The Travels of Jil and Mike

This is the post excerpt.


August, 2011

Jil and I have long histories of visiting wonderful places on this God given earth. Before we met Jil traveled, mainly by air to parts of Europe, Israel and numerous ski resorts located in the U.S.A. and Canada.

She had never been camping, you see. I had never left the U.S., nor flown for that matter (except in fire department helicopters), choosing instead to travel our great country with the aid of almost every type of mobile shelter known to man.

I introduced Jil to camping by taking her on short trips in my very old but functional 1973 Revcon 25′ class A motorhome. Jil fell in love with camping, but the old rig not so much. It was soon replaced with a travel trailer.

Constantly having to step over two large dogs lying on the very limited floor space of the travel trailer lead to a costly but welcome upgrade- a new truck to tow a new, more comfortable double slide 5th wheel. We wore that combination out and purchased  our second 5th wheel, a triple slide Heartland Big Country 3250TS, then a new truck to pull it up to Alaska and back. Three slides and we still step over the dogs! Oh well.

We started RVing in a Class A motorhome and will probably end our adventures in another one. Our rolling stock consists of a four slide Tiffin Allegro Red that’s short enough to be accepted into most state parks and a Subaru Forester toad. For our preferred method of travel it is ideal. We like to travel relatively short distances and only stay a couple of days in any one place. Set up for the motorhome is much quicker and more simple than a trailer and every convenience is inside our rolling home. One of the downfalls of towing a trailer in hot weather is no A/C running while in transit. That’s not a factor in the motorhome as we can run the A/C units with our generator as we travel.

The events of 9/11/2001 have soured us on air travel. We now travel almost exclusively with Jil as the copilot/navigator and moi as the pilot of 25,000 pounds worth of rolling stock. Scenic byways and country roads are preferred over interstate highways. We were both raised in large urban communities so visiting small towns is a treat. We like to meet those small town folk and visit the places they call home.

Visiting Old Friends and Old Haunts

Thursday, September 30 through Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Jil and are home. As I write this last blog entry I am once again in awe of our beautiful location in Reno. The leaves are in full fall color and the Carson Range and Sierra Nevada has received two early season snowstorms. Even downtown Reno has received some of the white stuff!

Is this beautiful??? Or What?

We left Walla Walla via US 12 towards the Columbia River, then southwest on US 730 where it ties into Interstate 84. We stop in Boardman (3200 souls) to stretch at the great park located on the bank of the mighty Columbia River and to fuel the beast. Diesel is as much as $1.50 a gallon more than last year. Ouch! Ollie likes roaming the nice green grass of the park and staring at the waterfowl floating in the little bay. The only other soul in the park is a maintenance fella and his utility vehicle.

Plans to visit long time friends Jim and Connie are still on yet abbreviated due to the mechanical problem we had with the motorhome. Jim and Connie bought an acre of land and are in the process of building a big metal shed which will eventually have room for their motorhome and a whole bunch of other necessities. We told them that we’d like help for a day or so before we turn towards home. We were warned by Jim and Connie that the Dalles Bridge that connects The Dalles, OR to Dallesport, WA over the Columbia River is being strengthened and modernized and is not open to traffic Thursday night through Sunday with delays when it is open.

US 97 Bridge at Biggs Junction

We chose to cross the Columbia at Biggs Junction on US 97, then proceed west on Washington 14 which closely parallels the mighty Columbia. We stop at Maryhill to stretch and admire the view of the Columbia River and its gorge from high on a bluff then head off to Jim and Connie’s place.

The eastern Columbia Gorge is rather dry, yet beautiful

They have a nice flat piece of property, the lot is the last on a dead end street so it only has two immediate neighbors and undeveloped land on the other side. We were able to help some and have plenty of time to catch up on each other’s lives.

Jim and Connie’s Shed is Going Up

Daybreak at Jim and Connie’s

Leaving Jim and Connie’s we backtrack to Biggs Junction and head south on US 97. We stop at the park in the little burg of Moro (324 souls) and speak to three fellas who are in the process of solving the world’s problems, OK, maybe just their own. Jil asks them about Oregon’s outdoor mask mandate (none of them are wearing masks). The reply is “This is Eastern Oregon. We do what we want, not what the Western Oregonians want!” OK then……

Shaniko is a metropolis- population 36. This place was a railroad hub back in the early 1900’s, the only one east of the Cascade Mountains. Goods came from as far away as Klamath Falls and even Idaho. It was known as the “Wool Capitol of the World”, shipping 2,229 tons of wool, and 1,168,866 bushels of wheat in 1903. Cattle ranches produced livestock that filled 400 railroad cars. Fortune was not to last as the railroad decided to use a “direct, quick and natural” alternate route linking Portland to Bend which diverted traffic away from Shaniko. Business steadily declined and the entire rail line was shut down by 1966. Efforts to revive the Shaniko Hotel and the town have not been terribly successful as just a few small businesses survive.

We pass through Redmond. This city of 32,421 soul has seen rapid growth at a rate of 6.7 percent a each year. Its the seat of Deschutes County. Between the years 2000 and 2006 the population exploded by 74%! We stop for fuel then continue on to our next stop for two nights, Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend, Oregon.

Crown Villa began as buyer/ownerRV resort. I guess folks didn’t want to buy so it reverted to a normal rental type park. Its setting in mature pine trees, RV sites set on pavers, mowed grass between and separating each row of sites, nice community buildings, one housing the office, library and gym and the other restrooms, laundromat, gathering room and hot tub. A small dog park is at one end of the park. The park has never been cheap but now its downright expensive and not nearly as well maintained as before Sun RV Resorts bought the property. Not sure why, maybe because of staffing shortages- we’ve noticed plenty of that on our entire trip- or poor management or both. Either way we don’t have a desire to return to this once well maintained park, at least for a while.

While in Bend we wanted to take advantage of the clear, smokeless air and lack of heavy traffic Bend has become known for so we head out early. The last two times we’ve been here the nearby volcanic peaks have been shrouded in wildland fire smoke. We make the short ride to Pilot Butte as a view of the beautiful peaks and most of Bend can be seen from the top of the butte . Hey, the Butte road is closed until whatever.

We don’t return to Pilot Butte rather head downtown. It’s 9am and downtown is already going nuts. A street fair and road closures push us straight to Drake Park. That’s OK as we’d wind up at the park anyhow. The park is located between Mirror Pond that is created by the damming of the Deschutes River and downtown Bend. Across the pond are some drop dead gorgeous homes whose manicured back yards stop at the lake’s edge. We enjoy walking with Ollie through this lovely park.

We then head to Old Mill Mall. The tall stacks of the old lumber mill still penetrate it seems like forever up, up, up into the sky; the walking paths next to the Deschutes make for a pleasant walk. From here we can see three or four of the volcanic peaks poking above the Bend’s hills. Jil must not feel good as she has no desire to go shopping……..

Volcanic Peaks west of Bend

It’s time to head towards the barn. It’s just over 400 miles to home so we’ll make one more stop along the way. We head out of Bend southbound on US 97 and leave that busy highway at La Pine in favor of a less traveled Oregon State Route 31, The Outback Scenic Highway. We travel many miles in pine country then drop down to more arid sage dominated landscape. We pass through Silver Lake (149 souls). One never would imagine the history of some of these places without a little research. On Christmas Eve 1894 a fire started in a crowded room of celebrators killing 43 people. Ed O’Farrell rode 100 miles on horseback to Lakeview for medical help and Doc Bernard Daly drove his buggy over bad winter roads for 24 hours to reach Silver Lake. Doc Daly’s efforts to reach and treat victims earned statewide recognition. The entire region is in drought and Silver Lake is dry.

Little Church near Silver Lake, OR

We stop in Paisley (243 souls) to stretch. The nearby Paisley Caves have archeological sites that give the oldest known evidence for early Native Americans that date from 12,750 to 14,290 years ago. Paisley is home to the annual Mosquito Festival that raises funds for vector control.

Approaching Pailsey, OR

Oregon 31 ends at Valley Falls which appears to have passed away. We pick up US 395 and head south. Lakeview, Oregon (2294 souls) is the seat of Lake County. The city bills itself and the “Tallest Town in Oregon” because of its elevation of 4802 feet above sea level. Its economy is based on agriculture, lumber production and increasingly on tourism as Goose Lake is nearby. During the 1950’s Lakeview’s sawmills accounted for more than half of the town’s economy. Leaving town we get a good look at Goose Lake. It also appears to be dry. The drought is bad……..

Half way down the east shore of Goose Lake Oregon becomes California and so does the tiny town of New Pine Creek (120 souls. The town is thought to be the oldest in Lake County and southernmost in Oregon despite the being south of the 42nd parallel.. Being north of the 42nd parallel the town should actually be in the state of Kali-Fornia except for a surveyor’s error. Across the border lies New Pine Creek, CA (98 souls)

New Pine Creek, California/Oregon

Alturas CA (2827 souls) is the seat of Modoc County. It is located at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Pit River. Originally known as Dorris Bridge, later Dorrisville, named after Pressley and James Dorris who built a bridge across the Pit River at this location. The Dorris Bridge opened in 1874.

There aren’t many RV parks in this neck of the woods. Sully’s is located at the end of town and gets pretty good reviews from overnighters. Sully’s is a possibility but we want to check out Likely Place Golf and RV Park in……. Likely, CA. Likely has a reported population of 63 souls but we’ll be darned if we can find them. The “town” consists of a cafe and two other commercial buildings that have long been shuttered. The only sign of life are some piles of junk behind the buildings and evidence of possible squatters taking advantage of empty buildings.

Sunrise- Likely Place Golf and RV Resort

The turnoff to Likely Place Golf and RV is a couple of miles down a country road, then another mile of interior road that crosses through open cow pasture. We check in at the golf course office/cafe and settle into our site. I went back to the cafe and ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Golf course food never fails to be decent and my hamburger and fries were very tasty. The golf course isn’t too busy so dogs are invited to walk the fairways. Lots of folks here are camping with friends as evidenced by 8-10 chairs circled around a portable fire pit in one camper’s site, those same chairs occupied for several hours in the evening by folks having a great time together. We are happy with our choice of staying at Likely Place.

Our last morning on the road- pack up, jacks up, slides in, fire up the beast and we are on our way home. The first 40 or so miles has us driving through rocky volcanic hills and dales, through narrow canyons then down towards Honey Lake. We’ll bypass Susanville this trip and take a short cut through Mennonite farm country.

We make a pit stop at the rest area overlooking Honey Lake. There’s evidence of the Dixie fire having jumped the highway. That fire has burned over 939,000 acres but has calmed down an awful lot due to cooler weather. We then head home. Once again our house guests have left the place immaculate. Thanks Jim and Nancy! We unpack, give the RV a general clean up and winterize the water system. The outside of the rig and the floors will get a good scrubbing on another day.

All in all our trip was successful with very few disappointments. The places we had planned to see didn’t disappoint. Too many of those places to mention here deserve a return visit if we ever are in the area again. Yellowstone was way too crowded for our taste but it was good returning to the park after so many years. Our rig’s suspension problem could have been a lot worse in time and cost. We got to visit our good friends Connie and Jim and meet their new puppy Rhetta. And we got to see clearly the spectacular snow capped volcanic peaks that line the Cascade Range for a couple of hundred miles.

The only thing I would change is not feeling the need to plan the whole trip months in advance right down to RV park reservations and the length of stay in each. I would rather have the freedom of spending more time in some places and less in others. But that’s what COVID has done. It’s made travel less spontaneous and much more planned. As a wise old person once said “It is what it is.”

Until next time, Via Con Dios!

A City So Nice They Named It Twice!

Sunday September 26 through Friday October 1, 2021

Taking the long cut to Walla Walla only adds a few miles but adds many new places to visit so the long cut it is! We head south on US 95 towards Moscow Idaho (23,800 souls) transitioning from green mountain forests to golden rolling hills- the Palouse. No one knows how Moscow got its name. Conjecture says it was named for a Russian dude’s home town who had established a trading post here.

