondocking (camping without electricity), a new battery for our computer, and a new and improved GPS for the motor home.  

We said a not-so-sad goodbye to Sacajawea, our old GPS, relegating her to possible use in the car.  Like all GPS units, Sacajawea frequently made poor routing decisions.  My nickname for her in those instances was Sac-a-sh__.  I am sure that the new GPS will also have instances of bad judgment, but there were other problems with Sacajawea.  Take a look:

1.  Hard not to notice the scotch tape! The tether connecting Sacajawea to the 12 volt outlet no longer stays in the port located on the bottom of the unit.  Without the tape, gravity causes the tether to drop out of the unit.  The tape (lovely isn't it?) works most of the time, but fails on bumpy roads at least once per trip.  This usually happens when I need to know what lane to be in, in heavy traffic.  Shoving the tether back in the port and rebooting all over again is the only solution, and of course, you should not do this while driving.

2.  The battery no longer holds a charge; therefore, it must always be tethered with the tape to the 12 volt battery.

3.  Take notice of the left-hand side of the unit and the bottom right-hand side of the pedestal.  If you look carefully, you can see two ends of a long piece of scotch tape.  It is no longer possible to tighten the mounting mechanism, so the unit swings back and forth on the pedestal.  It obviously does me no good if I can't see it.  The scotch tape holds it in place.

4.  We paid a bunch of money to have her reprogrammed last year so that she would know about new or reconstructed roads.  She goes nuts when she thinks we are driving off-road.  Unfortunately, the upgrade did not seem to make much of a difference, AND now I cannot mute her on the touch screen.  When we don't follow her directions, we are forced to endure an endless stream of, "Make a U-turn, when possible," with no reasonable means to tell her to shut up.  She does not listen to voice commands.  If she did, she'd probably tell me to piss off.

4.  The suction cup that holds the pedestal no longer works well.  Sometimes she just tips over like R2D2 did in Star Wars. 

5.  Sometimes, when programming her, she misreads the letters that I press.  For example, I press "S", she says "T".  Arghhhhh! 

6.  Finally, I am beginning to feel sorry for her.  It is time to put her to rest.  The old girl just doesn't need any more of my verbal abuse.  And, I also think that she is intentionally doing things to get back at me.

We have recently been reading about Rand McNally's new GPS system that is specifically programmed for RVs -- the TripMaker RVND 5510.  Dianne read so many good things about it on the RV.Net message board, that we found money in our budget to order one.

It has a lot of advantages over poor Sacajawea.  

1.  You can enter the size and weight information for your RV and it will automatically avoid routes that don't accommodate it -- underpasses too low, roads too narrow, turns too sharp.

2.  You can plug it into your computer to load road construction information that the unit will warn you about.

3.  The screen is larger and easier to see.

4.  You can request separate RV Points of Interest that include RV-friendly gas stations and restaurants.   

5.  It will warn you, in advance, of steep grades, sharp turns, and speed limit decreases.

6.  It will show you a picture of the exit sign, before you get there enabling you to know for sure what ramp to follow.

7.  The tether port is on the side, no more gravity disconnects.

8.  The battery holds a charge.

9.  The screen stays in place and does not tip over.

10.  We don't have to buy more scotch tape.

I spent the afternoon entering our RV information and preferences, and programmed our first trip -- very simple and intuitive.   I then mounted it on the window to the left of the steering wheel.   

I know it will also have its flaws, but the fact that it will only route us where our RV can go is a definite safety upgrade.  Can't wait to use it and find out what else it can do.

We did, of course, name it.  Since I programmed it to have a male voice, we are calling it WALDO -- as in the comic strip,  "Where's Waldo?"  In our case, we will be saying, "Where are we, Waldo?"
(Here's a link to the discussion about the GPS if you want more info:) -- D.

The pet picture of the day shows Chaplin reluctantly sporting the bandana that Dianne tied around his neck.  Look at those sad eyes.


The Solla-Mates said...

What a neat idea to have an RV-only GPS system. I'll be very interested to hear how that works out for you!

Your dogs are stunning, by the way--just in case you didn't already know :) After stumbling on your blog, I'm enjoying catching up on your journey!

Nancy and Bill said...

Sorry the bike ride was a bust ;o((
We've got caught in bad weather and when it is cold, that is really no fun!! But you'll find some wonderful rides in the future!!

Thanks for the info on the GPS for RVs. We had thought of getting a truckers version, but this seems to be a much better idea. Please let us know how it works out for you.

Gin and Syl said...

We need to update our GPS when we hit the road. Gin is of course, in charge of that. It's a toss up between a trucker's GPS and this new Rand McNally RV GPS. Let us know how it goes.

Beth said...

It will be interesting to see how the "RV GPS" works...I currently use navigation on my Verizon Thunderbolt.