Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lake Oahe and Pierre, South Dakota

 Location: Farm Island Recreation Area; Pierre, South Dakota

This campground may be an old Corps of Engineers campground that was turned over to the State of South Dakota about 20 years ago. I know the ones up by the dam were transferred because I asked about it from someone in charge. I didn't specifically ask about this campground but it seems to be laid out the same way as many other Corps of Engineer campgrounds. They are being maintained really good. The bad news is the state charges about 4 times what the Corps would be charging, with the senior pass. It also charges a "daily entrance fee" like so many other states do in their state parks. Oh well, there weren't any other decent campgrounds near Pierre so I'll pay the premium price.

My campsite at Farm Island Recreation Area. That is a little cove off the Missouri River in the background. The campground was full on the weekend but around noon Sunday, it emptied quickly. It is less than 10% full now.

A travel picture in the Dakotas. I'm not sure if it is North or South Dakota. It is on a lonely stretch of US 83 somewhere between Linton, North Dakota and Pierre, South Dakota. After not seeing another vehicle for miles and miles, I began to wonder about how far away was a person that I knew. The answer was something greater than 1,000 miles. At that point, I laughed a little and thought, Heck, if it's greater than 1,000 miles, the exact answer isn't important. I guess I was just feeling "small" due to the emptiness. There are only a few places in the country where I can get that feeling. 

A part of the past. They need to leave the house as a memorial to homesteaders, but clean up the other junk.

My campsite is about 30 yards from the Missouri River. The campground was full until Sunday morning when it emptied pretty quick. It seems the locals come here a lot. After the campground emptied, several people showed up to enjoy the river without camping. A group of four ladies, spent Sunday afternoon rotating between sitting in lounge chairs on the bank and floating on inflatables in the river. Since this part of the river is in a little cove, there isn't a strong current. They seemed to have enjoyed their afternoon very much and it wouldn't be surprising if it is a regular activity for them. Pierre and the surrounding area is lucky to have such a clean river and recreation area.

This is the area where the ladies spent their Sunday afternoon after the campground started emptying out. They were there when I left to go exploring and there when I came back several hours later. Even from a distance, I got a good vibe about their time together.


Oahe Dam is the main reason I wanted to come to this area. I had heard about this massive hydro-electric dam over the years. The lake created by the dam is the fourth largest man-made reservoir in America. In comparison, it is about 6 times bigger than Toledo Bend Reservoir which sits on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Since the 1960's, this dam has prevented flooding, produced electricity to light up a lot of the mid-west, provided recreation to both North and South Dakota and irrigation waters for farming/ranching. Now this is what I think of as an example of a "publicly funded infrastructure project", not some of the stuff Congress is trying to call "infrastructure". Some of that stuff may be good and worthwhile, but don't get it confused with infrastructure. I won't bore the readers with more information about the dam/lake. Maybe some picture though wouldn't be too boring. :)

The structure in the water is in the intake structure that feeds water to the hydroelectric plant on the other side of the dam. The important part about this picture is the five benches. They are "memorial benches" that were placed there by family members of a person who passed away but had ties to the dam/lake. They are very personalized. I've never seen anything like this before at a Corps of Engineers project. I was told by the nice lady in the Visitor's Center that there were plans for only one additional one in the future. (by the way, good luck on your future travel plans).

This is the electric power plant that is being feed water from that structure in the previous picture. Those seven tall structures are surge tanks to control the pressure of the water. Due to the drought in the area, the only water passing through the dam is coming through the power plant. This water downstream of the plant is a popular place for fishermen in boats. They would motor up as close to the power plant as they could get and then kill their motors and float downstream while fishing. After floating about a mile away, they would repeat the process. There was also a guy with a speargun and snorkel gear working near the banks.

This is the stilling basin on the downstream side of the dam. When they are releasing excess water (not emergency spillway), this is where it comes out. Since the drought, the gates that control the release here are closed. It gave a different meaning to the term "stilling basin". 

This is the emergency spillway for the dam. It is located about one mile upstream of the dam and those emergency gates have never been opened in an emergency. Notice the special sign on the right. You don't see that very often, if ever. 

Pierre, is the state capitol of South Dakota. It is the second smallest capitol city in the America with a population of about 14,000 people. It is also a "good vibe" city for me. As a solo traveler, I always get a good or bad vibe about places. I learned years ago to trust that vibe. There have been gas stations, restaurants and campgrounds that I've passed up due to catching a bad vibe. I'll be adding Pierre to my list of "good vibe" cities. Also, I think the Governor had it correct, from the beginning, about the balance between public health and personal liberty. Paraphrasing her, she said, she would continually give the citizens all the information she had about Covid and also the recommendations as to what to do and not do. She would then trust each individual as to how they protected themselves and their families. "Personal responsibility" balanced with personal liberty at its finest.

