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 Vacation 2019: Devils Tower

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soothsayer
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PostSubject: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Jul 23, 2018 9:36 am

While glancing through some outdoorsy magazine yesterday, I stumbled upon one of those "vacation here" adverts that States tend to put out. This one was for Wyoming: had a couple wearing headlights walking through a field, stars and the Milky Way visible in a darkened sky, with Devils Tower prominently in the background.

Ever since first seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I've wanted to go to Devils Tower. As I grew older, I began wanting to go someplace where I could sit at night and see the stars without light pollution, or an environment outside of our wooded area. I mean, just look at how amazing this looks!

Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Milky-10


So, when I got home yesterday afternoon, I fired up the laptop and checked the driving route from home to the Tower: comes in at 14.5 hours, with the distance being between 960 to 985 miles. This... this suddenly became quite doable. Here is a trip that could be made in a day, but realistically probably looking at two. Spend two nights there, head back home.

Not factoring gas or expenses (because I haven't gotten that far yet)... just overnight lodgings... there are two likely areas I'm looking at: the Belle Fourche River Campground at $20 a night (no power, but has drinking water spigots and restrooms, first come-first serve; and Devils Tower KOA Campground which has everything from wifi to laundry to hookups to gift shops and cafe and and and, at $60 a night. Both are essentially in the shadow of Devils Tower. Visiting the Tower itself is either $20 per vehicle (regardless of the number of visitors) or $10 a person if you walk or bike in.

In checking with the KOA site, there are still openings throughout this season; a trip this summer is viable. However, I'm looking at next year simply to set aside funds for vehicular emergencies, Gas is no biggie, could have that within two weeks; same with food. But with the fair coming up, then school supplies, don't want to short anything, or make things tight.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Jul 23, 2018 1:58 pm

seasonal temperatures

Naturally, I'll be wanting to head to Devils Tower during the summer months. Don't want to drive during a snowstorm... not that the camp grounds would be open or anything. Could always park for the night at a Walmart, but where's the fun in that? The camp grounds, from what I've been reading, are generally open from May through September or October, so that's the window I'm looking at.

I also have to consider the boy and his schooling. For him, if he has perfect attendance, he gets done with school mid to late May (otherwise first week of June), starts back up the first week of September; this closes my window slightly, late May through August. In looking at the climate, I don't want to be there when it's too hot during the day, otherwise hiking wouldn't be enjoyable; checking out the US Climate Data, July and August have an average daytime high of 86 degrees / nighttime low of 52, while the May / June window (because of the boy) would be about 70-72, with an evening temp in the low 40s. With that said, it looks like I'm shooting for the late May / early June.

Sadly, this also puts things in the rainy season, with an average rainfall bordering 3".

** For those keeping score at home, by the look of things, September is the best month to go: average high of 74*, low of 40*, rain coming in at just over 1.25" **


Last edited by soothsayer on Mon Jul 23, 2018 4:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Jul 23, 2018 4:09 pm

halfway points

If I am planning on stopping halfway to and from the Tower, it looks like the best (ie, cheapest... free) option would be Walmart stays. In searching "Walmart along I-90", it appears as if that highway is overrun with Walmart Supercenters; there will be rests aplenty, that's for certain.

Taking the highest mileage at 984 miles one way, the halfway point would naturally be 492 miles. The closest to this would be to stop at Sioux Falls SD, putting us 450 from the Tower (535 miles from home). If I drive at 60mph, I'm looking at almost nine hours drive on day one, and 7.5 hours on day two. Not bad, not bad at all. If I wanted to push an extra hour, I could rest at Mitchell SD (380 miles from Tower).

On the return trip, I could once again stop at Sioux Falls, or go a little bit further and stop at the Walmart in Worthington MN (480 miles from home); then there's the one in Goemann MN, coming in at 423 miles from home. Either way, this puts me at 8 to 9 hours drive on day one / 8 to 7 on day two.

** I just checked the website detailing overnight stays at Walmart, and it looks like all these locations are good, with the exception of the one for Goemann... there was no information. I double-checked a site that lists all the Walmarts that don't allow over-nights, and it isn't on there, either. **
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Jul 23, 2018 4:15 pm

itinerary

Looking ahead to 2019, it looks like the best time to start this would be to head out on Saturday June 1st, second day of driving on the 2nd (arrive Sunday afternoon); spend the 3rd - 4th - 5th; depart the 6th, second day travel on the 7th (Friday), then have the weekend to recuperate. Or I could look into staying an extra day, get back home on that Saturday and recover on Sunday.

