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2002 West Camping Vacation Travel Log - page 5 of 5
Week 5 ~ Monday August 19, 2002, to Friday August 23 ~ the end of our trip

Monday Aug 19 - Today we start driving back to Michigan, bummer. As usual, we got a late start after packing up the trailer and talking with a fellow Michigander. We picked up a couple blocks of ice in West Glacier and then drove right out the front entrance and headed east on US2 toward East Glacier and beyond.

Driving from West Glacier to East Glacier. Heading on back home to Michigan.
Check out the railroad track and tunnel. This is a beautiful drive.

Between West and East Glacier along US2, the scenery is fantastic with the railroad tracks running along with the road and the river on the southern border of the park. I love this park!

Goodbye Glacier National Park. 'Til the next time (2015?)
Hello "Big Skies" of Montana and little Lark trailer.

East of the Park we stopped on the roadside and said goodbye to Glacier National Park (I love that park) and hello to the Big Skies of Montana's plains. Actually, the scenery changes constantly from this picture every time we crested a hill. We saw buffalo, cattle and lots of expansive farmland and numerous silos.

The trains are rollin'.

US2 follows the train tracks for hundreds of miles and we saw several freight trains and one Amtrack train going west. We did quite a bit of driving and finally pulled into the Shady Rest RV Park in Glasgow in eastern Montana. You all remember the Shady Rest from Petticoat Junction on TV a long time ago? Different Shady Rest. No babes, no Uncle Joe movin' kinda slow. Just a very nice, clean place with huge showers.

I thought we had it made with the cell phone due to the strong signal. No such luck. The cell service here is Sagebrush Cellular and it doesn't connect to the rest of the world. Unbelievable! That "Can you hear me now" Verizon commercial on TV is such crap. Cell phone service out here is crap. Crap! Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday Aug 20 - Before I forget, one last comment about Glacier National Park: I love that park! Okay, we hit the road again traveling east thru the last part of Montana.

Driving eastward on I-94 east of Glasgow, Montana. Flat as a pancake and a boring drive.

Some of Montana is so wide open. But, it doesn't really last long. We drove for a couple of hours thru some not-so-boring and very pretty countryside and then stopped in a truck stop just inside North Dakota where I got a good cell phone internet connection and uploaded all the old pictures and new text. Now there's a run-on sentence.

Next door to the truck stop was a Rest Area and North Dakota visitor information center so we dropped in and picked up a new highway map and a bunch of new literature about the tourist attractions. Both of them. Just kidding. There are three attractions. We're talkin' 'bout North Dakota here. Pretty desolate. What are there, about 400 people living here? I shouldn't say that. It's a nice state. They have two senators just like Michigan. Remember a while back, some congress dude was talking about a bill to drop the North from its name so they could get more recognition and be less associated with South Dakota. I don't think that would work. They need to move the whole state a thousand miles south so the rest of us can find it.

Actually, there are some pretty nice places to visit here. One is an old favorite of ours from years ago: Theodore Roosevelt National Park located right close to the western border of the state. For those of you who don't know about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, I'm not going to tell you. Go look it up. Teddy's park is very different from other parks. It is part of the Badlands that runs northward from South Dakota up thru North Dakota. The Badlands is where all the really bad outlaws like Jesse James had their hideouts back in the old west days. There are so many places to hide here.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park entrance in North Dakota.
The Badlands in Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Let's go hide.
We did a two plus hour auto tour of the park and took a bunch of pictures.
"Mom told me not to cross the white line."

This place has lots of prairie dogs and they are the cutest little buggers. We found one squashed on the road and I wanted to take a picture of it and start doing a documentary on road kill. Diane said, "No". So no picture. But, it was really cool because it was only half squashed with its guts hanging out. The birds will have it for breakfast.

There are a lot of wild horses roaming everywhere. They take the right-of-way.

