Bill & Wanda On The Road: Summer 2009 travel blog

Saturday, June 6th: Teddy Roosevelt to Belfield (20 miles)

I woke up about 6 AM, noted that it was still raining, then dozed to about 8, when Bill got up. Heated up things with the propane furnace as it was very cold. While I was preparing lunch for the day, I was watching the rain outside and realized it was turning to sleet. We picked up the pace a little, keeping an eye on what was happening outside. Much to our alarm, it turned into snow! Heavy, wet snow, with wind!

I changed the breakfast menu from scrambled eggs with spinach to instant oatmeal, and we began quickly taking down. The snow was sticking by now, and we were quite concerned about getting out of the canyon and over the pass. I put the eggs on to boil, and proceeded with my usual indoor take down chores, just at a faster pace and with concerns checks on the building snow. Poor Bill was outside braving the elements. Since I was unable to find my boots, when I joined him to fold up the trailer in what usually takes 10 minutes, my tennis shoes got soaked.

For the first time in three years, we had trouble getting the trailer to lock down. Meanwhile, we were both getting colder and wetter. We slowly, carefully drove to an area with a slight incline, and tried again. Somehow one side had partially latched and was preventing the other from latching. Finally, we got it to work.

On our way out of the park, we saw a deer just off the road–shouldn’t she have been hunkered down somewhere out of the weather? The badlands that we could see (near the road) were more beautiful with the rain having amplified the colors and the snow adding another dimension. I took one photo out the windshield–no time to stop for photos!

We were happy to make it out safely and stopped at the visitor center to inquire about the weather. The young ranger assured us that the roads south were fine, and he kindly printed out a weather report for us for Spearfish, South Dakota, our destination. It predicted rain, but moderate temperatures.

As we headed east on I 90, the snow increased to blizzard proportions, and the icy slush on the freeway got slick. We drove about 20 miles to Belfield, where we planned to get gas and head south on a secondary road. Bill inquired about the road and learned that the roads all directions were bad and getting worse. There were also people in the ditches who had skidded off the road. Since the storm was not predicted, there also was no prediction of when it would end. Several guys were wearing shorts (and looked very miserable)! At least we had on warm clothes. Meanwhile, I had located my boots and put them on over my wet socks–a little better. The combination gas station/restaurant/motel/lounge was packed with people waiting out the storm. We decided to join them.

Bill paid for a room, with a warning that if we got the new carpet muddy, we would be charged a cleaning fee. We grabbed what we had in the car that we thought we might need, and headed for shelter. We set up camp and didn’t venture out until morning.

The room was costly, but well worth it! It was warm and dry, plus being large and having a refrigerator and microwave (not that we had anything to microwave). After cranking up the heat and laying things out to dry, we reviewed some of the literature we had picked up at the visitor center. Here we were, at 10 AM, with internet access for 24 hours after not having had any for two days, and the computers are locked up in the trailer! With a blizzard going on outside, and having finally gotten the trailer in towable mode, we were content to make do with what we had. Besides, we remember what vacations were like before cell phones and computers.

After a lunch of hard-boiled eggs, pea pods, and chips, we took a nap. Two hours later(!), we woke up to do morning prayers, call to extend our arrival time in Spearfish, and watch the weather channel. There was little local weather news, but we found out the temperature was 34 degrees, with a wind chill of 24! We also learned a LOT about a tornado in Wyoming in Goshen county, where we had been at Ft. Laramie several weeks prior. Crazy!

After another nap and a dinner of canned beets, smoked oysters and clams, and chips, we showered. Heavenly! We put the same clothes back on, but that was fine. Now we were warm and clean! That prompted another nap, then night prayers, more trip planning in the Black Hills, and night snacks of, yes, more chips, plus soy milk, cashews and almonds.

We decided we would venture on as planned unless the weather was worse, and then we might have just stayed another day. We’re very grateful that we could have done so. Most of our lives, we would have had to press on, because of financial constraints and less-flexible schedules. In addition, Bill had strained his back with the trailer problem and had a migraine. We were in no condition to be out in a blizzard and dealing with the trailer. We enjoyed a good sleep, in spite of napping four times, and woke to, no rain and no snow!

Note: Photos to come

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