Moscow is the home of the University of Idaho, the state’s land-grant institution and primary research university. The city also serves as an agricultural and commercial hub for the Palouse region. Miners and farmers started arriving in the area after the Civil War with the first permanent settlers coming to Moscow in 1871.

A scant six miles to the west is Pullman Washington (34,000 souls) and Washington State University. The town was incorporated in 1888. Like the University of Idaho, Washington State was established as land-grant school back in 1891 and opened in 1892. Of note a very young Jil, like barely able to remember young, and her family lived in Pullman for a couple of years while her Dad taught at the university.

Pullman is noted as a vastly fertile agricultural area known for its many miles of rolling hills (The Palouse) and the production of wheat and legumes.

Heading towards Walla Walla we come to Colfax, WA (2800 souls). It is situated amidst wheat-covered hills in a valley at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Palouse River. The town started as a lumber town back in 1871 with the establishment of a sawmill. The area is geologically interesting, lying in the midst of the fertile Palouse country  in the middle of the Columbia River Plateau.

Downtown Colfax, WA

Walking along the main street of Colfax we spot a monument of sorts. A couple of locals tell us that its the Codger Pole, continuing to explain that back in 1938 a high school football game was played in cold winter weather on a frozen field. One of the players decided that he would get both teams together to replay the game some day. And that they did- 50 years later! The Codger Pole commemorates all the players who by then were in their 70’s.

Quote from the memorial plaque-“Master Carver Johnathan Labenne’s superb talent and whimsy captured the warmth, fun and love Colfax and St. John shared while we Codgers cavorted about the field in school colors wearing our numbers from a half-century ago. The ghosts of our youth revealed glimpses of gridiron briliance. Unfortunately brief and few but even so that glorious afternoon of fun gave us guys a chance to fulfill that dream every seventy year old kid secretly hangs onto- playing one more game. And how many old rascals ever get to do that?”

We head southeast out of Colfax on very rural country roads, Washington Hwy 127 comes to mind, mostly following canyons through palouse hillsides and canyons. The wheat fields have been harvested as evidenced by the yellow stubble left behind by farmer’s combines. The road is pretty rough and relatively slow going. Eventually we arrive in Walla Walla and settle down in the RV Park Four Seasons.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman arrived here in 1836 and established a mission in an unsuccessful attempt to convert the the Walla Walla tribe to Christianity. Following a disease epidemic both were killed in 1847 by the Cayuse who thought that the missionaries were poisoning the native peoples. Whitman College is named in their honor. The Catholics attempted to establish a Diocese but fled after hearing of the Whitman’s plight. Fort Walla Walla was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Nez Perce fur trading post. Several of the original buildings still exist. The US Army extablished its own Fort Walla Walla in 1856. The city was incorporated in 1862. After a gold rush the community experienced rapid growth as an agricultural area. The Baker Boyer Bank was founded in Walla Walla, the oldest bank in Washington State.

RV Park Four Seasons grounds and menagerie

The RV park is immaculate but management is maniacal in enforcing frivolous rules. I guess like most rules they are made from one bad experience. The lady in the office meets us outside the office door so we don’t contaminate it with whatever. We’ve not been in states that enforce mask wearing until we arrived in Washington and that’s what she’s wearing when she greets us- outside in the open air. But like I said, the park is immaculate!

We planned on spending two nights in Walla Walla, aka, “The City So Nice They Named It Twice”, with a day trip to town. Downtown is sorta unique in that the main street is not straight but curves so it gives it a unique look to the buildings that line it. We’ve heard that the area is big on wineries but had no idea that fully one half of the storefronts would house wineries and tasting rooms.

Wine tasting is not our cup of tea but the business district is a nice, neat, clean place to visit. After visiting so many states that don’t require masks this state has kinda gone nuts on their use. Can’t wait ’til we get to Oregon where mask wearing is required out of doors……..

The morning we end our visit our right rear tires go over a low curb as we leave the RV park and all hell breaks loose. Gosh, the curb wasn’t that high. As we proceed it feels like the rig no longer has springs as it is riding really, really hard. We stop after a half mile or so in a parking lot, Mike inspects the undercarriage and determines one of the air springs has broken. Crap! We’re not going anywhere anytime soon. A call is made to the only heavy truck repair shop listed for Walla Walla, a mobile mechanic is dispatched, arrives and confirms the broken air spring.

He OK’s a limp back to the RV park and management has room for us. Mountain Hi Truck Repair goes on the hunt for a replacement air spring which is not unlike a big rubber air bag. Considering the thousands of Freightliner chassis like ours that are on the road they should be easy to find but that’s not the case. The company finally finds one in Pendleton, OR, at a Peterbilt dealer no less, and has it delivered the next day.

Fort Walla Walla

OK, we have to cool our heels for a while so we head over to Fort Walla Walla and the municipal park. Fort Walla Walla was established in 1856. The soldiers from the fort were involved in several battles with hostile Indians. Most notable was the Battle of White Bird Canyon during the Nez Perce War where 30 soldiers were killed. The soldiers from that battle and others are buried the fort’s cemetery. The fort was closed then reopened to train WWI soldiers in the art of field artillery. The fort was turned over to the VA in 1921. Fifteen original buildings remain from the military era. Today the complex contains a park, a museum, and a VA medical center. The park is really nice and has a couple of very large dog parks within it.

The repair of our RV takes less than 1/2 hour. Its too late to travel so we spend a total of four nights in Walla Walla. We are thankful that management at Mountain Hi realized the plight a couple of travelers were in and went above and beyond to find the part and get us back on the road as soon as possible. It actually took four times longer to find the air spring than to install it. So thanks again Mountain Hi and a big thanks to Jeff in the office who hunted down the part and Steve for his efficient diagnosis and repair job.

So after a two day delay we resume our trip. Hopefully our extended RV warranty will come through and pay for the repair without too long a delay.

A Hop, Skip and a Jump to Idaho

Wednesday, September 22 through Sunday, September 26, 2021

When we left Butte we headed west of I-90 stopping in Deer Lodge Montana. Why Deer Lodge? To visit the old Montana State Prison, of course! The folks in the gift shop/admissions booth even invited Ollie to take a tour of the the old prison with us.

The “Old Prison” was established 1871 as the Montana Territorial prison until statehood in 1889, then closed its doors in 1979 as the state prison. We found the old prison unlike that of the old Wyoming Prison in that the prisoners had more creature comforts.

Old Montana Prison Grounds

They had access to a movie theater, a cantina out on the exercise yard and a fine arts theater built for them by Willam A. Clark, one of the Copper Kings of Butte fame. The prison was quite crowded which lead to a prison riot in 1959. The riot was quelched by the National Guard which used WWII bazookas to get the job done.

Interesting what one finds inside an old prison

Just a sample of the hundreds of vehicles in Auto Museum

The Deer Lodge Pizza joint and a 1909 mail order Sears and Roebuck carriage house

We are quite surprised that the price of admission includes an auto museum. Who would have thunk a prison would have a quite extensive museum featuring almost every model year of the Ford Model A all the way up to the muscle cars of the 1960’s. Hundreds of beautifully restored and unrestored cars! Mike was in heaven browsing all that hardware.

We overnight in tiny St. Regis MT (319 souls) at The Nugget RV Park. The park is just beautiful as the owners have preserved a natural forested setting yet offer full amenities. The place is run by locals who have a lot of pride in this park. There are forest walking trails for those who would brave the gremlins (and possibly bear and elk) and a several acre grass field whose perimeter serves as a frisbee golf course.

The next morning we stop in the old mining town of Wallace Idaho. Wallace has stuffed itself in a narrow canyon in the Bitterroot Mountains where four streams and five canyons converge onto the course of the South Fork River. It’s the seat of Shoshone County with a population of 784 souls. In its heyday the area produced more silver than any other mining district in the United States. The town is quiet, another traveler asked where they might find a place to eat? I reply, “we are also visiting so I have no idea, sorry”. Another fella passing by in a van asked “Where’s the grocery store?” So it goes in small towns. We walk the entire downtown of Wallace appreciating every bit of this great old town. Jil heads to the grocery store which- I hadn’t noticed- is right across the street from where we parked. The fella that was asking for the grocery store is parked in its parking lot. Wallace has a nice family market by golly!

We continue to Cataldo Mission. The mission is the oldest building in Idaho constructed between 1850 and 1853. It’s now part of Idaho’s State Park system. The exhibit at the visitors center tells the story of how the Jesuit missionaries came to the interior Northwest at the invitation of the Coeur D’Alene and Salish tribes and the profound effects this sacred encounter had on both cultures.

Photos taken from our “front yard” at Blackwell Island RV Park

We are holing up at the Coeur D’Alene Blackwell Island RV Park for a few days. This park is drop dead gorgeous! Located across the Spokane River from the city of Coeur D’Alene. It’s quiet yet is close to downtown for those who want to visit. It has a boat dock and swimming beach, and large grassy areas on which to stroll. Our site is on the end of a loop so we have and unfettered view of the Spokane River, the beach and the large lawn. Life can’t get any better than this!

When the French fur traders arrived in this territory, they began interacting with the local native Americans. They called them the “Coeur d’Alene” tribe, translating literally to “Heart of the Awl”, because the French saw them as being sharp-hearted or shrewd traders.

Downtown Coeur D’alene and homes in the nearby Fort Ground HOA

Coeur d’Alene (53,354 souls) is the seat of Kootenai County, Idaho. The city is located 30 miles east of Spokane, Washington. The locals call the city CDA, I guess because Coeur d’Alene is too complicated to pronounce for them? Fort Sherman, established in 1878, named and sited for General William Tecumseh Sherman, lies on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, or Lake CDA. Gold and silver deposits were discovered in 1878. A timber boom featuring the highly prized white pine peaked in the 1920’s. Tourism is the major driver of the city’s economy today.

We drove into town and walked the very pretty business district as well as the park that was created between the lake and downtown. The townsfolk have done a great job of keeping the feeling of downtown as if it were 100 years ago. The place is really nice, clean and upscale for sure. The residential areas were neat and tidy as one would expect in this town. Our passage to and our stay in Coeur D’Alene was thoroughly enjoyable.

The ever vigilant Mr. Oliver

Tomorrow we’ll head over new territory for us to Walla Walla for a couple of days. We’ve been to Walla Walla once before but it’s been a while. We are anxious to see what has changed since our last visit.

The Richest Hill On Earth!

September 19 through September 21, 2021

Butte Montana is the seat of Silver Bow County. The current population is 36,000 yet at the height of mining in the early 1900’s as many as 100,000 folks lived in Butte. The city began as a silver mining area. Not too long after a huge amount of copper was discovered and emphasis was switched to copper mining. The city has 14 head frames, each marking an individual mine.

In and around Downtown Butte– Note the Mining Headframes

Established in 1864 as a mining camp in the northern Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide, Butte experienced rapid development in the late nineteenth century, and was Montana’s first major industrial city. In its heyday between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the West. Employment opportunities in the mines attracted Asian and European immigrants, particularly the Irish. As of 2017, Butte has the largest population of Irish Americans per capita of any city in the United States.

World Museum of Mining at Orphan Girl Mine Site

Butte was also the site of various historical events involving its mining industry and active labor unions and Socialist politics, the most famous of which was the Labor Riot of 1914. Despite the dominance of the Anaconda Mining Company, Butte was never a company town. Other major events in the city’s history include the 1917 Speculator Mine disaster, the largest hard rock mining disaster in world history.

Over the course of its history, Butte’s mining and smelting operations generated in excess of $48 billion worth of ore with the resultant environmental implications for the city: The upper Clark Fork River, with headwaters at Butte, is the largest Superfund site in the United States, and the city is also home to the Berkeley Pit, a superfund site unto itself.

