A Tour of the Dakotas - Part 2
North Dakota

You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page.

After having totally enjoyed our month in South Dakota we headed up to North Dakota on July 30. The original route we had planned to take was US 83 straight north to Bismarck, but we changed enroute to take a road that would cut over to State Road (SR) 1804. There are two state roads in South and North Dakota named after the years Lewis & Clark traveled through the area, 1804 and 1806. SR 1804 is on the east side of the Missouri River and SR 1806 is on the west side of the river. It turned out that I should have stuck with the original plan. I am not at all superstitious, so I thought nothing about turning onto SR 13 that would take us to SR 1804 and then north right into Bismarck. The views along the road to Bismarck were just as beautiful as we had seen during our tours around South Dakota.

We have been on the road for more than four years and have been very lucky to have never experienced a significant chip to the large windshield. You see what's coming now, right? As we were traveling through the Dakotas, we knew we had been hit by some pebbles, but this time the sound was different. WHAP! A solid, dull sound, sort of like a rock hitting a windshield. At first, I didn't see anything on the window because there were lots of bugs on it. But when this one bug wouldn't wash off, I started to think that maybe it wasn't a bug. It wasn't. It was a good sized chip into the windshield. Sigh. It was no big deal other than it was right in the middle of the view out of the driver side and was distracting. So the first order of business when we got settled into a campsite in Bismarck was to find a local window repair guy who would come out to us to fix the window. I decided on the Window Doctor who showed up on time on Monday morning and worked on the chip for about an hour. It's like magic what they can do to fill in a chip and make it "disappear".

Our next order of business was to figure out why we sometimes didn't have any lights to the Honda when we hooked it up to the motorhome. I had a feeling it had to do with the part of the connector that provides power to the rear lights on the car. You see, some of the rubber coating was stripped away thanks to the connector having been dragged (bounced along is probably more what happened) during one of our drives between stops. I knew when we arrived at one of our locations that it was yours truly who disconnected the thing and then forgot to reconnect it. We wanted to check out Capital RV in Bismarck because they are a large Newmar dealership. They had the connector and the guy in parts was kind enough to cut off the old one and attach the new one. That fixed our problem and we no longer had a problem with the brake lights and directional signals working properly. Now it was time to start touring North Dakota.

Thanks to our friends Norm and Linda being out in front of us for some of the same locations we planned to visit, we learned that a good place to park the rig in Bismarck was General Sibley Park. It was part of the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. The park got its name in 1863 from General Henry Hastings Sibley who was a former governor of the Territory of Minnesota. He led a troop of volunteers across Minnesota in that year to pursue the Sioux responsible for the Minnesota Massacre of 1862.

General Sibley Park was a nice, very large campground. It wasn't large in the sense of having many sites (about 110), but large in the property. That meant fairly good sized campsites, some of which were asphalt pads, others on gravel. The park was pretty empty when we arrived and we got a site way in the back of the park, about a mile in. It was a Friday and the park continued to fill up for the weekend, mostly with families. We saw several groups of people parked close together in RVs and one large contingent of campers in the tent area. The park had many trees, so we weren't able to use our dish or cell phone. I noticed that site 87 down the road from us was empty and had an open view to the southern sky. We asked about switching sites, but were told that someone had that site reserved. Well, no one showed up on Saturday, but money was paid so it had to remain open. On Sunday we moved to that site with the front of the rig facing in (it was a back-in site) to allow use of the dish and not waste the great view out our front window which, as you may remember, was now clear of a chip in the middle of the viewing area.  ;-)  A photo of the view is on the first photo page.

Another hint we got from Norm and Linda was to be sure to visit the state capitol building, also known as the "Skyscraper on the Prairie". I'm glad they suggested we do that. Unlike the South Dakota capitol building that is the more standard domed building, the North Dakota capitol building was a high rise and I'm not sure it would have attracted us to go into the building. But Norm said it was beautiful inside, so we drove there to take a tour. It was quite beautiful inside and we had a nice tour. The building is 19 stories high and built in the art deco design. It is faced with Wisconsin black granite and white Indiana limestone. Many different materials were used for the interior of the building, including Yellowstone travertine, a stone formed from lime and calcium carried in solution in the hot waters of hot springs and geysers; Belgian black marble; Tennessee marble;  American walnut; Teak; Honduras mahogany; and other beautiful woods. On the Wall of Fame in the lobby, we learned about some famous people who came from North Dakota, including Warren Christopher (former Deputy Attorney General); Phil Jackson (former NY Knicks player on the 1973 World Champion team and coach of the Chicago Bulls); Angie Dickinson (actress); Bobby Velline, aka Bobby V (singer); Eric Severeid; Lawrence Welk; Peggy Lee.

