Richard and Suzanne and Duncan's Big 2008 Road Trip
Stage 4 - Life In the O.C. (Ontonagon County, that is)
in Trout Creek, MI and other Yooper places

Day 23 - Monday, June 30th, 2008
in Trout Creek, MI
5 miles

We're now happily ensconced in the ancestral Carlisle home in the north woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Well, maybe not 100% happy - when we got here, the telephone wasn't working at all (and we're about 10 miles from the nearest cell signal), and the satellite TV was utterly nonfunctional. Suzanne took the truck over to a neighbor's house to make some calls to get things working, and after a while images miraculously appeared on cathode ray screens and dial tones buzzed in handsets.

Other than a bit of playing with the cars (both big and little) and the building blocks, much of the day was devoted to cleaning up stuff - furniture, portable coolers, tabletops, and laundry in many many loads (it's been over two weeks since the Maytags in Louisiana). Duncan even got into the cleaning craze by soaping some of the road grime off his colorful tricycle, and then proceeded to scrub down the front door and anything else in reach of his mitts and suds. If he'd only behave like that at home... We also found out we're sharing the 17 acres with many other residents - the most annoying being many many mosquitoes that seem to be very good at finding that one spot that got missed by the repellent. But we seem to have reached a stalemate with the little skeeters - except for those few that seem to like to wait patiently to serenade us with their buzziness after we're tucked in bed.

Building up and scrubbing down

More pictures from Day 23 here!

Day 24 - Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse MI & return
88 miles

Happy birthday to truck,
happy birthday to truck,
happy birthday dear Truckasaurus,
happy birthday to truck!

It was twenty years ago today that Richard took possession of his Chevrolet C1500 1/2 ton V-8 extended cab long bed pickup. Now, one wife & kid, 48 states (many more than once), 25 tires, 8 alternators, 2 repaints, many big and little trips, and a little over 232,000 miles later, it's time to give a bit of recognition to our faithful 4-wheeled family friend. The truck has been a dedicated and reliable hauler of people and stuff, with almost nothing able to stop it (well, except for the occasional boulder in a California cliff, seized wheel bearing in an Alabama swamp, or inappropriately inserted deer up here in the U.P.), and we're most pleased that the truck has survived so far more or less intact into its third decade.

So what better thing to do than to put a few more miles on?

Coming up to M-28, we noted right away that there was a line of cones strung along the center line of the roadway, but no other signing, barricades, flaggers, or traffic in sight. We pulled out onto the right side of the road and continued for a mile or so, passed by the road crew doing chip seal operations, and rounded a curve - just in time to see the pilot car and a whole line of vehicles coming right at us in the opposite direction in the same lane. Fortunately, we were all traveling at a rate that allowed for easy avoidance, but the bigger concern was the nonchalance of the contractor's crew at this incident - apparently they're used to this sort of thing.

First stop after the near-miss back in the work zone (well, not including a stop to put back up one of the contractor's signs that had blown down) was at the headquarters of Midway Telephone in the teeny town of Watton. Now phone offices typically aren't a prime choice for us as vacation stops, but the sad fact is that there's currently an imbalance between supply and demand with respect to broadband Internet service up here, and so there is a long waiting list for high-speed connections (and summer visitors like us end up at the back of the line). However, the phone company did make it up a bit by offering to let us use their office Internet at no charge while we're up here (thanks!) and so we invaded for a few minutes, with three laptops busily humming with literally gigabytes of pent-up uploads and downloads.

From Watton, we wandered up to the Superior shoreline in the town of L'Anse, and visited Suzanne's mom in her full-service digs at the Skilled Nursing Unit (the 'SNU', pronounced "snoo") at Baraga County General Hospital. We spent a while updating her on all the doings in Arizona, and Duncan played the exemplary grandchild (way out of character!) by showering the elder Mrs. C with lots of smooches and love.