Berkeley Pit

In the 21st century, efforts at interpreting and preserving Butte’s heritage address both the town’s historical significance and the continuing importance of mining to its economy and culture. The city’s Uptown Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, containing nearly 6,000 contributing properties. The city is also home to Montana Technological University.

Copper King Mansion

The influence of copper mining in Butte came from three men. These three “Copper Kings“, William A. Clark,[19] Marcus Daly, and F. Augustus Heinze constantly fought over control of the local mining industry with Daly and his original company, Anaconda Copper emerging as a monopoly. The company expanded into the fourth largest company in the world by the late 1920’s.

Copper ore mined from the Butte mining district in 1910 alone totaled 284,000,000 pounds. At the time, Butte was the largest producer of copper in North America and rivaled in worldwide metal production only by South America. The same year, in excess of 10,000,000 troy ounces of silver and 37,000 troy ounces of gold were also discovered. The amount of ore produced in the city earned it the nickname “The Richest Hill on Earth.” With its large workforce of miners performing in physically dangerous conditions, Butte was the site of active labor union movements, and came to be known as “the Gibraltar of Unionism.

From 1880 through 2005, the mines of the Butte district have produced more than 9.6 million metric tons of copper, 2.1 million metric tons of zinc, 1.6 million metric tons of manganese, 381,000 metric tons of lead, 87,000 metric tons of molybdenum, 715 million troy ounces (22,200 metric tons) of silver, and 2.9 million ounces (90 metric tons) of gold.

Fourteen headframes still remain over mine shafts in Butte, and the city still contains thousands of historic commercial and residential buildings from the boom times, which, especially in the Uptown section, give it an old-fashioned appearance. We are fortunate to visit the World Mining Museum located at the site of the Orphan Girl Mine. We learned a lot about mining. We also learned that 2500 miners from 1880 to 1954 lost their lives in the mines.

We seldom eat out so on our last day, Monday, in Butte. We feel the need for Chinese food. The Pekin Noodle Parlor is the oldest continuous operating Chinese restaurant in the US. During the 1980’s when the mining industry was in downturn some folks would try to skip paying for their meal. The restaurant is on the second floor. The owner, Danny Wong, would order the front door locked and he would stand at the top of the stairs wielding a bayonet, trapping the offenders. He’d say “Pay or wash dishes!” Mr. Wong called it Pekin Jail. The business passed from grandfather to grandson. Mr. Wong said that the basement that used to be a bar and casino at the height of mining is full of memorabilia from that era.

We pull up to the front door and discover it opens on Wednesday at 5pm. Nuts! OK, we’ll find a Mexican food joint over in the newer part of town. There’s a Taco Bell- no dining in due to staff shortage and the drive through line is long. Jil says there’s a Mexican restaurant across the street- a sign on the door says the staff was given the day off due to staffing shortages. So we amble back to El Taco. The restaurant is locally owned. Food is really cheap! Wow! And that’s because Jil’s bean burrito is made with a taco sized tortilla and so is my asada burrito. They are about a quarter the size of a normal burrito and the contents miss the mark as far as Mexican flavor. Oh well, at least we tried…….Maybe we’ll have better luck in the future. I still have a hankerin’ for Chinese.

Our Lady of the Rockies stands on the Continental Divide

On The Road To The Richest Hill on Earth

Sunday, September 19, 2021

We head out of West Yellowstone under a wintery mix of rain and snow. Snow is predicted at 6500 feet. It’s getting to be that time of year! We are once again taking the road less traveled as we head to Butte, Montana. It should be an interesting leg of the trip!

Our route follows the Madison River for quite some time. Tall mountains on either side of the valley a capped with snow. At a rest stop we watch fisherman float by in their fishing boats.

Ennis (849 souls) is considered both a blue ribbon fly fishing destination and an authentic cowboy town rolled into one and the art that comes from the area’s artists is entirely unique to the region. As one publication put it, “Ennis is a drinking town with a fishing problem!

From Ennis we head up the mountain to Virginia City (190 souls), born with the discovery of gold in 1863. The town served as the Montana Territorial Capital for ten years until the territorial capital moved to Helena in 1875.

In 1961 the town and surrounding area were designated a National Historic Landmark District. A mile down the road is Nevada City, a western town created from a collection of other ghost towns. Both towns have been largely restored and preserved having become living examples of the real Old West.

Sheridan, Montana

We drop down into the Ruby River Valley. This is cowboy country! Sheridan (642 souls) sits on the banks of the Ruby River, in the heart of the Ruby River Valley. Seven mountain ranges surround the Ruby River Valley: the Tobacco Root, the Highlands, the McCartney, the Pioneer, the Ruby, the Gravely, and the Snowcrest Mountains. If there was ever a cowboy town Sheridan is it! It’s Sunday and the sidewalks will remain rolled up until noon. The combined grocery and hardware store is open yet the restaurants don’t open until noon. Very few inhabitants are downtown and those that are look like they just rode in from the range on their horse. We love this place for its old west flavor.

Twin Bridges (375 souls) is where the Beaverhead, Big Hole, Ruby and Jefferson rivers meet. The town is home to the world famous R.L. Winston Fly Rod Company. These premier rods range in price from $500 to over $1000 per rod. Or how about a split bamboo rod for a mere $3500? Buy one of those rods and the locals will show you some world class trout fishing!

The road leaves the Ruby Valley and heads into the mountains southeast of Butte. The drive is very pretty but the road gets a little treacherous in places so we take it slow and steady. We follow a canyon down to the flats and on to our destination, Butte. We’ll be staying at the Butte KOA for three nights in order to explore this town of 33,000 souls.

We are NOT there yet….. hopefully, NEVER!………..

Bison, Wolves, and Geysers

Monday September 13 through Saturday, September 18, 2021

The drive from Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park is spectacular. US 14, designated as the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Highway follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River for many miles. Excerpt from Travel “From Cody it’s a gorgeous drive through Buffalo Bill State Park into the Wapiti Valley and the byway proper, a geologist’s dream and the country that Teddy Roosevelt once called “the most scenic 50 miles in the world.” The byway ends in spectacular fashion at Sylvan Pass (el. 8530 ft.) with a sweeping mountain view and the East Entrance to the world’s first national park, Yellowstone.”

We second Teddy’s observation. The scenery is most spectacular and best of all our RV never even grunted going over the pass. Once over Sylvan pass we drive down towards the huge Yellowstone Lake through a lot of dead and downed lodgepole pines, the victim of a million acre fire in 1988. The bright side is a tremendous amount of new growth is poking up amoungst the devastation- the forest lives!

Once past the entrance gate we stop at one of our favorite spots, Fishing Bridge. We’ve heard that the park is packed with humanity yet the general store only has a dozen or so cars parked nearby. Yay! Maybe most folks have been and gone! The store has a cafe. In normal times we’d ordered a hot dog. It’s cut down the middle and cooked on the flattop until crisp. Delish! Of course we would have taken it out to share with our mutzo Ollie. Times are not normal, Jil is now Vegan so I elect to bypass the most tasty hot dog ever offered anywhere in the whole wide world! Sigh…. We walk as short distance to the fishing bridge. It crosses the Yellowstone River not far downstream from its origin, Yellowstone Lake. Ironically, there’s a “no fishing” sign on the bridge.

Yellowstone NP is huge at 2,221,766 acres, 3472 square miles larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.. We still have to traverse the park to get to our campground in West Yellowstone, MT. There’s no quick way to get from one place to another. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour and one is lucky to maintain that speed with all the lookie-loos, bison jams and traffic trying to enter and exit parking areas. Most places of significance are 30-40 minutes apart. We choose the shorter and less crowded route: Fishing Bridge to Canyon Junction, to Norris Junction to Madison Junction to West Entrance. 37 miles of park roads yet two hours of travel time. Ya can’t be in a hurry when driving this huge park.

We head into Hayden Valley and immediately see small bands of bison. Some are grazing and some laying down, relaxing along the Yellowstone River. Jil sees people with large spotter telescopes and long lensed cameras on tripods observing some movement. “Wolves!”, she exclaims. “There’s a very large pack of wolves off in the distance!” We bypass the Yellowstone Falls area. We’ll come back to them after parking the RV. We stop in Canyon Village for a look around and a bite to eat, then head towards Norris Junction. The areas around the geyser basins are packed with cars! Like a half mile walk just to the parking lot packed! At Madison Junction we follow the Madison River to the West Entrance and West Yellowstone, Montana. Grizzly Yellowstone RV Park is less than a mile from the park entrance, making it ideal for visiting the oldest and most magnificent National Park in the US.

 Yellowstone is seventh largest national park in size. Though not the largest of the United States’ national parks, it is noteworthy for its dense concentration of geysers, mudpots, steam vents and hot springs. According to UNESCO, which has designated Yellowstone a World Heritage Site, half of all the known geothermal features on the globe are nestled within the park. Early accounts of Yellowstone’s geysers, hot springs and fumaroles were often dismissed as frontier legends, but scientists now know that they are the result of a “supervolcano” located beneath the park. 

According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where buffalo have continuously roamed since the prehistoric era. The park’s herd dwindled to just 23 animals during the late 19th century, when overhunting helped drive the bison to the brink of extinction, but the population later bounced back thanks to more effective stewardship and protection. The roughly 5,500 bison that live in Yellowstone today constitute the nation’s largest and oldest free-range herd.

The park features multiple geyser basins along the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. Of all of Yellowstone’s geysers, none is more iconic than “Old Faithful,” which is capable of spewing water 180 feet into the air. It’s located in the Lower Geyser Basin, the largest of them. Old Faithful used to erupt “every hour on the hour” but multiple earthquakes have caused it to slow down. These days, the gusher often takes breaks as long as 90 minutes between eruptions. Overlooking the geyser basin is the iconic Old Faithful Inn was completed in 1904. It’s lobby is one of the largest log structures in the world.

We had intended on going back into the Park at least two more times with rest days in between. We did go back into the Park wishing to visit a few of the many geyser basins. We were fortunate to visit a few of the minor basins and even Old Faithful had room to park. The other major basins had so many people attempting to visit that we felt the situation untenable, satisfied to visit less popular geysers, natural springs and lakes.

OK, one more visit is at hand. The mile long line to enter the park on Monday subsided. However, another visit was not to be. Mike got sick, going to first care. The PA said the situation would most likely resolve itself, if it didn’t go to the E.R. in Big Sky- 45 miles away. Well, Mike started to feel better but not well enough to fight the hour long line to get into the park, then many hours within the park searching for place to park a half mile away from a geyser basin or other natural feature so we just laid low.

So either due to illness or wall to wall people these are the places we wanted to visit but didn’t:

Yellowstone Falls located near Canyon Village consist of two major waterfalls on the Yellowstone River. As the Yellowstone river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, it leaves the Hayden Valley and plunges first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile downstream over Lower Yellowstone Falls, at which point it then enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is up to 1,000 feet (304 m) deep. Combined, the falls drop 417 feet.

Midway Geyser Basin-The Grand Prismatic Spring is at this basin. No other spring is as spectacular as this one.

Mammoth Hot Springs– The springs is near the north entrance of the Park. In the Mammoth area, the hot, acidic solution dissolves large quantities of limestone on its way up through the rock layers to the hot springs on the surface. Above ground and exposed to the air, some of the carbon dioxide escapes from the solution. Without it, the dissolved limestone can’t remain in the solution, so it reforms into a solid mineral. This white, chalky mineral is deposited as the travertine that forms the terraces.

Fly fishing below Gibbon Falls. This flyfisherman hiked up the Gibbon River to reach the foot of Gibbon Falls.

Gibbon Falls lies chute as it tumbles down a rocky precipice.

Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest, hottest and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s basins. The water 1000′ below the basin is said to measure over 400 degrees F!

We were fortunate, and healthy enough, to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. This not-for-profit organization takes in injured and orphaned grizzlies, wolves and a few feathered predators from as far away as Alaska. They do a great job of caring for their critters!

