Downy Oshun, Hon

If you are from the Baltimore area you know that ‘Downy Oshun’ is a colloquialism for “going down to the ocean”. Why waste syllables? There are multiple beach destinations along the Mid-Atlantic Coast, but for many in the Baltimore area, the ONLY “Oshun” destination is Ocean City, Maryland.

We’ve been to Ocean City on countless occasions. It is a very commercial strip of land that boasts a boardwalk, amusement piers, arcades, water parks and lots of miniature golf. It has hotels, motels, condos, restaurants and bars. It has world famous Thrasher’s French Fries, and Fisher’s Pop-Corn. It has neon, and music, and bicycles and tram cars. It has sun and sand and a fast food joint on every block. Ocean City is a Mecca for pizza, playtime and partying.

We are outdoor lovers. We like to bike, hike and kayak and generally do so while camped at a State Park. We initially had reservations for a site on Assateague National Seashore, which is very close to Ocean City, but due to the no dog rule, we had to find an alternate site, where Gypsy would be welcome. Thus, Ocean City and The Castaways RV Resort:

Castaways is a huge diversion for us. Not only is it a commercial campground, it is a true resort with a Caribbean vibe. There is a private beach, a dog beach, a swimming pool, a hot tub, a Tiki bar, a pool bar and a fitness center! Cabins, painted in bright, tropical colors are available for rent. Additionally, you can rent golf carts, jet-skis, kayaks, paddle-boards or inflatable party islands!

Poor Gypsy is recovering from her recent spay procedure, so she was unable to play on the doggie-beach, but she did manage to have a good time at the dog-friendly pool bar, while I managed to get in a round of mini-golf.

It’s a good thing that we had reservations for only three nights. A person could get used to that kind of debauchery.

But, time to get back on track. Goose Creek State Park, here we come.

Stay tuned…

Lightning never strikes the same place twice?

Strike 1

During our March trip to Austin, Texas, we had a tree fall on our garage. It was an isolated incident, one that would surely not repeat itself. I mean, lightening never strikes the same place twice, right? WRONG! I have researched the likelihood of multiple strikes in the same location, and it seems that because weather patterns are repetitive, it is not uncommon for two lightning strikes in the same place. How about three?

We have a kind and conscientious neighbor who keeps an eye on our property while we are out, galavanting around the globe. During our recent trek to the west coast, sometime in July, Barry called to tell us that an enormous tree had fallen into his backyard, causing a chain reaction which impacted our lot. The tree crashed through power lines violently enough that it caused the wires to catapult a telephone pole into our backyard. Picture it, a giant slingshot composed of overhead wires, loaded with a telephone pole, aimed at the center of our lawn. A number of small trees also tumbled into our gardens, and the wires wound up dangling into our pond. On the positive side, there were no electrocutions. On the negative side, no one wanted to accept responsibility for the damage or the subsequent clean up. Baltimore Gas & Electric pointed fingers at Verizon, Verizon pointed fingers at Comcast, Comcast pointed fingers at Baltimore Gas & Electric. You get the general picture.

Through some long distance persistence, the assistance of our remarkably thoughtful neighbor, and the expenditure of quite a few bucks, the mess was cleaned up.

We had a few days in August during which we could grab the grandkids and head to the Delaware beaches. After the tree fiascos, I was a bit wary of wandering away from home, BUT the kids love “glamping” and we love having their company. We stayed at the Delaware Seashore State Park which is a slice of paradise for kids. The ocean is within walking distance. There are plenty of safe roads on which to ride bikes and there are playgrounds that are packed with kids.

We were having SO much fun. We were diving into waves, playing games, soaking up the sun and swimming in the surf. We managed a trip to the boardwalk with a stop at Funland, where my grandson managed to coerce me into joining him on a ride that had me dangling, completely upside down for longer than was comfortable. I lived to tell about it.

It was perfect, until the text from Barry arrived.

A telephone pole behind our pond, NOT the one that had previously been catapulted into our yard, was on fire. Our yard was filled with bucket trucks, fire trucks and an assortment of emergency response vehicles, all of which left, deep, muddy ruts in our meticulously manicured lawn. More landscape work. More $$$$$. My yard is a money pit.

