Storms. I awake to the booming of thunder and pounding of rain on the roof of the Casita instead of my alarm. I do a cursory leak check like I normally do when it’s raining hard and things look dry. It’s a long walk inside Walmart to use the facilities and do a bit of shopping, but at least the rain is warm. By the time I’ve eaten breakfast and put things away the rain has let up considerably, and I’m looking at the weather forecast and scratching my head.
It’s like a game of chess. I awoke to 68 degrees, but the low in Wentzville is 35 tonight. On the other side of Missouri in Kansas City the low is 32, between here and there there are still severe storm watches out. The next sizable town West of that is Topeka, where the low is 26. If I make it out past that it drops to the low twenties. Likewise if I go North instead, Omaha has a low of 26. Sioux Falls is going to be warmer actually at 28, but they’re under the same winter storm warning that got the Badlands a day or two ago. By tomorrow night when I’d be passing through there, their low is 19. I need to guess how far I can drive today and tomorrow, and calculate a path that gives me the least amount of difficult weather. I get to make a move during the day when the temps will be above freezing everywhere, then I sit put and mother nature makes her move over night, giving me various degrees of cold weather. Tomorrow I get to move again but my moves at that point will be dependent on where I make it to tonight. Heading West off of the interstates instead of North gets me colder weather tonight, but warmer weather Friday night.
It turns out not to matter in the long run. As I head across Missouri, I hit not more storms, but very heavy rainfall that just won’t quit. The temperature also drops dramatically at this time, from 65 down to 43. I take a break at a rest stop after a good hour or more of driving through said heavy rainfall, and discover that not one but three of Cas’ windows have leaked.
I’d like to say that I took this discovery in stride, but I didn’t exactly. Leaks in a RV are real bad news. There was a swear word or two, followed by a tear or two. There was no place to get the windows fixed near the Badlands. If I stopped along the way to get it fixed I wouldn’t make it there on time. I allowed myself about 15-20 minutes to panic about it, and then I put on my big girl panties and made a plan. Life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to it. When something bad happens, you can’t spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself and cursing the the heavens, or laying the blame on someone else, or wondering why you got unlucky, you just gotta take the situation and deal with it. I found the next travel stop with a McDonalds that had WiFi and went to work looking up leaking Casita windows and seeing what others have had to say.
As is often the case when it feels like the world might be ending, I discovered that it might not be as bad as I thought, but I won’t get into all the details here. I got two simple things to try that might fix the problem (if it even reoccurs at all) that I can do on my own and don’t even require any caulk, and then I looked at Google Maps for RV repair shops in the Rapid City area (the nearest sizable town to the Badlands) to look at options in case I did need to get the seals redone on the windows. In the meantime, I use towels to dry up the interior as best I can and place below the windows in case they leak again, and I find a RV park near Topeka where I can spend the night. Heck, if I’m going to need hookups tonight anyway, might as well keep going West where it’ll be colder today but nicer tomorrow night. Normally I dislike paying a nightly rate for a site, but I need electric so I can hook up my heater and dry out my bed.
I end up at Deer Creek Valley RV Park near Topeka KS, at a rate of $36ish a night with my Good Sam discount. It’s not far off the highway but surrounded by trees, although there are no trees where the sites are. The sites are paved pull through but were not made level, the bath house facilities look new, and it’s full hookups. Not something I would have spent money on for one night under normal circumstances but it did it’s job and my bed was dry before I needed to use it.
4/19/13 – Friday
I’m on the road by 9:30 and heading North out of Topkea into Nebraska. The goal tonight is North Platte, only 5 hours or so from the Badlands but about 7.5 hours away from where I am now. My phone tells me the quickest way is to get there is to go North on highway 75 to Nebraska City on the eastern edge of the state, and then take Interstate 80 all the way across so that’s what I do. Once I get into Nebraska, I start seeing snow, but it’s still confined to melting piles where the wind had blown it into drifts.
Much of Interstate 80 follows along the Platte River Valley, a fertile plain with an abundance of farms to be found. Unlike Missouri and southern Illinois though, they haven’t been getting as much rain here and I leave the flooded creeks behind. The road has been built up to keep it from getting flooded when the Platte River spills over it’s banks by digging out dirt along side the road, leaving lots of small ponds and lakes, and I see lots of water bird species. Most note worthy though are these ginormous white birds with large long beaks, that look very out of place among the ducks and geese. I swear they look like pelicans, but I’ve only ever seen pelicans near the ocean, I don’t equate them with inland states.
With the temperature due to drop below freezing again, I spend the night at Holiday RV Park just off of 70 in North Platte, I made my goal for the day. The price here is $25 for the night, sites are closer together and dirt/gravel but mostly level, the facility is older, but there are some trees.
When I talk to Julie she looks up my mystery birds online and we come to the conclusion that they were American White Pelicans, which do migrate through the area and have the second largest average wingspan of any American bird, after the California Condor. I wasn’t kidding when I said they were ginormous. I go to bed with a smile on my face, tomorrow I get to the Badlands!
GPS today has me taking Highway 83 through North Platte and right up into South Dakota. As soon as I climb out of the Platte River Valley, the landscape changes dramatically from flat farmland to hills of semi-arid prairie. The last time I’ve seen land like this was when my family took our road trip out West, 15 years ago. It marks the first new scenery I’ve seen on this trip, and I get a little picture happy. I stop at a scenic overlook somewhere in North Nebraska and snap some shots. The trees look like mostly Juniper to me, and those clumps of green grass with the sharp pokey leaves have a name too, I just can’t remember it right now. Their often found in deserts.
As I near the South Dakota boarder, the clouds darken again, and the rain starts. And then the snow starts, and then it’s back and forth a few times. At least the temp is high enough at ground level where it isn’t sticking or freezing on the road. I slow down anyway, and I leave the hills behind and enter a flatter landscape again, with the occasional hill with pine trees. Beef cattle are all over the place up here, and they seem unconcerned with the weather.
From highway 83 I cut West again onto 18 once in South Dakota, and then I turn off of that onto 73 North until I meet 44 West (which ends up curving north later on). Traffic remains light to non-existent as it’s been since I left North Platte, and as I get close to the park I start seeing the sort of hill erosion famous in the Badlands. As the clouds clear I reach the top of a hill and see the park spread before me, I’ve arrived!