Our last visit was something like 18 years ago. Lots of people visiting then, an ungodly amount of people this time. 18 years ago we could find parking at every stop. This time not so much. Although the mass of humanity definitely distracts from the natural beauty and the awe one experiences here, we feel fortunate that we have returned to this truly amazing place God has made for us.

Iconic Yellowstone Tour Bus

Land of the Wild West

Friday September 10 through Sunday September 12, 2021

I’m behind about a week updating this blog. It’s all due to technical difficulties- little to too slow internet being the main culprit. The blog should be back on track in a couple of days.

There’s a couple of ways we could scoot over to Cody from Sheridan. We choose the Bighorn Mountain Scenic Byway following US14 over the Bighorn Mountains to Grey Bull, then to Cody.

US14 in the Bighorn Mountains

Once leaving the Tongue Valley the road gets pretty steep and windy. The good thing is there’s lots of pull outs and scenic areas that our combo will easily slide into. The unfortunate thing is the air is thick with smoke, limiting what would be gorgeous views to hazy vistas. We’ll gain over a mile in elevation, cresting at Granite Pass, 9033′.

About two thirds of the way up the eastern slope all hell breaks loose. The driver information center located on the instrument panel sends an audio alarm as well as a “low coolant” message, then a “check engine” alarm, then the engine quits on a very steep grade with no warning. With no power steering I managed to muscle the rig partly off of the road. Crap! Set the brake, recycle ignition, the engine fires- no codes and the engine temperature gauge reads normal. Yay! I get to a pull-out and check for leaks and a low coolant and nothing seems amiss. Turns out the steepness of the hill and the hard pull might have triggered the warnings. I’ll put a little more antifreeze in the expansion tank when we get to Cody. I think that will solve the problem. We have no more rig problems the rest of the this leg of the trip.

Cresting Granite Pass US14 goes on a long downhill slide the scenery changes dramatically until reaching Grey Bull (1875 souls.

The town invites travelers to mingle with the locals in its restaurants and bars and asks that you step into history at the Museum of Fight and Aerial Firefighting, their Dinosaur Geoscience Center and to drive a short distance east to the World Famous Red Gulch Dinosaur Track Site. Of course I had researched the area months ago but an aging mind forgot all about what Grey Bull had to offer so we just passed through……..

Buffalo Bill Cody

We’ve been to Cody several times before. Cody (9500 souls) is the seat of Park County.The town is named after Buffalo Bill Cody who helped found the town. It is nice town to visit with lots to see and do, the main attraction being the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It is five museums under one roof and a must see.

One can also partake in chuckwagon dinners, and nightly Cody Stampede Rodeo through the first week of September. The National College Rodeo is in town September 11 and 12. Old Trail Town has a large collection of old Wild West and trapper buildings. Downtown, Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel is still a big draw. And downtown retains its heritage of the original two story brick buildings.

We chose not to visit museums rather absorb the flavor of the town. We like old towns and feel that we can get to know them better by interacting with and supporting the locals.

Cody F.D- In remembrance on the 20th anniversary of 911

We chose to do this buy buying an ice cream cone at one of the old establishments…… It’s Saturday, September 11, the 20 year anniversary of 911. The town was very busy yesterday but not today. Both ice cream shops were closed- bummer! We are actually happy that so many businesses have shuttered their doors on this very heart wrenching day.

A few miles west of town is the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Ollie likes to chase the wind driven waves that slop onto the shore, but not today. An algae bloom warning is posted so he’s not getting wet. Instead we drive back on US 14 through three tunnels that parallel the Shosone River.

Our stay at Cody KOA is OK. The newer sites are fairly large and all but tent sites are on gravel. People are respectful of their neighbors and keep their speeds down not wanting to kick up dust. The park features a very large dirt area which at least a part of could be converted into a nice dog park, yet it goes with a very small 15’x15′ area for pooches. Our boxer uses it as his bathroom and little else. Conversely, the park is large and Ollie likes to walk the abundance of fence lines. Just on the other side of one of the fences are horses. Ollie likes horses and can’t take his eyes off of them!

View from Cody KOA Campground

Tomorrow we’ll head the sixty miles to Yellowstone’s east entrance, drive through a portion of the park and land in West Yellowstone, Montana.

Towers, Cowboys and Tourists

September 7 through September 9, 2021

I asked Jil several times over the last two years if she would like to visit Devil’s Tower. “Honey, it’s only 20 something miles out of the way.” She- “Negatory, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna”. We head west on I-90 and stop in a visitor’s center/rest stop just inside the Wyoming border. Jil goes in and comes out with a handful of brochures, maps, etc. Again heading westbound she says “Let’s go to Devil’s Tower”…………

Devil’s Tower is located in drop dead gorgeous Wyoming hill country. Several views of the monolith appear way before reaching the monument’s entrance. I’m wondering if we should be inside the park at all as it seems a little crowded and parking for RV’s is limited. After driving the windy, narrow road up to the Tower we find ample room to park.

The land around the Tower is composed of sedimentary rock, mainly red and yellow siltstone and sandstone interbedded with gray shale or limestone and gypsum. The Tower itself is kind of a who dunnit. Geologists have studied the formation since the 1800’s and are still stumped on how it was formed. NPS quote: “We know that the Tower is formed of a rare igneous rock, phonolite porphyry, and is the largest example of columnar jointing in the world. To better understand processes which shaped the Tower, we look back through Earth’s history to a time long before this unique feature took shape.”

The Tower is considered sacred by Northern Plains indiginous folk. The Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Shoshone and Lakota are associated with the Tower site as well as two dozen more. Many associated the Tower with a bear- Bear’s Teepee, Bear Lodge, Bear’s Home, etc.. One can imagine a giant bear scarring the Tower with Giant claws. So how did Devil get into that Tower? A fella named Colonel Richard Dodge commaned a military escort for a scientific expedition into the Black Hills. In his journal he wrote “the Indians call this place ‘bad god’s tower'”. No records indicate that Native Americans associated this place with bad gods or evil spirits. Dodge, by the way, was no lover of Indians so he may have changed the name of Bear’s Teepee/Lodge/House to Devil’s Tower to show his distain for the people.

A lot of concern for suicide prevention in most places we’ve visited

We spend three nights at the Sheridan/Big Horn KOA to visit the beautiful city of Sheridan (17,44 souls). The city was named after General Philip Sheridan, a Union calvary leader in the Civil War. In the early 1880s, the nearby town of Big Horn (480 souls) was larger in population. In 1888, Sheridan County split off of Johnson County, and voters chose Sheridan as the county seat in a run-off election.

The WYO Theater

The arrival of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad in 1892 boosted Sheridan’s economic status, leading to the construction of the Sheridan Inn, where Buffalo Bill Cody was once a financial partner. The railroad created numerous side industries as well as export opportunities for raw materials. Maps of the day show Sheridan as part of the “hinterland” providing raw goods to cities like Chicago. For the next twenty years the economy and population boomed.

Street Art Sheridan Style

Sheridan has a strong rodeo culture that draws from ranching history as well as a tradition of catering to the wild-west entertainment and shopping tastes of locals and tourists. The Sheridan WYO Rodeo is a professional rodeo. It was a professional rodeo from the beginning but took a hiatus because of the Second World War in 1942 and 1943. It returned as a working cowboy rodeo in 1944 with a new name, the Bots Sots Stampede. In 1951 it resumed as the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo and became a professional rodeo again in 1966.

The mix of Cowboy and American Indian pageantry is still a major flavor in Sheridan’s annual summer celebrations, similar to rodeos in other reservation- border towns like Pendleton, Oregon. Sheridan’s cowboy-Indian social and community relations provided part of the inspiration for the Walt Longmire mystery novel and TV series created by local author Craig Johnson.

Interesting Storefront Signs

We walked downtown Sheridan admiring the numerous works of art placed along the sidewalk, the cleanliness of the town. The Mint Bar, touted as the oldest bar in town, “has been a meeting place for cowboys, ranchers and dudes” since 1907. King’s Saddlery and King Ropes has been in business since 1946 making custom saddles and ropes. The tack store looks like one has walked into a museum- until you walk back into their actual museum. The place is amazing! Jil said that the citizens of Sheridan are doing well considering the high quality of merchandise offered.

Across the street from King’s Saddlery is the very famous Fly Shop of the Big Horns. Anglers from afar are familiar with this shop. The establishment not only carries a wide range of fly fishing supplies but hosts fly fishing trips. Just down the street is the WYO Performing Arts Theater. The four blocks of downtown commercial district has a lot of interesting establishments.

We took a little tour just west of downtown driving by some pretty homes. Kendrick Park is really nice. Goose Creek runs through one side while a large buffalo pasture is on the other. We see a couple of nice sized bulls grazing next to the fence.

Our last visit is to the Brinton Museum. The museum is located on the 620 acre Quarter Circle A Ranch. The land was homesteaded by the Clark family in 1880 who originally lived in a dugout. It was sold several times with the Moncreiffes establishing the Quarter Circle A Ranch, building the Ranch House in 1892. The ranch was sold to Bradford Brinton in 1923 who used the ranch house as a vacation home.

Brinton, an avid collector of art, filled the home with American Indian artifacts, firearms and books and the works of the fine artists Frederic Remington Charles Russell and John Audobon. When Bradford Brinton died in 1936 he left the ranch to his sister Helen. She left the ranch as a memorial to her brother, wishing that the public should enjoy Bradford’s magnificent collection of art and that the ranch be kept in a natural state to provide sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.

Though Sheridan primarily celebrates its western culture through rodeo, the town’s history and culture includes major industrial, commercial, and recreational influences. Sheridan is a great place to visit!

Spearfish Revisited

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Wednesday, September 1 through Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Last year we visited this area so I didn’t feel up to writing and entirely new post. Most of the content in this post is from last year. New are a few fresh words of blabber of a visit to Belle Fourche, a town we’d hadn’t visited until this year and and a some new photos. The northern Black Hills are enchanting if one loves history and old buildings. And that’s precisely why we came back!

Driving from the northern Plains back to the Black Hills was pleasant. We’re happy to be in the hills once again. We are staying at the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. The place is very nice and not terribly expensive. We’ll enjoy our stay here and use it as home base in order to do a little exploring.

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Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort

This place is truly a resort. It has a conference center/meeting room, tennis courts, swimming pool, and walking paths. Besides the nicely laid out RV sites, cabins are available for those without a home on wheels. There is lawn art everywhere mostly of animals native to the area.

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Sturgis Motocycle Rally

We didn’t visit Sturgis this year favoring a few other towns. The town is famous for its annual motorcycle rally. The town of 6,627 souls swells to unbelievable proportions. This year attendance was down however, with only 500,000 attending over a 10 day period. The motorcycle rally has been over for a couple of weeks and the town is quiet with only a few visitors enjoying the place.

Sturgis is a little quieter now that the rally is over!

Stugis was founded in 1878. It was originally named Scooptown because many of the residents “scooped up” their pay from nearby Fort Meade. Its name was later changed to Sturgis to honor Civil War Union General Samual Sturgis. Sturgis was designated the seat of Meade County in 1889.

Deadwood is located at 4500′ Deadwood (1270 souls) is the seat of Lawrence County. The entire city has been designated as a National Historic Landmark District. A Mustang car rally is being held in Deadwood today with the locals expecting 500 cars. The main street is blocked off and the place is already too crowded for us at 9:30am.

Mustang Car Rally forming up

Excerpt from The discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills in 1874 set off one of the great gold rushes in America. In 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills. That’s where they came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold and Deadwood was born.

Practically overnight, the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights – forever after known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

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Well known characters from the Old West are buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Calamity Jane is buried next to Hickock and other legends like  Potato Creek JohnnySeth Bullock and Al Swearengen will forever find peace overlooking the town.

