Devils Tower

June 26 – 27

We hated to leave South Dakota, but we had a reservation back in Wyoming.  A quick stop to see the famous Devils Tower.

Getting There

The reservation for this stop was at Keyhole State Park.  Our chosen site was by boat trailer parking with zero shade, and we suspect that the previous camper spilled diesel fuel additive at the site.  So, we’re out in the blazing sun (95+ degrees), and it stunk.  Like what I won’t say.  This is our second Wyo state park and we’re just not impressed.  Maybe just two poor choices, but that’s the way it goes sometimes despite all our research.

Since the campground was nothing to write home about, we focused on the reason for this stop – Devils Tower.  Turns out we picked poorly with that in mind, too.  Google gave us a pretty good route that wasn’t too far, 25 miles or so, but what we didn’t realize is that this route would be another installment of “where the pavement ends”.  Over half that drive was on a gravel road with more cattle guards than I could count.  It was scenic though.

Devils Tower

Enough said about the accommodations and on to the main event.  Devils Tower is the nation’s first national monument designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  It’s sacred ground for many Native American tribes, but made most famous by the 1977 flick ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.  Can you believe that was over 40 years ago?  Of course I was just a mere babe.

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It’s no wonder this geologic formation is so popular.  It rises up out of the surrounding countryside and looks so imposing.  Grey-green columns like something extruded from a play-doh machine and chopped off with the little plastic knife.

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The best look-alike was this tree stump on the trail.  The native tree bark mimics the rock formation towering above.  Even some of the Native American descriptions liken it to a tree so it’s not just me.

Since it was blistering hot, we decided to visit later in the afternoon and packed PB&Js for dinner at the monument.  There’s a trail all the way around with benches periodically, all facing the rock.

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Dinner at the base of the tower was quiet.  Most people were gone for the day and we just stared up at it.  Golden Eagles were swooping around at the top screeching to break the silence.  We hoped to see some climbers, but in June there’s a voluntary ban on climbing out of respect for sacred summer solstice ceremonies conducted by the local Native Americans.

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Dinner in the shadow.

Looking out from the tower is the lovely Belle Fourche River Valley (pronounced bell foosh).  According to the NPS brochure, “French fur trappers named it the ‘pretty fork river’.”

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The thistles were in abundance in the shade of the fir trees.  I leaned over to take a few pictures of this one, not realizing how much bug action was going on.

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Saw this little cutie as we waited for the ranger presentation to begin.

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We saved a seat for you in case you want to pack your lunch.

What’s In A Name

Native American names for the rock include Bear’s Tipi, Home of the Bear, Tree Rock and Great Gray Horn.  The name Devils Tower came from a scientific expedition in 1875, when Colonel Richard Dodge named it.  He thought the Native Americans were calling it “Bad God’s Tower”, so he changed it a bit to Devil’s Tower.  According to the ranger presentation, the apostrophe got lost somewhere in the government paperwork when it was declared a monument.  Thus Devils Tower.

How Was It Formed?

Well, the experts don’t agree on how this rock formed.  There are actually four theories outlined in the NPS paperwork.  I’m not a geologist, so I don’t profess to know all the right lingo, but here’s the list of formation theories and my simpleton summary:

  1. Volcanic Plug Remnant
  2. Igneous Stock
  3. Laccolith Remnant
  4. Remnant of a Diatreme/Lava Coulee

That’s a lot of geologic terminology essentially meaning that magma came up from below and formed some sort of shape.  No matter what theory of formation you believe, it seems all can agree that it appeared when erosion wore away the overlying sedimentary rock.  Erosion is still working on the tower today wearing away the honeycomb columns that make up the entire rock.

Of course there are Native American explanations for it’s origin.  The ranger told us one story, his favorite, and I rather liked it, too.  The Kiowa tell it like this:  “Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there are a great many bears….One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears.  The girls ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high.  One of the girls prayed to the rock, ‘Rock take pity on us, rock save us!’  The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher.  When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell to the ground…the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades).”  See?  So much better than blah-blah igneous and blah-blah sedimentary, and explains the formation perfectly.

