60th Anniversary Pre-Party

LOCATION: Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada – about 350 miles NW of Edmonton

WEATHER: Beautiful. High 70

We had to get up at 4:00 AM at the airport hotel to take the shuttle to the airport. We flew Air Canada to Edmonton, then up to Grande Prairie. There was a 2-hour delay in Edmonton, so George found the airport’s Belgian Beer Bar to kill the time.

We are being “billeted” at my aunt and uncle’s spunky 95-year-old neighbor’s house. She is amazing – zips around on her golf cart and proudly mows her large yard, which is almost a daily task.

My Uncle Leo and George enjoyed a beer on the patio.

Then, we went to my cousin’s house, just down the lane, where the party will be held tomorrow. This evening, it was a dinner party for the family. They have a beautiful pool/entertainment area and a huge backyard.

Here is more family enjoying the beautiful outdoor kitchen area.

We enjoyed drinks outside, then dinner in the swimming pool area. Dinner was gourmet macaroni and cheese, a mushroom/zucchini/tomato casserole, and mixed sausages.

After dinner, we watched old home movies on an ancient 8mm projector. My brother and I (at age 10 and 7) featured in one of them. Fun!

Back to Canada

CAMPGROUND: Not! Winnipeg Best Western Hotel

LOCATION: Winnipeg, Manitoba airport

WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 72

We left Devil’s Lake, North Dakota without a lot of rush, and headed toward Winnipeg. It was a 4-hour drive.

Unlike the US/Mexico border, this border already has a wall…..:-)

Immigration was much easier this time, probably because we crossed in a small town, on a rural highway. The only question is why we were bringing the Airstream if we planned to fly. We explained that there were no good flights from a US location going to Grande Prairie, Alberta, so we arranged to fly out of Winnipeg. We are hauling the Airstream, as when we return in a few days we will be going east and south, and don’t want to backtrack.

The landscape in southern Manitoba looks a lot like North Dakota – wheat and hay fields everywhere. The farmers were busy with their huge machinery harvesting their crops.

We arrived at our hotel and parked the Airstream in the Park & Stay lot. Sure hope it will be safe while we are gone! Here is the view from our hotel room…

We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant – Chicken wings, not too special. An early night as we have to get up at 4:00 AM tomorrow for our flight.

Lots of oil fields!

CAMPGROUND: Grahams Island State Park. On Devil’s Lake. Appears to be brand new or newly renovated. Big – 200 sites. Choice of full hook-ups or electricity/water. Dump station. Visitors’ Center. Bait shop and convenience store. Big boat launch area. Spacious sites, mostly pull-through. Fire pit and picnic table. $25/night plus $7/day pass – unless you have annual one. Wifi at the Visitors Center. Limited TV reception. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: In central North Dakota
WEATHER: Perfect again. Sunny. High 73

We were serenaded during the night by coyotes. Cool!

As we were driving out of the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, this bison trotted right beside us, grunting his fond farewell.

We drove about 5 hours today, the longest trip we have had for awhile. We are on our way to Winnipeg, Manitoba. We are leaving the Air Stream at an airport hotel and are flying up to Grande Prairie, Alberta for a few days to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 60th anniversary with them.

We drove by lots and lots of oil fields. Not only are they massive, but their equipment is huge, and many of them have little villages of RVs and temporary portable housing for their employees.

Here we are at the geographical center of North America – Rugby, North Dakota. It is halfway each way – north/south and east/west. The flags of the 3 countries – Canada, USA, and Mexico are proudly flying.

We arrived at our campground in mid-afternoon, and were astounded that almost no one else is here. We have the huge place almost to ourselves. Its main attraction is the lake – a fisherman’s delight, supposedly. They told us that it is completely full each weekend. Glad we are here mid-week.

Since we have been boondocking for the last 4 nights (no electricity, water, showers), the first thing I did was to take a long, hot shower. Boy did it feel good! It feels like we are in luxury here.

I got caught up on internet business while George played with the TV. We get 4 channels – all PBS!!!! So, we watched the news a bit, until we became depressed and sickened.

DINNER: This is the last meal before the Air Stream sits by itself in the airport parking lot, so I am trying to use up everything in the refrigerator, just in case the refrig goes off. So, leftover supreme tonight was on the menu. George toasted the last of the flatbreads. I spread on the last dab of leftover pasta sauce and cream cheese for the base. I cooked up the last of some pepperoni, artichoke hearts, red onion, and mushrooms for the topping. Then, I topped it off with the last of the mozarella cheese, and zapped it in the microwave to melt. I must say that it turned out very well. Side was the last of a tomato and lettuce. (Does this have a common theme???)