Promising to return soon, we cruised up to see Suzanne's sister Vicki and her family at their home on the shores of Keweenaw Bay. Vicki somehow managed to whip up a delicious baked spaghetti dinner for us all in between 12-hour night shifts at the ceiling tile plant in town. Amazing. :) Duncan and the rest of us happily devoured the dish while enjoying the warm evening weather, and we repaid the hospitality (a bit) by giving Vicki a little snowman (that's also a useful set of stacking measuring cups) to add to her collection. We stayed out chatting until nearly sunset, and then gave our thanks and bade our farewells. One last stop in L'Anse to scoot by the local IGA market to get the mandatory birthday cake for truck, and also to perform a somewhat Seinfeldian maneuver by cashing in all the pop cans we'd hoarded since we'd left Phoenix (all hundreds of them) for a 10 cent reward per each empty. Another bonus: the bank associated with the store had those new Arizona quarters still in the rolls, and so we left with not only a yummy cake, but with some collectible coins to weigh down our pockets.

Now it was finally dark, and our past experience told us full well that far too many deer were doing their white-tailed wanderings along the highways leading back to Trout Creek. It would definitely spoil Truckasaurus' birthday to munch a deer for dinner, and so we motored back with the high beams on and the accelerator off, keeping it at 45 or below for the return trip. Even so, those crafty antlered ones still made the drive interesting, with too many of 'em all too near or bounding out on the roadway. Our deer-avoidance tactics were complicated by reduced visibility caused by clouds of mosquitoes and flies, especially when those bitty bugs took on a two-dimensional form on our windshield and headlights. But despite the best efforts of insects and ungulates, we brought the truck and its occupants back to the house intact to face another day.

Smooches and snowmen

More pictures from Day 24 here!

Day 25 - Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
in Trout Creek, MI

An overnight storm rumbled through, waking us up at the wee hours with its grumbling thunderness as it muddled across the north lands. But in its wake it brought cooler temperatures which felt most refreshing to these Arizona refugees.

Today was a somewhat quiet day, with Suzanne and Duncan hanging around the house puttering and playing, and exploring the amazing historical artifacts one can find in the dim reaches of the kitchen cupboards. Richard gave the truck a bit of a belated birthday present by rotating the tires after a long outbound leg, and checking the pressures and other little maintenance bits. Made us feel somewhat less guilty about eating truck's birthday cake without sharing. ;)

We know we've mentioned this before, but the combination of high latitude and odd time zone has thrown our internal clocks off a bit. We've mostly adjusted, but Duncan still raises objections to being sent to tubby and beddy-bye with the sun still high in the sky - even after we point to the clock and note the late-day sun illuminating the hands at the 9:30 PM position. But the quiet woody setting eventually settles us all down, and we sleep with big dark skies and bright stars over our little roof.

Happy birthday, Truckasaurus!

More truck-a-pictures from Days 24-25 here!

Day 26 - Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to Bond Falls, MI and return
22 miles

A quiet house in the usually quiet woods is conducive to sleeping in late - and who are we to argue with such a concept when the schedule allows? We did finally get going and out of the house to stop by the post office to mail off some urgent ADOT paperwork and then check out the lunchtime menu at the local restaurant (sadly, now the only one in town since the closing of the Little Schoolhouse). The food was good, and we even saw Suzanne's old shop teacher among other locals also frequenting the eatery.

Full and happy, we drove down winding Calderwood Road (stopping for a yard sale along the way) to Bond Falls, which long-time Big Trip followers may recognize as a favorite Yooper destination. The falls, store, playground, and picnic areas were busy today with vacationers from across the Midwest and beyond, and several friendly folks saw the map on Truckasaurus' tailgate and struck up conversations to quiz us about our travel adventures. Duncan loved watching the rushing rapids, but loved even more thumping his feet on the plank-paved viewing area surrounding the falls as he scampered to and fro.