*shrugs*

Will have to do the math and see what it would all come out to. I'll edit this later with a cost update.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyThu Jul 26, 2018 3:52 pm

expansion

It's only been three days, and I've already started to expand this vacation to include some additional sites.

Arrive at the KOA Ranch Sunday evening. Spend Monday relaxing and resting from the drive, a little sightseeing / hit the shops. Go to the Tower's visitor center on On Tuesday (Tower Tuesday), come back, do some laundry.

IF we depart the tower on Wednesday, that gives me four days before I have to be at work (five if you count Wednesday itself). No matter how you count it, we depart Wednesday, drive a couple hours to Mount Rushmore. Stay long enough for a couple pictures... because really, I don't see what the big draw is about the place. Jump back in the van, drive a couple more hours, and arrive at... dun dun dun... The Badlands; I definitely want to spend some time here. If we're fortunate enough, we'll spend the night, then spend a few more hours during the day, then start trekking home.

That'll take us well into Thursday. Depending on when we leave the Badlands, we could be looking at a Friday arrival back home at the earliest, or Saturday (the drive itself from the badlands to home is roughly 12 hours / a smidge over 800 miles). Can't see myself driving too long into the evening, so about 4.5 hours after the badlands is the Worthington Walmart Supercenter (7.5 hours from home); however, if I can make it an addition 115 miles, there's the Walmart in Albert Lea MN (5.75 hours from home).

...

That's looking pretty good, but again, it's a matter of how tired I am upon leaving the Badlands.

In looking at this, I see no reason why we wouldn't be arriving back home late Friday afternoon.

{edit}

Mmmmmaybe spend two days at the Badlands. Leave early Friday.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Aug 20, 2018 8:34 am

reservations

Just a small bit of information, though probably useless as well, seeing as how it's quite specific in its nature: if you are scheduling a trip to Devils Tower and plan on spending an evening or more at the Devils Tower KOA Ranch (KOA standing for Kampgrounds of America or something like that), the earliest you can book a reservation is November of the year prior to your trip.

{EDIT} If making a reservation in the Badlands National Park, reservations are not taken until March of that year. You do not need a reservation as the campgrounds are first come / first serve... but if you're looking for a site that has electricity or hookups, it'd be better to book in advance as a just in case.


Last edited by soothsayer on Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Aug 20, 2018 8:46 am

final countdown

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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyTue Aug 21, 2018 11:34 am

dates

Getting tired of looking up June 2019 calendars all the time when checking things out or planning, so I'm putting an itinerary here. Nothing concrete, just helps with planning. Oh, one big change: the boy asked we depart the second week of June, due to a college course he's taking (aren't allowed to miss any days).

June 8 (Saturday) - Depart home, and with luck hit Sioux Falls or Mitchell for an overnight stay at Walmart.

June 9 (Sunday) - Depart Walmart and check in at the Devils Tower KOA in the late afternoon / early evening.

June 10 (Monday) - Day of rest. Hit the shops, do laundry, and relax. Maybe fish. Just soak it all in.

June 11 (Tuesday) - Tower Tuesday!

June 12 (Wednesday) - Depart the KOA, visit Mt Rushmore for a quick "I was here" photo, then head out and check in at the Badlands.

June 13 (Thursday) - site see. Ooh and ahh and shop visits. Rest up for drive back.

June 14 (Friday) - check out, start heading home. Hopefully make it to Worthington or Goemann (or maybe further?) for an overnight at Walmart.

June 15 (Saturday) - At some point in the afternoon, we ought to be home.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyWed Sep 05, 2018 8:28 am

approved

Knowing people are creatures of habit when it comes to their vacation days, I messaged my supervisor to see if anyone usually takes off the second week of June (and then explained why I was asking). She said she doesn't recall, but that I could go ahead and file a request if I wanted and she would write it in, it just couldn't really be submitted to the district office until December. So naturally, I completed the form right away... and as of right now, my week long vacation is approved.