Actors in period garb

(From You can find these colorful characters walking the streets of present-day Deadwood as a part of Deadwood Alive. This theater troupe reenacts the major historic events – like the Trial of Jack McCall and Wild Bill’s assassination— that inspired the legends you know today.

As one can imagine gold played out and folks moved on. The current population of 1270 souls pales from the 25,000 who lived here in its heyday. The place fell on hard times now and then and suffered through three major fires. Gaming revived what was to become another ghost town. What is left today are the period buildings at its core, modern day resort hotels. their architecture playing off of 100 year old buildings, big name concerts, gaming and walking in the footsteps of Wild West legends.

As nothing is flat in Lead, homes march up the hills

With Deadwood ready to explode with humanity we chose to find a quieter town to explore. Lead (LEED) (3124 souls) is not far from Deadwood. The town was named for the leads or lodes of deposits of valuable ore, in this case gold. The Homestake Mine, established in 1876, lies at the edge of town. The mine was the largest, deepest (8240 feet) and most productive gold mine in the western hemisphere before it closed in 2002.

Lead has a great mining museum. If ever in Lead don’t miss it! Yes, mining at the Homestake Mine is a main theme yet a very large portion of the museum is devoted to the town and its people and its way of life.

Homestake Mine engine

Lead was founded as a company town which was made more comfortable through the efforts of Phoebe Hearst. She established a town library, free kindergarten, and opera house, provided college scholarships.

In the early 1930’s, due to fear of cave-ins of the miles of tunnels under Lead’s Homestake Mine, many of the town’s buildings located in the bottom of a canyon were moved further uphill to safer locations.

Giant hole in the ground
Memorial to Miners who lost their lives

Today Lead and the Homestake Mine have been selected as the site of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, a proposed NSF facility for low-background experiments on neutrinos, dark matter, and other nuclear physics topics, as well as biology and mine engineering studies.

Downtown Spearfish

Spearfish (10,494 souls), founded in 1876, lies just west of Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. The city was founded at the mouth of Spearfish Canyon it’s roll in the Black Hills Gold Rush being a supplier of foodstuffs for the mining camps in the hills. The Homestake Sawmill was built to supply timbers for the Homestake Mine.

Spearfish Creek emerges from the canyon and runs through the center of town. An unusual phenomenom is that in winter the creek freezes from the bottom up, with ice at the bottom of the creek bed and water running over the top. The cause is the fast running creek doesn’t allow ice to form on top, only the bottom of the creek bed.

Sights around downtown Spearfish

Entrance to Historic D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

We enjoy fish hatcheries and Spearfish has a beauty. The landscaped grounds are worth walking through, the “fish” train car is historically significant. Heck, the whole working hatchery is historically significant. The train cars were used to transport fish from one location in the nation to another. At the moment rainbow trout are being raised.

Right next door is the Spearfish Municipal Campground. It’s pretty nice, I wanted to camp there but it’s a first come, first serve sort of place. With so many people enjoying the outdoors we couldn’t take a chance. Oh well, maybe next time.

Spearfish Creek

We took the scenic drive up Spearfish Canyon. Talk about beauty! Sheer limestone cliffs, beautiful trees and a couple of small waterfalls are all highlights within the canyon.

Near the top of the canyon is Spearfish Canyon Lodge. The handsome lodge is surrounded by God’s beauty. The lodge offers overnight accommodations, fine dining and entertainment and more.

A place new to us is Belle Fourche (5594 souls). I don’t know what’s with the spelling/pronunciation of French language derived words. The correct pronunciation of Belle Fourche is Belle Foosh. So Belle Foosh is a city near the geological center of the 50 United States and has a large granite monument to prove it. The area was worked by French beaver trappers until the mid-1800’s and Belle Fourche became a well known trading rendevous point. During and after the gold rush of 1876, farmers and ranchers settled in the fertile valleys, growing food for the miners and their work animals.

At the same time huge cattle drives came into the area with the cattle in need of transportation to packing plants in the midwest. Knowing that need, a smart fella named Seth Bullock acquired land from homesteaders and offered it free for a railroad right-of-way. He also offered to build the terminal if the railroad would locate it on a point on his land. Well, you can bet the railroad jumped all over that offer! By 1895 Belle Fourche was shipping 2500 carloads of cattle a month. Belle Fourche today serves a large trade area of ranches and farms.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading west into Wyoming. See you then!

Hello Spearfish!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The drive from Pierre to Spearfish South Dakota was uneventful. We traveled exclusively on combined highways US 14 and SD 34 a two lane country road until US 14 zigged south and SD 34 zagged on more of a straight line towards Sturgis.

A large comples of silos and farm buildings

Jil said “I looked up the route on my phone and there are lots of towns on SD 34”. The condition of SD 34 was an unwarranted concern so SD 34 it was. The first two signs of civilization were churches. One all by itself on a little knoll and another located next to a grain elevator. No towns, just churches with a couple of farm houses within sight of Grace Church and nada near the Little Brown Church. We pass an occasional farmhouse. The farms out here are large so passing a farmhouse doesn’t happen too often.

Thousands of acres planted in sunflowers

Places named on Google Map seem to be named for a nearby farm or establishment, not for a town. The first services were in Billsburg- a truck stop with some sort of outbuilding just to the south. We stop and stretch with Jil running into the store to buy some munchies. A few more miles west is a fairly new fueling station/minimart but still no town. We come to Howes- no town, just a little country store- out in the middle of nowhere. Howes’ store claims “We ain’t no Hooterville but advice is always free”. Another church, this one with a cemetery across the street greets us as we head west.

Downtown White Owl

We finally arrive at what appears to be a multi-building community. White Owl, a metropolis of 61 living souls, has a Baptist church, a fashion boutique, community center, a graveyard and a post office- and that’s it other than a few homes.

Nellie’s Saloon in Enning, SD

We stopped in Enning, a thriving community of 49 souls. But Enning is far from devoid of services, it has Nellie’s Merchantile and Saloon. And grocery store and restaurant! Jil goes in to see what Nellie has for lunch and comes back with the best hamburger and fries I’ve eaten for a very long time. Jil spoke with Nellie as she hand formed the hamburger patty, plopped it on the flattop, dropping the fries in the deep fryer. She says she has a home in Pierre which she visits occasionally. She keeps her establishment open as a gathering place for the locals- and a place people can use the rest room. As she stated, “There’s no place for old ladies to relieve themselves for hours so I keep the place open for them. She features good home cooking with specials every day. During COVID finding help was tough but she now has three young ladies that give her a hand. As you might surmise, we enjoyed our stop in tiny Enning.

As with most places on the route Union Center is a WHAT? Not a town but allegedly has a population of 350. Cammack Ranch Supply is along the highway as well as the Bull Creek Cafe. Do those 350 people live underground- or what?

Hillside- Sturgis

We come into Sturgis. Yes, that Sturgis. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a few weeks ago so those 500,000 motorcyclists have mostly gone home. The town, founded in 1878, was originally named Scooptown because many of the residents “scooped up” their pay from nearby Fort Meade. The name was later changed to Sturgis in honor of Civil War General Samual D. Sturgis. The town is quiet today with just the occasional raucus motorcycle disturbing the now almost peaceful town. Sturgis is the seat of Meade County and has a population of 6627 souls.

Heading west, now on Interstate 90, we come to our destination for six whole nights, the excellent Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. The price is fair, the sites are large, the staff is accommodating. The park features a large swimming pool, a large kid’s playground, basketball court, tennis/pickleball court, horseshoe pits, several wash houses complete with laundry facilities. A meeting hall, a large conventions style tent, walking paths that take one out on to the prairie, two large dog parks- this place is really nice!

The historic 4700 acre Frawley Ranch is next door. Six historic homesteads are on the acreage. So is the Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club. A thousand acres of the ranch have been set aside for residential development. And of course, the RV Resort. New construction closer to I-90 is in progress so this ranch is still developing. At one time bison grazed here.

We are laying over for the Labor Day weekend here at Elkhorn Ridge. Quite a few places of interest are within striking distance so it’s a good place to stay. This place is packed for the holiday weekend and everyone with children has brought them along. The kids are having fun- all day long. The outdoor venue is hosting a wedding on Saturday. What a great place for a wedding!

Enjoying Peer

August 29- August 31, 2021

We leave Sioux City after a raucous band of thunderstorms rolled through last night which included three tornado signatures just south of us. No damage was reported until the Lennox High School staff arrived the next morning to find the roof on one school’s buildings was missing.

Oh my! The roof is gone!

Sooo, where’s an interesting place to visit today? Ahh, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD (15,000 souls)! The Palace has been on our must see list for a while and I’ll tell you, it is worth seeing. The palace was conceived as a gathering place in 1892 where city residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival with extraordinary stage entertainment – a celebration to climax a crop-growing season and harvest.

The Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD

This tradition continues today with the annual Corn Palace Festival held in late August each year. The concept is so successful that the first two were outgrown, the current building constructed in 1921.The outside of the building is clothed in corn stalks, much of which are made into murals.

The inside of the auditorium has a lot of “corn” art decorating the walls. We got lucky to visit today as a street fair was going on and a “Cowboy” church service was being attended by folks on the inside.

Usn’s with Dignity in the background

The decision was made to overnight at American Creek Campground, Chamberlain (2300 souls). The town is located adjacent to Interstate 90 on the east bank of the Missouri River. It’s the site of St. Josheph’s Indian School, established and operated by the Catholic order Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1927. Near town is the soaring sculpture of Dignity of Earth and Sky which stands on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River within the busy Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Dignity stands 50′ tall and is made of hundreds of pieces of stainless steel. She holds a star quilt made of 128 diamonds in colors of water and sky. Dignity honors the Native Nations of the Great Plains. If we ever come back to Chamberlain we’d like to visit the Akta Lakota Museum and maybe the Old West Trading Post.

Capitol of South Dakota

OK, on to Peer. For all you smart fellers out there yes, I’m messing with you. We are visiting Pierre, South Dakota’s state capital. Us Renoites would pronounce the city’s name P-air, the locals pronounce it Peer. Pierre is a city of nearly 14,000 souls and does double duty as the seat of Hughes County. It’s the second least populous state capital in the US and the eighth most populous city in South Dakota. The city was designated as the state capital in 1889 when SD gained statehood.

Fort Pierre located across the Missouri River from Pierre has been a permanent settlement since 1817. It is the oldest white settlement in South Dakota and once the largest trading post on the Upper Great Plains. The fort was named after Pierre Chouteau, a major fur trader from St. Louis.

Pierre’s development was also influeced by the construction of the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad. It increased access to markets for regional products and passenger transportation. Despite the railroad, Pierre is somewhat isolated as far as state capitals go. It’s one of four state capitals that is not served by an interstate highway. Unlike the other three, the city has no expressway. Just upriver river is Lake Oahe, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

We spend a lot of time in our home for two nights, Farm Island State Recreation Area. The park is a delight with large grassy campsites adjacent to Hipple Lake, an arm of the Missouri River. In addition to the wonderful campground it offers a spacious day use area complete with a small beach, boat launch ramp, walking paths, an archery range and a visitors center.

Although we had visited last year we chose to spend more time in downtown Pierre. As we were admiring a couple of bronze sculptures a man came out of his business establishment to explain that they were of past governors. They cost $73,000 apiece and all but three have been completed. Local artisans have been commissioned to create the works of art. The completed sculptures have been placed in strategic locations around the city. When funding is available the set will be completed.

We didn’t go into the capitol building as the legislature is in session. We drove around the residential areas admiring some of the most beautiful homes that we’ve ever seen. Jil got her flu shot at Walgreens and a visit to the market completed our stay. Tomorrow we head to Spearfish for an extended six night stay.

These folks have gathered to see us out of town!

