Wednesday, September 16, 2015

South Dakota - West Side

We traveled to Sturgis, SD on August 26th, well after the close to 1 million bikers had roared out of town. Another uneventful trip, which we like.
Right next to our car is the next camping site. 
Or at least until we arrived at the campground.
We stayed at No Name City RV Park, which is right on I-80 and the entrance is at a railroad crossing. There are no trees between the road and the campground so this was the loudest road noise we have had so far. We registered and then pulled into our site which is when the adventure started. The site was not level at all. Even with the front tires a foot or more off the ground we couldn't level the RV. They found a new spot for us to move to, and when we went to put the leveling jacks up, they wouldn't budge. Two of them this time - so much for new hydraulic cylinders. R.J. the owner came to help and eventually we got them up and moved to the next spot. This one was a bit more level, still not great, but we made it work.
Round barn on the farm next to us 
The campground has about 30 sites, all are pretty narrow so you are up close and personal with your neighbors. We were lucky we didn't have anyone next to us. The bathrooms were not super clean, the laundry room was okay but not the cleanest we have used. The laundry room shares space with three co-ed toilet stalls, which seemed a little weird, and they have a tip jar for keeping the bathrooms and showers clean. Thought that was what we were paying for. Once again signs about keeping your dog leashed and cleaning up after them even stating that it is the law. Except for the owners dogs. We understand it is their property, but it is annoying to have one of their dogs growling and barking at you each time you walk your dog.
Nancy's morning walk view
The road our campsite was on was a favorite place for the kids to race their ATV's back and forth, won't miss that noise.  All in all not one of our favorite places, with the exception of the owner who was great and some of the views were pretty. 

Just down the road from the campground is the Black Hills National Cemetery. Driving through it is a very humbling experience. A couple of times throughout the day they play organ music and we could hear it at the campground. 

We really enjoyed our stop at Mt. Rushmore. Wasn't sure if it was going to be hokey or not, and it wasn't. There is plenty to do while there. They have a museum that includes additional sculptures. A bookstore, and a gift shop, along with a large restaurant. The entire site is handicap accessible.

They also have an ice cream parlor that serves Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream. Yep, he invented vanilla ice cream and they use his original recipe. Les even got the shirt to prove it, it looks like the poster with a picture of an ice cream cone and Jefferson on the back. The next day while at a brewery in downtown Sturgis one of the waitresses came up to him and said "okay, I have to ask what does your shirt mean - I have been trying to figure it out since you came in".

The ride into Mt. Rushmore took us through Deadwood, which is a cute little historical town and also Hill City which is a very artsy town where we saw these amazing metal sculptures.

One of the artists is Garry Underwood of Dry Creek DesignsIt is some of the most beautiful metal work we have seen.

There was a donkey and a goat by this artist.

This horse was spectacular and it is a sculpture inside a sculpture. Can you see the face and the horses? The artist John Lopez has created some incredible pieces.

Our daughter Katrina so loved the Ninja Turtles
these made us think of her
There were also some whimsical wooden sculptures and a railroad museum.

Our son-in-law Steve was on our mind as well -
always is when we see trains. 
Made us think of the road 
to Bat Cave, NC
 The drive out of Mt. Rushmore took us on a winding road across the mountain ridge, it was quite beautiful. The road was very twisty and the tunnels were so cool.

If you look close you can see MT Rushmore

See anything interesting in these mountains?

There were a number of overlooks to stop at, each one with a beautiful view and some nice rock formations.

We drove through Custer State Park on the way to Jewel Caves and saw a large buffalo on the side of the road.

Jewel Cave was sold out, if you plan to go, it is best to order tickets ahead of time. Crazy Horse was the next stop. We ended up not going inside the park because we couldn't take the dog anywhere in the park and it was so hot we couldn't leave her in the car.
We came across Bridal Veil Falls south of Spearfish, which reminded us of home.
We passed Pacotola Lake and a few Abraham Lincolns on the way.

This is outside a now closed amusement park 
Just sitting on the road side

This large rocking chair is actually a patio
 for a bar south of Deadwood.

We got pretty excited when we saw this sign about Bighorn Sheep - but alas no sheep crossed our path.. 

Southern end of the Badlands
The Badlands were amazingly beautiful. We had seen pictures of course and were excited to go there, but no picture does them justice. Although Nancy did take enough to test that theory. We started off in the southern end and were impressed there, but when we got in the middle of them and drove the scenic trail, we were blown away.

