So, with the ramps securely in place on the tow dolly and having averted treating every driver going north on I-76 to a pyrotechnic shower of sparks, we left Pikes Peak RV Park behind Saturday morning May 5 on our way to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
We needed gas, and there was a Costco on the way out of Colorado Springs. Costco has yet to make it to Oklahoma, but my sister in law talks about them all the time, as did Mireille’s cousin. They seem to be everywhere, and it is not difficult to navigate the parking lot for gas, plus the gas prices are less than what we find elsewhere (except maybe Flying-J with the GoodSam discount), so we thought it was a good idea to stop in, get a membership, and fill up.
After that stop, we were off again, and it was a relatively uneventful drive for a good while. The plan was to stop for the night at another WalMart in North Platte Nebraska. After the experience in Bernalillo, we were not sure that we would stay there, but it was a target, so we stuck with it until we found it would not work. We had two days to get to Sioux Falls so come what may we were on our way.
Saturday was a long driving day but uneventful. We made it to the WalMart in North Platte, and there were lots of trucks, and several trailers already parked in the parking lot there. We found a spot where we could tuck in next to a grassy curb and so were able to level and open some slides so that everything was more comfortable than it had been in Bernalillo. The temperature was also much cooler than it had been in Bernalillo, so we were okay, we had a good night’s sleep and were ready to get going bright and early Sunday. When you are boondocking in a parking lot, leaving is so much easier than when you are hooked up. No tanks to dump, no cords to unplug or hoses to roll up and store. No car to put on the trailer or ramps to remember to stow. We can get away much quicker, and we did.
Working our way through this adventure, I find that navigation and communication can be two of our most significant challenges as we drive from place to place. We got a good dose of our need to improve in both when we came to a T in the road somewhere in Nebraska on Sunday.
Led Zeppelin said:
“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you are on.”
Led Zeppelin never encountered this particular T in the road in Nebraska.
We went right; we should have gone left. As Scout said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “Thus began our longest journey together” at least in Charlie so far.
We soon found ourselves on narrow country roads trying to figure out how to get back where we should be.
We were driving down one very narrow two-lane farm road with no shoulders when, in the oncoming lane we met a large tractor towing a colossal farm implement, the kind that folds up like a jack-knife so that they only take three-quarters of the entire roadway. I got as far right as I dared without letting the passenger side wheels get off the blacktop, for fear they would slide off into the ditch on the side of the road. The farmer moved over to his right as well, but he went all the way over into the ditch on his side. I was barely breathing as my rear view mirror cleared the folded up part of his under-cutter by inches.
After about an hour we found our way back to where we should have been and continued on our way, but where I thought Nebraska was miles and miles of flat country covered in cornfields, we came to find that Nebraska is miles and miles of twisty, turning roads over roller coaster type hills.
Since we are pulling our car, I stay in Tow-Haul mode all the time. When you are on roads like this, climbing and then going downhill again, the engine sounds like it is working very hard. It is almost worse noise-wise than it was going through the mountains on the way into or out of Phoenix because you are constantly climbing then engine breaking, rinse and repeat ad infinitum. The noise was so loud and so constant that Mireille got concerned that we were killing Charlie! She was genuinely concerned! I had to reassure her that this was what the engine was supposed to sound like and everything was all right.
Another thing about Nebraska, the birds there seem to be dumber than any other birds I have ever encountered. The new green grass was growing on either side of the two-lane roadway, and the birds seemed to be very attracted to this grass, as there were dozens and dozens of them per mile. Traffic was light on the road we were on, for miles we did not see another vehicle of any type. So, when Charlie came through, these birds were flying up left and right, exploding out of the grass because I imagine they were startled by the oncoming noise of Charlie in Tow-Haul mode. At any rate, we hit more birds in Charlie that one day than I have hit in my entire life! One was so big and hit with such a big bang that when we had a chance as we went through a little town, I stopped and got out to see if it had damaged the fiberglass in the front. It hadn’t, but I was fully expecting that it had.
After a while, the grass was not as green, and the birds stopped playing chicken with Charlie. Mireille and I were both thankful. I love birds and hate killing them, but perhaps we have done our small part in the evolutionary cycle to reduce the number of birds that bolt INTO danger rather than AWAY from it, thereby saving entire species of birds in the future. You are welcome!
As we drew closer to Sioux Falls, I almost accidentally took the exit for Sioux City, which is in Iowa and not South Dakota, and precisely the opposite direction from where we wanted to go. Mireille caught my mistake in time, so I did not add insult to injury on what had been a trying day. We had reservations at the Sioux Falls KOA, which, as it turns out, is near I-90…very near I-90!
When we first got to our spot, I thought the traffic noise was going to be a problem. We were so close to the highway that had I wanted to, I could have picked up a piece of gravel from our spot and hit the highway without much effort. The KOA is also near an exit, and on this exit are rub strips to alert the drivers that they need to prepare to stop. So in addition to the traffic noise, there was this repeating THRUM-THRUM-THRUM of vehicles going over these rub strips. Add to that truckers using their Jake brakes, and the noise could get pretty um…vibrant at times!
