So far, the perfect road trip... No brakes, a forest fire and a busted-off manifold clip

Travel line: Seattle to Denver via Alaska? I don't remember that in my dreams!

It hardly seems possible that Maggie, my Shih Tzu, and I are already one third of the way from Puget Sound to the Atlantic Ocean... yep, 1,471 miles in mile-high Denver.

Our Seattle departure toward Denver on Sunday, July 25, was a very overcast one, and quite a surprise coming on the heels of the 100-degree scorcher just the day before. Nevertheless, Maggie and I headed out in our hoodless MG and were soon rewarded with clear skies and warm winds.

But something wasn't quite right. Maybe the almost-fog of our Seattle start had gotten us pointed the wrong direction, because when the skies cleared and we made a stop in what we expected to be Liberty, Wash., we instead found ourselves in Cicely, Alaska... or so I thought.

I should have realized this was a sign that very likely the entire 10,000-mile journey will take me far adrift of my plans or dreams.

Arriving in Liberty, we looked forward to relaxing by the creek on the deck of Paul G's lovely cabin and strolling his compound. It wasn't to be: word arrived about a forest fire that was burning just one ridge over from Liberty, and it might consume the entire town! Paul rushed off to retrieve his gas water pump at a repair shop in Cle Elum, in case the town electricity was cut off and Liberty was left without their electrically pumped water supply. I spent the entire afternoon 'watering' the cabin and outbuildings, as well as the surrounding brush and reachable tree branches.

Although several homes were destroyed at the fire's origin, the wind favored Liberty and no flames came closer than a draw away from us... the first of many hoped-for 'good lucks' over the next three months of traveling.

My next 'best laid plans of mice and men' incident came Monday at Sunnyside, Wash. As the stop sign at the end of our Interstate-82 exit ramp came closer and closer, I found the brake pedal quickly reached the floorboards without the slightest reduction in the MG's speed.... "Oh MY!" were close to the first words out of my mouth!! A quick grab of the emergency brake handle - which, thanks to the Brits, is push-button to set, pull-handle to release - and we came to a safe stop at the appointed sign. Using this method of go-and-stop driving, we proceeded into Sunnyside until we found the Les Schwab store. It was a quick fix by ace mechanic Joe Rodregus, and in two hours we were off toward Denver.

A late start from Liberty caused an 'almost dark' tent setup at the Huntington State Park in Oregon... boy, a shower and bed felt great! But what next might go awry? We'd need to wait till Tuesday for that discovery.

We again 'lost' (I'll have Maggie look for it later) some time this morning as I spent well over two hours trying to get a computer connection to our Webmaster ( in order to update him with location and pictures of our travels.

Giving up with no connection, off we went toward Malta, Idaho. This time our beginning-to-be-expected daily surprise was the result of something I had only heard about and seen in movies like "Deliverance" - a redneck, good-old-boys cop from the Cassia County sheriff's department near Twin Falls. Let's just say we had a run in. So my suggestion is to pray while you're at stop lights and avoid any other stop - for ANY reason - if you're ever in the vicinity of Twin Falls.

As fast as we could, it was on southward toward Utah... but energy and daylight were abandoning us and, fortunately, we stopped at a rest stop about 13 miles before the Idaho state line. "Fortunate" because two maintenance workers showed me the back way to a place where you can 'camp' for the night near the picnic table shelters. They advised me that Idaho allows three-day stays at their rest stops, and they brought me some ice, a Hostess pie and a slice of pizza. They also gave me an ice chest to use. They certainly redeemed Idaho's image for the remainder of our travels through Potatoland.

Things settled a little. We had a long day's drive to Vernal, Utah, where we set up late-night camp at a KOA before heading for what, so far, has been the grandest part of the trip: the tops of the Rocky Mountains!

What an experience, especially with the MG's hood off... clouds puffy and pure white, almost touchable, the tree line near eye level, mountain peaks all around, a lot like Washington's Hurricane Ridge, though these are views from the Continental Divide... 11,307 feet above sea level, the point at which liquid flows east and west depending upon your position. Oh, yes, Maggie tested the eastern side; I the west. yes sirree, it flows just as it should!

The dive up was taken at about 45 mph in third gear; down was 65 in fifth, and for both ascent and descent I was again fortunate to have my Magellan RoadMate 700 GPS unit, as it showed me the upcoming, 180-degree hairpin turns in super detail. The new brakes and I were well prepared. The GPS readout took me directly, without a single wrong turn, to the Denver home of dear friend & KUAY '68 grad, Doug Maben.

Oh, a surprise of good fortune was with us when just before our 2-mile climb we took a 'justfortheheckofit' check under the bonnet and discovered that a hard-to-replace exhaust manifold clip had come loose and fallen onto the top of the chassis, where it peacefully rode along with us for who knows how many miles?!

Ya know, a drive can be a lonely adventure. For this one I have only Maggie and my memories along with me. Sometimes I stop and pick up a third companion... dreams. They seem to come in two versions, A and B: 'A' for those I find while asleep, and 'B' for those that make me think, "Boy, do I wish ..."

I guess it's good that surprises come along to help me along with the loneliness and remind me it's all gonna be what it's gonna be, regardless of my plans and dreams!

Our next destination is my mom and dad's resting place in Milwaukee, Wis. Then we ferry across Lake Michigan (almost four hours) to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the MG Summer Party... see ya there, if not in my dreams!

You can write Rick Malsed at For further information on Rick's travels, visit

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