And we finally got to see wild horses! We never did see any in Wyoming. There were about ten of them next to the road. And they walked across the road because they wanted to get to the other side. Beautiful animals in the wild.

And here is yet another mystery picture. Okay, not such a mystery.
...where the buffalo roam and the skies are not cloudy all day.

Okay, it's not a mystery. It came from the rear end of one of these big 1500 pound dudes. No, Teddy didn't shoot all of them. Buffalo Bill took out his share and then some. They are really massive looking creatures. It is easy to understand the Indians' relationship with the buffalo and why they were so pissed at the white man for slaughtering so many of these magnificent animals.

The stop at Teddy's park was well worth it and we will have to come back when we have more time to stay. The last time we were here, we camped in their campground. We'll have to do that again. The neighboring town, Medora, looks like a pretty slick place to spend some time. They have the usual gift shops, motels, ice cream parlors and put on some kind of musical production. We have the literature. This place was the second attraction I mentioned above. I can't remember what the third was. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow as we drive by it. Maybe I'll take a picture.

Oh! Now we have a lot of driving to do and not much time to do it. So we did. Drive. All the way to Bismarck and parked ourselves for the night in a really nice KOA.

Wednesday Aug 21 - (Today, Diane wrote all this while we were driving, except where noted) We stayed at a really nice KOA in Bismarck, ND and woke up to misty rain. The KOA man said it rarely rains here - only twice this year. Well, we happened to be here for their third rain. It's not really Michigan rain; it's mist and fog. Great. Just what we need: mist, fog and construction.

Construction on I-94 slowed us down just a bit.

We dropped down to I-94 yesterday from US-2 so we could make tracks and get some miles behind us and now that's probably not gonna happen. We are passing through farm country again - rolling hills of wheat, corn, something else that's short, bushy and green (probably beans or squash) and huge fields of sunflowers!

What a sight! In the sunshine it would be awesome. In the mist, it's hazy, but still beautiful.
We are near Bismark North Dakota.
It was dark and a whole lot foggy at 9:15 in the morning.

By the way, we saw a really neat, small motor home that we'd like to take a closer look at. It's made by Chinook - has anyone ever heard of it? We saw one Chinook dealership in Yakima, WA. and if we can't find another one closer to home, we'll just have to go back.

The mist continues. We can't see for more than a football field off to either side of the road. Cool. More sunflowers with their heads bending down due to the weight of the rain. These fields are at least a mile long and as far as we can see (one football field). (Note from Alan: We're Americans. And Americans measure everything in football fields)

We neglected to mention that Eastern Montana and North Dakota have a lot of bugs - flies, grasshoppers, small bees, mosquitoes and miscellaneous bugs. We know this because we could picnic off the front of our van - quite a buffet there.

I'm still looking for my perfect windmill picture - you know, the old fashioned kind made out of wood. We've passed a lot of them and I've missed the picture every time. I get pix of the new fangled ones, but not the rustic, old wooden ones.

Well, we made it through North Dakota and into green, green Minnesota. It looks kinda like Northern Michigan but with more crops and western music. Lots of farms, rolling countryside and painted or decorated silos. This is the first time we've noticed the decorated silos. Don't know if it's a county thing, a particular crop thing, an ethnic thing or each family doing their thing, but it's kinda cool.

A beautiful Minnesota farm.
(Alan note: a farmer's wealth out here is measured by the number of silos he has)

Fields of green corn, green beans, evergreens, green ferns, green grass and small green lakes. The larger lakes are gray-blue today but the smaller ones are definitely green covered with water lillies, water cress or cattails. The sun finally broke through west of St. Paul around 5:00 and we have small patches of blue sky. Traffic! Ugh! We haven't seen traffic since Seattle! Stopped traffic! Worse! This reminds us of I-696 during rush hour or ven Orchard Lake Road at any time. This is definitely NOT COOL. Glad we're going into the city 'cuz everyone else seems to be leaving, I think. St. Paul is on one side of the Mississippi and Minneapolis is on the other. Right now we're in St. Paul traffic. This is a big metropolis. Okay, we're through Minneapolis, over the St. Croix River and into Wisconsin. Oh boy, bigger patches of blue sky.