However, as Elwood said when Jake asked him how often the train goes past, it happens “so often you won’t even notice,” and before long we didn’t notice it much ourselves except when we were sitting outside. Which we did, with some wine and grapes and cheese and crackers as we decompressed from the day’s drive.
Sunday was a long day. The wrong turn put us an hour behind, and we had to slow down on the roller coaster roads. I do not like breaking as I go into a curve, especially on a downhill slope. It seems like a bad idea to me to get all the weight shifting forward over the front wheels as I brake and then have it all slew over onto one wheel as we go into the curve. That being the case I go slow enough to feel comfortable. Going uphill the speed takes care of itself. Because of all that, we did not maintain anything close to the 65 MPH I usually go when on the highway.
However, that wasn’t what made the day really long. When I do not respond as I think I should to how things are going, I get upset with myself, and that can make the day seem even longer. Stuff happens, stuff is going to happen, we are going to take wrong turns (as we did in West Memphis, as we did on this day, and as you will see we do again in later posts) and part of this, just like being married, is just working together and getting through it. I didn’t handle our wrong turn well, and my getting upset at Mireille because of a mistake did nothing to help the situation. I am trying to get better, but on this day, when we went right rather than left, I did not shine. The good thing about both of us is we have gotten to the point where we do not hold grudges for long. We do pretty well, not perfect, about getting stuff off our chests and keeping the internal pressure low. On this day we stopped at a broken down rest area under some trees and ate lunch on a picnic table and talked about it while we were in the midst of trying to figure out where in the world we were, and that helped. By the time we were having our wine and cheese that night, it really was wine and cheese instead of whine and cheese. We were good to go again, ready for the next day and the work week ahead.
The reason we were in Sioux Falls, to begin with, is that we use Your Best Address for our mail forwarding service, and they are located in Sioux Falls. Monday we dropped in to pick up any mail that was waiting for us since they were holding it while we were on our weekly sprints. We also found out about where to get the plates for Gretchen and our driver’s licenses. They are friendly people and were very helpful and patient with us.
You need to go to two different places, one for car tags and the other for drivers licenses, but both are set up very well. We went just before lunchtime for Gretchen’s plates, and are so glad we did. We had no line to wait in when we got there, but by the time we were leaving the line had grown a lot.
The process to get your driver’s license is very well run and does not take much time. The people are friendly but make sure you actually check everything on your license like they tell you to do before you leave. I hadn’t memorized our new mailing address yet and just glanced at my license when the lady gave it to me. I had to go back the next day for another one because the zip code on the license was wrong. They made it easy on me and I didn’t need to pay for it again, but I could have saved myself the trip had I just paid more attention.
We had no idea what to expect from Sioux Falls. As I mentioned, we had to stop in to get our car tagged and our drivers licenses. Aside from that, we had no plans. We would have loved to see Mount Rushmore while we were in South Dakota, but Sioux Falls is a good five-hour drive away, and one thing we have had to accept early as we make our way to Canada is that we have to pass stuff by and plan on getting to it next time. I guess one could see everything, but that would have to be their only goal. We had a destination to get to and a date by which we had to get there so Mount Rushmore would have to wait.
Sioux Falls has a lot to offer. The people are friendly, there are lots of micro-breweries in town, some excellent restaurants, traffic is low, and it is pretty. I am sure that winter is a challenge, but spring was lovely. The falls themselves were, to me, an unexpected treat. I don’t know that I ever gave any thought to how the town got its name, but the idea that there was any kind of waterfall there at all was a complete surprise to me as silly as that sounds.
Phillips Street near downtown is a fun area that is lined with restaurants and bars and cool art as well. One night while we were there we walked all up and down it, stopping in at the Blarney Stone Pub and Crawford’s Bar and Grill to see what they had to offer. Neither was a disappointment.
While the Blarney Stone Pub looks too new to really pull off the Irish pub play well, their food was good, and the bartender was outstanding.
Crawford’s Bar and Grill was a more “upscale” looking place.
To me, the decor here fits in the intersection of the Venn Diagram which occurs between what you might call nouveau-bohemian and what I imagine might be found in a really fancy brothel. There were extravagant chandeliers and small, colored jewels pasted in the wallpaper! I never could decide which bucket to finally put it in. There was no lingering scent of hashish in the air of course, and had there been I am not sure it would have helped, but it would have not been unexpected. It would be easy to imagine going into a place like this in Eastern Europe, Victorian Paris, or Bourbon Street. We both really enjoyed it.
In the end, we went to Sioux Falls to do some required business. We did our business, but as a bonus, we got to visit a fun town with a lot to offer anyone who wants to have an enjoyable, peaceful, relaxing break from the road.