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Travelogue -- First Boondocking!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

After The Badlands, we were all very hot and very tired from driving 2000 miles in 5 days in a vehicle that must be driven no faster than 55 MPH unless conditions are ideal, in which case it can go a whopping 60 MPH. We'd come a long way, sleeping only in Walmarts and a rest area, and those were not the most restful nights (although they weren't as bad as Diane had feared). Todd decided it was time to use the Big Rolling Crate for its intended purpose: Camping!

We refreshed our provisions in Rapid City and then drove up into Black Hills National Forest for some boondocking. Boondocking, also known as dispersed camping, is something foreign to most folks on the East Coast where there's no wide open land to roam, but here in the West it is common. In National Forests and other Bureau of Land Management areas, you can drive down certain types of "roads" into the wilderness and make a camping spot of your own choosing, totally free of cost. 

Most RVs can't do this sort of camping because those vehicles aren't made for off-roading, but we are driving a change-on-the-fly 4WD diesel with six wheels and serious tires. Our limiting factors are ground clearance (ok but not great) and weight (we weight almost 10,000 pounds). After studying a map of the Black Hills, Todd got some ideas and we were off.

But not so fast, it turns out, as climbing the steep grades into the hills nearly made us overheat. Twice. Thankfully Todd was paying close attention and we pulled over and cooled off before anything bad happened.  We also learned how to prevent this on future hills (because if we can't tackle the Black Hills we have no hope in the Rockies!), which is to gear down to 3rd. Actually there's a sticker inside the driver's door that Todd only noticed after this near-disaster that said specifically, "Do not use overdrive for steep climbs."

The off-reading was quite bumpy but also exciting and the truck handled well. Todd made Diane get out and video the truck rumbling along while he videoed with his Go-Pro. Todd's going to make an epic DIY TopGear-style video at the end of the trip.

Once we found a site, around 5 o'clock, we settled in and Todd's vision for the Big Rolling Crate really came together. He unhooked the bikes, installed screen panels he'd built for the back doors, set up an awning for shade over the back, and we had a lovely home away from home.

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