After touring the capitol building we walked across the street to the North Dakota Heritage Center. It was getting late, so we didn't get to tour the entire center, but what we saw was very interesting. The center contained many exhibits and artifacts depicting life in the early days of North Dakota up to the present time. Once again, we saw how horribly Native Americans were treated by the US government.

Norm also suggested that we visit the Cold Stone Creamery. We had never been in one of these places where they make their own ice cream and mix in whatever you would like while you watch. It's mixed on a cold stone, hence the name. I told Norm that I didn't know whether to thank him or chastise him for telling us about the place. I would have to say that it is a very dangerous place.  It can be terribly addictive and not very good for one's weight, waist, or health.  But, damn, that was some of the best ice cream we have ever eaten. We went there on a Saturday evening and it was packed.  There were five people behind the counter mixing up the ice cream.  It took us a few minutes to figure out what the place was all about.  It was really cool to see them mix up whatever stuff you wanted in the ice cream.  I had the Apple Pie a la Mode and Diane had the Boston Cream Pie.  Both were delicious.  I loved that sweet cream ice cream.  Wow. On the day we toured the capitol building we ate lunch at the International Steak Buffet Restaurant (another tip from Norm and Linda). Naturally we figured we had to have dessert, so we stopped in at the Cold Stone Creamery for one more treat. The small cup or cone is most definitely enough ice cream for one sitting.

We drove up to Washburn one day to visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan. Once again we drove up US 83 until we could cut over to SR 1804, which actually loops back to US 83. An overview of the entire Lewis & Clark journey is presented in the exhibits in the interpretive center and were very educational. It was very interesting to see a replica of the dugout canoe used by Lewis & Clark and how it was made. It was incredible that they were able to make such a canoe given the materials they had to work with at the time.

A replica of Fort Mandan was located a short distance from the interpretive center. Lewis & Clark spent the winter of 1804-1805 in the area and constructed the fort along the Missouri River to serve as a winter home for the Corps of Discovery. They started building the fort on November 2 and completed it on Christmas Day, 1804. The fort was built entirely of cottonwood trees and had seven rooms to house the people, two rooms for supplies and food, and one room that served as a blacksmith's shop. For warmth, eight fireplaces were built back to back between the rooms. A triangular shape was chosen for the fort's design to make it easier to defend the perimeter. There were several people dressed in period garb who answered questions about life in the fort in the early 1800s.

The Knife River Indian Villages, a National Historic Site, were a bit further north from Washburn. We learned that people had lived along the river for some 500 years. Oral histories linked the ancestors of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes living on the Knife River with tribal groups east of the Missouri River. Lewis & Clark weren't the first white people to come in contact with these tribes. The first known European to enter a Mandan village was a trader named Pierre de la Verendrye in 1738. Explorer David Thompson visited the area in 1797 and then Lewis & Clark arrived in 1804. During the winter, Mandan and Hidatsa people went to Fort Mandan to trade their corn, beans, and squash and to share information with the people in the fort. A trader who was living with the Hidatsa, Toussaint Charbonneau, asked Lewis & Clark about hiring on as an interpreter. This was a very fortunate encounter because Toussaint's wife was a Shoshone Indian named Sakakawea (Sacagewea). Knowing that her ability to translate the languages of the tribes to the west would be invaluable, they hired Toussaint. They spent the rest of the winter at the fort where Sakakawea gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste, who was nicknamed "Pomp" by Clark. The expedition returned to the area in August of 1806 where Toussaint, Sakakawea, and Pomp remained to live with the Hidatsa. When Lewis & Clark went past Fort Mandan they saw that most of the fort had been washed away by the river and another part had burned.

