Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mail call and the sounds of motorcycles in the night

We woke early and ate a great breakfast of bacon and eggs. Needed that extra protein for what looked to be a long day on the road. After a morning stroll with the kids we set off up and out of the protective cover of our hidden little park and into the buffeting North Dakota winds. Thank God for the GPS unit because all of these little farm roads tend to look the same, and although most of them are arranged in a grid pattern, it's very easy to be heading in the exact opposite direction you wish to take without some form of navigation. After about six left turns we finally found ourselves back on Hwy 94 and headed towards Fargo.
We had arranged with our sketchy mail forwarding company to forward all of our collected mail to the downtown Fargo post office weeks in advance; but if their previous track record was any indication of their reliability, then there was a good chance that we would get stiffed. Jerani had called the postal service and the tracking number showed that the package had indeed arrived in Fargo the day before, but just what that package might hold was anyone's guess.
The only thing either of us knew about Fargo was from the movie of the same name, but we were excited to be heading to the largest city we would encounter since leaving Portland. We intended on stocking up on some groceries and provisions before heading into northern Minnesota, and a larger metropolitan area should give us a better selection. (Can't believe I just framed Fargo as a major shopping destination, but there you have it...).
Entering the city just before noon we were struck by just how large Fargo seemed compared to the multitude of dinky towns we had passed through, and conversely just how small it seemed in comparison to Portland and Seattle. Fargo isn't beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a pleasant day, and at least it wasn't as gritty and threadbare as Billings. We wove through the city following our GPS until we found ourselves in the downtown core and pulling up in front of the Post Office. We went inside and waited in line and finally asked the postal worker if our mail was truly waiting in will-call. She left to check in back and after about four or five minutes she returned and said there was nothing with our names being held. This was not much of a shock being that our "mail forwarding" service hadn't been the most reliable up to this point, but there was the tracking number that Jerani had checked indicating that something had indeed arrived in Fargo the day before. We also implored her to look under Jerani's maiden name, and by her first name. Who knew which combination the service may have used? Once again the postal employee disappeared into the back, but this time after another five or so minutes she returned with a large manila envelope. Naturally the forwarding service had used a different name than the one Jerani had expressly urged them to use. Every delivery is an adventure with these folks.
Back in the RV with our mail safely in hand we both realized we were famished and headed out in search of a nice place to eat. Twenty minutes later we sat out front of a not-so-nice establishment woofing down a chicken sandwich and fries (both much better than you'd expect), and then we were off to locate a grocery.
Fast forward one state over. We didn't run into any grocery stores that weren't way out of our way. Living in the PDX area we are spoiled with a giant grocery store on every corner. It's not like that everywhere else. You can drive for miles in a city and not see a grocery store of any kind let alone a nice one.
We finally found one and stocked up and were on our way. We drove  towards Park Rapids and then north towards Lake Itasca State Park. We were getting tired by then and just wanted someplace nice to camp. We thought the State park might be full this late in the day and looked on the map for some other idea. Just south of the park about 20 miles was a DNR campground on a lake. It seemed to be off the main road a bit but that was why we were driving around in a class b rv after all. We found the turn and started away from the main highway. We drove and drove and made turn after turn on a windy dirt road with potholes. After awhile you've gone so far that you can't turn back and so on we went. FINally drove into a completely deserted campground on a charming lake with a sunset in the cards in the next hour. We set up right next to the lake and let Max run to his heart's content.
It's rare that the campground is deserted and next to a lake

Max lit by the sunrise.
We weren't there 30 minutes before here comes the Ranger walking down the road. Max is charging around of course and we were cringing waiting for the reprimand. Once again. Awesome Ranger. He just warned us about Max getting blasted in the face by a skunk. He chatted with us about where we were from and how the fishing was and then asked where we were going next. We told him Lake Itasca. He asked if we had reservations because it was a Friday night in the summer and the park was popular to say the least. When we told him we didn't he hopped on his radio and tried to get the attendant at the park to make us a reservation. She couldn't over the radio but said to get there early. Like 7am or so and we would be given a number so then we could come back at 11am for any open sites. Invaluable info we were to find out! As he was leaving he said if you get into any trouble to call 911....Trouble?? What's he talking about? We puzzled over this for awhile. Sort of ominous. Does he mean when the ne'er do wells come in the middle of the night and try to rob us because we are out in the middle of nowhere? Jeez. I checked the cell phone and had one tiny bar. Not enough for a call of course and even if we could call we were so far out it would be too late by the time help arrived. We hoped for another camper to come so at least we wouldn't be alone.
David printed out a fishing license on our computer and printer we brought along for just such an occasion. He went off to cast into the lake and I cooked some dinner. Erley sat on a picnic table and watched the wildlife. After a good stroll he likes to just lay outside and watch things which is great. You have to watch him though because all of a sudden he will launch at a chipmunk or bird.
After a nice dinner and some walks around the comPLETELY deserted campground we settled in for the night. We were surrounded by our weapons of choice. An axe, a buck knife, some pepper spray and a cell phone with one bar. They better watch out...
We were a little nervous for sure. We were unfamiliar with the area, way out in the woods and camping alone. Sure enough about midnight we could hear a dirt bike coming down the road from along ways away. We sweated it and were just waiting for them to come cruising up brandishing guns and crowbars or something. Well we waited and waited. That dirt bike drove around out there until morning. All night long. We could not figure out what this guy was doing and why. There were no gunshots, no voices, no reason he would be out there in the dark all night long just driving around in the same area. It made for a restless night but it was easy to get up early and get down the road to Lake Itasca.