Back on hiking trails!

LOCATION:  2nd night in Garretson, SD near Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 86

Time for a hike!  We donned tennis shoes (the first time I have worn anything but sandals in about 6 months!)  grabbed our hiking sticks, and we were off.  The park has some great trails, and it was not too hot.  (Still early AM). 

Split Rock River runs through the park.  You can see how it got its name…

We had to crawl over a lot of rocks so we got some good exercise.  The path was lined with tiger lily plants…

The trail is called the King and Queen Trail because of these rock formations…

There were some awesome views. On the weekend, we saw swimmers down below.  Today was quiet. 

After cooling off and cleaning up, we drove into Sioux Falls, about 20 miles away.  We use a mail-forwarding service based in Sioux Falls, and had arranged to pick up our June mail package, rather than having it sent out to us.  We followed their strict Covid-19 protocol.  We pulled up in the designated place in front of their building, called to announce our arrival, wore our masks, and showed our ID to the masked staff person who brought our mail packet to our car.  Very interesting.

Sioux Falls is full of brewpubs, many of which we visited last time we were here.  Now, however, many are closed.  We went to Granite City Brewery, a small chain, and it did not disappoint.  It was not too crowded and the servers wore masks.  Seemed pretty safe.  We had a nice, light lunch with some good beers.

Back at the campground, George made another one of his great fires.  He has created a new pattern laying the wood a certain way, stuffing the center with my firestarters, and paper. 

DINNER:  A nod to the Midwest:  Rib-eye steak over the campfire, baked potato wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked over the fire, sauted bok choy (OK that is not midwestern), and the last of our morels, sauted in a butter sauce.  A very nice Cabernet Sauvignon to pair it with.  Glamping! 

Almost ran out of gas….again!

Almost ran out of gas!

LOCATION:  Garretson, South Dakota – right outside Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park.  Nice and shady.  We are right by a stream.  Good bathrooms.  Electricity at site.  Central water.  Dump station in town.  Paved, level sites.  Picnic table and fire ring.  $25/night plus SD Annual pass.
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  Not as hot.  High 88
DRIVE:  3 hours

We piddled around last night’s campground this morning.  George cannot stand still…..he is always working on something.  Here he is tightening a screw on the door….

And later, working on the condensation in the back-up camera…..

We learned that it is bow-and-arrow season for fishing paddlefish here.  This group of young adults were spearing them right in front of our campsite.

We packed up from Campsite #1.  This has been a great campground for us.

We stopped at the dump station which was near the fish-cleaning station.  We watched a girl and her father clean this huge paddlefish which she had speared….

We were low on gas, but thought it would be cheaper once we got to the Interstate.  It was only 40 miles, and we had about that much in our tank left.  Then, with only about 5 miles to go, the road ended with road construction and bridge work.  Detour…..about 20 miles out in the middle of nowhere.   I was really sweating it.  Our gauge no longer read the number of miles left in the tank –  just flashed LOW LOW LOW.  Then, we got to the Interstate.  Hallelulah!  But – no gas at this exit/entrance!!!!  We limped 5 more miles on the Interstate to an exit with gas.  Whew!  That was a close one!

We got set up in this nice state park.  It will be fun to explore.  We drove in to Garretson, a small town where Jesse James hid after robbing a bank in Minnesota.  We checked out one of the wineries nearby…

DINNER:  Panini.  When shopping yesterday, I bought a mini-baguette, so wanted to use it before it hardened.  Just grilled it on my George Foreman grill with deli turkey and cheese.  Side salad. 

A bit of Key West in Nebraska!

LOCATION:  Near Yankton, South Dakota (but across the river in Nebraska)
CAMPGROUND:   2nd night at Nebraska Tailways Campground in Lewis and Clark Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  Sunny.  High 89

We have been in the boonies for awhile, and we were looking forward to going into Yankton for wifi and supplies.  First, we found the Visitors’ Center.  It was closed, but we pulled up their so-so internet from the parking lot.  We researched, and found a microbrewery in downtown Yankton, so we headed there….

Thankfully, the microbrewery had good internet and I was able to post 3 blogs.  I caught up on emails and Facebook posts….while enjoying a nice IPA.  George liked his stout. 

