Sunday, July 24, 2016

South Dakota ROCKS!

DAY 4:  Sunday, 07/17/16
This was a full day of driving … 338 miles of driving, and I DROVE about two hours of it.  We covered the rest of WI, MN and got into SD, where we checked into the Sioux Falls, KOA.  Decent campground – nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about either.  In fact, it’s for sale … if anybody is interested!

DAY 5:  Monday, 07/18/16

Another 285 miles put us at Badlands – White River KOA, which was amazing (more info below) – but GETTING there was breath taking.  OK – I’m not sure it’s “normal” to blog about rest areas, but we encountered a very unique one.  I took Bandit for a potty break and noticed some cows grazing behind the restrooms.  As I walked toward them, I then noticed a little chapel standing right beside the cow pasture.  Sorry – I’m not real sure where this was located, but it was very cool.

The next stop was at an overlook at the Missouri River, which provided spectacular views and had an interesting Lewis & Clark exhibit.

The Visitor Center here sits on a high bluff on the east side of the Missouri River at Lake Francis Case.  The Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discovery Expedition” display is very interesting, including a stylized replica of a Keel Boat which extends through the wall of the building.  The walking trails provided great views of the river, bridges and surrounding area but the signs do warn of poisonous snakes in the area.  We didn’t see any, darn it!

As soon as we crossed the Missouri river, the terrain changed from plains to these rolling hills.  Then those hills started getting bigger, and the colors were beautiful!  And then the “OH WOW” moments started.    

THEN we left I-90 and entered the Badlands National Park and, well … just check out the pictures!

After we arrived and set-up camp, we took a walk down a dirt road across the street from the KOA, where we discovered more amazing views (until we were chased back to the coach by a storm)!


As for the KOA, the place itself is wonderful.  It is a couple miles outside the NP and offers tent camping sites all the way up to premium RV sites … including cabins and tee-pees!!  Phone and WiFi service is pretty much non-existent, but who wants to be on their electronic leash when you have the Badlands right outside your door?!?  We spent some time chatting with one of the owners (Karen) and promised we’d be back to see her in the not-too-distant future.   

Day 6 – 8:  Tuesday, 07/19/16 – Thursday, 07/21/16
One of Carl’s friends from his “formative” years in Bedford Village, NY now lives in Rapid City, SD and offered to show us some of the “behind the scenes” attractions in the area.  SO, Tuesday morning, we drove the short 97 miles to Rapid City.  An early arrival at Rapid City RV Park provided an opportunity to knock out some laundry and download LOTS of pictures and videos from the various media devices. 
Wednesday was spent doing the normal “tourist” things … Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest Wildlife Loop, the Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Road, which boasts:  17 miles, 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtails, 3 tunnels, 2 splits and 4 presidents!  I’ve already mentioned (and demonstrated) that I love old barns.  I should also mention that I love rocks … and this neck-of-the-woods is comprised of LOTS of rocks … BIG, cool, funky ROCKS … so I hope you can appreciate the included pics as much as I enjoyed taking them. 

Taking Kevin up on his offer to be our personal tour guide, he picked us up Thursday morning with his plan of action already drafted.  Since we had no idea what many of the venues were, who were we to argue?  Turns out, Kevin’s definition of “cool stuff” is right in line with ours (which shouldn’t surprise me, since he and Carl were friends so many years ago).  All I can say is, thank God for four-wheel drive!  After a quick ride to view the Crazy Horse Memorial, I’m not sure we hit a paved road for the rest of the day.  He took us to several small towns near Rapid City that may not even be on the map, two old cemeteries – one of them has been “confirmed” haunted, Hill City’s genuine 1880 steam train, two old (now dilapidated) stamping mill (used in the process of gold mining) and the ruins of an 1800s hotel.

All of the aforementioned sites were cool – and the burger at the Sugar Shack was yummy … but the absolute COOLEST cool place was the ruins of Flag Mountain Fire Tower.  This stone and wood tower was built in 1941 by the CCC (Civilian Conversation Corp) as part of a network of fire lookouts throughout the Black Hills.  As we neared the summit, Kevin told me to close my eyes – which I did.  He and Carl walked me up the stone steps, placed my hands on a chest-high stone wall, and told me to open my eyes. 

Now, picture the next twenty-two pictures as a huge panoramic … from an elevation of 6937 feet above sea level!  There are no words to describe that first view … only tears, even as I type this.  WOW … just WOW!

The day ended with Carl and Kevin helping a young artist (Joan) whose car had broken down along the road to the summit.  After cleaning her battery cables and providing a battery boost, the damsel in distress was on her way again to paint another beautiful memory. 

OH – for our fellow RVers – Rapid City RV Park served our purpose, but I would not recommend it unless you just want somewhere to park and spend the night.  It was built in the 60s on four tiers (although the sites are level), has tight quarters (which makes maneuvering into and out of the sites difficult), and offers pretty much no amenities.  The current owners bought it two years ago, and while they have reportedly made lots of much needed improvements, they still have a way to go.
DAY 9:  Friday, 07/22/16
Time to hit the road again, so I put a chicken-parm dish in the crockpot, and we broke camp.  Two hundred and sixty miles later, we made it just about through Wyoming to Sheridan KOA.  Dinner was delicious, three loads of laundry done, and these Webbers were just about down for the count.
Tomorrow is another day.  I wonder where our wandering will take us next!!

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