On the Road Again – West Coast Swing 2015 – Part 1

Howdy everyone!

Last year at this time we were on a grand nearly six week trip to the Northwest United states. We left our home in Madison on August 13 towing our 24 foot travel trailer and returned September 23. During that trip, I sent periodic emails to family and friends about our trip. I enjoyed writing these emails so much that it motivated me to start writing these weekly blog posts (this post is number 46!). So periodically over the next few months, I’ll share some of the writings from those emails and include photos to go along with the articles since I wasn’t able to send photos with the emails.

Early on, I was inspired to use song titles as the titles of each of the emails. The first part of trip went something like this:

“Donna and I left Madison today for an almost six week trip to the West Coast (at least the northern half) and points in between. After being on the road for about an hour or so, we turned on the radio to Channel 59 on SiriusXM, Willie’s Roadhouse. One of the first songs played was Willie singing ‘On the Road Again’. We figured it was a sign that we were destined to make this trip. This was followed by a discussion about doing our traveling while we are still able and can enjoy the journey. And to quote Willie ‘just can’t wait to get on the road again, going places we’ve never been!'”

After our first night in the KOA northwest of Minneapolis so we could spend some time with our daughter Melissa, we headed towards North Dakota, our home state. Here’s a few lines about the song title that described this part of our trip:

“We were tuned to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville on channel 24 on Sirius XM. After a bit, they played a song that Jimmy sang and played at the Newport Folk Festival in 2008. The song was in honor of Bob Dylan, who 50 years ago this summer, reportedly shocked the festival by playing his electric guitar rather than his acoustic guitar and was roundly booed by the purists in the crowd. The song Jimmy sang was “Blowin’ in the Wind” played on an acoustic guitar.”

“That song reminded us of growing up in North Dakota and the wind blowing almost constantly. We were not disappointed on this trip! As we traveled further north and west the wind speed picked up but it wasn’t bad, 15-20 out of the southwest. But as we turned onto Highway 2 the wind speed picked up and we were pushing the wind, at times 30 mph +. Didn’t help the gas mileage! We stayed the night in Towner, North Dakota, where we lived for over six years from 1979-1985. The city park offers free camping to travelers, includes electric hookups. What a deal! We toured the town (didn’t take long, only about 600 people) and remembered who lived where, not bad for being gone 30 years. For old times sake, I walked the three blocks from the city park to the Longhorn Bar on Main Street and had a beer. Not much else going on a Friday night. By the way, did I mention that when arrived in Towner it was 102 degrees? Thanks heavens for air conditioning in our travel trailer.”

The hot and windy weather continued as we entered Montana following Highway 2:

“It was sunny hot and windy as we headed into Montana on Highway 2. Made it to Ft. Peck and stayed at the Corp of Engineers Downstream Campground, got one of the last spaces and what a deal at $9 a night (with our Golden National Park Pass, one benefit of being of a certain age!). As luck would have it, our camping neighbors were from Union Grove, Wisconsin so we had a fun visit with them. We toured the Ft. Peck area, lots of fishing happening but a fun relaxing time. We needed fuel and a few groceries so had to make the 20 mile trip (one way!) to Glasgow. Lots of straight, level, long roads in Montana. Even with those kinds of roads, there are many memorial crosses in the ditches, today we saw two groups of 7 crosses. Lots of lives lost on those roads. Montana is truly Big Sky Country, lots of large wheat fields, huge pastures, lots of cows and sheep. It’s been dry out this way and really shows. Heard there are fires to west.”

I took my first photos of the trip in the Fort Peck area. The Fort Peck dam is first of six major dams on the Missouri River. It was build as part of the New Deal Public Works Administration. Construction began in 1933 and was completed in 1940. At one time it employed over 10,000 people in a place where the Great Depression severely impacted the agriculture and mining industries. Fort Peck Lake is huge, the fifth largest man made lake in the US with over 1500 miles of shoreline. The story of the building of the dam was of great interest to me since I grew less than 10 miles from the Garrison Dam (the second major dam on the Missouri River) that created Lake Sakakawea. Here are a few photos from our stay in the Fort Peck area.

Overlooking the dam, lake and pumping stations
Overlooking the Missouri River flats below the Dam
Rock Formations near the Dam

As we were traveling along the highway to Great Falls, Montana, we stopped at one of most scenic overlooks of the trip, looking down at an oxbow in the Missouri River. It didn’t hurt that it was a refreshingly beautiful day. By the way, this photo is a panorama taken with my iPhone, hence the “curved” railroad tracks.img_1520

In Great Falls visited the most excellent Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, hiked the path along the Missouri River, and Donna found her first two quilt shops of the trip! great-falls-2333great-falls-2368

We even found a strong Wisconsin connection out in Western Montana!great-falls-2349

The next article will feature our stop in Northwestern Montana in the Glacier National Park area. Until then remember “The answer my friend, is still blowin’ in the wind!”

Take care and stay safe.



2 thoughts on “On the Road Again – West Coast Swing 2015 – Part 1

  1. Very interesting. We just got back from Glacier a couple weeks ago. We took Amtrak’s Empire Builder across MN, ND, and MT so some of this looks familiar. I look forward to seeing your post about Glacier.

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for your kind comments. I saw your FB posts about your trip, sounds very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time in Glacier because of the fires. It was so smoky and there were health alerts posted for hiking so we didn’t get as much time as we wanted. We were there in the mid 70’s and really enjoyed Glacier and Waterton, it’s Canadian counterpart. Tom

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