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A close-up of the side columns (from the bear claws) with an eagle flying by.

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Pat on the trail for scale.

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Parting shot of Devils Tower at sunset with the moon rising behind us.

Next up:  Montana!  See you on the way.

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Rush No More

June 19 – 25

This stop is about Pat’s family gathering.  The plan is for his siblings and mom to converge on Sturgis, South Dakota for a long weekend.  We’re here early to get the lay of the land and rest up for the fun and mayhem.

Rush No More

Everyone loves the name of this campground and it is pretty peaceful even being close to the interstate and the train tracks.  Fortunately we didn’t hear much of either one.  Unfortunately our first day here is day three of the non-stop rain.  Well, it didn’t actively rain while we traveled which was good, but we did have to set up in the “liquid sunshine”.  By day four we are cranky and everything is squishy.

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But the rain finally stopped and we got a very green meadow in place of the mud puddles.

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After the first day or so, this guy would come right over when I called.  I’d scratch his ears and he’d give me a little snort.  By the last day, I got a nuzzle, too.  (I told him it was my last day.)

The deer came out at dusk and two of them literally bounced on all four legs.  Picture Pepé Le Pew hopping along after the cat.  Then there’s Jackson and the horse both grazing together on opposite sides of the fence.  Blissfully uncaring about the other.  And finally the roses just like the ones we saw in Alaska last year.

Rapid City

Rapid City was our go-to big city for dinner and shopping.  I finally found a replacement pair of shoes for the ones that had rocks filling in the holes I’d worn in the soles.  Pat scored a new jacket to replace the embarrassing grey jersey one he’s been sporting in all  our pictures for the last year and a half.  Jackson had an appointment for a vaccination and got some medication prescribed for his stiff joints.  We’ll see if that pill, salmon oil, and glucosamine chondroitin help him out.  Heck, since that last one is a people pill, I’m trying it out, too.

But that best thing in Rapid City? Our outing to the actual movie theater to see Incredibles 2!  We just loved the original and watched it first to get ready for the sequel.  “Pish posh dahling!”.  Finally some new Edna quotes.

The Reunion

It’s two days until the rest of the clan joins us here and guess what?  The well has an issue and there’s no water in the campground.  I desperately need to do laundry, but that’s a no go.  Fortunately we have water in our tank so we can shower, flush, and wash dishes.  Texts go out to everyone to arrive clean and prepared with bottled water.  We chatted up the well guy and he explained that this is an 800 foot well.  They pulled up pipe for over 600 feet to get to the heart of the problem.  Good news, though.  It was all fixed up by Friday and I was able to wash clothes before everyone else arrived.

 

We did lots of eating – Grandma’s buttermilk pancakes & bacon, grilled chicken, burgers & brats – visiting around the campfire, and corralling the dogs.

Also rousing games of Mexican train dominoes and dice.

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Momma needs a new pair of shoes.  No, wait, already got those.  Momma needs some laundry money.  Pat is the big winner in the ‘Left, Right, Center’ dice game.  They say he cheated.  (Photo credit goes to sister-in-law Paula)

Roughlock Falls

One day we formed a family caravan and drove the twisty roads to Roughlock Falls.  It’s touted as one of the most beautiful spots in the Black Hills.

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On the short hike to the falls.  (Photo credit goes to Chantel)

Roughlock Falls, cliff side, and crazy cousins.

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The whole family caravan in front of the Falls.  Back row l to r: Paula, Brandon, Rob, Mom, Terri, Dean, Pat.  Front row l to r: Matt, Rachel, Chantel, Andy, me.  Photo credit goes to a random stranger.  Fortunately they always come along just when you need them.

It was such fun to have a crowd with us this time.  In fact, at one point we had three dogs and at least eight people inside the motorhome.  I think everyone enjoyed themselves and we’re already talking about next year.

Sturgis & Deadwood (Again)

Of course Sturgis is best known for the yearly motorcycle rally and everything seems to revolve around that event.  The campgrounds all have biker names like Kickstands and Hog Heaven, and the saloons abound.  We did some sightseeing and souvenir shopping to get a feel for the place.

