Back to the city life…

CAMPGROUND: KOA Sioux Falls. Electricity and water at sites. Dump station. Nice showers. Laundry. Swimming pool. $53/night (bah, humbug). 3 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in SE part of state
WEATHER: Partly sunny. Light rain in PM. High 74

This was probably our shortest drive between campgrounds – about 10 miles from last night’s Harvest Host winery to here. This is the first KOA we have stayed in our last 6 years on the road. We just do not see the appeal, unless you are a family with kids wanting a pool and playground. It has no character, is next to a noisy interstate, and is EXPENSIVE! Being Labor Day weekend and since we wanted to be in the Sioux Falls area, it was our only choice. Enough complaints. It is a good location, and I will take advantage of its amenities – showers, laundry, and free wifi.

There was even going to be a $10 charge for early check-in, so not wanting to waste $10, we cooled our jets at the Camping World store next door. ($10 charge would have been cheaper!!!)

We got settled in. The weather forecast is iffy for the weekend, so we thought we should do outdoor things today.

First stop was Dakota Post, a mail-forwarding service for about a million people like us. We have been using this company, very happily, since 2013. Each month, we email them to tell them where to send this month’s mail. We picked up our August mail at the office…

We found the city’s Japanese garden and strolled around…

From there, we drove downtown to the historic district where lots of old warehouses have been rehabbed into restaurants, shops, bars. Of course, we found a microbrewery. The people were very friendly.

Then, to Falls Park, the city’s most famous feature. It is quite spectacular.

Back at the campground, we caught up with PBS news and went through our mail. (We don’t receive much, but it is always fun to get our monthly shipment)

DINNER: Pita sandwiches. I sauteed chicken breast, green pepper, onion, garlic, and Greek herbs and stuffed into pita pockets. Side was a big serving of patty-pan squash (compliments of the Harvest Host winery) sauteed with onions and mushrooms. Served with cucumbers marinated in Greek yogurt with lemon juice. Very Mediterranean!

More South Dakota wine

CAMPGROUND: Another Harvest Host site. Wilde Prairie Winery. Century-old barn converted to a winery. Owners live in old farmhouse on property, too. Nice graveled area to park. Porta-potty. Free. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in SE part of state
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 73

We had a short drive today, 100 miles, so we had a relaxing morning at the Brookings Municipal Campground. The place was almost empty. Only a RPod and us. The RPod is almost identical to the one owned by our friends Tony and Jenny in Nova Scotia. Wish they were here!

Our destination was this winery, and we didn’t want to arrive too early. We stopped along the way for lunch and to use wifi.

The hosts/owners greeted us as we entered the driveway, and directed us to park in front of an antique tractor.

We got settled in and roamed around the farm

They grow all their grapes. They also make fruit wines, consequently there was a lot of rhubarb.

The owner/winemaker gave us a tour of his little winery located under the barn. Then, we went upstairs to the main barn area for a tasting and to look at the artwork the owner’s wife had painted.

Most of the wines were sweet, but we found one dry red one. Most cold-weather grapes for wine-making were developed by the University of Minnesota. We learned about these when we lived there.

We took our drinks (and some local cheese curds we bought at the winery) to a picnic table and enjoyed Happy Hour in the beautiful weather.

DINNER: Tacos. I made them with the hamburger George grilled last night, plus tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cheese, and baby spinach. Side was more of that delicious sweet corn.

BOOK: I finished another one in the British detective series by Peter Robinson — “Hanging Valley”. I like the series as it takes place in the Yorkshire Dales, where we did a housesitting assignment.

Little House on the Prairie

CAMPGROUND: Brookings Municipal Park. Lovely city park. About 25 sites plus tent area. Level, paved sites with electricity. Water and dump station available. Shade trees. Brand-new bathrooms & showers. Nice grills and picnic tables. $25/night. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Brookings, South Dakota – in east central part of state
WEATHER: Perfect. No more high winds. Sunny, high 75

DeSmet, South Dakota was the final home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “‘Little House” books. I read all of the series as a kid, and read them to our daughters when they were little. The Ingalls family moved around a lot. They lived here in DeSmet when Laura was about 15.

This is how they travelled here from Wisconsin.

This is the school that Laura and her sister attended.

