Migration South Day 13-15 – Fort Cobbs State Park, Oklahoma

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Geese. Hundreds of geese, no thousands of Canada Geese plus hundreds of white pelicans and in among those birds, ducks, cormorants, and a few chickadees and blackbirds. The park was lovely, next to a busy golf course. We found a lot of yellow golf balls near the driving range. We had only one other occupant in the entire campground. There was a big private dock that was busy with people and boats. It was delightful.

We followed our usual rule of travel one day rest one day. The first day was nice and warm so we walked and walked and enjoyed our arrival day. The site was lovely, great view and full service. Full service campsites in state parks are few and far between. The next day was cold and windy so we went for one walk with Misty and otherwise huddled in our trailer writing. I made a lovely beef stew in the slow cooker.

One big drawback to this spot was it was full of those little grass seed balls with the sticky spikes all over. This meant we spent a lot of time picking stickers out of everything from Misty’s feet to our bed sheets as the nasty little things traveled everywhere. Even so the sight of all these geese was so magnificent and so uplifting I really didn’t care about the stickers. Every so often for no reason we could understand all of them would take to the air and circle above in a great roar of wings and calls. Misty spent hours literally sitting outside watching the geese. Unfortunately the weather changed and snow was forecast and so we left for Bonham State Park Texas which promised to be warmer though it could hardly be any finer.

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Migration South Day 10-12 – Great Salt Plains State Park, Oklahoma

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The short trip between the Wellington KOA and the Great Salt Plains State Park turned out to be a treat. The weather was lovely and warm. The scenery was lovely and we got a little whimsy for joy from a farmer. Have I mentioned I love the open plains? It was as wide and as open as could be. We pulled into the State Park and were delighted to have the entire campground to ourselves. The first day was warm and sunny and we liked it so much we mused about staying for a month. The next day it got cold and windy and we took a long walk but it was not warm enough for it to be pleasant.

The view was beyond spectacular. Directly across from us was a neat red cliff, reminders of Utah. There was a big dam with three tiers of spillways so we got to listen to the sound of a waterfall all night. I liked the “waterfall” while Dick was most interested in the diatom scum in the pool.

Having a whole campground to ourselves was really nice. Misty kind of accidentally on purpose got away from us and went for a nice long run. Fortunately all that recall training worked and she came right away when called. The river had pelicans in it and Misty alerted us every time they came near. She also let us know when horsemen went by which they did frequently.

Friday night the thunderstorms rolled by as forecast but, as forecast, nothing severe came near us. We got some rain and we heard some rumbles but we didn’t have to run to the shelter/bathroom. The next day we had planned to leave but the wind was ferocious. We decided to unhitch and go for a drive since it was too windy to travel with the trailer. First we paid for another night at the park.

The trip we took was out to the selenite crystal digging spot. During the summer you can walk out to that salt flat and dig up lovely selenite crystals. The place is closed in winter to protect the migrating birds. We could only look from the gate. We have some crystals so we didn’t feel a need to dig anyway. The wind was incredible, huge dust devils over the dirt fields. There were pump jacks everywhere. We stopped into a local grocery store in Cherokee Oklahoma. That was fun because we got to see different brands of foods and other neat stuff. I found some really lovely pottery with a south west theme and almost bought it, until I flipped it over. Made in China. Well it looked authentic.

Finally Sunday morning the sky was clear, the wind was low and the forecast was for snow. It was time to move south. And so we headed south to the Fort Cobb State park in south western Oklahoma.

Migration South Day 7-9 – South Kansas

We left Fort Kearney and it was freezing cold. As the day progressed and we moved south it got warmer. Our original plan was to try to get to a KOA just north of Oklahoma City. It was a long trip. Dick checked our KOA campground book and discovered there was another year round KOA near Wellington Kansas about twenty miles (32 km) or so from the border with Oklahoma. That shaved some two hours of driving so we diverted there. We settled into the Wellington KOA and signed up for two days.IMG_4273

We had been driving in above zero weather for about four hours and temperature was a balmy (compared to what we had been dealing with) 7C (45F). To my great relief, as soon as we hooked up to the sewer and I pulled the valves, they opened easily and the trailer drained. More important, they closed perfectly afterward. Letting your plumbing freeze up is a bad thing to do. When it freezes you can damage things. This time we got lucky.