Refreshed by this rushing-water recreation, we cruised Calderwood back to the outskirts of town, and dropped in on our cousin Pam and her family in their new very tastefully-decorated home, complete with vistas of a rippling pond and rolling meadows. The home also sports views even more scenic - while we were there, a mama deer walked right up to the back porch to graze only a few feet from our eyes. In between these deerteruptions, we sat with the family and caught up on doings and happenings near and far, and enjoyed a nice early dinner of sloppy joes and potato salad that Pam expertly prepared. It was tempting to stay for even longer than we did, but an early day for everyone lay in wait tomorrow, and so we said farewell for now and headed home under the 9 PM sunlight to prepare and anticipate tomorrow's booming-good times.

Falls, family, and fauna

More pictures from Day 26 here!

Day 27 - Friday, July 4th, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to Baraga, MI and return
101 miles

The 232nd birthday of our great nation began with our 232,000 mile truck gettin' started up and pointed toward the town of Covington, where we'd read that there were some fun Independence Day doings. We parked under the whitewashed spire of the Bethany Lutheran Church and followed the signs leading us to the pancake breakfast, where we were fed most grandly by the local churchfolk. Next stop after that most physically and spiritually filling experience was at the old school house, now converted into an art gallery and gift shop upstairs featuring many fine made-in-the-U.P.items, and a child activity center downstairs, where kids of today (such as Duncan) can romp and play in a place that has seen almost a century of childrens' smiles and laughter.

But this was just a prelude to the main celebration. Over at the town pavilion, the veterans marched out for the flag-raising, the chickens and hot dogs hit the grill, and the folks from the surrounding area came around for food and fun. Duncan made a beeline for the inflatables out on the ballfield, where he roughhoused with the bigger kids in the "arena" (complete with soft weapons for taking out child-sized aggressions), screamed down the tall steep bouncy slide over and over with his dad, and spent a while (OK, a long long while) boomping and bounding in the udderly fun confines of the big blue "bouncy cow" with many little Yoopers.

Once the wurst was over and the brats were put away (both edible and 3-year-old), we drove up highway 41 to the town of Baraga, facing L'Anse across Keweenaw Bay. We parked on a side road and hauled our cooler, chairs, and behinds down to the main street to watch the annual 4th of July parade. Led by the experienced yet spry honor guard, with their sharp steps punctuated by the crack of their rifles, we watched as police cars from many area agencies filled the street - only this time the projectiles fired by the officers were high-velocity candy out the open windows to the kids lining the street. (Duncan, we're pleased to say, did net his share of officially-sanctioned yummies) The brilliant beacons didn't cease yet - right after the cops came fire trucks of all shapes and sizes from many area departments, spraying their own sweets on the crowds below. Then the dignitaries in their shiny convertibles, followed by the local Shriners and their zippy little cars, which of course Duncan found most fascinating as they vroomed round and round for the crowds. Following this was the heavy-duty stuff - several big yellow pieces of Pettibone products (manufactured right there in town) showing off their amazing articulated and hydraulic capabilities as the kids (including Dunc) watched in wonder.

Once all the candy was collected and the last tow truck toodled by, we were looking for a snack, so we cruised down the Baraga Drive-Inn for some frozen custard. However, it seemed everyone else had the same idea, so we passed by the packed parking lot and looped around the bay to the Frostie Freeze in L'Anse for some food n' treats. Then to the SNU to visit Suz's mom for a while, and to the waterfront park for some evening play as we waited (and waited) for the sun to set behind the ridges of the peninsula.

Once it was sufficiently dark, at 10 minutes to 11 PM, we dropped the tailgate on truck in Vicki & Pete's driveway and gazed across the bay to watch a most excellent fireworks show reflected off the water of Lake Superior. Duncan watched raptly for a while, but even the most thunderous booms (4, 5, 6 seconds - OK, 1.2 miles away) couldn't keep him from drifting off into brilliant dreams of his own. Once the last explosion echoed across the bay, we headed slowly back to Trout Creek, with the good fortune of very few deer arcing across our path.

July 4th commotion in Covington

Having a blast at the parade in Baraga

More pictures from Day 27 here!