While at the Knife River Indian Villages, we toured the visitor center and then went into a replica of an earthen lodge to listen to a talk given by one of the rangers. It was quite interesting to hear how the tribes lived. They were nomadic people. The summers were spent along the Knife River and winters in warmer areas. Listening to the talk were an old man and woman who we learned was Arthur Link, a former governor of North Dakota from 1973 to 1980. We walked the trail down to the river to see the mounds where the earthen lodges were built and then back to the visitor center. Mr. Link was there and I got to chat with him for a few minutes. He was very personable and every person from that point on to whom we told this story had only good words for the man. It seemed like he was very well liked and respected. When I told him we were heading to Medora, he told us to be sure to take in the Medora Musical.

Our first "plan" was to visit the Bismarck area and then head east to Fargo to conclude our tour of the Dakotas. However, it seemed like it would be a shame to not see more of North Dakota. We looked at the maps and saw that the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) was at the western edge of the state where Medora was located, so we decided to loop out to the west and then north to Williston and then we would go east along US 2 to Minot and Larimore, and then south to Fargo. So off we were to Medora on another nice, sunny day.

We stopped at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center just to the east of Medora and on the fringe of the TRNP. The landscape was rugged, but beautiful. Hard to believe people would settle in such an area. After picking up some information, we headed into Medora and settled in at the Red Tail Campground. There was another campground on the other side of town, but this one sounded more to our liking. There was also a campground in the National Park that would have been much cheaper, but there are times when we don't look at the cost unless it would be very expensive to stay in a private campground. The Red Tail was walking distance from town, which allowed us to walk several times into town to get something to eat or to just take a walk. The campground was nice and was a Good Sam Park (10% discount). We had 30-amp service, which was plenty given the beautiful temperatures we were experiencing. Ron and Barb Hofmeister wrote about Medora and the Red Tail Campground in a 1993 travelogue on their website. They mentioned a couple who played country music every evening in the park. Eleven years later, they were still there, Vern and Rita Davis. We went over to listen to them a couple of evenings and enjoyed their music.

Medora was founded in 1883 by a 24 year old French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores. He named it for his wife, Medora, who was the daughter of a wealthy New York City banker. The town is located just east of the Little Missouri River. The Marquis built a meat packing plant to prepare and ship meat back East on the new refrigerator railroad cars. Unfortunately, the business did not work out and it all collapsed in 1886 after which the town fell into decline. The Marquis and his family moved back to France where Medora died in 1921. The Marquis was killed by native tribesman on the Sahara Desert in 1896. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the State Historical Society, and the National Park Service helped rebuild the town. A boom in tourism helped solidify the town's survival. But it was Harold Schafer who was responsible for rebuilding the town to what it is today. He began a restoration program in 1962 to modernize the old western town and develop additional attractions. You may not recognize his name, but you might be old enough to know his company, the Gold Seal Company. The company made floor and glass wax, as well as furniture creams. Today there are just over 100 full-time residents, but it swells with tourists during the summer months.

The weather turned nice late in the second day we were in Medora, so we decided to go buy tickets for the musical. The large amphitheater is built into the side of a hill with the stage down below. For ambiance there were two large elk bucks roaming around on the hill behind the stage. Both had huge racks. At one point, a rider on horseback who was supposed to be a young Teddy Roosevelt, got the elk to the top of the hill facing the amphitheater and they stayed there grazing for a long time. I joked with Diane that I wondered how much they were paying them to pose for the audience. It was a great site. The show was delightful, albeit it did get a bit cool. We had flannel shirts and a blanket and it was comfortable. We definitely suggest Medora as a stop on your route if you ever find yourself in western North Dakota. You can even get a USA Today in town, which made me very happy. It arrived every day around 4 p.m. on the Greyhound bus.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is made up of two units, The North Unit and The South Unit. We visited the South Unit. We stopped at the visitor center to get some information and toured the park a couple of times. Teddy Roosevelt was quite a guy. He said that he would never have been President if it wasn't for his experiences in North Dakota. It was in this area that he developed his attitudes about nature and conservation. He first came to the Badlands in 1883 and became interested in the cattle business. He joined two other men, Wilmot Dow and Bill Sewall, as partners in the Maltese Cross Ranch. He opened a second open-range ranch, the Elkhorn, the following year. It became his primary residence. Although it was big game hunting that lured Roosevelt to the West, he became alarmed by the damage being done to the land and wildlife. It was then that he developed a desire to conserve resources. He became President in 1901 and established the U.S. Forest Service and also signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 under which he proclaimed 19 national monuments.

