Week 2 of 16 ~ Sunday, June 7 to Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 5 ~ Sunday, June 7 - It rained all night but this morning is clearing with large patches of blue. Our campground host, Jay Cooke State Park, has a famous swinging bridge and so we hit the bridge site and found out that the bridge was damaged in 1954 and rebuilt higher and then damaged again in the flood of 2012. They rebuilt it stronger and even higher above the river. Oh, yea. We were also surprised to find it spanning the river with views of not one but two gorgeous waterfalls. We spent far too much time exploring, but it was a WOW time again.

The Swinging Bridge really didn't swing when we walked on it. It was built to move some, but swing? Not! It was originally much lower and the river rose high enough to wipe it out. Twice.
This is the view of the twin waterfalls on the St. Louis River from the Swinging Bridge in Jay Cooke State Park, Minnesota.

Swinging Bridge

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The twin waterfalls make this bridge view really spectacular.

We drove west across the beautiful countryside of Minnesota through patchy thunderstorms and into Itasca State Park off US-71 to see the source of The Great Mississippi River. We've been across this mighty river many times but never to the source and the US Government claims Lake Itasca, a spring-fed lake in northern Minnesota is the source. Of course, there's an official signpost, so we're sure this is it! The water was clear and quite cool, but no chunks of slushy ice, so we plunged our fingers and toes in and watched the tourist kids splash and scamper over the slippery rocks.

The spring-fed Lake Itasca is in the background and is the official start of the Mississippi. The river flows north out of the lake, not south, then heads east before turning south.
Talk about a narrow bridge. The kids were having fun. The water was about two feet deep.
This is the Mississippi River at it's source; narrow and shallow. No sternwheelers here.

Itasca State Park is an interesting place with more to see and we made a note to re-visit on a future trip, but today we move on to our stop for the night. We are spending the night in Long Lake Campground in Minnesota; about an hour's drive from the North Dakota border. The restrooms are pretty crappy. There is a railroad close by and the trains announce themselves often.

The Long Lake Campground in Detroit Lakes is old and tired like us. A good match.

We did a lot of driving today across Minnesota and it was time for dinner, dessert and a nightcap. Good night, Irene, good night, Irene, I'll see you in my dreams. Or not. I don't even know an Irene.

Day 5 Summary ~ We drove about 329 miles today which puts us at 1121 total miles into our journey.
It is 62 degrees here at midnight central time.

Day 6 ~ Monday, June 8 - It was warmer last night and we slept well and stayed in our pajamas to be properly dressed for a morning visit to Walmart (again) just outside the campground. Just kidding, we really did get dressed. We stopped a bit to see this magnificent full-size replica of a Viking ship in Moorhead, Minnesota. A teacher / counselor actually took 2 years to build this baby but died of Leukemia before the trip across the North Atlantic to Norway. His children and a few lucky friends completed his journey for him. There's a small, interesting museum on the lower level and a full-size replica of the Hopperstad Stave Church outside.

The Viking ship ~ hand-made by schoolteacher Robert Asp. Outstanding craftsmanship!

Viking Ship

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The Viking Ship in downtown Moorhead, Minnesota, is a must see. Can you imagine sailing this across the Atlantic ocean to Norway. They did.

Then we hit the road again heading west and in a few minutes, we were on I-94 and through Fargo, North Dakota, toward Bismarck.

We have a ways to go to Bismarck; a most enjoyable drive across North Dakota.
Way off in the distance is one gigantic facility that does something to something.
Diane brought it up close with our new super-zoom camera. Looks like a small city.
There are a lot of huge ranches / farms out here.

Another couple hours brought us to Exit 260 to see the World's Largest Buffalo located in Frontier Village. At 26' high and 46' long, this concrete bad boy weighs in at 60 tons. All the buildings in the village are open to the public and there are stagecoach rides and an ice cream cone waiting at an old fashioned soda fountain. We did see their small buffalo herd and their albino buffalo. Didn't get a glimpse of the albino calf though.

This is one big buffalo. Can you just image what comes out the rear end.
Jamestown, North Dakota, a.k.a. Pioneer Village, location of the Buffalo Museum.
We just love the open road of North Dakota. The skies were just perfect.

