Day 14 – Home

Thursday, Aug 25, 2016

When I got up, the ground was still wet and Braeden had evacuated the hammock during the night in an attempt to sleep in the tent.


We packed up the tents and were back on the road by 8 am. We drove for a couple of hours before we stopped for some brunch and then continued on our way.

There has been a lot of road construction going on during our travels. On the 100 km ( 60 mile ) section of Interstate 69 from Flint to Port Huron, there were 5 construction sites within a 20 mi (32 km ) stretch and another 2 being set up further on.

We had no issues at the border and we got through customs, 20 minutes after we reached the lineup. We continued our drive home, only stopping at the On-route for a short break. There was heavy rain in London and Hamilton. The rain and rush hour traffic slowed us down a bit but we safely arrived at the Miller residence at 5:30 pm. By 6 pm I was at home unpacking.

So after 2 weeks, 8000 km ( 5000 miles ) and 541 litres ( 143 US gal ) of gas, costing $520 ( $400 US ) and a fuel efficiency of 6.76 L/100 km (35 mpg) we finally arrived home.

Mackinaw to Home

It has been a great adventure. The work was very good, Spencer and Braeden were excellent work and travel companions and the sights were wonderful. Spencer, Braeden and I had many discussions about theology, politics, business and current events, plus we listened to thousands of different music from different generations and styles.

As you may have noticed, during the trip home, Spencer tried to find as many different poses he could think of for the pictures he was taking but this one was purely by accident. I call it the ” Weekend at Bernie’s ” imitation, or should I say ” Weekend at Ralf’s “.


So, although this adventure has ended, another one has begun.

While I was in Kamiah, I was asked if I would be willing to go to Saipan to help build houses that were destroyed by a Typhoon. I couldn’t think of any reason not to go and help and so I said ” Yes ” and then the ball started rolling down the hill. While we were travelling home, the emails, calls and paperwork was on the go. What I didn’t realize is that they wanted me to leave on September 1 because that is when they needed help. Two days ago, I received an email from FEMA ( Federal Emergency Management Agency ) inviting me to travel to the Commonwealth of Northern Marianna Island Saipan, MP for 3 weeks and participate in the repair/rebuild project from damages caused by Typhoon Soudelor in Saipan, so I am in the process of booking my flights. I am not sure what the conditions are there for internet, but I will try to start a new blog for this adventure, however, if I don’t have internet access, I may end up publishing the blog when I get back.

Stay tuned.


Day 13 – Jackson to Mackinaw

Jackson to Mackinaw

Wednesday, August 24

We got up a little earlier to get a head start on our day because it was going to be a travel day and we were only going to stop if we saw something that we wanted to check out.

It was a warm and slightly humid 23 C ( 73 F ) when we left Jackson Minnesota. We drove for several hours before stopping for a quick bite to eat, and then we continued on our way.

We headed east until we almost reached Lake Michigan and then as we went north around Lake Michigan we crossed into the eastern time zone and lost another hour before we crossed the long bridge to Mackinaw, Michigan where we stopped for the night. The KOA office was closed but the manager happened to be there and suggested we pick a site and contact the office in the morning to make our payment. We picked a site with a slightly higher elevation because it had rained before we arrived there and we wanted to have a site that would drain well.

We set up our tents; in the dark, as usual and it wasn’t long before we were asleep.

Tomorrow would be the last 7 hours of our journey home. So far it has been a great adventure for me.

Day 12 – Mt Rushmore to Jackson

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It was warm and dry when we woke up and we opted to have a pancake breakfast at the KOA before we drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial – .

When we arrived at the memorial, we sat through he introductory film and then took the bus ride to the mountain to see the progress of the sculpture. The story and facts behind the sculpture make it very interesting. The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high.

After the tour, we headed to the South Dakota Badlands National Park. At the turn-off to the Badlands we stopped at ” Wall Drug ” and had lunch at one of the local restaurants.

After lunch we drove through the park, taking pictures along the way. The Badlands are very impressive.


As we exited the Badlands we headed east and drove until dark. The forecast was for thunderstorms in the area and although we like to think that we are a hardy bunch, we decided to get a room for the night. I found a little motel that had very high ratings in Jackson so we went there and checked in. We were not disappointed. It wasn’t fancy, but it had everything we needed.

Mt Rushmore to Jackson

Day 11 – Cody to Mt Rushmore

Monday, August 22, 2016

We all had a good night sleep at the KOA in cody, especially since the temperature at night was 18 C ( 65 F ).

The KOA had free pancakes and coffee so we had breakfast before packing our tents. There were a few arrangements I had to make, so we were delayed about 30 minutes before we left.

