Tag Archives: RV

The Little Big Horn

During our Trip of a Lifetime, we did not visit a single place that did not generate conversation around the supper table or campfire at the end of the day.  We discussed the bone chilling truths of the Minuteman Missile Historical Site in Interior, South Dakota; the treasures found in the Buffalo Bill Museums in Cody, Wyoming; the mystical metric system we encountered in Canada; and the incredible talent of a twelve-year-old female fiddle player in Mountain View, Arkansas.  From man-made history and marvels to the beauty carved by the hand of God in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota; Banff National Park, Canada; Glacier National Park, Montana; and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, we spoke of it all, sometimes with excitement and sometimes in reverent awe.  Yet, the stop that generated the most conversation, immediately and for many days afterwards, was The Battle of the Little Big Horn National Park in Montana.  The place where Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the United States 7th Calvary met their Waterloo June 26, 1876.

The Little Big Horn Battlefield challenged every belief we held of the famous battle.  Although we did not realize it until we surveyed the battlefield and read the markers, listened to a native American guide, and visited the museums, our perceptions of the battle, from childhood to adulthood, had been schooled and skewed to be politically correct, twisted by racial ignorance, and warped by Hollywood theatrics that took liberties with the truth.  The markers, museums, and guide presented us our first unbiased truth – the 7th Calvary was not all good nor were the Sioux Indians all bad.  Atrocities took place on both sides; Indians scalped and disemboweled bodies of fallen soldiers, as well as cut the tips of Custer’s fingers from his hands, but only after the 7th Calvary desecrated their burial grounds and fired the first shots of the battle into tipis along the Little Big Horn River killing defenseless women and children.

Last Stand Hill itself, the site of Custer’s fall, also presented a different picture than the one we were taught in school and saw in the movies.  Rather than riding their ponies in circles around and through the outnumbered soldiers, the Sioux, many of them armed with Henry or Winchester repeater rifles given to them by the United States government to hunt buffalo, lay concealed in the tall yellow grass or along nearby hills picking off Custer and his men much like an old-time turkey shoot.  Not until the besieged soldiers, armed only with single-shot, breech-loading Springfield carbines and Colt revolvers, ran out of ammunition did the Sioux warriors swarm over Custer and his men.   When the struggle was finished, 268 men of the United States 7th Calvary, including Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, and an estimated 40 to 60 Sioux warriors, including 6 women and 4 children lay dead on the battlefield.

With every step, we took through the park, our perception of Lieutenant Colonel Custer’s last stand and the final fleeting glory of the American Indian gained a bit more clarity.  The gallant Hollywood image of Custer, revolvers blazing in each hand, as he made his final stand against incredible odds, melted as we scanned the landscape from the ridge where Custer and his men perished to the Little Big Horn River below where thousands of Sioux Indians once camped.  For us, one of America’s most provocative myths, the June 26, 1876 Battle at the Little Big Horn, died.  It was replaced by bloody truths provoked and reciprocated on both sides.   It was the day a new America of white settlers, soldiers, and Washington, D.C. politicians and aristocrats in top hats endured its worst battlefield defeat at the hands of Native Americans; the day the sun set on the old America of native sons hunting and living off the land.  The Battle of the Little Big Horn ushered in a new era where all Americans, new and old, became forever locked under a veil of distrust, dishonor and deceit.

That is not to say, the men of the 7th Calvary and the Sioux nation who died on the battlefield were not men of honor; soldiers and Indians alike died believing they were right.  Their bravery should never be questioned, but the underlying dishonorable political and self-serving greed of the new Americans that sent the 7th Calvary to provoke the battle should be questioned and never forgotten.  The Little Big Horn resolved nothing.  For the new America, the violation of fallen bodies on the battlefield, gave credibility to breaking treaties with Godless heathens, and helped them justify their own barbarism at a place called Wounded Knee.  To the old America, the merciless slaughter of the 7th Calvary temporarily vindicated them against a treacherous “forked-tongue” enemy that looked upon them as less than human.  However, in the end, any credibility or vindication claimed by either side was short-lived.  No one won at Little Big Horn; the new America lost its honor, and the old America lost its way of life.

JL

©Jack Linton, September 11, 2017

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The Trip of a Lifetime:  Close Calls and Shady RV Dealers

The morning after visiting the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, we continued our journey west toward The Black Hills of South Dakota.  However, the night before we left our campground in Wall, South Dakota, I was making final checks for the next leg of our journey when I discovered my right front trailer tire once again had very low tire pressure, so I pulled out the air compressor and filled the tire for the second time since the start of the trip.  By the next morning the tire pressure had dropped from 50 psi to 35 psi, so I pumped air into it for a third time, and told my wife we needed to get it checked soon.  Obviously, the tire had a slow leak and needed to be repaired or maybe, replaced.  My friend was also having some minor problems with his tow hitch, so he called Camping World in Rapid City, South Dakota, and made an appointment for both of us.

