Rapid City, Colorado, and Eagle Nest

Peg, Scout and I are off again. Yes the awning was replaced and works fine. There is a lot to discuss around the warranty repairs to Gracie; however, I think I will let some time pass before I vent on the disgraceful way Winnebago and Carefree treated us. Anyway another time.

In Rapid City, we were well taken care off at the Hampton Inn. Great staff that after just a day or so knew Scout and said hello to him. He enjoyed it a lot. Peg and I took the opportunity to tour the Black Hills and take in Deadwood. Our second excursion into Custer State Park was much more fruitful this trip than the last with observations of Buffalo, Antelope, Big Horn Sheep and other animals. Please note that in some of the images below I was playing stupid tourist by getting way to close to the animals and this is not recommended to anyone. Like so many tourists who are maimed, injured and killed each year by wildlife contacts, I just couldn’t hold back getting that picture of a buffalo pooping in the woods or those big horns blocking the road. Luckily all is well that ends well.

The images through the tunnel of Mt. Rushmore are classic. Driving around the Black Hills is filled with such opportunities. Having been to Deadwood several times over the decades, it never fails to entertain and I highly recommend it to anyone in the area. Of course, take the short journey to Lead and visit the old Homestake Mine and museum. This is where the Sandia Labs Neutrino measuring site is and well worth the visit. The Deadwood damages weren’t too bad, I think Peg made $10 or so and I, as always did not quit while up and left a $60 contribution. Good times were had by all as Scout was welcomed just about everywhere. I swear he thinks he is a rock star.

We beat a path down to Longmont Colorado to the St. Vrain State Park. Nice park with great RV sites, concrete pads, shelter and firepit. Of course, there was a wonderful view of the Rocky Mountains. Scout found the swimming here exceptional. We used this spot as a staging point to visit the Rockies. I had planned on at least one day in the Rocky Mountain National Park; however, my planning was flawed as it is on a reservation only system. I did not look up the park until we were already in Longmont so I was disappointed to learn that it would be the next week before there was an opening.

We took a day trip up to Estes Park and the Visitors Center anyway. It was a fine time with plenty of mountain road driving and views to die for. I love the mountains. Out of the west side of Estes we took the road to Devils Gulch. It is a great trip through farm and ranch land then a drop down the side of the mountains that had switchbacks galore where, I swear, Lil Red just fell down to the next level and at the bottom we followed a river with lots of rapids and waterfalls. As throughout the west now the fires in the region are an issue. While the smoke was less intense than Rapid City it was still remarkable and it seems that it has gotten worse after we left for Eagle Nest, NM.

Eagle Nest rests at 8400 feet give or take in the mountains and generally is in the Taos area. Lots of ski runs here for sure. We took a cruise around Taos, Mora, Mora County, Angle Fire and surroundings. This is great country. Eagle Nest is in a beautiful valley with the lake and surrounding peaks rising above the tree line. We are here at the end of the summer season and well before the winter ski season. You will see in the images that the colors have changed. Thankfully, the smoke has finally cleared. Peg and I are both very tired of smoke in the air. In the clear air, Scout and I took a walk in the state park and into town. We found ground hogs that are half the size of a full grown beaver. I swear they were sizing me up for dinner. At least Scout was there to protect me (lol).

Tomorrow we head south to Carlsbad to see my daughter, Laura. I am looking forward to the visit. It will be an interesting trip. The morning brings us 32 degree temps and a “wintery mix”. This is on mountain roads with switchbacks and cliffs sure to raise Peg’s white knuckles response!

Enjoy the images, they are mixed up so you will have to figure out which is which place. It is kind of a Covid thing.

Best regards,



Black Hills Estes Park Eagle Nest

Black Hills


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Deer Lodge Montana

Meandering around the West found Peg and I in Garrison, Montana at a lovely old RV park close by the Little Blackfoot River. Yes Scout got to swim in the Little Blackfoot, or more precisely wade in the stream of crystal clear cold water. Garrison consists of about 80 year around residents who drive the 10 miles east to Deer Lodge for groceries, etc. This is what we did on our first day in the area.

