Day 81 Home


 “You see, last night it occurred to me, I thought, well, the thing is, all this traveling and seeing things is fine but there’s also a lot of fun to be had from having been. You know, sticking all your pictures in a book and remembering things. 

The important thing about having lots of things to remember is that you’ve got to go somewhere afterwards where you can remember them, you see? You’ve got to stop. You haven’t really been anywhere until you’ve got back home.”


-Terry Pratchett

Day 80 A New York State Of Mind

12,239 miles on The Whale and the truck has just over 13,000 for the trip (we toured some while unhitched)  

– up and rolling at 7:15am

– it sounded like we were camped by the ocean last night. Those Lake Erie waves were crashing. 

– last night’s campground was of the big, open, grassy variety with sites along the edges of the grassy area. I prefer the tucked in the trees sites. 

– it rained overnight. We didn’t manage to close up all the truck windows so the driver had a wet seat this morning. No damage done though. 

– I believe that I am ready to stay in a place that doesn’t require a tornado siren. 

– to amuse ourselves on this rainy driving morning I have been picking random blog entries and reading them aloud. Goodness I wrote a lot!  It’s a good thing too because I’ve already forgotten so much. 

– hello Buffalo, NY. while heading north (especially from Yukon onward) it seemed that everybody we met was on an adventure. Now it seems they are just on their way to work or errands. I miss the “boy you’re a long way from home!”

– so the day was hours of chewing up some miles. The New York Thruway doesn’t offer much in the way of spectacle (unless you count Buffalo traffic and stupid drivers). 

– in a fit of laziness we got sandwiches at Arby’s today rather than at Chez Whale. 

– the sun did finally shine, it warmed up and we made it to Herkimer, NY. We are staying at a large, too expensive KOA. Our site is right on a pretty creek so that makes up for it a bit. We stayed here 3 years ago and found it to be okay. The choices near I90 aren’t all that good so we opted for the familiar. 

– Brett had a hankering for pancakes tonight so it was breakfast for dinner. We checked out the campground, had a look at the spot where people launch their tubes on the River, talked to a family who was collecting rocks to open up and check for diamonds, and made our way back to relax for the rest if the evening. 

– day is done

Day 79 Weary At Lake Erie

– onward and eastward

– and we have returned to the land of the toll road. Most of these are much rougher than any of the toll free interstates we’ve been on. 

– and we are back in the eastern time zone

– I cooked chicken breast last night to use for sandwiches today. After lunch Brett thanked me for the tuna. He pretty much eats anything even if he doesn’t quite recognize it. 

– the traffic got heavier as the day progressed. Ohio has a lot of roads barricaded as being under construction but only a few spots actually had anybody working. All these lane closures increased congestion. For the second day in a row, it was time to stop merely because all the other vehicles were getting to be a bit much. We really are country folk. 

– we washed up at Geneva On Lake, OH at Geneva State Park. It is at Lake Erie. I’ve seen Great Lakes from the air and from the car but never from my feet. So before dinner we walked across the road for a closer look. It is huge and looks exactly like an ocean. Water as far as I could see. It was very windy and there were huge waves crashing. Quite an impressive sight. 

– we will finish our evening relaxing to the sounds of Lake Erie wafting in the stiff breeze, sipping our strawberry banana smoothies. 

Day 78 Chicago How I Detest Thee

– trust your GPS but read the road signs. Dead ends are not okay. But it was easier to back up from the corner than from the dead end of the street. Glad that Brett saw the sign; I was playing with my phone. 

– this is Wisconsin. The Shell station sign announces beer and cheese. 

– fun find at rest area – a man transporting  a 1966 Cessna airplane on a trailer. It’s his fixer upper project. It certainly looked in need of fixer upping. 

– ooh. Now we have diesel, cheese, liquor and bait at the service station. 

– lunch stop was in Paw Paw, IL. Nice name. 

– I made an unfortunate choice for a fuel stop. iExit said truck friendly but it was very tight. My driver didn’t even sweat but I do hate to get him into these pickles. 

– at our fuel stop in Indiana we were shooed from the truck pumps because we are not tax exempt truckers. Luckily there was enough clearance at the common folks pumps. 