Downtown sign and the sculpture at the Full Throttle Saloon.

After the rest of the family headed home, it was just Rob, Paula and us.  We took a day trip to Deadwood to browse around and grab lunch.

Bloody nose, beer & bling.  That about sums it up on main street.

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And the favorite sign of the day.

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Deadwood gets in on the motorcycle craze, too.  And they have wood carvings for sale.  The motorcycle dragon was the biggest and most unique one, but you can own a bear or something smaller for a mere $600.  That was the “cheap” end of the spectrum.

This is our last stop in South Dakota for this year.  The state touts a Great 8 of must-see sights.  We managed to do a Fab 5 – Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Badlands, Custer State Park, and Deadwood.  We missed Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, and the Missouri River, but the family time more than made up for those.  The Black Hills area really grabbed hold of us, so we’ll most definitely be back this way again.

Next up – A brief stop in Wyoming to see Devils Tower.  See you on the way!

Mount Rushmore

June 14 – 18

I’m driving again for this short leg back to the Black Hills, and its my first time behind the wheel in real mountains.  We just love the area and can’t wait to get back.  This is our chance to mouse around for me to see some of the sights the rest of the family has already visited.  Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park are two bucket list stops for this location.

Mount Rushmore

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This has got to be one of the most iconic places in America.  I didn’t think I’d be as impressed with Mount Rushmore since it’s a man-made wonder, but learning about how it was carved changed my point of view.  Gutzon Borglum was the artist mastermind behind the carvings and supposedly had nine different versions as work progressed.  He had to flex his design as the mountain dictated.  Jefferson has an upward gaze, which wasn’t the original pose.  A flaw in the rock would have resulted in a crack through his nose if not for that tilt.

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Mr. Borglum studied art in Europe and learned how to use dynamite in his work from a visiting Belgian artist.  90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite and then the final carving techniques left the rock as smooth as a concrete sidewalk.  The glasses on Theodore Roosevelt were a particularly clever design.

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Washington from the small cave opening on the Presidential Trail.

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The profile overlook is just a short drive around the mountain from the Memorial.  Washington gets all the glory from this vantage point.  Carving was started in 1927 and was finally completed on October 31, 1941 despite WWI, the Great Depression, and the death of Borglum himself.

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And the “look back” view of the Black Hills from the Presidential Trail at the memorial.

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”  Gutzon Borglum

Custer State Park & Needles Highway

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After our Mount Rushmore visit, we set out on the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop and Needles Highway for the spectacular views we’d read about.  We were able to catch sight of Mount Rushmore from a distance.

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I wanted to see the Needles of the Black Hills and we saw plenty.  The rocks are eroded pillars of granite.  View of Cathedral Spires on the Needles Highway.

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This is a twisting and turning highway with one-lane tunnels, way too narrow and low for Lucy.  I was really glad to be in Bitsy, too.  Even the pick-up trucks looked too big in some spots.

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It was a grand drive with beautiful Black Hills views.

Deadwood With New Friends

After we left Utah and were on our way to Cheyenne, Jackie on a Facebook RV group asked for route advice.  Since we had just done this very same drive from Moab to Cheyenne, I suggested our route and provided a few details.  Well it turns out that Jackie & Basil from North Carolina were also on their way to the Black Hills.  So, we gave them the details on that part of our drive, too.  In the end, they were in Spearfish for a few days and we were in Hill City, so we made a date to finally meet.

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It was great fun getting to know Jackie and Basil and they even treated us to lunch at Mustang Sally’s.  After lunch, we decided to trek up the very steep hill to visit Mt. Moriah Cemetery, better known as “Boot Hill”.  Turns out you really can’t go to Deadwood without visiting Wild Bill Hickok’s final resting place.

James Butler Hickok, or “Wild Bill” came to Deadwood for the gold and loved to gamble.  He was shot dead with the “deadman’s hand” in Deadwood back in 1876.  That’s a lotta dead.  Of course the town was here before Wild Bill and was named for, you guessed it, dead trees in the area.  Everyone seemed fascinated by the “offerings” on Wild Bill’s headstone – money, bullets, whisky and even a painted rock.

