The First Unbearable Night

Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
1
9
35
Trip End Aug 07, 2009


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Where I stayed
Lake Ashtabula, Army Corp Camp

Flag of United States  , North Dakota
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Minneapolis to Valley City, ND 7-5-09

So our story begins on the little known holiday of the Fifth of July. Yes, that's right…the 5th of July! This was the day when John Hancock sent out his invitations for people to come and SIGN the Declaration of Independence. Anyway…let the story begin.

Jen and I realized that our initial itinerary was far too grandiose; we wanted to go from Minneapolis directly to Teddy Roosevelt National Park…an 8.5 hour drive. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

So, being the smart individuals we are (stop laughing!), we decided on a campground halfway to the National Park. It was another Army Corp site just north of a town known as Valley City, North Dakota. What did we have to lose?

Well nothing as it turns out, but the campsite was just terrible. But I’m getting ahead of myself, for you see there was the magical journey to North Dakota first!

We set out from our hotel around 9am, with only a four hour drive ahead of us. (Four hours was now a very short drive!). Jen thought we might hit up some roadside attractions on the way, and I agreed. We detoured from Interstate 94 to Route 12 in Minnesota. Now, we only stopped at ONE roadside attraction…but it was by far the best: The World’s Largest Ball of Twine! It was over 7 tons in weight, and something like 35 feet around. It was displayed in a glass case on the front lawn of a house in Darwin, MN. It didn’t take more than an hour to get there, and we saw some local towns along the way.

After leaving the ball of twine we headed back to the Interstate, albeit not without a few complications first, like a road closure and several unusual detours which cost us about 30 minutes. Oh well.

Back on the interstate it was business as usual, but I made the suggestion to stop in Fargo, North Dakota…..to do laundry. We also did grocery shopping but that wasn’t nearly as fun as spending 1.5 hours in a Laundromat in downtown Fargo. We did get to meet some locals, and they were quite pleasant. We also, not surprisingly, had clean clothes after we left. Yay!

Pressing forward into the depths of North Dakota we found that the scenery was quite beautiful. The land was a series of large rolling hills of prairie and grassland. Deep azure blue lakes dotted the highway and made North Dakota seem very captivating. Sadly, the captivation would end at the interstate.

We exited the highway for our campground, and found it about 7 miles up the road on Lake Ashtabula. It seemed ok at first…nice scenery…firewood for sale…a bathroom that was a hole in the ground. Uh oh.

That’s right, our tent sight, although close to the bathroom, was really just in close proximity to a hole in the ground with 4 walls around it. No lights, no running water, and lots of flies. Gross. Thankfully the campground had one other facility a little further away with real toilets and showers but even it was dirty and uncared for.

Our tent site was some gravel surrounded by thick shrubs with played host to a myriad of bugs, and as we later found out…animals. We set up our tent, and tried to get a fire going but to no avail. Trust me, we did everything by the book…but the wood refused to stay lit. Cooking our meal over the campstove proved difficult and tedious, and with no running water it was even harder to clean it all out when done.

Jen and I finally decided to relax after this hellish day with a movie: Field of Dreams. We watched it on the laptop in the tent, and it was quite soothing after all the madness we had to deal with.

Around perhaps 5:30am we both awoke in our tent to a very strange sound. It was certainly an animal, but it was barking/cooing/growling/purring. Yes, that sounds like a strange sound doesn’t it?! We thought so too. Finally, Jen had the courage to look out of the tent flag to see what was going on (I cowered in the corner ready to assume the fetal position if attacked by a bear).

There, maybe 10 feet from our tent, was a mother raccoon keeping a watchful eye on her three baby cubs who were busy climbing a tree on our tent site. Now, in many ways it was very cute to see a raccoon and her cubs. They are, after all, natures tiny masked clowns. On the opposite side of the coin…we had been awoken by a mother animal protecting her babies…and she believed this was HER territory. We silently tried to fall back asleep, but for the next 30 minutes or so Mama Raccoon could be heard slowly circling our tent. Perhaps she was just making sure we didn’t come out and harm her children. Or, more likely, she was looking for a way in so she could maul our faces and drag the bloody flesh back to her cubs. Too graphic for you? Don’t go camping then!

We left a few hours later, our hearts set on getting as far away from Valley City as possible. Funny story though, before we left town we needed to fuel up. We stopped at a gas station on main street (think ghost town if you want a visual) and filled up the car. We also went inside to grab some snacks for the ride to Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

Inside there were two nice gentlemen manning the registers.  At one register, you found us checking out. At the other register was an older woman purchasing cigarettes. When she was told the price of one pack of cigarettes she grumbled aloud while simultaneously searching through her purse for money. She found a ten dollar bill and slammed it on the counter exclaiming quite loudly, "Damn Obama tax is killing me!"

Hilarious, and ironic, in soooo many ways. We are in red territory after all, these types of comments are to be expected.

Well, that’s all for now. Check out the pictures!
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