Sunday, August 17, 2014

Yellowstone, Teddy Roosevelt, North Dakota, and a few other places

It's summer and that means a road trip to the Johnson-Holsten Feeding Frenzy in South Dakota!

As in the past, we combined our trip to LaBolt Dam with a few other 'must-see' stops along the way, but for some reason it seemed that this trip we (by 'we' I mean Robert) did more driving than anything else.

We were on the road for about 12 days, but I won't bore you with all the details, like being sick with a bad sinus infection (for most of the trip), or being stuck in traffic at Tejon Pass for 2 hours (like 'we're not moving at all' traffic), or driving across lovely Nebraska (Look kids! Corn!), or driving through Yuma at 1am and it still being 95-degrees!

Although those little things make the trip memorable for us, it might mean you stop reading after only a few sentences and go back to liking cute kitten videos on Facebook.  So, for the sake of your enjoyment and ease of reading, I'll stick to just the highlights.

HIGHLIGHT #1 - Yellowstone National Park

One of my favorite photos from our trip.

It was a long travel day of about 740-miles driving through a bit of Nevada and a lot of Utah, but we pulled into Site 44 at the KOA Kampground in West Yellowstone early Sunday evening.  The following morning we entered Yellowstone, but unlike our past visit (June 2011), we were not in a car, but riding a motorcycle.

Something I was very wary about because, while I find riding on the back of a motorcycle unbelievably fun, there is absolutely no protection between me and, let's say, a 2,000 pound bison!  Again, unlike our last trip where we saw about a million of them, we saw only one this time.

We took our time cruising through the park visiting Old Faithful, West Thumb and Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, and Canyon Village.  On a side note, about 10 minutes in from the park's west entrance, we saw our Bald Eagle friend from our last trip perched in the same row of trees along the Madison River.  We took that as a good sign.

I had my camera at the ready when this dork pulled in to block everyone's view.
 Figures - he's from California

By the time we finished lunch at Canyon Village, it was after 4pm and we had only toured the southern loop of the park.  A few minutes later, the rain came…downpour!  Did I mention we were on a motorcycle?  Getting soaked should have been upsetting, but it wasn't.  It was fun!  I think I was more concerned with the flashes of lightening we were driving towards than the rain.

For those hanging onto the edges of their seats wondering, "Did they make it back alive?"  Yes.  We made it back just fine.  Wet, but fine.

HIGHLIGHT #2 - Cabelas and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Tuesday morning found us heading across Montana towards North Dakota, but first we had to make a stop at Cabelas in Billings, Montana.  We plan our routes based on Cabelas locations.  We love that store!

Once we got past Billings, it was all new road.  An RV towing a trailer with a motorcycle in it didn't lend to great gas mileage (on a good day we averaged about 9 mpg!), so we stayed on the main interstate (I-94)  and reached North Dakota in good time.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park was  MUST for me, but alas, I was very disappointed.  TRNP is in two separate units - the south and the north.  Our plan was to camp for two nights in the south unit and then tour both units on the motorcycle.

However, those in charge decided it would be a good time for road repair.  I don't know if the roads are normally paved, but when we drove through it was all gravel and in horrible condition.  It was tough enough to drive the RV, let alone take a ride on the motorcycle.

It took forever (so it seemed) to reach the campground, although we did see a scrawny bison along the way.

We stayed only one night at Cottonwood Campground.  The campground was next to the Little Missouri and was nice enough, although it didn't have hookups, but most National Parks don't offer that amenity.

Disappointed, we left early the next morning.  The bison was gone, but we did stop at the visitor's center and took a guided tour of Teddy Roosevelt's hunting cabin.  That (somewhat) made up for not being able to tour either unit, but I'm still a bit peeved that the one day we decide to drive some 1600 miles they tear up the roads!

HIGHLIGHT #3 - Fargo, Milbank, and The Frenzy!

After having watched Fargo, the television show starring Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, I wanted to visit Fargo.  Robert warned me that there was nothing in Fargo, but I was adamant.  I wanted to visit Fargo!

As much as I hate to admit it, Robert was right.  There is nothing in Fargo, not even a campground.  Okay, there is one campground, but it was full so we spent the night in a Wal Mart parking lot, which we do quite often on our long road trips. Nevertheless, I had wanted to see Fargo and I did.  Now I know that there is no reason to ever go back.