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Calamity Jane is buried here, too, right beside Wild Bill.

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On the way back down the hill, we found a piece of history from the USS Maine.  This battleship was blown up in Cuba’s Havana Harbor in 1898 leading to the Spanish-American War.  “Remember the Maine” became a rallying cry and we wondered how Deadwood came to have one of her artillery shells.  Well, it seems you just had to ask for one, which the city of Deadwood did.  This memorial was set up in their city park as a result.  There was no one on the ship or associated with it from South Dakota as far as we could tell.

A few other favs from the day.  Pat rocking that bikini and boots.  And the “Warning – Strange Dog” sign on the way to the cemetery.  I really wanted to see this “strange” dog, but alas, it wasn’t out and about.  Finally, a painting of Wild Bill from the original saloon where he was shot.  And for you curious sorts, saloons are drinking establishments that are larger venues.  Bigger than a bar or a pub, short for Public House.  These are the sorts of things that you Google on random sightseeing days.

In the end, a really fun day with our new RV friends Jackie & Basil.  We joked that we made a true bond since our first outing was to a cemetery and we talked about underwear.

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I’ll leave you with one more shot of the gorgeous Black Hills from Mt. Moriah.  Deadwood is down below.  It was a rainy, 50ish day which we much preferred to the 96 degree day when we first arrived in Hill City.  This day would be the start of the four days of straight rain beginning with a very soggy Father’s Day.

Next Up – Sturgis and Pat’s family gathering.  See you on the way!

The Badlands

June 11 – 13

We’re in Interior, South Dakota for this stop.  Badlands National Park was on our list of must-sees, so we detoured a little bit East to camp close by.

Getting There

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At the dump station I took one more shot before we left Angostura Rec Area.  These are just the right sized hills (mountains to me) with a surprising mix of plants.  Blooming Yucca love the drier spots and live happily in the same meadow with the fir trees.

My turn to drive for a change.  It’s been so long that neither of us can quite remember when I was behind the wheel last.  I needed a little practice and this looked like an easy drive.

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My serious driving look.  I still have a little knot in the pit of my stomach when I drive Lucy, but I’m getting more comfortable.  Honestly being vigilant and alert isn’t a bad thing when you’re driving pretty much everything you own down the road.  This was a scenic drive, too, with no interstate.

Badlands National Park

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We were just minutes from the Badlands National Park visitor’s center, and started our scenic drive there.  Likely these rocks wouldn’t have interested us much if not for all the grass.  It looks like New Mexico desert meets 18 holes of golf!

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French-Canadian fur trappers and the Lakota people both thought this land was “bad” due to lack of water and rough terrain.  Thus the name “Badlands”.  This year has been a good one for rain, but I’m sure in other seasons it doesn’t look so lush around the rocks.

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At one of the first overlooks, we took a short scramble up to a better view.  I say scramble since the dry pebbly ground made for slippery, steep climbing up the side of the rock.  Fortunately no rattlesnakes are underfoot this day.

A few more views from the scenic drive.  We found a few cactus in bloom, too.

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The prairie dogs are vigilant here.  The closer you get, the more quickly they squeak out their warning.  I was making one of them seriously nervous and Pat told me to back up.   We read that these guys can carry the plague, so I did back off pretty quickly.

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The bighorn sheep were out and about, too, along with the bison.  The bison didn’t block the road, but I had to stop for this gal and another friend or two.  The males with the really big horns plopped down in the tall grass to foil my shot.

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Last one from our drive.  Can you find the two people?

Wall Drug

 

Just north of Badlands National Park is the little town of Wall, South Dakota.  The attraction here is Wall Drug just off the interstate and advertised on billboards all along I-90.  It’s also the American roadside spot best known outside of the US, since there are signs for it in Paris, London, Kenya and even at the Taj Mahal.  They advertise free ice water, and back in the day would give you a free sign to advertise the place if you promised to put it up somewhere.  Now it’s a huge indoor mall of sorts with little shops for jewelry, souvenirs, ice cream, fudge, candy, western wear, you name it.  You can get a free bumper sticker or a cardboard sign if you want one.