It is also to my understanding that, when planning vacations or trips, people are always told to plan for the week instead of the weekend: airplane tickets are generally cheaper on Tuesday (I think), with the more expensive flights being Friday, Saturday, and Monday; hotel rooms are cheaper Tuesday through Thursday; that sort of thing. Not saying this with the hopes that camping reservations are cheaper, because they aren't... I just hope that the stays I am planning will be open. They should be. How many people would book a spot for June in November (for the Tower)? That's seven - eight months out! Or for June in March (Badlands)? Four - five months? Nah, I think I'm good.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyWed Nov 07, 2018 1:50 pm

reserved

Campgrounds have been reserved! Here are the details...

Reserved a spot at Devils Tower KOA on the first of November: requested "back in, 30 amps, water/electric, premium view and close to amenities". What I wanted was a spot that wouldn't have my view of the Tower obstructed by other RVs and electric hook up, everything else is just part of that particular campsite grouping. You see those hashmarks around the camp area? Those are the RV parking spots. Now, those marks that are closest to the Tower / aimed at it? One of those is mine. Look at that potential view! The green area seen in the 90* road bend is where they have a laundry mat, restroom and shower (a big plus).

Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Site10


With regards to the Badlands, last I checked, reservations couldn't be made until March... but upon checking the website today it had "now accepting reservations for 2019" across the banner. Yay! Here I reserved a spot at the Cedar Pass campground, once again selecting a spot with electric hookups (water services unavailable in the Badlands). With this campground, you are able to select specific sites, and I was able to get Campsite 22 (circled in yellow, see picture below). The path leading north leads to bathrooms (on the left) and showers (on the right).

Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Bad_ca10


Grand total for these reservations is $259.20.  For five nights, that's not too bad. Could have gone cheaper by taking non-electric spots... I do have the battery packs, after all. But if you calculate how much staying in a room would cost, pfft, you could easily double or triple that amount.

Certainly, the cost of gas is going to offset the cost of reservations, especially with driving something that only gets 10mpg, which brings me to the next big cost: saving for gas. Looking at a couple different travel planner sites, the average gas price (as of today) in Wyoming is $2.75; South Dakota is at $2.68; Minnesota, $2.72. These prices are comparable to our current gas price of $2.74. I would expect these prices to remain consistent: what gas costs here will be the same price as over there. I'll check these comparisons off and on just to make sure, but seeing these costs within cents of each other, that's pretty good.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyFri Dec 14, 2018 3:26 pm

we don't need no stinkin' badges

Actually, you do.

In order to go to federal parks, you will need a pass. You can buy this either on site or online, and note that there are a variety of different types. Me, I opted for the annual pass, which allows for your one vehicle and all the passengers entry to all the federal parks for a year on date of purchase. I also ordered mine online; it cost $5 more for the convenience, but I reasoned it was worth it simply so I wouldn't have to exit the vehicle and wait in line.

An annual pass costs $80 ($5 if online). My original plans factored my having to spend $60 (three day passes, what with Alex joining us), but an extra $20 to cover the entirety of the year wasn't too bad. Note that there aren't any federal parks near us, but as long as I can find some place to go, it'll pay for itself. Besides, I haven't a problem paying a little extra if I think something's worth it.

One thing of note: while this pass is good for one vehicle and all the occupants, it can also be used for two motorcycles, as long as both motorcycles arrive at the same time, regardless of the number of riders. On the pass, there is a spot for two signatures, the card holder and the second driver. I thought that maybe the secondary signature could borrow the card, but no, they may check your ID.
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Feb 11, 2019 10:00 am

general update

Regarding the trip, nothing major has changed; the only thing that has been transpiring is setting aside money (as of this writing, only $170 remains in the planned budget... and we've got four months left to go!)

Since the last post, I've obtained a couple things for the Doghouse (please see the thread "On the Road Again" for continued discussion on the construction and modification of a moving van into a camper) that may or may not be utilized for the trip, but should be installed. I've also ordered and got a couple cases of MREs which will be eaten on travel days or as a lunch or snack during the trip; this doesn't really cut into the food budget as these are supplementary items. I've also joined AAA.

With AAA, I joined primarily to say that "why yes, I do have insurance." They don't ask you what kind, or what the coverage is, so in truth I'm not lying (and really, if I needed to, I could get the camper insured through AAA). The other reason I got it was for the roadside assistance. This past summer I dropped the insurance from full to liability on our Trailblazer, and with this AAA, it's almost as if nothing's changed. In fact, the price increase of having AAA is less than how much it would cost going back from liability to full coverage.