Deer Lodge was quite a pleasant surprise. Garrison was just the place to stop for a weekend on the way West and I hadn’t researched the area for things to so I didn’t know about the prison, museums and Grant Kohrs National Historic Site. The Kohrs site is maintained by the National Park Service as a working ranch that consists of 1618 acres that is accessed from Deer Lodge. We did not visit the ranch, maybe next time.

The Old Montana Prison Museum complex is a great place to visit and well worth the trip. The site contains the prison with a total of 5 museums. Built in the 1880’s by prison labor it is a stark reminder of the work that went into the making of the Old West. The exhibits of prison life and the stories of riots and killings bring the history of the folks kept here. On the bright side for the prisoners is the view.

The big surprise for me was the automobile museum. Holy Cow! Totally unexpected to find hundreds of vehicles from the very beginning of automobiles up to today. I sort of went overboard on the pictures; however, these are really well done vehicles and worthy of every picture. If you are a car buff this place has got to be on your bucket list. After our tour we stopped for some delicious ice cream and took a gander at the Old Milwaukee Railroad display. There are also images of Old Deer Lodge and the town.

We moved on to Colbert, Washington through the first rainy day of driving in almost a year. We started out in a cold drizzle and low 40’s F and drove into sunshine and 80’s. Quite a change and reflects on the changing seasons. If you are at altitude, it is time to prepare for snow and cold weather but if you are in the valleys, summer will linger on a few more weeks. Enjoy the images.

Best regards,


Deer Lodge Montana

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Valar Horse Facility Hoback Junction Wyoming

These two weeks find us with Pia Valar at the Valar Horse Facility, one of our favorite stops. We have met a lot of people and made new friends this visit. Scout and I visited the Hoback and Snake rivers plus Slide lake where Scout got to swim until he couldn’t swim anymore. As usual Pia is a perfect host and I encourage anyone thinking of bringing their horses to this area to stay here. Pia has the best and latest information on trails to ride and plenty of ready facilities to see to it you have a good time. The views and scenery are exceptional and you are an easy walk to the Snake and Hoback rivers.

The Grand Tetons are a special place. Peg and I love coming here to visit. Driving in from the northeast the mountains rise as if someone painted them onto the landscape towering above the valley. The vista is beautiful. Jackson is still a crowd driven crazy place to drive thru or in. Masks are required and compliance is good. Making our way south toward Hoback Junction the ongoing construction on US 189 added to the travel time. The first time we came here, five years ago, Wyoming was finishing up the new bridge over the Snake at Hoback that included a round about at the junction of 189, 89, 191 and 26. Two years ago the reconstruction making upgrading the hiway from two lanes to 4 lanes with a middle turn lane was in full swing south out of Jackson. Today the construction continues on the stretch that will end at the north end of Hoback tying into the roundabout completed four years ago. This is massive mountain and river construction and fascinating to watch. Hopefully the next visit will find it all done.

For the first time, I floated down the Snake. First with Kathy, Pia’s summer help, and a second trip with her and Mike, a visitor from Texas. Floating the Snake on an inner tube is a lot crazy. There is really little you have control over and you just go with the flow. What a super experience and great time. Videos of some of the second trip are posted below. Please note how smokey the air is. This is smoke from the California fires making the air quality fairly bad.

Floating down the Snake is a great experience. Pia took Kathy and I across the highway to where we rented inner tube style floats and dropped us off at the junction of the Hoback and Snake rivers. Our float took us down to the Fall Creek Road take out, about an hour and a half on the river. The Snake is running about three feet down from the normal water marks and is fast (the river gauges report 1453 cubic feet per second of water flow).

Floating on a tube is quite a different experience from being in a raft. Even though Pia supplied me a paddle, I found it very difficult to do much other than go with the current. On this stretch of the river the bottom and banks consist of round river rocks of all sizes. These rocks are slick and loose which presents some degree of difficulty getting into and out of a tube in a very fast current, although being slick is an advantage when scooting over the big ones in the middle of the river. On this trip I stayed out of trouble and took in the sites and wonderful weather.