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There’s a mini Mount Rushmore and of course the ever-popular Jackelope.  Pat is an expert Jackelope rider.

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We bought some great coconut and caramel topped chocolate fudge, got Zoltar to tell Pat’s fortune, and even played a tune on a mechanical accordion.

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The giant Space Invaders game occupied Pat while I got popcorn.  A fun little place that dates back to 1931, and pretty much employs everyone is this town.  Kept them on the map, and it’s a stop you simply must make if you are headed across South Dakota on I-90.

The Weather & Stuff

We are loving the weather with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.  Sure beats the oppressive heat we’re used to in Florida this time of year.  Our campground had a putt-putt golf course and Pat beat me by a few strokes, even with all my trash talk.  We’re also all set with clean clothes and ready to head back to the Black Hills.

Next Up: Mount Rushmore and the Needles Highway.  See you on the way!

 

Bye, Bye Wyo… Hello Black Hills!

June 4 – 10

Time to bid Wyoming adieu for this year and add a new state to the travel map.  I’m excited to see South Dakota since I don’t really know what to expect.  I’ve heard of Black Hills gold and know that Mount Rushmore looms large, but that’s about it.

On The Way

We haven’t sampled any of Wyoming’s state parks yet, so we have one reserved for our interim stop on the way to South Dakota.  Guernsey State park was a relatively short drive away and our home base for two days.  Two hot days.  And then there was the active coal train line right next door.

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The trains rolled through round the clock, but fortunately didn’t blow the whistles at night.  This was, however, a train passing area, so the engines would sit chugging away for half an hour at a time waiting for the other train to pass.  Coal cars headed East and empties headed back West.

We didn’t do much at this stop except take Jackson for the obligatory walks by the lake.

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At least when he would walk.  Mr. Boots balks like a stubborn mule when he doesn’t get his way regarding our path.

Like I said, we didn’t do much here or as my parents used to say, we didn’t hit a lick at a snake.  Not exactly true.  Maybe no snake licking, but we did have quite the bug-killing spree one night.  Yes, we’ve found bugs again – all manner of flying insects to be exact.  We had to bust out the tennis racket bug zapper.  After we took care of the obvious hoards around all the lights, Pat went around with the flashlight in all the corners so I could get the ones that chose to hide.

Welcome To South Dakota

20180732Finally we’re in South Dakota!  There’s a nice little turnout so you can stop for your SD selfie.  This is a decent one for a change, but Pat’s laughing because it took me so long to get everything in the shot.

Angostura Recreation Area

Our destination for this stop is Angostura State Recreation Area near Hot Springs, SD.  There’s a carpet of green everywhere, and we’re loving the grass and trees.  I really had no preconceived notions about South Dakota and I’m surprised by the lush terrain.

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The cows give us dirty looks as we run them off the road.  They don’t get out of the way of the cars, but Lucy’s a little too big for their liking.

The appeal of this place… it was made for having fun and didn’t have so many rules.  People parked on the grass, raced around on jet skis, had rousing campfires and generally enjoyed themselves.  State and national parks are nice, but sometimes they take all the fun right out of camping telling you what you can’t do.

I looked out the window at one point and thought someone had a bubble machine going.  Or perhaps we’re inside a giant snow globe.  Seems we’re here just as the cottonwood trees let loose all their fluffy seed pods piling up in drifts like snow.

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park boasts about its two distinct faces – up top and underground.  We took the cave tour, but honestly loved topside the most.  I think we’re seriously caved out having toured three others since December.

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The BIG and the little.  We had such fun watching the prairie dogs.  This guy seems to be keeping watch for Mr. Bison.  Of course I don’t think Mr. Bison needs any help with that.  He could care less about all the cars driving by.  Our best moment on the scenic drive was on our way out.  A particularly plump prairie dog was in the middle of our lane, but facing the other way.  As I rolled up to him, he stood up a little taller as if he heard something, but was totally focused on the car approaching from the other direction.  I didn’t honk the horn since I thought it might give him heart failure.  He finally turned around and nearly turned inside out getting out of the way.  We laughed so hard.

