A Travellerspoint blog

Enchanted HighwayTurtle River State Park, Grand Forks

Giant metal sculptures, Great state park washrooms, hiking, birds, beer, long-ish drive to Duluth

overcast 17 °C

Sep 7 to Sep 13 Days 108 to 114

Enchanted Highway, Bismarck, Turtle River State Park, the drive to Duluth

Distance traveled 1,000 km towing, 150 local travel, trip total 17,500 kilometers

Gas prices $3.599/gal, converts to $1.315/l in North Dakota and Minnesota

Sep 7

When the last blog was posted it was mid-afternoon on the 7th, the heat was climbing to 42 C and we were melting. It stayed hot over night. We endured it, slept with just a sheet covering us. It seems the last day of the heat wave was the hottest of them all.

For diversion, we watched a DVD: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. By the time that ended it was just cool enough to sleep.

Sep 8

By 7:30am the heat wave was at an end. A cold front blew in from the north and finally brought a change. Gusty wind threatened to break our awning and Jenny had to hold one end down while I cranked it in. Dust swirled about.

We both showered to get the sweat and grit off before breaking camp. By 10am we were on the road to Bismarck. We stopped in Dickinson for gas at the Family Fare Market, where we had grocery shopped a few days before. They have a gas station and the grocery store gives discount gas coupons when you buy food and we had one for $0.75 a gallon. The pump price was $3.599, but we paid just $2.849 for our fill-up. Family Fare has lots of locations on our route home…we will use them.

About 10 minutes down the I-94 we saw signs for the “Enchanted Highway”. Curious, we took the exit to check it out. The 30-mile section of Highway 12, down to Regent, is dotted with massive metal sculptures. Pictures are worth more than words:


According to the signs explaining things, a local farmer/welder decided to revitalize the town of Regent, by placing the sculptures along the highway. Other farms helped with the welding and erecting of these incredible monuments. When we finally got to Regent, it was far from revitalized, but at least we had an adventure checking out the highway.

Instead of returning to the I-94, we stayed on the rural highways across the state. It was lovely to travel through tiny towns and see all farms of rural North Dakota. We arrived at Sibley Campground, just south of Bismarck around 3pm. We did not have reservations…after all, it is past Labour Day and we did not expect to need one. Wrong! Bismarck is packed this weekend. In addition to the Food Truck Festival that we hoped to attend, there is a huge Pow-Wow taking place as well as a city-wide yard sale. We are able to get one night, so we unhook TaJ, and seek Wi-fi at a local mall to plan our next step.

I need a new pair of KEEN hikers…mine have had about all they can take. We get that purchase made and then settle in with our phones and a map to make some plans. We have 4 nights to figure out. We can do this as 2-two-night stops, or one 4-night stop. We had thought Fargo might be interesting, but we also thought Grand Forks might do the trick. Both are on our route towards Duluth and a 3-day reservation at the Boat Basin. Hmm! We decide to leave it overnight and see what we think in the morning.

Sep 9

After a night’s sleep we decide to do a 4-night stay, either in Fargo area or Grand Forks. I head out to gas-up and get Sully through a car wash. The dust from our stay in Medora is everywhere. We get on the internet on the phone and check out a number of spots. We finally decide on Turtle River State Park, near Grand Forks. We check the website, see that a number of sites are available. Since it will be a 5+ hour drive and it is already closing in on noon, we book and pay for a site. There are a number of hiking trails at Turtle River, as well, the park is on a bird migration route. It is close to Grand Forks. We should find lots to do for a 4-night/3-day stay.

Once again, we forgo expressways for back roads. We zig-zag across the state, checking out small towns like Carrington, home of the 2nd largest pasta factory in the country, and New Rockford, which, when we get there, does not seem to have much of anything to brag about. We gassed up there, at $3.599/gallon. North of New Rockford, we come upon 12 miles of highway being totally reconstructed. It is gravel. Argh! We push through, even though it will mean another car wash.

On our route, we came upon this flock of pelicans on their migration south.


Our route targeted Devil’s Lake, on Highway 2, the main northern route across the state. We arrived, with plans to stop at a liquor store to re-supply our cabinet. Lo and behold, next to the liquor store, is a truck wash, with bays big enough to fit our rig. $10 later, the road dust was off Sully and the TaJ-ma-Haul. Yay…we do not like a dirty rig.

We stocked up at the liquor store. By now it is late afternoon and we still have 90 minutes of driving to reach our destination. The last bit of the drive was on Highway 2, one of the nicest non-expressway highways in the country. Turtle River State Park is great. We got the TaJ set up just as dusk was settling in. Jenny worked the evening away getting our finances under control. We like to know where we stand and it had been a few days. I cooked supper, did the dishes and generally kept out of her way as she plugged number into our financial system. She eventually declared herself satisfied that control has been re-established.

It is finally cool enough to contemplate putting on long pants tomorrow. As we settle in to sleep ii is a lovely 15 C outside, heading down to 9 C overnight. The heat is gone.

Sep 10

Our hot morning coffee was a treat this morning. First cold morning in a long time. It got me to thinking I had better see to our propane tanks today. It has been over a month since we have used any propane at all in the trailer. I am still working on the 6-pound tank that goes with our Coleman Stove, but it has been feeling near empty as well of late.

The showers here at Turtle River as some of the best we have seen and we try them out this morning. Excellent! Once dressed and fed we head out for the first of a few walks here. We followed the road down to an old CCC constructed cabin. You remember the CCC, that core of workers that Roosevelt put to work during the depression. Well, Turtle River had quite a crew of them. Lots of infrastructure, hand built in the 1930’s by gangs of workers.