The North Dakota Badlands got its start some 60 million years ago as streams carried eroded materials eastward from the Rocky Mountains and deposited them on what is now the Great Plains. Today, mule deer and white tailed deer inhabit the park, along with prairie dogs. Bison were reintroduced to the park in 1956. Elk were reintroduced in 1985.

After a very enjoyable stay in Medora, we drove north to Williston. Along the way, we spotted a small cafe, the Four Corners Cafe, in Fairfield, so we pulled in to take a break from the rain. They had ostrich burgers on the menu, so I tried one. It was quite good. We continued our drive to Williston and pulled into the Prairie Acres RV Park. It used to be a mobile home park, but was converted to an RV park. It was a wide open park with full hookups and worked fine for us as a base to tour the area. We wanted to visit the Yellowstone-Missouri Confluence Interpretive Center, Fort Buford State Historic Site, and Fort Union Trading Post.

Lewis & Clark camped in the area where the Yellowstone River fed into the Missouri River as they tried to figure out which one was the Missouri. The Center opened fairly recently and had some nice exhibits and a 55-minute movie about the rivers.

From there we went to visit Fort Buford. It was established in 1866 to guard the trails west and serve as a major supply depot. It functioned until 1895. When it was decommissioned, it included more than 100 buildings and other structures. Today, only three original buildings remain: the Field Officer's Quarters where Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881; the Officer-of-the-Day building; and the stone powder magazine.

The Fort Union Trading Post was once the largest fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River from 1828-1867. It was built by John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company. In its heyday, the post was very busy and employed up to 100 people. It was the headquarters for trading buffalo hides and other furs with the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, and Hidatsa tribes.

There was some excitement in Williston just before we were to leave the area. Twenty railroad cars carrying corn derailed about a mile north of the campground. What a mess it was. There were two tracks and they were shut down for about 24 hours. It was amazing how quickly the very large equipment was brought in to clear the tracks. The derailment occurred during the night and within 24 hours one set of tracks was opened to traffic.

We had another rainy drive to Minot, but it didn't rain the entire way. We had planned to stay in the area for a few days as we pulled into the Roughrider Campground. It became obvious as we pulled into the campground that we wouldn't be able to use our dish in just any campsite. The owner/operator of the campground had already decided which site we would be in and she said she couldn't guarantee that we could use our dish although there were other sites that would allow a view to the southern sky. We would have been more than willing to move to another campsite, but the owner seemed to cop a bit of an attitude and wasn't about to try to accommodate our request. Actually, she seemed annoyed that we even asked if we could move to another site. As a result, we stayed one night, toured the town quickly, had dinner in a local restaurant, and moved on. That's one of the great thing about this full-time lifestyle. If you don't like a campground or your neighbors, you just take your house and move. The 2005 FMCA rally will be held in Minot. I hope folks who decide to stay at the Roughrider campground before or after the rally find it, and the owner, more to their liking than we did.

Our next stop on our tour of North Dakota was Rugby. We called ahead and got a site at the Oakwood Inn and Campground. It was to the side of a motel and provided 30-amp service and a good cable TV connection. In January 1931, the U.S. Geological Survey determined the geographical center of North America and it was in Rugby. A stone cairn marking the location sits at the intersection of US 2 and US 3. Diane and I golfed at the Rugby Golf club and took in some local eateries. Other attractions in the area included the Prairie Village Museum & Northern Lights Tower and the Victorian Dress Museum. We were kind of getting full of museums, so we passed on these attractions.

I remembered that I saw something on Ron and Barb Hofmeister's website about a place they really liked in North Dakota. I went to their website and found a 1993 travelogue that documented their tour through the Dakotas. The place I was trying to remember was Larimore. Diane and I decided to check it out and spend a week doing nothing but hanging around and playing a little golf at the course next door to the campground. We stayed at the Larimore Dam Recreation Area, a full hookup campground for $10 per night. Hard to pass us. We opted to do the drive in two days so we stayed at the Wal-Mart in Devils Lake for the night. Then it was on to Larimore.