Day 28 - Saturday, July 5th, 2008
in Trout Creek, MI
10 miles on bike, 1 mile on Baby Jogger

Today we recovered from our full and late 4th, staying home and (trying to) catch up on chores and stuff around the old Carlisle home. We also noted that Richard's bicycle, which had patiently traveled with us on the back of truck for many weeks and miles, was really looking for someone to ride with after four weeks of being ignored, so Richard finally strapped on the helmet and rolled out to explore the backroads and byways of Trout Creek, while Suzanne and Duncan strolled down to visit Aunt Iris and Uncle Freddy (and their kitties & dog) for a while - and to play for a piece at the town park by the old mill pond.

Then something happened that shouldn't be part of anybody's Big Road Trip - or any trip at all. As Richard was riding down one of the roads on the outskirts of town, a very large, very dark, and very aggressive Rottweiler charged out from beside one of the houses and directly toward him. Trying to remember all his BikeEd dog-avoidance skills while maneuvering and accelerating on loose gravel, he managed to avoid crashing and avoid the snarling SOB after 1/4 mile or so of sprinting - but it was close.

After everything was settled down and the sheriff's report was taken (it may be the great wild country here, but there are still laws against out-of-control dogs on public roads), we settled in for a quiet evening as the fireflies wiggled outside - and the ants and mosquitoes conspired to sneak inside.

Pictures from Day 28 here!

Day 29 - Sunday, July 6th, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to Houghton/Hancock, MI and return
152 miles

Today's adventures took us up the upper peninsulas of the Upper Peninsula to the twin towns of Houghton and Hancock, where we parked beside the historic Pic Theater to take in a movie - "Wall-E", in fact. We'll ignore the recent controversies about the message and theme of this motion picture and just say it's a cute robot flick that did manage to capture Duncan's attention for well over an hour - an impressive feat for a movie, but near the end he was wanting to emulate Eve and fly around the aisles (but was suitably restrained by parental units).

After the credits rolled and the last logo flashed, we walked back out into the bright sunlight and down the Hancock sidewalks to the Kaleva Cafe, where we enjoyed fine Yooper food as the local Finnish-American Association meeting carried on around us and a nice man with a well-tuned accordion was squeezing out finely Finnished folk songs.

So now from Wall-E to Wal-Mart we went, rolling over the steel grating of the deck of the Portage Canal Lift Bridge and south into Hancock, where we stocked up on inexpensive People's Revolutionary items and Duncan got some delayed exercise running up and down the endless aisles. Then back south on highway 41 by the big lake, as the north woods today got nearly to 90 degrees before a summer thundershower rumbled in to cool things down. We don't much mind rain, but the descent of the first splattering drops coincided with the very moment Richard had the back end of the truck open and partially dismantled to replace a few balky taillights (of course) - but Suz and Dunc were smartly staying dry by keeping company with her mom at the SNU.

Not much after this but to go by the IGA store for some perishables (while Duncan went a bit crazy with the little shopping carts) and then a calm drive through the rainy twilight back to Trout Creek.

Houghton and Hancock - two towns, one set of scenery

More pictures from Day 29 here!

Day 30 - Monday, July 7th, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse/Baraga, MI and return
98 miles

We got a late start (Richard had some submittals for work that he needed to crank out to begin the week), but eventually got going into another U.P. day. First to Watton to say hi to the nice folks at Midway Telephone and stuff a few hundred megabytes up their T1 lines, and then back to L'Anse for some shopping.

L'Anse is a small town on the Lake Superior shoreline that boasts many things - excellent views of the water, four seasons of recreation, light industry, shopping, and a good small-town atmosphere. Some places visited this day included the Gambles hardware/variety store, where everything from tools to toys lined the open shelves, and the 'Shorewood Forest' gift shop, where Duncan was fascinated by the new baby bird and the fish pond, and his mom was fascinated by all the neat northwoods crafts and souvenirs. Didn't have time to make it to the drug store across the street, but the windows there were also lined with all sorts of useful Yooperabilia too. Then a delicious late lunch (OK, early dinner) at the Nite Owl Cafe in town, where a busy little boy decided to try his "Crouching Duncan, Hidden Mama" moves on his parents - fortunately, by that time most of the fellow dinees were folks with small children as well, so it wasn't (too) disruptive.