A week later Mike joined us and we started out up the river a ways launching from the Snake River Boat Ramp. We floated to the Johnny Counts Bridge boat ramp about three hours on the river. We got to see the highway construction from the river point of view. Very impressive. Floating toward Hoback there is a very distinct geological feature in the river that makes you feel like the walls are closing in on you. The river picks up pace and is compressed with a lot of exposed rocks in the water. This is where I found some big rocks off to the west side of the river. I bounced off of several in a worrisome fashion, trying to beat them into submission with my paddle. There were a lot of young people around who found me funny even laughable. It was my pleasure to have provided them with a highlight to their trip.

This would not be the end of the rocks I found. About half way down our trip there was a ridge of rock that made a small dam. Floating at inner tube level it is hard to see features like this making them hard to avoid. I would have never imagined that one could see the river seem to end along a line of smooth water then crash only to take up some distance down. Of course the smooth water is just playing with your mind. That line is where the river drops over an outcropping of rocks. Floating from calm beauty to rapid water filled with rocks is a trip to be experienced. I learned to follow the rafts because the pilots sit high and get a totally different perspective of the river. The wind was blowing fairly hard toward the northeast against the current but towards the shore and the rocky outcropping that hung me up. There is not a lot to said for floating along at 10 mph (my guess) and suddenly stopping on a rock. The river doesn’t stop, it just keeps beating up on the tube trying to sink it. The power of flowing water is immense. I scooted along about ten feet of this slick rock wall until the river took me over and safely on.

It was around here that a few rafts of young folks caught up to us. They were kind enough to provide Mike and me with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon each. I took several Iphone videos to give you idea of what the experience is like. There are no videos of rapids because I used the paddle a lot in the fast water meaning the iphone had to be stowed. Another interesting observation not on video is with the clear water and low river from time to time you see the bottom rocks that look like they are flying up river. An optical delusion that is something to see.

On the Winnebago front. The replacement awning is at Dakota RV. Shipped in a wooden crate this time. The entrance door strut ripped off from the plastic part of the door. This was expected as Winnebago has a service campaign in place to upgrade the door connection. Since ours is ripped off the whole door has to be replaced and with full body paint the replacement door has to be painted. Dakota RV got on it right away and the new door is at their place already. The replacement bathroom door though is a different story not arriving for another 4 weeks. I am trying to get this all set up to be done at one time the week of Sept. 14th. Stay tuned.  Enjoy the images and videos below.

Thursday we are headed to Garrison, Montana and then to Colbert, Washington before turning east back to Rapid City. Stay Covid safe.




Pia’s and surroundings

Scout meets the Snake

Scout meets the Hoback

Slide Lake

Snake River videos



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The Rolling Hills of Northeastern Wyoming and Other Wonderings

Back at Mountain View RV Park in Sandance, Wyoming for a while because it is a great place to stay and close to where the View’s new awning will show up, eventually. The awning was supposed to be replaced 2 weeks ago; however, it was crushed in transit by an uncaring freight company worker. This resulted in another one being built and shipped which is due to arrive today. With any we will have the new awning installed Thursday. We shall see.

Close by us is a little BLM campground that I took a bike trip to see. It is about two and a half miles north on gravel roads sitting on the Sundance trail head at the entrance to the open range. To my discredit, I have not ridden the bike much this summer and it showed. There is some way that all my bike trips start out the same, down hill and down wind. As I was coasting down the hill at the start of my trip, my thoughts turned to my previous biking experiences, down hill with the wind at my back seems to be a recurrent theme. The wind at my back made the first climb easier and the miles pass by swiftly as I cruised on by the Sundance BLM campground into the open range. It was on this long downhill that it occurred to me that it would be a long uphill into the (not inconsequential) wind. Already huffing and puffing, I turned around about half way down and began the arduous trip back up the hill to the BLM campground. The starting out is good and the returning is sometimes challenging.

