The snow kept coming sideways and we talked about cutting our day’s drive short. We had planned to go as far as Fort Benton where a friendly RV park always awaited us, but Fort Benton was down a big hill along the banks of the Missouri, and we had seen pictures of how the town had fared in the September snowfall a week earlier. Did we want to be trapped in this valley town with snow covering the steep roads in and out of town? For that matter, could we even make it that far if we wanted to?
We had to get off the road or end up in a lonely prairie ditch. But where to go in Great Falls?
I remembered a Wal-Mart across from the town’s famous smelter and refinery, and that’s where we pulled in.
Wal-Mart Customer Service told us we were welcome to stay for three days. They had all the groceries we might need, a water supply, and a relatively safe place for us to stay. Three other rigs were already parked there and would remain there until after we left.
Wal-Mart even had Wi-Fi but it didn’t reach out to the parking lot.
Generally I prefer to be in an RV park or a place like Exit 16’s park, since public parking lots can be a bit risky if you’re camping overnight alone, but we had no choice by this time and were thankful for the relatively safe haven as the snow began to cover us up.
It would have been foolish to continue traveling, as the many accidents that day proved.
However, we were quite frozen in this place with -17degrees Celcius, feels like -23 (1 degree Fahrenheit, feels like -9F). In the morning, the windows had about a quarter of an inch of frost on them (on the INSIDE!), and the holding tank was frozen at the outlet, as we found out when we tried the next sani-dump we came to. We also tried to add water to our potable water tank – to no avail. The pipes leading to the tank were frozen.
We had a furnace, but running it all night might run our battery down and as luck would have it, the trailer battery was very low in the morning. The Captain ran the Honda generator and brought it back up. Everything was a struggle, and we were getting worn down.
The second night, some drug-crazed kids did a kick boxing display near our rig on the parking lot (yes, in that very cold temperature)! The driver even kicked the lid of his own car’s trunk. (The Captain said, IF it’s even their own car.) Then they tore out of the parking lot at 90 miles an hour.
After two nights there, if we continued north and then east as we had planned, we would be driving into more blizzard and heavy fog in extremely cold temperatures. We were only one long day’s drive from our destination, but there didn’t seem to be any point in going on, even if we could have done that safely. But could we safely go back?