Tag Archives: North Dakota

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.

 

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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.

 

Migration Home Twelfth Stop Sisseton South Dakota and then home.

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We left Sioux City north and drove up I29. This has to be the most boring stretch of highway in North America. Miles and miles and miles of nothing. We had some luck in the city of Sioux Falls. We got a recommendation from a store clerk in Staples for a grocery store big on ethnic food. We arrived to find enough kosher-for-passover items that we were able to stock up for the whole eight days. On arrival in Sisseton the folks at Camp Dakota were welcoming as they had been last year and we set up. Our host for tomorrow’s visit, Sister Patrice Colette met us and we had dinner at the nearby Casino. Profits from the Casino go right back into the tribe including the school we were going to be presenting at. We had an excellent meal and turned in early. Sister was going to be picking us up at 6:30am. We fell asleep to the sound of enormous flocks of starlings and black birds feasting on the remnants of last year’s corn crop in the adjacent field.

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The school we were going to visit is the Tiospa Zina Tribal School of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Reservation. Last year we presented to the class and then got a tour of the band offices. This year we spent the entire school day participating and visiting. This was our second stop as visiting scientists and much as I enjoyed the first visit last year, this one went even better. Our day started out with breakfast at the school. All students get a nutritious start to their day. Breakfast was scrambled egg omelet with cheese filling, bacon (which we skipped), vegetables and fruit. Cereal was available, as was milk, but not as the main item and not many kids picked those for breakfast.

After breakfast we attended a ceremony to start the academic day. This included a drum circle and songs in Dakota. I saw a lot of older students watching out for and caring for younger students. Our conference was interrupted by a break for school awards for excellent work, for personal improvement, for good attendance an to announce successes students had outside the school. Students not only got nice little printed certificates. They got something I never got in school, which was nice crisp new bills as cash awards. There was strong emphasis on personal responsibility, duty to the tribe and community as a whole and respect for elders and each other in the ceremony. Everyone helped clear up when the award ceremony was finished.

Officially we were there as keynote speakers for a science conference. The student prepared in advance and then I presented on sea turtles, their embryology, evolution, the dangers they face and how people can help them. Hubby dearest presented his latest research on the original of life in our universe and slipped in a talk about the age of the universe and powers of ten. We closed off our presentations by giving the students chunks of marine fossils in soft sandstone. Their objective was to break out a fossil and use Google and some books to identify what the fossil was. And they succeeded. We have done many of these classroom visits to schools over the years. In this school we were delighted to find curious minds, intense interest, and well thought out questions. We were not just questioned about the science itself. We were questioned about important practical things like how do you balance work and family and why did we become scientists. We were not once subjected to snarky misbehaviour or nasty background tomfoolery that has happened to us in other schools.

We learned a lot too, getting a glimpse into the life of students at the tribal school. Manitoba already has powerful connections to this reserve because they are related to the Dakota people on the reserve south of Portage LaPrairie and many of the students have family in Canada that come and visit them or they come and visit in South Dakota. The Manitoba connections made us feel right at home.

We left Sisseton feeling very positive and began the last leg of our journey. We made a brief stop in Fargo to buy lefse. Lefse is a traditional food of my father’s Scandinavian ancestors, far better than lutefisk and it is not readily available in stores. Additionally, making it from scratch produces a lot of smoke so I had to give up doing it myself due to my asthma.  At Freddy’s we picked up enough fresh frozen to last us and our family members to the next trip to North Dakota.

Our original plan was to stop at a state park on the border with Canada. I had checked the webpage and it said the campground was open. I called the park and I got an answering machine message that cheerfully declared the campground was open and if we needed fresh water we could get it at the ranger station. When we arrived it was different story. As it turned out, the only camping available was walk in winter camping and the roads and campsites were under too much snow to even think of driving in with a truck and trailer. We were subjected to a particularly stupid bureaucrat/ranger who seemed to think we were the stupid ones for not knowing all that in spite of what their message said. I politely suggested the message be changed to better reflect reality. Each time I said that, I was told why I was so stupid for thinking I could get the camper into the park in March. Eventually we gave up and left, muttering imprecations about how government seems to attract a larger proportion of particularly stupid people as employees than other organizations.

Home

We were about three and a half hours from home and it was 3:00pm. We got waved through at the border by the cheerful guard. We stopped to stock up on groceries in the Winkler just over the border. We then just kept driving. We pulled into our driveway at our little house on the northern prairie. To our relief the driveway had been thoughtfully cleared of ice and snowdrifts by a neighbour for our return. It was SO good to be home. We found our house exactly as we had left it except for some extra cobwebs. Our migration was complete.

According to Google we traveled over 2300 miles. If we had driven nonstop, the trip would have taken a mere 37 hours. We took 35 days, most days did not drive more than three hours and stayed for at least two days at each stop. It was easily our best trip yet! The birds were even slower than us. It was two more weeks before the birds we left in South Dakota showed up. They were the smart ones. There was a blizzard between our arrival home and their return to the north.

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