Hello again and welcome to week 9 of the Burhos’ Adventures in Bertha. This week was definitely full of adventures…not all the fun kind though unfortunately (sorry moms, we don’t mean to worry you!). As always, we’ve made the best of the situations and overcome – the adventure continues!
Last week, we had just arrived in Missoula for the 4th of July. We ended up finding a super awesome parking spot for a couple of nights in the heart of the city, right on the river and just two blocks from the library so Jim could get some work done. Tuesday we took the opportunity to get a long bike ride in around Missoula and it was so great. It’s a very bike friendly town with scenic and safe bike paths – bike laws that require cars to stop for us. It was a beautiful day and 30 miles on the bike allowed us to see most of the local area.
Wednesday was another work day and it was actually raining for most of it. Heather did get the chance to go for a long run along the river, which was just glorious, but aside from that, it was a pretty uneventful day of coding work for Jim.
That’s ok though because Thursday more than made up for that. We had planned to leave Missoula this evening to head toward Yellowstone and meet up with an old friend of Jim’s on Friday morning. Jim wanted to use this opportunity to get in a long (60 mile+) bike ride down the highway, so we plotted out a course that he could ride on a less busy highway and Heather could meet up behind him in Bertha. As he was getting his bike ready for the ride, a really nice lady came over to chat with him. She noticed his bike and actually has the same one, turns out she’s a former pro triathlete! She was extremely cool as she told us a little of her past career and then about her current, awesomely active lifestyle in Missoula…may have even given us a city to add to the list of potential cities we want to live in someday. She also suggested that Heather ditch the YMCA and head to the local community pool, which was the most wonderful suggestion! Heather went for a nice long swim in a 50-meter outdoor pool before loading up heading out to meet up with Jim and his bike.
The highway was initially great and Heather could picture him having the time of his life riding down this road. After about 30 miles, however, the gps directed her to take a right turn onto a dirt road. Against her better judgment, and because the gps made it look like it was going to be a short connection to another highway, she took the turn. At this point, neither of us had any cell phone signal to check in with each other regarding the best course of action or to look at a map to determine a better route. So Heather continued, very slowly, down the dirt road for well over an hour before coming to another very sketchy turn…that she again took against her better judgment. This was now a very narrow and not well-worn dirt path and she immediately realized what a terrible decision it was to turn down it. She is not often the driver of Bertha and has never had to back her up, but after reaching a point (on the other side of a cattle guard fence that she opened and proceeded to go through), she realized that her only course of action now was to turn around. She tried to remember what Jim had told her about backing up with a trailer and was actually doing fairly well at the turn around…until she got the back tire stuck in an irrigation ditch. She was now stuck in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization, with no cell service, and no way to get Bertha out. She was panicking. A lot. But what can you do? She decided the best idea was to grab her bicycle and search for help. She took her bike back down the dirt road to the nearest ranch less than a mile away and started knocking on doors. No one answered and there was no sign of human life anywhere so she jumped back on her bike prepared to ride as long as she needed to in order to find help. As she rode past the other side of the same ranch, however, she saw a tractor moving around back and raced back over towards it. She found a very nice rancher, coincidentally named Jim, who saved her. He let her use his phone to call Jim, who was also very luckily in service range at that point, and then grabbed his truck and pulled Bertha out of the ditch with a chain. He had helped us to coordinate a new meeting point and drew out a map to help Heather get back to it.
Meanwhile, Jim had also taken that same dirt road upon the gps command with the same idea that it would be a short connection back to another highway. He also ended up riding miles down a dirt road on a bicycle not at all built for dirt roads. It was a very remote area, thankfully he didn’t see any bears, but he finally also realized that his only course of action was to turn around and go back. So he rode back out to the original highway and back toward Missoula when he finally reached cell service and Heather happened to call right then. Once the new meeting spot was arranged, he headed in that direction, already 5 hours into his 3 hour bike ride.
