Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thriving Down the Road

RV parks such as the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) proved a valuable resource for Arnie’s Adventure.  Arnie and Reggie fell into a routine of reserving a cabin by phone in the afternoon, and upon arrival, charging the Tesla at a neighboring RV space on the same campground overnight. (To date, they avoided tent camping.)

Usually they arose and departed in the 8 o’clock hour the next morning and drove as far as their range would take them, re-charging at the next KOA or RV Park. During the mid-day charge—which took between two and eight hours depending on the distance traveled—they ate lunch, toured the town, blogged and conversed with the campground managers. A typical mid-day stop went something like this.

“Hi, we’re wondering if we could charge our car for a few hours this afternoon.”

“Charge your car?”

“Yes, we have an electric Tesla and our Battery’s range is low. Other RV parks have been helping us out, charging us anything from three to ten dollars.” As a frame of reference, ten dollars was usually what a typical park charged to empty a recreational vehicle’s waste water.

With the exception of the not-so-gentleman from Alder, Montana, the folks who run such places were very hospitable, allowing Arnie to use their 50-amp hook-up and Reggie to use the wireless Internet connection.

The Tesla charged without incident until they woke up in Yankton, South Dakota on Thursday. Arnie noticed the 50-amp circuit tripped for the first time in his adventure. The electric car tripped a 50-amp breaker four or five times over three different units. For a full charge, Arnie and Reggie needed to wait until 10:55 am—to begin their journey. 

“Well, I have an 11 o’clock lunch appointment anyhow,” Arnie told Reggie as he loaded his sleeping gear into the frunk (Clever Tesla and Ford Pinto owners use this term to refer to the storage space under the hood).

“Cool, who are we meeting?”

“The Thrivent agent in town.”

Thrivent Financial is a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society that offers insurance and financial investments, products and services. The fraternal portion supports different community activities, volunteer efforts and financial support. The company has nearly 2500 reps who serve three million members nationwide. Thrivent gives out nearly $200 million a year.

Yankton was a town in southeast South Dakota with a population of 14,000. The Thrivent office was downtown—a short drive from the KOA—but Miss Navigation System got confused. In addition to a closed road due to construction, the Tesla circled the block that clear, bright, late-summer morning looking for a place to park.

The office was newly renovated with the smell of fresh paint in the air. Sherry sat behind the desk and greeted Arnie and Reggie.

“Yes, I’ve heard about your trip,” she said. “I saw it in the company newsletter.”

Minutes later Arnie’s colleague W.D. appeared. They greeted and drove the Tesla to lunch.

W.D. was a jolly man who loved his ten years on the job with Thrivent. Like Arnie, W.D. grew up in Maryland—but on the western part of the state in Cumberland. After retiring from the Air Force he moved to South Dakota, where his wife was raised. He led Arnie and Reggie through the back door of a bar named The Upper Deck. Sports paraphernalia lined the walls while billiards, darts and video games surrounded a large wrap-around bar on three sides. They sat down at a table.

“I love South Dakota,” said W.D. as the waitress greeted him by name. “There’s a lot of homemade goodness here. It’s common for the farmers to walk through the back door and drop off tomatoes.”

The trio ordered lunch and W.D. told a story about a house call he did for a German client who served him homemade rhubarb wine and wedding whiskey. 

“Here we do things a little bit differently,” the waitress said upon her return. “Desserts before the main course.” She laid two cherry and custard tarts on the table that looked more at home in a French café than an American sports bar.

“See Momma here at the bar?” W.D. said motioning behind him. “She raised $700 making desserts like these.”

W.D. and Arnie talked shop over lunch. W.D. told how he raised $15,000 in one-day golf tournament. One client roasted a pig and the benefits went to Yankton-area Special Olympics and other local charities such as Sack-Pack Bag Weekend. As they finished lunch, the conversation turned back to South Dakota.

“So have you seen a jack-a-lope around here yet?”

“A what?” Arnie asked.

“They’re real?” Reggie asked. “I thought they were just a legend.”

“Ahhhh, just pullin’ your chain,” said W.D. with a laugh. “But our jack rabbits, they get yay high when they’re on their hind legs.” He raised his hand four feet off the floor. “They’re something!”

South Dakota: Arnie's Adventure final taste of the Wild West.

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