Off the Beaten Path

Today we went on another scenic byway from Bismark to Lake Sakakawea without the trailer. It was beautiful.  Every time we stopped to visit a historic site, the peace and quiet were amazing.  We rarely encountered anyone.  There was no major interstate providing background noise.  We primarily heard birds, lots of birds.  Therefore, I’m reconsidering where we go when we leave North Dakota.  I’d like to find a way to spend more time off the interstates.  I’m working on it.

At the first stop, I saw several prairie dogs.  They are smaller than I thought.  Dart never saw them, although they saw him.  I only got the one picture below.  Look closely and you will see the little guy in the middle of the picture. (Update: It turns out, I’m not sure if this is a prairie dog.  It is probably something else but I have not been able to identify it.  I know the picture is not good, but if you know what it is, please let me know.)

We saw Ring-Necked Pheasants, turkeys, bobolinks, lots of red-winged blackbirds, and birds we never saw before and won’t be able to figure out what they were.  We went to several historic sites for the Lewis and Clark trail and ventured along the Missouri River.  We stopped at the dam that creates Sakakawea Lake and visited the Army Corps of Engineers campground.  It is awesome.  We will spend some time in the future looking at the Army Corps campgrounds.  We may come back to this campground sometime and spend a week or two.

Dart loved the historic sites.  I was able to walk him off lead and he stuck to the trail and didn’t chase any animals.  He had a great time.  I kept his leash handy in case he didn’t listen, but he was great the whole time.  We got a lot of walking in today and it was really lovely.

I took a picture of the following rock for my mom.  She loves rocks.

We think the bird in the campground is a Kingbird.  I found my Peterson Guide which works better for me than my other bird guide.  I got the following bad shot of a Kingbird.

As usual, I always seem to have the wrong lens on the camera for my pictures.   One lens is good for scenery and the other for wildlife.  I have to switch between the two and had the wrong lens for the bird and the prairie dog.

The following picture is from a spillway at the dam that is undergoing some maintenance.  It is very big.  This dam would take 2 million freight cars to carry the material to build the dam and the lake is almost 200 miles long (according to The Most Scenic Drives in America).

We also saw a power plant next to a coal mine.  How convenient!

North Dakota is Flat

We left Fargo this morning.  Following is a picture of the mist on the river first thing this morning.  Let me say that Fargo is amazingly clean.  It is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen.  The grass is green everywhere and no obvious weeds.  Regis said it’s so nice looking that it’s spooky.

We got off the interstate and went on a scenic byway in the Sheyenne River Valley.  It was beautiful.  I had no idea that North Dakota was so beautiful.  At least half of the trip was on gravel roads with a posted speed limit of 50 mph (more on the results of that later).  When we stopped to take pictures, we noticed how quiet it was.  We’ve camped next to interstates most of the way, so it was particularly appealing to hear only the sounds of the birds singing.  We saw some interesting historic buildings like this hand hewn log cabin.

We saw lots of “prairie potholes”.  Almost every one had a least one duck floating in it.  I don’t know how they plow around them.  We saw one pond with a cow standing in the middle with the water up to his shoulders.  Perhaps he was trying to cool off.  I hope he wasn’t stuck.

Regis took lots of pictures of tractors.  He said there is no such thing as something small in North Dakota.  His tractor, which I think is big enough, is like a dinghy to the tractors out here.

Except in the river valley, North Dakota is flat.  At one point, the GPS said we were 9 miles to the interstate and I saw a water tower ahead.  I told Regis I thought the water tower was in the town next to the interstate and he wasn’t so sure.  That would mean the tower was 9 miles from where we were.  It turned out to be correct.  The tower was next to the interstate.  This state makes you lose your sense of bearing.  Since the scenery doesn’t change much when you are driving, you don’t realize you are making any progress.  You think you are getting nowhere and you realize you drove 5 miles.  It’s like being in the twilight zone.  We started looking for our campground 20 miles ahead of reaching it thinking we might actually be able to see it.

At one of the rest stops, we saw “cotton” all over the ground under the trees.  I think they may have been Cottonwood trees.  If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Our campground is beautiful.  I’m ready to stay put for awhile.  I think we’ll stay at least 3 days.  We may stay longer.  The only thing that keeps us from staying a week or more is that we are anxious to see Jason.

Tekoe got sick twice today.  She didn’t eat much breakfast, but neither did Dart.  She ate dinner, so I think she’s okay now.  Since I had to do the wash anyway, I was able to get her bed cleaned.  On the way to the laundromat, I had to stop and wait for a male pheasant to saunter across the road.

