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Showing posts from July, 2014

July 25 - Heading North for a Weekend in Door County

It's been more than a dozen years since we've been in Wisconsin's Famous Door County. This peninsula poking into Lake Michigan gives Wisconsin it's signature shape and is a very popular tourist destination during the summer. (During the Winter... not so much.) After a little prodding from my brother Jerry we thought we'd brave the crowds and add this experience to our summer of 2014 adventures. Check out http://doorcounty.com/ for more.

July 23 - Update on this year's visit to the Midwest

We arrived in the Beaver Dam Wisconsin area on Friday, July 11. High levels of activity usually accompany fresh arrivals and this year has not been an exception. Family, friends, setting up our little "apartment" at the farm, a class reunion (mine... doesn't seem like 45 years!), and many fix-it jobs and mini-projects have kept me away from the keyboard and the many delayed daily posts to the blog from our recent trek through some of the best parts of the USA. They will be done, but it's going to take a little more time.

In truth, I'm re-thinking the blog, it's purpose, and it's future. During our recent 4 week trip with the truck and camper I found the blog to be a burden. Why? Primarily the lack of time and the alternative uses of the time I did have. Traveling with the bushouse we would usually match a day of exploring with a day of "not-exploring" or rest, which gave us time to process photos and write. But we found traveling with the truc…

July 11 - Lake City MN to Beaver Dam WI

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Overnight and early morning rain showers herded us into Doug and Kay's home for morning coffee. During a lull in the precipitation we stowed our gear, dropped the top, and hit the road.

There's always an excitement, driven by familiarity and memories, as one nears "home"... even if you have multiple "homes". I've written it before... but there's no feeling like "coming home", unless it's feeling like "it's time to go." We nomads are such complicated and hard to please people.

We'll be here for a couple months. During that time there won't be many updates to this Journal... which is primarily a travel journal. We'll be hitting the road back to the PNW by the end of September.

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Miles Today: 212 (odo 9954)
Location: "The Farm" near Beaver Dam
Weather: Showers early (near the Mississippi), lighter and abating as we moved east.



July 10 - Burnsville MN to Lake City MN... and more Friends

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Another short drive today, so no one was in a rush to hurry along our departure. Thanks Sue and Jim for a very enjoyable time. We try to stop here whenever we're through the area and will continue to do so. It' almost become another of our "homes away from the bushouse."

A simple drive over to the Mississippi River. Along our way we found a large series of concrete structures scattered throughout an overgrown field in rural Dakota County. Later investigation revealed that these are the immovable remnants of the Gopher Ordinance Works about which you can read more here. Briefly, it was a gunpowder plant built by the government during WWII. It only operated for a few years before being abandoned and dismantled.

Wonder what future archaeologists will think when they find these in the far distant future?

Another set of good friends we try to see whenever through this area are fellow nomadic travelers Doug and Kay. I've written before about them and how we like gett…

July 8 / 9 - Hutchinson MN to visit with friends in Burnsville MN

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A short drive today from Hutchinson to Burnsville... so we took it slow this morning. Along the way we came across Bongards Creameries and just had to stop. The Midwest used to be loaded with small dairies and cheese factories during the early 20th century. Most were put out of business by larger competitors, but some, like Bongards, grew, improved efficiency and productivity, and were able to keep a critical mass of customers. There's nothin' like fresh cheddar cheese curds direct from the source.

Our route today necessarily takes us across the Minnesota River. We crossed at Chaska where just a few days earlier it was closed due to high water. The extraordinarily wet Spring kept the old Minnesota high well beyond the normal snowmelt runoff. The Mississippi, which receives the Minnesota, is also much higher than normal.

Slow progress today... even for us. But we did make it to our good friends Sue and Jim's house by early afternoon. It was good to see them. The rest of th…

July 7 - Granite Falls MN to Hutchinson MN

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First off, yesterdays post failed to mention the pests we encountered at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park. Gnats and then, as the sun set, mosquitoes... enough to warrant an honorable mention in the blog. Really couldn't sit outside much. Of course, with the wet spring and summer this year, pests are to be expected.

Not much post-able activity today. Found a tankful of cheap gas (3.42/gal), and once we made Hutchinson we had an enjoyable lunner at the Main Street Sports Pub. A craft beer was calling. And then a thunderstorm rolled through town. The weather service was talking about a potential for high winds so we watched this wonder of nature from the comfort of the truck cab in a clearing well away from trees. The safety director was pleased.

Hutchinson is another of those great smaller Midwest towns. Lots of parks (we're camping at one) and bike trails galore running along the river that flows through the center of town. The Upper Midwest clearly has it's shit togethe…

July 6 - Watertown SD to Granite Falls MN

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Explored the fine western Minnesota town of Dawson. Our good friend Jim from Burnsville lived here a few years ago as a young school teacher. Couldn't pass an opportunity to check it out. We'll be stopping and Jim and Sue's in a few days.