Milbank.  We arrived Thrusday and set up base camp at Lake Farley, just a few blocks from Robert's grandmother's house.  Site #10 would be our home for the next four days.  The Frenzy is held at LaBolt Dam, just a 15 minute ride away.  Much to the chagrin of our family members, we took advantage of the no motorcycle helmet required rule in South Dakota.  Liberating!

We met up with Robert's parents at the Pizza Ranch for dinner in Milbank and then again the following morning at Alice's Restaurant in Stockholm.  Robert's sister and her kids and his brother rendezvoused with us at Alice's as well.  It was nice having the family there.

Every year The Frenzy has a different theme.  This year it was television shows.  Robert wore a cowboy hat and said he was Walt from Longmire (one of our favorite shows) and I wore all black and a bandana and said I was a character on Sons of Anarchy (one of my favorite shows).  We were on a motorcycle so I thought it was fitting.   Anyway, Robert's grandma is 90 years old and wore her Minnie Pearl hat.  She is absolutely adorable!  

It a great weekend visiting with family and making new friends.

Robert and his cute nephews Owen and Caleb.
HIGHLIGHT #4 - Spirit Lake (not really), Cabelas (again!), and a wheat thief

One of Robert's 'must-sees' this trip was a visit to Spirit Lake, Iowa, home of the Victory Motorcycle.  Our plan was to take a tour of the factory, but unfortunately they don't offer tours until the new models come off the assembly line, which isn't until mid August.  We were early by just a couple of weeks, but we thought we could at least visit the gift shop.  They don't have a gift shop, but we found this out after we made reservations at the KOA in Omaha, Nebraska and cancellations must be done at least 48-hours in advance.

Is it illegal to pick wheat from someone's farm? Apparently becoming a wheat thief was also on Robert's 'must-do' list.  Somewhere a farm along West 12 is missing a handful of wheat.

Ugh.  Nebraska here we come!  Welcome.

Hey!  There's a Cabelas in Omaha!  Our second one of the trip.  Maybe Nebraska isn't that bad after all.

The KOA in Omaha is rather nice and they deliver pizza right to your campsite!  Liking Nebraska more and more.

HIGHLIGHT #5 - Kansas

Kansas wasn't really a highlight, but it was new road so it was exciting in that regard.  Plus, they have a town called Kanarado, which is right on the Kansas/Colorado border.  The name makes me laugh.

We also discovered a town called Norton.  The streets were brick and the town had some nice historic buildings, which appealed to the photographer in me.

Norton, KS
Norton, KS

HIGHLIGHT #6 - Las Vegas and HOME!

We've been through Las Vegas, New Mexico on a past road trip, but that was before Longmire.  Longmire is a television crime drama based on the "Walt Longmire Mysteries" series of books.  It's about a Wyoming sheriff who returns to work after his wife's death and investigates crimes with the help of his friends and daughter.  Walt is played by Robert Taylor and his friend Henry is played by Lou Diamond Phillips.

It's a great show, so after watching a few episodes and recognizing the Historic Plaza Hotel (where we had previously stayed), we decided to find the Absaroka County Sheriff's Deparment.  We found it!  but no Walt, Vic, Branch, Ferg, or Henry as filming had long been over for the season.

The Sheriff's Office is located on the second floor.

Through the windows you can see the Historic Plaza Hotel and the park where Walt found the dead, rich guy under the bench in Season 3, Episode 6.

We took a short walk through town and ate a lunch of mediocre, if not undersized burritos, before loading ourselves back into the RV for the long, long drive home.

Desert temperatures were reaching triple digits and Robert wanted to drive all night to avoid overheating.  Through Albuquerque, Socorro, and Magdelena we drove.  At Pie Town (yes, that's the name of the town), I wanted to stop for pie, but there was a miscommunication and Robert drove straight through.  No pie for Rae in Pie Town.  Instead, we stopped at On the Rim in Show Low, Arizona for dinner.  My club sandwich was no substitution for pie in Pie Town and I reminded Robert of that the rest of the way home, or at least until I fell asleep.

From Show Low, we drove through Globe, Apache Junction, Phoenix, Yuma and through the check point entering California where we were stopped by agents with guns (Yes!  We're citizens!).

At exactly 3:30am and after driving a total of over 4000 miles, we finally reached home where my little baby was waiting.