We headed down two different trails today, one called the Ravine Trail, that follows, well, a ravine, up and down along one of the creeks that flows into the Turtle River. This trail blended into the River Trail. In all we did 90 minutes and about 5 km of walking. Good to be out doors on a NOT hot day. Across the ravine, we caught a glimpse of the TaJ-ma-Haul.


We came upon this caterpillar on a milkweed...not a Monarch, but interesting nonetheless.


After lunchtime, I turned my attention to the propane issue. I removed the 20-pound tank from its perch at the front of the trailer and added the 6-pound tank from the Coleman stove and headed off to find propane. Not an easy task to find, it seems. I searched the local small towns without luck, finally giving up after about 40 km of driving. We will try to get these filled tomorrow when we head into Grand Forks for laundry and wi-fi time. We read for much of the afternoon. Supper tonight is a Caesar Salad and pan-fired shrimp. Yummy.

Sep 11

Chilly morning, with the propane heater on for the first time in weeks. The day promises to be warm, but dawn is a bit of a shocker. We bundle up, enjoy our coffee and a slow-start to the day. Jenny does Wordle. I’m plowing through the 1,045 page long “The Ink Black Heart” by J.K. Rowling.

We have plans today in Grand Forks. Laundry…all of it, bedding, clothes, towels, etc. We can make it two weeks before we have to haul it all out of TaJ and get it clean. Today’s the day. Jenny strips the bed; we gather stuff from all its hidey-holes and load it in to Sully.
Before we depart there is time for a very solid walk. I’m breaking in my new KEEN hikers and I just want to walk on pavement for a bit. We do a 40-minute, 3.5 km walk around the campground and park roads. Great cardio work!

Grand Forks is about 20 miles away, down highway 2. We boot into town and hit the propane dealer first. We get our 6-pound tank refilled, but the 20 pounder is past its best-before date, so we simply do a tank swap. Voila, done! We have enough propane to get most of the way home, depending on how cold it gets in the next 37 days.

Laundry at the Bubble Wash. Massive washers that take everything in one load. We plug $6.25 in quarters, one-by-one, into the machine. If there has ever been a good reason for the US to go to $1 coins, this might be it. The Bubble Wash has wi-fi, so like every other person in the place, we are face down in our devices until the wash is done. We have no wi-fi at the campground so it is nice to get caught up a bit. I research breweries for lunch, and we come up with Rhombus Guys, in downtown Grand Forks, and grocery stores, the town has a chain called Hugos.
We finish folding and sorting the now clean and dry laundry. Rhombus Guys is a pretty cool downtown brewery. We try a couple of samples, then order ‘brunch’. Jenny had a scrambled egg and cheese flatbread, and I had fried chicken and donuts. Surprisingly delicious Jenny had a Greenway IPA, and in honour of her majesty’s recent passing, I had a Queen’s Ale. Excellent choice.

We stocked up for the next couple of days at Hugos Grocery Store, picked up a 6-pack of Greenway for back at the trailer, and returned to Turtle River. Beds made, clothes put away in their various bins, etc. we had showers once again in these most-excellent shower rooms here at the State Park. Top drawer facilities...best of the trip so far.

We settled in for the night, reading…we are both now on “The Ink Black Heart” and making solid progress on a difficult read. A finger or two of Crown Royal Black to end the night and off to sleep. We realize that we have not had an outdoor fire in weeks. We will have to rectify this before long. We had been under a fire ban for so long that it became second nature to ignore the fire-pits in our campsites.

Sep 12

Oatmeal for breakfast today. Our day started with a 3.5 km, hour-long hike. The Eco Trail and the Cattail Trail kept us moving about. Wildlife pictures did not happen, at least not here.

We left Turtle River and headed for Kelly’s Slough Wildlife Refuge. After a 5-mile jaunt down gravel roads we arrived at this small lake…well, I guess a Slough. It was filled with shore birds on their migration south. Pretty cool place. A little farther along our travels we came to another Slough filled with blue herons, a half dozen pelicans, and lots of smaller birds. Jenny got some nice photos.


This area has hundreds of acres of sugar beets, and the harvest is just getting underway. Major crops here in North Dakota are wheat, corn, soybeans, beets, potatoes and sunflowers. Not to mention hay for livestock feed. By mid-afternoon we were back at Turtle River, taking it easy, reading, drinking a bit of beer. We have zero plans for the rest of today. Tomorrow, we hit the road for Duluth, Minnesota.

Sep 13

A day on the road. As we departed Turtle River, these three deer gave us a send off stare:


We left at 9:30am, drove 450 km, and, with stops for gas and groceries along the way, arrived at the Boat Basin, on Duluth’s harbour, about 4:30pm. We got the TaJ set-up in our site on the docks and took a walk through the shopping/eating district. There will be photos of this whole area in our next blog entry. Blustery winds in the evening and the promise of rain in the next couple of days.

We are parked right next to the lift bridge on the harbour.


Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 15:43 Archived in USA Tagged enchanted_highway turtle_river_state_park grand_forks kelly's_slough_wildlife_reserve Comments (0)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora

North and South Units, Quaint but tacky Medora

sunny 39 °C

Sep 3 to Sep 7 Days 104 to 108

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, ND

Distance traveled 250 km towing, 350 km local travel; trip total 16,600 kilometers

Gas prices $3.699/gal, converts to Can $1.335/l

Sep 3

Once we got our phone situation sorted, we headed south towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We obtained a burner phone, for $59 and a data/phone plan for another $35. We now have connection for our time in the US. We also spent $16 and washed the crud off Sully and the TaJ at a wand-wash in Williston. It was sure nice to get the vehicles clean again. We have been killing grasshoppers by the truck load this past week and it was good to get them out of the grill.

