Friday, September 3, 2010

South Dakota to Lake Delton, Wisconsin

After a fun-filled week in the Rapid City area, we dropped-off the rental car at the airport and began our 330-mile drive along Interstate 90 to Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area, which is just a few miles west of Sioux Falls. We spent four nights there before continuing on toward Wisconsin.

Although it had been windy almost the entire time we were in the Rapid City area, it never occurred to us that driving across the South Dakota prairie would be so harrowing!!  That wind made our previous experiences in New Mexico and Nevada seem tame. I slowed down to around 45 MPH but it was still really bad. In fact, suction from the wind was tugging on the awning, despite it being properly stowed and "locked" in place. I happened to glance at the side mirror and saw the awning pulling away from the Trek.  Not good.  I pulled over onto the shoulder of the Interstate and double-checked the awning.  It seemed to be fine and so off we went once more. And again, I could see the awning in the side mirror, pulling away from the Trek.  And so I got off at the next exit and followed signs to a local motel, intending to use the parking lot to regroup.

When I found the little motel, it was obviously no longer in business although it seemed like someone was living there. Next door was an abandoned gas station and convenience store, with a single vehicle wash bay in which a shady-looking cowboy was spraying his pickup truck. There was nothing or anyone else around. Great. So I asked Lynda to stay in the Trek with the door locked, and to keep and eye on the truck guy. I got out and emptied one of the basement compartments so I could get the ladder out. Then I armed myself with a roll of duct tape and a handful of plastic electrical tie-wraps.  By the time I was done, that awning wasn't going anywhere!  

And so we continued on to Lake Vermilion without any further drama, although I still had to go slowly so the psychotic wind did not blow us off the road.

We stopped at a Wal-Mart and stocked up on groceries and adult beverages, and then went on to Lake Vermilion.  The young lady who registered us was extremely nice and helpful and we were soon settled into our campsite, a stone's throw from the lake. This is a lovely well-maintained campground with spacious graveled sites and Blue spruce trees all around.  There are only power hook-ups at this campground but it did not matter because we had plenty of fresh water on board and we used the campground's showers.  And so we settled in, content that we would be spending  several days doing a whole lot of nothing. Oh, and we decided to leave the awning in it's trussed-up state until we got out of the prairies and into Wisconsin.

The day after our arrival, I happened to check the weather while I was online only to discover that our area was under a severe thunderstorm warning with high winds, 1 1/2" hail, and a tornado watch. They were predicting the storm to peak at around 1 AM.  Yikes... if that size hail hit us, no telling what damage it would do! Well, we decided to sleep in our clothes with shoes nearby and run like hell to the Restroom/Shower building if things got really bad.  Long story short, we got through the night unscathed. Although there was lots of thunder and lightening, and it rained several inches, and the wind blew like a gale (which made the Trek bounce and creak), the hail never happened and neither did the tornado - thank god!  It was pretty creepy laying in that big metal box while it stormed so hard outside; I cannot say I liked it very much.

The next day, Lynda got into a conversation with a woman camping a few spots from us.  She said storms like that blow in all the time in the summer months. She laughed about our experience with the awning on the Interstate, and told Lynda that folks from South Dakota know to lash down their awnings with extra tape. She also said that a few RVs are blown off the road every summer - its like a rite of passage.  Good gravy, those South Dakotans are a tough bunch!

By the time we left Lake Vermilion on Thursday, we were well-rested and ready to hit the road again.  We swung by the dump station (a finer aspect of RVing) and then off we went again, heading east on Interstate 90 to Albert Lea. Now the only reason to go Albert Lea was that it's on the way to Lake Delton, Wisconsin which was our next "real" destination.  I'm pleased to say the drive was uneventful. We actually got to Albert Lea earlier than planned and so we ate a late lunch/early dinner at the Wok 'n Roll buffet and then spent a quiet night at the nearby Wal-Mart.

We departed Albert Lea this morning and enjoyed an uneventful drive to Lake Delton, Wisconcin.  The countryside we drove through was pretty, particularly the area around La Crosse and La Crescent.  And now we are all settled in at the Country Roads RV Park here in Lake Delton, close to the popular Wisconsin Dells area. This campground is large but seems well tended and very pleasant.

We will be getting together tomorrow with my Aunt Thurston and three of her sons and their spouses. Who knows why, but I've only ever met one of my cousins on this side of the family and so I'm really looking forward to this gathering!

Stay tuned!

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