Our satellite dish almost flew away

We’re currently camped near San Antonio, Texas.  Usually once we’ve pulled into a campsite, after putting down the levelers and putting out the slides, I start the water heater and then start the search function for the satellite dish (their buttons are right next to each other on the control panel).  I’d asked for a satellite dish-friendly spot in the campground because it doesn’t have cable TV, but after 15 minutes the satellite dish hadn’t locked onto a satellite.  Although there was a tree nearby it didn’t really look like it was in the way but I wasn’t overwhelmingly positive I knew which direction the satellite was located in.  I figured I’d have to move the motor home backwards about 5 or 6 feet in order to miss the tree (PITA since I’d already hooked everything up) but I decided to put that off for a bit later since I had other things to do first.

I took a walk over to the campground office to take care of some paperwork and when I came back I had a WTF moment: our satellite dish was standing on one side.

Satellite Dome 2014-10-19 09.49.12

No wonder it couldn’t lock onto the DirecTV satellite, it was pointed sideways!

When I got up on the roof of the motor home it was evident that we hadn’t hit something (and we probably would have heard a loud clunk if we had) it had just come loose.  Not totally surprising after 6 or 7 years of road vibration.  I re-attached it to its brackets and tightened the screws and nuts as hard as I could.  Once it was flat again it had no problem finding the DirecTV satellite.

Even if it had come completely loose it probably wouldn’t have fallen off the roof since it is attached by several sturdy cables but it could have damaged the cables if it had and that would probably have been an expensive repair.  This has been a year for repairs and we were fortunate this time that I noticed the problem before it became serious and that I was able to fix it myself.

The Big E

The Eastern States Exposition is like a state fair, but for all of New England and it’s on steroids.  It’s been over ten years since we last came but it doesn’t seem to have changed a bit.  We came on a Tuesday, so the crowds weren’t all that bad.

Big E 08

As usual there were lots of places selling food that probably wasn’t all that good for you but that’s part of the attraction.

Big E 04

I indulged myself with a triple-pig sandwich: pulled pork, sausage and bacon.

Big E 06

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Eastport Pirate Festival, 2014

The Pirate Festival is probably Eastport’s biggest event of the year.  All the locals seems to participate in it and it draws a lot of visitors.  The campground we are staying in went from less than half full to completely full in a day and we’re glad we had reservations far enough in advance to have a spot.

A lot of people that come to the Pirate Festival have put together elaborate costumes so people watching is a big part of the fun.

Eastport Pirate Parade 06

Eastport Pirate Parade 04

Eastport Pirate Parade 09

Eastport Pirate Parade 05

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Rachel and Scott visit

Rachel and Scott drove up from Boston to visit us in Eastport.  They stayed in a local B&B and we fed them from our grill while they were here.  It was overcast but otherwise nice and we spent most of the day outside talking.

Unfortunately the photos didn’t come out all that well.  I’d like to blame somebody else but it was my camera and believe it or not these are the best of all of those taken.

Rachel and Scott


Richard, Rachel and Susan
Richard, Rachel and Susan

Waste not, want not

We saw grasses growing next to the highway all through South Dakota.  They weren’t weeds, but looked a lot more like escaped crops.  It’s even possible that they had been planted deliberately because in several places we saw them being harvested and rolled up like alfalfa or other feed grains.  Regardless, of how it got there it is apparent that the South Dakotans are very frugal and didn’t let it go to waste.

Waste not want not

Gated highways

We saw these gates across the highways all through Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. The highway on-ramps also had gates and signs that said that ignoring them would get you a $1000 fine.

Gated Highway

They close the gates during the winter when the blizzards have dropped so much snow so fast that they can’t keep the highways plowed.  And here we thought winters in New England were bad!  We’re even happier knowing we’re going to be spending the winter far, far away from gates like these.

Mount Rushmore

I visited Mount Rushmore on a cross-country trip with my family about 50 years (!!) ago.  All of the buildings and walkways below that were below it when we visited have been replaced, probably recently still they all look new,  and my first thought when I saw them was that they’d built a shrine.  Well, I was right since that’s what they are calling it now, a ‘Shrine to America’.

Mount Rushmore 1

I thought it was a bit over the top but then so is Mount Rushmore when you come right down to it.

Mount Rushmore 2

There was a modestly-sized museum about the sculptor Gutzon Borglum that also showed how the monuments were constructed and the events of the time period that led to its construction.  There were also a couple of stores where you could buy T-shirts, books and other souvenirs, a restaurant and a ice cream shop.

Mount Rushmore is an iconic piece of Americana and since Susan has never seen it before and it had been 50+ years since I had and we were in the area how could we pass it up?

We had entered Mount Rushmore from the south and left heading north.  Almost as soon as we got outside of the Mount Rushmore monument property we passed through a town that was constructed entirely of hotels, restaurants and tourist traps of one kind or another. A bit further down the road was the Cosmos (a mystery spot type of place), a reptile farm, a dinosaur park, a bear park, Crystal Caverns and several mines with tours.  We also must have passed a half dozen Mount Rushmore or Gutzon Borglum Museums (no admission fee!!) along the way as well.  Overall, I’d say the whole area is an epic monument to Americana.

Still, we are glad we came and visited Mount Rushmore.  There was an $11 parking fee and we’d give it an A- for handicap accessibility, dinking it only a bit because some of the wheelchair ramps were a bit steeper than they should have been.

Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, Custer State Park, South Dakota

The campground that we’re staying at in Spearfish, South Dakota had some suggestions for scenic tours of the area.  They suggested that if you wanted to visit Mount Rushmore, to take a route that went through Custer State Park.  The route included Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road, and this turned out to be one of the most interesting – and scenic – drives we’ve ever had.

Needles Highway was advocated and developed during the 1930’s by a local politician and conservationist, Peter Norbeck.  It was specifically designed to complement the work being done at Mount Rushmore and has several views designed to frame the sculptures there.   We didn’t know this when we took the route, just that it had been recommended as scenic.

To get there we first drove through Deadwood, which I suppose because of its history is now a big tourist attraction.  There aren’t many old buildings however, but instead a lot of relatively new and faux western casinos, hotels and shopping malls.  Deadwood is long and narrow because it is in somewhat of a canyon and it took us a while to get all the way through it.  After that we drove quite a distance through forested and hilly terrain until we finally got to Route 87, which is Needles Highway.

Needles Highway 03 Weathered Rocks

At the start, there were several signs warning that the road was narrow with many tight switchbacks and hairpin turns,  and that there were several tunnels that were only 8 feet wide and 9 feet tall.  The road immediately started climbing rather steeply and we started seeing granite outcrops more and more frequently.  The road quickly delivered on the sign’s promises with some of the sharpest switchbacks we’ve ever seen.  The road itself was about 1-3/4 lanes wide so you had to be careful when there were cars coming the other direction.   When we came to the tunnels they were only one lane wide so you had to sound your horn and look carefully before going through them.  A little ways after going through the first tunnel we found ourselves in among the “needles”, which are small and large rock spires.

Needles Highway 04 Needles

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