And yet, because we believe the odds are against a fourth lightning strike, we are ready to embark on a journey that will eventually take us to coastal Georgia. Dare I ask what the next backyard catastrophe will be?

Stay tuned….

And sometimes life gets in the way

It’s been a while since my last update. Our final stop on the cross country journey was at Codorus State Park, near Hanover, PA. The park is large and scenic and the sites are spacious but we did not stay long enough to take full advantage of what the park had to offer. I shall get back there some day when I do not have pressing reasons to get home.

Being retired is not ALL about fun and games and frivolity. Growing older is too often accompanied by the loss of loved ones. I had to leave Codorus to finally, after much postponement, confront such a loss.

My beautiful mother suffered for many, many years with Alzheimer’s disease. I was with her throughout the entire ordeal. I was there to hug her when she was first slipping and was filled with fear and anxiety that often presented as anger. I was there to keep her company when she no longer knew me. I was there to feed her when utensils became foreign objects. I was there to hold her hand while playing Amazing Grace on my iPhone and reading to her when she slipped into heaven.

Mom had passed away months before our 6-week RV journey began, but her funeral was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Coming home meant completing a different type of journey. Alzheimer’s is often labeled THE LONG GOODBYE, which is an accurate summary of this truly awful disease. I needed to say my final farewell, after years of slowly waving adieu to the woman who gave me life.

During the same week, we were abruptly confronted with the sudden and unexpected death of a dear, dear friend and the death of a dear friend’s mother. RIP Jaybird and Pat. Life is so fragile and so precious. All of you will be deeply missed.

Sadly, this is not my normal, light-hearted post but I promise better things are coming. Mom would have wanted us to continue to ramble, explore and enjoy our beautiful world. In fact, she kept a refrigerator magnet that featured a quote by Hunter S. Thompson: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming “Wow, what a ride!!!”

Stay tuned.

Homeward Bound

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Bertrand Russell

I suspect that some would question why two, supposedly sane, sixtyish-year-olds would leave a perfectly lovely home, to live in a truck, with an overly-peppy puppy, for six weeks straight. Lunacy? There may be a touch of foolhardiness involved, but it is truly a wanderlust that drives us. Yet, a tug at the heartstrings is pulling us back home. It’s hard to conceive of the fact that very soon we will be seeing this adventure from the rear view mirror. Six weeks can feel like six minutes. It’s the curse of growing older.

This may come as a shock, but after 6,200 miles behind the wheel, I relented. I allowed myself to be a passenger. A major storm was fast approaching as we passed through Erie, PA and were heading on to Western New York. I could not fathom driving one mile further, especially through black skies, blustery winds and a blinding rain. I had already gone too many miles. It was the straw that finally broke the camel’s (my) back. I pulled over, pried my fingers off of the steering wheel and got situated in the back of the RV. Only intravenous valium could have persuaded me to ride shotgun. There would be no co-pilot for this leg of the trip. Once safely seat-belted in the back, I grabbed my comfort animal (Gypsy) and gave the keys to my husband. He picked his jaw up off the ground, introduced himself to the driver’s seat, and got us safely to Evangola State Park in Irving New York.

Evangola State Park is located on Lake Erie and draws huge numbers of gulls and geese. There is a mighty wind that blows off of the lake, which creates ocean-like waves that break against the beach. It is a beautiful spot for birding, boating, swimming or sunbathing.

We were able to jog a few miles on the paved paths within the park.

New York currently is one of the top 5 wine-producing states. The area around Evangola is speckled with vineyards. We made a quick stop at the dog-friendly, Merritt Vineyard and enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio, some cheese and crackers, and a chat with the vintner.

Next Stop: Black Moshannon State Park, which is located in Phillipsburg, PA, near my husband’s old Penn State stomping grounds. It is a well-used park with fishing, boating and numerous hiking opportunities.

We had an exceptionally muddy, ten-mile, tramp through the trails.

Only one more stop along the way…

Mixed Emotions.

Stay tuned….