Don’t Pet the Bison!

CAMPGROUND: Juniper Campground, inside North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As with other national campgrounds – limited services and beautiful nature. Water and dump station at entrance. Nice firepit and picnic table. Large sites; ours is pull-through. OK bathrooms, but no showers. Woodsy. $7/night with senior pass. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Not near anything! West central North Dakota
WEATHER: Perfect. High 73. Sunny.

Today’s plan was to move from the South Unit to North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The two are separated by about 55 miles. As we left the South Unit this morning, we watched this buffalo grazing, right near our campground.

The road north between the two units is bordered by National Grasslands, and lots of lots of hayfields. There is so much hay that they bale the grass on the shoulders of the highway. We wonder who gets this public hay?

This North Unit campground is not very utilized due to its remoteness. We had our pick of about 40 sites. It did fill up a bit later in the day. After we got set up, we took the scenic drive around the park.

These badlands are even more rugged and dramatic than the ones in the South Unit. Part of it is a high prairie, where these buffalo were munching away.

We walked some nature trails and enjoyed the beautiful day.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: Since I love to cook, I like to carry most of my spices with me. There is a drawer under the oven that is perfect for storing my stash..

I put all the spice jars – oregano, basil, cumin, chili powder, dill, file gumbo, sesame seeds, etc etc in a box.

Once the lid is on night, it fits perfectly on its side in that little cupboard.

I like to find grocery stores that have a bulk section so I can fill up the jars without having to buy new ones, when possible

Our campground has this cute sign posted. Some people just don’t get it, though. At Yellowstone, they pass out flyers in 10 languages warning people to not get close to the bison. Even with that, we heard that a few weeks ago, some dumb parents told their young daughter to go pet the bison for a photo-op. Of course, a disaster ensued. The bison tossed her up in the air, and the parents fled in fear.

DINNER: Back to lake trout. 😦 I pulled out some frozen fillets from the freezer, and made a British fish pie: I layered the fish on the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish. Then layers of — a tin of smoked oysters with its juice, peas, sauteed onions, lemon juice, dollops of cream cheese, all topped with mashed potatoes. Since the evening cooled off, I was able to bake it in the oven without heating up the Air Stream. I told George that I could not face any leftovers, and planned to just toss whatever we didn’t eat. It must have been good, as he asked for seconds and finished it off. I will make fish salad for sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch.

Off to be enchanted….

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Cottonwood Campground
LOCATION: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in southwestern North Dakota
WEATHER: Hot. High 95

Today’s destination was a day trip to the Enchanted Highway. We knew it was supposed to be hot today, so an air-conditioned car trip seemed in order.

The Enchanted Highway is kind of like Wall Drug – billboards really hyping it up. It is a 32-mile stretch of highway between two towns with 7 huge metals sculptures placed randomly along the way. Billed as the “World’s Largest Metal Sculptures”, they have been constructed with old oil tanks, farm equipment, and wire mesh. These are a few….

Deer Crossing – built in 2002

Tin Family – built in 1991

Grasshoppers in the Field – built in 1999. The grasshopper is 50 feet long and 40 feet tall. In this photo, you can see how small George and our truck look in comparison.

Speaking of grasshoppers……throughout the drive, our windshield was hit repeatedly with huge plops of moist grasshopper guts. We had to stop twice to clean the windshield in order to see out!

A Fisherman’s Dream – built in 2006. Unfortunately two of the fish sculptures in this installation had recently blown over in a storm. When we stopped by, the artist was there with some workers getting it back in order. Of course, George had to chat with the group.

We had planned to cap our trip with lunch at the much-advertised at Enchanted Castle Hotel and Restaurant, but alas, it was closed. So, we drove on to the next larger town for fast food. 😦 We tried Burger King’s new meatless burger. It was actually quite good, but expensive.

On the way back to the campground, we saw two huge herds of bison and a group of wild horses in the national park, along the highway. We stopped at the visitors’ center to look at the Painted Rocks section.

DINNER: Shrimp cocktail as an appetizer, while we waited for the evening to cool down. Then, halibut. I had bought some fish filets before George successfully caught the lake trout. I am trying to use up all the seafood before we leave the Air Stream for a few days when we fly to Alberta soon. I wrapped the halibut (my favorite fish) in aluminum foil with some sesame oil and lemon slices, and George cooked it over the campfire. Sides were stir-fried rice and salad.

