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Travel after Covid19, MD to SD leg

  • Wow, its finally time to go travel again! Covid-19 travel restrictions are being relaxed, places are opening and we can travel and see interesting places in this wonderful country of ours.

    Thankfully, I have been employed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, otherwise I would definitely have gone stir crazy staying at home all this time. The original plan was to depart in April, now 2 months later it is time to go. The route we had planned has been changed several times, for there is so much to see yet. When Tanya suggested that it is so warm now, how about reverse our route and go north for the summer. What an excellent idea, one thing about travel without any restrictions, you can change destination on a whim and be happy about it!

    As I redrew the route it occurred to me that we would be in the southwest in the fall. I remembered the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and had to check when it occurs. October first half, yay, I can make this work! So long that this has been on my bucket list! I texted my brother to see if he was interested and he tried to reserve and not an hour after I reserved and there were no openings left L Hopefully that will change, it would be great if my brother and perhaps my Mom can join us.

    To prepare for the trip, we had replaced the A/C with a bigger unit, installed a refrigerator with a bigger freezer, covered the windows with perforated vinyl to block the heat. Of course, we are going north now so all this preparation may not have been needed but we are ready if a heat wave hits at any time.


    ON THE ROAD AGAIN! 11 am and we are off, after 6 months the RV needed a good bath so stopping at a carwash we have used before with good results, we move on feeling everything is ready for a great trip experience. Taking I-68 through Cumberland, MD we look up my colleague whom I worked with at Western Maryland Medical Center. Catching up on hospital improvements and people we both knew. It so happens that the first manned space flight takes off from the US soil in 11 years. What a change in technology and we enjoyed chatting and watching the liftoff.

    Staying in Western Maryland for the night, our first day’s trip was only 70 miles. Yes, we are learning to stop and smell the roses. The second day we thought to make some miles but soon felt the need for a 3 hour nap. Staying over in London, OH we realized that 2 days of driving made only 370 miles – hmmm, this is a really good way to travel.

    We attempted to stop at a trail found on Alltrails to get some exercise and surprisingly there were a lot of people here. Deciding that it was too crowded to enjoy a nature hike we moved on and happened to come across a building which looks like a picnic basket. Wow!


    Read about this company, it is really interesting.

    Staying the night at Madison County Fairgrounds, we saw that they had numerous electrical and water connections. We did not need power but enjoyed the solitude and quiet for the night. I had a bbq grill from the days of my Class A RV travel and we fired it up cooking stuffed poblano and green peppers. Much to my surprise this flameless grill cooked them in a reasonable time - I had removed the heat shield pan and more direct heat reached the food. Going to have to try meat products this way next time.

    Tanya watched the swallows flying all over, eating the insects that come out at dusk and it reminded her of her childhood story of why swallows have a forked tail.

    Monday morning – after taking an outside shower (an outdoor adventure!), Tanya works a few hours, and off we go heading for Auntie Bea and Uncle Carl in Indianapolis. Spending a few hours together is always fun. Catching up on what has been going on in each other’s lives.

    Traveling into downtown Indianapolis we find that the downtown area is closed due to the protests. Later, we learned that Chicago downtown was also closed. What a shock, we often use an app called izitravel to take walking and driving tours, and this is not an option right now.

    Indiana Dunes National Park was open and we were able to take a 1 mile walk through the sand dunes. At the end of the walk it was a big surprise to see hundreds of people on the beach of Lake Michigan. Seriously, we were practically alone on the sand dunes but once we drop down to the beach there are so many people there. The visitor center was closed so we were unable to get the passport stamp. But I wrote it in by hand.

    We also have been monitoring how people are reacting to Covid-19 guidelines. Seems that larger cities have much more awareness and use of masks or gloves. Restaurants are closed in most places. In more rural areas there seems to be a slackening of mask use. MD, PA, OH were quite strong on mask use and business closures, as we continued in IN, IL, WI there was less use in the rural areas as there was earlier. While we were in WI the relaxing for restaurants occurred and we were able to sit down for a meal at last.

    After finding out that Chicago was being closed due to the protests, so no tours of the Windy City. We went to our extended family’s Lake House. Tom’s niece was there with her boyfriend fishing to have a fish fry. Very nice to be here and get some down time. We plan to stay a week or so to catch up with family and rest.


    Tanya works remotely and here is todays office!!

    Cool co-worker

    Nearly a week we stayed in WI visiting family, fishing, resting. A day with Uncle Jerry is like a trip in time, he has done so much in his life, one of the more interesting stories was about fishing in Canada. We liked his story of hunting bear as we sat in his living room looking at the stuffed 500 lb bear on the wall!

    The majority of the family had quite a lot on their own schedule so not everyone was available while we were here. Along with the Covid-19 changes for all of us socializing, I in particular was very aware of how each person reacted to meeting up. I felt it was important that I explain that I had worked directly with Covid-19 testing sites and hospitals treatment rooms. As I explained this, I was also spraying my hands with alcohol and wearing face mask. Each person then could weigh how they felt best to interact with me. All turned out well and I left each family member a box of face masks that I had brought along for them.