There were a few things we really needed to do. Most important, we both needed a good hot shower. We had a big pile of laundry to do the next day. We also had tracked mud all over the trailer and it was in sore need of a good cleaning and there was a lot of stuff to sort and put away. This is why we like to check into a “proper” campground every so often. KOAs are rarely beautiful on lakesides with gorgeous views although that can happen. They are almost uniformly solid and reliable when it comes to whether the WIFI works, the cable connects, and full hookups with water and sewer are available. They are also pretty uniformly clean and well run. We have rarely been disappointed. The Wellington KOA was a better run KOA with a cheerful fellow who greeted us nicely. We settled in for a day of cleaning and catch up. The weather was lovely and we took a long walk the second afternoon. We found some neat things like a windmill and lots and lots of hedge apples and glorious junipers taller the us and magnificent cedars.

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The weather reports were turning ominous though. Our area was supposed to be hit by severe weather Friday night. We did what we usually did. We changed our path to go a bit west out of the yellow hatched danger zone on the NOAA map. There was a promising state park near Enid, out of the danger zone. It was called the Great Salt Plains State Park. The drive was only 72 miles (116km) an easy hop skip and jump, so we decided to take it. We slept in, we said goodbye to the Kansas, and the very nice KOA just before check out, and by 2:00pm we were comfortably settled in a wonderful spot on the river in full view of a beautiful spillway that looked like a big two tier waterfall. Lovely!

Migration South Day 6 – Nebraska

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We left Pierre SD and headed for Fort Kearny State Recreation Area. According the information on the campsite they are open year round and have heated washrooms and showers. Off we went.

I am a prairie girl through and through and I love prairie. So naturally I loved Nebraska. Rolling hills, lovely farms and rivers and creeks and just plain gorgeous country. No big yucky piles of rock blocking the sky. Everything had a blanket of fresh snow from the recent blizzard. And it was cold. It was only -7C (19F) but there was a stifd breeze and it was a damp cold. Still we enjoyed the view.

We had a brief stop for lunch of vegetarian pizza and I left another Neepawa Rocks rock. One of the employees found it and posted to the Facebook group. That was neat.

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Another thing I love is trains and we saw so many trains that I was in heaven in spite of the cold.

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We finally arrived at the campground in Fort Kearny Recreation Area. The campground is indeed open but that part about heated washrooms and showers? Nope. We were the only ones there, except for a herd of deer, and the washrooms and showers were buttoned up tight. They did have electricity, though. so we backed in just as it was getting dark and made ourselves at home. Directly across from our campsite was what was obviously a favourite swimming hole for locals. No showers though.

 

Migration South Day 3-5 Pierre South Dakota

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The next morning we were up at 6:00am and ready to go so we left for Pierre, South Dakota. This time we had perfect traveling weather so it was easy to pack in the miles. It was still, sunny and the temperature climbed steadily until it hit 10C (52F). We saw a herd of antelope, many pheasants, deer and a coyote. There were many flocks of Canada Geese on the still open water. Traffic was light. The roads were clear. We soon left snow behind.

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However as we traveled we listened to the weather forecast and it was going to get messy. There was a big winter blast crossing Nebraska and northern Kansas. At a stop with internet, we checked the weather and discussed our options. One would be to continue on past Pierre, South Dakota and keep driving as long as possible and then get up as early as we could and drive like crazy. If we could do it, and if the weather did what was forecast, we could run ahead of the storm and let it go by to the north. Our next option would be to stick to schedule and just wing it and risk finding ourselves in a blizzard. The third option was the best option. Since we would be just north of the main weather system we could sit tight there and let the whole mess go past us to the south, give it a day for the roads to be cleared and then carry on. We talked it over and decided we are not traveling to get somewhere by the quickest route. We are migrating south and enjoying ourselves on the way. A three night stop would suit us best.

We arrived at our campground in Pierre, South Dakota by 3:00pm. There is a new and spreading fad in state parks which requires you make your reservation in advance or you have to telephone the registration system. There is no one on duty to take you money or show you around. I got someone on the telephone who was nice enough but so slow it made me grit my teeth in frustration. We eventually got registered. One of the nasty things about the system is the telephone person can’t tell you things like the washrooms are closed or where do you find potable water. Once we were registered we drove around the campground and discovered the washrooms were closed. Lesson learned. No matter what the sign says, from now on we drive in and check everything out before we call. It turned out to be all right though because the dump station was open and had potable water. Since it was well above freezing it was probably okay to dewinterize now. We just had to drain the antifreeze, flush the system, and then fill up. Since there were only four campers at the campground and no one waiting to use the dump, we did the whole procedure at the dump site. It was sunny and pleasant it was actually  fun and easy  in the bright sunshine.