This part of Wyoming consists of large rolling hills. The elevation of Sundance is around 4700 feet with the tops of the hills ranging up to over 6000 feet. It is wonderful country with wide open expanses of grass land in the valleys and pine trees on the side of the hills. The Sundance BLM campground is a good example of all this. It has campsites with picnic tables and fire pits with lots of horse pens. I imagine it gets a lot of use at points in time where horses are used on the adjacent open range. The view is super.

Other odds and ends.

The Global Supply Chain and parts inventory. A lot of you will sympathize with me on the fact that there are never the parts you need on the day you need them. Having been a worker in supply chains for decades, I know all the value propositions that are made regarding inventory, delivery and supply. Financially, no business gets paid for keeping inventory, in particular at the retail level. Next day delivery by robust freight delivery systems facilitates operating with little or no inventory. I understand all this, but still it is a pain in the ass when you are stuck someplace for a day or two because a business doesn’t inventory a $20 part. Now it appears the US Air Force is forging ahead with a solution to this problem. It was announced yesterday that a contract has been awarded to produce B 52 engine parts by 3D printing on site. Hopefully this technology will come to a local NAPA near you. Something to watch.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally proceeds on and it has been fun to see all the riders in this park. They come from all over the country and it is interesting to talk with them about their journey and see their rides. Traffic is down a little bit and arrests are running at the same rate as last year. No fatal crashes so far this year. Of note, no face masks for these folks which is disappointing. Just from observation this is an older crowd, 50’s and up, who at risk for Covid. Here in the Rapid City area Covid is running at over 8% positive which means a lot of these folks are going to get sick starting next week when they are home.

A note from the Missouri River a couple of weeks ago. I am guessing that those of you who viewed the images missed the woman, dog and Osprey. When I was taking these images starting at the north end of the canyon, someone up river was shouting and gesturing toward the shore. I thought maybe someone was in trouble and trained my camera in the direction of the noise. As it turned out, the lady was on a paddle board with a dog making an effort to get her floating friends to paddle over to her location to look at the biggest Osprey I have ever seen. This Osprey was feeding on something and clearly not impressed with this lady or her dog.

Undaunted by common sense, she edged the paddle board closer to the bird. The dog was nervous and I was waiting for it to abandon ship for safer waters. Her friends were of the same mind as her dog and ignored her entreaties. I think because the Osprey considered himself the King of the River and felt comfortable that the dog, woman and paddle board could be handled in due course, all ended well as the paddle boarder yielded to the current and continued downstream. I continue to marvel at how much danger people themselves in regarding wild life.

Thursday we return to Dakota RV for the awning installation in the morning with the afternoon being half the trip to Jackson. Friday will find us visiting Pia for a while. It will be good to see the Jackson crew. After that we have no plans. Suggestions are welcome. Take care,


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Missouri River Canyon in the Adel Mountains (Big Belt) Volcanic Field & Prewett Creek RV Park

The RV lifestyle often finds Peg and I in unique places. We have boondocked, stayed in campgrounds that had met decay many years ago and lost, stopped in exquisite top of the line RV resorts and everything in between. Some campgrounds are special. There are many reasons for me to call a camping experience special. The people you meet, the places you visit or simply the location. Prewett falls into the latter. The location is very special and quite unexpected.

Driving out of Great Falls the land along the Missouri River is flat, as Lewis & Clark called, buffalo country. Ahead the Big Belt Mountains rise like a wall that the river cuts through. Just at the entrance to the canyon is the Recreational Canyon exit onto Old US91. This is where Tower Rock State Park is found with all its Lewis & Clark history and a short distance down the road is Prewett Creek and the campground. Sitting at the base towering volcanic mountains and just across the highway from the Missouri River is the campground. Frankly, the rv park is nothing special; however, the location is wonderful.

Floating and fishing the river is a big deal. I did not know how much this part of the river was used this way. The park was filled with people who spend the summer here fishing and doing float trips. Wild life is plentiful in the canyon with deer in the park in the mornings and long horn sheep in the evening. I took Scout over to meet the river and he had a blast playing in the crystal clear cool water. I really wish I had planned out a float trip.

