LEAVING YELLOWSTONE: From Yellowstone Park to Amana Colonies in
Part 2 of 5
A Motor Home Trip – By Kathy Maass
This is part two of a five part series that describes the cross-country trip made by Kathy and Dit Maass to attend the annual Family Motor Coach Association rally. Enjoy reading about Kathy’s trip of a lifetime. Kathy is an Oregon retiree and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first three campsite stops during our travel after leaving Yellowstone Park included Yellowstone Valley Inn (located just 56 miles down the road in Wapiti, WY), Prairie View Campground in Lusk and Wacky West RV Park in Valentine, NB. On June 18 we headed to on I-14 to our first destination, from there we took hwy 120 and then onto I-25 approaching Douglas, turned to hwy20E at Orin Jct and west to Lusk, WY, From Lust we went on towards NB, traveling hwy73, then back east on hwy18 to NB and picked up hwy83 at Mission to arrive at Valentine, NB. This is how we traveled the entire trip, winding our way along the secondary roads, using the maps and chatting amongst ourselves between the coaches on our hand held walky talkies.
Our time on the road during those days that were spent driving varied from an hour to a few hours. We paced ourselves to allow for the necessary down time to complete household chores, clean the interior of the motor home, do laundry and replenish the supplies. For Dit and I, this also meant tending to our little furry friends by building in some routine for their meals and breaks as well. Fritzie and Heidi were both kennel raised and are great little travelers; leaving them for periods of time while we were seeing the sights has never been a problem.
During these first few days, we ventured out to see the Cody Museum and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, we passed through rolling hills, cattle country, oil well country, lush valleys and saw lovely little communities such as Themopolis (nestled in the hills), granite formations along hwy120, drove through Boysen State Park past the Heidi and Fritzie relaxing at a campground Wind Indian River Reservation and occasionally lunched in the rigs. For many of the small communities along the route, this caravan of large motor homes is a spectacle they seldom see.
Long stretches of the roads are often rough and this means that anything inside the motor home that isn’t cushioned or tied down will rattle – a most annoying phenomena that is often hard to locate and resolve. You now have a driver who is annoyed by the small rattles and clanks coming from “whatever” (it can be a refrigerator vent, dishes in the cupboard, the rack it the oven to only name a few) and you have a passenger who is trying to locate the root cause of the “small rattles and clanks” coming from “whatever”. Very frustrating!
Prairie View Campground in Lusk is located in the middle of an open field, sites were difficult to identify because this is just an open field with tall prairie grass, and there was only one small trailer sitting in the campground. We weren’t sure if that was a visiting camper or the owners RV. The owner of this campground is a Prison Chaplain who operates this side business on “trust” – we placed our small camp fee into a fee box near his backdoor and our friends took us out for dinner in celebration of our anniversary. This location is also worth mentioning because it is from this point that we ventured out to see Crazy Horse, an enormous work in progress being carved in the hillside, and from there on hwy244E we headed to Mt Rushmore (Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln come to life in the rocky terrain) where we paid $8 per car to park and spent time at the tourist center with its informational movie and gift shop. We spent two nights in Lusk. It was a learning experience to see these works of art that are famous attractions.
In Valentine, NB, we heard of a tornado not far away in southern NB and we heard that storm were heading east into Minnesota and Iowa. It became necessary to keep a constant watch on the weather and over the next month, we had many more “near misses” with tornados than we care to remember. This is a type of weather we never worried about in Oregon and we felt vulnerable to the elements in our motor home.
Our journey continued to take us towards Tipton, IA and our first mail delivery since leaving home. This is farm country and heading through Sioux City, IA we saw where winds had dealt a hard blow to the cornfields. We pulled into WinneVegas Casino in Sloan for the night where we paid $7 to use the hook-up facilities and enjoyed their buffet meal after the several days of eating in camp. Pulling up camp the next morning, as with every day of travel, involves unhooking the utilities, pulling in the slide-outs, securing all loose items inside the rig, closing up windows and ceiling vents, and ensuring the holding tanks are emptied and fresh water tanks are full – the reverse is done each time we pull into a campground for a stay. The guys line up in position to take their turn at the community dump station to empty the holding tanks and finish up business as part of the preparation to leave.
It’s been ten days since we left Yellowstone. We pass the towns of Cedar Rapids, Mt Vernon and Mechanicsville on our way to Tipton, which turned out to be a beautiful town. However, once we got there we discovered the campground we had planned to stay at no longer exists. We didn’t always make reservations ahead because in so many of these out of the way places it’s easy to get into a campground. Like any other problem, this one had to be solved – we drove our rigs into the parking lot at the nearby Clover Restaurant (a little café on a country road where two country streets intersect) and the guys unhooked one of the cars. In Tipton, IA they learned that Hunts Cedar River Campground was located nearby on I-80 along a river set in lush wooded area (Heidi and Fritzie loved the grass).
Sites to see from Tipton include Amana, a small group of villages that had been started by Traditional Germans based on religious faith and community spirit. We explored South Amana, bought souvenirs, sampled the sweet fruity wines at Brother’s Winery, Checked out the Homestead Meat Shop and Smokehouse, appreciated the European feel of the quaint community, and indulged in wine tasting at the wine houses located right in the heart of the community. The guys also toured the HWH Plant (manufactures hydraulic leveling jacks) and were treated to a free lunch there at the manufacturing plant as part of that tour.
This was our first location for U.S. mail pick-up. We also use these mail stops as an opportunity to send our outgoing mail and any packages being sent home. For this trip we used an FMCA mail forwarding service. This service is located out of Cincinnati, OH and with an initial deposit against a VISA, they will forward mail accessing that deposit for payment. As the initial deposit to the service dwindles, they will charge the account again and notify you of that activity. It’s easy to use and takes very little planning. Mail is forward on a specific day of the week based on first letter of last name and one simply calls FMCA a couple days prior to the assigned week day to tell them where to send the mail. By using the zip code for a particular location, most small towns can be used as General Deliver (i.e.: my name at Tipton, c/o General Delivery at zip code XXXXX).