Wednesday, July 24, 2013

East to Minnisota

From Cody, we drove back up over the Bighorn mountains and returned to I 90 heading East. We wound up the first day in the Keyhole Reservoir State Park just north of Moorpark. We almost didn't make it. Vicki got interested in the audio book we were listening to and forgot to watch the gas gauge. We got off the interstate with the needle hovering at the empty mark, 7 miles to the campground, 7 miles in a different direction to the nearest gas station at Pine Haven and 11 miles back to the nearest gas station on the freeway in a vehicle that is lucky to manage 6 mpg. We debated about going to the campground and worrying about gas in the morning but we weren't sure we had 14 miles worth in the tank. So instead we went to Pine Haven first, rolled into the lone grocery store/gas station on fumes and were able to fill up with only mildly overpriced gasoline before going back to the campground.

View from our campsite at Keyhole State Park
Keyhole reservoir was formed by the keyhole damn project completed in 1952 and although it sits in Wyoming, oddly enough, it belongs to South Dakota. Several communities in western South Dakota get their water from the reservoir. For all we know, our house may be one of them.

The campground at keyhole state Park was quite nice as a place to stay for a day or two. The temperature was in the high 80s when we got there and the lake looked very inviting. I went ahead and took a swim for which I have photographic evidence. Vicki
A pleasant swim in the lake
eventually went in too, but left the camera on the shore so she has no proof. It added up to a pleasant afternoon followed by a dinner of leftovers.

The next morning we pulled out and drove to Hermosa, about 20 miles south of Rapid City where we stayed for three days in a nondescript campground that had the saving grace of giving us a 50% discount due to our Escapees membership. We picked up a pack of mail at our service place and got our voter registrations taken care of. We were there for three nights and for the life of me I cannot remember what we did with the rest of our time. Vicki says she cleaned the motorhome and she is probably right. I vaguely remember having to move my feet out of the way.

Our extensive research on the parts of South Dakota east of the Black Hills indicated that it was an area best gotten past as quickly as possible, so from Hermosa we drove to Chamberlain, South Dakota where we only planned to stop overnight. At about 8:30 the wind started to pick up dramatically. We were being treated to another severe thunderstorm which had not been in the weather forecast when we checked it in the morning. This one was impressive. According to the national severe storm watch site, there were wind gusts between 65 and 70 mph recorded at the local airport. This threatened to wreak havoc with our slide out awnings and had the motorhome itself rocking back and forth pretty alarmingly. We managed to pull in the slide outs before any major damage was done but the front one didn't roll up straight. Now that it is crooked, every time we roll it back up it stays crooked. It should be easy to fix but it's going to require a couple of tall ladders which we don't possess.

After we got the slide outs in, it stabilized the rig significantly but made the living area pretty cramped. Then the rain started. It made a lot of noise beating against the motorhome and the direction of the sound kept changing as the wind swirled around and blew the drops in various different directions. There was no hail as far as I could tell but it was pretty dark out. The most impressive thing is that the lightning, which was mostly jumping from cloud to cloud rather than down to the ground, was virtually continuous. The whole sky looked like a failing fluorescent light, flickering constantly. We had never seen anything quite like that before. As it had in Gillette, the storm lasted about 45 min., then tapered off and went away leaving things eerily calm. If we don't find ourselves in the middle of anymore thunderstorms this season it will be fine with me.

The next day we turned north and the day after that moved out of the Dakotas and into Minnesota. The landscape gradually changed to rolling farmlands and as we moved northeast we drove past more and more lakes of varying sizes. It eventually reached the point where you couldn't travel a quarter of a mile without passing a lake. At one point, we were driving with a different lake on either side of us and a family of otters crossed the road in front of us. I mean, right in front of us. Like I had to slam on the brakes to avoid making little puddles of otter soup in the middle of the highway. They were apparently tired of the right hand lake and so desperately wanted to reach the left hand lake that they just forgot to look both ways.  Many of these lakes have names but if you look at a map, there are plenty with no name labels. I'm pretty sure they eventually just threw up their hands and gave up on trying to come up with individual names for all of these bodies of water. We eventually arrived in Bemidji which we will be using as a base camp for a week while touring "the Northwoods", about which I will keep you posted.

Note: sorry about the dearth of photos this post. This would be a good opportunity to go back and review the bonus pictures of the rodeo and the Beartooth Highway (in case you glossed over them the first time).

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