– the wind has picked up today. Fortunately it is a tailwind this afternoon. Much easier driving and way better fuel mileage (15 vs the usual 11 when hauling The Whale). 

– a sign just outside Chicago showing number of parking spaces currently available  (maybe at a commuter station). Right now there are 4200. 

– and once again we are happy to have Chicago in our rear view mirror. Our camping neighbors last night are from Chicago and told us to try to get by before 2. Sunday traffic is awful from people coming back to the city after the weekend. She was correct. Our timing wasn’t perfect and we got tangled up with a lot of traffic. But Brett decided to skirt the city using I39 and then head back east on I80/90/94. Our campground host told him he made a good choice. 

– my enthusiasm for this portion of the trip is minimal. We are getting back into people and traffic and ground we have covered before. I observe but not much is striking my fancy today. 

– we have kissed the ground and are trying to relax now at the Michigan City Campground in Michigan City, IN. But what we’ve got here are 2 people who have been a raw nerve most of the day. A wine spritzer should help and then we will plan our attack for tomorrow. 

Day 77 Another Birthday In A Bar

– I’m getting some quiet time while Brett sleeps in on his birthday. Wonder if he ever thought that he’d turn 65 in Wisconsin while on a most excellent adventure.  

– I am still surprised that so many folks have continued to read along as I continue to document our adventure. 77 days is a long time to hang in there with me.  Especially on days when I don’t have much to say. 

– there is an army base called Ft. McCoy not too far from here. The booming noises we keep hearing are the soldiers blowing things up. 

– the birthday lunch is happening at Rozario’s Pizza here in Black River Falls. He chose a 16″ Supreme pizza and an appetizer combo including jalapeño poppers, deep fried mushrooms, deep fried cheese (it’s Wisconsin) and onion rings. Yikes. He won’t make it another year if he keeps eating this stuff!

– the Supreme pizza featured black and green olives. I don’t like olives so we asked for half without olives. When the pizza came it was clear that it was loaded with olives all over. Waitress said she’d take care of it. How about a small one? Okay. So I waited 20 more minutes for my small, no olive pizza. It came, I saw olives. She said it was half without. We said no it is all with. She wondered would I eat the green olives. I said no. She offered to make another one. We declined. 

– by the time that olive studded pizza number 2 arrived, we were wanting to leave the building. The restaurant is also a pub. Four clearly drunk members of the Ho Chunk nation (they had t-shirts telling me their nationality) arrived and wanted service. The waitress ignored them, they asked more loudly for service. Neither party was behaving with much dignity. I don’t want drama with my meals. I especially don’t want drama in a strange place where weapons might be allowed. 

– we asked for a to go box, waited for that and left before things got any worse. 

– so an interesting birthday meal was had. The waitress did graciously only charge us for the drinks and appetizer.  I promise I will make it up to Brett. Though memorable, it hardly seems the special celebration for 65. 

Day 76 We Wander The Wisconsin Wilds

11,130 miles on The Whale 

– we left possible drug central at 7am and feel better for it. I feel slightly less than a good citizen having done nothing about our suspicion. A call to 911 probably was in order but we took the avert our eyes approach and moved along as quickly as we could. 

– first stop is for fuel. There’s a stock truck full of cattle right beside us. The cows are restless and doing a lot of thumping about. Quite possibly I would be restless trapped in a cage on my way to the stockyards. 

– it happened gradually. The land is green again. And there are no more bear proof garbage cans. Should have fly proof garbage cans though as there are a lot of flies about. 

– driving day conversations can go anywhere. Today, in an abundance of positive attitude, Brett said “two years ago you had cancer, now you’ve been to Alaska”. My life is full. 

– there’s also a whole lot of corn growing in this part of the world. It’s tall and messing up my views. 

– Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. There are tons of little bodies of water but I’d say they are more pond sized or kettle holes. Inlets and outlets are not apparent. I’m going with land of 10,000 big puddles (at least so far). 

– by the way, I can confirm that “holy doodle” is an actual Alberta expression. I heard another person from Alberta saying it a few days ago. 