We headed south at Bismarck a short distance to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park for our overnight spot, hot showers and a great internet connection. Fort Lincoln is where Col. Custer and the 7th Calvary rode out from on their ill-fated journey to fight the Sioux at the Little Big Horn and got his ass kicked. Portions of the military post have been reconstructed and the campground is on the Missouri and Heart Rivers.

We went for a walk to the river and were standing on the bank about 15 feet above the water. It's hard for us to believe that in the floods of 2009 and 2011, the campground was under 4.5 feet of water. Yikes! You can see the markings on the trees.

Day 6 Summary ~ We drove about 232 miles today which puts us at 1353 total miles into our journey.
It is 62 degrees here at midnight central time.

Day 7 ~ Tuesday, June 9 - The weather looked a bid scary for about an hour very early this morning but quickly cleared to sunny skies and 86 degrees at mid afternoon. Beautiful day. The campsites here at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park are really big pull-throughs and the restrooms are very nice with great showers. A notch up from the previous few days' facilities.

Here's our campsites 7 and 8 on a single half-circle pull-through. Interesting layout.
Look at the trees and see the light color on the bottom indicating the water level when the Missouri river rose 19 feet in 2011 and flooded the campground with about 5 feet of water.

Diane had to work today so we are camped out in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Gregg and Gale took off early with their motorhome to a Chevy dealership to get their front brakes fixed. The brakes were binding and causing a bit of erratic braking. It did need some parts and a small boatload of cash to fix. While they were gone I tried to get caught up with this journal. I had the website all technically screwed up and it took me quite a while to get it all fixed.

Late in the afternoon, we wandered around the Mandan Indian mounds which were much bigger than what we expected. Very interesting place.

Day 7 Summary ~ We drove 4 miles today (inside the park) which puts us at 1357 total miles into our journey.
It is 66 degrees outside at 11:00pm central time.

Day 8 ~ Wednesday, June 10 - We got an early start today and went cruising west along I-94. We can see a looooong way. Not many trees and lots of grassy fields. The big bug on our windshield finally gave up or else his legs broke off. He was pretty battered by the wind. It's overcast, light gray with a little sprinkle - enough to wash off the windshield. No sun-glasses needed today.

Stopped to see a really big cow named Salem Sue. She is a big girl - 12,000 lbs and udderly fabulous. LOL. You can see her from I-94, but if you exit to get up close and personal, the view is fantastic. Once again, Alan is thinking about how large the cow pies would be. That's my guy! He requested his dollar donation go to paint for her udders. Girly pink. Grand-daughter, Joss, would choose purple.

This is Salem Sue in New Salem, North Dakota. All hail the giant cow! Nice udders.

It has taken us a week to get the electronics sorted out - what belongs where and what goes with what. The truck is still running like a top after 1400 miles. Our unending thanks to the efforts of Tony and crew at K&J Auto Repair on 8-Mile in Livonia who did the valve job plus extras before we left. We were distraught about the delay, but better at home than on the side of the road. They do good work!

I-94 bisects the state of North Dakota from east to west and only looks straight on the maps. From our point of view, it's curvy and hilly and a very pleasant drive.

We stopped to visit Assumption Abbey (St. Mary's Church) in Richardson, just a bit north off I-94. This is one beautiful and ornate building inside and out. Incredible architecture in the flatlands of North Dakota.

Assumption Abbey a.k.a. St. Mary's Church, Richardson, North Dakota. Beautiful!

Back on the road and not too far, the countryside changes rapidly from gently rolling hills into the Badlands of Wild West fame. You know, where the bad guys ride into the hills with the posse on their trail and pretty soon the bad guys are hiding out in some hidden canyon never to be found. Well, that's exactly what it looks like. We never could figure why the posse didn't whip out their GPS and map program to guide them right to the hideout. That's what we're doing today. GPS and map program can sometimes be the best equipment, then again, sometimes they're very frustrating to use.

A couple of hours were spent driving about 20 miles south down the Enchanted Highway to Regent, North Dakota. A local metal sculptor created 8 massive sculptures and erected them along the highway with the support of the locals. This is really cool. I don't have the time or space to post pictures of all the works here. The last sculpture in downtown Regent is a mechanical wonder - push the button and the whole thing comes alive.