We got our rig settled into a nice site. We were delighted to discover the park had internet. It was really slow but it worked. Misty refused to settle down. This place was too wonderful, exciting, with too many wonderful things to smell. We ended up taking her for a nice long walk in the warmth and sunshine. It was a welcome pleasure after the cold of Manitoba in November. As often happens after a long drive, I was tired out and I ended up crawling into bed at 7:30pm. It was such a relief to be stopped in safe place without worrying about driving the next day in a snowstorm. I fell asleep and slept right through the night until 7:00am, nearly twelve hours. Wow what a glorious dawn we had! It was so lovely it was breathtaking. Red sky at dawning, definitely foul weather coming.

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We had two very pleasant quiet days while we watched the storm system to the south go from winter weather advisory to blizzard warning to a state of emergency in Kansas. I was so glad we did not try to rush through or wing it. Each day, we took Misty for nice long walks several times and enjoyed the peace and quiet. The lake was still open and there were geese on the lake. Each day more of the lake froze in the cold until on the last day there was just a small open area where the geese were.

Hunters were nearby and the geese were really skittish. We could hear the shots. The park itself was closed to hunters so the geese were fleeing here. One of the hunters would drive by to where the geese were resting and wave his arms and honk and the geese, not understanding the idea of a no hunting zone, took off flying right back unto the hunters range. There is definitely some bird dog in our pup from her golden retriever mom because every time a shot went off Misty got all excited and headed for the water. Fortunately, we had her on the long leash because the ice was thin and she could have gotten into big trouble out there if she broke through.

We had one interesting find. We came across a small frozen turtle. Following the rule we learned from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab about torpid turtles, it isn’t dead unless you warm it up and it starts to smell bad. We brought the turtle into our camper for the night. By morning it was obvious the turtle was indeed dead and not torpid. The shell is lovely so at some point when we are near a live ant hill, we’ll let the ants clean the flesh and keep the shell as a souvenir.

After our three night break the blizzard had moved away and we packed up and headed for Nebraska. At the dump we made an alarming discovery. Our sewer outlet had from up. ARRGG!! We forgot about that and hadn’t protected the outlet to prevent freezing. We should have remembered it since we do enough cold weather camping but we forget. Fortunately, our trailer is underweight so we could continue traveling with the grey and black water tanks partly full. Nebraska was our next stop.

Migrating South Day 2 – North Dakota

Our second day we planned on getting to South Dakota and staying at a state park. The distance was at the upper limit of what I like to do in a day. Nature had other plans. The forecast was not promising so we decided to just go as far as Bismark. The day started out nicely enough but soon after we got out of Minot we hit heavy fog with a stiff south east breeze. What had started out as a nice day turned bad fast. We had one nice stop at a Lewis and Clark interpretive centre but we pulled into the KOA in Bismark glad to be able to stop and wait out the fog. I was glad we did.

We arrived after lunch and settled in to a nice quiet American Thanksgiving day. We had actually celebrated the Canadian version a month before but we had roasted chicken, cranberry, lehfse we got in North Dakota, and a sweet potato pie.

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Our campsite in Bismark. Misty loved the campsite and the large doggy park.

 

Migrating South 2018 – Day 1

Our trip south began with a new nice twist. One of the joys of living in an RV is traveling but most people, including us, get stuck in the idea of a specific destination and an urge to get to it was quickly as possible. Over time, we have found the very best trips are those where we take our time and let weather and circumstances guide the when, where and how long of pausing.