    Earl and Denise were available for dinner on Friday Fish Fry night! We really enjoyed our time with Earl and Denise, too bad we don’t live closer, I think we could have been great friends. This was a biker bar near the lake house and you still felt comfortable in here. Wisconsin had just open restaurants with restrictions, so it was nice to have a sit-down meal.

    Turns out Earl and Denise are close to retirement also, they have bought a winter home in Arizona so we plan that someday we could stop and visit them there.

    Carol and Greg were available during the lawn mowing efforts, so much has changed in all of our lives and it is so nice to catch up and share with each other. Finding out that Carol and her husband have been retired for 7 years already – where has the time gone! She has been lucky enough that the right time in her grandchildren’s lives, soon they will be in school and Carol will not have the time as she has had with them. Hmmm perhaps some travel plans in her future?

    Quiet mornings sitting on the dock on the lake as sunrise slowly wakes the day. Nice and slow I’m learning!

    So after several days of visiting and resting we had been keeping an eye on the weather, first a cold front from north west is coming, then Cristobal, a tropical storm from the Gulf of Mexico. Thinking we would have a decent day driving on Monday we headed out going due west.

    Taking 2 lane roads at the beginning of this trip is enjoyable, but sooner or later you end up on interstates. We had lunch along the Mississippi River in La Crosse, WI - hmmm I wonder how kayaking would be here? Crossing the Mississippi river is always exciting, the Mississippi goes such a long way and we would be crossing it in many different places over time.

    The Spam Museum was closed due to Covid-19 but we got to take our pic and will have to visit another time.

    We stopped at a county fairground in Minnesota for the night and were kindly told that it was closed but they let us stay anyway. That was a first for me. The next night we stayed in National Grasslands alongside the Badlands of South Dakota. Wow, pretty cool, sitting on a bluff high above the erosion of hills that creates the Badlands. Morning sunrise did not have clouds but the wide expanse of sky that you could see is amazing. We chatted quite a lot about BLM lands, National Forests and how we are still just beginning to learn how and where to camp in these areas.

    Corn Palace - I have stopped here before, but this is Tanya’s first visit. Unfortunately, it was rushed for the cold front was making its appearance at that time. As we drove, we could see up the cross streets a HUGE BLACK WALL of RAINCLOUDS coming right for us. Never seen anything like it. We parked alongside a building to be protected from wind and rain. WOW, scary as the whole day becomes dark, high winds, very heavy rain in fact a deluge! We sit it out, both awed and scared at the same time. It was so amazing the brief glimpses we had of the Big Black Wall coming toward us. We both thought of how we could have parked to experience that Big Black Wall coming closer to us and over us and still be safe.  This was the northern cold front we had seen on the weather reports. We were able to track it on a phone app right to the point of impact, but the real thing was so much more impressive than seeing a picture on an app.

    Sunrise was very different, it began getting light at 4am and the sun does not make an actual appearance until after 5am. Everyone knows I am a sunrise kind of guy and this was vastly different for me. I think it also had something to do with the high bluff we were on. Something to think about.

    As we are moving west, Tanya’s work still starts on the East Coast time, so we are now getting up even earlier – a great opportunity to enjoy a sunrise every morning. It was quite cool when we woke up, probably in the mid-40s. So nice to have our trusted Gas Buddy heater on a cool morning like this. Tom cooks an amazing breakfast! I think hash browns with peppers and onions, eggs, and a toast taste so much better in the fresh morning air in the RV than at a diner. ?

    Touring the Badlands is awesome. Our friend Joy talked about her trips here and how much she enjoyed them. When Joy and I discussed the Badlands I thought this is where I toured many years ago but I discovered it is not and I have memories of a totally different mountain and sights but cannot place it, I will have to research it and go there again. OK I read through some of my old journals and found it was the Bighorn Mountains, will have to add that to this trip. Travel is interesting, places you have been before are often worth visiting again for memory fades and although it is not a new experience you see different things that you had not noticed before. So I am looking forward to seeing the Bighorn Mountains again, seeing things I remember and new things as well.

    To emphasize that thought, how about Wall Drug store? Anyone who has traveled I-90 has seen the numerous billboard for Wall Drug and just had to see it. What was on the billboards is not what I remember but the quantity is astounding, I counted the billboards this time and found 62 billboards! They started at South Dakota mile marker 410, were individual billboards and occasionally 2 and 3 together.

    I noticed a new billboard for Firehouse Brewery, these billboards are unique because the had an actual firetruck next to or a part of the billboard. I did not mark what was the mile marker when I started seeing them but there were 12 firetrucks! Where did they get all of these vintage firetrucks?



    Wildlife in the Badlands

    Chipmunk western style

     Burrowing Owl

    Badlands SD Prairie Dogs



    Unanticipated visitor, bird fley into RV and did not want to leave.


    I have been doing some work on a map to show all of the places we have traveled in an RV. The previous trips are all in black and the current trip is in red. Sometimes there is overlap with previous trips, that’s ok too – we are seeing friends and places over again because we enjoy them!

    A little hard to see, here is the current trip only and zoomed in:

    We plan to spend time around Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park and other interesting things to see nearby. See you on the next blog.