There is a very busy oil and gas sector here. Pump-jacks as far as the eye can see, pipelines all over the place, and new ones going in. Lots of drilling taking place as well. We did the 14-mile long Scenic Drive at the North Unit of the Park. We obtained a pass for $20 US. It is supposed to be for senior US citizens, but the guy in the booth told us it would do for our purposes. Huh. Really interesting drive. It took us a full hour to navigate the narrow road, out and back, with TaJ on the back.


We arrived in Medora to absolute chaos on the roads. The town was packed with tourists. Think Jasper, without the high-end restaurants. Motels, hotels, RV parks, all with the same goal: to get you to buy into the Medora myth. The town runs a pitchfork fondue, at $45 per person, and there is the Medora Musical, in an open amphitheatre that seats thousands, again at $45 per person. It is all based on the personality of Theodore Roosevelt, who came here in the 1880’s and started the National Park movement. The town is kitschy, but tacky.

There are no real grocery stores, so we should have stocked up before getting here. We picked up some basic supplies, and gassed up at $3.699/gal. The Medora Campground, another town run site, was virtually full. We’d booked 4 nights in advance, to get through the Labor Day weekend, so we were expecting crowds. Our site is fine, and we get set up and settle down in the heat of the afternoon. We each had a Coors Banquet, a refreshingly light beer. It hit the spot as it continues to be hot, about 35 C.

The washrooms are what you would expect on a crowded weekend; slammed, dirty, unkempt. We hope they will clean up well, but we don’t need a shower today anyway. We settle in for the night.

Sep 4

Once again, it is cool in the mornings, about 11 C, so we slept well and are ready to get at it this morning. Our first stop is the park visitor center, about ½ mile from the campground. We check things out, get a road map of the park and make some plans on what we want to see and do. While we are there, a guide is giving a talk on the cabin that Roosevelt stayed in when he visited the park. We learned about his history here and the history of the cabin itself.

In the Gift Shop, Jenny got a new ball cap, we got post cards to send to the grandkids and a really good National Geographic Map Book, with details of all the national parks in Canada and the US. Sweet. We drove over to the Painted Canyon visitor center, on I-94. We stopped here on September 7, 2006 on our way to Nova Scotia. We got a picture then and got one this time. No changes in us at all!


We hiked down into the canyon on a very steep trail. The heat was tremendous but we took water with us and managed a very nice 45-minute hike. In total about 1.4 km, but it felt like a lot more on the way back up to the canyon rim.

Since there were no grocery stores in Medora we continued along the I-94 to Dickinson, where we stocked up on essentials for our now 5 night stay in Medora. We’ve added one more night to our plans here. It is hot, our site is partially shaded and there is much to do and see at the national park. We will do our stuff morning, and evening and hunker down in the heat of the day.

We got back to Taj mid-afternoon. Our fridge is overheating due to the outdoor temperature and the fact that we have not defrosted for a while. We use the ice packs from the freezer to help hold the temperature down to a safe level.

We both showered, although the shower house was a mess. I partially cleaned one of the shower rooms, then I showered and Jenny followed before anyone else could make a mess again. Yuck, but at least we got clean and refreshed. It is now 40 C outside. Here is the thermometer inside TaJ:

In the evening we drove most of the 35 km loop road into the South Unit of the national park. There were bison wandering about, mostly solitary males and a coyote hunting for supper in one of the prairie dog towns. The highlight of the drive was the wild horses, which tend to convene near the Boicourt Trail. Each stallion has a number of mares and the groups tend to stay just far enough apart that there is no conflict. Very exciting to see. Jenny got some lovely pictures.


By the time we finished with the horses, it was full dark and we drove very carefully out of the park. We did encounter one giant bison on the road.


Sep 5

We had planned for an early start, to do the Petrified Forest Hike before the heat of the day came on. But, for some reason we dawdled, finally decided to put the hike off until tomorrow. We each write a daily journal to keep track of stuff until I get to the blog. Amazing how things just disappear from your brain.

We also defrosted the refrigerator, and got it turned back on in time for it to cool down before today’s heat came on. It has been consistently 15 C in the overnight and early part of the day, before jumping mid-afternoon to the high 30’s and even as high as 40 C. We seem to be handling the heat well enough. We read for a few hours. Around us, the campground was emptying out. By noon less than 1/3 of the sites were filled. The holiday weekend is at an end. The town is deserted.

We learned through the internet that by Sep 10 the musical and the pitchfork fondue are done for the year. This area is filled with hunters through the fall but, by the end of November, just 130 people are living here and everything is shut down but the very basics.

In the heat of the afternoon, we take refuge in Sully’s air-conditioning and do the 35 km loop road into the south unit once again. This time we go all the way to the end and take pictures and climb Buck Hill, the highest point in the park. The scenery is magnificent. We have been in badlands now for much of two weeks, stretching from Waterton National Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Grasslands National Park, in Canada now into this giant piece in North Dakota. There would be more pictures but Jenny forgot the SD card in her camera, so just this one.


We stopped in town for a pizza and beer supper. It was OK, but not great. We did go up to see the outdoor theater for the Medora Musical. The amphitheatre is huge, seating more than 3000. This is a picrture of the stage from above


Sep 6

We got up and got at the Petrified Forest hike. It is a 25 km drive, along gravel and dirt roads to the trail head and we were out there at 8am. It was 11 C at the start of the hike and the cool morning gave us great energy. We hiked about 2.5 km out, up at steep slope to the prairie, then a long stretch of flat before the ground fell away into a valley of petrified wood. We spent a good amount of time wandering and taking photos before returning to the car. By the time we finished the hike it was 24 C. Nice to get the work done early.