Sunday afternoon I took a trip through the canyon on Old US 91, across Hardy Bridge to the other end of the canyon. I took pictures on the way back and talked with several people along the way who were enjoying the river and the wonderful weather. I definitely plan to come back here and spend some time. In the images linked below are also photos of some of the Great Falls of the Missouri.

From here we go to Billings to begin our Winnebago repair swing. First to the Billings MB Sprinter dealer to have the programming changed to recognize LED lights an unnecessarily aggravating process to have to perform. From there to the Winnebego Repair Center in Rapid City to have the Carefree awning replaced and fix a couple of minor warranty issues while we are there.

Cheers and enjoy the photos.


Recreation Canyon Montana

Great Falls

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Little Big Horn Battlefield & 7th Ranch RV Park

Traveling north out of Wyoming our first stop was Garryowen on the Crow Nation reservation close by the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. We stayed at 7th Ranch RV Park, nice campground on a hillside with incredible sunsets and sunrises. There are trails that lead to the hilltop where there is an American flag and you can see for miles around. From here the southern end of the Battlefield is easily seen and the point of Custer’s Last Stand is visible off in the distance.

The monument and national cemetery are well worth the visit. From the Battlefield Monument you can look down the hillside at the markers and picture how the fight took place. Reading the inscriptions of the participants describing the activities yields insights to the flow and end of the battle. Standing there you can visualize the frantic efforts of Custer and his men as they made their initial raid toward the Indian encampment discovering they were outnumbered and beginning to retreat up the hill. It is instructive to take the time to read through the Indian monument inscriptions. This is a great trip through history.

The night skies here are incredible. Star filled and planet rich, I stayed up late a couple of nights to take in comet Neowise. It was a sight; however, not quite as clear as I had expected from some of the images seen on the internet. Garryowen is about half way between Sheridan, Wyoming and Billings, Montana and it is fair to say remote. The nearest town of any size, Hardin, was 15 miles north on I90. In this part of the state you can certainly easy to see how Montana came to be called “Big Sky Country”.

Our next Montana stop is north around Great Falls and we are looking forward to seeing the Missouri River and surrounding country. Enjoy the images linked below.


Little Big Horn National Monument and 7th Ranch


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Sundance Wyoming and the Black Hills

Mountain View RV Park in Sundance, Wyoming is a gem. Clean, well run with a nice pool and fully remodeled bathrooms and showers. Easy access to Devil’s Tower and the Black Hills via the west side roads. A bit of a drive from Rapid City it is nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of that side of the Hills.

Downtown Sundance has Museums, bars and restaurants. Peg and I ate at the Longhorn an couple of and enjoyed excellent food and service. Taking US 14 out of Sundance to Wy 24 puts you at Devils Tower in short order. I was a little surprised at how busy it was there, lots of families with kids having a great time. Taking US 14 south put us in Spearfish Canyon on a very busy Saturday. The big deal there was a tornado had gone straight down the canyon and the devastation to the trees was incredible. A lot of the trails were still closed due to storm damage. Scout found a small backhoe on a trail and thought he should own it. No keys were in it so we were saved having to tow one more thing.

Custer State Park is wonderful as usual. The day we drove through all the buffalo and donkeys were off somewhere out of site. It was strange compared to our previous visits where the animals crowded the roads and mules begged for food. We could gotten off the main road and searched them out I am sure. However; we really wanted to drive the Needles Highway for the first time in 30 some years so we kept on going. The Needles highway is well worth the drive and we found the tunnels to still be as narrow as we remembered. I took a few pictures and we had a good day.

Covid has not impacted this part of the US as much as some other places; however, places like Walmart and the campground require face masks to enter and  compliance is getting better. Frankly, I think most people are trying to do the right thing and are becoming much more accepting than just two weeks ago. At the campground you see most everyone practicing social distancing and face masks are required to enter the office. People of my age are in compliance almost 90% of the time now. The folks with young families are the ones that haven’t come to a conclusion about how to conduct themselves. This is understandable given all the misinformation out about children but you do see more and more face mask compliance among this age group. I imagine that where schools get up and running with uniform rules and common education that all the kids and parents will adopt a common stance on face masks and other rules.