Stone Shatter City

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Excerpt from Wikipedia:Sioux Falls (/ˌsuː ˈfɔːlz/Lakota: Íŋyaŋ Okábleča Otȟúŋwahe;[6] “Stone Shatter City”) is the most populous city in the U.S. state of South Dakota and the 131st-most populous city in the United States. It is the county seat of Minnehaha County[7] and also extends into Lincoln County to the south, proximate with the Iowa state line. As of 2020, Sioux Falls had a population of 192,517. The Sioux Falls metro area accounts for more than 30% of the state’s entire population. Chartered in 1856 on the banks of the Big Sioux River, the city is situated in the rolling hills at the junction of interstates 29 and 90.

“Shattered Stones” at Sioux Falls

Stone Shatter City is what the Lakota called what is now Sioux Falls. Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. After visiiing Falls Park I can understand how they arrived at that name. The rocks around the falls look like a giant had taken his club and shattered them. Sioux Falls is a typical Dakota city- clean with a lot of eye appeal. The residents around the Cathedral are just beautiful. Downtown has quite a few historic buildings. It’s a wonderful town.

St. Josheph Cathedral, Us’ns and Praying for the unborn….

History of Sioux Falls, South DakotaThanks Wikipedia!

Two separate groups, the Dakota Land Company of St. Paul and the Western Town Company of Dubuque Iowa, organized in 1856 to claim the land around the falls, considered a promising townsite for its beauty and water power. Each laid out 320-acre claims, but worked together for mutual protection. They built a temporary barricade of turf which they dubbed “Fort Sod”, in response to native tribes attempting to defend their land from the settlers. Seventeen men then spent “the first winter” in Sioux Falls. The following year the population grew to nearly 40.

Shattered Rocks and Sioux Falls

The arrival of the railroads ushered in the great Dakota Boom decade of the 1880s. The population of Sioux Falls mushroomed from 2,164 in 1880 to 10,167 at the close of the decade. The growth transformed the city. A severe plague of grasshoppers and a national depression halted the boom by the early 1890s. The city grew by only 89 people from 1890 to 1900.

Prosperity eventually returned with the opening of the John Morrell meat packing plant in 1909, the establishment of an airbase and a military radio and communications training school in 1942, and the completion of the interstate highways in the early 1960s. Much of the growth in the first part of the 20th century was fueled by agriculturally based industry, such as the Morrell plant and the nearby stockyards (one of the largest in the nation).

Structures in Falls Park

In 1981, to take advantage of recently relaxed state usury laws, Citibank relocated its primary credit card center from New York City to Sioux Falls. Some claim that this event was the primary impetus for the increased population and job growth rates that Sioux Falls has experienced over the past quarter-century. Others point out that Citibank’s relocation was only part of a more general transformation of the city’s economy from an industrially based one to an economy centered on health care, finance, and retail trade.

Art and Flowers in Falls Park

Sioux Falls has grown at a rapid pace since the late 1970s, with the city’s population increasing from 81,182 in 1980 to 192,517 in 2020. The city is home to Augustana University, the University of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls Seminary, Southeast Technical College, National American University, the South Dakota School for the Deaf, the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine (Sioux Falls campus), Stewart School and the South Dakota Public Universities and Research Center..

Our stay at the Sioux Falls KOA was very pleasant. The place is well maintained and the worker bees here are always buzzing around doing something. The wifi is really good which is not the norm for RV parks. The only drawback is it’s proximity to Interstate 90. We got some road noise, yet it wasn’t unbearable.

I’d been tracking a storm on Weather Underground’s really good real time weather map. The weather service had state that we could get a few severe storms come through. Well this one got larger and headed straight for us. Severe weather warnings went up indicating 60mph wind gusts with 2″ hail possible. The storm hit and up went three tornado warnings just south of town no more than 10 miles from here. Wind at over 80mph was recorded. Constant lightning and heavy rain for about an hour. This is our second encounter with a severe storm in three days. Boy, this is getting old quick!

Tomorrow we’ll head west to Chamberlain, SD. See you there!

Ollie being a little goofy!

It’s Only another 30 Miles Honey….

Wednesday August 25 through August 26, 2021

Travel today will only be 160 something miles. We like to leave early, like 8 or 9 am. Check in time at Memorial Park, Watertown SD is 4pm. Do you see a problem here?

One way to solve the problem is to leave a lot later, like in the afternoon. That won’t happen. Another is to find places to visit along the way. We chose the latter. Hey Jil, How’d you like to visit a historic fort? Sure, Mike! Let’s go! The fort is about 30 miles off our route but that’s OK. We like seeing new country.

We turn west off of I-29 at Sisseton, SD. The city of 2400 is the seat of Roberts County. It’s named for the Sisseton division of the Native American Sioux. The towns in the Dakotas are extremely clean and well kept and Sisseton is no exception.

Nocollet Tower- One can see 35 miles from the top of the tower

View from the base of Nicollet Tower- Yep, that’s smoke from western wildfires

The topography has changed since leaving the flat plains of North Dakota. Rolling, green hillsides are the norm with many small lakes scattered between them.

Fort Sisseton is sorta out in the middle of nowhere. A pleasant 30 minute drive down country lanes and both of our GPS machines, Miss Smartypants and Miss Garmin lead us to a fella’s farm! Nope, that ain’t it. We continue about a half mile down the road arriving at the fort grounds. Fort Sisseton was established in 1864 to restrict hostile warriors and to defend the travel routes to gold fields in Idaho and Montana. It is considered to be one of the best preserved South Dakota forts. The fort is mostly constructed of local material unlike many. The fort was never attacked, yet impacted the advancement of settlers across America. The soldiers kept the peace between local tribes and taught them how to be self-sufficient- at least the white man’s way of being self-sufficient.

The fort was abandoned in 1889, before South Dakota became a state. All but 32 acres of the 82,000 military reservation that contained the fort’s buildings were leased by the new state of South Dakota to farmers and settlers. In the early 1900’s a prosperouse newspaper man, Colonel W.D. Boyce leased the fort and made a hunting lodge out of the main buildings. At the end of the hunting season Boyce would host a grand ball in the North Barracks where everyone, including the locals, were invited.

The history of the fort is long, sometimes glamorous, and many times not. During WWII land around the fort was least for air to ground bombing range. 15 men lived at the fort to report hits and misses from observation towers located around the fort. After the war the fort was leased to a seed company who used it for storage and public dances and roller skating.

We enjoyed visiting the fort and continue to our home for two nights Codington Memorial Park camping area. Turns out there are two Memorial Parks and two camping areas about 5 miles apart. Miss Garmin takes us to the wrong one…. sigh…. We get turned around and pull into the park farthest from Watertown. The park is beautiful. Our site has full hookups and is no farther than 50′ from Lake Kampeska, the largest natural lake in South Dakota. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you what can go wrong. This morning we wake up to a severe weather advisory which upgrades into a severe weather warning. 60 mile per hour winds, large hail the size of nickles and downpours are predicted. We got the wind at 75mph, the rain but no hail thankfully. I tried to download a video of the action- rain blowing sideways and trees swaying violently but it wouldn’t download.

After the storm passed late in the morning we visited the city of Watertown, seat of Codington County. The city of nearly 22,000 souls was founded in 1878 as a rail terminus. It proves to be another beautiful downtown and residential district.

The city is home to the Redlin Arts Center. Terry Redlin, a home grown Watertownian, is frequently named “America’s most popular artist”. His popularity arrives from painting outdoor themes and wildlife. The arts center houses over 150 of Redlin’s works of art. He’s known for his donations to raise funds for conservation, including a record $28 million for Ducks Unlimited.

Redlin Art Museum

I leave you with a wonderful memorial to those who serve our country………….

Visiting Bill’s Town

Sunday, August 21 through Tuesday, August 24, 2021

We pulled out of Red River State Park and headed south towards Fargo, ND, aka Bill’s Town. The weather is clear, we only have a hundred miles to travel and check in time is 4pm. 

Traill County Administration Building

Curiosity gets the better of us so we stop in Hillsboro (1600 souls), the seat of Traill County. Hillsboro sits in the fertile Red River Valley. Local agriculture has dominated the area’s economy from the beginning. With its location on I-29, halfway between the two metropolitan centers of Grand Forks and Fargo/Moorhead, Hillsboro has seen steady population growth in recent years and has become somewhat of a bedroom community.

Wall of Honor For All Who Have Served Traill County

The area along the Goose River that is now Hillsboro was first settled by German and Norwegian settlers around 1870. In 1880, the present day site of Hillsboro was founded under the name “Comstock”. Local folklore tells of the residents of nearby Caledonia turning away a shabby surveyor because of his appearance. This man was then offered hospitality by residents in the tiny settlement of Comstock. The man turned out to be railroad baron James Hill.

Hill was so impressed by the kindness showed to him by the residents of this small community that he decided to place his Great Northern Railway there instead of in Caledonia. The name of Comstock was changed to “Hill City” in September 1880 in honor of Mr. Hill. The city was then renamed “Hillsboro” in 1881 after it was discovered that there was already a Hill City in South Dakota.

Fargo Theater

Fargo, 125,209 souls, is the seat of Cass County. Fargo is the most populous city in the state accounting for 16% of the state population. The Metropolitan Statistical area formed by Fargo, it’s twin city Moorhead, Minnesota and adjacent cities West Fargo ND and Dilworth MN have a population of approximately 249,000 folks.

Downtown Fargo, ND

Historically part of Sioux (Dakota) territory, the area that is present-day Fargo was an early stopping point for steamboats traversing the Red River during the 1870s and 1880s. The city was originally named “Centralia,” but was later renamed “Fargo” after Northern Pacific Railroad director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo (1818–1881). The area started to flourish after the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the city became known as the “Gateway to the West.” During the 1880s, Fargo became the “divorce capital” of the Midwest because of lenient divorce laws.

A major fire struck the city on June 7, 1893, destroying 31 blocks of downtown Fargo, but the city was immediately rebuilt with new buildings made of brick, new streets, and a water system. More than 246 new buildings were built within one year. There were several rumors concerning the cause of the fire.

Excerpt from Wiki: The North Dakota Agricultural College was founded in 1890 as North Dakota‘s land-grant university, becoming first accredited by the North Central Association in 1915. In 1960, NDAC became known as North Dakota State University.

Since the 1990’s the Fargo-Moorhead area has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US. Due to it’s low crime rate and supply of affordable housing Money magazine ranked the city near the top of America’s most livable cities.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Fargo

Temperatures can vary considerably in Fargo. Record temperatures range from -48* in January 1887 to 114* on July 6, 1936 with the coldest maximum temperature of -29*F. The area has a growing season of 144 days.

Moorhead (42,000 souls) is the largest city in northwest Minnesota. Fargo’s twin city was platted in 1871. People of Norwegian descent make up 36.1% of the population while folks of German descent comprise 36% and the Swedes at 7.6% are the three leaders of European ancestry. This makeup is fairly common in North Dakota and Minnesota. Moorhead is the Home of Minnesota State U.

Moorhead hosts the Hjemkomst Center. The name is pronounced YEM_komst, Norwegian for “Homecoming”. It’s a museum and events center. One exhibit that caught my attention is Ihdago Manipi, which means “They leave marks as they come through here”. As you might have surmised, “Ihdago Manipi explores the dramatic transformation that occurred in the early years of Clay County, Minnesota, including the arrival of railroads and immigrant families, the dispossession of indigenous people, an ecological revolution, and the construction of modern American life”.

The Moorhead Stave Church is located on the grounds. Stave churches were built in and around Scandinavia from the waning years of the Viking Age (11th – 12th century CE) to the beginning of the Early Modern Period (1500 CE). The technique of using vertical posts – or staves – to construct massive wooden buildings had been modified over time through several artistic and architectural waves and eventually became an iconic European art form. The Moorhead Stave Church is a full-scale replica of the Hopperstad Stave Church located in Vik, Norway.