Camping World took care of the hitch issue for my friend, but after inspecting my tire, they found a small split in the corner of the tire tread and the side wall that could not be plugged or replaced since they did not have the size tire my trailer needed in stock.  As it turned out, that was a blessing.  I drove the camper to Dale’s Tires a couple of exits down Interstate 90 from Camping World where they graciously worked me into their busy schedule.  The manager of the store was a hoot!  He joked and made wise cracks the whole two hours my wife and I were in his store.  Jim was by far the best part of our day.

Two hours later we were on our way to Custer, South Dakota.  Two hours to change a tire?  Well, as it turned out I didn’t need one tire – I needed four new tires.  In addition to the right front tire being replaced, the old hippie (literally an old hippie) working on my tires called me to the shop to show me the condition of the other tires.  The right rear tire had splinters of steel protruding in several places from the rubber on the inside tread.  Both tires on the left side of the trailer were rounded rather than flat and bulging.  It was a miracle we made it as far as we did on those tires.  That one or more of those tires had not blown was a testament to a guardian angel watching over and traveling with us.

Although I was thankful we had not been stranded on the side of the road or rolled over in a ravine, I also felt anger.  Prior to leaving for the trip I took my camper to the dealership where I bought it for a complete check over.  I specifically asked them to inspect the tires and replace any of the tires that showed undue wear or stress.  The dealership gave the tires a clean bill of health, and said there were no problems.  I asked the old hippie if the problems he found with my camper’s tires could have developed over maybe 1500 miles, and he said one tire failing or even two was possible, but the probability of all four tires going bad during that span was slim.  Based on the tire evidence he saw, he said the tires should have been replaced before we left home, and whoever inspected them should have made that recommendation.  The dealership did not, which chalked up yet another point in my growing suspicions that many RV (recreational vehicle) dealers do not take the safety of their customers seriously.  Get the customer in, take his money, and get him out as quickly as possible seems to be a growing trend in the RV world.  On the other side of the coin, I am as much to blame as the dealer.  I should not have put so much faith in the word of the dealership and paid closer attention to the tires!  Fortunately, luck and my guardian angel gave me a second chance to take care of my own backside and not depend so much on others.  Next time, I will trust my travel trailer tires to places like Dale’s Tires (Firestone) or Goodyear for inspection and service.  In the future, if I am going to trust anyone, it will be the experts.

After the hitch and tires issues, our trip continued without further mechanical problems until we reached Great Falls, Montana.  While in Great Falls, my friend’s camper developed a pooper valve issue (black water tank).  The valve handle stripped and the black water tank began to leak nasty stuff, so once again, we found ourselves seeking a place for repairs.  My buddy, located a local RV center that would work him in on a busy Saturday morning.  The valve issue turned out to be a minor fix, but the mechanic discovered the camper’s running lights were not working.  A travel trailer without running lights is a serious problem and must be addressed immediately, so the mechanic spent two and one-half hours working on the issue.  Finding the cause of the problem was not easy, but finally, he found a short in the camper wiring and applied a temporary fix until we get home in early September.  My friend and his wife were elated the issue had been resolved – until they saw the bill.  The cost of no parts and two and one-half hours of labor was a whopping $590.00.  Luckily, my friend’s camper is still under warranty, and he will get at least a portion of the bill reimbursed.  However, I couldn’t help but wonder if the exorbitant bill was just another example of shady practices by a RV dealer.  I mean is $590 for two and one-half hours of labor reasonable, or did this particular dealer stick it to an out of town traveler, or was the dealer simply milking the warranty?  I can’t help but believe it’s one of the latter two if not both.  Either way is just as shady as not properly inspecting my camper’s tires as requested.

There are three guarantees when camping in a travel trailer that can lead to close calls or worse: shady dealers, the unexpected, and RVers who depend too much on others for their safety.  A great lesson the four of us have learned is to look out for ourselves and each other.  Now, we check and double check everything before taking to the road: hookups, rollups, put-ups, engine service, hitches, tires, and lights.  We are no longer in a rush to break camp; we check behind one another before leaving.  To have a successful and safe road trip, we have learned we must be our neighbor’s keeper or at least constantly looking over his shoulder.  The more eyes looking for potential problems the better.  Lesson learned!

JL

©Jack Linton, July 26, 2017