– holy doodle there’s a lot of traffic around Minneapolis. 

– and now for some Wisconsin. As in Scott Walker is my hero bumper stickers. Yup that Wisconsin. 

– we are staying for 2 nights in the Castle Mound Campground of the Black River State Forest in Black River Falls, WI. We found the place by looking on the map about 250 miles out from where we stayed last night. We like state parks and here was one. Brett called and they told him there weren’t any reservable sites available but if we showed up early we might be able to get one of the sites they reserve for walk ins. 

– we arrived just before 2 and there were 3 sites left that the ranger thought we might fit into. She suggested we drive in and see what we thought. Site #27 looked plenty long enough. It was a bit of  a parking puzzle due to a narrow driveway with ditches on either side, a narrow camp road, and a not so level site. But Brett can park this thing just about anywhere and park it he did. There was some squiggling about but we even got the tires on fairly level terrain. 

– we opted for 2 nights because it’s a pain looking for a place on the weekend and it’s really nice here. This also means that Brett gets to celebrate his 65th birthday in a beautiful forest rather than at a Jellystone commercial campground. 

– this will be boondocking again as the sites we had to choose from have no hookups. 

– firewood was $3 for a big bunch so we got some. We are ending the evening with a marshmallow roast and a sit by the campfire. This would have been a relaxing enterprise start to finish except for one snag. The fire pit is up wind, all the windows were open, the smoke alarm doesn’t like camp fires. So the smoke alarm spent a smoke free evening in the microwave (which had nothing better to do because there is no power). It was later restored to its proper spot. 

– sitting beside The Whale in the dark with the firelight reflecting off her ample frame, I think that she’s roughly the size of the Great Wall of China. 

– I should not be allowed to carry long marshmallow roasting forks that have just recently been used. This is because I will get sticky, melted goo all over the grab bar for the door and all over the counter. At least it gave me something to do for the next 15 minutes. That stuff is like cement when it cools off. 

– thus endeth another day of adventure. 

Day 75 To Minnesota

– knock when you get the noodles off. Nobody else would understand that. The bedroom slide sticks out at head level. It hurts if you walk into it. So we put pool noodles along the edge to cushion the blow. When I fold the trailer up in the morning I need to know when the noodles are packed away so I don’t squish them. He tells me by knocking on the side of the rig. 

– we didn’t roll until 9am which is late for us. There were a lot of people who wanted to talk. One man just wanted to tell me about all the good campgrounds we missed in Alaska. I guess it made him feel all smug inside. 

– it is just crazy to see pelicans in North Dakota. I thought they lived by the sea. I guess I thought wrong. 

– the billboard simply said “be nice”

– my roadside attraction for today was the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown, ND. We didn’t stop but it can be seen from the highway.  The sculpture is 26 feet tall and 46 feet long. 

– there are a lot of big, juicy moths flying around. They make quite a mess on the windshield. 

– the landscape has definitely become agricultural. In addition to corn, there are hundreds of acres of sunflowers and I think soybeans. At one farmer’s coop they are just dumping the grain into huge outdoor piles rather than into silos. 

– we stopped for the night in Fergus Falls, MN at the city park called Delagoon Park. It is a large park on a small lake (Pebble Lake). There are lots of sports fields, a big playground, a boat launch and a small, first come first served campground. We found a spot that will hold us and we are down for the night. Our $20 was supposed to buy electric too but there’s a problem with the power so we will use the batteries. There is fresh water though. 

– we must still be in tornado country. The checkin instructions say that in the event of tornado a siren will sound and you should seek shelter. I do see one small bath house. But the weather forecast is for clear skies and smooth sailing. All is well. 

– I’m trying not to cast aspersions here but there’s a beat up old motor home in the campground with a big white Cadillac parked by it. There has been a steady stream of traffic to the motorhome all afternoon. One or two young people get out, go into the motorhome for a short time, then leave. If the meth lab explodes, I hope we are far enough away to avoid the worst of it. 

Day 74 Oil Change In The Oil Boom

– And the day is happier because there are fields and fields of sunflowers. 