Back at the TaJ, Jenny downloaded the cameras and discovered that she did not have the SD card in her camera. About 50 pictures…gone! Luckily, I took some with my point and shoot camera.


We showered in the now pristine shower rooms. Nobody here in the campground makes quite the difference in the conditions of the facilities.

We did take a short drive out into the farming areas to the east of Medora. I'm planning on a blog entry dedicated to the harvest. We were looking for interesting crops to feature and came upon this field of sunflowers. Huge:


We wiled away the hot afternoon, me writing blog entries, and both of us reading on our Kobo’s. Fortunately, today is not too hot, about 28 C, so hanging about was not a bad thing.

Sep 7

This morning we walked the town in the cool of the day. There is a weather alert for today. It is called a Red Flag warning. High temperatures, and wind. The high predicted is 41 C with 30+ kph winds and low humidity. The threat of wildfires exists in these conditions.

We were out and about for almost three hours, and stopped for breakfast in the Cowboy Cafe. It was a good meal.


We walked 6 kilometers on our exploration of the town. The setting is very pretty and the historical significance is not small at all. We learned that the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is being re-located here to Medora. The lady who served us at the post office says this will make the town much more of a year round destination.


There is a really interesting wind park in town:


Here I am with a life size statue of Teddy;


Near the campground is the remains of an abbatoir, built in the early 1880's. It failed after just 4 years of operation and all that remains are the bones and this chimney.


When we got back to TaJ, I got to some maintenance that has been needed. Our little hot water heater has an anode rod, that protects the equipment from chemicals and elements in the water. It wear down opver time to just a nub. This morning was replacement time. I did just fine, except I forgot to release the pressure on the water system and got soaked when the rod came out. A lesson learned. The replacement rod is installed, the tank refilled and all is well.

As this blog is posted, it is just as the heat of the day comes on. It is already 38C inside TaJ. The fridge is holding out fine. We are hot but determined to keep drinking water and waiting out the end of the heat wave. The forecast for tomorrow is a high of 25 C Finally, a bit of a break.

Tomorrow we head for Bismarck for 2 nights, then we will zig-zag, on back roads from there to Grand Forks, where we will stay for 3 nights. We hope to add many crops to our file for the Harvest Special Blog, which we will post when ready.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 20:48 Archived in USA Tagged theodore_roosevelt_national_par medora_nd Comments (0)

Grasslands National Park

Hot and dry, Great night sky, hiking, bison

sunny 34 °C

Aug 29 to Sep 3 Days 99 to 103

Grasslands, West Block, Into the US at Morgan, MT, and on to Williston ND

Distance traveled: 850 km towing, 150 km local travel; trip total 15,400 kilometers

Gas prices $1.599 in Saskatchewan, $3.899/Gal, converted to Can$1.37/l in Montana, $3.699/gal converted to Can$1.335/l in North Dakota

August 29

As the day progressed, we got to grocery shopping, and then did some banking, getting ready for out jaunt into the United States. We will have no service on our phone, or wi-fi at Grasslands beginning tomorrow.

We got a site booked in a downtown RV park in Duluth, that we really wanted to stay at. It is right on the harbour. Yes, we got the last site for our stay in mid-September. We also looked at festivals on such that we might want to take in during our trip across North Dakota. We will be stopping at a Food Truck Festival in Bismarck, and then a Sunflower Festival near Fargo.

We finished our visit with Bryn and Mike with supper out at the LOCAL, a downtown eatery with a great selection of brews. Great food, good service, good friends.

August 30

We had the TaJ ready to go at 10am, stopped at the Visitor Centre to dump the used tanks, and to fill the fresh water. We normally do not carry water for any distance, but Grasslands does not have enough water to fill trailer tanks.

Jenny bought a new pillow for her seat in Sully, as she is just a bit too short to see comfortably over the hood. It worked well and she drove 150 of the 350 km we are travelling today. I took over when we hit the secondary roads down into the depths of South Saskatchewan. It was great scenery all the way; rolling hills and fields of wheat and hay, all being harvested. Unfortunately, the quality is not great because of the huge number of grasshoppers being sucked into the combines. A sample of the display in Sully’s grill should suffice as an explanation.


We stopped at the Visitor Centre in Val Marie, and registered for our three-night stay. We picked up trail and weather information and headed out the 25 km gravel road to the Frenchman Valley Campground.


Only 13 of the 20 sites were filled for the night. We arrived to 36 C (104 F) temperatures. A stiff breeze was blowing, and that helped. We got TaJ settled onto her stabilizer jacks and retired to the shady side of the trailer for two hours of reading and relaxing.

By 7pm the heat was coming off the day and we had supper and watched the last 2 episodes of Fargo, season 2, waiting for sunset. There is no moon right now and Grasslands is a dark sky preserve so we intend to see the Milky Way. By 10pm it is full dark and the sky is ablaze with stars and the long swath of the galaxy is visible. Jenny tried to get a picture of the stars but was not successful. Try again tomorrow.

It was after 11pm when we crashed for the night and the temperature had dropped to 20 C (72 F). Tomorrow promises to be a scorcher as well.

August 31

Up early to get in some hiking before the heat comes on. We got on the Broken Hills Trail, near the campground at 7:30am and did a full two-hour hike, about 7 km in total, out into the grasslands along the Frenchman River. Great scenery, and the most interesting spider webs.


