Showing posts from June, 2008

Lewis & Clark -- A Beginning and an End

Monday, June 30, 2008 -- near Edwardsville, IL Yesterday, Sunday, dodging rain showers and flooded roads, we found the point where, in May of 1804, the Corps of Discovery -- The L&C Gang, as I've been referring to them -- more or less formally began their trip into the unknown western lands of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. They had wintered over on land near the L&C Discovery Center at the mouth of a small stream known as Wood River, or Riviere DuBois at the time -- Camp River DuBois as one of them wrote in their journal. Because the formal transfer of the Louisiana Purchase hadn't taken place yet, they stayed for the winter, here, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi (the western edge of the United States at that time) close to the mouth of the Missouri River. For the Gang, Camp DuBois was a beginning. For us, it was an end. Our beginning was at their destination -- the mouth of the Columbia River, where the Gang stayed during the winter of 1805 - 1806. The

Harry Truman, Citizen

Saturday, June 28, 2008 -- near Edwardsville, IL Traveling and touring have taken most of my energy the past few days, but I now have a little time to get caught up on the blog. So here' goes. We left the Omaha/Council Bluffs area this past Wednesday and made the easy drive down to the Kansas City area. As much as I don't like big towns we surely seem to be gravitating toward them during this part of the trip. Why Kansas City? It's on the Missouri River and if we're going to follow the L&C Gang back to their starting point we've got to be close to the river. But there really isn't much Lewis & Clark stuff here in the immediate KC area, so we shifted gears a little and decided to spend one day visiting the Harry Truman Library and Home in Independence, MO, now part of the bulging Kansas City Metroplex. I found an RV park right in Independence called the Campus RV Park. It turned out to be the perfect place to stay... just an easy walk to the town square,

Council Bluffs

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 -- Council Bluffs, IA The first Indians the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery met were six Oto and Missouri Chiefs who were accompanied by a contingent of warriors. The meeting, or council, was friendly and took place in this area, actually about 20 miles north of Omaha, in early August 1804. Hills or "bluffs" line this part of the river and eventually the entire area became known as the Council Bluffs. But the moniker only stuck with the town across the Missouri from Omaha -- where we're now staying. As he would do whenever he met with Indians along the way, Meriwether Lewis explained that these lands are now a part of the United States, that they, the Indian tribes, had a new "Father" in Washington, and that it was the new governments desire to make friends with the native peoples, to trade with them, and it wanted them to become a peaceful part of this new nation. The way it turned out, however, was a different kind of "bluff&qu

Floyd's Bluff

Saturday, June 21, 2008 -- just south of Sioux City, IA The most notable thing to happen to the L&C Gang in this part of the country was the death of one of their most capable sergeants, Charles Floyd. He had become very sick in late July 1804, started feeling a little better, but then died on August 20th. No one can be certain but the best guess is that he died from a ruptured appendix -- a malady that had no cure in those days. If that's what it was he would have died wherever he was. One of the most amazing facts about the Lewis & Clark Expedition is that Floyd's death was the ONLY casualty from beginning to end. They survived disease, extreme temperatures and weather, accidents, encounters with less than friendly Indians, wild animals, and more. While they were very good at living and surviving in the wild, they were also very lucky. The Corps of Discovery was traveling north and west up the Missouri on their way into the heart of the vast western lands known as Lo

Pure Mid-America Corn

Thursday, June 19, 2008 -- Mitchell, SD Here we are in Mitchell, SD. I had originally routed us closer to the Missouri by taking either 281 or 81 south from the I-90, going through Yankton, across the Missouri, and staying at a Corps of Engineers park on the south side of the river in Nebraska. That was not to be however. A couple days ago we heard from another camper that the bridge in Yankton was being replaced and they had restrictions on travel over the old bridge. Through the magic of the internet I was able to find that the bridge wasn't only restricted, it was closed! They'd found significant deterioration in the structure of the old thing and weren't allowing any use until they figured out what to do -- if anything. My next thought was to travel west a bit from Yankton and take the road over the dam to the south side. The other Corps dams we've been to during the past few weeks all have a substantial road right on top the dam that could easily handle our little