We shopped at the Hy-Vee supermarket – the chain that we used while living in Minnesota.  We stocked up on perishables, which we were mostly out of….especially fruit and veg.  Back at the campground, we put away all of our groceries.  This is the view of our purchases from the inside of Joy, our Airstream.  You can see the Missouri River through the front window….

Then, we took off to explore the area.  The dam has created a 31,000 acre lake.  We drove around country roads seeing glimpses of the lake from hilltops.  Everything is green and lush.  We stopped at a bar/restaurant next to our campground… convenient is that?  It is called the Dam Fish Bar.  Having missed lunch, George ordered some walleye….

After placing your order, you wait until they call out your name, something like this…”George–  your dam order is ready to pick up” 

The vibe was pure Key West.  We sat outside (in the shade) and sipped gin and tonics while George ate his late lunch. 

It really felt like a beach bar, including a lot of sunburned customers

At our campsite, once it cooled down, George made a campfire and grilled our dinner.

DINNER:  Grilled rotisserie chicken.  We like to buy this, then crisp up the legs and wings over the fire.

(We cut up the chicken, and froze the breast and other big pieces, which will be used for future dinners.  I boiled up the bones and skin for chicken broth, for tomorrow morning’s grits.)  

Hy-Vee displayed some beautiful, huge red bell peppers which I couldn’t resist.  I had George char them over the fire, then I removed the black skin and sauteed them up with onions and mushrooms for a side dish.  We also shared a cob of fresh corn.  I used a recipe that I had seen that looked good.. Spread some butter, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese on the corn, then wrap in up in aluminum foil.    Cook just a few minutes.  Yes – it really was good – much better than boiling.  I imagine you could do the same thing in an oven. 

From Nebraska’s “coast” to “coast”

From Nebraska’s “coast” to “coast”

LOCATION:  Near Yankton, South Dakota, but on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River
CAMPGROUND:  Nebraska Tailwaters Army Corps of Engineers Campground, part of the Lewis and Clark Lake on the Missouri River. Waterfront.   50-amp.  Paved, level sites with lots of nice shade.   Water and dump station.  Excellent bathrooms.  $8/night with senior pass!  5 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 88
DRIVE:  6 steady hours

We left Lake Harlan, on Nebraska’s far south border shared with Kansas, and drove due north.  We were mostly on secondary roads, many of which were quite bumpy.  We had 30 miles to endure on Interstate 80.  I thought in the middle of Nebraska that the traffic wouldn’t be too bad, but I was quite wrong.  Lots of semi-trucks, huge RVs, and cars, all going about 80 mph.  It was a relief to get off again.

The landscape is changing – green fields of corn and soybeans.  Rolling hills, huge farms, and smelly feedlots. 

We drove through the town where Johnny Carson grew up, and drove on Johnny Carson Boulevard!

The drive was about the longest we have had on this trip.  We cut through the entire state of Nebraska, as we are now on Nebraska’s northern border with South Dakota border ….We can see it directly in front of us, from our campsite right on the Missouri River. 

This Facebook memory photo popped up today from one year ago.  We were traveling with our Nova Scotia camping buddies.  This was taken in Grasslands National Park where we had “cowboy coffee” with the rangers.  We had planned to travel with these friends this year again, but alas, the pandemic shut down those plans.

DINNER:  Ramen.  I used a package of instant ramen noodles and jazzed it up with big chunks of chicken thighs, canned vegetables (as my fresh supply has run out),  ginger, sesame oil, onions, and mushrooms.  Quite good, and super easy!

A Day on the Lake!

LOCATION:  2nd night at Republican City, Nebraska
CAMPGROUND:  Hunter Grove Campground in Lake Harlan Army Corps of Engineers Rec Area
WEATHER:  Windy.  High 90

We heard lots of our fishermen neighbors get up early to get on the lake.  We dawdled around, then went to a marina to rent a pontoon for the afternoon.   George got a Nebraska one-day fishing license so he could fish.  I packed a picnic lunch and some snacks.  Off we went!