Detour in ‘de tour’

“This is turning into an alcohol-will-cure-everything kind of day.”

― Kelly Moran, Bewitched

We were all set to head to Iowa when we discovered that our ‘slide’ would not retract. You cannot drive down the road with an extended slide. It would certainly be bad for the motorhome and you would need one of those escort vehicles with flashing lights and a sign reading WIDE LOAD. We were dismayed but after our emergency vet visit, this seemed more than like a hiccup than a crisis. We pondered our options and settled on trying to find a mobile RV repair technician. Fortunately, a nice lady in the campground had a recommendation for D & J Diversified Repair Service.

Doug to the Rescue

A very capable RV repairman, my new ‘bestie’, Doug, took our call and squeezed us in to his schedule. To make a long, boring story bearable, he discovered that the protective canopy, which keeps moisture out of the slide, had come off the track, bent a rod, and had snapped another rod off entirely. It looked pretty hopeless, as we did not have a replacement rod (who would?). So, we had to pay for an additional night, and cancel our reserved spot in Iowa. Doug, being someone who is not easily deterred, returned later in the day with a pipe that he had fashioned to replace the shattered rod.

I love Doug.

In what feels like a former lifetime, we lived in Iowa for a 2-year stint. We were scheduled to reconnect with my former co-worker and friend, Julie during our stay. I was so eager to see her, but I was merely curious to see the old haunts. I had culture shock when we moved from the mid-Atlantic to the Hawkeye State many years ago. At the time, it seemed a bit “backward”. I was shocked. We found Cedar Rapids to be growing and bustling and a far livelier community than the one we left 15 years ago!

Our campsite was on Coralville Lake. It was large and level and would have been the perfect spot for a longer stay.

We just happened to be in Iowa for my birthday. I try to ignore birthdays, as they seem to get here more quickly each year. However, Julie was not going to let this day slip by unobserved. She was so thoughtful, putting together a meal, and gifts and some specialty cupcakes. I am so very grateful that she went to so much trouble to create a truly memorable day.

We departed Iowa with a nostalgic tug at the heart and were soon Indiana Bound.

Dance Tiny Dancer

I am going to suggest that Indiana misappropriates its highway funding. I have never been on worse roads, and at this juncture, I have been on LOTS of roads. I-80 in the vicinity of Gary, IN is a nightmare of endless bumps, potholes, concrete walls, open road seams, and orange cones.

The hula dancer on the dashboard, that was a birthday gift from Julie, is now in traction with severe spinal trauma from her LONG, bumpy ride through Indiana.

Our site at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Albion was not at all level, which causes my husband great angst. Shall we say that this was not the best stop? We were road weary and disgruntled and had to deal with a ‘hangry dog’ and a hula dancer with spinal stenosis.

I did not even take a photo in this park, which was probably a nice park that did not get a fair shake.

We did arrive safely at Evangola State Park, on Lake Erie in New York, and in far better states of mind.

But that’s another story…

Stay tuned

Rock Stars

A visit to Mount Rushmore was supposed to have been one of the highlights of our travel schedule. Don’t misunderstand me. It is a “must see”, and I am thrilled to have had the chance to see this remarkable monument, this unimaginable artistic feat; this tribute to our forefathers. Yet, due to a few monkey wrenches that were tossed in, the experience could have been better.

First of all, in order to get to the Black Hills, we had to drive through most of Wyoming, on narrow, state roads. I felt like I was driving down a landing strip on the moon. The speed limit is 80 on those two-lane roads. Why? Because you are highly unlikely to encounter another vehicle for miles and miles and miles. Wyoming is mostly flat, and it’s brown, and nobody lives there. Well, someone has to live there to take care of the livestock. There is plenty of livestock.

I was feeling pretty confident about making good time and getting a little cocky about my mad driving skills. I was flying down those long, straight, empty roads.

Enter, South Dakota. The hills turn into mountains, and you start seeing signs that say, STEEP, CURVY ROADS WITH NO SHOULDER FOR THE NEXT SIX MILES. Those high-elevation, serpentine roads are agonizing. I wanted to pull over and cry, but there was no shoulder to pull on to, so I had to wind my way around, VERY slowly, while simultaneously cursing under my breath and begging Jesus to take the wheel.

