Slow Week and the Worst Train Trip in History (or at least this week)

Well…as they say…there was good news and there was bad news this week.

Good news first (since it was first chronologically anyway).

On our arrival here in Barnesville we pulled into the Wagner Creek Campground and figured that we would have our complete choice of it’s 28 spots…after all there didn’t really seem to be all that much around here and we were arriving on a Tuesday. Imagine our surprise when we got here and…at least based on appearances…the campground was almost full. We parked the rig near the entrance and drove around finding a total of 3 spots to choose from including site 3W that we ended up in. We quickly decided that this was the best site of the 3 available…and that we would have likely picked it anyway…although to tell you the truth 3E would have been a little bit better as our door faces south which means that the awning provides no afternoon shade to sit under although it does shade the side of the house and helps keep it cool inside. Fortunately we have a nice tree a little forward of the door so we just pull the recliners over there and voilà…shade.

Our second surprise was that…despite the number of RVs here…the park is actually pretty deserted. Our guess was that most of the rigs here get parked all summer since it only costs $500 a month to stay and just get used intermittently…our original suspicion was that it would fill up with people on Friday afternoon and empty out Sunday afternoon and while there were more people here over the weekend it was still pretty deserted and quiet. We did have a couple of neighbors right next to us in a smaller travel trailer…but other than them we haven’t really seen more than 3 or 4 actual occupied rigs since we’ve been here. Nice…

On checking we paid our $252 (18 bucks a day) for 2 weeks and Connie noted that our 2 weeks of parking cost less than one night on her upcoming trip to Chicago for the ASCLS Annual Meeting where she does professional stuff…mostly continuing education so that she can keep up her California Medical Technologist license…after all the studying and exam taking back in the 80’s that it took to get that license she long ago decided to just keep it current just in case. California is one of the few states that require a license for an MT…and having it gives you a little more impressive résumé even if you aren’t applying for a job in the state.

For the rest of the week…we pretty much did nothing. The highlight of most of the days was moving the chairs around under the tree as the sun (and hence the shady spot) moved about during the afternoon. Given the number of skeeters we have been seeing in the upper midwest since our arrival from Kansas…we decided to skip hiking for a few weeks in hopes that they would die off…and concentrated on other forms of Fun Stuff© instead. We did have an abortive trip up to a National Wildlife Refuge and a nature Conservancy site up east of Fargo…but the bugs we encountered were a big factor in the no hikes decision. Our one real trip away from the park was out to Fort Abercrombie over on the ND side of the Red River about 20 miles from here…we combined that with a trip down to Wahpeton so she could get her nails done. There were a few bugs around down there but mostly they weren’t biting bugs…but they were annoying enough that we were glad we weren’t hiking and stepped pretty lively while on the walking tour at the fort.

Fort Abercrombie was established in 1857 and named after Lieutenant Colonel John J. Abercrombie who selected the site and built the fort. The fort was built on the western shore of the Red River separating Minnesota from the Dakota Territories and was originally built right on the edge of the river for protection from attack by the Indians. Here’s a photo of the river looking northeast taken from the center of the second fort…the original site is just visible to the far right of this shot, it was built in the curve of the river you can see there. Unfortunately…the Red River floods almost every year and the original fort was quickly underwater…earlier this year the water was up to the top of the rocks you can see on the riverbank at the right side and this was not considered a flood year at all. Usually most of that area is a couple feet underwater…the top o the rocky area is about 12 or 15 feet above the current water level which is just within the banks across the stream. The second shot was taken from the original fort site looking to the left (downriver) out of this frame; the fields across the other side were 5-6 feet flooded earlier in the year.

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The fort was rebuilt in it’s current location a few hundred yards away in 1860 and was manned by civilian volunteers starting in 1861 as the regular army was sent elsewhere during the Civil War. The fort was the subject of a 6 week siege by the Dakota Sioux during the Dakota Wars of 1862 and was eventually abandoned in 1877 after the area was pacified. The original fort buildings were sold off at auction and the current buildings rebuilt using old photographs by the WPA in 1939-1940 during the Great Depression. The blockhouse is an original building that was moved to a nearby farm after the original auction…it was donated back by the descendants of the farm owners when the State Historical Park was established in 1940. Most of the remaining building sites are marked but mostly the site was left as it was post auction.

The fort headquarters building site…the building in the background is the visitor center and the palisade fence is similar to what was eventually constructed around the fort…although not until after the Dakota Wars siege…there was no barrier to entry during that period other than a rough pile of cordwood (firewood) that was piled up around the blockhouse and central areas of the fort during the siege at that time. Good thing the defenders had 3 cannon and that the Sioux had only a few guns and nobody that knew how to aim very well or the fort would have been massacred. The garrison of about 100 or so defended themselves and another 50-75 women and children against up to 600 Indians during the siege with a total of 4 killed and a dozen or so injured…there was no indication of Indian casualties on any of the signs but they must have been more than that or else they wouldn’t have given up and left I guess.

