Shaken, not stirring

It was still dark when we opened our eyes in Terre Haute yesterday morning. That struck me as odd ’til I realized where we were — dawn arrives later (on the clock) at the western edge of a time zone, almost an hour behind our sunup a day before.

We dumped tanks, undocked, pulled slides in and got underway by 8:30am. Since we finished Wednesday’s 200-mile leg without pausing for diesel, our first stop was a Pilot Travel Center 15 miles east in Brazil, Indiana. The place was jammed, a dozen big rigs backed up onto the access road — three of the truck stop’s seven lanes were out of order.

We waited an hour to pump our 28 gallons and get back on the road. The price, after our discount, was a budget-shattering $5.109. Let’s go, Brandon.

Interstate 70 brought us to I-465, which took us around the south side of Indianapolis and back to I-70. We missed rush hour, technically, but traffic was heavy anyway. Complicating matters and slowing our progress was highway construction, all of it bridge and overpass repairs. Repeatedly our speed was reduced to a walking pace, often bringing us to a complete stop.

After four hours on the road we’d covered just 115 miles.

Eventually we cleared the last of the work zones and forged east toward the Ohio border, taking a break at the state welcome center. I stepped outside to stretch my legs and snap a couple of photos of a landscape I’ve known since childhood.

Ohio always will be where I’m from.

Highways in this part of the country, thanks to harsh winters and poor maintenance, are notorious for being in sad shape. Indiana’s and Ohio’s roads can be annoying in a passenger vehicle and downright disconcerting in a motorhome.

A bus like Ernie is basically a house riding on top of a heavy-duty truck. While chassis, suspension and tires keep everything under control, when the road gets rough the coach clatters and shakes like it’s about to come apart.

To see (and hear) what I mean, check out the video Deb shot yesterday as we entered Franklin County, Ohio — we’re tracking straight and true at 65mph, and the structure of the coach isn’t in jeopardy, but the racket becomes torture after a while.

In 727 miles we went from the relative peace and easy pace of the uncrowded Ozarks to urban sprawl, bone-rattling roads and the manic tempo of a place we’ve lived for the better part of two decades. Shortly before 4pm, with Deb radioing me guidance, I backed Ernie up the driveway at Second Chance Ranch and shut down the big diesel.

Four days short of a year since we embarked on our “shakedown cruise,” 321 days after sailing into “blue water,” our unforgettable journey came to an end.

Scout and Dipstick knew exactly where they were even before we opened Ernie’s door and let them out to sniff the ground. They seem relieved to have a house to prowl again and a bed on which to chill. It feels pretty good to us, too.

Naturally, we were exhausted. We had plans, however, to go out for dinner. I walked up to my Tacoma and thumbed the remote.

Nothing. Dead battery.

If you’re thinking we could’ve taken Deb’s truck instead, parked on the other side of the driveway, I should tell you that [ — REDACTED — ].

So I unlocked my truck with its mechanical key, and for an hour we tried to jump it to life, ultimately succeeding and heading toward a familiar destination.

When we walked through the door at Squeek’s Bar & Grill we didn’t recognize any of the St. Paddy’s Day crowd — but there was bartender Amy, who hug-rushed us before leading us back to the kitchen to surprise Stacey for a second round of embraces. We saw Brittney and April, too, and a little later Squeek came in.

We enjoyed warm conversations with all, catching up and catching a long-overdue dose of the Squeek’s Family vibe. Deb and I ordered burgers. It was heaven, the perfect bookend on our odyssey.

Around 7:30pm we made our way out to my truck. I pushed the start button.


Squeek brought his own truck over and gave us a jump. We got moving and made it back to Second Chance Ranch without further drama. I threw a charger on the Tacoma overnight. We’ll wait to see if that works or if I need a new battery.

Today, by intent, we’re doing absolutely nothing. We’re not moving. We owe it to ourselves, I think.

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

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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