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The first metal sculpture, "Geese in Flight", is located on the north side of I-94 at the Gladstone exit. You can see it from the freeway as you drive by, but stop and take it all in. If you have time, drive south to Regent and enjoy the whole set of sculptures.
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This, my friends, is the Enchanted Highway south off I-94, at the Gladstone exit, looking
south toward Regent. The metal sculptures do make it a bit more enchanting.
This is the Tin Family. Sculpture 7 of 8. We're getting close to Regent where you will find the final sculpture, an ice cream vendor and a pretty nice gift shop. A very worthwhile visit.
You just gotta love rural America and the crazy people that live here.

Sculpture No. 8 Wirly Gigs

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The final sculpture is pretty cool. Push the button Diane.

We came upon the most incredible scenery and since it's partly overcast with sunshine peeking through, the colors are bright and clear. We finally made it to Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we selected a campsite in the Cottonwood campground. We drove off to see the park. What did we see you may ask? Well, cute, little prairie dogs for one. Whole fields full of them, barking and chasing and jumping and grazing. They look like they're playing tag and everyone gets a turn.

Further into the park, we were surprised to see a wild horse galloping across the road in front of us, along beside us and into the rear view mirror before we had a chance to get a picture. Not really, we got lots of pictures. We're pretty fast ourselves. Around another bend in the road, there were a couple more and further on we saw them grazing in small groups all over. Beautiful, sleek, healthy, wild and free.

There is just something special about seeing wild horses roaming in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. And there are a lot of them. Beautiful creatures.

Then not much further on, we saw a lone buffalo munching grass. We only took about 500 pictures of him from every possible angle. Around a couple more hills, we came to a beautiful vista where we could see for miles and met a couple from Atlanta who said to continue on for a treat. We did and WOW, there were 50 or more buffalo having dinner and playing on the hillside - males, females, females with nursing calves and then a group started to move toward us. Closer and closer until we got nervous and moved down the road only to have Alan turn the truck around for a second look and they came right on the road toward us. One bull was a little too aggressive and kept advancing toward us as Alan, driving backwards the whole time, turned around again and got us out of the way. Whew!

Lots of buffalo. Big creatures. They come out on the road to poop. Big poop. I'm not kidding. As we drove around the park, we all noticed the small piles of buffalo dung on the road, everywhere. If there is that much poop on the road, how much is in the grassy areas? I'll bet not that much. Why? I watched as these dudes would hold it until they got to the pavement and then let it go. Honest. Just a personal observation.

We were heading back to our campsite and around a turn only to see another bull on the road. Alan stopped and the bull passed us in the other lane. We could have reached out and touched him! What an incredible day this has been! Disney can't even touch this. Thank you, God, for giving us this experience!

Just a walkin' down the road. He did stick to the right. He had a "Don't mess with me" look about him. Stayed in his lane all the way down the road looking for a good place to dump.
We secured the last campsite in Cottonwood Campground which suited us just fine.
Wild horses roamed the entire park. We watched one across the road from our campsite.
Day 8 Summary ~ We drove about 239 miles today which puts us at 1592 total miles into our journey.
It is 58 degrees outside at 11:00pm mountain time.

Day 9 ~ Thursday, June 11 - We were all buckled up and ready to leave the campground when I looked up and saw the magnificent black and white stallion in the middle of the campground meadow. What in the world was he doing there? Having his breakfast, of course. We had to get out and take a few more pictures of him.

Wild horse in our campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota.

Back in the truck and on the way out, we were stopped by a lone bull buffalo munching his breakfast right next to the road - so a few more pictures and then we came to the prairie dog town again. Good thing the days of film are over.

Watch out for the buffalo on the road. I shot this thru my rear view mirror so the picture is backwards. Looks like we are on the left side of the road. Trick photography.

We walked around for an hour in the small town of Medora, a quaint, touristy place at the entrance to Teddy's park. We mailed postcards (35 cents now) and did lunch at the downtown burger joint. It was a delicious burger and onion rings for a mere $12.00. Alan and I shared. We're on a fixed income you know.

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Downtown Medora, North Dakota. Nice little tourist trap with its own post office.
We love this little town with all of it's sculptures and western flare.

We jumped back onto I-94 heading west and soon we're under the big skies of Montana. 76 degrees and puffy clouds. We left I-94 and turned onto 200S. The road is straight, black-topped with lots of dips. Feels like we're in a small boat on rough water. I hope it gets better. Montana is a loooooong state.

Welcome to Montana on I-94 heading west. Wide open spaces on 200S. "Big Skies."
We love Montana!