We are seeing some strange birds in the campground that we can’t find in the field guide.  There is one set of birds nesting in a nearby tree and we still can’t identify it.  We will work at it over the next couple days when the lighting is better.  The nest isn’t located for a good picture, but I will try anyway.

When we arrived in the campground, we were unable to open one of the slides.  A set screw that holds the motor onto the mechanism came out.  It was probably due to the jostling on the gravel roads.  In addition, there is a fine layer of dirt on everything INSIDE and outside the camper.  You can write messages in the dust on all our level surfaces.  Lesson learned!

Dog Wash

We took care of some maintenance items today.  We got the oil changed, picked up some essentials at the store, and got the dogs bathed.  They look great!  Dart was really wound up when we picked him up.  OMG. It was as if he’d been drinking caffeine for two hours straight.  There was no living with him until I threw his flying disc to him non-stop for awhile.

First thing this morning, I walked Dart by the river.  The park was empty except for the campers and none of them were out.  The sun was coming up and there was a mist on the water.  It was very peaceful (except for the route 94 traffic in the background).  We also took a long walk late in the morning and walked all the way to Minnesota and back (which is just across the river).  Below is a picture from that walk of a man and two children in a field.

We are off to Bismark tomorrow and plan to do at least one scenic side trip along the way.

48th State

Yipee!  We entered North Dakota and I have been in 48 states.  I have Hawaii and Rhode Island to go (obviously not on this trip).

It rained all night and rained all day.  Thank goodness it’s not raining now.  I believe I would have had to worry about getting trench foot.  I ran out of dry shoes.

We veered off the interstate today to check out a scenic byway.  It was lovely and we saw birds we have never seen before.  We saw a bird that looks like a pelican but it’s white with black wingtips and big.  We also saw swans, baby geese, and turkeys.  There were lots and lots of lakes (10,0000).  The weather was too nasty to have a nice picnic.  The first picture below is where we stopped for lunch and ate in the truck.  Even in the rain, I played flying disc with Dart.  So, the dogs are wet, the truck is wet, we are wet, everything is wet, (sort of, we are in a camper after all).

I planned this trip much better.  I drove in the morning on the interstate.  Regis took over when we embarked on the scenic route and brought us into the campsite.  This is the first campsite we had to back into.  I’m so glad Regis was at the wheel.  Hah!

We are in a city park.  The pictures below are from the park.  The campsite isn’t great, but the park is nice.  I took Dart for a walk in the park and got lost.  I’m not kidding.  Don’t ask me how you can get lost in a city park that’s on a river and by a major highway. Dart found some chicken.  He was upset that I wouldn’t let him eat it.  I used the sounds of the highway to work my way back to our campsite.  This is the closest we have stayed to an interstate.  We are looking forward to staying somewhere way off the interstate.

When we were in Madison, we dumped our tanks.  We did not have access to sewer last night and won’t for our two nights in Fargo.  The black water tank is 2/3 full right now.  That doesn’t make sense.  Either the tank didn’t completely empty in Madison or something is wrong with the sensor.  It was too much trouble to set up in this campsite to break camp to dump the tanks so we’ll have to live with it.  We don’t use the black water tank much so it shouldn’t be that full.  Puzzling.  Regis is burning up his brain cells trying to figure out what’s wrong.  There are facilities in the campground, so it’s not a disaster.  They have a dump station for when we leave but it looks nearly impossible to dump at it.  Regis is trying to figure out whether we will try it or wait until we get to the KOA on our next stop.  We like KOA’s.  They are consistently decent.

From this point forward, we plan to venture off the beaten path and do some exploring.  It will be easier to do when we drop off the RV and then venture out in the truck.  Since we were hauling the RV around on our venture today, we were not in much of a position to stop and explore.

I am pleasantly surprised with Fargo.  I always thought it would be more barren, but it is a lovely place.  It’s very flat but also green.  The Red River that we are next to is very brown.  With all the rain the last couple days, perhaps it’s just silt.  All the beautiful lakes in Minnesota were clear.

As I’m writing this, someone with a large trailer is pulling (backing) into their site.  It’s always entertaining to watch someone else have to go through this process. Last night, when we pulled into Minnesota, we noticed we had an audience.  Everyone stops what they are doing to watch you pull in and set up.  This guy is good.  I think their trailer is longer than ours and he just pulled it right in.  We’ll get there!!!