Doggone It!

We didn’t die on the mountain so I figured it would be smooth sailing ahead, but as we pulled into our campground, the skies opened up and thunder boomed while the dog was desperately whining. I figured she needed to relieve herself so I leashed her up and braved the storm. That is when I discovered that Gypsy had explosive doggie-diarrhea. She not only had mutt-style Montezuma’s revenge, she was also foaming at the mouth, kind of like Old Yeller after he contracted rabies from that damned wolf.

So off to the Rapid City, Emergency Vet we went. I was convinced she was dying, but I have a tendency to overreact.

The Vet was suggesting that she ate something she should not have eaten (duh…), but also was concerned about giardia, diet changes and nervous anxiety combining to cause pancreatitis. Wow. I mean, yes, she had the trots, and yes, she was drooling to beat the band, but she was certainly not lethargic. She was full of energy and wagging her tail. The bloodwork came out fine, and yet, we were sent home with antibiotics, probiotics, special food, tranquilizers, and anti-nausea meds. Ching! Ching! $$$$

Naturally, by the morning she was 100% fine… no runs, no slobber. After all of the expense and anxiety, I now suspect that she chewed on a Kong that probably had the remnants of a 3-day old peanut butter treat, no pancreatitis or nervous condition; just a dog that had a tummy ache.

We took a perfectly healthy (and really expensive) puppy for a hike in the Black Hills. The Flume Trail goes along the route of a flume that was constructed in the late 1800s for the purpose of redirecting water to areas in which gold had been discovered and was being mined.

The ridges were rock-strewn and narrow and there was significant elevation gain. The views were amazing and the remnants of the flume were visible along the path.

I do not recommend this hike for the Acrophobic, but for anyone else, it provides semi-strenuous exercise, panoramic views, and an interesting history lesson.

Lewis & Clark got around…

After a painfully long journey across South Dakota, we are now camping along the Missouri River in South Sioux City, Nebraska. I walked along the water and noted several historical placards regarding the Lewis and Clark expedition. No matter where we have gone on this journey, they beat us to it. Amazingly, however, they did it without motorized vehicles, Google Maps, a GPS, or an Air Conditioned RV stuffed with refrigerated food. Now, when I complain about the number of miles traveled in a day, I think of my new pals, Lewis & Clark. They have more than earned my respect.

Tomorrow, onward to Iowa City, where I will be reconnecting with a friend, with whom I worked in Cedar Rapids many, many moons ago.

Stay tuned…

The Big Bend in the Road

Mt. Rainier does not exist under our feet. Mt. Rainier lives in our minds”
― Bruce Barcotti

One cannot go much further West than Washington, unless an ocean going vessel is involved. With mixed emotions, we began to make the big, U-turn that would take us back to the east coast. We, will, of course, be happy to reunite with our family and friends at the end of the journey but it is hard to leave so much beauty behind. We will just have to carry the experiences in our hearts and know that parts of our souls will remain with the landscape that we left behind.

My husband was quite ambitious regarding miles we could travel in between stops during our return voyage. Granted, at the time he made the plans, we had a deadline to meet if we hoped to meet our friends for a stop at Bob’s Lake, Canada, in late July. It turns out that, due to Covid-19, and the border closure, we would not be winding up in Ontario and the rush home was for naught. The groundwork, however, had been laid, and reservations made, so we began our overly-ambitious marathon back to Maryland.

Our 1st, and only stop in the stunning state of Oregon was at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino. Because I am a nature lover, my preference is always to stay at state or national parks, but this place gets a thumbs-up. The sites are large and level, and there are ample grounds for dog-walking or just taking a stroll. It is an easy amble to the casino from the RV park, and for the slothful amongst us, there is a courtesy van that will deliver campers to the door of this gambler’s utopia. There are plenty of slots and table games, and the air is not heavy-laden with cigarette smoke. Definitely a more than acceptable alternative for a quick stop (or a longer stop if luck is a lady…)

I hate traffic and generally deplore the part of the journey that is spent on the highway. However, it is not congested in this part of the world, and believe it or not, I actually enjoyed the drive! Route 84 is indescribable in its splendor as it winds its way through the Columbia River Gorge, The Hood River Valley, The Dalles, The Umatilla National Forest, etc. There were a few curvy, steep, twists and turns that caused me to grip the steering wheel for dear life and I may have said a bad word or two, but we managed to get to Idaho without diving off of a cliff.

