The Great California Escape – Week Three and Four
When we decided that we couldn’t be in California another day and started out on our trek, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally never crossed my mind. We had business to take care of in Box Elder, South Dakota, next to Rapid City. The entire area is inundated with bikers in the first half of August. As the owner of a famous biker bar for over twenty-two years, I appreciate them more than I can say. However, my honey was not excited about sharing the highway with thousands of them while driving a motorhome. Finding an RV park to stay in anywhere in the area was also impossible, so we decided to putt around North Dakota for a bit.
Our first stop at the Camp on the Heart in Dickenson, North Dakota, wasn’t much of an RV park, but for a two-night stay, it worked. We had full hookups, and it was only $30.00 a night. The nice fella who runs the park works another full-time job, but he promptly answers his cell phone and is very accommodating. He told us to pick a spot when we arrived and that when he got home from work, he’d collect the funds for our stay. The weather was finally cool enough to sit outside, and Paddy was thrilled to be in his playhouse. I took a walk and met up with a couple of horses that had a blast sniffing my hair. I love the way I seem to be meeting up with horses and cows on my walks.
Our next North Dakota stay was at the Bismarck KOA. I requested that we have a site that would afford us satellite service, and it wound up being a mistake. The beautiful wooded sites were further from the highway and much nicer. The new full hookup sites have no problem with satellite reception because they are basically in a gravel parking lot. They are right next to the road. It was a nice park, and I used the laundry to wash sheets and towels. I’d chosen Bismarck because they were supposed to have the largest RV dealership in North Dakota. Their website listed nine motorhomes for sale there. That turned out to be a complete misrepresentation. We used Lyft to get there, and it was a complete waste of our time and money.
We are just being looky-loos at this juncture, but there was nothing to look at. The two motorhomes on the lot were nothing special. There weren’t any restaurants within walking distance, so we had to call for another Lyft. The good news was that Lyft was available. Many cities that used to have Uber and Lyft drivers lost them to COVID. It’s unfortunate. So many jobs gone that will never come back. Anyway, for those of you thinking about visiting North Dakota, Bismarck is a pretty large city with lots of shopping and restaurants, and there is plenty to do in the area. Without the luxury of a car to drive around, a four-night stay was plenty, and we headed to South Dakota.
The South Whitlock Resort in Gettysburg, South Dakota, was our next stop, and it was a nice one. There isn’t much to do in the area unless you like to fish and hunt. It was unseasonably hot like just about every place we’ve been. The park was relatively empty. The sweet gal in the store where you check-in told us that it had been so hot that the fisherman gave up fishing. She said the fish go so deep to get to cooler water that they are dead by the time they are reeled in. The store was loaded with fishing gear. They had every lure you could imagine. They also had many necessities available, which is good because it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s a pretty park with easy access from the highway. Surprisingly, there was a great little restaurant right across the parking lot. We enjoyed visiting with the locals and ate there twice. I had a great place to walk. I walked down to the lake every day that we were there, and the walk back up the hill was torture. It was great, though. I love to feel the burn from a walk. However, after a few days of it, getting out of my chair was a challenge. I would gladly stay there again. Full hookups were only $27.00 a night. A little more extended stay would be great if we had a vehicle and could explore the area. Maybe next time.
Presho, SD, was our next stop, and the New Frontier RV Park was lovely. It, too, had a bar and grill within walking distance. Are you seeing a theme here? We love visiting with locals and enjoying good food and beverages. If I have a good place to walk, it is the icing on the cake. Our stay there was pleasant, and we almost stopped there again when we left Box Elder. We are changing our domicile to South Dakota, as I told you in my earlier post. A prerequisite to doing that is staying at least one night in Pennington County. America’s Campground in Box Elder has seen a lot of folks from California. America’s Mailbox does a lot of business there as well as the Escapees, which we belong to. While I was waiting to get checked in, I chatted with a man that not only had escaped California but had once lived in Shingletown. What are the odds of meeting someone in South Dakota from our tiny town?