We understand this is the Wolf spider and quite a viscous little beast it is.


We both had an encounter with a cactus. You have got to watch your step around here.


Back at the campground, it was breakfast outdoors at the picnic table. The heat was building and today is expected to be even hotter than yesterday. Our time at Grasslands has been marred by excess heat this year. A full fire ban is in effect; it is that dry out here.

Our early afternoon was spent doing the Back Country Loop Drive, about 85 kilometers in total. The drive goes through park land, and land about to become park land, as well as operating ranches. The loop gets within 3 kilometers of the US Border. It was an enjoyable experience, as much for the air conditioning in Sully as the scenery. Cattle on the road, and it was dusty:


We arrived back to 37 C (104 F), again with a stiff breeze. You can feel the moisture being sucked out of your body as you walk into this wind.

We rested, did our best to stay out of the heat, and had showers, me outdoors, and Jenny in our tiny shower room. That helped to cool us down. Here are a couple of views of the TaJ-ma-Haul from various angles at the campground:


We walked along the ridge above the campground at dusk, and settled in to wait for the stars to come out. We think TaJ looks pretty special with the Milky Way laid out above her.


Sep 1

It cooled to 10C (52 F) overnight. Just at 11pm last night the power failed here at Frenchman Valley. We witched the fridge to propane and all was well. The power was restored at 7:00am.

We were already up and through breakfast. Our goal this morning was a hike out the Bear Paw Sea Trail, a 10 km linear trail up into the coulees towards Val Marie. Our goal was the Rattlesnake Hibernacula, about 3 kilometers out. As we hiked out the trail, we could see two large Bison off in the distance. It turns out they were a pair of males, just hanging out, waiting for the rutting season to start. Unfortunately for us, they were right on the trail we planned to hike out.


We got some great pictures, but they tell you to stay 100 meters away from these 1,500-pound beasts, so we headed back to the road. 75 minutes and 3.3 km total hike, we were back to the car.

We hooked up with the guided tour taking place at the Black-tailed Prairie Dog Colony. A well-informed guide took us on a tour down into the coulee where we learned about the local grasses, lichen, and even caught a glimpse of a rare lizard. We learned about the 70 species of grass that grows here as well as details of the 500 strong Bison herd. We finished with a walk through the prairie dog village. The ridge by the prairie dog village is lined with tipi rings from the days when this place was inhabited by first nations.


In total we hiked for another 75 minutes and 2.5 km on this hike. We were pretty beat by the end and the heat of the day was just coming on. We went back to TaJ for coffee and to download cameras.

In the early afternoon we hopped into Sully and headed for Val Marie, along back roads to the south of the park. In 2017 we stopped at this abandoned house. Really interesting:


We stopped at the Grasslands Visitor Centre in town for some wi-fi time and then had an ice cream cone at the Restaurant/Pub in town.

Finally, we spent $10 on showers at the Val Marie Campground. Luxury, when you are in a place with pit toilets only, and no useable water supply. Grasslands is lovely, but so far removed from any population centres that services are sparse. The showers at Val Marie are excellent: good water pressure, temperature controls and a sufficient dry space that your stuff does not get wet while you shower.

This is our 5th time at Grasslands and we seem to keep coming back. Three times to the East Block and twice to the West. We just wish the heat would drop off. It is relentless in the late afternoon. Today, the wind was blowing though. Even at 38C we had a 40 kph wind blowing. It was rocking the TaJ with gusts. It cooled off again after dusk and we were able to sleep.

Sep 2

Onward! We were up at 6am and prepared for the road by 7:30am. It is off to the United States for us. Our destination is Williston, North Dakota and an overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot. Our entry into the United States was at Morgan, Montana, a dusty little 5 day-a-week 9-5 border crossing. All went well until we got to food: eggs…we were carrying 2 eggs in our little fridge. Not allowed entry into the US currently. We were required to re-cross into Canada and dispose of our eggs before returning. We promptly complied with the request, much to the grin of the Canadian border guard, who says this happens all too often. The US border guard waved us on into the land of the free and home of the brave.

Shortly afterward we came upon a cattle drive working its way down the highway. They were being escorted by a fellow on an ATV. He told us it was so dry that the cattle were doing better grazing on the road right-of-way, and were taking their sweet time.


Our drive was long, but uneventful. We need a car wash in the worst way. Both Sully and TaJ are covered in dust from our time on gravel roads into and out of Grasslands. We spotted one on our way to Walmart in Williston, but it was on the other side of the road. We will get to it in the morning.

We got permission to park in the Walmart parking lot, and this is the sign we parked under. Huh! No problems though.


We had supper at Doc Holliday’s, a local restaurant that has the most interesting set of sculptures along the road. We had fish tacos and a western version of egg rolls.


Our night was uneventful. A bit noisy until traffic died down but quiet overnight.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 18:34 Archived in Canada Tagged grasslands_national_park_west_b val_marie morgan_border_crossing walmart_williston_nd Comments (0)

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Medicine Hat, Future Plans

Big Loads Laundromat in Brooks, Dinosaurs, Medicine Hat, our long road home

sunny 24 °C

Aug 24 to Aug 29 Days 93 to 99

Homeward bound, Taber, Brooks, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Medicine Hat

Distance traveled 425 km towing, 225 km local travel; trip total 14,350 kilometers

Gas prices $1.429/liter in Brooks, $1.329/liter in Medicine Hat. Our gasoline cost per kilometer traveled is $0.31

August 24

When we last left the blog, we had just awoken after a night of thunderstorms at Castleview Campground, near the Oldman River Dam. We are heading onward to Dinosaur Provincial Park, but first, we must do laundry…it is time. We are down to our last pair of undies, etc. The sheets and duvet cover need washing as well.

