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Boom Shakalaka

I had to squint against the whiteness that glowed up at me from the grass. Cricket and countless other nameless bug buzzings rose from the green fields that sprawled out to the horizon in every direction. A drip of sweat itched my skin on its way down my cleavage and the sun was doing its best Top Chef impersonation, executing a nice sear on my forehead.

There was an appropriate cringing, but I couldn’t stop my rebellious eye from following the line of the crevasse down into the darkness. Suddenly his hand reached around and grabbed his denim waste band. He yanked it up hard and smacked himself. It seems the large red ants that had been crawling up my ankles, were also finding their way down the exposed glowing white butt crack of the tow truck driver who was lying beneath our RV in the middle of nowhere Montana.


My mom and I had apparently BOTH engaged in jinxing activity that day. Independently we’d had the same thought – “Gee, how lucky we’ve [they’ve] been that we [they] haven’t had a flat tire or anything.” Boom! Shakalakalaka. That “lakalaka” sound was the tread of the right inside rear tire flapping madly into the undercarriage of our RV until it finally separated itself from us and landed like a giant black orange peel in the road. There were no cars in sight on the narrow two lanes of well-worn asphalt that we had been traveling, so there was no added panic involved in slowing down and coming to a stop. This was a good thing, because my hysterical heart was already thumping my eyes out of their sockets.

We’ve mentioned that our RV is loud. We’ve mentioned that the RV does not have the smoothest ride. I’ve mentioned that I’m a nervous driver. Well. The Boom Shakalaka experience took all of that to Defcon 5, but luckily it was under 2 minutes from boom to us limping off down the grassy hill that was available on the side of the road. I found the most level spot, turned the ignition off and Ali and I sat still and stared at each other for a moment. We both got out of the rig and wandered around in shock, taking inventory of ourselves, collecting the shreds of black tire that littered the road and met each other at the back of the RV, at the dead tire.

Ali said, “Good job. You did everything right.”
“Thanks”, I said. “We’re really in the middle of nowhere though.”
“I know,” she said. “I only have one bar on my phone.”
“And it’s really frickin’ hot,” I added.
She said, “I’ll call Roadside Assistance.”
I said, “I’ll get the Tequila.”


When we found out that help would be there in an hour and a half, we did crack open a cold beer to share while we waited. It was a “do a little dance” moment when we finally saw the red tow truck crest the hill and head toward us. I wanted to watch the tire change process, but I was sweating like crazy and since we’d pulled over onto the largest ant colony in Montana, they were all out introducing themselves and taking a nibble of the new meat that had arrived. So while “Mooney Maggee” jacked up the rig and tried to guard his nether-regions, I escaped to the SUV, turned the engine on and blasted the A/C. I simply embraced my inner princess, while Ali held her post as the TCB Babe that she is.

The tire-blow-out day was our second in a fast-paced four-day trek to get to South Dakota. We’d planned three one-night stays, four hours of driving each day. First we stopped in Great Falls, MT, then Billings, MT and the following day we landed in Sheridan, WY before finally passing through Deadwood, SD on our way to Rapid City, SD which would be our home-base for a welcome four day rest near Mount Rushmore.

Despite the pushy schedule and the tire incident, we did manage to get out in the afternoons after the long drives to see what these towns had to offer. Our campground in Great Falls backed up right against the bike path along the Missouri River, so we waited until the worst of the heat had passed before riding an hour up the river to see the falls.





To be honest, I can’t remember a damn thing about the Billings campground or what we did that night after the tire blowout. I think I was just so glad to be safe and not driving anymore that my mind ended the day there. Ali has told me a couple of times what we did, but I’ve forgotten it again this morning, so screw it.

In Sheridan Wyoming, however I have a crystal clear memory of our afternoon at their city pool which happens to be next to a large grazing field for buffalo. Only in Wyoming can you find a water slide with a view of a baby buffalo. It was so hot when we checked into our campground that the host made a joke (at least I think it was a joke) about putting us right next to the biggest RV so that we’d get a little shade. No trees at this campground, just dirt and full sun. Is it any wonder we spent the entire afternoon at the pool?




The following morning we woke up giddy with excitement at the prospect of being in one place for FOUR days. We didn’t always hook everything up on these one-nighters, but there’s still enough work involved to wear you out a bit, plus more chances for bruises and scrapes. On that final drive day we stopped in Deadwood, an old gold mining town, turned tourist trap, that was featured in one of my favorite HBO productions, Deadwood (worth renting, for sure – if only because of Calamity Jane!).






We had to escape the heat by ducking into the Historic Franklin Hotel which boasted the most elegant interior of all the offerings on Main Street. Where the others had dark rooms, stuffy smells and walls laden with taxidermy, the Franklin was light and fancy – chandeliers, plush carpeting, and free drinks while you lost all your money on Wheel of Fortune. We got the last laugh though. We stayed long enough to have two free drinks each then promptly won $100, cashed out and left!

Later that evening, just as a monster thunder and lightening storm was building up steam, we finally pulled the RV into the Rapid City KOA, site of the infamous pink underpants robbery. Our mad dash across the northwest was over. In the morning we would venture out to find the Presidents!