The veterans memorial near the capitol.

Looking back at the same memorial

Same memorial with the Capitol Building in the background. The U.S. flag is flying at half mast due to the recent service members who died in Afghanistan. 

Words to remember and hold true, written on a bench

Near the Veterans Memorial is this nice memorial to Police, Firefighters and Emergency Response Teams. 

I'm writing this post on the morning of moving day. I'll be heading to a State Fairground Campground is Sioux Falls, South Dakota in a couple of hours. Strong storms passed through this area last night. There were warnings popping up all around me talking about wind, rain and hail. Luckily, for me, it was just strong winds with very little rain and no hail. 

Liberty rocked me to sleep last night.  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Goodbye North Dakota

Location: Beaver Creek Recreation Area (Corp of Engineers Campground) near Linton, North Dakota

This campground is on the banks of Lake Oahe which was created by daming the Missouri River at Pierre, South Dakota. I’ll be there tomorrow to check it out. I have no cell signal, internet connection or over-the-air TV stations at this campground. I’m glad I’m only here for two days. I should have stocked up on DVD’s in preparation for a place like this. I have some books, somewhere, but don’t feel like unpacking for just two days.

Hay fields are everywhere up here. I've never seen so many. It is like corn in Iowa and Kansas, except it's hay. I didn't find a farmer to find out if it is for their own use or if they export it to other states. 

Nice drive-thru campsite. That is Lake Oahe in the background. As I was walking around the campground, I waved at a guy sitting by his RV. He hollered back, "Do I know you or are you just being strangely nice?" I stopped and we talked for about 30 minutes. He lived about 15 miles away and comes to the campground often. Awww, the life in a campground. :)

Although this is an isolated location with the nearest city about 15 miles away, there is a great cafĂ© about a mile from the campground. I read the reviews online before getting here and saw they served a Reuben sandwich. Well, you know me, I have to try it. It was excellent and will be placed in the top five of Reubens from around the country. This one, however, will need an asterisk beside it. Unlike other Reubens that have sliced corned beef and sauerkraut, this one had the corned beef and kraut chopped up and combined with each other. It was different, but very tasty. Whenever I attempt to make a Rueben in the future, I’ll try this method. By the way, a celebrity was at the cafe. I'm not sure if she worked there or owned the place. Anyway, her claim to fame which is really neat, is that she road a companion pony at the Kentucky Derby. They are next to the racehorse and are there to keep them calm before the race. She knew of and had been to several horse tracks in Louisiana. Pretty neat the people you meet.  

This will be the last campground I’ll be staying at in North Dakota and I doubt that I’ll be back in the state. It is a very sparsely populated state. Once you leave the big cities, homes are scattered randomly along the highways. I have seen this in other states as well, but the difference here is the distance between homes. It is much greater here. I traveled about 18 miles on a gravel road yesterday and there were maybe three or four houses within that distance. Except for school and church, the children around here must lead a very isolated life. This highlights the difference in childhood environments at different places around the country. Imagine a child moving from the North Dakota countryside to a population center like Chicago or New York City and also in reverse. It could have harmful effects on the child.

This was the beginning of the long gravel road. This is looking to the west and Lake Oahe in the background. The road department did a good job of grading the road and there were only a few isolated locations of washboarding. They could have chosen a better gravel though. This one was all the same size and spherical. In places it was like driving on ice.

Wouldn't you know it,,,, a school bus. The driver was flying too. I came to a complete stop to let them come by.

One of the few farmhouses along the long stretch of gravel road. By the way, the road didn't have a name. It was 90th Street. About a mile south was 91st street, etc. 

Intersecting roads are Avenues,,,usually with a letter. Such as Ave B

There is another one of those flat top hills. I think they are following me. They are everywhere. The aliens must have gotten a lot of stuff from the Dakotas.

I took the gravel road to see where Lawrence Welk was born and raised. You know Lawrence Welk,,,, “a one a and a two a”. I never was a fan of Welk but back in the day if your parents watched it, you watched it. The man did well for himself coming from such humble beginnings. I like seeing places like this and try to imagine a child running around doing chores and playing. Then as an adult being on TV leading an orchestra. Wow.

Homeplace of Lawrence Welk

The Weld homestead. Can you imagine a young Lawrence running around this place back around 1910.

This part of the state is suffering from a drought that's going on one year. This part of the lake is down about 25 to 30 feet. There are farmers that are concerned about their crops catching fire like a wildfire if it doesn't break soon.

Looking out over the lake from the boat ramp area.

The water is 25 to 30 feet low. It is normally up to those rocks below that RV on the right. The dock on the boat ramp is high and dry.