The campground is pretty much a parking lot. We had full hookups, and Lyft was available to take us to the Pennington County Treasurers Office, where we switched our California plates to South Dakota ones. Our motorhome registration was $1000.00 less in S.D. When we find a tow vehicle, I’m sure that it cost a lot less for that too. Crazy Cali will tax you to death. We met a lot of people that were changing their domiciles. Our next-door neighbor was switching from Delaware. We met the sweetest folks from San Diego, and they were very helpful because they had already gone through the process. That is one of the best things about living on the road. You meet the nicest people from all over the place.
We are SO happy not to be in California and to be enjoying our trek across the country. We’ve experienced a variety of RV parks, and most have been good. We covered over 20 states staying in many places for only one or two nights on our first cross-country trip. We don’t roll that way anymore. We prefer to keep our miles down to 200 a day and spend at least two nights at our destinations. We’ve been amazed by how many campgrounds look empty on our arrival and then fill up, some people pulling in as late as 7:00 p.m. We try to be settled wherever we stay before 3:00. The next day those same people are gone by 10:00 a.m. We are so blessed to be taking our time. We’re flying by the seat of our pants in many ways. Sometimes I don’t make our reservation until the day before we leave. So far, that’s working just fine.
Thanks for tuning in and taking this voyage with us. I’m excited to bring you along. It’s easier to post all of my pictures on our Facebook RV Road Trip with Tom, Cat, and Paddy page, so if you want to see them all, be sure to check it out.
God bless you. Keep on praying and believing. God’s not done with us yet.
We had such a great time with our pal Teresa and her mom Pat in Idaho Falls. We have been so blessed with wonderful friends. On our way to Idaho Falls from Caldwell, where we enjoyed the company of the Roland’s, we stopped for lunch at Jakers Bar and Grill in Twin Falls. As soon as I saw the billboard sign advertising the restaurant on the interstate, I told Tommy that we had to eat there. You see, my brother’s name is Jake, and I’ve always called him Jakers. It was a great meal that fortified us to finish the trek to our storage facility in Idaho Falls.
As I said in my earlier post, everything we own that wouldn’t fit into our motorhome is in our 20-foot box trailer that housed my Jeep on two cross-country trips. Now the trailer is parked safe and sound at a facility about six blocks from our pal Teresa’s house. Teresa will drive by it often. It blesses my socks off that I found a place so close to her house. It is a God thing because I had no idea it was so close to her when I arranged for the unit. God shows Himself to us through these little blessings all of the time.
We had many views of the Snake River on our drive, and it is truly amazing. We stopped for two nights at The Village of the Trees RV Resort in Delco, Idaho. It was a cute little park that was easy to access from highway 90, but road noise was not an issue. It was beautiful when we arrived, so I set up Paddy’s playhouse. He was so happy to get outside. The weather report said there was a ten percent chance of drizzle that night, so I went to bed without bringing in his beds and items that I wouldn’t want to get wet. At 11:00 p.m. I woke up to pouring rain and ran outside in my nightgown to stick as much of his playhouse under the pop-out as humanly possible. I neglected to grab much of the bedding that had already gotten wet, and I spent the next morning spreading everything out to dry. Our stay there was enjoyable, and $30.00 a night for full hookups in a beautiful park couldn’t be beaten.
I had asked Teresa to scope out the Snake River RV Park close to her because the reviews were not very good. After seeing it, she called to tell me that she would gladly stay there. It had two bar and grills within walking distance and was very close to her house. I tried making a reservation for over a week, and they never had a cancellation. Teresa called me and said that she had called every RV park in the area. The only one close to her was in Shelley. The North Bingham County Recreation Area is about 20 minutes south of Idaho Falls. She’d gone there to check it out, and the manager told her to have me call right away because they only had one site available for our stay. I reluctantly made the reservation because they didn’t offer sewer, and we are glampers in every sense of the word. Tommy drives me crazy, worrying about how often I go to the bathroom if we don’t have a sewer hookup. It makes for a stressful stay.
