We have a plan

Mercy continues to impress. We’ve run this ten-year-old Jeep through a variety of everyday tests, on paved roads and unpaved tracks, and we feel not a whiff of regret. We made a good decision, and we definitely can see our orange toad sticking around for a while — even when its duty as a toad is through.

Looking into the future, our American Life may not include a Class A motorhome like Ernie. Our Tacomas won’t be around forever. We’ll want to travel, and maybe we’ll tow something. I looked into the tow rating of a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and found that the answer was either an anemic 1,000 pounds or a modest 3,500 pounds.

The difference? An optional factory-installed “tow package,” at the heart of which is a 3.73 rear-axle ratio. (The standard ratio that year was 3.21.) I could’ve crawled under our Jeep to look for the tag on the rear differential, but instead I did some Internet sleuthing and found a way to download Mercy’s original build sheet.

Jackpot — we’ve got a three seventy-three.

That gives our Wrangler a little more than half my Tacoma’s towing capacity (6,400 pounds), which means we won’t be tugging the Bumper Bunker (GVWR 5,125 pounds) with it. At least we have the higher rating. I’m pretty sure we can work with that.

We did have one problem with Mercy the other day. Deb slid behind the wheel, turned the ignition key and, before she could start the engine, the windshield wipers began wiping the windshield. She reached to turn the switch off, but it already was off. The only way to stop the wipers was to turn the key off.

We laughed.

I got out, raised the hood, popped the lid off the power-distribution block, pulled the fuse and waited a few minutes before putting it back. Deb turned the key — the wipers were back to normal.

We laughed again. It really was comical.

Charting our course is tougher and more time-consuming than you might think, especially in a crazy year like this one. It can be downright maddening at times. By the time we paused on Tuesday we’d pressed our itinerary as far as western South Dakota, just east of the Wyoming border.

Today we resumed planning, facing a literal and figurative crossroads. Which way? What next?

See, we have the time and the freedom to go everywhere we want to go. We’re constrained only by the seasons, the capabilities of our rig, our own physical abilities and our personal preferences. That said, I cringe every time I read about some RVing family who crammed 15 destinations and 12,000 miles into three weeks — hell, that’s just checking boxes, and that’s not us.

We prefer quality to quantity. We take “down days” to refresh and re-charge. When we arrive at a place, unless it’s merely a waypoint, we like a bit of immersion, the time to explore, opportunities to be surprised.

It’s a mindset that’s paid off.

We agreed today on our direction from South Dakota. As usual, I plotted the physical route, Deb (who understands my daily mileage thresholds) researched options for overnighting, and then both of us made phone calls and visited websites.

At one point she came to me with a suggestion for a particular campground on Labor Day weekend. She didn’t know — she couldn’t’ve known — that I’d been there before, first in 1974 and again in 1978. My memories of the place, of magnificent mountains arrayed behind a serene lake, are indelible.

I gave her a hug. She dialed the phone. We got in.

We’ll be there six nights.

My friends, we’re headed to Montana. If all goes well we’ll make it as far as Glacier, where (in a couple of different campgrounds) we’ll spend a total of eight nights.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m pretty emotional about that. I found my soul in those mountains — and left it behind — 43 years ago.

When we roll out of the northern Rockies in mid-September, we’ll be 1,800 miles and 30 days from reservations back here in The Ozarks. We’ve given ourselves permission to not worry about how we’ll get here — not yet, anyway.

After dinner this evening we swung by Hudson’s Supermarket for groceries. The store was busier than when we shopped there the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was no less friendly, no less American.

We missed Banana Day yesterday, but there were free donuts. Red-shirted helpful staff were everywhere. There was a bag boy at every cashier. People we’ve never seen before greeted us with a smile, as if we were old friends.

Is it any wonder that we’re looking forward to coming back here in the fall?

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath