Since we often linger where we land, ‘most every day we see people come and go. It’s the daily cycle of campground life I’ve talked about before, the transient and nomadic nature of the RVing world.
It’s a world of brief and mostly temporary relationships — neighbors for a night or two, a five-minute conversation while walking the dogs, seeing who needs a hand and lending it without hesitation or expectation. Through it all we’ve met so many great people.
Real as rain. Smart. Helpful. Kind. Generous with time and knowledge. Patriots. True Americans. It’s one of the greatest rewards of having taken the plunge into this life.
We’ll likely never see each other again. We all know that. When we part company, the benediction is always the same.
It’s heartfelt. We’re all on this road going somewhere, facing the same challenges and chasing the same joy. And there’s never enough good karma.
Now that we’ve been here a few nights and have settled on our site, we’ve formed an opinion about where we are — and that is that this is one of the best parks we’ve seen in our four months on the road.
Owned and operated by a Mennonite family, it’s extremely well designed. Not only are all of the sites pull-throughs, but considerable thought was given to allowing room for big rigs to swing wide on entry and exit. (Big as we are, lots of setups are much larger than our Ernie-Mercy tandem.)
The pads are all plenty long enough to accommodate toads — not just for parking but for hitching as well. Yeah, that’s a really big deal, especially when pulling out of camp.
Parking surfaces are clean, hard-packed gravel. The “yards” are respectably roomy, each with a picnic table and a charcoal grill. Most sites have a tree or two — we have a Quaking Aspen on each side of us, providing just the right amount of shade for our south-facing site.
All hookups are solid. The power is clean and consistent and the natural artesian water is soft as butter.
The grass is green because they actually water it.
Amenities? A washhouse, a pavilion and a small store featuring local crafts, homemade candies, baked goods and a few farm-fresh products. Paths for hiking. A corral for horses. That’s it.
The closest services are eight miles away. The nearest town of any size is almost an hour beyond that.
The reason we rank this place so high is that it gets all the important stuff exactly right. We couldn’t ask for more from a campground.
In recent posts I’ve alluded to elevation, another one of those numbers that fascinates me. Most of the time I track our altitude, especially now that we’re in the more mountainous West.
Second Chance Ranch sits at 837 feet above sea level. During our “shakedown cruise” in March we camped at around 1,000 feet — but I-75 took us as high as 2,200 feet getting there.
The elevation of our campground in northern Arkansas, where we spent considerable time, is 1,050 feet. From there we traveled to the Texas Hill Country, where we set up at 1,250 feet before working our way north toward the High Plains and the Panhandle.
Those three days of driving took us up almost 2,400 feet — Amarillo, surprisingly, is at 3,605 feet.
What’s not a surprise is that our time in the Black Hills of South Dakota took us higher than anywhere else we’ve been. From our campground near Deadwood (4,860 feet) we visited Mount Rushmore (5,235 at the visitors center) and Devils Tower (4,643 at the base). We hit our benchmark (so far) on a quick run for munchies in nearby Lead, South Dakota — 5,321 feet.
According to my altimeter app, our current site near the Little Bighorn River is 3,253 feet above sea level. Our next leg will take us up a thousand feet to 4,285. The following day we’ll see what we expect to be our highest point — a long climb over a mountain pass, topping out at 6,329 feet — then back down to 3,209 by day’s end.
That should prove interesting.
When we turn north toward Glacier National Park, we’ll drop to 2,927 feet along the shore of Flathead Lake before easing up to about 3,200 feet near the west entrance to the park.
Then it’ll be back down, up, down, up and down to The Ozarks.
That rundown of elevations isn’t meant to impress. It’s simply a record, charting the highs and lows of our particular odyssey.
One more update to that record — we’ve now pressed farther north and west than at any point so far. Transported by Mercy, we’ve visited the “census-designated place” known as Crow Agency, Montana 59022.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.