When I think of Idaho, I think of Potatoes and cults. I do not think of The Oregon Trail, or The Snake River Valley, or arid desert land. After staying at Massacre Rocks State Park, I will never again think of Idaho as simply the spud-capital of the world.

Although this park is situated just parallel to I-86, you feel as if you have entered a different world than the one that you left on the highway. The hiking trails are entwined throughout the grounds, and lead to the Old Oregon Trail. The Snake River runs through the park, and numerous white pelicans soar along the estuary. The ground is dry and covered with fine basalt dust.

“The trails held a million places for those beady-eyed death noodles to hide.”
― Shaun David Hutchinson

The Grizzlies did not stop us in Montana and the Rattlesnakes did not stop us in Idaho.

When you’re stupid you have to be tough.

Oh! give me a home where the Buffalo roam,

Where the Deer and the Antelope play;

Dr. Brewster M. Higley

After leaving Idaho, we headed to Lander, Wyoming. I was almost hit by an antelope. There’s a statement that I never thought I would utter.

If you’ve never been to southwest Wyoming, you have no legitimate claim to having been “in the middle of nowhere.” There is limitless, free-range land as far as the eye can see. signs say things like: Caution. Cows on the Road, and Grouse Crossing, and Antelope Enter Road at 55 mph. The antelope that nearly crossed in front of me had slowed down to a respectable 35 mph, and thankfully, ran a quick, slant route, and avoided colliding with Big Bertha.

Sadly, amidst all of the magnificence of The Shoshone National Forest, we found ourselves in yet, another roadside RV rest stop, for a one-night stay. Maybe I’m just getting used to these stop-overs, but Sleeping Bear RV Park is really, kind of cute, and has a pathway that enables you to walk into downtown (?) Lander. The management is friendly and the park is clean. There is a small stream on the property and there are overlooks that enable you to see mountains on the horizon.

Tomorrow: Custer, SD… SO MANY MORE MILES. <sigh>

Next adventure will have fewer miles and longer stays. I am weary.

Stay tuned…

Glaciers and Gorges

Montana means mountain, which is perplexing when you are driving across endless miles of great plains in this state; that is until you begin to see the shadows of the Rocky Mountains appear on the western horizon. Then, WOW, suddenly you are twisting through the jaw-dropping peaks in Glacier National Park. It is impossible to adequately describe the grandeur. This is a must do. Put it on your bucket list.

I did mention ‘twisting’ through these roads, with their high ridges and curvy cliffs. This corkscrew-style driving is something that is more comfortably done in a Jeep than in a 36-foot RV with tow vehicle. I wanted to creep along at 30 MPH and gawk at the glaciers and the gorges. The drivers behind me had other ideas. It’s a good thing that there are numerous scenic overlook areas on the roadside. I could pull off and let the impatient motorists fly by me, while saying unkind things about me and giving me the one-finger-salute.

We were able to do some hiking in the backcountry but I confess that the warnings about Grizzly Bear were slightly off putting.

The experts say to make noise when you are hiking. Apparently, you do not want to surprise a bear. They are shy and will hide if they know you are coming. I was tempted to sing a first soprano aria with a shrieking, vibrato voice, but I was not sure if this would scare a bear or give him ample reason to stick around and kill me. So, I made noise with my hiking poles instead. I clapped them together, and coughed and cleared my throat. Not very intimidating but it must have worked because we did not get eaten by bears.