While visiting the Fargo area we are staying at Buffalo River State Park located near the town of Glyndon MN (1400 souls). Glyndon was platted in 1872 when the railroad reached town. The park features trails through tall prairie grasses, a nice tree shaded campground and a really great sand bottom swimming pond located near the meandering Buffalo River. The swimming pond has been closed for two seasons, partly due to low water flows of the river and COVID concerns. It is a shame as one can only imagine great throngs of kids splashing around in that pond.

View across the prairie and our campsite at Buffalo River State Park

Wednesday we’ll meander down to Watertown, not New York, but South Dakota. See y’all there!

Just in time for a 3 Day Fest!

Thursday, August, 19 through Saturday, August 21, 2021

Our short drive from Graham’s Island State Park, Devil’s Island ND to Red River State Recreation Area East Grand Forks, MN was uneventful. The only place we stopped was a really nice North Dakota rest area. Our new location is just across the Red River from Grand Forks ND, the larger of the twin towns. The weather is warm and muggy, perfect for development of some thunder storms.

Red River State Recreation Aea, East Grand Forks, MN

Well, folks, it seems that we are just in time for the The Fourth Happy Harry’s Rockin’ Up North Fest. Featured recording stars are Diamond Rio, Joe Nichols, Jordan Davis and Tigirlily with opening acts of Dariann Leigh, Jensen Sisters,  Paint the Town, Matt Aakre, The Dirty Little Secret, Junction 281. And the great thing is we don’t have to leave our campsite to enjoy their music as the stage is set up a mere 400 feet away.

Levee gate

The area was for years a meeting and trading point for Native Americans. The French set up a trading post here in the early 1700’s. The US acquired the land with the Treaty of 1818. After battling the Ojibwe and other Native Americans for years, a treaties were made which extinguished their land claims. Alexander Griggs, a steamboat captain, is regarded as The Father of Grand Forks. Grigg’s steamboat froze in the Red River in 1870 forcing he and his crew to over winter camping at Grand Forks. Griggs platted the community in 1875 and incorportated in 1881.

East Grand Forks is smaller than it’s sister across the river at 8600 souls. Downtown consists of small businesses, many restaurants, movie theater and a large Cabelas Sports Shop. Red River State Recreation Area is a short walk from downtown. It features nice grounds, large campsites, grass lawns, trees large and small. The park is located in a former residential neighborhood. Several great floods caused the neighborhood to be abandoned and rebuilt behind a very large levee. The state park sits on the bank of the Red River and will be inundated in the event of another major flood event, but for now, it’s very enjoyable.

Excerpt from Wiki: The Red River flood of 1997 was a major flood that occurred in April and May 1997 along the Red River of the North in MinnesotaNorth Dakota, and Southern Manitoba. It was the most severe flood of the river since 1826. The flood reached throughout the Red River Valley, affecting the cities of Fargo and Winnipeg, but none so greatly as Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, where floodwaters reached more than 3 miles (4.8 km) inland. They inundated virtually everything in the twin communities. Total damages for the Red River region were US$3.5 billion. The flood was the result of abundant snowfall and extreme temperatures.

Flooding in Manitoba resulted in over $500 million in damages. The Red River Floodway, an artificial waterway completed in 1968 and known as “Duff’s Ditch”, diverted some floodwaters around Winnipeg, saving it from flooding. As a result of the 1997 flood and its extensive property losses, the United States and state governments made additional improvements to the flood protection system in North Dakota and Minnesota. They converted former areas of development in the floodplain on both sides of the river to the Greater Grand Forks Greenway, providing year-round recreation areas for residents as well as a natural way to absorb floodwaters. A dike system was built to protect the twin cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Grand Forks (52,838 souls) is the third largest city in the state and seat of Grand Forks County. Grand Forks is home to University of North Dakota, an International Airport, Grand Forks Air Force Base and a large Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard. The city also has large sports complexes. We found the city to have a vibrant economy.

Steady downpour for a couple of hours

The weather turned for the worse on Friday. Grand Forks is just inside the boundary of a severe weather alert issued by the National Weather Service. We decide to take a short orientation tour of the city in the morning before all hell breaks loose. When we return Jil downloads a good weather app onto her phone. Between her phone and my computer we can track any foul weather that may head our way.

Two tornado warnings just outside of town

Well, it does head our way….. Jil’s phone announces that rain will come in three minutes. It does….. how do the phone know? Lightning and thunder follow downpours. In the afternoon I track many angry looking cells on the real time Weather Underground weather map. Two heading straight towards Grand Forks are declared as tornado warnings with one producing a brief touchdown with no damage created. An hour later the tornado warnings are lifted is favor of warnings of 60 mph winds. We don’t experience those winds and all is well for the night.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church-one of six Catholic churches in Grand Forks

Saturday we spent quite a bit of time exploring. We find the very nice park that contains the Japanese Garden and spend some time touring the Univeristy of North Dakota campus. At one point we come to what appears to be Checkpoint Charlie with signage placed in the middle of the street and a young man directing traffic.

He motions us forward to his location. Jil asks “What’s going on?” He replies “It’s move in day!” for the students occupying the dorms. Well, I hope he didn’t think we were there to do that! We find a place to extract ourselves from the hoards of students milling near the dorms and tour some nice residential areas.

Back home we have full hookups- electicity, water and sewer. It’s a shame not to take advantage of the utilities so Jil throws a load of clothes in our clothes washer. Now remember clothes dryer died on the second day of our trip. This is day 22 and the only time we visited a laundry was back in Dillon, MT and that was only to dry our clothes.

Contrast the Huge North Dakota Hockey Center with typical modest “Forks” home

So with some ingenuity we set up the bedroom as a drying room. The clothes drying rack is utilized to hang some clothes and hangers others. We turn on the portable electric heater close the door, isolating the bedroom from the rest of the coach. It worked! Cloths dried in less than half the time.

Our coach located on a very spacious RV site and one of several “ice houses” that are in the park. Ice houses are towed onto frozen lakes. There are hatches in the floor where one can drill holes through the ice, then drop your fishing line in- in hopes of a catch.

Tomorrow we head down to Fargo. Again it’s not a long drive so we can dawdle a bit if we are so inclined. We again are staying in a Minnesota state park- Buffalo River. We’ve been to the park once before about four years ago when we took our Great Lakes trip. See you there!

Street Fair cousine- Fried Cheese Curds anyone?

We’ve Gone to the Devil

Tuesday and Wednesday, August 17 & 18, 2021

We pulled up stakes this morning, Tuesday August 17, and headed out of the Garden. First stop is the US Port of Entry. A border agent in the small POE building opens his window and asks how many people are in the RV. I repy “2”. “ID’s please”. We supply our driver’s licenses. He start typing on his computer, I assume entering our DL info in the system, and stares at it for a time. It appears it’s not working to his satisfaction. He returns to the little window and asks “Where you from?” I almost said “You have our DL’s, where the heck do you think we’re from?”, but I didn’t. “Reno, Nevada I reply”.

International Peace Garden, aka the Dunseith-Boissevain Border Crossing

He says I’ll be back, closes the window and walks to the main building with our DL’s in hand. He’s back in maybe 5 minutes, writes something and holds up a piece of paper in the window farthest away- we can’t read it. He takes the paper down, and opens that window. I pull up so we can converse. He says “What are you doing here?” We went to the Garden. “It’s a long way outa the way!” Yup. “Where ya headin’ from here?” Grand Fork, Fargo, Sioux City. “Have a good trip!” Thanks!. “You betcha” ! I felt like asking “What the hell are YOU doing way out here?”

The wait, maybe 10 minutes kinda makes one nervous. What if they find out something about Jil or I that we don’t even know about. Like we’re wanted for something or one or both of us are victims of mistaken identity making us escaped felons or something weird like that? Glad to be on our way……

Nice couple volunteered to take our photo

We follow ND 3 to Rugby. This place touts itself as the geographical center of North America. The town of 2600 souls was founded in 1886 at a junction of the Great Northern Railway. Several sites along the Great Northern’s transcontinental route between Devil’s Lake and Minot were named for places in England.

Excerpt from Wikipedia- North Dakota’s first permanent settlers arrived in 1812 from the Earl of Selkirk’s colony in neighboring Rupert’s Land.[9]:277 As farmers, they were more advanced than many of their contemporaries in the rest of the United States, having adopted sophisticated farming methods and machinery. Many of these implements, including an early McCormick Deering threshing machine, have found their way to the restored Pioneer Village in Rugby.

Activities on and around Devil’s Lake

We arrive at Graham’s Island State Park around noon. Check in is one o’clock. Check out is 3 o’clock. Do you see a problem with that? The young lady at the registration desk won’t let us check in until 1 o’clock so we disconnect the car from the RV and tour the park. We drive by site 28 which will be ours for two nights. No one is there. We tour the other campsites and like what we see. Two are newer and have full hookups. All but the designated tent camping areas have at least electricity. Nice.

I go back in the office at 12:55 and check in. The gal behind the Plexiglass barrier says check out is 3pm so if the site is occupied we have to wait. Soooo, what was the problem with checking in an hour earlier if we would have to wait until the site is vacated anyway? 

Outer campsites have a huge side yard

The state park is nice. It has a really nice very busy boat ramp and the campgrounds are well kept. It’s located on Devil’s Lake about 15 miles from the town of the same name (6000 souls).

Downtown Devil’s Lake

The town’s first post office came in 1882, named Creelsburg after Lieutenant Heber Creel, a topographical engineer stationed at nearby Fort Totten. The name was changed to Creel City, then in 1884 to the City of Devil’s Lake.

Devil’s Lake Flooding in the 1990’s

Devil’s Lake has been a kind of pain to the locals and the State, also the Feds. The lake has no natural outlet and the water began to rise in the 1990’s. The surface area quadrupled causing a lot of flooded farmland and the destruction of over 400 houses. One solution was to pump excess water into the Sheyenne River (into which the lake overflowed about 1000 years ago). The Sheyenne flows in to the north flowing Red River of which 158 miles are in Canada. The Canadians didn’t want Devil’s Lake water with its possible contaminants mixed with Red River water. The State didn’t like the Fed’s solution.  A $450,000,000 fix includes extensive constructions of dikes and a less costly outlet to divert water from Devil’s Lake into the Sheyenne River when needed.

Fort Totten, a town of 1200 souls, is on the south bank of Devil’s Lake and located within the Spirit Lake Reservation (4238 souls). It’s make up is of three bands of the Dakota tribe. The Dakota words for “Spirit or Sacred” were misconstrued to mean “Bad Spirit or Devil”, thus Devil’s Lake. The Christian concept of the devil is not present in Dakota Philosophy.

Fort Totton has worn many hats. First as a military post. Several of the men assigned there were part of Custer’s Little Big Horn contingent including Marcus Reno, Miles Keogh, and Frank Baldwin.

Widows and orphans were cared for at the fort by military members of the Independet Order of Odd Fellows. The fort was decommissioned in 1890. The complex then became the Indian Industrial School, a boarding school, from 1891-1935 which concentrated on domestic skills for girls and farming/industrial skills for boys. The site was used as a Tuberculosis Preventorium from 1935-1939. This successful program was aimed at small groups of Dakota children who had or were susceptible to Tuberculosis. They were taught basic studies as well as being treated for Tuberculosis.

The Fort Totten Community School then occupied the grounds from 1940-1959. Today the fort is a State Historic Site and considered one of the best preserved frontier military posts in the Trans-Mississippi West.

While on the Rez we visit White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, formerly Sully’s Hill, a 1674 acre national wildlife refuge sitting on the southern shore of Devil’s Lake. Under Teddy Roosevelt’s guidance it became a national park in 1904, then in 1914 congress designated it as a big game preserve. We didn’t expect to see much in the way of “big game” but Lo and Behold on the roadway near the visitors center is a small herd of American Bison complete with several young calves, some enjoying their mother’s milk. Well, that made our day for sure!

After a very long climb up the stairs, the view from Sully’s Hill

Tomorrow we head to the border town of Grand Forks for three days. See you there!