We had the lake practically to ourselves.  Again, it will get crazy busy this weekend.  We puttered around on the lake, stopping at different spots to fish…

Pretty quiet in the fishing department.  Then….he caught something……a stick!

The wind made fishing conditions less than perfect, but the breeze felt good on our hot bodies.  Thankfully, we had an awning on the pontoon to shade us.  When we got really hot, we climbed down the ladder into the lake.  Aaahhh….

Finally, he caught a fish – a drum.  That will be dinner! 

I steered the boat while he continued to fish.  He “caught” a rock.  After untangling, we called it a day. 

Back at the campground, George cleaned the fish in the super nice fish-cleaning station.  I’m afraid the remaining fish filet was pretty tiny.

DINNER:  I rolled the fish in a flour/mashed saltine/pepper mix and George fried it in the iron skillet over the campfire.  Since there wasn’t much fish, I warmed up last night’s leftover rice and added onion and mushrooms to it, as a side.  The fish had a very good flavor.

BOOK:  “The Big, Bad Wolf” by James Patterson.  This was a book I picked up somewhere, while waiting on a good e-book to become available.  FBI agent going after a bad guy.  3 stars out of 5.

A nice day on the lake!

Toto….we aren’t in Kansas anymore!

LOCATION:  Republican City, Nebraska – in south central part of state
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 95
CAMPGROUND:  Hunter Grove Campground, part of Harlan Lake Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.  On a lake – of which we have a distant view.  Graveled sites with electricity, picnic table, and firepit.    Water and dump station nearby.  Decent bathrooms.  Mostly fishermen here.  $12/night with Senior Pass.  4 stars out of 5
DRIVE:  3 easy hours

At the Harvest Host winery (without electricity) last night, we slept with all the windows open.  It cooled down beautifully, and we actually got a little chilly! 

We awoke to a cacophony of sounds – the donkey braying, sheep bleating, pheasants honking, and the bullfrogs croaking.  Just wonderful!

The farmer/owner/winemaker came by to feed the animals.

He told us that the sheep are only a week old.  So cute…

Our drive today was due north out of Kansas and into Nebraska, through farmland.  We are starting to see more corn now.  We passed a prison center out in the middle of nowhere.  There was a highway sign saying “Hitchhikers may be escaping prisoners”.  We didn’t see any, so weren’t tempted to pick up anyone. 

Harlan Lake is a huge recreation center.  There are 6 different campgrounds around the lake – several  ACOE ones plus two private ones with marinas.  Since we are here mid-week, it is nice and quiet.  I imagine it will fill up with boaters this weekend. 

Republican City is our nearest town.  We drove around the lake and in to the town.

We thought this is ironic….with a name like Republican City – our TV reception is limited….no FOX but 4,  count them 4,  PBS stations!!

We found a nice beach and swam a bit.  We stopped at a marina to see about renting a pontoon.  We hope to do that tomorrow.

DINNER:  George made a campfire and grilled some shrimp and sausage. I added the shrimp and sausage to some yellow rice to make a kind of gumbo.    Side was peas. 

Traveling with Joy…..and wine!

LOCATION:  WaKenney, Kansas – in north central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Shiloh Winery Harvest Host. Lovely setting.  Wine-tasting room, covered patio, wedding/event center, on owners’ farm…..remote – 6 miles on a graveled road.
WEATHER:  Cooler.   High 88.  Very pleasant in evening.
DRIVE:  6 hours, due north

We packed up at Lake Canton and hit the road.  The drive was fairly boring…on secondary roads passing lots of wheat and hay fields.  Hardly any traffic.  We passed several huge feed lots.  George rolled down the window to take this photo, and it took about an hour to get the horrible smell out of the truck afterwards!

We arrived at this winery about 3:00 and the owners were out..  We made ourselves at home, checking out the animals – sheep, cats, and a donkey….


Once the owner arrived, he gave us a wine tasting in a cute building that used to be a chicken coop.

We learned that this is one of the original Harvest Host locations, with the HH company owner living nearby.  After tasting (and buying) some wine, the owner gave us a tour of the farm.  This building, a barn from the 1800s has been converted to a lovely wedding/event center that is quite popular. 

We had the evening to ourselves, with a strong wifi signal and a pleasant breeze blowing through the patio.

