Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good Grief! It’s been 23 days

I'm finally back

Yep, 23 very busy days since my last posting – I’ve been getting lots of “flexibility” practice. But first before I get you caught up, I send sincere thanks to various friends and family members who have sent emails of concern – was I OK? Where was I? How come no updates?

My last post was shortly after I left Blackhawk COE Campground in Wisconsin. After crossing the Mississippi River at La Crosse, my destination for the night was Maple Springs Campground near Preston, Minnesota. It was a rainy drive and because of a detour, five of those miles were on gravel roads. Jeremiah was mighty dirty by the time I arrived. My campsite was a grassy area and after an all-night rainstorm it became puddles and mud. There was no Verizon phone or Internet service.

It was a lovely campground and the trails along a creek would probably be interesting, but between the rain and the mosquitoes I was stuck inside. I had no reason to stay a second night. I decided to drive on to Medford, Minnesota, to my cousin’s family farm complex – three houses, four generations, hundreds of acres – farming corn, soybeans and raising hogs. Yes, I would do that, if I could! As I tried to leave, Jeremiah would not budge due to the mud. Thankfully, one of the campground owners used a tractor to get me on solid ground.

If you’ve been looking at weather maps these past few weeks you’ve probably noticed all the thunderstorms, tornadoes and rain in the Midwest. Thankfully I’ve not been near any tornadoes, but the heavy rainfall has caused flooding in many areas and closed some roads.

Days at the farm

I arrived at Cousin Gloria’s just in time for their annual fish fry. Her son-in-law, Denny, had caught a variety of fish this past winter. He has what has been described as a deluxe ice-fishing house that is kept at a northern Minnesota lake. What a delicious meal! I had a most enjoyable time for several days visiting relatives who love to play progressive rummy, watching the hogs being loaded for delivery to become ham, bacon and pork chops, picking green beans and rhubarb from their garden and relaxing. The only undesirable things were the mosquitoes and gnats. Jeremiah was parked in the yard under some wonderful shade trees. And while Cat would have liked to be outside, the farm dogs make quick work on any cats that appear.

PHOTO – hogs loading

July 9 - On to St. Peter, Minnesota

It was only a 50+ mile drive from Medford to St. Peter to visit with former New Mexico neighbors Mary and Aaron Everett. Along the way I passed this "double steeple" church. Years ago two churches decided to merge - and they moved and placed the two church buildings back-to-back.

Jeremiah was parked at the City Campground after checking in and paying the camping fee at the Police Station. Mary and Aaron picked me up and we spent the afternoon and the next morning visiting and walking through the Gustavus Adolphus College Campus.

The highlight of the campus tour was seeing Perry the Corpse Flower that is located in the college’s Nobel Hall of Science greenhouse.

Even though it was about two weeks from its actual “bloom” and “stink”, it was fascinating to see. According to an Internet article, 12 days after my visit, this amazing and rare, nearly 7-foot-tall flower started to open and emit its repulsive odor. “The [event] drew flies and about 5,000 curious visitors all day on July 22; and then began its natural decline with obvious signs of wilting and less odor three days later.” You can find a photo and more information at Or check this time-lapse video at: If those links fail, go to

Mary and Aaron are well-traveled, and along the way they collect key chains. Here's a photo of the collection in their St. Peter home. They have another collection at their New Mexico home.

An unscheduled trip to Gardnerville, Nevada

The second day I was in St. Peter, I got a call from my sister Linda that her husband Bob had had a pulmonary embolism and was in the Carson City hospital and not expected to live. I drove right back to my cousin’s in Medford, parked Jeremiah, left cat and was on Southwest Airlines the next morning. The flight from Minneapolis to Reno seemed extra slow since I was eager to be with Linda. Bob never regained consciousness and died a couple days later. I spent the week with Linda helping with arrangements and such. We did take time off for relaxing and time with her three sons who live nearby.

One evening nephew Tim and his wife (also named Linda and on left in above photo with sister Linda) arranged to boat sister Linda and I across Lake Tahoe for dinner, another day nephew David and his twin girls took us to lunch, and I enjoyed visits with nephew Richard. A week later I flew back to Minnesota to continue my summer adventure trip.

