Seattle to Saratoga Springs Raid to Rendezvous – Day 6

Today we started in western South Dakota and ended up in the eastern part of the state with three things on our trip venue.

  Our campsite in the am 

  A view of Crazy Horse from the drive leading into the campground.

We checked out of our great campsite and drove up the drive to the main road where we could see Crazy Horse and the progress being made on that monument.  Very cool and one down.

Then we drove 25 miles to see Mt. Rushmore.  I thought we were going to go in, but Axel drove right past the parking area, pulled over in front of a No Parking, No Stopping, Don’t Even Think Of It sign and took pictures…as did Walli and Kiki and my daughter… I didn’t see the sign until Axel got back in his car and led us down the road.  This was an executive decision he made to save time and it worked well for us as we needed the time at our next stop, The Badlands National Park.

As we drove away from Rapid City, Axel made a turn onto a dirt road and we sheep followed.  Understand that he has done many Raids including several in the Outback of Australia so dirt roads, washboard roads, badly maintained roads are old hat to him.  On one downhill section I got to watch him slide through a turn with a waggling trailer dragging behind him.  Not for the faint of heart.  I can tell you the suspension on the 2CV works very well, but there is a limit and we hit that limit a number of times. 

  A shot of the dust trails on the washboard/dirt roads of the Badlands!

Luckily, there was little traffic on this road, so we did just fine.  Like Yellowstone, I didn’t know what to expect and was bowled over by the topography of the area…and Willa loved the prairie dogs and yet another chance to see buffalo up close and personal as we glided by a herd ranging on both sides of the road, not 5′ from us.

  Scene from Badlands Nat’l Park

Once out of The Badlands we headed again to I-90 to do the almost 200 miles to Mitchell, SD.  After about 60 miles we pulled off for gas and Walli and Kiki were besieged by people who were crazy about their car.  Axel joined in and they had folks posing next to, in front of and inside of the car.  It was like a party and more people kept coming over.  Axel and the ladies answered everyone’s questions and then it was back on the highway.

  Axel, Walli and Kiki entertaining “fans” at a gas stop. They wanted pictures of themselves posing in and around the 2CV.

As I’ve mentioned before, in a 2CV you are at one with the road and the elements and today was a prime example of that.  In a modern car, doing a couple of hundred miles on an interstate is no big deal.  Hot out?  Crank up the air, crank out some tunes and cover some ground.  In the 2CV, you can open a vent or flip up the bottom half of your front windows…that’s the air conditioning.  If it’s hot outside, it’s hot inside too and with temps in the 90s, it was hot!  As bad as the heat was, the insane winds, which were mostly blowing from the south at over 30mph with gusts easily getting to 40-45mph were much worse.

Also, for some reason, a good portion, though not all of I-90 seemed to be grooved, something that turns the narrow Citroën tires into ballet slippers.

And finally, let’s not forget the western speed limit of 80mph.  At best, I can flirt with that, but mostly the car will run all day between 60-70mph except for the dreaded inclines which sap your speed like Sampson’s strength after a haircut.  These inclines always manage to show up when you are surrounded by semi’s.

Put all these together and it was a recipe for lesson time for a newbie.

When we got back on I-90 with about 150 miles to go, I once more pulled around my fellow travelers and put the hammer down.  (Honestly, in a 2CV a determined look on your face will work just as well.)

I was roaring along, foot on the floor, moving my arms like Fangio trying to stay in my lane as I flew along at 120 kph (American Translation-75mph).  Of course, that speed was an occasional peak and mostly I was keeping the needle around 100kph ( between 60-65), still 15-20mph slower that everyone else.

We had both windows open allowing blasts of superheated air to waft noisily over us.  It was like sitting in a toaster.

After a while, I had pulled well in front of the other two cars.  I was really flying and then after one incline, the car simply stopped going quickly anymore.  I remembered Axel telling me how well a 2CV handled when it got a flat. “It’s just as if the engine stops making power.  No wiggle or steering issues. It’s just slow.”

That’s what happened to me.  At one point I had the engine singing at 110kph (about 70mph) and the next moment I couldn’t get it to go faster than 80kph (about 50mph).

I calmly told my daughter that we might have a problem and that I would pull over at the next rise.  So, there I am on the shoulder with gusty hot winds blowing me about while trucks and cars went hurtling by.  I quickly checked the tires and they all seemed fine. I got back in the car and when there was an opening got back on the highway, but Marcel just wouldn’t go.  I was sure I had broken something and kept driving until I got to a rest stop and could pull off.

I checked the tires again, then opened the hood and looked at the motor…looked fine, no issues, nothing dropping underneath the car…oil level was good, so I figured I had no choice but to go on, which I did.

After a while the car started to sing again but I didn’t push it too much.  Without any further issues we finally pulled off at Mitchell and found Axel, Walli and Kiki waiting for us.  They were confused by not finding us there ahead of them and I told them what happened.  Axel got a big laugh out of it.  He said it happened to him too!  He was doing 120kph and then could barely make 80kph, but that’s what happens when the gusty winds change direction and hit you head on!

Another lesson learned.  I had been so busy fighting the wind and grooved highway, while baking that I hadn’t even thought of the obvious.

Anyway, after 6 days we’re becoming quite the Citroën road warriors and look forward to picking up Axel’s wife, Uschi, tomorrow in Minneapolis for the last half of our run to Rendezvous 2017 in Saratoga Springs.


[Read the story about the complete trip here.]

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