June 07, 2024

RV ALASKA - Severe Stress Over Severe Weather

There’s a reason we don’t usually travel through the Midwest during the spring and early summer.  It looks like this:

We often pack our handheld marine radio on our travels for access to NOAA weather radio alerts.  Crossing the Midwest at this time of year made the radio more of a necessity than a luxury.  When we left Shady Creek Recreation Area in Iowa, Alan and I were planning to spend one night at the Buffalo Country Fairgrounds in Kearney, Nebraska, and the next at Cabela’s campground in Sidney, also in Nebraska.  After checking the weather forecast on the morning of our departure from Shady Creek, we realized we might need a Plan B.

When we arrived in Kearney, and found out there was a Cabela’s in town, we decided to overnight in their lot rather than the Fairgrounds.  We checked in at the Customer Service desk, and parked at the far end of the lot as the staff had requested.  There was, of course, a rail line across the road from Cabela’s.  It was, of course, an often-used rail line, and we didn’t exactly have a restful night’s sleep.  Even so, we do appreciate how welcoming Cabela’s is to RVers, and we make it a point to support them whenever we can.   In Kearney, we restocked our dwindling supply of Sawyer’s Picaridin – my favorite mosquito repellent.  Not as much fun as choosing a new Cabela’s hat or shirt, but at least it added to the company’s coffers.

The following morning, it became apparent that Plan B was a definite necessity - based on the forecast for severe weather throughout much of Nebraska.  (Read “severe weather” as expected high winds, potential tornados and large hail.)  But we had a dilemma.  That day we had planned to stop at the Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Railyard in North Platte, and we really, really, really didn’t want to miss it.

After studying the radar, we determined that laying over at Cabela’s in Sidney would be a poor decision.  But we figured that we could still visit the railyard if we started out early and then got out of Dodge as quickly as possible, heading north from the railyard rather than west.  And that’s what we did, ending up at a sweet little city park in Douglas, Wyoming, after a long day of driving up and across northern Nebraska.  The next day was more of the same, watching radar, checking weather forecasts and dodging storms until we arrived at the KOA Journey in Lyman, Wyoming – our planned stop for the night of June 2nd.  A couple of extra hours and a few extra miles were a small price to pay for our safe arrival.   

Date(s) – May 31st – June 2nd

Total Miles Traveled to Date – 3,241

Wildlife to Date – several small herds of antelope, 5 bald eagles (including 2 fledglings), 2 great blue herons, dozens of American white pelicans, at least a half dozen families of adult geese with goslings, a number of ducks and 5 adorable ducklings.

Highlight(s) – Without a doubt, the Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Railyard was an excellent stop!  Bailey is the largest railroad classification yard in the world, covering 2,850 acres and reaching a total length of eight miles.  There are 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks that handle 14,000 rail cars every 24 hours.  Fourteen thousand!  Basically, this is the place where people in the know sort out which rail car goes on what line to reach its final destination.  Think of a coin sorting machine on a MUCH larger scale.  This place was amazing – and a magical stop for a kid whose dad worked for the old Penn Central Railroad.

Lowlight(s) – The frightening forecast – also without a doubt.

Campground(s) – Cabela’s in Kearney + Train Tracks = Not the Best Stop.  (But you can’t beat the price!)  Riverside Park in Douglas, Wyoming, was a keeper.  We didn’t use the showers or the restrooms, but we did appreciate the very quiet night we spent there and the availability of a dump station the following morning.  Visiting RVers can spend up to two nights here in Douglas and it’s absolutely free.  Nicely done, City of Douglas!  Thank you!  The KOA in Lyman, Wyoming, was okay.  A typical KOA Journey, it was a safe, quiet place for an overnight, and it’s run by a lovely family.  We’d stay again, for sure, but better maintenance would move it up on our list.

Laugh(s) of the Day – Having set the marine radio to air only severe weather alerts, Alan and I both jumped in our seats when it actually went off, certain that our worst nightmare was upon us.  Thankfully, the alert was only for a severe thunderstorm watch, but we almost added a sunroof to the truck.  It’s funny now; it wasn’t funny then.  One of the reviews on RV Life’s Campground Reviews website for Riverside Park in the city of Douglas included a typo that tickled our funny bones.  (At least, I’m hoping it was a typo.)  The reviewer commented that local kids must race their “cats” nearby because they heard a bit of noise in the evening.  Alan and I really wanted to stay awake for the “cat races,” but we just couldn’t manage it after our long day on the road.  Maybe next time.  Listen, folks, after 3,000 miles on the road, everything is funny.

Pic(s) of the Day

Except that.  That's not funny.

Riverside - the small, free, city-run campground in Douglas, Wyoming

A small portion of the Bailey Railyard in North Platte, Nebraska

Special Message(s) – Another heartfelt thank you goes out to Carol and Bernie, who told us about the Golden Spike Tower.  Friends and fellow travelers are our best resources!

Up Next – On to Idaho – and another one of our favorite little campgrounds.  Then, to eastern Oregon for some scheduled maintenance on the trailer.  Stick with us.  You never know what’s going to happen next!  (And neither do we – that’s the problem.)



  1. I got quite the laugh, at your laugh of the day. Of course I can see the blank calm on Tom's face, and the panic on mine. Still, the sound would make us add a sun roof too! That happens here when there is a alert for lost child, etc. The Sheriff's office even calls our phones in the middle of the night! BUT the sound on the TV or the cell phones can GET ATTENTION for sure! Safe, happy travels! Eat Ice Cream in every state...that WAS what your map was for, correct?

    1. The Ice Cream Map - absolutely LOVE that idea!!! I must admit, the marine radio alert definitely did its job, if you call nearly scaring the life out of someone "doing its job." 😵‍💫 Maybe next time we'll turn it down just a wee bit.

  2. Three things: 1) You are a machine when it comes to finding obscure and economical campgrounds; that I wasn't is the reason Mindy's inheritance will not be as large as it could be. 2) Your weather observance is more than commendable; your avoidance skills and use of radar are not unlike those of us who did weather hide-and-seek with an airliner full of people. 3) I share Alan's fascination with railroad facilities like those at North Platte; I would have loved it, too. I confess that my post about Promontory Point, Utah is one of my favorites; had I not written it as it happened, I could never have captured my emotions about the experience. These stories of yours have now come to life! Congratulations!

    1. Three replies: 1) RV Life's Campground Reviews website is my guiding light; it hasn't let me down yet. (It's helpful to glampers, too. 😉) Mike, I'm pretty sure Mindy doesn't care a bit. She's probably thrilled to know that her Mom and Dad spent all those years enjoying themselves immensely. 2) Copy that. Better safe than sorry - in both situations. 3) It was your post on the Golden Spike National Historical Park that prompted me to add it to our bucket list. In fact, it's on our itinerary for our return trip east! P.S. I 'm the kid whose Dad worked for the railroad - and who drags her husband to railyards and train depots all across the country. 😇

  3. Mary, I remember driving through North Platte in May scared to death of a storm that was right on top of us.--I knew it was a tornado. Fortunately, it passed and we drove on. Be careful out there. I have really enjoyed your posts, and look forward to the next installment. Joe

    1. Severe weather truly is frightening, Joe. Tessa and Philip (Charming Adventures of the Millers on my blog roll at the right) were nearly caught in a tornado in Oklahoma this spring. Hurricanes I can deal with because you have enough advance warning to get out of the way. Tornados, not so much. Happy you're enjoying our trip! More adventures to come, I'm sure!


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