Tomorrow, we hope to get and oil change, stock up and groceries, and get the dogs washed.  Hopefully, it will all work out.

Mississippi River

Eureka!  We crossed the Mississippi today.  In my last post, I was still recovering from the trip around Minneapolis.  Obviously, I wouldn’t make a good truck driver.  Lots of traffic, changing lanes, and a long trailer stress me out.

Today, I crunched the container that contains the dog food.  If something is located in the wrong place when we open the slides (like the keyboard the other day), it gets crunched.  Apparently, I have yet to fully understand this.  Hopefully, my feeble mind will eventually understand and we can stop crunching things that require replacement.

We currently think that we will stop in Fargo, ND long enough to get an oil change and stock up on any essentials before we venture through the rest of North Dakota.  We have been told to plan carefully at this point.  Although we have only reserved one night in Fargo, we may extend it to two just to get stocked up and set for the rest of the trip.  We’ll make that decision once we see the campsite in Fargo.  No matter what research you do, you don’t really know how good the campsite is until you see it.

It’s been raining all afternoon.  Regis and I have been researching where we go from here (and I’m getting very excited about Teddy Roosevelt National Park) and the dogs have been sleeping.

Gentle Rain

We drove from Madison, WI to the western outskirts of Minneapolis, MN (279 miles).  There was a gentle rain most of the way that wasn’t an issue until we started to go around Minneapolis.  I hate driving the trailer around cities and rain just adds to the stress.  It was my turn to drive when we went around Chicago and it was my turn to drive when we went around Minneapolis.  There is something wrong with my planning.  I’m going to have to work on this.

I have always appreciated truck drivers but my respect has increased a great deal since my trip around Chicago and now Minneapolis.  I am glad I’m not a truck driver.  (Here’s to you Jeff!)  I’m going to make sure that Regis has to drive when we do Fargo, ND.  I’ll bet its a tiny town with great streets!

I saw a lot of dead deer on the sides of the highway on the way up.  I have never seen so many before.  Also, there were no vultures.  At home, the deer would have been surrounded by vultures.  Doesn’t Wisconsin have vultures?  By the time we got to Minnesota, I saw well over 20 dead deer.  I didn’t count but I’m pretty sure there was approximately one for every ten miles.  So sad.

Dart didn’t jump to catch his disc yesterday or this morning at the campground.  He would slowly retrieve it, but wouldn’t catch it.  Today, at the rest stop, he was his regular, athletic self while leaping and twisting to catch the discs.  It was hot at the Madison campground and cool at the rest stop.  Perhaps he shuts down as the temperature rises.  I’ll have to pay attention and see.

Right now we are camped next to a large family with dogs, kids, parents, and grandparents.  I have no idea how they are all fitting in their trailer.  Dart is not the friendliest guy in town, so I can’t let him spend time outside with all the activity so close.  But, he has spent a little time watching the activity through the screen door.  He’s been good and quiet.

Tekoe mostly sleeps.  If we sit outside the camper with the dogs, Tekoe spends time watching campground activities and stays awake.  Since this trip is giving her an opportunity to spend more time awake soaking in life, I think it will be good for her.

Farmers Market

Today we went to a Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wisconsin.  It was great!  Obviously, asparagus, rhubarb, onions, and lettuces are in season.  There was plenty of cheese bread from the bakeries and lots of plants.  We got some fresh asparagus, venison sausage, ham, eggs, and pastries (of course).  We saw some great cow cookies.  I love Madison and the surrounding area.  It’s beautiful.  There are almost as many bicyclists as there are motorists.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

I tried to find the Olbrich gardens.  After passing them once and returning, I found them.  There was only one parking space in the parking lot and I could not park in it.  If I had my Highlander, it would not be a problem.  A Ford F-350 crew cab (made to pull a mini-mansion as Vickie would say) was not meant to park in that spot.  I had to give it up.  Shucks!

We spent some time in the dog park with Tekoe and Dart and wore them out a bit.  We then sat outside the camper in the sun and people watched.  An oriole showed up in the tree above my head and sang his heart out.  I ran for my camera, loaded the big lens, and got ready to take a great picture to post.  Of course you all know that he flew away before I could focus.

We saw a crane (probably immature Sandhill) flying overhead today and making a very strange sound.  It’s probably a normal sound for a crane but sounded very strange to us.

Since Wisconsin is about cheese, I had to get a cheese pic.  Look closely below and you will see a mouse climbing the pole for the cheese.