July 2, 2011. After our enjoyable ride around the Wildlife Loop Road we decided to drive 87, the Needles Highway north and then northwest past the Needles and on to Sylvan Lake Campground.
Now, to understand someone's (ok, Man's) severe reaction to this little ride (snickering, Carol is already snickering) it is necessary to understand how we travel and do things. For the most part, Man drives. Carol is perfectly happy behind the wheel of Big Butt and has no fears of driving Big Butt with Tana in tow. Now, backing up is another situation all together, a ugly situation, as I have not mastered backing Tana up, YET. But, I digress, anyway, Man usually drives. Carol is co-pilot, with rights to scream loud and clear if I feel we are going too fast, or over the edge of some cliff or about to miss the exit and the next one is 35 miles down the road, you know, those kinds of screaming events. I am the navigator. I read the maps, and suggest routes based upon knowledge gained from our years of traveling together. I help locate fuel stations and suggest campgrounds. I leave the final decision on campgrounds up to him, it is just less stressful that way, you don't want or need to know why, just trust me on that! LOL
Now, because I do 99% of the navigation (picking campgrounds is not really navigation), Man rarely looks at a map. I maintain he cannot read a map, but, I won't go into that
SOOO, on July 2, 2011, I mentioned to him, that there was this section of road (Needles Highway) that we had not driven. He said, lets go. Below: It is pretty isn't it?? Two lane highways winding their way through the lush green of the Black Hills.
Now, I knew that there was a little matter of 2 more of those small tunnels we had to pass through. I believe I mentioned same to him. I know I mentioned them. Of course, I did not mention that the last of these tunnels was the smallest, just 11 foot 9 inches tall and 9 foot wide (according to the map I have) OR 8 foot 4 inches wide (according to, Frommer's National Parks of the American West, page 63, publication date of May 3, 2010).
(A bit of a digression here, some of you may remember our passing through narrow places before, one was in Palm Springs, California. I wrote about it here, and there are photos too! If you have not read it or maybe don't remember it, go have a lookie see and then come on back, we will wait - - singing, la la ta ta la la - - ohhh, you are back, good, let's continue our little story - - )
SOOO, Man and I are on the drive to Needles, and after a while I mention to him that the last tunnel is 9 foot wide, (remember that is what my map said, I did not have a copy of Frommer's ). Now, we are not driving a small car, or even a small truck, Big Butt has his name because he has 4 tires back there on the back axle, and that makes him more wide than a normal pickup truck, oh, and his side view mirrors are rather wide too.
(Note, this is the beginning of the Man turning white, green and white again, in case you could not guess that - - just sayin - - )
Next I hear from a BOOMING voice from the driver sitting next to me, "NINE FEET, are you sure, NINE FEET??" Someone was getting a bit excited. He continued his
Bout now, Man spies a picnic area, Hole in the Wall picnic area. He pulls off. Parked right beside us is another big butt truck, which appears to be driving south (we were going north). I suggested that maybe Man could ask the other driver some questions, like, are you going north or south, did you drive your big butt truck through that tunnel, you know, stuff like that. So, Man does just that. Response from the other big butt truck, "I am going south, yes, I drove my big butt truck through the tunnel. Fits, just go slow and down the center. We watched a full size tourist bus go through there a bit ago. That tour bus fit, honest!"
Now, even though this other big butt truck driver has just assured him that we could fit OUR Big Butt through that tunnel, Man was just not convinced. He's funny like that, you would think he had been born in Missouri, the show me state.
There are restrooms, and a cute little cave at this picnic area. I take advantage of the restrooms, walk the fur kids, and take a photo or two of the cave and stream (above) while Man measures Big Butt. Yes, he really did, he got out his tape rule and measured Big Butt, more than once! He was gonna be sure Big Butt fit through that NINE foot tunnel.
AND - - - - ta da - - - - - Big Butt is 8 foot wide, give or take a quarter of an inch.
Well, Big Butt would clear the tunnel, not by much, but we will clear. Still, with just 4 to 6 inches on each side Man needs to drive RIGHT DOWN THE CENTER! I figure we are golden, (don't laugh so hard dear readers), and I encourage Man, reassuring him that I have full faith in his ability to drive Big Butt right down the middle of that NINE foot tunnel.
Besides, we have another tunnel we must clear before the now infamous NINE foot tunnel. According to the map, this other tunnel measures 10 foot 4 inches wide. We both contemplate the situation and agree, we should try this, partially trusting the other big butt truck driver. The least we should do is drive to the 10 foot 4 inch tunnel and see how that goes.
Man agrees to this plan. And, we are off.
Like I said (more than once), the first tunnel, according to the map was 10 foot 4 inch wide, but, lookie at the sign:
I know, it is not in focus, but, correct me if I am wrong. It says, 9 foot 0 inches wide. Good thing we could not read it as we drove by. Sony, caught the sign, but, Man did not see it, nor did I really either. So we just went right on through the tunnel. Actually, we had very little trouble with that tunnel. We did pull in the side view mirrors, testing, to see if we could pull the mirrors in part of the way and still use them to see where Big Butt's fenders were in relationship to the walls of that tunnel.
Below: the first tunnel, as we approach:
Below: A out of focus horrible photo of Big Butt's fenders and the side of the tunnel. I took this out of the side view mirror, seeing what Man saw when he looked in the mirrors, and yes, that dark stuff is the side of the tunnel, unforgiving granite.
So since we have managed to drive the first tunnel, which we thought was 10 foot 4 inches wide, we had more confidence that we could manage the second tunnel which according to the map was 9 foot. Man is still a shade of green, and he is not totally convinced that we will be able to drive Big Butt through that second tunnel and not scratch those 8 foot wide fenders. But, onward we go, did I mention that he was obsessing about that NINE foot tunnel?? The NINE foot tunnel just up the road apiece??
To be continued - - -