Then, Laura at age 15, taught at this school

After Laura married Almanzo Wilder, Ma and Pa Ingalls moved to this house which Pa built himself.

The whole town gets into this

While we strolled around the town of DeSmet, looking at all the Laura Ingalls Wilder buildings, we heard lots of cicadas. This one was on a porch, and laid an egg sack right before our eyes.

When we left DeSmet, our selection of highways was limited, as several roads are closed due to flooding. We went east, and stumbled upon a nice winery. The wines weren’t great, but the winemaker was a nice guy. He told us about a municipal campground in the nearby town of Brookings, so off we went.

In the late afternoon, we walked into town, enjoying perfect weather. This is a college town, and we watched students moving in. We found not one, but two brewpubs in town.

People were really friendly in both. George befriended this farmer who gave us 6 ears of sweet corn picked this morning.

Taking advantage of a nice grill and free firewood, George cooked up a bunch of meat. I will freeze a lot of it for future meals.

DINNER: Beef and vegetable shish-kabobs. Served with rice and salad. And – some very fresh corn on the cob. Very good

Flood zone!

CAMPGROUND: Spot RV Park. Full hook-ups. Run down. About 20 sites. Horrible bathrooms. Cable. $25/night. 1 star out of 5.
LOCATION: DeSmet, South Dakota, in north central part of state
WEATHER: Cloudy, some rain. High 62. REALLY windy

The farm at the Harvest Host winery was lovely in the morning. It was so peaceful. Since we had electricity there, I poached an egg in the microwave and made toast.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: As I have said before, we can only carry a limited amount of cookware and utensils. George picked this microwave egg poacher up at a garage sale for 25 cents years ago. I never used it when we lived in a house, but it has come in very handy while traveling.

You just put a tiny bit of butter in the bottom, crack the egg into it, and poke the yolk. Microwave 30-45 seconds. We like it soft over a piece of toast. The best part is the easy clean-up.

After breakfast, we packed up and headed south. We drove on the interstate from Fargo south. We have never been on an interstate with so few services – hundred+ miles between gas stations and food options. We crossed over the North Dakota/South Dakota line, and finally found a rest stop with (bathrooms!) and travel information. The wind was really gusty, with a strong cross-wind from the west, buffeting the trailer quite a bit.

We decided to head to DeSmet, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder of “Home on the Prairie” fame. The brochure said the town has a nice municipal campground.

On our way, we stopped at a Hy-Vee and stocked up the pantry and refrigerator. It was pretty empty due to our Canada trip.

In DeSmet, we found the municipal park, but no evidence of camping opportunities. The brochure must have been outdated. I saw a sign for a state park not far away, so we headed there. The first worrisome sign said “Water on Road”.

The wind was so strong that it had blown water across the road between two lakes. We kept on going, passing a commercial campground whose road was completely under water.

There was no one at the state park entrance, just instructions on self-registration. We decided to check out the sites before paying. We drove about a mile into the park, until we saw that the road was mostly under water. We didn’t want to risk it, and it looked miserable beyond.

There was no place to turn around, so George had to back up the whole way (with the trailer attached). He did a good job, but it was tricky.

We were relieved to get back to the highway. I pulled out the DeSmet brochure and read that the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead had camping. So, we started driving there on a 2-mile bumpy gravel road. We were following a pick-up truck that obviously started having problems with the very bumpy road, so we decided to turn around. What to do? By this time, it was getting late, so we resigned ourselves to staying at this place which we had passed earlier with the comment “That is a pretty dumpy place”. Oh well.

We have cable TV, so happily found some PBS to catch up with news.

DINNER: George grilled some hamburgers – patties with garlic, mushrooms, and cheese. Sides were stir-fried vegetables with some nice asparagus, and salad which included some of the greens we picked up at the Harvest Host winery.

Another Harvest Host success

CAMPGROUND: Not a campground – another Harvest Host site – 4e Winery. We were the only guests. Huge gravel parking lot. Hooked up to electricity. Water available. Super quiet. Beautiful, century-old barn and farm. Very, very kind hosts. 5 stars out of 5!
LOCATION: Near Fargo, North Dakota
WEATHER: Rain most of the day until evening

We were really happy to be reunited with our Airstream (we really need to come up with a name for the gal!). We picked her up in the Winnipeg Airport hotel park & stay lot.