Castleview Campground is tucked in a ravine. We got this view from 3km away on the highway. It is a pretty spot.


Every day, from now on will bring us closer to our home in Nova Scotia. We know this trip must end someday, but it is sad that the ending is now in sight. We did a count today. Including tonight, we have slept in our little R-pod trailer for 580 nights since 2017. By the time we get home that total will be around 630. At a savings of $50 a night minimum over other forms of car travel, our benefit will be about $31,500. We paid $28,500 for the TaJ in 2017.

We’d done a bit of research and found the Big Loads Laundromat, in Brooks, near our destination for the day. With all of our laundry tucked in Sully, we headed out, on the first 285 kilometers of the day’s drive. We skirted past Lethbridge and made our way east to Taber, famous for its sweet corn. Everywhere you go in Alberta, there are trucks selling Taber corn. The town’s motto is “A Great Place to Grow”. Huh! I’ll bet they did not spend a lot of time in focus groups to come up with that motto.

From Taber we headed straight north towards Brooks. This area is full of fields of Sugar Beets. There are adverts along the road for people to work the beet processing season that is about to start. This work was a big part of the Nomadland movie that won an Oscar for best picture a few years ago. Lots of itinerant workers made money to get through the winter this way.

I will be doing a crop blog as we move east, highlighting what is grown, and why. There will be pictures in that blog entry.

The Big Loads Laundromat is amazing. Brand new machines, no coins required, all payments are made by credit card swipe. In one hour, we had washed and dried almost everything we needed to get clean, all for $15. We stocked up at the local Safeway and made our way out of town, north and east of Brooks to the provincial park.

Wow, what a surprise this place is. Down in the badlands along the Red Deer River, the campground has 125 sites. You drop about 200 feet below the level of the prairie above. It is a cool oasis along the river. Our site is shaded by Cottonwood trees. We get TaJ set up and spend an hour putting all our stuff away. Jenny gets a full cardio workout making the bed. In TaJ, this is quite the feat. Afterwards we use the showers to get ourselves clean. The first pic is TaJ on Wednesday, when we arrived, and another on Saturday, when the park filled up.


There are 2 R-pods in the campground and 4 Bolers! We’ve seen very few R-pods in our travels this year. Supper was a Caesar Salad and hamburger patties. The sun goes down behind the coulee walls early. We spend a good evening reading and watching a couple of episodes of season 2 of Fargo.

August 25

When we got up this morning, we decided we had better get in some cardio. There is a 3-kilometer road that wends though the badlands just off the campground. We walked it, and including add-ons, such as side trails, etc., we ended up with a 90-minute walk covering 5.2 km.
Lots of interesting dinosaur history here. One display is of a dinosaur fossil found in 1959, exactly in the place where it was found. It is now surrounded by a display building.

Good workout, and before breakfast. French Toast and sausages filled our bellies. We like this park. In the afternoon we took a short drive up to the visitor centre to book a guided tour for tomorrow. At the park entrance, way up on the unbroken prairie, we walked along the cliff edge, taking pictures of the vastness of the badlands.

Back at TaJ we took a break, reading and napping for a bit. We then walked up the trails through the coulee to the Visitor Centre to figure out how we would get up there for our tour tomorrow afternoon. Supper was Chicken Teriyaki. Grocery stores now sell lots of stir-fry veggie packs as well as salads. For campers it makes it so easy. Our fridge is small and we can’t buy a lot of different veggies individually, so this works for us.

We went back up to the Park Entrance just before dusk to get some pictures as the sun sets. Coyotes howling to meet the night accompanied our visit. A long and enjoyable day comes to an end. This park is one we would definitely come back to. Our GPS watches were just breaking over 14,000 steps for the day.


August 26

Up and at it early once again. We do two shortish hikes before the sun gets high in the sky. It is warm, but not oppressive. We hike the Fossil Trail, where fossil hunters in the 1910’s found some of their best specimens. The end of the trail is a quarry where several prime specimens we taken. We learned that more than 300 dinosaur fossils from this area are in museums around the world.


We also hiked he Badlands Trail, one of the few spots here that you are allowed to hike. Most of the preserve is closed to all but paleontologists, botanists and other scientists from the Royal Tyrell Museum. In total we did 85 minutes and about 3.2 kilometers to start our day. We settle in to Taj and Jenny downloads the cameras, sorts pictures and I work on this blog.

At 2:30pm we join a small guided tour into the Badlands. We drive about 5 kilometers into the restricted area of the park and our guide takes us over hill and dale where we learn loads about the badlands.


The tour ends with this fossil, discovered a few years ago, and still unexcavated. Who knows how much of what remains buried in this hillside.


We’ve now completed most of what we wanted to accomplish here and will move on to Medicine Hat tomorrow.

August 27

We are up early and eager for some cardio before the heat comes on. We leave TaJ and walk the Cottonwood Trail along the Red Deer River. There are lots of animals about and the trail is littered with the scat of those that were out here overnight. We had to step lively in a few spots to avoid soiling our shoes. We finish our walk in an hour and have another 4km under the belt. A good way to start the day.


By 11am we are packed and ready to roll. It is only am short hop today to Medicine Hat, one of our favourite cities on the prairies. We’re booked into the Cottonwood Coulee Golf Course RV Park, and arrive, get set up. Next to us is an Alto lightweight trailer, which is being towed by a Tesla! Nice people, we chatted with them and had a looksee in their unique trailer.

