Crisscrossing Montana (June 29 – July 8, 2017)

We finally received word that the replacement parts for our bent axle would arrive in Billings on July 5th so we had to rearrange our travel plans again. We decided to continue westbound to the next stop on our itinerary, Post Falls, Idaho. Post Falls (next to Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho) is only about 100 miles west of Glacier National Park as the crow flies. Unfortunately, the mountains prevented any direct travel and we ended up having to drive 234 miles to get there. About the last 80 miles were on I-90 but, due to road construction, sharp curves, and steep ascents and descents, our speed was well below the posted speed limits.

We spent three nights at the Coeur d’Alene RV Resort. The park was nice with adequate space for our vehicles and good amenities (although we really didn’t use any of them). The weather was in the mid-80s and was quite humid so this limited our activities somewhat.

On June 30 we drove the Lake Coeur d’Alene Scenic Byway that took us along the eastern rim of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Most of the drive was along cliffs overlooking the lake and was actually a little scarier than our drive along the Going-to-the-Sun highway at Glacier NP.

On July 1st we took a 90-minute boat cruise through the northern bays of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Although the weather was about 85 degrees and sunny, we sat out on the upper deck and enjoyed the scenery. Lake Coeur d’Alene is the second-largest lake in Idaho and has 135 miles of shoreline. We saw some beautiful homes along the lake, some of which can only be reached by boat. We passed a super-expensive condo complex (cheapest unit is $3.7 million). The complex includes a golf course with one green that floats in the lake and must be reached by boat.

Rather than drive Jan’s car to Billings, MT and back again (1,000 miles), we parked it for a week at an airport parking lot near Spokane, WA. On July 2nd we began our trip back east. We drove 240 miles and stopped for two nights at the Riverfront RV Park in Garrison, MT. This is the same campground where we camped from June 20-22 before heading to Glacier NP.

On July 3rd we visited the Grant-Kohrs Ranch in Deer Lodge, MT.  The Grant-Kohrs Ranch is a national historic site managed by the National Park Service. This working ranch is dedicated to preserving the history of the open range cattle industry whose heyday was from 1860 through 1890. Johnny Grant, a Canadian fur trader who was married to women of several Indian tribes at the same time, started the cattle ranch and built the “first good house” in Deer Lodge in 1862. Four years later, Grant sold the house to Conrad Kohrs and moved back to Canada. Kohrs began building his empire in the Deer Lodge Valley. In time, he owned a million acres of ranch land and ranged cattle on ten million acres of open rangeland from Colorado to Canada. Kohrs’ grandson and his wife, who resolved to preserve the ranch, artifacts, records and stories from the open range cattle era, turned the site over to the National Park Service in 1977.

We took a ranger-guided tour of the ranch house and then toured the grounds. Most of the buildings on the property contained historical artifacts from the open range era and details concerning the cowboy life. Later, we visited with the blacksmith where we learned about cattle brands and animal shoeing. We also visited the chuck wagon and learned about numerous responsibilities of the trail cook.

On July 4th we drove 267 miles back to the Pierce RV Supercenter in Billings, MT for our axle repair. We parked in the overnight parking area at the dealer. The temperature was in the upper 90s so we watched the fireworks in the neighboring communities from our living room windows rather than going outside.

On July 5th we arose early and had our rig ready to be worked on by 9:30. Phil checked in at the service counter and learned from Wes, our service rep, the part we had ordered from Mor/Ryde had arrived. However, we were surprised to learn that Mor/Ryde had not sent a replacement axle. Instead, they sent some sort of part that was designed to straighten the axle by stretching it from both ends. We watched as our rig was towed from our overnight parking spot into the shop. We then left and killed several hours in Billings, expecting the repair to be completed by the time we returned. Upon our return, we discovered that our rig was back in the overnight parking area. Initially this seemed like good news but, upon inspection of our axle, we could see no change. We checked with Wes and learned that the part received from Mor/Ryde was too long to fit in our rig. Pierce RV was waiting to get some direction from Mor/Ryde as to how they should proceed. We were frustrated that the Pierce RV personnel were relying on email communication with Mor/Ryde rather than calling on the phone. Mor/Ryde, being an Indiana-based manufacturer, is on Eastern time and is, thus, two hours ahead of Billings, MT. Since Pierce RV had not gotten any response from Mor/Ryde by mid-afternoon Billings time, it was obvious that nothing more would be done that day. With a high temperature of 100 degrees, we just stayed indoors rather than venturing out.

On July 6th we were again ready to be towed into the shop at 9:30 am. Unfortunately, Wes had called the office to let them know he would be late. In addition, Greg, the parts man who had been dealing with Mor/Ryde, also was late. No one else in either the service or parts department had any knowledge as to whether Mor/Ryde had responded with a solution. We spent the entire day sitting in our rig waiting for Wes to arrive. Phil checked with the service department several times throughout the day, each time being told that Wes was expected in shortly. Finally, at about 4 pm, Phil received a call from Wes who said that they had gotten a solution and that they would be able to fix our rig either later that afternoon or first thing the next morning. Two hours later, Phil checked with Wes and was told that our rig would be worked on at 8:30 am the next morning.

On Friday, July 7th, we arose at 6 am and went to the office at 8:30 am to let Wes know we were ready to be towed to the shop. We sat in the office for over an hour until we finally saw our rig being moved. Jan asked Wes how long he expected the repair to take and Wes said it would only take an hour or two. Based on this information, Phil made a campsite reservation for that evening in Garrison, MT, 267 miles from Billings. We killed a few hours in Billings but, upon our return, the work had still not be completed. After sitting in the waiting area for a long time, Jan asked Wes if there was any problem. Wes assured her that there was no problem but that the mechanics had been working on other rigs and now had gone to lunch. At about 3:30 pm, we saw our rig being towed back to the overnight parking area. We inspected the axle and it appeared that the repair had been completed. Phil went to the service department to check with Wes to see if we were good to go. Unfortunately Wes had left to go pick up a part and no one knew when he would return. Phil confirmed with another service tech that the work was complete so we decided to leave.

Before Picture of bent axle
After Picture of repaired axle

We finally got on the road to Garrison at 4:15 pm and arrived at Riverfront RV Park at 9:30 pm. We were exhausted and went straight to sleep.

On Saturday, July 8th, we packed up and prepared to complete our westward drive across Montana. Due to our two-day delay in getting our axle repaired, Phil had had to cancel a couple of reservations. Now we were faced with having no reservation for a Saturday night in July, which is not easy to come by. After striking out at several campgrounds, Phil found one with availability in Sprague, WA, about 25 miles past where we had left Jan’s car for the week. We drove 302 miles that day, picked up Jan’s car, and spent the night at the Sprague Lake RV Resort. The campground name was an exaggeration, as it was in no way a resort. However, it was on a lake and was quiet. Upon checking in, Phil learned that we would only have 30 amp electrical service. This meant that we could only run one of the air conditioners at a time, not good news given that it was 95 degrees when we arrived. We were just happy to have a place to spend the night and to finally be back on our travel schedule with our axle repaired. We cooled down the bedroom and went to bed early.

Sprague Lake Resort
Sprague Lake RV Resort campsite

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