Now let me tell you a story. There once was a couple of young cowboys named Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who were travelling east with their old uncle Festus. Sundance had taken the lead, riding a fine young stallion ( a new breed of stallion called Honda, I believe ) that he had borrowed from his old uncle Festus. They were galloping through the last of the mountains and the foothills and at one point the gang rode down on a road that lead through a Podunk ( ” a one horse town ” crossword puzzle answer ) with a population of no more than 50 people so Sundance slowed the gang down to a trot. It was like riding through a Clint Eastwood western. There was no one to be seen and nothing moved in the town. As they left the town, the sheriff came out of nowhere riding his black and white appaloosa and stopped Sundance. Now the sheriff was a relatively young man ( at least from Festus’ viewpoint ), possibly 40 years old, vertically challenged ( short, to the politically incorrect people ) and sporting a follicly-challenged goatee ( at least I think that’s what it was supposed to be). The sheriff questioned Sundance on whether he knew how fast his was travelling and Sundance answered him politely, realizing that he had slowed down to a trot but not quite down to a canter, however it was not and excessive speed. He was travelling at a trot and not a canter. It appeared obvious that, since it was the end of the month, he knew that Sundance was a foreigner passing through town and it wouldn’t be worth Sundance coming back to face the judge to plead his case for a few dollars, that he would be able to extort some money from Sundance. Sundance, knowing that the issue was too small to worry about, politely excepted the charges and moved on. It was at this point that Sundance remembered that he was wearing his Pa’s boots, which were quite heavy and had resulted in his Pa having a number of issues with the law. Now this is just a story and the names of the people in it are fictitious in order to protect their privacy.

Moving along, we reached Devils Tower shortly after lunch. We walked around the base, saw a stranded climber being assisted to safety and took some pictures of this iconic structure.


Some fun facts: Devils Tower (Lakota: Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí, which means “Bear Lodge” and “Brown Buffalo Horn”, respectively) is an laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains (part of the Black Hills) near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming. The Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The name Devil’s Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge when his interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God’s Tower, which then became Devil’s Tower.

When we left the tower, I slowly headed south-east since the car was indicating that the gas was almost empty. I hadn’t anticipated the possibility of no gas stations in the area and we had 50 km ( 30 miles ) to the nearest gas station. I ended up driving the last 15 km ( 10 miles ) with the gas gauge telling us that we had no gas left in the tank. We were relieved when we finally reached a gas station. I had always wondered how far I could drive when the gauge indicated ‘ 0 km to empty ‘. I still don’t really know, but it’s at least 15 km.

After filling the car with gas, we travelled a little more than an hour until we arrived at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Spencer and Braeden took some pictures of this iconic mountain carving, after which we had some supper at the adjacent restaurant and then drove to the KOA campground a short distance away.

We checked in, set up our tents in the dark, as usual and then the young lads took showers while I went to the registration area to charge my laptop and phone. While I was at the registration area, I met a couple from St. Catharines Ontario who were vacationing in the area and we talked until they staff closed the registration area at 10 pm.

We had decided to leave a little earlier the next day because there would be a time change during our travels east and we would lose an hour by the time we reached central South Dakota, so I decided to get to bed early. When I reached the tents, everything was dark, the sky was filled with stars and almost everyone in the this large campsite was already asleep, so I followed suit.

Cody to Mt Rushmore

Day 10 – Yellowstone and the Tetons

Sunday, August 22, 2016

It was a very cold restless night. I never really got to sleep for any length of time because some part of me was always cold, even though I was warmly dressed. When I checked the temperature at 7 am, it was 3 C ( 37 F ) but I am sure that it was colder than that during the evening.

Braeden was in the 2-man tent, I was in the small tent and Spencer was in his hammock.

When it was time for breakfast, I chiseled Spencer out of the ice in his hammock.

We drove to the ‘ Fishing Bridge RV Park ‘, had some breakfast at the diner, drove back to camp, packed up our tents ( and hammock ) and headed toward Old Faithful. On our way we saw another bison walking in front of a truck on the road, totally oblivious to the fact that he was holding up traffic.

When we got to Old Faithful, we walked on the boardwalk to see some of the other geysers in the park with the expectation that we would be back in time to see Old Faithful erupt at its scheduled time of 11:30 am.

Unfortunately, we weren’t quite back at 10:20 when it erupted and we only saw the end of the eruption. We decided not to wait for next eruption, so we headed south to Jackson Hole to see the Tetons.

We stopped at some of the pull-outs to take pictures of the magnificent Tetons on the way to Jackson hole. The Teton mountains are part of the Rocky mountains, south of Yellowstone National Park and they are higher than the Rockies in Yellowstone.

In Jackson Hole, we stopped for lunch and the walked around the town for a short while.

When we came to this sign and I just had to take a picture of the Miller boys in front of it.

When we left Jackson Hole, we headed back to Yellowstone and took some pictures of the Tetons.



As you can tell from the pictures, the Miller boys ( Butch Cassidy {Braeden} and the Sundance kid { Spencer} ) were having a contest to see how many different poses they could make at the various sights.

We drove through Yellowstone Park and headed towards Cody, Wyoming, where we planned to stay for the night.