As we were getting settled in, we met Emmett Hardy Johnson who was parked a few sites down from us. The park was pretty empty the entire week we were there. We loved the peace and quiet. Emmett was a golfer and asked if I wanted to play one day. Well, that was a no brainer and I played a round with him. The weather started to get really cold for August, including one morning when there were readings of 32 degrees in the Grand Forks area. Very unusual. That kind of put a stop to golf for a few days. We wanted to play again before we left, so we went out on our last day and barely got nine holes finished before the rain came. Other than golf and a drive to Grand Forks one day, we didn't do anything but hang around the Larimore area. It was a nice change from the touring we had been doing all summer.

Our original plan was to head south to Fargo and then on to the Minneapolis area. However, I remembered that Hawk was in an assisted living home somewhere in Wisconsin for the summer. You may remember that he became ill last winter and had to come off the road. He spends the winter in Lake Wales, Florida and the summer in Wisconsin. I called him to see where he was and he told me he was in Hayward. I checked Street Atlas and saw that we could just as easily go across Minnesota to Northwestern Wisconsin and then on to Minneapolis. So that's what we did. We parked the rig at a campground in Hayward and went to say hi to Hawk. Hayward is a very nice resort area with lots of lakes. We were there towards the end of the season, but we could see it must be very busy during the peak weeks of summer. 
It was a pleasure to see that Hawk was doing well, as was his adorable little dog, Huck. His daughter and her husband have a summer home on a lake in the area and Hawk gets to visit with them and go out fishing often. We made plans to pick him up in the morning to go to breakfast after which we said good-bye and headed to Minneapolis. We told Hawk we would look him up over the winter while we were in Florida.

A check of the campground directories indicated that the closest campground to the Mall of America, which is in Bloomington, was Lebanon Hills in Apple Valley just to the south of Bloomington. It was a county park with good sized concrete pads in an open area bounded by trees. We did think it was a bit pricey for a county park at $24 per night, but in the long run it all evens out to where we want to be for campground expenses.

The Apple Valley area was very nice. Not too much traffic, yet things to do in the area re stores and eateries. Having a Regal Cinema nearby with large screens and stadium seating made it even better. And if that weren't enough, we found a couple of places that offered FREE WiFi service. The Dunn Brothers Coffee Shops all offered free WiFi and there was one about four miles from the campground. Old Chicago Pizza Restaurants also offered free WiFi. We went to Dunn Brothers every day for a drink while I played on the laptop and Diane read her book. We also went to Old Chicago one evening for dinner and to use the WiFi connection.

While I'm discussing WiFi connections, I want to mention that we found free WiFi hotspots almost every place we've been this summer. There are WiFi search engines that you can use to find these hotspots. Here are the addresses for two of them:

*  http://www.wififreespot.com/  -  you must be logged onto the Internet to use this website, but it has a good search engine

*  http://www.jiwire.com/  -  this is a great site because it allows you to download their entire database of WiFi hotspots, both fee and free. The download includes a nice search engine that you can use offline to look for fee and free hotspots or, even better, just FREE hotspots. Highly recommended.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Apple Valley was to go see the Mall of America. It was everything we had heard it was. Huge. Very impressive. We walked around the entire mall and stopped in one of the many restaurants for dinner. Diane and I enjoy looking at different malls and walking around. Sometimes there is even a Starbucks in the malls we find.

We were going to drive the motorhome to Austin before heading back up to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, but decided the drive wasn't that far such that we couldn't do it in a day trip. We wanted to see the SPAM museum and we weren't disappointed. Who knew Spam was so popular for so many years? We even got to try packaging Spam (not the real stuff) the way it was done before machines were invented to do the work. Naturally, I had to get a SPAM t-shirt.

Our final stop before heading to Michigan and Indiana for some maintenance on the motorhome was LaCrosse, Wisconsin to visit George and Kathleen Brosius. I met George on the Internet a couple of years ago because of our full-time lifestyle. He and Kathy are full-timer wannabes and follow some RV websites, including ours. George and I have had many nice chats on AOL IM over the past couple of years. I could tell from those chats that he and Kathy were the type of people with whom we would like to have contact. We weren't disappointed. Diane and I figured we could go through LaCrosse as we made our way back to the East. They actually live in Stoddard which is a bit south of LaCrosse.