I called the Snake River RV Park again in a last-ditch effort about 40 minutes from Idaho Falls. I was informed that they still didn’t have room for us. The receptionist told me that they had a sister park in Rigby close by. She gave me the number, and I called the Yellowstone Lakeside RV Park. I was thrilled to secure a spot for our four-night stay. It was north of Idaho Falls, and they offered full hookups, so I canceled our stay at the other park. Thankfully, they hadn’t taken a deposit, and they were great about withdrawing our reservation without a fee. With our campsite reservation handled, we headed to the storage facility. We got our trailer situated in its spot without any problems. After securing it, we stopped on the way to the RV park for a nice Chinese lunch.
The name Yellowstone Lakeside Park was deceiving. It wasn’t lakeside, and it didn’t have any amenities to brag on. That is unless you have a dog. The dog washing station was quite nice. It was, however, conveniently located and had full hookups. It was only 18 minutes from Teresa’s house. She came and picked us up and gave us a tour of Idaho Falls before taking us to her house for dinner. We had a great visit with her and her mom, Pam, before heading back to the campsite in her car. She graciously let us borrow her car since we still don’t have a tow vehicle. We are currently keeping our eyes open and checking Craig’s List and RV forums for a used car with a tow package.
I took a nice walk from the RV park, not knowing exactly where I was headed, and wound up with a great surprise. Adventuring out of the park, I passed a couple of horses while trekking through a small ranch. It took me to the road that led in front of the RV park, and that led me to the Jefferson County Park. It was a beautiful place where we would have loved to stay. It, too, didn’t have sewer, but it was $25.00 a night cheaper than where we were staying and much more pleasant. The Yellowstone Lakeside Park is a glorified gravel parking lot. This county park, blocks away from it, was on a small lake. It had a slide in the middle of the lake, roomy sites, food trucks along the lake that sold tasty snacks six days a week, and a creek running through the back of it. The walking and biking trail around it was nice too. I told the sweet gal at the gate that didn’t charge me the $6.00 walk-in day fee that I would give them a great review and would most likely be back for a day visit with some friends.
Teresa planned lots of great stuff for our visit to the area. On our first full day, she took us to Island Park to have lunch at the Lakeside Lodge and Resort. After a fabulous lunch and tasty beverages, we headed to Johnny Sacks Cabin. It’s an incredible log cabin in Big Springs that won Idaho’s Historic Preservation Award in 2010. It is a must-see if in the area. From there, we went to Upper Mesa Falls. It was amazing!! Teresa was going to take us to the lower falls too, but we didn’t think they could outdo the upper falls, and we were spent. It was a full and fun day. We went back to the RV tired and happy. We needed to rest up for our trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the next day.
Jackson Hole is only a two-hour drive from Idaho Falls, and it is very scenic. Teresa and Pam were amazed by how low the Snake River was in many areas. I guess many parts of the United States are experiencing a drought. I digress. Jackson Hole is a bustling little town, almost too bustling. Tommy and I were both praying for a great parking spot, and we were blessed with one. Teresa and Pam wanted us to experience the Silver Dollar Bar for lunch. I bypassed the LONG line at the door of the restaurant and found four seats at the bar. Favor, once again. Thank you, Jesus. The bartender was slammed, but she still managed to give us excellent service. We enjoyed a tasty lunch and had a great time. From there, we headed to another must-see while in Jackson, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. It’s full of eclectic items, including lots of taxidermy and horse saddle bar stools. The service was good, but the drinks were pricy. It’s what I would expect in a tourist town. The bar was huge and full of happy customers. It was great that out of hundreds of visitors, we saw very few masks.
We had talked about going to the Jefferson County Lake the next day to enjoy a swim on our last day, but after two very full days, we put the kibosh on that idea. Instead, we went to one of Teresa’s favorite spots for Happy hour and another excellent meal. When we arrived at the Smokin Fins, Pam was at the bar saving seats for Tommy, Teresa, and me. The bartender knew her and Teresa well and went out of his way to make us all feel special. They had quite a variety of food. Tommy had sushi, and I had tacos, and everything was delicious. It was an excellent final day in the area.