And with AAA insuring me... any vehicle I am driving or riding in... the Doghouse thus benefits. Towing, car rentals, flat tires, emergencies, hotel stays, medical coverage, and so on. Not a bad deal. For the record, I went with the premium tiered level. With Gail and I covered, it costs about $165 a year ($120 if it was just me).
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyWed Feb 27, 2019 10:39 am

funding update

I've been holding off from doing a post like this because it seems kinda braggish, but that's not my intent.

We have met the minimum, and with three full months to spare.

With the oldest expressing an interest in joining, I calculated the cost of this trip to be $2779.20. This covers gas priced at $3/gallon, 10 mpg, 1000 miles one way ($720); an overestimate of food at $120 a day per person (though admittedly would be more like $50); camping reservations ($180.76 at KoA, $78.44 at Badlands); park pass ($80); souvenirs ($200+); AAA ($160); extras such as laundry and vending machines ($60); vehicle prep, like oil change and tune up ($300). A separate expense, "emergency fund", is what I would be collecting after the minimum.

With my paying for some items in advance, I never adjusted my costs. I could have, lowered the minimum, but this way things were out of sight / out of mind. With that said, I've probably paid in $614.23 so far (gas, park pass, AAA, reservations, some food items, and so on), while having $2600 currently set aside.

This is actually pretty much on track with what I had intended: setting aside $100 a week for what, 46 weeks? If all went well, that would have given me $4600 by departure. With 14 weeks left to go, my total should be at $3200; deduct the money already spent ($600), this puts the amount at $2600. Spot on! There were some moments where I wasn't able to put aside money, always going by the mentality of priorities, but subsequent overtime helped bump back things up.

(oh, that reminds me... I need to order some gas cards. Not credit cards, but those cards you use to get $0.05 cents off a gallon. I'd just be using the cards for the stations along the route; hell, every little bit helps.)
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyFri Mar 08, 2019 4:08 pm

travel adjustment

Looking at maps, and in attempting to see as much as I can, I noticed that there are two possible routes from Devils Tower to Mount Rushmore, with only a few minutes separating the two. Google did what I asked and went with the short route, but I'm thinking of taking the longer.

Why?

The longer takes us through the center of the Black Hills National Forest, and includes such locations as Deadwood (yes, that Deadwood), a few gulches, and some scenic areas; the shorter way was all highway driving.

Very Happy
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyMon Mar 11, 2019 4:07 pm

I got gas

In planning ahead, I examined the drive route as best I could in order to determine what gas stations were predominate, and in so doing, have applied for a number of reward/loyalty cards and gas credit cards.

I am not planning on using the credit cards, but felt I needed them in case of an emergency. The AAA insurance covers some gas, but if I needed my funds for a medical emergency or mechanic fees, it's nice to know I have a back up. And then , with the reward cards, they each offer $0.03 to $0.05 off of each gallon of gas. Sure, that may not sound like much, but when you're filling up a 60 gallon tank, and factor in travel snack and drink costs, that'll add up.

I am now covered at a variety of places: Shell, BP, Sinclair and Exxon Mobil (rewards), and Kwik Trip for both rewards and credit.

88 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes and counting...
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyWed Mar 13, 2019 8:48 am

travel adjustment 2

A friend at work was telling me about the Minuteman Missile Museum, a museum about the minuteman missiles. He said it's interesting, as you get to wander about the base, check out the room where the launch controls are located, so on and so forth. Might be something worth seeing, and it is right on the highway we'll be driving on; we can check it out when we head to Devils Tower, or when we leave the Badlands.

Don't know if the boys would find it interesting or not, they didn't live during that time frame. Still, a nice piece of history to see.
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PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyWed Mar 13, 2019 10:40 am

itinerary

Dates are accurate, times are best guesses. I'm only doing this because the mrs thinks it's funny that I'm planning this far into things.

Saturday June 8th

- depart home at 0600; as long as we're out of Crivitz by 0630, I'll be happy.
-  With this drive, I'm wanting to stop every three hours; stretch legs, bathroom, eat. Utilizing the AAA travel planner, looks like out first stop would be near a place called Necedah (Wisconsin). Figure 0930-1000. Note that we'll get gas as needed, and does not fall into the "every three hours".
- second stop should be at the Walnut Lake State Wildlife Management area. Time: 1300-1330.
- third stop would be near Mitchell (South Dakota), which is where I was intending to spend the night. We'd be arriving around 1700. We could check out "The World's Only Corn Palace", but it looks like we wouldn't get there until closing time; gift shop would be open, so who knows.
- As long as we set up shop at Walmart after 1800, we'll be good.