Our traveling buddies Tony and Jenny happened to be camping outside of Winnipeg, where we camped together about 3 months ago. We met them this morning literally on the road – on the highway near that same RV park. We had a good chat, catching up with each other, then they headed east, back toward their home in Nova Scotia, and we headed south, sort of on our way back to Texas.

US Immigration was easy but very slow – about an hour waiting in line. Then, we drove through lots of North Dakota farmland. It is sad – they have had too much rain and the fields are standing in water with many crops looking dead or dying. We drove through torrential rain for several hours.

We found our night’s stay at another Harvest Host location. They just get better and better! We had called again, and the owners said that they are closed on Mondays, but we could stay anyway. There was a chance that the husband, the winemaker, would be there.

We pulled in, down a lovely lane, flanked by grapevines, to the winery and farm area.

Sure enough, he was working on the farm and welcomed us. He opened up the winery and gave us a tasting. We tasted all of the dry wines he had, and bought a bottle of red and white. They were quite good.

We explored the century-old farm.

We asked the owner about a nearby grocery store, as we were out of fresh vegetables. He said….”Even better, I will pick something for you from the garden”, and he brought us some green pepper, onions, jalapenos, summer squash, and patty pan squash. Can you believe it?

After working for awhile, the winemaker owner returned to Fargo, where he is a university chemistry professor. Tomorrow is his first day of classes.

We made ourselves at home, at his urging, and sat on the upstairs deck overlooking the back of the winery/farm.

Their rescued cat Dark Currant took a shining to George

DINNER: The very last of the fresh trout George caught a few weeks ago. I had made some fish patties (like salmon burgers) and we did those on the gas grill. Since we have electricity here, I toasted some buns. Side was a big stir-fry of all the veg from the farm

After dinner, it rained a bit more, and then a faint rainbow appeared to say goodnight.

We have pretty good TV reception, and watched reruns of “All in the Family”. Cool!

Winding down the anniversary party

LOCATION: Winnipeg, Alberta

WEATHER: Overcast. High 63

My brother Keith and I, along with our spouses, bought my aunt and uncle a case of wine for their anniversary. I gave it to them today, and they were very pleased….

We had brunch at my cousin’s house. It was another huge spread. A cousin from Seattle brought some lovely smoked salmon from Alaska, from a fisherman friend. It was yummy.

Then, to the Grande Prairie Airport, and from there to Edmonton. We had another 2-hour layover, so hit the Belgian Beer Bar in the airport again. They pair all of their beers with special glasses, just like they do in Belgium.

From Edmonton, we flew to Winnipeg and are spending the night at the airport hotel. We were happy and relieved to see the Airstream safe and sound in the parking lot.

Tomorrow, back to “normal” life on a different road….

A 60th wedding anniversary party

LOCATION: At my aunt and uncle’s house in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 70

Today was party day – to celebrate my Uncle Leo and Aunt Martha’s 60th anniversary. I was one of the flower girls at the wedding 60 years ago. (I am the smallest girl in this photo.) My dad was the best man, and he is the shortest man in the photo.

We started the day by running some errands – buying gifts and picking up some last-minute food items for the party.

The party was held at my cousin Jarvis’s house in their swimming pool/entertainment area…a perfect place to accomodate a large party.

Jarvis’s wife did all the cooking and put on a huge spread.

There was a great turn-out – about 90 guests. Thank goodness the weather was nice, as some people spilled out onto the patio to eat.

Midway through the party, there was a little ceremony. Some people sang and told stories. Uncle Leo and Aunt Martha spoke, and did a little dance. Quite nice!

There was a toast and cake to share.

After the guests left, my cousin made prime rib for a very nice dinner for the family.

We enjoyed one of the firepits after dinner.

60th Anniversary Pre-Party

LOCATION: Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada – about 350 miles NW of Edmonton

WEATHER: Beautiful. High 70

We had to get up at 4:00 AM at the airport hotel to take the shuttle to the airport. We flew Air Canada to Edmonton, then up to Grande Prairie. There was a 2-hour delay in Edmonton, so George found the airport’s Belgian Beer Bar to kill the time.

