ND: Hannaford – 07/19/2016 – 07/29/2016

Hannaford, ND

Parking: Clinton A. Brown Memorial Park
Rating: 10

The Isuzu blew a nasty puff of smoke and threw a code about cylinder 2 misfiring. Back when we got the truck, we had the fuel injectors for cylinders 1 and 4 replaced, but we had left 2 and 3 alone as they were still working at the time, so it was likely that the injector was going. Of course, being in the middle of the nowhere, there are no Isuzu specialists around, and we knew from prior experience, that we were probably looking at about a week in the shop. When we chose our rig, one of the advantages was the ability to drop the pods and take the truck in for service, so it was time to exercise that option. We had hoped to be able to get to Duluth, MN, so we could sail Superior during the shop time, but it was clear we needed to get it to the shop as soon as possible. We found a little city park in the small town of Hannaford where we’d be able to leave the pods (most private RV parks will not allow a truck camper to take the camper off the truck) on the way to Fargo.

Dropping the pods does not have to be a big deal, but once again thunderstorms with high winds were expected, so leaving the pods high on the jacks was not going to be a good idea, so it turned into a much bigger job, but since this was such a private park, we were able to get them off with no one coming over to gawk and bother us.

We then loaded the motorcycles on the flat bed, and the next morning headed to Fargo. At RDO Truck Center, we left the truck and geared up for the 100 mile ride back. Unfortunately, ND was in the middle of a serious heat wave. Most motorcyclists in ND don’t seem to wear a lot of gear – no helmets and shorts are common. I think they are crazy especially since the speed limit is 80 mph on most roads (and merely 65 mph in construction zones), so we wore full gear despite the heat. About 25 miles into the ride back, I started to feel light-headed and was getting tunnel vision because I was so hot. There is absolutely nothing but farmland once you’re about two miles outside of Fargo. On this stretch of road, there weren’t even any trees for shade. We rode a few more miles when there was finally a tree-lined driveway, and we pulled over. I stripped off all my gear and drank some water taking in the breeze under the shade of the trees. I unzipped the side zippers of my pants from hip to ankle to let in some more air, and we set off again. Fortunately, either the water or the extra air did the trick because I was fine for the rest of the ride. I did end up with a nice tuxedo stripe sunburn from where the pants were unzipped on the sides of my legs (I don’t think my thighs have even seen the sun in 10 years).

This city park was a very nice facility. For $12 / night ($200 / month), it included electricity which was nice because we kept the air conditioning blasting the entire time. It was also very quiet. There were five or six RVs that had no tow vehicle on site and that we never saw a single person enter or leave. We figured that since it was so cheap (the full hook-up sites were only $15 / night and the same $200 / month), some folk were just using it for RV storage. There were also some folk there that were staying there to work in the area which is what the point of the park seemed to be since it was sponsored by the Griggs-Steele Empowerment Zone.

Hannaford is a very small town, but nearby Cooperstown had a lumber yard, a hardware store, and a grocery store, so we were all set. It’s a nice area to motorcycle with paved roads and dirt roads. Also, it’s nice riding through the incredible wind farms.

RDO replaced the fuel injectors for cylinders 2 and 3 (we weren’t going to wait for 3 to go bad down the road), did our yearly service, and updated the firmware (which would fix the velocity sensor code we would occasionally get while idling). They needed to order parts for the fuel sender (the fuel gauge didn’t read below about a half-tank) and a secondary fuel filter (recommended by Isuzu to protect the injectors for the future), so as expected, the truck was in the shop for about a week. RDO did an excellent job at an incredibly reasonable price.

We rode back to Fargo (which was a much nicer, cooler ride), loaded up the motorcycles on the flatbed, and drove back to Hannaford. The next day we loaded the pods back onto the truck, and then we were ready to continue on our journey.

Hannaford, ND

ND: Devils Lake – 07/14/2016 – 07/19/2016

Devils Lake, ND

Parking: Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
Rating: 8

After missing sailing in WY and SD, we were starting to think we wouldn’t sail in ND either, so to make sure we had a usable boat launch, we went to a casino resort that also had transient docks.

We put the boat in the water shortly after arriving even though we knew another storm was coming. SLCR has an excellent marina where there is a good breakwater to protect the boats and the docks are floating, so there is less risk of a gunwale getting caught under – plus we put out a lot of fenders and tied her well. There were some issues with other boats; we requested the marina contact the owners of two boats – one had broken its bow line and the other had had its PWC turtle.