Sundance is a fond memory and we wish everyone there good health.


Sundance and the Black Hills

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Boots RV Campground Medora, North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota continues to surprise. The trip down from Garrison was a pleasant drive on very good roads. Oil has a way of generating money and it is obvious in this part of ND that oil has contributed a lot to the local economies. Without comment on the source, it is nice to see vibrant small towns with wide new streets and roads, farms with big new barns and homes and people working. Medora is a vacation tourist town with all the usual attractions.

Boots campground is about three miles out of town back in the hills. Probably better know for its cabins, the campground qualifies for ok. Water, electricity, sewer and good wifi are about the total amenities here. The National Park entrance is right downtown and is open. The loop road is partly closed due to landslides and damage; however, the rest of the park is a great visit when splendid views. Buffalo are present around a lot of the road as are the Prairie Dog towns that lie on both sides. The buffalo are very accustomed to cars and trucks, ignoring their close proximity for the most part. There were some absolutely beautiful wild horses. The images of them are not all that good but the horses were much more concerned about us than the buffalo keeping a good distance. The landscape is interesting and greener than the South Dakota Badlands. Scout and I walked the trail to the top of the Buck Hill trail where he posed on the rocks.

Saturday we drove the 70 miles to the North Unit of the NP. This is a 14 mile one way drive along the Little Missouri River through the badlands. Pretty country and remarkable as to how the land goes from being rolling grassland to a mud and clay canyon with the river running through it. Lots of buffalo here in herds that were quite a ways from the road. We did see one huge male just along the ridge and there were the every present reminders that they were here earlier. Peg, Scout and I took the overlook trail at Oxbow overlook where Scout made friends with a young man. It was a great view and lots of fun. Of note are the images of River Bend Overlook and the “Cannon Ball” formations.

Being on the road is an adventure that is filled with challenges both good and bad. The Carefree awning on Gracie has failed again. We were at Turtle River State Park when the awning refused to close all the way. After a lot of help from the campground host, park personnel and a call to Carefree, we loaded up and drove to a Carefree dealer in East Grand Forks, MN. We were fortunate that they took us in right away and unfortunate in that they and Carefree could not fix the awning leaving us traveling with our awning secured so that no further damage can occur but unusable. For those of you not familiar with the RV world, repairs are not readily available this time of year. All the RV dealers out West are booked out full through the rest of the summer.

Peg and I have been out here for the best part of 6 years now and are very aware of this from past repair needs. This is one of the reasons we went to Iowa to get the awning repaired in the first place. In Apache Junction the closest Winnebago Service Center is LaMesa in Mesa. LaMesa did the recall work on Gracie over the winter and that experience is instructive of the other repair scenario you run into. Because we did not buy Gracie from them we were scheduled almost two months out (this was ok in for us in December and January). Once in their hands it took them two days after the appointment date to look at Gracie after which they called me stating they had to order parts and the work would be done in a couple of weeks. At the end of that time, LaMesa called and said they had a problem with the repair and was calling in one of their experts to complete the work. For two recall items LaMesa had Gracie for over 6 weeks for 4 hours of  billable work. This is a lousy business model but a lot of RV companies operate this way. Regardless they were the first people I called when the awning failed up in Heber. They were two weeks out for taking a look at it and we really wanted to get out of the desert in Arizona. Peg and I talked it over and decided we would just take it back to where we bought it LichtsInn in Iowa. LichtsInn is a wonderful dealer and we have always had excellent experience with them. They fixed the awning and a punch list of warranty items in one day and we were on the way West. The awning worked fine for the first few days before failing again. In our current situation, Carefree is going to replace the entire awning under warranty. Winnebago is supporting this fix. The challenge is finding a Winnebago service center that will perform the work this summer. The upshot of this is I have spent a lot of time on the phone trying to get this set up.