Realizing that maybe a bit of exercise for the little guy was needed, Richard dropped Suz off at BCMH for more quality mama-daughter time, and then hauled Duncan out to the playground by the shoreline, where we found a most entertaining and colorful wooden train play structure, with lots of places for small children (and reasonably nimble parents) to sit, crawl, climb, and hide amid the brightly-painted tank cars and gondolae. We were hoping to see yet another brilliant sunset from this vista, but the clouds rolled in and dropped the temps to a definite non-Arizona coolness (no, we aren't complaining :)

Then back to the SNU to let Duncan and dad see Mrs. C for a while, and home to Trout Creek, only this time trying a different route along some of the Ottawa Forest backroads - woody and scenic, but not fast (no problem - we weren't in a hurry anyway).

Linger a while in L'Anse

Many more pictures from L'Anse here!

Day 31 - Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
Trout Creek, MI around Lake Gogebic, MI and return
111 miles

Today, yet another 20th anniversary, this one marking twenty years since Suzanne moved from Minneapolis to Arizona - and now here she is commemorating it right back at her childhood home in Michigan. Small world, hey?

This morning, we were off early (well, kinda early by AZ time) to perform another "late birthday present" for truck - an oil change at Big Valley Ford/Chrysler in the nearby town of Ewen. The keys were handed over, paperwork was filed, and next thing we know we see the truck heading off over the horizon toward Bergland - and we're still standing here. They assured us that no felonies were in progress - it's part of their 34-point inspection program, and the joyride, er, test drive is an important scientific diagnostic tool. Really.

Let us digress for a moment here. Back in Arizona, for a little over a year now the state law has prohibited all smoking in indoor public areas, including restaurants. This has been a boon to us, as now we are much more likely to wander into a new eatery without fear of finding the atmosphere uninviting (in the literal sense of the word). However, not all states have such laws, and Michigan is indeed one that has no official restrictions on smoking in public places, save those imposed by the management (such as the nicely smoke-free Kaleva Cafe in Hancock).

All the above being said, why is it that sometimes when people do smoke in a restaurant, they insist on doing so in front of an upwind open window, or the air conditioning outlet, or similar location? This is what made our otherwise very nice visit to TJ's Restaurant across the street much less-than-pleasant - soon after we'd seated, someone walked in and lit up right in front of the window (along with one of the employees), spreading their emanations all over our otherwise-good french toast, clothes, and belongings.

Once we could catch our breath outside, Duncan spied the rows of shiny brand-new cars lined up in front and across from Big Valley's sales office. Now we're not really in the market for a new vehicle (although a mini-van would make a nice complement to our faithful truck), but given our son's obsession with things shiny and wheeled, he insisted we look at every single vehicle parked awaiting its potential new owner.

We were reunited with truck (checked out fine, other than a few little things that can wait until Arizona), and then steered westward on M-28 out of Ewen for more Day 31 fun, stopping briefly to yield to a turtle making its way slowly across the state highway. Then south on M-64 to say hi to Cousin Margie and her husband at their summer campsite at Lake Gogebic. By the shores of this scenic piece of Upper Michigan they had set up their trailer (and gazebo, and patio lights, and spare refrigerator - our kind of people!), and were enjoying the picture-perfect weather that this day bestowed. We socialized for a nice spell, and then strolled down to the playground beside the lake, where Duncan had much fun bouncing, climbing, and scooting (wow! some static on that plastic slide, son!) as the parents enjoyed the lakeside vistas and cool breezes.