Our next stop was Melrose, Montana, 178 miles away. We try very hard to stick to the 200-mile, two-day-stay plan. If we go much further, it makes Tommy cranky. I picked the Sportsman Lodging and RV Park because the next stretch of RV parks was over 200 miles from us. I use RVTRIP Wizard in conjunction with RVParky to find our destinations. I love the fact that the Wizard shows you where RV parks are on your route and all the information you need to make your decisions. It lists the amenities, reviews, tips, and the weather in the locations. When I choose our parks, I put them on my list and have an outstanding record of our journey. It also shows you where fuel stops are, and you can add your favorite grocery stores and more to your route. At $39.00 a year, it’s an excellent value. RVParky is free and a great place to check out reviews and RV parks in the area that you are headed.
We got the last spot at the Sportsman, and it was between two giant trees. It was a little tricky to get into, so the park owner came out and helped Tommy back into the site. The Venus and Mars conundrum comes seriously into play when attempting to help Tommy park the motorhome. I was relieved not to be in charge. It was a cute little park with a bar and grill within walking distance. Since we haven’t purchased a tow vehicle yet, this amenity is vital. The Melrose Bar was a fun place. The bartender was so sweet. Not only did she tend the bar and cook the food, but she handled the gas pumps too. There were some video gambling machines there. I lost $8.00, and Tommy won $10.00. It was a fun way to kill some time. We had a pleasant visit with some folks staying in the same park, and it was an enjoyable day. The fried chicken and gravy fries that we took back to the motorhome were surprisingly delicious.
We only got to stay one night at the Sportsman because they were booked up. We were off to Big Timber, Montana KOA, bright and early. We are KOA members and have stayed in many of them, but this one was like no other we had experienced. We always joke about KOAs and trains. Fellow KOA campers totally get it. The first time we hear a train whistle, we laugh about it. Highway noise can also be an issue at KOA’s because most of them are very close to them. The Big Timber park was, however, like nothing we have ever experienced. It was the first time we couldn’t get a sewer hookup at a KOA. I needed to do a load of laundry and figured that I’d do it in the park’s facilities.
We were crammed in like sardines.
We survived the lack of a sewer hookup, but the train and highway noise was horrible. I’m a light sleeper, and it is hard for me to return to slumber once I wake up. I lost count of the trains that sounded like they were right outside of our door. I think the conductors get paid extra from KOA management for hitting the horn additional times. Needless to say, after a two-night stay, I was fatigued. On the bright side, I did get our laundry done for only $3.00.
Despite the problems with Big Timber, I booked us into another KOA in Miles City, Montana. It has been a much better experience. By the grace of God, we are in one of only two sites that have satellite reception. The park is very nice, and the staff is excellent. We were led to our site, and it has a huge patio, table, chairs, and a fire ring. It rained off and on, so we didn’t get to enjoy it much. I couldn’t get out Paddy’s playhouse because of the rain. Try explaining that to a cat. Especially an ornery one like Paddy. The rain very seldom matched up with the forecast. We got a window of opportunity to walk into town, and it was great. Miles City is a cute little town with lots of shops, restaurants and bars, and casinos. They aren’t casinos like Reno or Vegas. They are quaint little places with video games. I put $20.00 into the Hold Your Horses Keno machine and left with $120.00. Tommy left $2.38 lighter than when we walked in. Not bad for a fun afternoon. We went to the Montana Bar from the Silver Star Casino, a historic establishment founded in 1908. We had a nice lunch, and the server was delightful. Bonus, I used some of my winnings to pay for our lunch.
I hope I didn’t drag on too much and bore you. I love hearing from everyone that takes the time to read my blog and check out the pictures of our adventures. We’re off to North Dakota today. It’s one state that we have never been to. If you have some places that you think we should see, please let me know. We’re flying by the seat of our pants this time around, and getting reservations has sometimes been challenging.
God bless and happy travels, Cat