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This area is simply gorgeous with rolling hills carpeted in lush green grasses, rock formations, wildflowers, and trees.  Actually the area is named for those trees.  “Black Hills” originated from the Lakota words that mean “hills that are black”.  From a distance, the trees covering the hills make them appear black.  And those tiny dots in the meadow below?  Those are the bison quietly grazing.

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It was a perfect day to see the park.  Sunny, but with a cool breeze, so only about 72 degrees.  Now this is the summer we’re seeking.

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Looks like Spring and it’s June.  I could get used to this.

Some places just speak to you and this is one of them.  We adore the Black Hills area and are already talking about coming back.  Of course I just got through reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and the author talks about missing a place before you’ve actually left it.  I remind myself – I’m still here – enjoy it!

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Sound the alarm fat boy!

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Now for the underground part of the park.  Wind Cave is different from most with very little of the formations you normally see such as stalactites and stalagmites.  Instead, this cave boasts some of the most well-formed and abundant boxwork in the world.  Veins of calcite intersect to form box-like honeycomb formations and it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they were formed here.  Boxwork was everywhere overhead in this narrow cave.  No big rooms here and the tour was mostly single-file.

Wind Cave is named for the rush of wind through the natural small opening.  Think size of your head, unlike that gaping hole we entered in Carlsbad.  The wind speed on our tour day was 6.72 mph blowing out.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.  If we hadn’t booked our cave tour in advance, we’d have spent more time up top enjoying the views.

Mammoths

Hot Springs, South Dakota.  It’s now on our list of places we’d stay a while.  I’m not convinced I could handle the winter here, but I’d really be willing to give it a go once just to see snow dusted bison.  Friendly people and some really nice meals.  I had delicious Walleye one night and tried a pretty good Russian beer at the pizza parlor.

The really cool unexpected place here was the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.  Conditions aligned during the area’s geologic formation to create a perfect sinkhole trap for unsuspecting mammoths and other prehistoric animals.  In 1974, this area was being leveled for a housing development when a giant tusk was unearthed by a heavy equipment operator.  The owner of the property realized its significance and the rest, as they say, is history.

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By counting the excavated tusks, they’ve found 61 mammoths so far – 3 Woolly and the rest Columbian (much bigger!)  We took the tour through the dig site and watched work underway.  From core samples, they estimate they’ve only excavated about a third of the entire sink hole so far.  In addition to mammoths, they’ve uncovered prairie dogs, mollusks, camels and the extinct short-faced bear.

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Pat and the very big Columbian Mammoth replica.

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Consider this your “Did you know” fact of the day from the museum display.  How would you like to be teething molars SIX times in your life?  Finally, a quote from the Mammoth Site’s website:

“The community of Hot Springs keeps one of the most valuable fossil treasures known to mankind today.”  Dr. Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke, Professor, Germany

Next Up – The Badlands and more prairie dogs.  See you on the way!

Yahtzee & Graduation!

May 24 – June 3

Back in Cheyenne to enjoy a little family time, dog spoiling and free laundry!  We were both looking forward to spending quality time with Pat’s mom who always has a smile on her face.

On The Way

The “getting there” story…  This time we went back and forth on our route to get from Colorado to Cheyenne.  Initially the interim stop wasn’t sure they’d be open in May and asked that we call when it got closer.  I called and no dice on opening before June.  We’re just not used to places that have unpredictable weather that late in the year.  After all, Florida’s already had a tropical something and been sweltering in the heat for quite a while.

So we decide to head back West to Flaming Gorge on the Wyo and Utah border.  We passed it by last year on the way to Alaska and put it on the list for later.  I made reservations and everything.  Then, I’m studying up on the route as I always do, and discover we’ve set ourselves up for a 200+ travel day followed by a 300+ travel day to make it back to Cheyenne.  No, no, and no.  We whine mightily when we drive more than 200 miles.  I was pretty sure we’d be worked up into a lather with more than 300 miles.  Think hangry x 10.  (Just how did I miss this when I made those reservations?!)  Anyhoo, a canceling I go, and we decide to just overnight right off the interstate and arrive in Cheyenne a day early.  Yay!

