If you’re expecting a horror story, I have one for you. From the first time we used the stove in our motor home, we had trouble. The burner lit just fine, but a few minutes later, a fireball would erupt with a whoosh and then go innocently back to burning as if to say, “What’s your problem? I’m working just fine.” I was rather reticent to use it for cooking.

Finally, we spent an afternoon taking the entire thing apart, cleaning every piece and inspecting the connections. Thom, the troubleshooter, discovered that someone had left a loose connection from a previous inspection. Now it works like a charm with no threat of a fireball engulfing me and creating a human torch.

After visiting friends in Pierre, we camped at Cross Ranch Recreation Area near Washburn in North Dakota, I sat on the eroding bank of the Missouri River, sun warming my face. Wind tousled my hair, blowing wildly and working in concert with the leaves of the cottonwood grove. It built to a crescendo of noise before fading again. Sunbeams danced on the water, parading downstream and a pleasant rippling sound reached my ears. My heart sang.

We left Cross Ranch Recreation Area campground headed for the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center in Washburn and discovered that our entry fee covered both the center and a tour of Fort Mandan a few minutes away. Our guide at the fort loved his subject and inspired us with his stories. The Corps of Discovery, we learned, spent their time that long-ago winter of 1804 in this triangular fort probably put together in this fashion to save time and trees. It was, after all, mid-November before they began to build their wintering fort, probably very cold.

It was here at Fort Mandan that the explorers met Sakakawea, the young Shoshone woman who played such a key role in their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

Before leaving on this historical journey, Jefferson sent Lewis to a Pennsylvania university to learn cataloging of plants and animals, treating the human body when sick, and  using latitude and longitude as “GPS” coordinates, although that didn’t exist then. He was creating maps from dead reckoning Even so, he was never more  than 40 miles off, according to our guide.

While Lewis received huge amounts of useful information from professors at the university, he was also thinking about how to fulfill other needs during the trip. He contacted a plumber, asking him to produce a canister to keep gunpowder dry. The finished product, sealed with wax, accomplished its purpose and the lead container was used to make musket balls which were shot off with exactly the right amount of gunpowder from the canister. If only manufacturers today would devise ways to use packaging so it wouldn’t go to landfill.

Tonight, we settled into the Fort Stevenson Recreation Area Campground next to Sakakawea Lake, then drove the Jeep to the marina for the advertised June berry ice cream. Alas, contrary to advertising, they were closed. I had never before heard of or tasted June berries. We went back the next morning and it was worth the wait.

Returning to camp, we sat by the bank of the river, watching the sun set in a fiery, orange sky.  The land, the vegetation was silhouetted against the smeared, but vibrant sky, giving the whole scene a magical quality. Upstream, magic hour was in full swing and the vegetation took on a golden glow. “What a wonderful world,” played in my mind in Louis Armstrong’s gravelly voice.