We are being “billeted” at my aunt and uncle’s spunky 95-year-old neighbor’s house. She is amazing – zips around on her golf cart and proudly mows her large yard, which is almost a daily task.

My Uncle Leo and George enjoyed a beer on the patio.

Then, we went to my cousin’s house, just down the lane, where the party will be held tomorrow. This evening, it was a dinner party for the family. They have a beautiful pool/entertainment area and a huge backyard.

Here is more family enjoying the beautiful outdoor kitchen area.

We enjoyed drinks outside, then dinner in the swimming pool area. Dinner was gourmet macaroni and cheese, a mushroom/zucchini/tomato casserole, and mixed sausages.

After dinner, we watched old home movies on an ancient 8mm projector. My brother and I (at age 10 and 7) featured in one of them. Fun!

Back to Canada

CAMPGROUND: Not! Winnipeg Best Western Hotel

LOCATION: Winnipeg, Manitoba airport

WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 72

We left Devil’s Lake, North Dakota without a lot of rush, and headed toward Winnipeg. It was a 4-hour drive.

Unlike the US/Mexico border, this border already has a wall…..:-)

Immigration was much easier this time, probably because we crossed in a small town, on a rural highway. The only question is why we were bringing the Airstream if we planned to fly. We explained that there were no good flights from a US location going to Grande Prairie, Alberta, so we arranged to fly out of Winnipeg. We are hauling the Airstream, as when we return in a few days we will be going east and south, and don’t want to backtrack.

The landscape in southern Manitoba looks a lot like North Dakota – wheat and hay fields everywhere. The farmers were busy with their huge machinery harvesting their crops.

We arrived at our hotel and parked the Airstream in the Park & Stay lot. Sure hope it will be safe while we are gone! Here is the view from our hotel room…

We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant – Chicken wings, not too special. An early night as we have to get up at 4:00 AM tomorrow for our flight.

Lots of oil fields!

CAMPGROUND: Grahams Island State Park. On Devil’s Lake. Appears to be brand new or newly renovated. Big – 200 sites. Choice of full hook-ups or electricity/water. Dump station. Visitors’ Center. Bait shop and convenience store. Big boat launch area. Spacious sites, mostly pull-through. Fire pit and picnic table. $25/night plus $7/day pass – unless you have annual one. Wifi at the Visitors Center. Limited TV reception. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: In central North Dakota
WEATHER: Perfect again. Sunny. High 73

We were serenaded during the night by coyotes. Cool!

As we were driving out of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, this bison trotted right beside us, grunting his fond farewell.

We drove about 5 hours today, the longest trip we have had for awhile. We are on our way to Winnipeg, Manitoba. We are leaving the Air Stream at an airport hotel and are flying up to Grande Prairie, Alberta for a few days to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 60th anniversary with them.

We drove by lots and lots of oil fields. Not only are they massive, but their equipment is huge, and many of them have little villages of RVs and temporary portable housing for their employees.

Here we are at the geographical center of North America – Rugby, North Dakota. It is halfway each way – north/south and east/west. The flags of the 3 countries – Canada, USA, and Mexico are proudly flying.

We arrived at our campground in mid-afternoon, and were astounded that almost no one else is here. We have the huge place almost to ourselves. Its main attraction is the lake – a fisherman’s delight, supposedly. They told us that it is completely full each weekend. Glad we are here mid-week.

Since we have been boondocking for the last 4 nights (no electricity, water, showers), the first thing I did was to take a long, hot shower. Boy did it feel good! It feels like we are in luxury here.

I got caught up on internet business while George played with the TV. We get 4 channels – all PBS!!!! So, we watched the news a bit, until we became depressed and sickened.

DINNER: This is the last meal before the Air Stream sits by itself in the airport parking lot, so I am trying to use up everything in the refrigerator, just in case the refrig goes off. So, leftover supreme tonight was on the menu. George toasted the last of the flatbreads. I spread on the last dab of leftover pasta sauce and cream cheese for the base. I cooked up the last of some pepperoni, artichoke hearts, red onion, and mushrooms for the topping. Then, I topped it off with the last of the mozarella cheese, and zapped it in the microwave to melt. I must say that it turned out very well. Side was the last of a tomato and lettuce. (Does this have a common theme???)