Sunday June 9
- we don't want to overstay at Walmart. Wake up at 0600ish, leave about 0700.
- the first scheduled stops looks to be between highway marker 116 and 121, near the Badlands Visitor Center; a little further up is the famed Wall Drug Dinosaur advertisement and the National Grasslands Visitor Center. Potential visits? Why not! This puts us near 1030-1100.
- three hours after that, we'll be at the Devils Tower campsite, time being at least 1600. As long as we are there before 2200, we're good.
{EDIT - forgot about the time change. By time we hit Devils Tower, we'd have gone back an hour, so we're good}

Monday June 10
- I'm not planning on doing anything this day, other than laundry and checking out the shops and local scenery. Maybe fishing. After all the driving, consider this a day of rest and relaxation. Watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with Devils Tower in the background? Hell yes.

Tuesday June 11
- Tower Tuesday! Go to the Tower (daytime and nighttime). Check out the prairie dog area. Enjoy ourselves.

Wednesday June 12
- Depart the KoA campsite. Looks like we cannot check out any earlier than 0800 due to "quiet time"; the latest is 11a.
- On to Mount Rushmore! We'll be driving through the Black Hills National Forest, which contains massive amounts of scenic areas. Rushmore is roughly 2 hours 20 minutes away from Devils Tower.
- Departure time unknown; Rushmore to Cedar Pass Campgrounds (Badlands) is a 1 hour 40 minute drive that will take us through Rapid City. Along the way is a Dinosaur Museum, Reptile Gardens. Sounds interesting, but *shrugs*
- arrive at some point at the Cedar Pass Campground, enjoy the night sky!

Thursday June 12
- Strictly sightseeing. Shopping. More sightseeing. Hiking. Today's the day to be doing it.

Friday June 13
- Sad to say, but time to go. After eats and checking out (time unknown), we'll first take a stop at the Minuteman Missile Museum (fifteen minutes away). From there to home is a twelve hour drive, so back to the AAA Planner!
- Looks like our first designated stop is near Alexandria.
- second stop is in Alden; there is a Walmart there that we could spend the night at.

Saturday June 14
-Homeward bound. Leave Alden 0600-0700ish. No real hurry as it's only a six hour drive. The only designated stop is between Strongs Prairie and Arkdale (on Highway 21), so we're looking at 10ish for the stop. 1.5 hours after that, we hit Appleton... 1.5 hours after that, home.

Sunday June 15
- An extra day to be used in case of an emergency; if no emergency and everything is as scheduled, then today is cleaning the Dog House day.
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Vacation 2019: Devils Tower Empty
PostSubject: Re: Vacation 2019: Devils Tower   Vacation 2019: Devils Tower EmptyTue Apr 09, 2019 9:01 am

two months away

Alright, with two months away, where do I stand?

I have no idea.

I'm currently in the midst of second guessing myself; do I have everything I need, have I thought of everything? It's like I'm too close to the situation. I think I have everything, but since I am only thinking of the same scenarios, do I really have everything planned? I'll need to sit down with the boys and pose the question to them (what am I missing) and see what they come up with. Since neither knows what I've all packed or prepped, they'll come up with ideas I hadn't thought of.

Things that must get done
1. Change the locks on the utility boxes; in the least, I can simply install some padlocks
2. Minor grocery shopping; canned goods, bread, snacks, fruit. Since I've got the MREs, this shouldn't be too consuming
3. Get the Doghouse in for general maintenance. I've an appointment for May 15th to do this, and we'll be: changing oil, tranny and radiator flush, change spark plugs, air filter, and belt (keeping old belt as a backup)

Things I'd like to get done
1. Install water system (see earlier post)
2. Install propane system. This will be easy enough to do, but isn't essential, not when I can just run the hose outside as needed, doesn't need to be permanent.
3. Buff / polish the exterior to make the camper look a little better.

With the exception of the buff and polish, this looks like it can be taken care of in three weekends; with the buff and polish, I could probably do that over a course of a week, if I divide the camper into sections. Plenty of time!
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