The closest campground to Stoddard was Goose Island County Park and we were fortunate enough to get in there for a week given that part of that time was over Labor Day Weekend. The park overlooks the Mississippi River backwaters and provided water and electric sites. George and Kathy's home is also on the Mississippi, a gorgeous piece of property where they have lived for more than 30 years.  We made plans to meet at a restaurant in Stoddard and George and I recognized each other immediately. Kathy is an archaeologist at the university and joined us shortly after she got off work. We had a great evening chatting about all kinds of things, especially the full-time lifestyle that they hope to enjoy at some point. Over the week we were in the area, we got to do cookouts at their house and at Goose Island, get a great tour of the archaeology lab that Kathy heads at the university, take in a couple of movies at the local theater, do email at Jules Coffee Shop on a free WiFi connection, and ate out several times at local restaurants. The tour of the archaeology lab was very interesting. Kathy showed us some of the findings in the area and we watched as a couple of students, Becky Sprengelmeyer and Jen Westpfahl,
worked on some pieces.

Two highlights of the visit were the opportunity to see a NASCAR race and a trip to Prairie du Chien to visit a state historic site.
Diane and I had never been to a NASCAR race as we aren't racing fans. George wanted us to experience a race, so they took us to a race being held over the weekend. George was a long haul trucker with his own rig and, at one time, helped sponsor one of the local drivers, Paul Proksch, who was going to be in the race. I would be lying if I said it wasn't exciting. Paul started at the back of the pack and managed to gain ground on every lap to finish in fourth place. It was very interesting to see him make his move to pass cars and to avoid the several crashes that occurred during the race. I doubt that the experience has made us NASCAR fans, but it was a fun night. It was as noisy as we thought it would be.  It was a bit humorous to us to hear the pack of cars when they were on the far side of the track. They sounded like a swarm of bees.   ;-)

The other highlight of our stay in the area was a ride down to Prairie du Chien to visit Villa Louis, a restored estate once owned by the Dousman family. Prairie du Chien was first seen by the French explorers Marquette and Jolliet when they came down the Mississippi River in 1673. The name came from the French for Prairie of the Dog who was a Fox chief who lived on the prairie. The French Canadians traded furs in the area prior to the British taking over much of the fur trade. Americans arrived and built Fort Shelby in the early 1800s. The fort was burned in the only battle fought in Wisconsin during the War of 1812, the Battle of Prairie du Chien.

In 1816 Fort Crawford was built on the land that became Villa Louis. Hercules Dousman was responsible for bring the American influence to the fur trade. He started by counting beaver skins in a Mackinac warehouse and then built a fortune for himself and his family. His son, Louis, had a lot of passion and ambition and cultivated a life of a country gentleman as he amassed great wealth. He built a country estate on the banks of the Mississippi that symbolized a new aristocracy. The Dousmans epitomized the American dream during what was known as the Gilded Age. Unfortunately, Louis did not live long enough to fully enjoy his wealth. He died suddenly in 1886 leaving his widow, Nina, with five small children. Nina went on to complete the mansion and named it in Louis' memory.

Today, Villas Louis is owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society thanks to bequests made by the Dousman family over the years. It has been restored to it's 1890 appearance. We had a nice tour of a few of the buildings by a guide dressed in period garb who knew her history.

Thanks to George and Kathy's gracious hosting of our stay in the area, we had a great week. We hope to see them out on the road in their own RV someday. I was going to end this travelogue by suggesting that you wave to George if you see a yellow and purple truck out on the highway. However, after we left LaCrosse we received some news from George that has changed that. We left the day after Labor Day to head to Michigan and George picked up a load to deliver out to Los Angeles. Sad to say that he encountered some bad weather along the way and took a direct hit from a lightning bolt. Here, in his own words, is what happened to George on what became his last run as a long haul trucker.

"First of all---Thanks for the stop in La Crosse.  Kathleen and I now count you among our friends and not just someone in passing.  Your visit did more to boost our confidence that we are on the right path and perhaps has even served to accelerate our start date.  After our parting that Monday evening I had little time for anything but to get my truck stocked, loaded with my personals, and ready to roll early Tue. Morning.  And then the “Unbelievable Events” begin.

Trip west started out uneventful.  Loaded out of St. Joseph, MN. , and really got an early start with expected delivery early Fri. Morning the 10th.  The drive was weather perfect until I reached Las Vegas in early afternoon on the 9th.  I was approaching Vegas from the North and was on the phone with Kathleen and there the story begins.

