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Memories Of Youthful Travels Part 5

Updated on April 30, 2010

This 12 hour driving day ended with a nightmare. Our original destination for the evening was Motel 6 in Rochester, Minnesota. At 6pm, with three more hours of sunlight, we decided to cook dinner (a chance to test our Coleman stove and see if "huffing" lived up to its reputation. Yum, propane - what a rush!) in a field of asphalt then press on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota instead. Five miles from Sioux Falls, the rear of the car produced a loud bang, like a radial puking its steel guts all over the road. Pulling over to change the tire, we discovered the problem was much more severe: no tire damage, but the entire back end of the car was six inches lower to the ground. The suspension completely gave out. There were no shock absorbers to cushion the remaining ten minutes to Motel 6; the car was bouncing up and down, our heads banging against the roof like Muppets on meth in a low rider from Hell.

Fortunately for us, Sioux Falls is home to one of only three Subaru dealers in South Dakota. All we needed was to replace the right rear shock. After searching junk yards near and far, we found a used shock for $225 in Omaha, Nebraska. Shipped by overnight UPS, we prayed it would arrive in time to be installed by 12 noon the next day - or else we would be stuck in Sioux Falls until Monday. To kill time, Sandy nursed a mild cold in the homogenized room and watched free HBO, while I attempted to explore the city by bicycle, peddling furiously against what seemed to be a 30 mile per wind blowing from all directions. My attempts to reach downtown Sioux Falls proved futile even though the landscape is as flat as the Ithaca Commons. I got as far as the Quickie Mart five blocks away. While perusing the isles full of overpriced Wonder Breadâ„¢ and Peter Pan Peanut Butter, the coolers stocked with Mr. Pibb, Grape Nehi, and 40 ouncers of St. Ides, my eyes glanced over the racks of local newspapers - filled with accounts similar to those in rural New York: "Yahoo, Bessie wins State Holstein Title," "Local Patriot Throws Rocks at Federal Marshals," and "Hero Cop Busts Devil Weed Dealers." Buying a few papers and a bottle of Cherry Cosmic Global Harmony Fruitopia, I headed home to Motel 6.

Dinner that evening consisted of interchangeable fish/chicken strips with a side order of "Texas Toast" (looked pretty ordinary to me) at the nearby Rollin' Pin Diner. This little outpost on the edge of the Dakota plains was our first insight into the culture of retirees and younger families "camping" in their prized mobile homes, Airstreams, and 5th wheels. Whatever you call them, they are anything but "campers;" more like glorified trailer homes on wheels; a rich person's version of "roughing it," their getaway to the great outdoors complete with air conditioning and a DSS satellite dish. Nothing like getting back to nature! Fortunately, the next morning the car was fixed and we were back on I - 90 by noon, out $450 but able to escape the Hell of Sioux Falls after 36 hours of involuntary imprisonment.

Continued In Memories Of Youthful Travels Part 6

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