A failed reservation and an unsuccessful detour.

Trip Start Aug 17, 2008
Trip End Oct 2008

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Where I stayed
Budget Inn

Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Friday, August 22, 2008

My original plan was to spend 2 nights in Altura, Minnesota - there's a highly rated campground there in the Whitewater State Park.  Unfortunately, I hadn't made my reservation far enough in advance, so when I tried to book on Wednesday it turned out there was nothing available.

I had a couple alternates in the general area, so my next attempt was to be the 'Pla-mor' campground in Winona.  The description sounded quite nice: two separate areas, one on a hillside and one right down by the western bank of the Mississipppi.  It wasn't rated as highly as the one in Altura, but beggars can't be choosers.  I booked there for 2 nights and started on my way.

As I headed west across Wisconsin, the weather started to turn grey, promising a protracted drizzle/rain extravaganza.  It finally did start to rain at around 1, and was still going when I gotto the campground at 3ish.  I wasn't thrilled about it, but on the other hand I was actually sort of perversely looking forward to setting up in the rain, if only because I knew I'd have to do it at some point and I might as well get the experience early.

Unfortunately I never got the chance, because when I got to the 'campground' it was awful.  There wasn't a tree in sight, and the location they had me at was nestled in among the parking lot, the pool/bathroom building, and the dumpsters.  There were other sites available that were slightly more bearable, but what the description in the guide failed to mention was that the whole complex was about 50 feet from a very busy highway, with no terrain features to block either the sound or the sight of the road.  I didn't want to spend another 10 minutes there, let alone 2 days.

I decided to cancel my reservation and drive on towards my next scheduled stop in Sioux Falls, SD.  I was hoping I might find a more suitable location on the way (there were several listed), but it looks like down the corridor I was moving, all the campgrounds were about the same.  Very close to highways, almost universally geared towards RVs - 2 of the ones I passed were literally just giant gravel lots.  So like I did on my first night out, I just drove until it got dark and then picked the first fleabag that presented itself off the throughway.

As I drove, the rain and uniform grey sky persisted, so my overall impression of Minnesota is of a land almost entiely shrouded in a depressing mist.  Which is a pity, because much of the rolling hills and ocassional sheer granite bluffs were actually quite beautiful.  I'm sure I'd have a more positive impression of the place if I'd had a chance to explore away from I-90 any.

As I got close to the South Dakota border, the skies actually started to clear and I got a bit of sunlight through the disintegrating cloud bank before the sun finally set.  I drove on for another hour or so and then stopped at a motel that seemed suitable. This turned out to be the Budget Inn located in Worthington, Minnesota.  Thoroughly unremarkable, except for the manager who spoke with an almost unintelligible indian accent and could not be made to understand the fact that the deadbolt on my room's door was broken.  I tried every word and phrase I could think of that meant 'lock'.  I showed him on the door of the office by turning the lock there and saying "broken! doesn't work!" - no luck.

I literally had to take him to my room and show him there.  Even then he spent about 5 minutes just turning the knob again and again with no effect.  I eventually came to the conclusion that the problem was not so much a language barrier; rather, he was simply an idiot.  Once I realized this the ensuing conversation went more smoothly, and he eventually put me in a different room.

Tomorrow I shall depart for South Dakota.
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pbdaniel on

Re: weekend reservations
Yeah, I'm in the process of firming up the dates on the rest of my trip as we speak. I'm going to try to maintain bookings two weeks out for all stops, and then for major ones like Yosemite I'll reserve somewhere as soon as I can fix the window that I'll be there. I should hopefully have everything penciled in by the time I'm ready to ship off to the Badlands on Monday morning.

The Altura site looks like it would have been a really primo location too, so I've definitely learned my lesson on that one. Better to have a firm schedule that locks you into a series of nice places than a loose one that leaves you free to choose from different colors of crap.

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