I mentioned to Kathleen that the sky sure was looking dark South of Vegas and it looked like I would be getting a free truck wash when the rain started.  As I continued on it was looking as mean as I have ever seen it in the desert.  About half way through Vegas it began to rain.  I have an outside temp. Gauge in the truck and on approaching Vegas the outside temp was 106.  As I approached the rain the temp dropped to 72 and continued to fall.  Suddenly it became extremely windy.  The rain intensified, and then it began to hail.  I was making about 65 mph and began to back down to about 50 mph in the far right lane of 5 lanes.  Then it hit.  I was hit directly with a bolt of lightning that presented itself with an ear shattering boom, bright flash of light, and then instant quiet.  Apparently I had taken a direct hit, and as later discovered, through the CB antenna.  The engine was dead, no power.  The transmission was locked in gear and I could not get it in neutral.  Lights were on that I didn’t have on, lights that I had on were off, and the instrument gauges were goofy and flipping around wildly. I did smell a singed wire smell but could detect no fire.  My cell phone, am/fm radio, & CB all were knocked out and off.  By turning my cell phone off and on I got it to work somewhat but not perfectly.  I turned the key off but lights were still on that should go off and the instruments still continued to fluctuate.  I felt that if I could disconnect the batteries that then things would be recycled and perhaps I could get it running again.  I had about 5 feet between the side of the vehicle where the batteries were and the lane of traffic that continued to stream by at 65 mph.  The storm was now over.  Stupidly I did get out and after 20 minutes of work managed to disconnect the batteries.  All lights were now off.  I reconnected the batteries and nothing recycled but all those lights and fluctuating instruments were doing all the crazy things again.

To make a long story short.  Insurance did cover everything and the insurance company after getting to $10,000.00 in parts, and then didn’t even have it so the engine would fire, decided to total the tractor.

Now I had a dilemma.  My trailer which I own had a load on that needed to be delivered in Los Angeles.  I managed to hire an owner operator from Las Vegas to deliver it for me and return the trailer to Vegas.  After doing so he expressed interest in buying the trailer and we came to an agreement of price.  I sold the trailer on the spot.  The next day one of the trucks returning from California and headed back to the Midwest that is leased on to the same company I was stopped to pick me up.  By this time I had all my personal stuff boxed up and had the two murals removed from my trailer.  His truck only had one bunk so we team drove it from Vegas to home.  Kathleen met us at 7:00 a.m. in Albert Lea, MN. With the Suburban and we headed for home.  I was so exhausted that I hit the bed and didn’t wake up till today the 17th.  Having just finished my morning coffee I thought I would give you an update.

I am not sure what I will do now as I have not had time to think things through.  I doubt that I will do anything in the trucking industry but I might consider delivering motor homes to dealers from the manufacturers as I think I mentioned that to you as a future work-camping possibility.  Why not start it early----huh?  I will keep you posted.

I am not sure who I p _ _ _ _  _  off but I think I can say for sure that other than a little loss of hearing---he missed.  Probably should go out and buy a lottery ticket to see which way my luck is going to go----ha.  Heck, this could have been a message to quit this nasty thing called work and get on with the RV plans."

That's quite a story. George was fortunate to not get seriously injured. I joked with him that maybe it was an sign that he should retire and they should get on the road as full-time RVers.

Well, that's it for our tour of the Dakotas. We had a very enjoyable Spring and Summer starting with our visits to Elvis' birthplace and Graceland, then up to the Dakotas, and ending in Wisconsin to meet some new friends. One of the most enjoyable things about this part of our journey this summer was the traffic. THERE WAS NONE!!!!! How great it was to not see many cars on the road. I think the worst "traffic jam" we saw was in Bismarck at rush hour when we had to sit for two lights at one intersection.

As I write this we are on our way south for the winter, currently in the Chattanooga area. We'll head to Douglasville, GA to visit kids and grandkids, as well as doctor and dentist. Then it will be on to Florida. Unless we have some interesting things to write about, this will be the last travelogue for a while, although I may put up a short one with some photos. Yeah, I know, it's not in me to write anything "short".   :-)

Until next time, safe travels.....

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