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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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….
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.
When I hear the word Apostle, I cannot help singing Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar, “What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening?”
The buzz at the Apostle Islands is that the fly in the ointment is back.
Arrival day was actually seamless! The drive from Baraboo to Bayfield Wisconsin was strangely pleasurable. There was minimal traffic and the highways were well maintained. No white-knuckles. Yay!
I managed to get some laundry done before heading into Bayfield. We managed a quick walk around town, but because we had Gypsy in tow, we were limited as to what we could do. We headed back to the campground and discovered that, right across the street, there was a brewery that featured live music. Because we believe in supporting local businesses, particularly pet friendly establishments, we stopped to have a beer and listen to some tunes. We are just filled with noble intentions like that…
An insect, probably a spider, bit my ear. I have one ear that is twice the size of the other. It’s bright red and it itches like hell.
We have a vacuum flush toilet system in the RV. When you step on the peddle, the vacuum creates a huge WHOOSH, and voila, the bowl is emptied. I stepped on the peddle. No whoosh. No nothing. You can survive in an RV with minor mechanical issues. A non-flushing toilet is not one of them. We sought out the help of the youtube Gods, to no avail. We searched for mobile RV repair. We called the Service Department at our RV dealer. We were fairly certain that we were doomed. The RV manufacturer sent us a link to the toilet manufacturer’s product guide. I read the troubleshooting chapter and discovered that there is a fuse that governs the vacuum flush. Naturally, we did not have any extra 15 amp fuses, but we “borrowed” one from the tilting bed, and miraculously, after lots of angst, our latrine issues were solved.
So, my husband, my dog, and I (with the extra-large right ear) headed out in search of adventure and 15-amp fuses.
We found an absolutely amazing hike at Meyers Beach. I wish we could have ventured a bit further than we did, but we noticed that Gypsy’s leash was frayed and completely inadequate for a puppy who was more than willing to fling herself off the side of a cliff. To say that she was making us nervous is a bit of an understatement. We dragged her back to the trailhead safely and decided to find a dog-friendly lunch spot.
We found, in Cornucopia, WI, The Fat Radish, a Fido-Friendly, lunch spot with a live band and Lake Trout Tacos. It was a good place to decompress after spending the morning with a suicidal Labrador.
The evening was spent on a tour boat which cruised the Apostle Islands and gave us an overview of the geography and the history of the area. I am astonished by the resiliency of the people that can weather these cold climes. Fishing, quarrying brownstone and cutting lumber were profitable, and thus, brave souls settled here.
Day three was an absolutely wonderful diversion from the tourist traps. My dear friend and former coworker, Amy, and her husband Jim, purchased an acreage in nearby Port Wing, WI. They invited us to their unconventional homestead, and we immediately fell in love. The outbuildings were converted into a home that is a veritable, visionary arts museum. The outdoor space boasted multiple seating areas. The property had a magical, Zen-like quality that made it difficult to leave. I am so deeply grateful to have spent time with true, kindred spirits and to have had the opportunity to see firsthand, the fruits of their labor.
Day 4 included a ferry ride and a lunch stop at the Inn At Madeline Island. Not at all a bad way to wind down an incredible four-day stop on the journey.
Tomorrow, off to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, ya’ betcha, don’tcha know???
A three night stay gives you time to decompress, to explore the surrounding area, and to avoid highway hell. It would seem that Devil’s Lake would be an odd choice for escaping Hades, but I assure you, it is not. This State Park, near Baraboo, Wisconsin is expansive, picturesque, unblemished, peaceful, AND it has ice cream!
Wisconsin Dells, the waterparks capital of the world, was just a few miles from our campsite. I love a good water slide as much as anyone, but because we were traveling with a puppy, it would have been an impractical choice for an activity. We opted, instead for a ride down the Wisconsin River, to check out the lower Dells. It was raining, but we had rain gear. Gypsy has a semi-waterproof coat and we have learned to almost welcome the smell of wet dog. Puppy Love will make you tolerant in ways you would never expect.
We found a perfectly pet-friendly boat. By the time we left the dock, the rain had begun to subside. The sun began to flirt with the clouds and soon the mist gave way to the rays of light.
The Greatest Show on Earth
In 1875, the Ringling Family settled in Baraboo, Wisconsin. In 1884, five of the seven Ringling Brothers began a traveling circus, which later merged with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, to become The Greatest Show on Earth.
The Circus World Museum, in Baraboo encompasses several blocks, and is a tribute to the era of the traveling circus.