Wisconsin sure is a pretty state - rolling, green farmland. They have big farms, little farms and just the right size farms. They have corn, hay, beans, horses, black cows, brown cows, white cows, spotted cows (a lot of cows!), a bison ranch, blue skies and traffic. In Montana and North Dakota we were the only ones on the road for miles! Not so now. Looks like northbound I-75 on a Friday night out of Detroit. It feels like we're in Michigan. It's green and there are billboards, the road is bumpy, the drivers are rude and we're in the land of orange barrels. We must be home. Not yet - we have 10 - 12 hours of driving to get to Farmington Hills and we haven't stopped to get cheese yet. We picked up a lot of trucks in Minnesota and they're not following their speed limitations. They must be in a hurry to get home too.

(Alan from here on down)

Driving I-94 eastward in rainy Wisconsin. Could be worse. Could be snowing.

Here we are zipping down I-94 at 70 mph in the rain and I shot this picture out my window holding the camera with my right hand and the steering wheel in the left. I am talented (or stupid). I wanted the clouds and caught the farm by luck. Cool!

Pigeon Creek campsite in the morning after the night's rain. Very nice.

It was past 8:40pm and the long drive with the rain was getting old so we decided to park ourselves in the Pigeon Creek Campground in the Black River State Forest at exit 128 in Wisconsin. We didn't get quite as far as we wanted, but this will work. It is raining pretty good and it is a bit dark and we really can't see much of the campground. What we do see looks great. We'll see tomorrow morning.

Looks like my cell signal is good. Hopefully I'll get this uploaded tonight. Good night.

Thursday Aug 22 - Oh, what a night! Just like the song. It ain't gonna rain no mo', no mo' 'cuz it rained all it could last night! We pulled into our last campsite in the rain and it just got worse from there. What a way to end a trip. We'll be home tonight if we drive 10 hours or maybe a little more today. We have to do laundry and restock some groceries in order to leave tomorrow for our weekend vacation. Oh, I feel so pressured! This fantasy life is the greatest! Too bad we have to come back to reality. We're driving through countryside that reminds us of the Bay City area. Open, grassy fields and taller deciduous trees - kind of spotty with farms tucked in. Every little while you see a lot of junk. There are people everywhere who own a lot of junk. Unfortunately, many of those people want to prove it by storing it in their front yards. Too bad. We woke again to misty rain, light fog and humidity. The west pleads for rain and the east gets it in buckets. There sure isn't a shortage of water in either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Everything is green, green, green.

A side by Diane (Alan got one - I can have one too!): The focus of radio news broadcasts is very different in the west and east regions of the U.S. When we could get a station in Montana, the big story was that someone fell while rock climbing in Glacier NP, had a badly injured arm and had to be rescued by helicopter. He was one of a trio of climbers from the State of Washington. They gave details of which face of which mountain, how long they waited for rescue and which hospital was attending to his injuries. The emergency room nurse was interviewed. We got this info in bits and pieces throughout the day as the breaking story unfolded. We also heard a lot of weather reports which focused on the next possible rain and stories about forest fires currently burning and/or under control. In North Dakota the local police were dealing with a Peeping Tom who had been apprehended that morning, the current trading prices of grain futures and the little girl whose parents were killed and she had disappeared and was possibly abducted. In Minnesota, the big story was the guilty verdict for David Westerfield in the Danielle van Dam murder case and Martha Stewart's possible insider trading. In Wisconsin we were asked if David Westerfield should be given the death penalty, advised of the national security conference in Texas and informed of the possibility of U.S. military action against Iraq. It seems the farther east we drive, more attention is paid to the national and world news. In the west, attention is directed toward more local, hometown events. This is just an observation and no particular recommendation is made by the author.