– the North Dakota oil boom is becoming more evident. Seeing acres of large pipes, oil wells, storage tanks, pumping stations, long trains with tank cars, trucks hauling huge pieces of equipment. 

– we’ve returned to the central time zone

– just a short day today. We’ve got a spot for tonight at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Mandan, ND. This is a pretty spot on the Missouri River and the park isn’t very crowded on this midweek day. We were directed to a site and told to pull through. This seemed a but odd since there was another site at the end of that same driveway and we’d run over somebody if they are there in the morning. So we asked and not to worry. They only put one rig per loop when it isn’t busy. 

– I made a quick crackers and cheese snack after we got set up and we headed directly to the GMC dealer so that we can get an oil change. We are 4th in line now.  

– oil change accomplished.  I don’t think it took more than an hour. Now for some diesel and then back to enjoy the campground. 

– we took a walk around this very large campground and discovered a few things. We are at the spot where the Heart River joins the Missouri River. The campground was flooded about 6 feet deep in 2011. The water came in June and receded in August. The trees all have lighter bark up to that water line. The flooded trees are dying. We talked to the ranger who was marking them for culling. These dying trees are dangerous in the wind. A tenter was hurt earlier this season when one fell over. A huge cottonwood came down and destroyed the playground. There are a lot of bat houses around. The only evidence of bats we found was in the picnic shelters. 

– but on a happier note, it is quiet and should be a nice evening here. We sat down by the river and watched it flow by for a while this evening. A pleasant pastime if a little noisy from the Canada geese that kept flying by. 

Day 73 Teddy’s Place

– little girls are playing in the puddles outside. They are femininely attired in pink stripes and also sport 6 guns with matching pink holsters. We must be in the west. They eventually sat and rolled about in the mud with no adult seeming to care. At least they were having fun. 

– I needed to use up the rest of my blueberry purchase so it was pancakes again for breakfast. We had to wait for the fog to lift so that we’d actually be able to see a long view in the park so there was plenty of time for a cooked breakfast. 

– our national parks pass is the best thing we purchased since retirement. That $10 has gotten us free admission and half priced camping in lots of beautiful places. 

– first stop was the visitors center. I wanted to get a stamp for my book, see the exhibits and watch the introductory video. The park service does a great job with explanations and interpretive signage. 

– this park features a 36 mile loop road to get you up close to the badlands landscape. Badlands are semiarid regions with sparse vegetation that experience high rates of erosion. Water and wind, instead of carving gentle hills and broad valleys, sculpt soft sedimentary rock into intricate mazes of narrow ravines, v-shaped gullies, knife-sharp ridges, buttes, and colorful pinnacles.  

– There are quite a few pullouts with amazing vistas (360 degrees in some cases) and a few side roads.  

– an early pullout was next to a prairie dog town. There were hundreds of them out and about. We sat and just watched and listened for a while. They have a sort of squeak for their voice. Most exciting was when a coyote sauntered through. Thankfully he wasn’t eating anybody, just passing by. 

– then there were cars parked along the road which always indicates a sighting. In this case it was bison (that is the correct scientific name although buffalo is acceptable). A small herd passed close by. A few hundred feet down the road, we pulled into a parking spot so that Brett could read a sign. He got out and I noticed that a rather large bison was headed his way. He didn’t get back to the truck as soon as I would have but he made it before the bison did. No kidding, this big boy was right in front of the truck. 

– there were a few more bison along the way but this was by far the best encounter. It was also fun to see a young man taking a selfie with the critters but from his sunroof while the car was moving (so no stupid tourist trick with that). 

– we took a side road up to Buck Hill. From the parking area we walked a few hundred more feet to the top and were afforded one of those 360 degree spectacles. We could hear a dog barking inconsolably from one of the cars. They aren’t allowed on any of the paths so the family had to leave it there and it was loudly unhappy about it. I can’t say that it improved my wilderness experience much either. 

– it rained all night and some while we were touring. We noticed that this seemed to enhance the smells. The air was heavy with sagebrush. 