After a day of being “Griswold” vacationers, and visiting the top tourist attractions, we needed to get back on our feet. It was time to explore the bluffs and to hike around the lake. If you have been following along, you know that I am still nursing a badly sprained ankle back to health. This was going to be a true test, as the trail included lots of rock and several elevation changes. I tightly laced up my hiking boots, grabbed my hiking poles and moved onward. It was slow going, as I was uber-aware of every footfall. I did take one, minor tumble when my boot became wedged under a crag. I sat for a moment, realized that there was no snap, crackle or pop of the already strained ligament, and thankfully, stood up without pain. I passed the test. I did not get an A+ but I was happy to get a passing grade.
Oddly, once upon a time, there was an effort to pave this entire trail with asphalt. It was an ill-conceived idea. Time and weather have eroded much of it, and tree roots have buckled it, making the footwork rather tricky. I’m not sure if this was the brainchild of the CCC. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it is a bit of an eyesore.
“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?” – Robert Plant
This particular stairway to heaven had 300 rock-steps. The pattern of boulder-strewn staircases is repeated regularly throughout the hike. The ascents are actually much easier than the descents. Yes, it is a benefit if your cardiovascular health is good, but the climb was not too strenuous and well worth the minor struggle.
The topography of this gorgeous place is a gift of the ice age. Glaciers moved across this area, building mountains, carving valleys, and creating lakes.
Imagine. A stop without that pesky fly in the ointment…
My favorite part of each leg of the journey is the part when you pull into the next site. Most of the actual highway experience has no real appeal to me. Yes, there are some well maintained, wide-enough roads that wind through a panoramic paradise, but this is not the norm. More often, you find yourself on overcrowded highways, in work zones or on narrow, twisting country roads with no shoulder.
Room to Breathe…
After our cramped quarters in Ohio, it was a relief to pull into a generous, sequestered spot at Potato Creek State Park near South Bend, Indiana.
We traveled from Marblehead, Ohio to South Bend on I-80. Interstates, in less populated areas of the country, can offer fairly stress-free driving, UNLESS they are under construction and down to one lane for endless, endless miles.
There were orange barrels lining the highway for as far as the eye could see (and considerably further). We were shifting from left lane to right lane while squeezing between concrete jersey barriers. I hold my breath when I am wedged between walls. I had a distinctly blue pallor for many, many miles. Here is my insider stock tip for the day: Invest in a company that makes traffic cones. If Biden sells his infrastructure package, you will get rich quickly. Already, I am marveling at the number of cones that I nearly knocked over while doing the ‘Lane-Change-Lindy-Hop’ through the great state of Indiana.
Potato Creek is a large, beautiful park. It has an expansive swimming beach, a tree-lined bike trail and numerous hiking trails. We attempted a hike upon our arrival but soon discovered that we needed to reroute due to trail blockages. There had been tornadic activity in the area 24 hours prior to our appearance. Large branches and trees were down everywhere. The park rangers told us to expect chain saw noise the following day but we were up and out of there before the buzzing began.
So, back on the road again. This time from South Bend, Indiana to Baraboo, Wisconsin. This particular leg of the journey included driving near Gary, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois. There are a lot of people in this area which translates into, a lot of cars and a lot of eighteen-wheelers flying down the four-lane highways, many of which are also under construction. (Buy stock in orange barrels.) Truckers own the road, and I frequently found myself, going 70-miles-per-hour with a truck on the left and a truck on the right. This creates a bit of a wind tunnel that rocks the RV and jostles the nerves. Already my knuckles were white from the death grip on the steering wheel when it became obvious that a gas stop was unavoidable.
We left the highway and entered a Mobile Station that did not have diesel fuel. The parking lot was not huge but we could carefully maneuver our way out of it, IF we entered the adjoining parking lot that clearly posted NO TRUCKS ALLOWED. So, we drove our rig into an area in which it was prohibited. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, even if you are (only slightly ?) breaking the law. We had to reenter the highway and find another gas station, which we did, but not before having to circle through the parking lot of a private business to find the entrance. At this point, having made it to the pump, you would think that we would be relieved. Not so. If I was going to exit the gas island without side-swiping the pumps with the tow vehicle, I was going to need a wide turning berth. This was not possible because a bus was parked in a spot that was posted NO PARKING. There were no occupants and I began to panic. My husband was irritated and telling me to pull forward so that he could fill the tank. In the meantime, two burly guys in uniforms, with holstered guns, were walking towards the bus. I was afraid to move. I sensed that perhaps they were prison guards, and the bus was for inmate transport. They got in the bus and were intending to drive away, so I was waiting for them to make their move. My husband continued to be annoyed, telling me to “move forward”. I opted to stay still. My husband was angered, but those other guys had guns. I waited until they left. It was a lose-lose situation. <sigh>
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts…”– Anthony Bourdain
Ahhhh…. pulled into our site at Devil’s Lake State park near Baraboo, WI. From our cursory walk through the grounds, it appears that this will be a worthwhile stop. We have plans to visit area attractions, but may have to forego some activities due to current inclement weather. The rain shall pass, and we will resume our endeavors….