While on the southern end we went to the Wounded Knee Massacre site. There is a cemetery on top of a hill, that you get to on a very steep and rutted dirt road. It is the mass grave site of the Indian Braves that were killed in the massacre. There was a guy standing in the parking lot asking for money from everyone, the whole feel was weird so we didn't stop. Across the street there are tables set up with Indian art and information.
Northern end of the Badlands
The tables were under a shade canopy made from pine trees. The guy there said it takes two days to build them. Once back in the parking lot and getting into our car, a lady was spreading out jewelry on the hood of her car and her little boy, about 7 years old, was going from car to car asking if anyone wanted to see it, or give them a donation. It was all very sad. The road to Wounded Knee has no gas stations for miles and miles so if heading that way, make sure you have a full tank of gas and you don't need to use a restroom.

How rock and sand can be so beautiful we don't know.  Every overlook gives you a different view.

There is a section that is dedicated to fossil beds with a wooden walkway that has informational signs every 20 feet or so. All very interesting.

We have so much fun looking for different shapes in the rocks. It is amazing all the different things you can find when you start looking. Can you see the face with the sunglasses on?

Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD north of the Badlands is a tourist must. The store covers a city block in both directions. To say it is a little crazy would be an understatement. There is the gift shop area, then a hallway that has little stores off of it, leather, jewelry, fudge, clothes to name a few. Also a small chapel. Then there is the restaurant and the soda fountain. If that wasn't enough, they have a large outdoor area with a number of things for kids to do, including a water spout fountain, a covered wagon to climb in, replica of Mt Rushmore and a Gem mine they can go into to look for gems. There is not much else in Wall, but then again this covers everything!

Devils Tower in Wyoming was a highlight of the trip. It is quite majestic looking as you approach the park. When we got there we discovered that we couldn't take the dog on any of the trails, so Nancy hiked alone this time while Les and Mielikki napped in the car for an hour. She hiked the 1.3 mile trial that takes you in a loop around the base of the tower.

A face and a hand puppet
It is an asphalt trail, but they do not recommend wheelchairs to go on it. It is only about 3 feet wide and slopes to either side in a number of places. It was a great hike and even though there were a number of people, most of the time Nancy was by herself. The tower is considered to be a very sacred place by the Indians. There is a very peaceful feel to it.
Chipmunk pose!
Several Indian nations share similar legends on the origin of Devil's Tower. The Kiowa people say: "Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the brother was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper.

The drive out there was beautiful. We stopped at the Visitor Center at exit 199 on I-90, south of Aladdin. We have been in two Wyoming welcome centers and they both were incredible. This one had a covered wagon you could get into and attached to the side was a box filled with hats and aprons for kids to try on. There was a mirror for them to admire themselves in.

 There were four interactive displays that included videos and hands-on material to use. A large horse statue was the perfect place to stop and rest. They offer free Wi-Fi and coffee.

We took the scenic route home and followed  a storm that was coming in over the mountains. It rewarded us with some great cloud formations and a rainbow.

We left Mielikki home one day and headed to the Wind Caves.
This is the opening that led to the discovery of the Wind Caves -
the air either blows out or sucks in depending on the pressure system.
They have a few gypsy moths
They are in Wind Cave National Park and just north of Hot Springs, ND. While approaching the caves we had to stop while buffalo crossed the road.
The tour of the cave was most interesting and our tour guide was awesome. He told all the information in a story format, so it was informative but easy to follow along with him.
Can you see the sparkles? 

We spotted an animal face - can you?

Nancy was glad women
don't dress like this anymore

Even back in the day people were writing on the walls - illegal now. 

Always interesting what the camera picks up.
 Nancy didn't mean to take the center picture
but love the "face" that showed up over her shoulder. 

Hot Springs, SD as you can guess is home to hot springs and they have pools that you can soak in. We stopped for lunch and a few quick pictures of the water fall that is right downtown. There are a number of stores, places to eat and at least six coffee shops.

These signs, printed on both sides, are placed where someone has died in a car accident. Maybe as a reminder to drive safer - but sadly based on the number of signs we saw people aren't driving any safer. 

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ In case of emergency! We have always lived by the motto that if you are prepared you won't need it. Using that theory Nancy checks for hospitals, urgent care centers, VA medical centers and veterinarians in each new location. Google and Google maps makes this very easy. Nancy has a small spiral bound notebook that holds all the information of where we are staying and the sights we plan to see while in that location. This is where the medical information gets listed. Thankfully we have never needed any of them, but if we ever do we won't be looking for them in the midst of an emergency.

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