After we left the Devils Tower NM, we drove toward Yellowstone NP and stopped at Buffalo, WY to look for a motel to stay so we could replenish both our bodies and our food supply. It was late around 7:30P; most of the motels were full and the few that had vacancy were asking for a minimum of $130 per night. If this were New York or San Francisco, it would be understandable but this was a small town in Wyoming and we just couldn’t do it. Although we were 200 miles away from Sturgis, ND but the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally impact was felt all the way there.

Our options were either drove to the next big town or found a camping place nearby. KOA BuffaloWhen we first came into the town, we saw a KOA Kampground. We had seen them in many places before but never checked them out as we were used to stay at public facilities such national parks, state parks, state forests, etc. I knew KOA is a private organization with campgrounds all over the North America and I thought we had to join to stay, thus always shied away from it. It was getting late and we wanted to make sure we had time to cook and eat before dark. Although the location of the KOA wasn’t ideal, right next to a major road leading into the town, we stopped to try our luck.

They didn’t have many tent campsites but again, as in a few other places on the trip, we were lucky to be tenting as RV campsites were full. We drove around and picked out a site with no existing neighbors as tent campsites were small and close to each other. As a member of KOA, one can get a discount of 10% if one has a KOA Value Kard that was $16 per year. The lady was nice to give us the discount although we decided against getting a card. It was $28 without discount. By this time, we were getting very good at the routine of setting up a tent, cooking, eating and cleaning. We quickly got everything done in an hour except, as usual, for Kadia: she ate like a snail.

Although we weren’t impressed with their tent sites, it had many other facilities: Teepee at KOA
free showers, swimming pool, hot tub/sauna, free wireless internet, TV room, laundry, cabins, a convenient store, tepees and a covered pavilion (Kamping Kitchen) where one can cook and eat. We actually thought of staying at a tepee but they didn’t have any available. That would be neat. This was luxury camping. We could definitely have used it as a motel substitute; it was equivalent to a motel other than not having a comfortable bed and TV in the room. Here is our guide to different types of camping.

  • Pioneer: Nothing. Typically anywhere that is not a developed campground such as any area 1 mile from nearest roads in a National Forest or any wilderness area when backpacking. It is definitely free.
  • Primitive: Pit toilets, may not have water, may be free, and may not have assigned sites. A typical primitive one is a National Forest campground.
  • Standard: Pit/flush toilets, drinkable water, assigned sites, may have ranger programs, usually around $10 to $20. A typical standard one is a US National Park campground.
  • Upscale: Flush toilets, showers, water, playgrounds. A typical upscale one is a Canada National Park campground. Usually around $15-$25.
  • Luxury: Just about everything plus swimming pool, hot tub, cabins, etc like KOA. Usually around $25-$35.

Kamper KitchenIn the morning, they even had pancake breakfast served at Kamping Kitchen for a low price. There was an Asia-looking young lady who was preparing the food. It turned out she was from Bali and was working there for the summer. The manager told me that they had difficult time to find local kids to work so now they imported labor from oversea. I didn’t expect to find imported labor there but it seemed to make sense. It was a great opportunity for her and others but it was sad that some local kids preferred not to work at all.

Humans are creatures of habits because habits are comfortable. Sometimes, if we step out of comfort zones, we may discover something interesting or may jump right back into our comfort zones. Although we had tried a lot of new things on the trip, I was glad that we broke from our routine and tried something we had been avoiding before and was rewarded with new discoveries. We will keep KOA as one of our motel choices.