I’ve been retired almost 3 months now. I enjoyed being with Daughter, Son-in-Law, and my parents for the first five weeks. Then we set off for the second five weeks in our Taj-Matrailer, visiting Craig’s friends from high school and work. That five-week-long camping period was broken up by our emergency trip to South Dakota, a sad affair, and a planned weekend excursion with Grandson, Son, and Daughter-in-Law, a very happy affair. Otherwise, we’ve been traveling around the northern parts of the West, never staying in one place more than two days. I’m exhausted!
The weather has certainly been with us. It was above 100° in Washington and Montana and even endured 104° record heat in Spokane. In North and South Dakota, the weather was much more temperate and comfortable with soft breezes. Perfect weather except for one night. We were enjoying a Norwegian dance group in the Oakwood Lakes State Park when the director of the dance group saw lightning during one of the dances and said, “we’re done.” We hurried back to our camp site and thought it had passed over. A little later, the camp host came zooming around saying big wind and big rain coming. We battened down the hatches and about 10 minutes later it hit. Torrents of rain hit the side of our Taj-Matrailer, but we stayed safe, warm, and dry inside. Three inches fell in about an hour. We were really happy about the rain because it washed a bunch of bird mess and feathers off our trailer that were deposited there during our stay in Sioux Falls. An adverse impact of camping in shady spots under trees.
We have the setting-up-the-camper process and taking-it-down process almost perfected, developed by the many times we’ve had to do it. It takes us about 15-20 minutes to set up, complete with bedding in place, ready for whatever is next. It takes us about 15 minutes or less to take it down and get it ready for moving down the road. And that’s if we are in a rush. If not, it takes a little longer. But it’s not the time it takes that’s tiring, it’s the getting used to the new settings.
We still have our midnight trips that start with “where are we and which way to the bathroom.” And it’s really hard to keep up with what day of the week it is, not to mention what day of the month it is. Between my pill box with the days of the week on it and the calendar app on my cell phone, I have been able to generally keep up with it. Otherwise, I would be lost in time. Mother-in-Law has a clock with days of the week on it. We need one for our Taj-Matrailer.
We’ve mostly stayed in commercial campgrounds which are almost always situated next to railroad tracks. Remember that I Love Lucy show where they stay in a shack next to a train track? We had a similar experience in Spokane. We had just gone to bed when we heard a train whistle and the roar of it coming down the track. It grew louder and louder until I was sure it was going to be coming through the side of the camper at any moment. I wasn’t sure whether to run for it or stay put. I couldn’t remember tripping over train tracks while putting up the camper so I stayed put, but it felt like that train was just outside the door. Not sure if the camper shaking was from the train or me in my fright.
We had other adventures in Spokane. We had a large camping spot, unusual for commercial campgrounds, that was located close to the bathroom facilities. That was something we liked. However, to get to them, we had to make our way past the large garbage dumpster that ripened in the 104° weather. And then walk past the doggie walk area. How convenient! The doggie and human walk areas were together! We don’t have a dog, but most other campers did. Hubby enjoyed watching the activities there and providing commentary on his observations. The biggest advantage of the campground was its close proximity to the bike trail along the Spokane River, one of the reasons we stayed there. It was easy access and a beautiful ride. Since the temperatures were over 100° in the afternoons, we found solace in mall and museum air conditioning. It’s worth the price of admission or the price of a pedicure—whichever is available.
In Great Falls, we stayed at the campgrounds closest to the bike trail along the Missouri River. (Side note: Hubby makes the campground reservations. Can you tell?) It was one of my least favorite places that we stayed. We were a long long ways from the bathroom and the camper pads were parallel with the path of the sun so the trees beside the pads offered no shade at all with the high 90s temps. The parts of the bike trail that I saw went past the industrial areas of town so they held no interest to me for riding. I ride for the scenery. Hubby rides for the mileage. Hubby rode for a half day while I enjoyed working on my book manuscript. By noon, it was too hot for him to ride and too hot for me to sit in the shade of our camper working. Back to looking for a museum’s air conditioning for the afternoon.
Our favorite camp spot was South Dakota’s Oakwood Lake State Park. The pads are spacious, with enough space between them to feel comfortable. The facilities were clean and well cared for. In the older part of the park, the trees were huge, providing plenty of shade and cicadas to sing you to sleep. The newer parts of the campground had small trees, but offered a beautiful view of the lake in the supermoon light. It was so peaceful there. No railroads or loud interstate traffic. The sound of children playing was everywhere which is a pleasant sound to me. Reminds me of the days when my children were playing outside. Sweet sound. Sweet memories.
The next part of our summer sojourn takes us to a Forest Service campground, Bismarck Lake, for 15 days. We will take Mother-in-Law with us. She and Father-in-Law spent 41 summer vacations there. Last year would have been 42, but Father-in-Law was too sick to go. Our stay will bring back many happy memories of good times there and may bring a few tears, but we do it in memory of a good man. This campfire is for you, Jim.