We will be heading toward Devil’s Tower Wyoming tomorrow then up into Montana before heading to Rapid City, SD and Dakota RV (Winnebago Service Center) for a July 31 awning replacement. I consider us lucky to get in then. In the meantime, we are enjoying ourselves and the sites. Peg and I enjoy seeing new places and finding new experiences. Hope you all enjoy the images.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park South

Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit

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Sakakawea Lake is huge. Garrison dam is impressive and the East Totten Trail Campground is a welcome change of pace. This is a Core of Engineers campground only recently re-opened due to the Covid-19 disease. Our site was a back in right up to the lake shore with power only, a picnic table and fire ring. As a note, we experienced our first really severe thunderstorm and wind event overnight of our last day there. I think that it is fair to say that being in a 26ft. C class on the shore of a lake in 60 mph wind gusts with lightening and heavy rain is not comfortable. Of course, having a very concerned 100 pound Scout decide he was safer sleeping in your bed than his doesn’t raise the comfort level at all.

Garrison is the nearest town and is filled with arts and crafts stores and museums. Nearby is the Audubon Wildlife sanctuary on Lake Audubon. The visitors center was closed but we were able to drive the tour route along the lake and found it very pleasant. The dam was completed in 1954 with President Eisenhower coming to dedicate the project in 1956. At the time this was the largest packed earth dam in the world. The lake backs up from western North Dakota all the way into eastern Montana on the Missouri River.

Enjoy the images.



East Totten Trail Campground

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Dark Clouds

(I wrote this in April of this year and did not publish it for some reason. As I reviewed the piece I thought it still might have some relevance and so submit it for your reading. Comments are always welcome. Sjh)


This time of year Peg and I are usually out on the road looking forward to the places we will visit and getting comfortable with being on the move. This year we find ourselves tending to Scout and sorting out the new reality created by Covid-19. We both watch a lot of TV; however, circumstances have increased the time in front of the TV. Which has lead me to search out programs that are, well maybe not mainstream (according to Peg). For example, for the second time in my life I have binge watched Breaking Bad. Of course, on the other side of the coin is my strange affinity for Travels by Narrowboat. And thank God there are all those WWII documentaries, Clint Eastwood films and other stuff like Ken Burns movies.

Ken Burns has a unique style of presenting American history. His Civil War series is of note, as well as, just about everything else he has done. Browsing through Amazon Prime I came upon his series on the dust bowl of the 1930’s. This is a story of hope, despair, tragedy, greed, defeat and victory. Everything you would want in a fine drama. The story begins in the early 1900’s. The Federal Government and railroads encouraged the settlement of the Oklahoma Panhandle and the lands surrounding it in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, offering cheap or free land. Millions of acres covered with Buffalo grass, fertile, easy to plow under were converted to farms and ranches. From the early 1900’s to the late 1920’s farmers came, fertile soil and the opportunity to create a prosperous life for their families kept them coming. It worked that way when the wheat market soared during WWI and on into the 20’s as more and more land was plowed under. There was enough profit in wheat that there existed “City farmers” who bought land and hired folks to plow it. They would visit on the weekends.

The market crash of 1929 was a distant event and those in Oklahoma were little impacted at first. The troubles got real in 1930 with a bumper crop and the onset of drought. The drought came and lasted for 10 years. The bumper crop rotted in piles along side the roads leading to the grain elevators because no one had any money to buy it. The drought dried out the land causing bumper crops to be a distant dream. The misery was a constant fact of life for over 10 years. The details these events are well recorded by Mr. Burns and I encourage you to watch the series.

Frankly, reflecting on terrible times in the past may not seem relevant to the tough times we face today; however, consider this. Hard times, natural catastrophes, wars and pandemics impact all of us and change us. What we thought was foundational, the fixed framework of our lives is suddenly thrown up in the air. Human nature is a constant when facing the unknown. How people acted in the 1930’s is much like what we see us doing today. It is instructive to take a look at how the people of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico behaved in the Dust Bowl years. There are parallels to be seen between then and now.