In the past, we have always started our journey south in the cold with a frenetic dash trying to get to warm climes as rapidly as possible. There are two reasons for this. First winter comes in Manitoba well before we leave and so we have to fill our water lines with antifreeze to protect the lines through the cold. Before we can use the water system again, we have to reach temperatures warm enough that the lines won’t just freeze right up on us. The second reason is there are simply very few campgrounds open in the north in November. Past trips have meant we make a long mad dash first day to Fargo, North Dakota where we spend one miserable cold night in a truck stop. We wake up early and immediately drive hard all day to get to the first full service campground on the main 29 interstate going south. That campground is in Sioux City North, South Dakota. Typically, we then stay two nights because we’re both exhausted and tired and need showers and a break. Then we make another mad two day drive south in order to reach Kansas or Oklahoma where the weather is better and some of the campgrounds are open. Finally, we can relax and begin to enjoy the trip.

Last year we went went to Wyoming first. In our explorations for places to stop on the way to Wyoming, I discovered there are full service campgrounds open in North and South Dakota. They are in the central and western portions and not on the 29 interstate. If you look at the map of North America you can also see that the 29 north/south interstate doesn’t actually go straight north/south. It veers off to the east. We often found ourselves following that interstate south and then having to backtrack to the east to get to some of our favourite campsites in Kansas. This year we decided to indulge ourselves and go through the central parts of the Dakotas and Nebraska and see some new territory. First stop, Minot, North Dakota where there is a full service KOA campground open year round.

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The trip itself was miserable because of a stiff south east wind that made the trailer buck and fight the truck. I try to drive at precisely 55 mph or just over 90 kmh because that is the setting the trailer travels best at with reasonable gas mileage. The one time we had a sudden blow out I did not loose control and I was able to safely stop, which I attribute to not going over that speed level. The roads were not in great shape. Mostly bare but some ice spots and the south east wind meant it was tricky to keep the speed at the right level.

One very nice part was a brief stop in Neepawa to see our son and his family. We left with a bag of painted rocks compliments of Lizzie Burke from the fun group Neepawa Rocks. I learned about this group while babysitting the grandkids. We took them out to the bird sanctuary and park in Neepawa and the grandkids found painted rocks. From this I learned how it works. You find a pretty painted rock and you can either keep it or rehide it so someone else can find it. All the group asks is that you post your find on their Facebook page. I now had a whole bag of rocks to deposit on the trail south.

I left the first rock in Brandon. My husband wanted to stop for lunch but I was in my usual “Joe Gotta Go” mode. The idea of stopping made me feel so resentful. I had to give myself a mental shake. It’s the journey not the destination. If my beloved husband wants to stop for a bite to eat I need to be grateful I have a husband to enjoy a bite to eat with, not get all resentful about stopping. I decided a nice bowl of soup would turn the stop into a welcome break for me as well. I left the first rock on a ledge outside the Tim Horton’s on the number one in Brandon.

We got through customs without a hitch in spite of Misty taking a dislike to the agent and acting as if she wanted to eat him. We do encourage her to let us know about potential bad guys but we have also trained her to shut up on command and behave herself. After giving the border agent a start, and getting the shut up command, she lay quietly in the back seat grumbling in her “I’m obeying you but I am not happy with you” doggy way. She did not understand why we were ignoring her warning and letting this bad guy search our truck and trailer. Fortunately, our cat Klinger remained unseen as the agent searched the trailer. Klinger is usually a friendly cat but he has occasionally expressed the same opinion about border guards and he is not as obedient as Misty. It was a female border guard who gave Klinger the nickname “that f*cking demon cat from hell” after one of his “I don’t like you” greetings. She had startled him in his hiding place while searching for contraband. Since then I always warn them the cat is in the trailer and I say he hates everyone but me.

The trip from the border to Minot was uneventful. We saw a herd of four cow moose ambling across the field. One thing very nice about being off the interstate is you don’t have many big semis and so traveling was much easier. Once in Minot we pulled into a Walmart to stock up. The list of fresh fruits and veggies permitted into the US is short and ever changing so we simply don’t bring in any. We leave all the fresh stuff with the neighbour when we departIMG_1391. We stop and restock over the line. Walking around Walmart there were piles of stuff marked as for Black Friday only. As usual for Black Friday I saw nothing I wanted. It was just lots of “stuff”. There are certain foods that you can only get in the USA. I was delighted to find smoked ham make from turkey at our first stop and we stocked up. I was so looking forward to a breakfast that included a slice of fried turkey ham. The campground had a nice doggy park for Misty and she had fun running around. We saw deer and rabbits on the nature trail. It was too cold and icy to go walking but we did leave a rock behind. And so our first day of traveling turned out to be fine.