The campsite was wooded and pleasant, but it was small and had no hookups (water, sewer or electricity.) We were ready for the boondocking experience. We had camped without these amenities before, but had never done so in Big Bertha. In the past, our RVs had refrigerators that were run by propane. Not Bertha. Her refrigerator/freezer runs off of the battery, and it did not take long to discover that cooling our food supplies in 100F heat soon depletes the battery. In fact, we could not even start the generator unless we started it from the truck battery. Sadly, I knew that this would make our stay at Glacier shorter than originally anticipated.

We had to make the most of the next day, so we rented a small motor boat and trolled along Lake McDonald, which parallels the Road to the Sun. There is an absolutely arresting allure to this area.

I did not want to leave this awe-inspiring place, but off we went to the Spokane, Washington area.

Washington, the Evergreen State, surprisingly has miles and miles of stuff that is not green. The Columbia plateau boasts low elevation, plains and basins and is covered with ‘amber waves of grain’. Yet, when you cross the Columbia River, you begin an ascent into the Cascades that is astonishing. The views simply take your breath away.

We pulled into Riverside State Park for two nights and were sorry that we could not extend the stay. The campsite was situated right on the Spokane tributary of the Columbia River. It was spacious and our camping neighbors were outgoing, fun and friendly.

The hiking around the ‘Bowl and Pitcher’ rock formations was fantastic. The trails were well marked and only slightly challenging.

I hated to leave Riverside but had something of enormous importance on my agenda. My parents were foster parents when I was a youngster. I had a teenaged foster sister that I idolized. I saw her as worldly and glamorous and ever-so-grown-up. She was so kind to us and treated us like sweet, little sisters instead of the little brats that we most assuredly were. I had not seen her for 40(+) years, but Black Diamond Washington was on our way to our next stop, South of Olympia. So, we took a little side trip, down memory lane and I am SO GLAD that we did.

Mary was just as I remembered her, kind and generous and loving. She even tolerated Gypsy, who was behaving in an intolerable fashion, jumping on everyone and begging for food, and eating charcoal….

We were joined by Mary’s sister, husband, and brother-in-law. The company was delightful. The food was scrumptious, and the wine selection was top notch. The only complaint is that there was not enough time. We did not even scratch the surface as far as being able to catch up. So many years have gone by, and there are so many stories that we still need to share. Gypsy’s antics were a detriment. Thank God these wonderful people are true dog lovers. I will find a way to spend more time with them in the future.

“I blinked my eyes
and in an instant,
decades had passed.”
― John Mark Green, Taste the Wild Wonder: Poems

We proceeded on to Twin Harbors State Park following our nostalgic lunch stop. Initially, we were unimpressed because the site was quite small. Yet, after exploring the park, we came to love it. Twin Harbors has miles of unpopulated, Pacific shore line. Gypsy ran, leash-free, in pursuit of gulls. She tumbled through waves and swam through tidal pools. She was in heaven.

We also stumbled upon the Westport Winery while at Twin Harbors. We went in search of lunch and found a bistro-winery-distillery-art gallery-topiary garden-mermaid museum with a miniature golf course. We spent hours at this place, walking through the gardens and admiring the landscaping and three-dimensional artwork.

We have reached the halfway point in our journey, and, unbelievably, it is time to do a U-turn and head back East.

Next stop: Wildhorse Casino & RV Park in Pendleton, OR

Stay tuned.

Life is a highway

Canadian singer/songwriter, Tom Cochrane penned these lyrics:

“Life is like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind…”

He’s right. Sometimes you wind up in State or National Parks that are resplendent in scenic marvels, and sometimes, when plans don’t fall together, you wind up in roadside rest areas that claim to be campgrounds. If you have a sense of humor, you can actually enjoy these stops. Okay, maybe enjoy is a stretch. Perhaps it is better said that you can find them amusing.

I’m not sure whether the charm was due to the cramped quarters, the ramshackle buildings, the weedy pool with piles of dog poo around it, or the 1960’s signage but I did find this quirky, little campsite to be strangely engaging. We had full hook ups, including 50-amp service, and the owner was just as friendly and helpful as a person could be.

Obviously, this was not going to be an optimal place for hiking or biking. We had an afternoon to kill, so I consulted Google about places of interest near Glasgow, Montana and the only thing that came up was the Scraped Knuckle Brewery. So, we went. We bought a pint and a tee shirt!