Winnebago’s Grand National Rally

This was my fourth Winnebago National Rally and as always a busy, informative and interesting time. I had missed pre-rally week’s festivities, arriving on Day 1. I was pooped after my long Sunday flight – took nearly all day due to route scheduling and thunderstorms when we took on passengers at Denver – and mostly loafed and visited with friends on Monday.

Tuesday late afternoon was the “state row” parties; always a ton of fun and laughs. At the row parties, the states serve a variety of foods - usually those indicative of the state. At one booth they were serving alligator tail that had been breaded and deep fried. It was quite tasty. This year’s rally theme was Hollywood Legends and attendees really got into the spirit with costuming. Check out these photos.

During the week I got some motorhome items repaired/replaced: awning tension spring, refrigerator shelves adjusted, clear coat on motorhome hood replaced and a new propane detector installed. My volunteer jobs at the rally included a.m. coffee-donut area setup at 5:45 each morning and vendor hall take down on the last day. I made new friends and enjoyed friends from past rallies. It was a good week.

Hot Hurley Nights

Last Saturday, after the rally, I followed my RV friend Carol Rayburn to her mother’s home in Hurley, South Dakota. We parked across the street from the house. This small town’s annual celebration – named Hot Hurley Nights – was this weekend. Events we went to include a tractor parade, lunch in the park on Saturday, dinner at Simo’s Café, tractor pull, pork dinner in the park on Sunday, and music in the park afterwards. Some kids’ events included a scavenger hunt and a “money hunt.” For the money hunt, event organizers had put $40 to $50 worth of quarters on one half of the sand volleyball court – kids scrambled and dug for the loot.

At the one-and-only café in Hurley the Saturday night special is chislic (or sometimes spelled chislick). Red meat (in Hurley it was mutton) is cubed and deep-fried or grilled. It is usually served hot on a skewer or toothpick along with garlic salt and saltine crackers. This dish is virtually unknown outside the state of South Dakota. Locals say it is delicious - I chose to have a chicken salad sandwich.

Yankton, South Dakota

My next stop was to visit with Barbara and Wayne Nielsen at their home on the South Dakota side of the Missouri River just outside of Yankton. They gave me a super parking spot at their home. On Monday night we drove to Nebraska (just across the lake/river) for a delicious wall-eye dinner. Exceptional sights included an Osprey habitat set up to repopulate the area with this large bird (brought to the habitat shortly after hatching and a tour through the Lewis and Clark Campground where we spotted this bright orange motorhome! On Tuesday morning Wayne and I hiked a lovely trail.

Along the trail I spotted a plaque that had this to say about the Missouri River:

In the 19th Century, many travelers considered the Missouri superior to the Mississippi. They contend that the Missouri is, in reality, the main stream. One traveler, Charles A. Murray, wrote that “all who journey on it feel that the Missouri has been miss-used in having its name merged after its junction with the Mississippi; whereas the Missouri is the broader, the longer and in every respect the finer river of the two.”

After hiking and lunch, Jeremiah, Cat, Bucky the dummy, Mack the stuffed rooster and Fargo the stuffed horse pulled out toward my next destination – Al’s Oasis RV Park just outside of Chamberlain, South Dakota on I-90.

West across South Dakota

Originally I planned on taking back roads to Rapid City but that plan was scratched due to flooding and closed roads. Drats! I had to use I-90 – a monotonous road where one mile felt like 10 miles. Farming country became ranching/hay-growing country, hills became flat lands, and towns were few and far between. The only diversion was at Wall – home of the famous Wall Drug tourist area (free ice water, etc). I thought I should stop at Wall Drug, but the Dairy Queen was calling to me.

Heartland RV Park

I finally arrived at Rapid City (locals just say “Rapid”) and drove south 15 miles to Heartland RV Park. It is a good place to spend the night because the Internet is speedy and I’m hoping to get this posted. Tomorrow I’ll be driving through the Black Hills area to Fish ‘n Fry RV Park just south of Deadwood, SD.

MY DAYS TRAVELING BY RV are among my best. I see new places. I meet new people. I fill my head with new experiences that morph into memories. And I am richer for it. I am happy to live in a time where I can do something like this. – Chuck Woodbury, editor of RV Travel e-news.

Thanks for "traveling with me" - you can email me at