We stayed a couple days longer than we had originally planned to get a nice perfect sailing day. It was clear with winds high enough to get us to top speed, and we had the lake pretty much to ourselves.

My partner won $11 at the casino (I didn’t feel like playing this time), so that paid for one of the days of docking.

Devils Lake, ND

ND: Garrison (Lake Sakakawea) – 07/07/2016 – 07/14/2016

Garrison, ND

Parking: Douglas Creek Campground
Rating: 10

This has been our favorite location so far. Lake Sakakawea is beautiful, the campground is free, the sites are private, and it is quiet and absolutely dark at night. Unfortunately, we got skunked on sailing again (the boat ramp was a little too shallow), but the site was so relaxing, we didn’t mind. We did once again have some crazy nighttime thunderstorms – the town a few miles away got 2″ hail, and during several days, the wind was howling (despite being completely sunny).

To get to the campground, there is a very long dirt road through some farmlands. I knew that ND was known for crude oil, but I did not know that they also had a lot of oil crops. I had expected nothing but miles of beige wheat fields, but they have sunflowers, safflowers, corn, soybeans and flax. The blue flax is fantastic. From a distance, the field seems to be a large lake that doesn’t quite obey the laws of gravity. I really wish we had gotten some pictures, but we kept thinking we’d do it when it was less windy.

We had a new experience. When sailing with the wind coming over the stern (“on a run”), it feels like the boat isn’t moving because the boat is going the same speed as the wind, so the people on board feel no wind at all. Now we know what that feels like on a motorcycle. The wind was blowing 30-45 miles per hour, and when that was in front of us, it was pretty horrible (especially when the Ag trucks passed and added their own wind), but when it was behind us, it was very odd to feel nothing.

Garrison, ND

Garrison, ND

Garrison, ND

ND: Linton (Lake Oahe) – 07/05/2016 – 07/07/2016

Linton, SD

Parking: Beaver Creek Campgrounds
Rating: 9

We headed up to ND to a campground where we hoped we get some sailing in, but with the weather up, the shallow little boat ramp at this park was a little too risky to try.

Overnight, we had crazy thunderstorms again – we stayed glued to the TV weather broadcast to track their progress, and fortunately, the worst weather missed us. The storms in the Northland are amazing – it can go from a prediction of a clear, 5-10 mph wind night at bed-time to a full blown severe thunderstorm warning a few hours later with high winds (70 mph), hail (2-3″), tornadoes, and flash flooding. The weather reporting is different here from Western Washington; they have many more views of the weather – like 3D radar to show the height of the thunderstorms and colored wind direction maps that easily show potential tornadoes.

Linton, SD

SD: Wasta/Badlands – 07/01/2016 – 07/05/2016

Parking: 24 Express
Rating: 10

We decided to hide during the holiday weekend and mostly avoid any tourist locations after a quick drive through the Badlands proved massively crowded, so we went back west to a tiny RV park that is $5 for overnight or $10 for all day – and that included electricity (considering how hot it was and how much electricity the big rigs were using for air conditioning, that’s an amazing price).

We had planned on doing some motorcycling to go to Wall Drug and back to the Badlands to get some pictures, but with the heat, violent thunderstorms, and crowds, we just stayed in and played video games.

SD: Deadwood/Mt. Rushmore – 06/29/2016 – 07/01/2016

Keystone, SD

Parking: Steam Wheel Campground
Rating: 10

The bathrooms here are nice. Seriously, really nice. Each one is about 9.5′ x 6.5′ with ample water pressure, clean as a whistle, nice chairs (including a shower seat for folk that cannot stand up), and plenty of places to store your clothes/shower essentials. Each is a full bathroom (with toilet and sink) and are totally private. These are (by far) the best bathrooms I have ever seen at an RV park or marina – or in 90% of hotels or in any house in which I’ve lived. I know it’s crazy to wax rhapsodic about a bathroom, but when you are on the road, a really good shower is nirvana.

The campground has some back-in sites but also some of the modern nose-to-tail curved, pull-through sites (Connor Battlefield and Belle Fourche also had those). I far prefer this style site because you feel a little more open to the scenery – your chairs aren’t pointed at the side of the next RV over.

We did a couple loads of laundry, but mostly we did nothing. Deadwood was a little too touristy for us, but we did have to stop by Mt. Rushmore. Unfortunately, it was raining buckets, so we only got a few glimpses of the carving, but at least we got to hear some of the talks on its building and the native people of the area.