Our excitement for the day was pulling into the gas station on fumes, literally. We filled up in Glendale and barely made it to the station in Lewistown. We are off the interstate and enjoying the countryside, but there are absolutely NO gas stations and NO cars. Well not exactly no cars; there is maybe one car coming in the opposite direction about every ten minutes. Not kidding here. Gregg made it to the entrance of the station and couldn't reach the pumps. We had to pull out the two gallons in the back of the truck to get him to the pump. We had about a half gallon. Close call.

We are spending the night in a private campground, Fort Ponderosa RV Park, just outside Armington, Montana, which is about two hours southeast of Glacier National Park, our destination for tomorrow. Lots of nice driving today thru beautiful Montana.

...and here we are side-by-side for the night at Fort Ponderosa RV Park in Montana.
Day 9 Summary ~ We drove about 390 miles today which puts us at 1986 total miles into our journey.
It is 69 degrees outside at midnight mountain time.

Day 10 ~ Friday, June 12 - Diane did the laundry this morning and then we set off for Great Falls, Montana, and Giant Springs State Park. We spent some time at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which has wonderful displays of the the two explorers' adventures.

In the park are the springs that bubble up 1800 gallons of water per SECOND and are the largest freshwater springs IN THE WORLD. Water is a constant 54 degrees - cold to the touch. It's also the site of the world's shortest river, the Roe River, 211 feet long, I think. What's really cool is that the springs give really clear, pure water that flows from the Roe River into the muddier Missouri and you can really see the separation of the waters. Very neat place!

These are the springs at Giant Springs State Park, Montana.
This is one of the many dams on the Missouri River in Giant Springs State Park.

We're heading north on US-89 to get to Glacier National Park today, if possible. It's VERY windy here and wreaking havoc with Gregg and Gales' motorhome. The scenery, however, is gorgeous and as we approach the Rockies, it keeps getting even better!

The wide open road slowly changes to a wonderful mountain view as we approach Glacier National Park, Montana. These are the Rockies.

We made it and we have campsites and it's about 8:30pm here (10:30pm at home). This is unheard of for us to arrive so late. Our sites are next to each other, there's water across the street, the restrooms are close and THERE ARE SHOWERS! This is new information. God is so good to us. His blessings just keep coming! Alan went back to West Glacier for ice as there are no electric hook-ups here. The stores were all closed. I have dinner on the stove - chicken, hash browns and green beans. We're good for another night. Great sleeping weather.

Day 10 Summary ~ We drove about 244 miles today which puts us at 2230 total miles into our journey.
It is 53 degrees outside at midnight mountain time.

Day 11 ~ Saturday, June 13 - We are in Fish Creek Campground, Loop A, in Glacier National Park. We find out that Loop A was only good for one night for late arrivals (us) and all the campsites in this loop are Reserve Only. So we moved to Loop B where we are booked in for two more days. Great campground. The comfort station (that's what Disney calls them) is right across the road. As in most National Parks' campgrounds, there is only cold running water and electric for a shaver or hair dryer in these small buildings. Yes, they do have flush toilets.

Our campsites in Fish Creek Campground, Loop B. Perfect!
Here's an update added in 2018: Fish Creek Campground was "reservation only" in the summer of 2017. We stayed at Apgar which is 100% first come first served (camped).

We went for a short drive to tiny West Glacier located just outside the entrance to the park on the west side, of course. The Alberta Visitor Center was a great source of information for our upcoming trip into Canada. The gift shops took our money and other travelers shared some stories of their adventures. We keep finding others who are on their way to Alaska. We're not the only crazy people in the lower 48.

A shot of Lake McDonald from Apgar where there are gift shops galore.
...and here we are on the south shore of Lake McDonald in Apgar.
There's the mountains of Alaska in the background. Well, maybe not.

So we killed so much time fartin' around, that the day was shot and so we returned to the campground for late dinner, Jack Daniels, a walk around the loop, talk with other campers, update the travel log and go to bed. Tomorrow will be a very busy day.

Day 11 Summary ~ We drove about 10 miles today which puts us at 2240 total miles into our journey.
It is 50 degrees outside at 11:00pm mountain time.
This is the end of Week 2 ~ Tomorrow is Sunday and start of a new week, so you'll need to Click Here to Go to Week 3