After calling the service departments at numerous RV dealers and finding that they were all booked four weeks out, Phil had scheduled a service appointment at a DRV dealer in Billings, MT for June 7th. However, as our problems with our front landing jacks became more constant, we realized we needed to get service sooner than that. We were afraid that, if we unhitched our rig, we might not be able to get the legs extended high enough to hitch up again, so we decided to stay hooked up until we got to Billings. That meant that we were unable to use the automatic leveling system and, instead, had to manually level the legs as well as we could while still hitched. Some nights that meant having to live on a slant.
Our first stop was for two nights, May 9-10, at Holiday Park Campground, a Corp of Engineers park in the outskirts of Fort Worth, TX. The 279-mile drive was mostly on I-35 but took us through a number of traffic jams, especially as we passed through Austin. We had site #72 at Holiday Park, which was a 100 foot long concrete pull-through site. Unfortunately, Phil initially pulled into the site facing the wrong way and it took a little while to get turned around. In hindsight, there was a fairly easy way to get into the site but the gate attendant had not highlighted that route on the map. Our site was very isolated, overlooking the lake, and we only had a neighbor the first night.
We walked along the lakefront and were amazed by the number of very large fish that were just a few feet away from the shore. The water was so shallow that the fish’s dorsal fins were completely out of the water and it seems that we could have waded in a short distance and captured our fish dinner by hand.
Our second stop was for two nights, May 11-12, at Taylor’s RV Park, about 7 miles south of Stillwater, OK. One of the attractions of this campground was that they have storm shelters. When we got within 15 miles of the campground, we got tornado warnings on our radios twice. Not knowing the best course of action under the circumstances, we just kept on driving. The owner of the campground had told Phil to call him when we were within a few miles. When Phil called, he learned that the people at the campground had taken shelter and were just coming out of the storm shelter. There was a lot of standing water when we pulled into the campground and Phil sunk into deep mud when he attempted to drive the trailer up onto the concrete pad. He had to use 4-wheel-drive for the first time. One of rear mud flaps tore off when it got stuck in the mud. It was quite a challenge getting set up as the ground was completely saturated. It also didn’t help when it rained most of our first night.
In addition to being a muddy mess, we discovered after getting set up on our site that we had to share the electrical hookup with our neighbor and he had already laid claim to the 50 amp outlet. We ended up having to use a 30 amp adapter and, after tripping the circuit breaker, discovered that 30 amps is barely enough to run the microwave and induction cooktop at the same time. Fortunately, the temperature was moderate enough that we didn’t need to run our furnace and got by with only one air conditioner.
On May 12th, Phil made a lot of phone calls to realign our travel plans. We cancelled our planned week-long stay in Custer, SD and instead began planning to arrive in Billings, MT on May 18th. Later, we drove around the campus of Oklahoma State University. The campus is very large and the buildings are mammoth and quite modern. However, it really lacks the charm of other college campuses we’ve visited in the past year. Jan took advantage of the campground’s free laundry room, even though it was the smallest we’ve encountered.
Phil made use of the collapsible US Army shovel we had bought before beginning our RV adventure to dig the truck tires out of the mud and scoop the water out of the deep ruts. With no further rain, the ground firmed up enough for Phil to pull our rig out of the muck using the truck’s 4-wheel-drive on May 13th. The owner of the campground had offered to tow us out, if necessary, but we were relieved that we didn’t need that assistance. We were very glad to put Stillwater, OK in our rearview mirrors. We drove 231 miles to Salina, KS where we spent two nights at the Salina KOA. Although our drive was quite rural and not on an interstate, we had a divided highway most of the trip and not much traffic.
May 14th was Mother’s Day and we spent the day visiting Abilene, KS. First, we stopped and took some pictures of one of the Abilene mansions.
Next, we visited the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum for several hours. After watching a 25 minute video detailing Ike’s life, we got a guided tour of the home where he lived from age 8 to 20. It was quite a small house, especially for a family of two adults and six boys. We learned that Ike was a less than stellar cadet while at West Point but that obviously didn’t hold him back. In fact, all six of the Eisenhower boys had extremely prestigious careers, despite having grown up on the poor side of the tracks.
Finally, we toured the museum and explored two extensive exhibits: Chisholm Trail and the Cow Town that Raised a President, and Eisenhower and the Great War. While both exhibits were very interesting, we enjoyed the Chisholm Trail the most and learned a lot about the struggles between the cowboys and the farmers. There was also a lot of info about the struggles between the local lawmen, including Wild Bill Hickok, and the gunfighters.
On May 15th, we began a series of four straight days of driving across the plains. Our first day was only a 189 mile leg to Grand Island, NE where we stayed at the Grand Island KOA. On May 16th, we drove 263 miles on Interstate 80 and spent the night at the Cabela’s campground by their corporate headquarters.
We had made reservations to spend May 17th at the KOA in Casper, WY but the weather forecast changed our minds. Although the drive on May 17th through Wyoming would have just been rainy, the forecast for that evening and May 18th called for significant snow accumulation. Rather than sit in Sidney, NE for two more days, we rerouted our trip due north through Nebraska and South Dakota. We drove 280 miles through some beautiful country to Spearfish, SD where we spent the night at a very nice KOA.
On May 18th, we finished the push to Billings, MT with a 275 mile drive. By getting on the road by 8:30 am, we reached Billings by 2 pm and decided to go ahead and drop in at the RV dealer to see about getting our service scheduled. Although we were glad to have arrived in Billings and to get a firm service appointment, we were disappointed to learn that we would have to wait until May 24th for service. We checked into the Billings KOA and made plans on how to spend the next six days.