For whatever reason... heritage or tough winters or social expectations or ??... most small towns in the Midwest are very neat and clean, well maintained and cared for, exude a sense of civic pride, and the residents seem happy. In comparison, our observation is that many (not all, but many) towns of similar size, particularly in the south and southwest are little more than trashy dumps. What could be the reason for this?

Dawson is certainly a pleasant inviting place. People keep their property neatly trimmed and picked up; homes are painted and in good repair; fresh flowers in hanging baskets from every street light standard downtown; flags flying all around town; business activity seems vibrant; a large well-used city park. We were im…

July 5 - Faith to Watertown SD; and an Amazing Find

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US-212 through central South Dakota reminds me of driving a parkway, ala the Natchez Trace... or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Slower travel, little traffic, so peaceful... it's a very agreeable way to go. There's just not a lot of stuff to look at.

As we moved we found an old-fashioned radio station on the truck radio. KSJB 600 out of Jamestown ND. Classic country music... good driving music. Some younger readers may not know that it's possible to get free radio right off the airways on their vehicle radio, just as many people apparently don't know that free broadcast HD TV is available on your home TV as long as you've got the proper antenna pulling in the signal and you're close enough to the transmitter. This isn't anything new. It was the only way to get TV back in my childhood days during the 50s and 60s.

As we neared Watertown SD we decided to find a motel. Since leaving the PNW, this is the first time we felt a need to do so. Might have been the siren …

July 4 - Ashland MT (Red Shale CG) to Faith SD

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Miles and miles of sweet yellow clover, as far as we could see across the plains, especially in South Dakota. In bloom, it's unmistakable both in sight and smell.

Route today was US-212 all the way. Touched three states today.

Breakfast at the Cashway Diner in Broadus MT. Found out that Eunice just died a week ago. She was the matriarch of the diner. Broadus is a v. friendly little town, smiles and greetings from many we met. We got a personal invitation to stay an extra day and join in the Independence Day celebration.

Stopped at the Ben Ash Memorial atop a knoll along 212. Ben is honored with this memorial park as the first European to glimpse the Black Hills in the 1870s. This is a dubious claim at best, and there's very little information about this whole claim on the internet. It was a decent place to stop for a snack lunch regardless.

Got to Faith SD early afternoon and thought we'd stop at their city park where they offer camping for just $10. Somewhat unsure of …

July 3 - Lazy but Productive Day at Red Shale CG

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So quiet... so agreeable. And with a good strong 4G internet signal... and... and... did I mention it's free? We did decide to stay an extra day and get some work done. I'm way behind on posts. (actually didn't publish the post for this day until September!!)

The campground and the surrounding area is plumb-full of a waist-high plant with small yellow blooms of some kind. It also has a strong sweet scent. Dar did some research and found it's called Yellow Sweet Clover.  Non-native, its used as a cover and forage crop. But it must be used carefully. If allowed to mold it becomes toxic to animals that might be feeding on it. You see, it contains coumarin, which converts to dicoumarol, a powerful anti-coagulant toxin.

A pleasant day.

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no miles today; same camp as last night.
Weather: warm, sunny, light wind. high near 90.


July 2 - Burgess Junction WY to Ashland MT

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Cold this morning. So cold that I could scratch the date in the windshield of the truck. We've also had a big mule deer hanging out near camp last night. It was still here this morning and Dar caught a shot of him having breakfast.

What goes up inevitably must come back down again... at least here on Earth. Today we too drop down a tad... from our almost 8000 ft perch last night to a more pedestrian 3200 ft. tonight. Most of that drop occurred in the first hour after leaving Burgess Junction as we descended the east side of the Bighorns.

Agreeable drive down the hill to Dayton, Ranchester, then a small chunk of I-90 to x16, where we picked up WY-338/339 north, into Montana again, so we could pick up US-212. We stopped along the way at the Tongue River Reservoir State Park and had a picnic lunch.

At US-212 we nosed east through Lame Deer and Ashland. For the record: there's a community college in the Native American community of Lame Deer. The name of the institution of h…

July 1 - Bighorn Canyon NRA to Burgess Junction WY

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Early (8:30a) departure from Horseshoe Bend CG in Bighorn Canyon. Stopped in Lovell for a few needed supplies and then headed east on 14A. This route has the steepest grades (10% and more in spots) going up and it certainly gave our naturally aspirated gasser Ford a good workout. But what a dramatic climb and view. Unfortunately it was very hazy today, not sure why, which limited how far we could see toward the horizon. Besides the haze, general weather condition was mostly sunny.

We took it slow, stopping various places along the way. Evaluating our options for a camp tonight, we had a choice of a few good NFS campgrounds up here in the mountains but things thinned out as we descended toward Sheridan and beyond. So we knocked off early and took a site in North Tongue CG NFS near Burgess Junction.

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Miles today: 70 (odo 8766)
Elevation: 7893
Location: N44.780, W107.535
Camp: North Tongue CG NFS; $7.50 w/pass