The thing I’ll remember most about North Dakota is the endless miles and miles of hay fields.

Ya’ll take care of each other. I’ll Cya down the road.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Other Roosevelt N.P. (South)

 Location: Patterson Lake Recreation Area (Bureau of Reclamation Campground); Dickinson, North Dakota

As I'm making this post, I have two ceramic heaters trying to take the chill out of Liberty. The temperature dropped down to 48 last night.

When I was planning this trip, I could not decide which campground to stay at while exploring the National Park. I finally decided on this one although I had to wait a couple days to get a 50 amp site. I didn't realize it was a Bureau of Reclamation campground until I arrived. Before that, I thought it was a city park. I guess I was half right. Come to find out, the Bureau owns it, but the city manages it. I think so. Well, I'm about 75% confident that I'm right about that. Anyway, it's been a good one, quiet and secure. Half price with my Senior Pass makes the rate $14.00 per night with electric and water. It is close enough to the park to make for a short drive but near enough to a decent sized city (Dickinson). As usual, I go by the vibes I get about things and Dickinson is a "good vibe" city as opposed to Bismarck which was a "bad vibe" city. I've said it before but haven't done it yet, I need to post a list of the "good/bad vibe" cities and states. Oh well, maybe add it to the list of things I need to do when I get back to Louisiana. 

I mentioned in the last post that the National Park is divided into three areas with two of them being the main ones. The last post was about the Northern One and this post is about the Southern One. If I was to recommend one over the other, it would be the North one is better than the South one. The entrance to the South unit is in the tourist trap city of Medora, North Dakota. Here's a tip on how to tell if you're in a tourist trap city. If there are shops selling fudge and tee shirts, then you're in a tourist trap. I'm not knocking them, I'm just saying. I looked at a campground in Medora and am glad I decided against staying there.

The National Park is also called the North Dakota Badlands which is not to be confused with The Badlands National Park in South Dakota. There are also parts of Montana that are considered Badlands. The general explanation on how they were all formed is "erosion". That means wind, water, freezing, thawing, snow, ice etc. combined with a very long time in erodible soil gives you Badlands. There are deposits of lignite coal scattered around the park which means it was underwater at some time in the past. To make things easier until we can all take a geology course, let's just lump it all together and call it erosion. Don't get me started on why some of these hills/mountains are flat topped like mesas and buttes in the southwest. I'm still wondering about how erosion makes them flat-topped. Some people claim ancient aliens cut them off to get whatever good stuff was to be mined. Who knows. I haven't heard a real good explanation yet. It will remain a mystery. Just like the mystery of where to find the perfect Reuban Sandwich and Cinnamon Roll. (still looking)

This is the landscape about 15 miles or so from the National Park. It is strange how it will change so quickly. The brownish area on the left is a hay field. There are thousands on them in North Dakota. 

This is at the Painted Canyon visitor center. Big change from the first picture, uh? The temperature was in the low 60's with a strong wind blowing. It was cold. 

This is also from the visitor's center

The entire park isn't all Badlands. I guess you could call these areas Pre-Badlands. 

See those flat-top hills/mountains,,,,see, see. 

The place is lots of scrub brush but the green area is mostly Cottonwood trees growing along the banks of the Little Missouri River. Pssst,,,,see the shape of the hills?

I liked this picture because of the tree and RV. It just spoke to me. Yeah, yeah I know I'm getting a little goofier the longer this trip lasts. 

These are a couple of the wild horses that roam around the park. I'm not sure about the name of the colors for horses but I'm guessing Buckskin and Steel. The picture doesn't do justice to what they looked like in real life.

Tomorrow is moving day and I will headed to a very small Corps of Engineers Campground on the Missouri River near Linton, North Dakota. I'll only be there for two day to catch my breath after exploring the National Park. Nothing super special to explore around there, but chances are I'll stumble onto something. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Monday, August 23, 2021

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North)

 Location: Patterson Lake Recreation Area (Bureau of Reclamation Campground); Dickinson, North Dakota

Teddy Roosevelt NP is broken into three parts. I'll be exploring only two of them. Today's exploration (driving, not walking) was in the North section. It is a lot like a combination of the Badlands of South Dakota and the desert sections of the Southwestern U.S. This area is in the midst of a drought so everything is pretty dry. The north section is the farthest away from my campsite which is why I chose to see it today. I was afraid if I was too disappointed in exploring the southern section then I might blow off seeing the north section. And since I came all this way, I might as well see the whole enchilada. 

This post will be mostly pictures. So here goes,,,,,,,,

This is a stretch of U.S. 85. The north section is about 50 miles north of I-94. Looks a little like the southwest, uh?

Another stretch of U.S. 85.

