Leaving Manitoba to drive south in winter is a dicey affair. No matter what the weather forecast says, you are bound to be surprised. This trip was no exception. We awoke on the 12th, our scheduled departure date, to find it was snowing. And it kept right on snowing right until we got over the US border. This meant a trip that would normally take about three hours took five. We paused for a break in McCreary, Neepawa and Brandon in order to deal with issues like a puppy who needed a walk and bathroom breaks. By the time we got to Brandon I was thoroughly chilled in spite of my winter outerwear and thermal underwear. Hot coffee never tasted so good!
Our original destination was a campground in Dickinson ND. Unfortunately we found ourselves only at Minot ND when darkness fell with blowing snow and nasty cold winds. We detoured off to Swenson’s RV repair and campground. Exhausted and cold we arrived after the office had closed and we couldn’t find the campground host. I’m not sure why because when we rolled out there was a huge sign by the first campsite near the door. We rolled into an open pull through, plugged in the electric and settled in. The temperature was -17C (1F) and forecast to drop to -22C (-8F). The furnace ran without a pause all night and we had two electric heaters and our little electric countertop oven open and on. We snuggled under our electric blanket which was set on the highest level. We were barely warm enough. I was so grateful Swenson’s was open! We would never have made it through the night with just propane heat from the furnace.
Morning dawned bright and early. Since we fell asleep by about 8:00pm we were up at 5:00am. We were off to Dickinson. I felt really bad because there was no where to leave an envelope with our payment. We got to Dickinson very early and gained an hour due to the change to Mountain time. We stopped for breakfast at MacDonald’s and a cup of hot coffee never tasted so good. First thing I did was send the folks at Swenson’s an email to tell them we had been there and needed to pay them. After some searching I found a campground in Rapid City that was not only open, but in an “above freezing daytime” forecast zone. We decided to continue on.
That long long long stretch between Dickinson ND and Rapid City SD seemed like it would never end. We did see antelope, jackrabbits, mules deer, flocks and Canada geese, partridges, and a pheasant. That helped break up the trip. We made a few stops at bleak windy cold roadside stops. Somewhere along the way we noticed we had left the snow behind and we were relieved.
Misty had been very well behaved the entire trip. She either slept or followed what was going on outside with great interest. About an hour and half from our destination she had just had enough. She started puppy crying and howling and barking at us. If she could have talked I’m sure she would have said “When are we going to get there??? How much farther do we have to go??? I want to go HOME!!!” In spite of two more breaks and a surprise chewy, offers of food and water, she remained inconsolable. I felt really bad for her but there was nothing to do but push on. Eventually she put her head down where Dick could reach and he rubbed her ears and talked to her and she settled enough to finish the last part of the trip quietly.
We pulled into Happy Holiday Resort after dark and we were warmly welcomed by the staff there. I can’t describe how nice it is to arrive at a campground exhausted, cold, hungry, and we welcomed with a cheerful attitude and a perfect campsite. I had some pre-made hot chilli and I made some rice. While the rice cooked we went for a nice long walk with the dogs. We all fell asleep early again.
In the morning I was awoken by steady dripping. It was already above freezing and all the accumulated snow and ice was beginning to melt. By the time we finished making breakfast, the solar panel’s regulator was humming. The sun was strong enough and the ice had melted enough that the panels were actually charging again. After breakfast I went to the campground shower and enjoyed a long hot shower. It was wonderful to feel clean and warm again. Our hosts refilled the propane tank we emptied overnight in Minot for a modest $18. We then took the dogs for another nice long walk. Because of skipping Dickinson and driving so far the second day out we found ourselves a day ahead of schedule. The campground was so pleasant we paid for a second night. The WIFI was really good and among other things we settled with Swenson’s for our surprise stay. I had a nice correspondence via email with the staff there I am thinking we will go by again if we can in future.
On the way out, we went by Mount Rushmore. We had a little misadventure on the way in because the highway was so steep on the last two miles that we could only climb with the truck on low four wheel drive and first gear at a crawl. That was harrowing but we made it. (Note to others, take the southern route in. It is much less steep.) We had been at Mount Rushmore many years before but because we spent so much time at the Crazy Horse exhibit we had just stopped by the roadside for a few minutes and then continued. This trip we paid our $5 fe and went in and looked at the displays and the museum. We took a selfie to prove we had been there. I can’t say I like how I look in the picture but it is a good shot of Hubby Dearest. The sunshine was such a pleasure! We then continued on into Wyoming.
The trip to Wyoming was uneventful. Our plan was to stay in a free campsite in a place called Wheatland. We go there early enough we decided to push on through to Laramie. We had let the KOA know we might be a day early and so they were prepared. We decided not to take a recommended shortcut via highway 34 because the map had a mountain pass on it. We weren’t sure about how high the pass was, how our trailer would manage or the weather as we had a strong north wind blowing up to 60 km/hr (40mph). We had the wind to our back on the interstate and so the trip into Cheyenne was easy. I hardly even had to put my foot on the gas. The uphills were ridiculously easy with the wind. The trip from Cheyenne to Laramie was really difficult even though it was on an interstate. It seemed like all we did was climb and climb against a cross wind and a few times I could barely hit 60km/h (40m/h).
We finally crawled into the Laramie KOA just before 6:00pm. We checked in and picked up some packages that we had arranged to mail ahead and made ourselves at home. I was shaking and feeling light headed and numb. I think I was reacting to going from 1200ft in Manitoba to 7200ft in Laramie with only two days acclimatizing at 3200ft in South Dakota. We went to bed early again and then after another delightful hot shower we did some grocery shopping. Dick’s conference registration was at 4:30pm and they served all kinds of sushi as the welcome snack. YUM!
This KOA campground is fine. One thing it has which I really appreciate is a fenced dog play area big enough for Misty to go a flat out run. We have been visiting it several times a day. The traffic noice is a bit much as we are right near the interstate but it is temporary. I have plenty to do.
We are set to stay a week in Laramie. In addition to the major repair of getting our hot water heater unit in, I made arrangements to get the truck a slightly over due tune up and finally fix the slow leak in the tranny. Dick meanwhile is attending a conference. He is having a blast while I entertain the dogs and get stuff done.