BOOK: “For the Sake of Elena” by Elizabeth George. British detective story. Very good. I will try to read more by this author. 9 stars out of 10

Bonding with Teddy Roosevelt

CAMPGROUND: Cottonwood Campground inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit. Typical national park – no services, but full of natural beauty. Ours is a pull-through, level site. Nice grill and picnic table. Bathrooms are good, but no shower. Water available at registration. No dump station. $7/night with Senior Pass. What a deal! 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Southwest North Dakota. Nearest town is Medora
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 75

We didn’t sleep very well at the Harvest Host brewery as long, noisy trains passed by throughout the night, only feet from the AirStream. Also, there were some refrigerated trucks in the parking lot and their compressors came on periodically during the night. Not a big deal.

As we passed in to North Dakota, the landscape changed almost immediately. Still a lot of badlands, but in addition to the endless wheat and hay fields of Montana, huge fields of happy sunflowers basking in the sun filled the landscape.

We didn’t have campground reservations, so just hoped that we could grab a walk-in site. Since we arrived at about 10:00, several campers were leaving, and we were able to get into one fairly easily.

After getting set up, we went in to the town of Medora. The town is quite touristy, but still has retained its cowboy Western feel.

This is where Teddy Roosevelt fell in love with North Dakota and started the concept of conservation by creating national parks. He said that being in North Dakota is what made him want to be President. I just had to give him a hug…..

We drove the 36-mile scenic drive loop around the park, stopping in many of the scenic viewpoints.

On the drive, we saw a wild horse galloping in a field, then several bison, and thousands of prairie dogs.

Back at the campsite, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon, then started a campfire. Our neighbors just happen to be AirStreamers, too, and they joined us for happy hour.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIPS: With limited cupboard space, I only have 3 pans for cooking. One skillet is old and on its last legs. I use it when we cook outdoors. A saucepan is used inside and outside – for soups, pasta, etc. It will probably need to be delegated just to outdoor cooking soon. Here they are, on the campfire tonight….

Note the skillet mitt – hand-made by our friend Jenny. The third pan is a non-stick saute pan that I only use indoors.

DINNER: I just couldn’t face another meal of lake trout, so I switched it up. Needing to use some frozen, cooked Italian sausage, I made a pasta dish: macaroni with a meat/veg/tomato sauce. Once it was all cooked over the campfire, I topped it with cheese and cooked it some more in the oven.

There is no artificial lighting here, and the sky is huge and pitch-black. At about 9:30, George left to attend an astronomy program where he looked through a telescope at different planets and stars.

We are going to South Africa!

CAMPGROUND: Another free night at a Harvest Host site – Beaver Creek Brewery
LOCATION: Wibaux, Montana – in southeast part of Montana
WEATHER: Cool/cold and rainy. High 50. Unpleasant

We were so lucky to have stayed at the Harvest Host site at the Wolf Point Museum last night. When they opened this morning, we went back in to use their internet. Same as yesterday, we were the only customers and the place is immense. We went to the back to a quiet spot, and did a Skype housesitting interview with a couple in South Africa. While traveling, it is hard to find a quiet place with internet. A few minutes after the call, they sent us a note accepting us. Yeah! It will be around Christmas. Now, we can start making some travel plans. We hope to do a safari while we are there, too, and hope to find at least one more assignment, to make the trip worthwhile.

Leaving Wolf Point, we took the Big Sky Backroads Highway. As soon as we got on the highway, a deer jumped in front of the truck. It was a really close miss – by just a few inches. Later, we saw a few herds of pronghorn. We saw very few people or cars, though. Really remote!

Lunch was a hearty cup of soup. In the absence of rest stops, we often use closed truck weighing stations to pull over – long, flat, and convenient. I warmed up the soup on the propane stove. It hit the spot.

We arrived at Beaver Creek Brewery, and got settled in in their parking lot for the free overnight stay.

In this little town, there are about 5 bars plus this brewery. Not much else. Part of the brewery is a nice restaurant with a theater. It has a stage and often has a band or a play. Nothing tonight, though.

We found the town’s museum and went on a guided tour. (The tour guide looked like she hadn’t had any customers in a long while, so we thought we would spice up her day). The tour was of the house where the founder, Frenchman Pierre Wibaux, had lived when he came in to town from his cattle ranch.

About 5:00, the brewery and restaurant started filling up. All of the vehicles in the parking lot were dirty pick-ups, and about every man in the restaurant was wearing a cowboy hat.

We really wanted to eat the good-looking pizza served in the brewery or the restaurant’s Saturday night prime rib special, but we have to use up that darned lake trout.

DINNER: Jambalaya – with shrimp, andouille sausage, green pepper, onion, garlic, and guess what…..chuncks of lake trout! Served over rice.