Yellowstone to Cody

Day 9 – Missoula to Yellowstone Campsite

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Before we left Missoula, we stopped for breakfast at Paul’s Pancake House for breakfast. It was a popular spot and there was a bit of a lineup even though it was a large restaurant,but it as worth the 15 minute wait.

After breakfast we headed West and then south towards Yellowstone National Park.

When we got close to the park we saw some wonderful views but we could also see several forest fires burning in the park, which created a lot of smoke that we could smell in the car.

When we reached the town of West Yellowstone at the border of the park, I spotted a ” home-made ” ice cream store, which we naturally had to check out. After finishing our well-deserved ice creams, which were very good, we purchased our park ticket an we headed south towards Old Faithful. On the way we stopped to look at some elk, who were grazing on the opposite side of the Madison River that winds through the park.

As we got near Old Faithful, we some smaller geysers and the turquoise pools they created.

as well as the pools of algae that were created by the warm water from the geysers.

We skipped Old Faithful, deciding to see the next day and opted to head straight to the campgrounds to see if there were any sports available. Just before we reached the campground we saw our first, of many bison that we would see during our stay.

When we arrived at the campground around 5 pm and although it is very large, we were fortunate that there were still 8 spots available. We stood in line, signed in, set up our tents, hung up Spencer’s hammock to some trees and then headed to the nearby village to get something to eat. After we ate, we headed north to see a few more sights before it got dark. We still had enough time to take pictures of the “ canyon “. which had impressed me the last time I was here. When you take a picture of the canyon, it looks like an artist’s rendition of it because of the unusual colours of the rocks. A picture does not do it justice.

It got dark very quickly around 8:30 pm so we headed back to camp. The temperature had been in the mid 20’s C ( 70’s F ) during the day but it had quickly dropped down to 10 C ( 50 F ) after sunset.

Missoula to Yellowstone

Day 8 – Last Day in Kamiah

Friday, August 19, 2016

After breakfast, someone will typically share a devotion before we go to the job site. We have had inspiring devotions this week by Carl on Tuesday, Mark on Wednesday, Spencer on Thursday and Braeden today. Each one of the devotions led to interesting conversations, fellowship and sharing.

Before we went to the job sites, we took a group photo in front of the church.
IMG_2403 (1)

From left to right: Myself, Barbara Johnson , Mark Shibukawa, Richard Kropf, Carl Westphal,Clyde Hockman, Braeden Miller, Cletus Yoder, Spencer Miller.

We said our goodbyes to Clyde and Richard who left to go back home to Oregon and then headed to the job site to finish as much as we could before we left. When we got there, I went on the roof and finished attaching the ridge cap on the metal roof before it got to hot and then I finished the last piece of the porch deck before helping Cletus, Mark and Spencer with the rest of the drywall work. Braeden worked with Carl attaching the last of the small pieces of siding and then Braeden helped us inside with the drywall. At lunch Cletus took Carl back to camp so that he could make his way back to his home in Washington.

Just before 2 pm, Cletus returned to the house to show it to the new site director, Harold Miller, in order to familiarize him with the 3 different jobs at the Kamiah site.

We started to clean up the job site at 2 pm and by 3 pm we were headed back to camp, where we washed and vacuumed the 3 vehicles, cleaned our bunk area and washroom, took showers and then had a wonderful supper before we said our goodbyes and started the long road home. Cletus was planning to head to Kelowna, BC on Saturday morning before heading back home to Ohio. Barbara was planning to transition to working on the job site since another cook was coming to Kamiah next week. She was planning to stay a few more weeks before returning to Pennsylvania. Mark was planning to work another week before returning to Los Angeles.

We left the site at 6:45 pm and traveled down the long and winding road from Kamiah to Missoula.

Kamiah to Missoula

On the way, we had to stop to take a picture of the beautiful view of the river, winding through the mountains.

When the sun had set, we suddenly had a beautiful vision of the full moon, framed by the mountains and trees with a slight orange glow around it. It seemed to be larger and closer than normal to us and we were all surprised by its sudden appearance. We were listening to the song ” Dark Side of the Moon ” by Pink Floyd when we stopped to take pictures, none of which turned out because all it showed was a white spot in the dark. It was a ‘ Kodak moment ‘ but, unfortunately, we could not capture it the way our eyes saw it. The skies were so clear that we admired the stars and the constellations for a while before continuing on.

When we got close to Missoula, we finally got cell reception and we started to look for a place to stay. The KOA campsite was full so we opted to go to a hotel. We went to the Super8 recommended by TripAdvisor but when we got there, they had no room in the inn but they contacted a different Super8 ( one that TripAdvisor hadn’t mentioned ), which was 5 miles away and they had a room for us and it was almost $30 cheaper. When we got there it was a very nice hotel and we were happy to get a room and a good night’s sleep before continuing on the next leg of our journey home.