Are We There Yet? You Betcha!

Monday, August 18, 2021

Game Warden Memorial- International Peace Garden

We arrived at the International Peace Garden Sunday afternoon. Jil took a little tour of the Game Warden’s Museum and Memorial while I set up camp. While there Jil was given a little history of the museum by the docent. Jil thanked the lady at the desk whose replay was “You betcha”. I love the slang of the mid-western folk.

On Sunday our ride from Lewis and Clark State Park towards the northeast and the Canadian border was mostly uneventful. The road construction crew was taking a well-deserved break so we had clear sailing on ND 1804.

We travel mostly on two lane country roads, the most busy being US 2. As today is Sunday, US 2 isn’t busy either. The rolling hills around here are studded with farms, mostly hay farms. It seems each one has some sort of oil industry contraption somewhere on the property. The farther east we travel on US 2 the greener the hills and farmland become and the fewer oil contraptions there are. 

We pass by Stanley (1458 souls), seat of Mountrail County. According to Stanley’s website recreational opportunities in town consist of bowling and golf. Miss Garmin has us turn north on ND 28 at Berthold (454 souls) and head through Carpio (157 souls- couldn’t prove it by us) on ND 28. We take a right onto ND 5 and head east toward Bottineau.

Tommy Turtle, Bottineau ND

Bottineau, an agriculture based town, is the seat of Bottineau County. 2200 folks live here and is home to “Tommy Turtle” the world’s largest turtle, and a mascot of the nearby Turtle Mountains.The town is named after Pierre Bottineau, a Metis pioneer, hunter, trapper who became successful as a land speculator.  Metis are people of mixed Indigenous and European heritage, mostly French. Annie’s House was built in Bottineau Winter Park on Turtle Mountain as the first ski facility for handicapped children and wounded veterans. It is built to honor Ann Nicole Nelson, the only North Dakotan to die in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

W’eel Turtle, Dunseith, ND

Dunseith  (773 souls) is where we turn north onto ND 3. The highway will take us to the International Peace Garden. We have camping reservations there for two nights. Dunseith touts itself as the gateway the the gardens. I suppose it is. The town is also home to the world’s largest turtle sculpture, the “W’eel Turtle” made of more than 2000 green-painted car wheels. About 10 miles north I see a sight I don’t recognize. The closer we get the more it looks like some buildings are planted right in the middle of the highway. Of course, dodo, they are the US and Canadian Ports of Entry! I had expected to turn off into the Peace Garden before the POE but no, we pass by the US POE and turn left into the garden. 

Entrance to International Peace Garden- Just Gorgeous!

As Jil is inside the kiosk checking in and paying $20 for the annual permit, the only entry permit available, I can’t help but admire how beautiful this entrance is. Marigolds, zinnias and petunias are planted in formal rows that line roadway. The garden was a vision of a few men wherein peace could be celebrated at a living monument and ideals of friendship and peace would be an example to the world. The site was dedicated in 1932 with more than 50,000 people attending.

1/2 bizillion grasshoppers collected on the road- 1.2 bizillion quadrillion still out there…..

International Peace Garden Campground

Our two day stay at the Garden was very…… peaceful. The campground is set in the woods, has water and electricity so we are styling.

The Garden is kind of a no man’s land as it lies directly on the US/Canada border with North Dakota and Manitoba. The boundary runs right down the middle of the formal garden so as one walks through one walk is on the US side and the other the Canadian side.

The garden is just beautiful with its formal planters containing over 80,000 different species of annuals and perennials.

The garden extends past gates to a less formal area leading to the 911 Memorial and the Peace Chapel. It too has colorful flower beds planted along the little stream.

There is a conservatory and interpretive center, sunken garden, a carillon bell tower that rings on the quarter hour, a floral clock, two art centers, an auditorium, and the International Music Camp.. Oh, and many picnic areas dot the grounds.

If one is in the area the International Peace Garden is a must see. It’s a little off of the beaten path but well worth the visit.

When is the last time you needed the use of one of these?

Lewis and Clark St. Park, ND

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Lewis and Clark State Park in 21 miles from Williston which is the nearest town of any size, large or small. About five miles from the state park turnoff we run into more road construction. Cripes. We wait in line about 10 minutes, the pilot car arrives with a caravan of west bound traffic, then leads us eastbound on North Dakota Highway 1804. The naming of the highway reflects the first year of Lewis and Clark’s travels through the area. ND 1804 and ND 1806 constitute a portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail that runs through North Dakota along the Missouri and Lake Sakakawea.

Excerpt from North Dakota State Parks: Lewis and Clark State Park is situated on one of the upper bays of Lake Sakakawea. The park features miles of shoreline with picturesque views of towering buttes and rolling hills that provide a rugged backdrop for the park.

Modern boating facilities, including a marina with slip rentals and boat ramps are major attractions. Anglers will find excellent fishing for walleye, sauger and northern pike.

Lewis and Clark State Park is home to the largest native mixed- grass prairie of any North Dakota State Park. Visitors can become acquainted with the natural communities associated with the park by hiking the self-guided nature trail.

Mixed Prairie Grass

Visitors can also enjoy the swimming area and a day-use beach located on the east shore of the campground near the camping cabins. Kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and snowshoes are available for rent.

Lake Sakakawea

The waters of Lake Sakakawea (named after the Native American woman Sakakawea of Lewis and Clark fame), were impounded in 1953 by the Garrison Dam. It’s the largest man-made lake located entirely within the state of North Dakota, second largest in the US by area after Lake Oahe. The creation of the lake forced the displacement of the members of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Members of the tribe received essentially no compensation for their displacement.

Snow shoes? Gosh, I hope not this time of year! We check in at the combined office/store and unhook the Subaru. Jil says I’ll meet you at the camp site. OK! She takes off- I don’t have the site number written down- she has the paperwork, but I have a map of the campground which doesn’t have our site markd. The campground is on a hill passed the marina. I arrive and I don’t see Jil nor the car. I go into one loop and suddenly site number 12, our site number, jumps into my head…… ah the memory of an elephant!

Site 12- All sites are adequately sized

I am on a loop road and realize site 12 is not on this loop. I see signage for another loop but site 12 isn’t indicated on that one either. As I drive back to square one all the signs face the wrong direction so I can’t determine which loop is the correct one. Heading back into the campground, I see a very small sign hidden under the branches of a tree which indicates site 12 is that-away. Jil is standing right next to the sign. The road which leads to site 12 is the only one that’s not paved- can’t see the sign for the tree and the gravel road looks like a service road- which turns out it is……… sheesh.

Looking down the Pintail Loop

The only utility we have is electricity so we’ll monitor our water usage. The fresh water tank is full and the waste tanks are completely empty. Perfect!…… But the power supply is 30 amp, not 50 so we can’t use both A/C’s simultaneously, nor one air combined with microwave use. We’ll get by I suppose.

Full Hookup Section

The park is pretty nice. We spend some time exploring a lakeside gravel road, stopping and letting Ollie play wave tag in the lake. He likes to attack and eat the waves as they slop onto shore. The park also has a small kiosk devoted to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The campground is very quiet today, Saturday. A lot of folks come here to go boating and fishing so many are doing that. It’s in the 90’s today so I imagine many folks are doing as we- staying inside where its cooler, reading, conversing and watching TV or perusing the internet, if they have those options. Ollie doesn’t love heat so he’s relaxing on the cool tile floor of the RV.

Tomorrow is “Hoover Day” as a campground host friend used to call Sunday. It’s the day, he said, as if a huge vacuum sucks all the campers out of the park, once again leaving it peaceful and serene. Tomorrow is the day we travel to the International Peace Garden. The Hoover gonna get us too!

Following Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark used the Missouri River as a water highway on their quest to find a navigible route to the Pacific Ocean. We are staying close to that river on our travels through Montana and North Dakota. We say goodbye to Fort Peck and head towards Williston, North Dakota. The wind has come up once again and is not our friend. Luckily, its quartering from the west so not causing a great problem until the route takes us in a northerly direction- that’s when wrestling the gorilla begins.

The route takes us to US2, an east/west route favored by many RV’ers who wish to stay off of the interstates. The road is in good condition, wide shoulders and sports several passing lanes, chain up areas and some towns. That’s all good since we are speeding along at less than the 65 mile an hour limit, giving us a place to pull over when needed to let traffic pass.

Wolf Point, Montana

Passing the agricultural town of Glasgow we soon enter Wolf Point (2800 souls). Little is known about the early beginnings of this town or the origin of its name. The first non-Indian settlement came in 1875 when William Alderson, an Indian agent, brought a crew of workmen and a steam engine/sawmill to Wolf Point, establishing a subagency for the Assiniboine people. A small village grew, steamboats stopping in to deliver goods. The Great Northern Railway spelled doom for the steamboats. A depot was established in Wolf Point in 1887. Homesteaders came to the area by the droves to claim their “free land”.

Memorial to Native American Veterans

Wolf Point was on the huge Fort Peck Indian Reservation, the land was untouchable to homesteaders. So the Secretary of Interior “fixed” that little detail and signed the paperwork to open the Rez to homesteading in 1909- the official date was in 1914. Nonetheless, activity began as early as 1910- the first buildings were built on government land, surveying was done and when the big day, June 30, 1914 arrived there were long lines at the Federal Land Office in Glasgow. The town remains on the Fort Peck Reservation and is home of the annual Wild Horse Stampede, the oldest rodeo in Montana. As one can surmise, the population is 50.5% Native American.

Historic Fort Union Trading Post National Monumnet

Fort Union Trading Post Nation Monument is a little off the beaten path but worth visiting. The fort lies directly on the Montana/North Dakota border. The confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers is nearby and we also visit that. It was never a government nor military fort, rather a trading post established by John Jacob Asor’s American Fur Company in 1828 at the request of the Assiniboine nation. Seven Indian nations traded furs for commodities brought in from all over the world.

It’s said that as many as 25,000 buffalo hides and other furs were traded annually. Fort Union was the most successful trading post on the Upper Missouri. Business continued until 1867 giving rise to a uniquely diverse, peaceful and productive cultural environment that helped make Fort Union the longest lasting fur trade post.

Missouri/Yellowstone Rivers Confluence (Yellowstone at center left)

Our destination is Lewis and Clark State Park, 20 miles east of Williston ND. Williston’s population grew by double to 29,749 souls since 2010 while the state’s population increased 15% during the same period to 779,094 souls. The North Dakota oil boom is largely responsible for that large increase. The city is located near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers at the upper end of Lake Sakakawea reservoir. The city’s economy, historically agricultural, is increasingly driven by the oil industry.

Williston sits atop the Bakken formation which is predicted to produce more oil than any other site in the United States, even surpassing Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, the longtime leader in domestic output in the US. Recoverable oil from the Bakken formation was estimated to be 4 billion barrels of oil in 2008, now thought to be 24 billion. The latest guestimators think that number could be in the 100’s of billions.

In 2019 the oil industry directly employed 24,000 people while supporting industries added an additional 35,000, employee benefits equaled $4 billion and state tax revenue nearly $22 billion. The oil industry has put a lot of people to work and I’m sure the politicians are delighted with the additional revenue.

Large Dam, Small Town

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Fort Peck and Downstream Campground

Thank goodness the smoke from western fires hasn’t followed us to Fort Peck. After several days of intermittent rainstorms, a few packing thunder and lightning, the heat is coming back. Weather predicted for the next few days has us in the 80’s and 90’s. Thank you for whoever invented air conditioning for RV’s.

Site #30
Plenty of room between sites

The campground is pretty typical for a Corp of Engineers project. Grass infield complete with shade trees, large, spacious sites with no water nor sewer at individual sites.

Very nice tiny library box made by a volunteer- Downstream Campground

I don’t know why they don’t plumb water to the sites since most COE campgrounds are located near their projects that include rivers, lakes and streams. I’d guess it’s one less utility they have to maintain. Downstream campground is no