Open Space and Restroom Signs

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 More Musings From the Road Solitude Gertrude Stein wrote, “In the United States, there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is.” As I travel through the West I'm continually in awe at all the land where nobody is. Mile after mile with no one around, no homes or farms or ranches. I'm sure most of it is part of some farm or ranch, but there's no one around... maybe a few pronghorn antelope or deer... but no people. Some people need to be busy... need to have others around all the time... need to be constantly engaged in some kind of social activity. Others soak in the space and the "alone-ness", and revel in it. To be alone with your own thoughts; your own agenda... how wonderful that can be. The ideal is probably some mixture of the two, but in our society solitude is certainly under-appreciated. From the journals of a soldier at Fort Buford in the late 1860's -- at the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Missouri -- near pr

Pierre, South Dakota

Monday, June 16, 2008 -- Pierre, SD Before I get started, let me bring up the pronunciation of the name of the city we're near... Pierre. Despite looking like it should be "Pea'-air", it's pronounced by locals (and those in the know) as "Peer". Don't ask why. That's just the correct South Dakota pronunciation and I wasn't able to find anyone that could explain it to me. But because there are only 15,000 people in the whole dang town, I'm sure there are more people in the USA pronouncing it wrong than there are saying it right. So what's right and what's wrong anyway?? After one of our longer drives in recent memory -- 285 miles -- we arrived in Pierre later in the afternoon yesterday, Sunday. It took a little effort to find just the right campsite but once we did we were backed in, jacks down, slides out, and setting up house until I remembered we didn't fill our fresh water tank. A lot of these old Corps of Engineers parks ha

Mandan Villages

Friday, June 13, 2008 -- Downstream Campground near Riverdale, ND We took advantage of an all day rain on Wednesday to get caught up on paperwork and some inside chores around the bus-house. Then we designated Thursday, yesterday, as Lewis & Clark day. In late October 1804, with winter approaching quickly, the L&C Gang arrived in this area, having spent the summer polling and dragging their boats upriver from St. Louis. Known as the Mandan Villages, this part of the northern plains held a series of villages that together had as many as 4 or 5 thousand Indians -- more people at the time than St. Louis or even Washington DC. It was a sort of trading crossroads on the northern prairie, where native tribes from all over the area would gather and trade what they had for what they needed, their surpluses for their shortages, their strengths for their weaknesses. We're camped just a few miles away from the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn. If you've read this

Friendly Fulltimers

Friendly Fulltimers Part of the "Life In 300 Square Feet" Series I've noticed, during our first year on the road, that RVers, and fulltimers in particular are a VERY friendly bunch. Especially around parks that cater to those of the gypsy-variety, it's not uncommon to get to know all your neighbors within a few minutes of parking, putting down the jacks, and pulling out the slides. They start to congregate as you're backing into your site, often offering suggestions... "a little more to the right... no, more to the left... no, STOP". Once parked, I've learned to keep the door closed (and locked) until we've got the basics of setting up house done. But once I open the door to hook up power, for example, we're inundated: "Hey, Wisconsin, uh? Where 'ya from... in Wisconsin I mean? You know I have an uncle that lives in Occonomoc almost, just outside, you know. He's a big fan of Brett Farve's. Too bad he's retiring... Brett I

Confluence of Yellowstone & Missouri Rivers

Monday, June 9, 2008 -- Williston, ND Today we made the short drive from Prairie Acres RV Park near Williston to the Confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The State Historical Society of North Dakota has an interpretive center on high ground overlooking the point where the two rivers join. Today, the Yellowstone in particular was swelled from still melting snow and recent rainfall -- much of which we experienced when in Bozeman a couple weeks ago. The immediate area of the confluence is still natural and mostly undisturbed thanks to the US Army's use of the land as a fort and military reservation during the last half of the 19th century. If not for the Army it would have been a perfect place for a town. Because the various river confluences along their way where so important to Lewis & Clark, and were so noted in their journals, we've made it a point to see as many of the important ones as possible. This one is even more interesting to us since we spent so much

What's Going On in the Showers?