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The original blockhouse/guardhouse that was moved back to the site; the on duty guard section as well as the soldiers in jail (mostly for drunk and disorderly charges) stayed. After that is the interior jail section of the building and the punishment horse that was used to discipline soldiers…mostly it was intended to embarrass them so that they would not repeat offend…no indication as to whether this was successful or not.

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We had a nice hour or so walking tour around the fort area…and it was free since we passed up on the museum in the visitor center and the guided tour. Afterwards we headed over to Wahpeton where Connie got her nails and toes done then headed back home.

We had one night out (Tuesday after we arrived) at the Mainline Bar and Grill located 8 miles or so from here; it’s built in the old railway depot building and has pretty good food (and nice cold beer as well). The rest of the time we grilled out and otherwise did pretty much nothing through Sunday.

Ok, on to the bad news I talked about earlier…Connie’s trip from hell on the Amtrak Empire Builder heading eastwards to Chicago for her meeting.

We picked the Fargo area to stay in for 2 weeks specifically so she could catch the Amtrak instead of flying over to Chicago…the train ticket was 220 round trip and the air fare when she checked 3 or 4 weeks before was almost 700. She knew that there were likely to be some delays in the train’s arrival in Chicago as there is track maintenance but from looking at the performance figured it would just be 3 or 4 hours total. Her scheduled train departure time was 0130 Monday morning so we figured that she would get some sleep on the train overnight with scheduled arrival in Chicago around 1400. Once we arrived here she checked the overnight delays a couple of days and it looked like about a 3-4 hour delay in leaving. With that in mind we checked the schedule Sunday evening and up until 2300 it was showing a departure from Fargo (23 miles from here) at about 0500…so we decided to just sleep until 0330 or so before heading off to the station. Right as we lay down in our recliners she checked again…and now the schedule showed an almost on time departure at 0144…so we cancelled our plans to sleep (even though we didn’t know how it could go from 3 1/2 hours late to on time) and headed off. Lo and behold…about halfway there the schedule changed back to an 0500 departure. We talked about whether to turn around or not and eventually decided that we wouldn’t get much sleep anyway so we stopped at McDonalds for a couple cups of coffee and got to the station about 0300. From there the posted time got later and later and later…with the train eventually arriving at 0640. She got on the train and Neil headed home. He got an email when he arrived home that they had left the station, went about 20 miles and pulled off onto a siding behind a freight train. They followed this freight most of the morning with a couple of 90 minute stops as westbound freight and passenger trains passed. She got no sleep of course…and the cafe car was closed so there wasn’t even anything to eat. Around 1800 the conductor announced that everybody onboard would be getting a free Beef Stew meal since they were so late…naturally the sleeper cars (higher fares) were served first and then the riffraff cars from front to rear (guess where she was sitting). Then they ran out of food and finally about 9PM she got dinner…a sandwich from Subway…woohoo. Neil commiserated with her frequently during the evening via twitter but finally went to bed around 2230 and the train was still in Wisconsin. She finally got to the station and caught a cab to the hotel where she checked in. She let Neil know that she had arrived via a phone call at 0146 this morning then went to bed. She slept until about 1015 this morning…Neil talked to her and she’s a lot better than she was the last time they talked about 2200 when she was really tired, almost back to normal this morning. She’s got a couple meetings at 1800 and 1900 this evening before the meeting kicks off in earnest tomorrow.

Neil has a couple of errands to run this week as well as a visit up to the Fargo Aviation Museum planned…but other than that will not be doing much at all.

Two funnies for ya today…a quote I saw on the Internet and a picture for our upcoming grand baby and Jen.

God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of the people killed because they bugged the crap out of me.


12 hours of labor



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Slow Week and the Worst Train Trip in History (or at least this week)

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    Awesome pix! Let me know if I need to jump in the car and head north to Chicago and be Florence Nightingale since I’m closer than you! ❤ BabySis

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Then to top it off she ended up in the ER with food poisoning and ended up in the hospital overnight so they could rehydrate her. She thinks she will be out this AM though…thanks for the offer but you’re only 40 or so miles closer than I am anyway.

      She will either finish out her convention stuff depending on how she feels or hop on the train and come home. At least the train has a bathroom and the westbound one didn’t have much of a delay, only the eastbound one did. No clue why since they use the same track and trees only a single set in use most of the way.


      The three kinds of stress…nuclear, cooking and a&&hole. Jello is the key to the relationship.


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