– there is a campground in the park so we went over to check it out. It would have been tight for The Whale. The roads are narrow with lots of overhanging cottonwoods. Lovely spot but no amenities and we did need to do our laundry. 

– I packed a picnic lunch. There was a picnic ground. Lunch happened there. 

– on the way home we stopped to buy tickets for tonight’s Medora Musical. It is billed as “the rootin’-tootinest, boot-scootinest show in all the west! There’s no other show quite like it.  Set in the outdoor splendor of the rugged North Dakota Badlands, this professionally produced, high energy, western-style musical show is proudly dedicated to the legacy of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, and the time he spent here in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory. Each show pays tribute to American patriotism and the Old West.”

– of course, the weather forecast now shows a 50% chance of rain at show time. 

– we also got tickets for the outdoor meal: cowboy barbecue and pitchfork steak fondue. I will report back on that. 

– it was pouring rain at 5:15 but we headed over to the venue anyway. Yup!  Dinner is still on. As we walked in, we saw people cooking the ribeye steaks. They put half a dozen on a pitch fork and then put them into hot oil. This is because it would take too long to grill that many steaks. A host assured us that normal North Dakota folks grill their steaks as well. 

– Brett got steak but I wanted ribs so we were sent to separate stations. We got cowboy beans, garlic bread, baked potatoes, salad, cole slaw, drinks, Cinnamon doughnuts (cowboys like doughnuts) and brownies. The beef short ribs were excellent and Brett said the ribeye was great too. 

– we sat beside a long haired motorcycle fellow who had interesting tales of his travels. Then an older couple sat down. They were on a mystery bus tour. You pay, know you will be gone for 5 days and then show up with your suitcase but you aren’t told where you will be going. They were from Wisconsin and were with a group that filled 3 tour buses. 

-Medora has a population of 112. They bring in people from all over the world to work the season. 

– we also struck up a conversation with a South Dakota cattle rancher. His grandfather rode with Teddy Roosevelt chasing Pancho Villa all over Mexico. 

– we were let into the seating about 30 minutes before the show. It’s an enormous outdoor amphitheater set into the side of a badland. We see the stage and then behind that the stunning scenery.    

– and we began with the national anthem and a horse with a rider carrying a flag. 

– I would never call myself a country and western fan but this show is quite wonderful. 

– there are people in the audience who have been coming to see this show every year since 1965!

– I expect a gig at this show would look good on a resume. 

– the reenactment of the Battle of San Juan Hill was rather stirring and the cannons were very loud. 

– everybody we’ve met from the Dakotas seems so proud of their heritage. And all these years I’ve just thought basically nothing of either Dakota (except maybe South Dakota, gateway to North Dakota ). Sorry about that. It’s a beautiful place you have here; full of nice people.  

– and just as we got home it started to rain again. 


Day 72 Medora, ND

– we are in what is officially a semi-arid region. A few inches less rain and it would be desert. I think the semi is an exaggeration. It’s mostly brown. 

– we exited for a rest area. The road it is on is named Bad Route Road. I don’t think inviting is what they were after when they named that one. 

– it’s been a while since we’ve seen any oil wells. Closing in on North Dakota and here they are again. 

– there’s a town in North Dakota called Home On The Range. 

– we arrived at The Red Trail Campground in Medora, ND around noontime. This is a historic little town just outside the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We’ve got a 2015 guide booklet and a map so we plan to make a dent in the sights. 

– Brett graciously did the laundry while I organized a few hundred more photographs. We set out to do a walking exploration of the town but it started to rain so we cut it a bit short. 

– Medora sits at the entrance to the national park. Turns out it is the #1 tourist spot in North Dakota. I didn’t know this. We generally pick our stops because they are along some vague route we plotted out. This was a heretofore unknown (to us) park. When we drove through upon arrival we thought it looked like an interesting historical town. There are lots of clapboard buildings and boardwalks. Most of those buildings turned out to be shops. I did spend a few minutes drooling over cowboy boots (want!) but they are desperately expensive so I shall remain boot less. There are a few historical buildings and many interpretive signs so this made it a little better than a shopping destination. We noticed a museum but it was getting rather wet so we skipped it for today. 


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