We love Harvest Hosts, but I hesitate to use them during the hot summer months, as there usually is no electricity (aka air-conditioning).  However, the evening turned cool and we opened up all the windows and Joy cooled off very nicely.


DINNER:  George grilled chicken in BBQ sauce on our gas grill, along with hash brown potatoes.  Other sides were green beans and a salad.  We ate about 8:30, when it was still quite light out.

Quiet day on the lake..

LOCATION:  Lake Canton, Oklahoma
CAMPGROUND:  3rd night at Canadian Campground; Lake Canton ACOE
WEATHER:  A bit cooler.  Mostly sunny.  High 89

We dodged the bullet with last night’s storm.  Our neighbors, who had driven home late last night, returned to pick up their camper.  They said just a few miles from here were severe storms, 60 mph and some tornado spouts.  George put the awnings back out this morning….

After some walks around the campground and a yoga session, we got ourselves ready to go exploring.  We drove to a town about 20 miles away in search of wifi.  No restaurants or coffee shops in this sad little town.  We were starting to give up when I spotted a Library sign among all of the boarded-up downtown buildings.

We just love small town libraries.  Typical of today, we were the only customers.  We, along with the librarian, all had our masks donned.  She was thrilled to have visitors.  She and George chatted up a storm (both craving conversation, I think) while I did internet stuff.

On our drive back,  we drove by a lot of wind generator farms.  We took this artsy-fartsy photo contrasting an old wind mill with today’s version.

Then we stopped at the Native American casino, the most prosperous business around here.  They had donated most of the monetary prizes at the fishing tournament.  The Covid-19 precautions were pretty amazing.  Only one entrance was being used, and that was manned by a guard.  She instructed us to wear our face masks at all times, and had us use the hand sanitizer foam.  Then, she took our temperatures.  Having passed that test, we were given wristbands showing we are healthy.  I watched the staff members busily cleaning all the slot machines non-stop.

We had vague ideas of eating at the casino, but it was mostly Indian fry bread.  We tried that once in New Mexico – a kind of thick tortilla deep-fried and dripping with grease.  Not our cup of tea, so we passed.

We just can’t get over the difference between today’s quiet and the craziness of the weekend.  We had spotted a nice-looking swimming beach on Sunday, but it was packed with people.  Today, we went and had the cove to ourselves!

This is the view from our campground of the dam and lake.  Yesterday, it was wall-to-wall boats.  Today, calm….

DINNER:  Leftover green chili stew (from our freezer in Retama).  Lettuce and tomato salad on the side. 

We have electricity here, but poor TV reception, so we have been watching DVDs in the evening.  Tonight’s was the biography of Howard Hughes

BOOK:  I finished “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  It was popular about 10 years ago, and they made a movie with it.  It is a true story of a divorced, depressed woman who spends a year in Italy (eating), India (praying), and in Indonesia (loving).  4 stars out of 5. 

Walleye Rodeo!

LOCATION:  2nd night in Canton, OK
CAMPGROUND:   Canadian Campground, part of Lake Canton ACOE
WEATHER:  Rain overnight last night; mostly sunny.  High 90. Then….STORM

Even though every campsite is occupied, people were not noisy during the night. 

Before life on the road, when we were working, we longed for the weekends.  Now that we are retired,  we almost dread weekends….campgrounds are full of children frolicking around and their (often) partying parents.  Campgrounds just take on a different vibe on weekends and holidays.

Due to the fishing tournament, every site here is jammed with a boat, RV, and at least 2 pick-up trucks.  The boats vary.  There are ski boats, fishing boats, pontoons, and jet skis.  Toys, toys, toys.  We walked around both of the campground loops, amazed at all the “stuff”.  We are lucky to be in the loop with the shade trees.

We attended the weigh-in ceremony in the afternoon, the culmination of 3 days of fishing.  There are lots of prizes – trophies, fishing gear, and big checks – up to $1000!

First, there were the children’s prizes.  Cute….

Then, prizes for the biggest fish, biggest overall weight, and for biggest fish based on type.  We were surprised that walleyes live this far south;  we thought they were a Northern fish. 