Once our visit was done, we headed south around the lake and out to some stretches of US 2 that none us had yet explored. These led us to the town of Marinesco, but alas we got there just after the Hungry Bear Restaurant had closed its trap and left us outside. We looped through the scenic little town as our bellies rumbled, and then wandered the miles over to Watersmeet wondering what we'd find there. Minnie's Cafe was open, and inside we found some durn good ham & cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers - Richard had his heart set on some sirloin, but unfortunately the 4th of July crowd had pretty much de-mooed the coolers. Then up to the Paulding store for some ice cream and a drive on by Bond Falls and Calderwood, and back to the house for some relaxation. This was interrupted in a nice way by more relatives - Uncle Dennis and Aunt Millie came by to check in on us and catch up on family doings, and we enjoyed their pleasant presence for a while.

Then into another evening, with more puttering, trip website, and NCHRP report review on the agenda for Dad, while Duncan was assisted by his mom in making some ceramic crafts to give to his Grandma and other relatives up here in the north woods. Then to the television for a kinda-guilty treat - Duncan has really learned to love the "Upside Down Show" on the Noggin network (which we don't get at home in AZ), but it comes on at 8 - er, 11 PM Eastern Time for two goofy back-to-back episodes. So if Duncan's been a good boy (OK, we'll settle for "somewhat non-destructive"), we'll sit down with him to close out our day (like today) with a bit of loopy Aussie TV fun.

Going 'round Gogebic

More pictures from Day 31 here!

Day 32 - Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse and Skanee, MI
78 miles

Time to jump in the truck for more travel. As we headed out again toward Watton, our movement was arrested by a big sign advertising "Birdhouses!" - and some fine specimens of avian homeownership arrayed below. Suzanne selected an irresistible little cottage made of weathered pine, but when we looked for someone to pay, there was no person to be found. We walked over to the house, knocked on the door, opened up, hollered in - and still no one to be seen. So we placed the proper amount of cash in an envelope, left it just inside the door in the entryway, and stowed our new possession away for travel.

Only a mile or so farther down the road was the Midway Telephone office, where we again stuffed many megabytes into their Internet connections. While waiting for the DMGs and JPGs to make their way through the ether, Duncan watched a movie on one of the busily humming laptops, and even had a new friend (the daughter of another customer) gleefully join him in his viewing. The adults, though, were fascinated by other artifacts - MTC has displays of some cool colorful phones from eras now past, and the bright happy oranges, greens, and baby blues in their rotary-dial glory brought back memories - and admittedly some lust for a phone or two like that back home (and darn, they're not for sale).

Once the last byte was sent, we headed on up to L'Anse (agaainnnn) for some afternoon shopping at the Gambles variety store and Snyder's Pharmacy, and to tank up on $4.19 fuel under the rocketship sign of the Holiday station. Then up to the SNU for one last visit with Suzanne's mom, and the hugs were especially tight knowing we wouldn't likely be seeing her for another year.

After giving our best to Grandma Lois, we drove on out the 15 miles or so to Vicki and Pete's little hideaway near the small town of Skanee, an area previously notable in earlier days as the place where all those Ford "woodies" began their lives as genuine logs in a forest. At their woodsy little camp, we were fed burgers, dogs, and yummy macaroni salad as the Lake Superior waters lapped in the far distance. Duncan loved riding his tricycle on the green forest floor - and then got a bigger thrill when Peter put him on the four-wheeler ATV and took his helmeted head for a high-speed spin through the trees ("faster! faster!") Then an interesting chat about long-term family issues into the evening hours as a black and white kittycat wandered in and purringly decided to make this camp her new favorite place for a while (you're cute, but off the upholstery!) and then it was time to think about heading back to Trout Creek for the evening.

We said bye-bye, jumped in the truck, turned on the engine and the headlights...

and then looked at the voltmeter, which was reading 11.0 and dropping fast - and the ammeter didn't look too happy either.

OK, no problem. We are always prepared for most (OK, some) contingencies, even in the middle of the Yooper woods, and we even carry a complete spare alternator and tools for just this situation. With Pete and Pete's help, the ratchets whirred and the bolts spun, and we had the spare alternator in place in about 15 minutes. So now we were really ready to go, turned on the engine, and...