Not too far down the road on his way back toward the meeting spot, however, he saw a couple of dirt bikers looking concerned on the side of the road and he stopped to make sure they were ok. As it turns out, they had just found a car that had gone off the road and the woman who was thrown from the vehicle. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive and Jim stayed on the scene and helped as best as he could (she was already post mortem when they found her). He took off again toward the new meeting spot when he got a flat tire that he had to stop and change. All of this of course meant that him getting to the meeting location took much longer than planned, Heather had been waiting there for about 45 minutes growing increasingly concerned (we were back to not having cell service to reach each other). She decided to head in the direction she knew he would be coming from to look for him as it was starting to get dark. 7 hours after our original departure time, we found each other on the side of the highway…Jim had ridden 90 miles and Heather had driven over 100 miles, yet we were only about 40 miles outside of Missoula. We were so elated and relieved to have found each other safely, there may not be words for how we felt that evening having thought about the worst case scenarios all day and seeing a poor soul who had not been so lucky.
Once we reunited, we stopped to first off hug each other for a very long time, and to fill each other in on our days. Then Jim got a shower and we had a simple dinner roadside before deciding to drive for a bit longer in hopes of still meeting Jim’s friend the next day. We didn’t last long though, we were both exhausted emotionally and Jim was physically exhausted from his harrowing bike ride. We stopped at a highway truck stop and slept happily and peacefully among a group of semi trucks. Friday we still had a long drive to Yellowstone ahead of us, which we ended up taking rather slowly and stopping for a big, delicious, hearty breakfast and then DQ blizzards. We missed sightseeing with his friend but did luckily get to have dinner with him that evening. Friday was a nice day for us to recoup from the day before.
Saturday we decided to get settled into an RV park on the lake for the weekend. Summertime in the national parks is quite busy so it’s nearly impossible to find good camp spots without doing some planning ahead. So we got Bertha all tucked in before taking the motorcycle to Yellowstone for some sightseeing.
We decided to take the southern loop, as surely most people must because that’s the loop Old Faithful is located on. We stopped along the way to take in the different sights and of course, watched Old Faithful erupt. It really was fascinating seeing the park, it was beautiful and vast and green with a river running through it…it seemed like such a stark contrast to see the hot springs and thermal pools that will melt your feet off if you step near them. We intended to see a bit more of the park but we took a wrong turn and the sun was starting to set, so we decided to head back to Bertha…as it started raining. We got pretty drenched on the motorcycle but on the way back we did get to see a bison and a family of caribou down by the river. We stopped for tacos at a food truck in West Yellowstone before heading back to Bertha for the evening.
Sunday was a rainyyyyyy day. Like alllll day. We went to bed the night before with the rain pounding on our roof and woke up to the same. Seemed like a good day to hibernate indoors so that’s what we did. We slept in and had a delicious breakfast of eggs in the hole a’la Jim. During one break in the rain, we decided to head out for a 12 mile run and we mostly got really lucky. It was a gorgeous run around the lake with water views at every turn, mountains in the distances, cattle grazing, and the smells of nature. We made it an hour and a half into the run when it started to pour rain on us, which was actually kind of nice and refreshing at first…until it turned into hail (we’ve had temps down in the 40’s in this area). Some really nice strangers picked us up at that point and drove us back to Bertha, we have really been thankful for the kindness of strangers this week.
Monday morning we checked out of the RV park with the goal of leaving Idaho and heading to Jackson Hole, WY. We took a nice leisurely drive down, through a national forest where we stopped for lunch with beautiful views. After stopping in a small town to do some cleaning and laundry, we later stopped roadside for dinner in Wyoming as the sun was setting, all of it was just so pretty in every direction. Then comes our next adventure…as we headed up over the Teton Pass, we had to go extremely slowly as it was a significant incline of more than 10% in places. On the other side, there was (obviously) a significant decline and shortly into it, we smelled smoke coming from our brakes as they were overheating. We pulled over immediately and found that the brake pads were on fire! There were actual flames so Jim quickly grabbed the fire extinguisher and got the fires out. Turned out the brake line was also burnt so we had no safe way to get down the pass at this point and had to call for a tow truck. At 1:30am we were dropped off at an auto repair shop to get Bertha looked at the next morning. Fingers crossed the damage is minimal and easily fixable!
It’s been an interesting week but at the end of the day, we love our life on the road – challenges and all. The ordeal on Thursday gave us a renewed appreciation for each other and we took away some very valuable lessons.
Thanks for following along and we hope you’re all having wonderful summers!
Total RV Trip Miles: 4,299