This was the welcoming committee. He was grazing along the edge of the road just a 1/2 mile inside the park.

This is the same guy. He let me take his picture as I drove by him. 

Another buffalo that was grazing alone. There are about 200 of them in the park. The rutting season just ended. That is the time of year they gather up to,,,,,, well, you know. Afterwards, they spread out around the park until next year. 

These two were on the side of a hill like a couple of mountain sheep. 

One of the views as you drive through the park. That is the Little Missouri River on the left.

Another view

Strati of different layers of material. So strati are tilted because that piece was "up-lifted" sometime in the distant past.

A nice tree on the side of the road. There was a large patch of cottonwoods growing but I didn't take a picture.

A view looking down in the Little Missouri River Valley

A nice view from the rock building.

Another view into the Little Missouri River Valley

Last picture of the valley

I packed a lunch for today's exploration which I rarely do. This was my second choice to eat it, but still nice and cool in the shade. The wind was still blowing pretty good today. For the one who will be wondering, it was a semi-healthy lunch. There was some turkey on the not-wheat bread, which gave it a healthy taste. 

Tomorrow I'll be going to the south section which I've been told is the better section. We will see. I'm not sure if I'll pack a lunch or not. It depends on how I feel in the morning. Tonight's low temperature is forecasted to be 58 degrees and tomorrow night, a chilly 47. I'm not sleeping with the heaters on, but instead turn them on when I get up to take the chill out of Liberty so I can get a shower without shivering. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Made it to My Destination and Rode the Enchanted Highway

 Location: Patterson Lake Recreation Area (Bureau of Reclamation); Dickinson, North Dakota

The campground is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation but run by the City of Dickinson.They have 22 campsites with water and electricity. I snagged one the five with 50 amp service. It's not the fanciest campground but it will do just fine and with the senior pass, it's half price.

Campsite #2

Patterson Lake. You can see how the tree is bending due to the wind and the lake has mini whitecaps. 

 When I left Mansfield, Louisiana last month, I set a long range destination of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. Well, tomorrow I'll be exploring it, so I made it. I've towed Liberty 2,007 miles and we've stayed in 12 campgrounds in 7 different states. It's only been a little over a month ago that I began this trip but it seems much, much longer. When I think back, the campgrounds begin to blend together. I have to write down on my calendar when I empty my waste tanks so I can remember and plan for the next location. By the way, this campground has an excellent dump station and with so few campsites, there was no rush. 

The rain had moved on into Canada, but the wind was left behind

The clouds look confused.

Now the sky was clearing. Those hill on either side of the road is typical for this part of North Dakota. They are scattered out at random locations. I'm not sure what formed them and I'm probably not curious enough to find out. 

The weather made one final attempt to cloud up on my ride down the Enchanted Highway.

When I pulled out of General Sibley Campground, the dump station had 4 RV's waiting in line. That was fine with me because the weather had turned cold, windy and rainy. One of my ceramic heaters took care of the cold and the rain was spotty and light. The wind was the problem. As I was hitching up, the wind was blowing a steady mid-20's MPH with gusts of probably 35+ mph. There was a wind advisory that said some parts of North Dakota was going to experience 50 mph wind. So, I skipped emptying my tanks at General Sibley so I could carry the extra weight to help Liberty out with the wind. The wind continued all the way to the current campground but luckily it was hitting Freedom and Liberty on the driver-side corner. For those Navy people and Coasties (Rob), the wind of hitting us on our port bow. All in all, even as strong as the wind was blowing, it only reduced our gas mileage. Liberty shook her booty a couple of times, but it was no problem.

I arrived here early because the forecast was for the wind to increase in the afternoon. I planned to arrive around 1:00 but actually arrived around noon thanks to a time change to Mountain Time. Since I'll only be here for 4 days, I'll probably not get used to the new time zone. 

Since I got here so early, I found the Taco Bell and ate lunch. It was still early in the afternoon so I decided to ride the Enchanted Highway. It is about a 30 mile stretch of road with giant sized scrap metal sculptures scatted out every few miles or so. I've heard about it from other people so I wanted to see it for myself. The guy who made the sculptures started building them in 1989 to draw business to his old home town of Regent, North Dakota which is the southern end of the Highway. He was using his own money, plus donations, to maintain the sculptures until the state finally ponied up $75,000 in the year 2019/2020. The highway attracts about 6,000 people per year. 

"Geese in Flight"

"Deer Crossing"

"Grasshoppers in the Field"

"Fisherman's Dream"

"Pheasants on the Prairie"

"Teddy Rides Again"

"World's Largest Tin Family"

Tomorrow I'll explore the National Park so I figured I'd make this post so I could clear out the pictures stored in my cell phone. I hope to see some "wow's" tomorrow. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.