The rest of the day was a bit of shopping. Our short queen fitted sheet is nearing the end of its useful life and we struggle to find a replacement. The short queen mattress is 6 inches shorter than a standard and sheets are not readily available. The struggle will continue, it seems, as we could find nothing appropriate.

The rest of the day was quiet, we read, watched a bit of Fargo, Season 2 on download from Netflix.

August 28

We polished off a load of laundry at the Posh Wash, our favourite laundromat. We are heading out to Grasslands in a couple of days and thought it wise to get clothes up to date.

I spent much of the morning working on a route plan home. We will be without internet once we leave the Hat on Tuesday and I’ve been anxious to plot our way back to Nova Scotia. After much discussion, we’ve decided a complex route, through North Dakota and Minnesota to Duluth. We will then return to Canada at Thunder Bay and go over the top of Lake Superior to Sault Ste. Marie, before dipping down through Michigan and a return to Canada at Sarnia. A 3rd visit to the US will be through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We will return to good old Aylesford Nova Scotia on October 20. We plan to give that ArriveCan app a thorough workout!

We spent the afternoon and evening with our friends, Bryn and Mike, who are living in a trailer at the golf course for the summer while their house is being built. We had a tour and it is going to be fantastic when finished.We caught the end of the Tour Championship on a big screen TV at Bryn’s son’s house. On the road, we watch virtually no broadcast TV so it was nice to see a bit of golf.

We had a lovely supper with Bryn and Mike. Steaks, baked potatoes, brussels sprouts and a Caesar Salad, and between the 4 of us, 3 bottles of wine disappeared. A great visit and we hope to see these folks again on the East Coast.

August 29

I was up at the crack of dawn and off to Great Canadian Oil Change, where Sully got his 3rd oil change of the journey. we are closing in on 15,000 km to this trip, and even though the oil changes are rated for 8,000 km, with the amount of towing we do, 5,000 km between changes makes sense.

Today, we have to get our US money organized, get groceries and get prepared for 3 nights at Grasslands, West Block. There are limited services and we will need our food with us, as the closest grocery store is 40km from the campground.
The next blog will be from Medora, North Dakota is about a week’s time. Life is good, life on the road is better. Onward to the next!

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 16:41 Archived in Canada Tagged medicine_hat dinosaur_provincial_park Comments (0)

Catch Up Edition - Okotoks to Pincher Creek

Okotoks Erratic, Fort Macleod, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Pincher Creek Rodeo, Oldman Dam

sunny 24 °C

Aug 18 to Aug 23 Days 88 to 93

Okotoks Erratic, Fort MacLeod, Head Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Rodeo in Pincher Creek, Oldman Dam, Waterton National Park

Distance traveled 300 km towing, 400 km local travel; trip total 13,900 kilometers

Gas prices $1.499/liter in Fort Macleod, $1,479 in Pincher Creek

August 18

We started our last morning in Okotoks with another brisk walk on the trails along the Sheep River. Another 35 minutes and 3.4 km. Our drive to fairly short today and we are in no hurry to depart. We hook TaJ up to Sully, stop by the tire shop for a re-torque on the wheel nuts and head out.
Out first stop is the Okotoks Erratic, a piece of the Rocky Mountains, carried by a glacier from somewhere up near Jasper and dropped onto the prairie. It is huge. It traveled about 600 kilometers to its current location. According to the signs, it most likely came from Mount Edith Cavell area. There is a very lively prairie dog community here is as well.


The River’s Edge RV Park is just OK. We are here to see a few local things and the location is good, but the facilities are sketchy, to say the least. The heat of the day is building as we get TaJ settled onto her site. It is close to the highway, but we are told it is not too noisy at night. Sure!
Fort Macleod is just a few minutes away and we head in for gas and groceries. Sully gets gas at $1.499/liter and by the time we get back and our groceries put away it is too hot to do anything but sit in the shade and read. It is going to be hot the next 3 days, with highs of 33 to 35 C (98 TO 102 F). The good news is this place is breezy and the afternoon winds make things comfortable, at least outdoors. Inside TaJ it is pretty warm.

August 19

We slept well, but the noise from the highway is a intrusive. A lot of engine braking from the trucks slowing down on the approach to Fort MacLeod, or accelerating back up to highway speeds. It cooled down enough that we were chilly in the morning. It as 11C (54 F) when we got up. The heat wave is continuing, but there is enough cooling that the nights are comfortable.

We had oatmeal for breakfast and headed off to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We got there early since the predicted high for today is 36 C (104 F) and the afternoon will be a scorcher.

The buffalo jump has been used by natives for about 6,000 years and the artifacts and buffalo bones are 10 meters (35 feet) deep below the jump. The entire area below the cliffs was used to process the hundreds of buffalo killed in a successful year. The natives stampeded buffalo herds off the jump, channelling them down a narrowing funnel towards the edge of the cliff. The conditions had to be just right for a successful hunt.

The buffalo were processed, the meat cooked, or dried right there at the base of the cliffs. The fur was cleaned and tanned. The last successful hunt was about 250 years ago. Of course, the white man slaughtered the buffalo in the 1800’s to near extinction ending any future use of the buffalo jump.


We finished our tour by 1pm and headed back to the campground. Both of us wandered over to the Oldman River, which runs alongside the campground. You can wade into the river to cool off. People have built small rock dams along the edge to create spots where the river’s flow is dampened. They put camp chairs in the river and sit with their feet submerged to stay cool in the super charged heat. We spent the hot afternoon reading in the shade of TaJ. In the evening it cools quite rapidly to the low 20’s, which is a welcome relief.

