Monday, August 22, 2005

Now featuring: Titles

Something Louise read in the Blogger help files suggested we put titles on our posts, so here they are. As if I did not already have my hands full, so to speak, posting our daily wanderings here, I now need to come up with titles. Don't be surprised when the titles become simply the names of the places we stay, which, come to think of it, is often the most descriptive or useful information in the whole post anyway.

Speaking of which, we are in St. Thomas. Not the caribbean island, but, rather, the small town of that name in the northeastern reaches of North Dakota (map). Our guide book said there was a city park here with primitive camping. We found the park, and drove all the way around the small gravel road -- there was barely any parking, let alone camping. We parked in the one gravel wide spot on the road, and chatted with a local who happened to drive by. He pointed out that the "old" campground was actually across a coulee from the bulk of the park. The camping area was accessible only from the main (bypass) road, US-81, while the rest of the park, including the playground, now-defunct tennis court, and picnic pavilion, was accessible only from the town side.

We were in this latter part. I walked over to the camping area -- a long hike out to US-81, across the coulee on the highway bridge, and back to the other park entrance -- and determined that the campground, such as it was, had not been used for that purpose (or any purpose, really) for many years and that Odyssey would sink to her axles in the soft grassy earth there if we even tried it. So we locked down for the night right here next to the pavilion. Even though it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, the park facilities remained deserted, and we had the entire park to ourselves. A second night in a row of free camping in eerily deserted, slowly deteriorating, small-town facilities.

Yesterday morning, a nice thirty-something couple came zipping around the Elks lodge on a power-walk while I was out walking the dog, and they confirmed to me that the lodge had indeed closed down sometime in the last year, due to financial difficulties. Turns out they were from Grand Forks (visiting relatives in Devils Lake) and related that the lodge there had closed down even earlier, and that the giant fiberglass Elk had actually come from that lodge. (It was a pleasure meeting you, Terry and Babs.)

The past two days have highlighted some of the things we love about small-town America: Everyone we encounter is pleasant and helpful, and not at all concerned that we are camping in their town. In spite of the fact that, for example, the Devils Lake Elks Lodge has been closed for some time, the building has not been vandalized or burglarized. And, while Odyssey might well be the weirdest thing that has happened to these small towns in months, people have generally been respectful of our privacy.

Today we will cross into Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.

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