Uh-oh. Single-digit voltages are not what we are looking for here.

OK, now it's time for the big boys to go into Serious Troubleshooting Mode (with our new kitty friend as supervisor). Swap the other alternator back again? Done. Bypass the isolator? Done. Check & bypass the primary circuit breaker? Done. Test & jumper the alternator plug & leads. Uh-huh. Crank it up! Darn. Now what? Try something else - oops, sorry about the sparks. Richard has never yet had an electrical problem on this vehicle that he couldn't rectify, band-aid, or jury-rig, and tonight he had the help of multiple Martinacs also versed in the ways of internal combustion.

Well, maybe not tonight.

At a quarter past twelve, after some consultation with the command staff, the order was given to abandon truck, and we transferred our flag and a few belongings (and two suspect alternators) to Vicki's Subaru for a drive back to L'Anse and an emergency stay in the Martinacs' main home until tomorrow morning, when additional diagnosis could be performed as soon as the auto parts stores opened and brains could think clearly again.

A fun U.P. day - well, except for that last part...

More pictures from Days 32-33 here!

Day 33 - Thursday, July 10th, 2008
L'Anse and Skanee, MI to Trout Creek, MI
76 miles

(we continue this Very Special Episode, already in progress)

The original plan was for Richard to get in one last glorious bicycle ride on the open highways of Upper Michigan before this stage of the trip was through.

Well, not this time. Kinda hard to do when the bike is 50 miles away, and far too many urgent items in the immediate now.

Richard instead rolled out of an unfamiliar bed and drove over to the local auto parts store right after opening time to commence today's truck-resuscitation activities. Here he received some bad news disguised as good news: both alternators tested out just fine - which means the problem lurked elsewhere under the cavernous hood. Time to drive back to Skanee with those two good 'nators, 20 new feet of 10 gauge wire, and an attitude focused on finding and fixing this problem (that, and avoiding deer on the way - hello, little fawn, now get off the roadway and find your mama...)

The hood was reopened, the alternator was reinserted, wires were cut, spliced, tested, jiggled, and pounded upon - and the problem persisted, with only 0-5 meager volts sputtering out of the terminal on the back. Now admittedly the Skanee woods are not the worst place in the world to work on a truck, and certainly beats the sizzling heat of Phoenix, and the audience (hello, kitty cat, I see you brought your friend Wet Dog to help too!) was friendly, but it was becoming clear that perhaps professional intervention was required. The plan was to start up and limp into L'Anse to the mechanic's driveway, and so we started the engine, backed up...

...and about 50 feet down the road the gauges veered back into positive territory, the alternator started humming away in full charging mode, and everything was working just fine.

Oooooooookay. We'll take our small victories (even inadvertent ones) where we can find 'em. A subsequent check-out at the expert hands of Jay at J & R Automotive turned up no clues to either the failure or unfailure, and so his advice of "drive it, see how it works, and replace the alternator if it really does fail" seemed sufficiently wise.

We returned to Trout Creek in our seemingly A-OK vehicle only 14 hours behind schedule, and immediately began pre-departure activities to prepare for our last several days (and one more meeting) out on the road. Over the past two weeks or so, the contents of truck have been strewn across the house and yard (and in the case of some sunglasses, left in a Subaru, but that's what parcel post is for). Now it was time to round it all up and pack it away in a compact and organized manner - while simultaneously filing papers, backing up computers, doing too many loads o' laundry, and keeping one small child out of too much trouble. The timetable was also affected by some droppers-by who wanted to say farewell in person, and we appreciated their company knowing we wouldn't see them for a while (and we'll just catch up later). The sun set as we bustled and busied around (you mean it's almost 10 already?) and we finally gave up exhausted a couple hours after the Upside Down Show flipped off.

Duncan and the colorful choo-choo from a few days ago

More pictures from Days 32-33 here!

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