August 20

Rodeo Day! The Pincher Creek Pro Rodeo was on our agenda for this leg of the trip. We skipped the Saturday morning parade, but did take in the Western Vendors Market, in the Community Hall. Our here in the west, the local vendors sell western ‘stuff’, considerably different than what we would find on the east coast. It was interesting to see, but since we buy nothing that needs room for transportation back home, we passed on all but a small bag of local beef jerky.


The rodeo grounds open at 12:30 and we join a large number of people of a certain age, who are looking for the shaded spot in the outdoor arena. Once corner of the grandstand is shaded and we settle in to watch the preparations for the day. We’ve brought water, and books to read, but the locals are chatty and we engage in conversations with lots of people. A nice way to spend the 90 minutes before the show starts.
Promptly at 2pm, the rodeo begins, with Bareback Riding, then on to Steer Wrestling. Each event has about 10 participants so the action moves quickly.


A new event for the cowgirls is Breakaway Roping. The contestant only has to get the loop around the steer’s head, and when the rope ‘breaks’ away from the saddle the timing of the event ends. The winner in this was just 4.8 seconds from when the steer was released and the pursuit began. Not sure what purpose in the real world this skill would have.

One thing you notice right away is that the cowgirls are every bit as ‘’into’’ this as the men. The women’s horses are pretty and functional, while the men’s are just functional. Manes and tails are groomed, some of the horses even have glitter on their rumps.

Junior Steer Riding is next, for teenage Bull Rider wannabees. Then it is Tie Down Roping, an actual cowboy skill, used to secure young cattle for branding, etc. This had 10 contestants and 6 of the 10 failed to rope the calf, let alone tie it down.


A couple of trick rides filled in the Intermission with a very entertaining show. The most entertaining particpant of the entire rodeo was this enthusiastic sheepdog who helped herd the animals back into the compound. For a small dog, he put up with no guff:


Ladies Barrel Racing is a big thing in rodeo. In this rodeo, only 13 riders compete in each of three ‘’shows’’ over the weekend, but there are another 36 riders who compete without an audience in what is called the ‘’slack’’ between shows, or, in other words, in an empty arena. They must circle 3 barrels spaced around the arena. Each rider gets just one chance to do the ride over the run of the rodeo. The winner is usually under 15 seconds.


Team Roping was the second last event. In this one, two cowboys must work together to rope a steer. The first loops the head and the second one must then catch the back feet to take the steer off its feet. This is also a real skill in the cowboy world and not a made-up event for entertainment.

Last up of course, is Bull Riding. This is the premiere event of the rodeo. Highly skilled riders, pit their abilities against 1500-pound bulls for an 8 second ride. The bulls are named and rated and spend their lives as rodeo animals. Some have never been successfully ridden. The cowboys are competing for the chance to join the season finals rodeos, where the prize money is large. Only 3 of the 7 riders in today’s event successfully complete the ride.


We had a good day at the rodeo. It was an interesting slice of life that we would not have known existed except for our attendance today. The people in the stands embrace the rodeo way of life. Most of the people here were in blue jeans, cowboy shirts and hats.

August 21

We had a slow start to our day. It is only 40 kilometers to our next campground at Oldman Dam and checkout at River's Edge RV Park is 11:30am. A morning shower, leisurely breakfast and we were still hooked up and ready to pull out by 11:00am. Castleview Campground has 30 sites, only 8 of which are occupied. The camp is located on a bluff overlooking the Oldman River Dam, which is primarily flood-control, but does have a small hydro electric facility.


The area abounds with wind turbines. There are about 100 within sight.


The rest of today is spent shopping for food and alcohol in Pincher Creek, and watching thunder storms build and then dissipate all around us. We got a light sprinkling of rain, but otherwise, just more of the same prairie heat we have been having for the past 3 weeks. A good thunderstorm would be a welcome change.

August 22

Our visit to Waterton National Park! We finally got to visit this gem of the Rockies. Jenny has been here many times when she lived in Lethbridge but this our first time here together. We leave the campground early, and arrive at Waterton Townsite at 9:30am, on what is going to be another sweltering day. Our plan is to do the Bear’s Hump Hike, a 1.4 km one-way climb up a hill to an overview of Waterton Townsite and the Waterton Lakes. The hike is steep, 225 meters of elevation gain, and we work our way across switch-backs and steep sharp ascents.

The hill was tree covered until 2018 when a massive wildfire swept over the area, almost burning Waterton to the ground. It is now open to the sun and the day’s warmth overwhelmed my ability to make it to the top. I crapped out 1.25 km in, leaving Jenny to make it to the top. I sat on a bench and awaited my love’s descent so we could finish the hike together. In total we were 2 hours on the trail to do around the almost 3 km roundtrip.


We had a picnic lunch at Cameron Bay, and visited Cameron Falls on the way out of town. We arrived back at Castleview Camp around 3pm, caught a nap, a shower and did some reading. The weather is supposed to break overnight, with thunderstorms in the forecast.


For our firends back in Nova Scotia, who feed chipmunks: this is a picrture of a robust, well-fed Chippy!


August 23

We did have an intense period of lightning and thunder just past midnight. It lasted about 2 hours, and we got brief rain showers. We woke to cooler temperatures and it appears the heat wave has broken. Highs for today are predicted at 23C (78 F). So this blog post brings us up to date as of this morning.

Next up for us: Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Brooks, then Medicine Hat

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 17:54 Archived in Canada Tagged okotoks_erratic head_smashed_in_buffalo_jump pincher_creek_rodeo olman_dam waterton_national_park Comments (0)

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