Trails West wound up being an acceptable one-night-stand, but it was time to head to Shelby, MT.

Campground, Hotel and Casino

This stop did not have the shabby-chic vibe of the last destination. BUT, the Shelby RV park also included a hotel and casino. Again, no hiking or biking opportunities, but we could use the hotel amenities. So, we used the fitness room and in foolhardy fashion, frittered away ten dollars in the casino.

Still, finding ourselves with too much time on our hands, we ventured onto Main Street and found an antique car show lining a blocked-off section of the downtown area.

Before settling in for the evening, I took a stroll up a nearby hill that overlooked the RV park, with my faithful companion, Gypsy. I think it would be fair to say that I am more than eager to get to our next stop: Glacier National Park. I intend to do LOTS of hiking. The next set of photos should be a little grander….

Stay tuned…

The land of 10,000 mosquitoes

The drive from The Apostle Islands to Leech Lake Minnesota was fairly traffic free, other than for a short time, when we entered the Superior, WI / Duluth, MN area.

A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.”— Tom Waits

I was looking for 10,000 lakes worth of scenery. What I found was The World of Accordions Museum. Clearly the picture to the left is illegible, but it is my proof that there is an entire, rather large, building dedicated to the lowly concertina and it’s better known cousin, the accordion.

We had an accordion when I was a kid. None of us could play it, but for some reason, we kept one in the basement. We were nerds.

I digress. Back to the lakes: I had high hopes of seeing thousands of lakes as we cruised the countryside into Northern Minnesota. License plates boast that this northern state is the ‘Land of 10, 000 Lakes’. I, perhaps, saw 10 lakes, and those were mostly obscured by pine trees. That is not to say that the lakes aren’t there, it’s just that the 10-thousand lakes are hidden behind 10-million trees. The trees, however, are lush, healthy and abundant. Even our Leech Lake Campground was not really a lake, it was merely a wetlands that, eventually, opened up into a lake, but it was not visible from the camping area.

The wetlands in this region are home to wild rice and cranberry bogs. There is an amazingly tasty wild rice and cranberry bread that can be found in the local bakeries.

“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky” ~Ojibwe saying.

The Leech Lake area is home to the Ojibwe, who are also known as the Chippewa. A prophecy urged them to move west to “the land where food grows on water”, which, they believed, was a clear reference to the wild rice. This crop and the revelation served as an incentive for these indigenous peoples to migrate westward.

Wet, marshy, land, on which wild rice is grown is also a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, rather than 10,000 sparkling, blue reservoirs, we had 10,000 buzzing, biting insects.

Thank God it was raining, we had an excuse to stay inside with our e-readers. It was also an opportunity for a re-supply run.

Onward to North Dakota, where we would be camped along the wide, Missouri. The land boasts vast acreages of grasslands with an occasional hill or butte along the river to spice up the topography. This is truly America’s breadbasket, with far-reaching farms and colossal cattle ranches.

This is the land through which Lewis and Clark ventured to explore the west following the Louisiana Purchase. We decided to get a history lesson at Fort Mandan, near Washburn, ND. Although I was a fairly decent student of American history, I confess that there was a whole lot I did not know about the Corps of Discovery Expedition. Did you know that Merriweather Lewis brought his Newfoundland pup, named Seaman, along to be a member of the crew?

 “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” – M.K. Clinton

It would not be another RV ramble post without an appearance by Gypsy.

She did not make it to Fort Mandan because it was not a dog-friendly tour. She did, however, manage to find an historical marker along a trail, commemorating PORT Mandan.

We discovered that our plans to make it to Glacier National Park, involved a 25-mile drive on gravel to make it to the 1st stop. We also observed that the 2nd stop in Montana would entail a 12-hour drive. In order to save our trip, our sanity, and probably our marriage, we made some modifications to the trip. These changes include stays in commercial camp grounds (not state parks) in the booming metropolises of Glasgow and Shelby, MT.

I assure you that these stops will be quirky….

Stay tuned….