An image from this time just sticks in my mind. It is an image of a wall cloud bearing down on a town, a very dark black cloud. In fact a wall of dirt about to bury this small town in dust that was measured in feet not inches. Imagine standing in front of your house staring at a dark cloud, something you have never seen before, coming at you. Nothing you can do to stop it, not knowing what it means. Not knowing what is going to happen. Not knowing whether to run or hide. Not sure that what you are looking at is even real. This is where a lot of us are today with Covid-19. Staring at a dark cloud about to over run us, not knowing what it means. Not even certain we are looking at something real. Confusion, fear, dread, rumors and disinformation abound leaving us in limbo staring at the dark cloud waiting for the storm to pass. Hoping for the best.

For the farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle, it was the end of life as they had known it, there were no crops, the banks repossessed the farm equipment, then the farms. The horses and cows were sold off, starved to death, or simply slaughtered. The dust storms kept coming for years. The storms brought unimaginable destruction and death. For us Covid-19 is a dark cloud. Some of us are already buried in death and disease, something unimaginable just a couple of months ago. Some of us are still staring at the wall cloud trying to decide how to react waiting for our turn. Some not even sure this virus thing is real. Life as we know it changed in February 2020 as it did in 1930.

The people of Oklahoma were hardy, resilient, optimistic people, as we are today. “Next year will be better,” “we will get through this,” hope trumped the facts they could see in front of them. “Next year the rain will come.” Still the dust came. Covid-19 is out there. Some of us have been touched by it and many watch the growing tally of cases and deaths with trepidation. We hear statements like “summer will make it go away,” “It’s just the flu,” “Hydroxychloroquine is a cure, try it. What harm can it cause?” “We must open up the economy.” “Everything will be alright once we get back to work.” Much like the folks of the early 30’s we are looking to “next year”. We know that “next year” in Oklahoma was worse than last year. We don’t know what our future will be; however, there are clues and it may be a dark future.

The scientists and medical experts are telling us that Covid-19 will be back in the fall. Perhaps stronger and more deadly than today. They warn that hundreds of thousands of us will die from this disease unless we take steps to protect ourselves. It looks likely that Covid-19 will be with us for another 12 months or so until there is a vaccine or we reach herd immunity. We have to learn to adapt and we have to adopt change to survive. The dark dust clouds over Oklahoma were conquered. We are Americans, inventive, innovative, resourceful and strong with technical resources almost beyond imagination. Doctors and scientists with incredible skills are working on treatments and vaccines that will eventually conquer Covid-19. They will help us conquer our dark cloud. It is up to us to do our part to ensure we make it to a better place. We must put our best foot forward. Wear face masks, practice social distancing and look to the scientists for the path to follow to better days.

We need to accept the fact that we are facing a highly infectious, easily transmitted and deadly disease. We should practice new behaviors like using face masks, not shaking hands. We should support the people and businesses that are adapting and avoid those that are not. Hope for miracle cures, short cuts, or simply ignoring reality will not get us to a better place. Like the Dust Bowl people, we will make it through to better times, too. Many of us will be working in a new way or a new place. Many of us will remain in a state somewhere between today and tomorrow. Sadly, many will perish, something we should be prepared for. The majority of us will find ourselves in a new reality.

Like those folks in Oklahoma, we face dark clouds and dark times which may get much darker before the skies clear. We are facing a tough enemy in Covid-19; however, it is a temporary condition, just like the dust storms. Our response to this pandemic should be a collective one aimed doing the most good for the most people. I don’t think this virus much cares if you are a Republican, Democrat, catholic, protestant, jew, muslim, black, white, male or female, it is coming for you. If we stick together, if we adapt and accept change, if we show our stuff as Americans we will be victorious over Covid-19. Let us be strong and unified in fighting this disease.

Join us in a different type of journey this summer. A journey that will be determined by the situation day to day and governed by following the best advice from doctors and scientists.

Stay healthy.


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