Illinois has some really pretty farms. This place is a classic.

Has anyone ever played Mille Bornes? It's a French card game about highway travel. You play your cards to get yourself going and also to hit your opponent with a disaster. Well, we hit the highway this morning and around 2:00 we had a disaster. We had just crawled (average 20 mph) past Chicago, having fed the toll booths all our available change in 25 or 60 cent increments and were still in extremely heavy traffic and construction when a man waved at us and said we had smoke coming from the trailer. Great! Now what? Can you imagine how many things go through your mind in just one or two seconds? Alan pulled off the patch riddled, bumpy toll road and determined that we had blown a wheel bearing. We needed to find an RV or trailer repair facility before we could continue. Wonderful!

Fortunately there was a Ramada Inn close by which we attacked for rest rooms, local Yellow Pages and their relatively clean parking lot. There were only TWO RV repair places listed in the phone book. One said he did not stock parts for anything over two years old and would have to order the parts from Elkhart, Indiana for delivery on Monday - unacceptable. He went so far as to say that I would not find the parts anywhere in the Chicago area - too old a trailer and if he didn't have the part, no one else would either. The other place listed didn't have our parts in stock, but referred us to yet another place and voila, we hit pay dirt! By 5:15 we had our precious new parts and were trying to find the Ramada Inn where we left our poor disabled home on wheels.

Installing the new bearings into the new brake drum was easy enough. I've done this before. It's a good thing I had all the tools. Especially an old hammer. Tap, tap, tap.

Alan's experience as a mechanic paid off yet again and we were back on the road around 7:00 PM headed for Indiana. It was a very dirty, messy job for Alan and an experience we won't ever forget. Once again, the Lord was with us and we're thankful for his direction. We were so happy to see the Welcome to Michigan sign. I don't want to go near Chicago ever again. There's too much traffic, too many trucks, too many rude and I mean rude drivers, the roads are way worse than Michigan, you have to pay to use the battered, bumpy, pot hole ridden roads and then they block off one or two lanes with construction with no one even working! I think Chicago DOT has established permanent construction sites miles in length and they never attempt repairs. These roads are always under construction EVERY TIME we go through the area and yet the roads are the worst we've driven on. I'd rather go through Mackinaw and the Upper Peninsula than be caught in Chicago again. The Chicago area does have four very nice men selling parts for trailers who were very, very helpful and understanding, but the rest of the area is the pits. We'll try to never go there again.

I see the sign for Orchard Lake Road exit. Hurrah! Gee, but it's great to be back home. Home is where I wanna be - for about 12 hours. We are minutes from home and it's early - 11:57 PM. I have to close now - my shower and bed are calling.

Friday Aug 23 - We had a semi restful night. Rocky wanted to cuddle, so he was under the blankets and wanted us to rub his head and ears - all night long. He couldn't get close enough to us. Riley and Sammy took turns jumping on and off the bed. I think they missed us. Riley kept bringing us toys. I did laundry, cleaned litter boxes, went to the grocery store and made stuffed shells, then reloaded the trailer. Alan put new brakes on the trailer and rechecked everything and now we're off or the weekend to Port Crescent State Park. We had planned to leave by 1:00 but actually left around 4:00 - we just couldn't et everything done. Telegraph wasn't bad, but I-75 is stop, stop, stop and go. Riley really wanted to come with us and was constantly under foot and in the trailer. It's misty rain. We had a lovely weekend of much easier camping with great old friends from church.

We are home now and here we'll stay until another camping weekend with the church group in September. We are home now. Home, sweet home.... Want to help with the laundry? Thanks for reading. Remember your comments and criticisms are usually appreciated. Let us know what you think. It's one of the ways we learn.

And this is the end of Week 5 and the End of our vacation. Go back to Week 4 -- Go to the Index Page