Niagara Falls via Buffalo to Toledo
I left Niagara Falls in bright sun light heading to Canada/USA border at Buffalo, NY. Close to the border it started again to rain and to cut things short, it did not stop raining until Toledo. The border formalities were strict, correct and friendly. After 30 min the paperwork was completed and the journey along the coast of lake Erie could begin. Apart from Cleveland, which I think has some character, there were no other places which I considered worthy to stop. After a long drive I ended up near Toledo and camped for two nights in Maumee Bay State Park. Well, what I did not know beforehand, this is the Mecca for bird watchers and I was right in the middle of the bird watcher’s week where everybody was waiting for the bird migration. It appeared to me that bird watchers are a special kind of people and the real hardcore is not very talkative, so I cannot tell for which kind of birds everybody was waiting for.
Toledo via Chicago to Winona, Minnesota
Hence around lake Erie there was not much to see which caught my attention travels continued towards Chicago and finally to the Illinois Beach State Park. Again this was a long drive in rain until Chicago where some sunny spells could be observed. In Chicago I faced again the challenge where to park the Defender for more than 30min around the best shopping time. Obviously there was no luck at this end and I ended in the Illinois Beach State Park at lake Michigan for the night. Half of the campground was still under water and the beach welcomed its visitors with signs “Asbestos was found at the beach, if you find any Asbestos please report to…”. Well, not worth to stay any longer than needed.
The next day I was able to check the weather forecasts for Canada and the USA. It appeared that the weather on the US side remains slightly better. Therefore travels continued via Milwaukee to Winona at the Mississippi river. Water levels of the Mississippi were well beyond normal, however, it was getting much warmer and suddenly I could experience some sunny days.
Disaster struck, Minnesota
Disaster struck on a Saturday morning. A bite in my freshly toasted bagel topped with crème cheese a piece from one of my teeth broke away. Nice, all dentists are closed during the weekends so I needed to wait until Monday morning.
The dentist in Winona offered an appointment for late afternoon on the same day, which meant to wait for 9 hours. That are a lot of hours doing nothing. A look on the map showed that I could easily make it from Winona, Wisconsin, to Sioux Falls in South Dakota in that time span. Well, a minute later I was behind my steering wheel heading for Sioux Falls.
I reached the dentist, which I choose form the internet, at 15:30 and asked the receptionist whether they could slot me in on short notice to get my tooth repaired. A minute later the doctor and his assistant evaluated the situation and came to the conclusion the defect wisdom tooth needs to be removed. I agreed, got instantly the narcotics injections and the tooth was removed. After just 45min 440 USD exchanged hands and I was on the road again.
Although I wanted to stay in a motel that night, I changed plans and ended in Parker, South Dakota, where I camped in a town campsite nicely embedded between a highway and a dump site but with flush toilets and hot showers.
Sioux Falls to the Badlands, SOUTH DAKOTA
For a change the weather was nice, but crossing South Dakota from the East to the West was not so interesting. Driving all the way through farmlands to the very West of South Dakota I reached the Badlands National Park. A mountainous region with colorful rock formations which were formed by the elements. You can drive along a rim road overlooking the valley and with frequent turnouts to have a look at certain rock formations. The rim road is all nicely paved. At the western edge a gravel roads forks away from the rim road where you can observe plenty of bison. That was awesome, what a change a beautiful landscape and some wildlife.
Into the Black Hills, South Dakota
On my way from the Badlands, South Dakota, to the Black Hills National Forest I stopped in Wall. Already 100 miles prior to the exit road signs on the interstate make you aware that you can get a coffee for 5ct in Wall. This concept was already developed in the 1930s to attack travelers. The “city” itself has more or less one main street surrounded my parking spaces. Shops on the main street are built in old style western look.
Next stop before hitting the National Forest was the Air & Space Museum where old aircrafts and nuclear rockets are open air on display. The spectrum of the show ranges from old propeller aircrafts to stealth long distance bombers.
After the Air & Space Museum I found my way on gravel roads into the Black Hills National Forest. It seemed that I was the only visitor in the whole forest hence I have not seen anybody. The campsite was basic but next to a small stream in the woods.
Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming
From the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota, I continued my way into the Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming. The weather turned from nice to rain again. Hence I was so deep into the Bighorn NF I needed to stay for the night in the forest. The next day I decided to drive to Cody a small town close to the East entrance of the Yellowstone NP and spend a night in a motel. After 6 days without a shower I thought people around me might appreciate a hot clean-up.
Yellowstone NP, Wyoming
After Cody I drove with high expectations into Yellowstone. Although it was very early in the season and we had cold temperatures even with snow and wind the National Park was full of tourists. Most of them with Asian origin which travelled in big busses with their selfie sticks form view point to view point. Rule of the day was don’t stop at view points where you can see a stopping bus hence these crowds in these masses were unbearable.
On the other hand at this time of the year Yellowstone was a bit disappointing. Only the big loop roads were open the more nicer side roads were still closed the same is true for walking tracks. Therefore, apart from one moose and a few bison no other wildlife could be observed. However, I was able to take a couple of nice shots of the geysers.
The longer I stayed in Yellowstone the worse the weather was getting. From rain to hale to snow. It was time to leave via the northern exit to Livingston, Montana. While the states along the tornado alley got one tornado alert after the other I enjoyed heavy rain falls in Livingston. Again no other chance but to stay in motels in Livingston (MT) and Boulder (MT) my next stop. On my way to Boulder (MT) I passed Butte (MT) which gained wealth from its open pit copper mine. Due to the weather conditions a visit of the copper mine was not possible.
Hungry Horse Dam, Wyoming
After I spent the night in Boulder a sunny day welcomed me for a change. I drove that day to the Flathead Lake National Forest which had apparently a nice campground. Well, 32USD/night with no showers, no portable water and only a pit toilet I though the price is a bit steep for such basic services. Therefore I continued to the Hungry Horse Dam which has several campgrounds along the lake. Fortunately I picked a very nice campsite where I met several nice travelers. Hence the scenery was beautiful and the location was close to the west side of Glacier NP I stayed four days at the Hungry Horse Dam.
Glacier NP, Wyoming
The Glacier NP can be found in the very north of Montana stretching into Canada where the park is called Waterton Lakes National Park. Again in the Glacier NP more or less everything was still closed by end of May. Especially the mountain pass from the west to the east side of the Glacier NP was closed. Therefore, I needed to circumvent the national park in the south to get to the east entrances. From what I was able to see, I found the scenery on the eastern side more attractive although there were much less tourists around compared to the western side. That might even be the reason that here in the east was much more wildlife to observe compared to the west.
From the Glacier NP in the USA I crossed a small border into Waterton Lakes NP in Canada. The border formalities on the Canadian side went quick and so we are back in Canada.