I’m afraid people are not social distancing here at all.  Only one person (the park ranger) was wearing a mask.  People were hugging each other, shaking hands, and standing close to each other.  We tried to keep our distance.

After the weigh-in, people starting leaving.  By late afternoon, the campground was almost deserted.  What a difference!  We have Trump-loving neighbors who are still here.  They are proudly displaying their Trump 2020 flag. 

The wildlife around here is interesting.  There are several prairie dog towns around us and it is fun to watch them run around and then pop down in their holes.  We also saw a roadrunner and turtle.  Here is a little prairie dog….

DINNER:  Seafood pasta and broccoli.  To make the pasta, I sauteed green onion and garlic, then fake crab meat chunks.  Then, I added the juice of one lime and cooked some more.  I added cooked linguine, a dollop of cream cheese, and capers.  The melted cream cheese made a nice creamy sauce.  We paired it with a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  I bet we were the only ones drinking a sauvignon blanc in the whole campground…..Based on the cans we see strewn around, most everyone is a Bud Light drinker!

NEWSFLASH:  At about 8:30, there was a loud pounding on our door.  It was the Sherriff warning us of an approaching storm with a possible tornado.  Winds of  60-80 mph were predicted.  We took down the awnings.  Other campers brought in all their “stuff” like grills and toys.  A few of the remaining campers left, leaving us almost the only ones here.  One neighbor told me he was leaving, as he lives only 10 miles from  here, but told me about some restrooms near us that are tornado shelters, if we need them.  Yikes!   At about 10:00, the storm did hit.  Lots of rain and wind, but it was not as severe as they had predicted.  We dodged that bullet!

900 miles and we are finally out of Texas!

LOCATION:  Canton, Oklahoma, in north central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Canadian Campground, part of Lake Canton Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.  Water and electricity.  Dump station.  Long, level, gravelled site with picnic table, fire pit, and stand-up grill.  Decent, not great, bathrooms.  $12/night with Senior Pass.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Rain to start, then mostly sunny.  High 90. 
DRIVE:  Easy 5 hours with some detours

We got an early start in Wichita Falls, as the sky was looking very dark, and we didn’t want to be out in the rain preparing to take off.  We said a last good-bye to this park, which has some kitchy decor….

After about an hour’s drive, we crossed in to Oklahoma. 

Our first stop was Fort Sill in Lawton.  George’s father was stationed here at this big Army base for basic training.  The family joined him here when George was about 8 years old.  After about 6 months, they all went to Japan where his father was a physician in an Army hospital taking care of Korean War soldiers. 

The landscape here is mostly prairie.  Then, strangely enough, a small mountain range appears out of nowhere.  It is called the Wichita Mountains.

On our way there, we drove through a little village that proclaims to be the “cutest cobblestone town in Oklahoma”.  All of the houses are built with cobblestones.  Very strange. 

George remembers coming out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge as a kid.  They fished and picnicked here as a family. 

In the refuge is a religious attraction made up of rocks.  It hosts a big Easter pageant annually.  Someone worked hard on building this…

As we drove around, we did see free-range bison (buffalo) and long-horn cattle.  This long-horn kindly mosied off the road as we approached….

The scenery was really pretty, and we had to remind ourselves that we are in Oklahoma

The town of Canton was having a festival.  BBQ, funnel cake, and hot dog stands lined the streets, along with people selling local crafts.  We saw signs for the Walleye Rodeo.  When we got to the park, about 2 miles out of town, the registration clerk told us that this weekend is a huge walleye fishing tournament.  The campground was packed. 

The campground is right on the lake.  Our site isn’t right on the lake, but we can see it from our Airstream.  The weigh-in ceremony for the fishing tournament is tomorrow, so we expect  the campground to clear out then.  (We hope). 

George got a fire going, using the fire starters I had made (toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint and coated with Vaseline) and wood George had collected from Retama Village construction sites.  It all worked well!

DINNER:  Shrimp tacos.  I had George grill the shrimp and green onions.  He charred the tortillas for just a minute.   Then, I assembled the tacos adding diced tomatoes, cheese, salsa, and red onion.  Side was red beans and rice.