September 17, 2017
The morning was an early one. I'd spent the last couple days wrapping up things as work and getting ready to go. By 10pm Saturday, my checklist was complete:
- CB radio installed
- Warm clothes and extra sleeping bag (just in case) packed
- Two weeks of breakfast, lunch, and dinner gathered (and pre-cooked in the case of dinner)
- Truck fueled, loaded, and waiting in the garage for an early morning start
My target go-time was 4am, and with an actual on-the-road time of 4:30, I wasn't doing too bad. I pressed the skinny pedal as I got onto I-90 heading east and monitored aprs.fi for the rest of the crew that had left the night before. By 7:00, I was crossing the Columbia River, happy to see that Mike (@Digiratus) was still beaconing from the Spokane area.
As I neared Spokane, my gas gauge neared empty. I knew it was time to pull over and refuel, and to fill up my auxiliary fuel containers as well - there were a few points in the trip where we'd be away from gas stations for a prolonged period, and I didn't want to be that guy bumming gas.
As I completed my fill-up and got back on the road, it was about 9:30, and I noticed that Mike, Zane (@SpeedyTech7), and Dan (@drr, with his dad) were back on the road; they were ~20 minutes ahead of me. I pushed that skinny pedal just a bit further, which combined with the weight I was carrying for a two-week trip wasn't going to be pretty for my MPGs.
As I reached Coeur d'Alene, I was just minutes behind. I fired up the HAM and called out to Mike, since I knew he'd be monitoring. Little did he know at the time, it was my first HAM contact - I'd done a lot of listening to that point, but no actual communication. He confirmed that they'd stopped for gas, the exit they'd just passed, and that they'd continue along at 65mph while I caught up the final two miles. And soon, we were a caravan of four.
Four loaded Tacoma's heading down the road looks pretty bad-ass, and as we stopped throughout the day at rest stops, gas stations, and the like, we were constantly approached by various folks to chat about the trucks. Of course, being new to the group, there was also a bit of checking out my truck that went on, and I got my first look at Zane's new ride after he recently rolled his last (and did an amazing job in a short time getting the new one trail-worthy)!
Around 6:15pm, we pulled into Iron Star Pizza in Big Timber - only 75 minutes after our scheduled dinner meeting time. Luckily for us, and apparently as usual, Monte was running late and wouldn't show up for another hour. We used the time to tune our CBs with Mike's SWR meter, and enjoyed a few appetizers as we got to know each other.
When Monte arrived just after 7:00, we did a quick round of intros and got straight to ordering. We still needed to eat, refuel, and find a camp site for the evening, so we knew it was going to be a late one. Around the table, we ordered only two items: The Supreme and The Iron Star pizzas, at Monte and Devin's recommendation. We were not disappointed.
Full (and with leftovers in most cases), we headed out to find camp. Monte knew the general direction but without a specific spot in mind, he sent Mike down a side road to quicken the search. In the end, we found a large, flat spot with a fire ring and setup camp, which mostly consisted of deploying RTTs and pulling out Mike's propane fire pit since there was a stage 2 burn ban in Montana (no wood fires, even in established rings).
We chatted until 1am - about each other, past trips, the (anticipated) trip to come, and the plan for the following day. Eventually, two things happened: first, we got sick of the seemingly hundreds of daddy-long-leg spiders that seemed to be dropping on us from the surrounding trees, and second, the propane ran out and we all realized we were going to need some sleep. Tired from our long drives, we all climbed into out tents, eager to see what the following day would bring…starting with what our camp site looked like!