What's Going On in the Showers? Part of the "Life In 300 Square Feet" Series What in the world is going on in the campground restroom and shower house every morning? This is one of those great unanswered questions that we, as first-year fulltimers have. Is it a card game? a meeting of some sort? people plotting the overthrow of the government? I get up in the morning, usually with the sun. The first thing I do... (ok, maybe not the first thing)... is to make a pot of coffee. While coffee's brewing, fire up the computer and the internet router. Once coffee's brewed, pour a cup, punch up the list of blogs and news I like to read every morning, and read, sip coffee, and watch the goings-on around the campground. Almost every morning, I see people... sometimes one or two and sometimes more... climb down out of their expensive campers and, with towel and some little bag in hand, head over to the public restroom and shower house building. OK, what am I missing here? We

The Fort Peck Experience

Saturday, June 07, 2008 -- Fort Peck, MT As I wrote in an earlier post, Fort Peck is a dam, a lake, and a town. We've been here going on 5 days and we're getting to know the area pretty well. Here's a run-down of the high points. The dam, authorized by FDR and the federal government in 1933, was a huge make-work project to provide depression-era jobs for thousands of hard-hit families and to build a dam for flood-control and, eventually, electric power for the area. At it's peak, the dam project employed over 10,000 people and it took 7 years to complete. And it's a dam of note! Built along the upper Missouri River, it's billed as the largest hydraulically filled earthen dam in the world. It stretches for 4 miles across a shallow valley in the far northeastern part of Montana. It's 250 feet tall, 50 feet wide at the crest, and 3,500 feet wide at the base. It backs up the Missouri River for 134 miles creating Fort Peck Lake. The central core of the dam was fi

The Decision Making Process

The Decision Making Process Part of the "Life in 300 Square Feet" Series Living on the road, in close quarters, on a fulltime basis requires a lot of flexibility and tolerance. In addition, I believe it's important for you and your partner to have pre-arranged rules for how decisions will be made. Living together in 300 square feet makes a good decision-making protocol essential to harmony and a durable relationship -- not to mention a long life. Making decisions on the basis of who can yell louder, who's stronger, who's bigger, or who's better with a gun just doesn't work the way it used to. When fulltiming, the two of you are also managing a big hunk of machinery. Whether it's a fifth-wheel, travel trailer, motorhome, or old school bus, these are big awkward pieces off equipment that require maintenance, upkeep, safe driving skills... and good decision making. So after a few months on the road we established a decision-making protocol for our fulltim

Rural Montana and Fort Peck

Wednesday, June 04, 2008 -- Fort Peck, MT On Tuesday we made the drive from the James Kipp Recreation Area to Fort Peck Montana. Heading north on Hwy 191, it was about 70 lonely miles to Malta -- no traffic, no towns, no rest areas, no wide spots in the road, no place to pull over to pee; just 70 miles of narrow shoulder-less asphalt that we had all to ourselves -- and a few pronghorn antelope. It crossed my mind to simply stop the bus-house, right in the middle of the road for a few minutes to take care of business, but the way my luck runs that would be precisely when other traffic would show up. Another thought I had was that this would be the perfect time to exercise the "flying driver change" -- switching drivers while on cruise-control. Needless to say the safety director nixed both ideas out-of-hand. As my bladder filled to near capacity I was re-thinking my long-held desire to get away from growing towns and congestion. There are, after all, some benefits to overcrow

Note to Readers

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 I'd like to thank all readers of the RV Sabbatical Journal for stopping in from time-to-time to check out what's going on with us. Having readers makes writing so much easier and rewarding. But I see many readers are coming directly to this Journal and by-passing our website Front Page at . Our Front Page is updated regularly, includes a couple recent pictures, a "What's New" area that's updated more often than the Journal, and links to our photo collections, maps, and some links we find useful. We don't subject readers to advertising so our only interest is for readers to have a more complete experience while following along on our trek. So stopping in at our Front Page once in a while could add to the overall experience. Thanks again for coming along as we explore the USA. Thom and Dar

James Kipp Recreation Area

Monday, June 02, 2008 -- James Kipp Recreation Area in Central Montana Finding campsites that appeal to us can be tough. Near centers of population, whether a huge town like Chicago or much more modest places like Great Falls, MT., it seems the selection is often limited to commercial RV Parks. RV Parks are essentially places to legally park your RV while in town. In general, there are few if any trees, a lot of gravel or asphalt, and very close spacing with your neighbors. What little grass there may be is fighting a loosing battle for survival. Sure, we could find a more acceptable campsite maybe 30 or 50 miles from town, but the cost and hassle associated with commuting means this isn't really an option. So when we've got to be in town, we try to select an RV Park with the best balance of cleanliness, safety, and price. But when we get out of town we look for places that are best called campgrounds. You know, the places that have widely separated campsites, with lots of tree