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This is how we came to find ourselves in Rawlins, WY for one night where the wind blows mightily.  I think Wyomians (is that a word?) wear their wind like a badge of honor.  It’s the cross they bear, but at least they have a sensor of humor about it.

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Then there are the variable speed limit signs on I-80.  Little weather stations near the signs measure wind speed to determine the road speed limit.  It was actually a pretty drive this time around, but last year, it was by far the nastiest travel day of all, with the speed limit down to 35 in some spots.  The angry clouds hurled down all manner of precipitation and the winds howled.  On this day we also had a great view of the snow fences, something I learned about for the first time in Wyoming years ago.  Pat had to explain things to this Florida girl.  Snow fences keep the blowing snow from drifting on the highway – at least in theory.

Grandma Time!

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Let the dog spoiling begin.  Grandma loves her four-footed babies, and Jackson is talking her out of a nice big meatball in this photo.

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Jackson is also enjoying the big dog chair, couch, and anywhere else he cares to go.  This townhouse is tricky though.  He has to keep watch on three different floors.  What does Grandma do when he’s not here?  Actually, we all like the house thing for a change.  There’s a regular-sized kitchen so I could try out a more labor intensive new recipe (Chicken parm meatballs). And I managed to wash everything that would fit in her washer and dryer – sheets, rugs, towels, blankets, pillows, and our clothes, too.  No quarters required!

Let The Games Begin

You could find us gathered around the table every night playing Yahtzee.  That’s Mom’s favorite, and we used the jade dice we brought back last year from BC.  She beat the pants off us the first night, and Pat rallied, but Mom finally reigned victorious after the 6 game tournament ended.  Let me just say, I stink at Yahtzee.  You know that upper part where you can earn bonus points?  NEVER happens.

Then we introduced her to Mexican Train Dominoes.  She tried to cheat several times, but Pat caught her.  Probably our fault since she swears we kept changing the rules on her.  Pat won that game, too.  There will be a rematch!

All Nieces/Nephews Accounted For

After almost 17 months on the road, we’ve only missed seeing one of our sibling’s kids.  Justin (Pat’s nephew) brought his squad, as he affectionately called them, over Memorial Day weekend.  Now we’ve finally seen everyone.

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Justin, Cora, Chase, Great Grandma, Pat and the perpetual motion machine, Jack.

Cheyenne Botanical Gardens

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Since we can’t play Yahtzee 24/7, we decided an outing was in order.  The Cheyenne Botanical Gardens was just the ticket and actually free.  And the place with the hands-down prettiest Hibiscus ever.  As a native Floridian I feel qualified to say this.

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This place boasts a Garden Labyrinth and we sought it out to make the walk.  Labyrinths are winding paths to a center point and meant to be done in silent contemplation.  It would have been if not for the air station across the road landing very noisy planes.  Still, a relaxing exercise nonetheless.

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One of my favorite quotes on a garden stepping stone.  I had this on a mouse pad in my home office back in the day when I had a home office.  Still don’t miss it!

Rabbits were munching on dandelions, Canadian Geese were blocking traffic and the outdoor blooms were lovely.

They had the prettiest little birds in a cage on the inside.  That orange one looks like he had a bad dye job.

The Main Event

But the main reason we’re here is for Pat’s nephew Tyler’s graduation from Central High School.  We promised him we’d be back this year for the big event and back we came.

That is one proud Grandma and rightly so.  We’re all pretty proud of handsome Tyler.

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I like this shot the best.  So happy.

As a bonus, we got to see Pat’s nephew Brandon and sister-in-law Terri, too.  They both drove up from Denver for the occasion.

Other Cheyenne Stuff

I’m calling this my makeover stop.  I ordered new glasses that arrived in Mom’s mailbox while we were on the way there.  My old purple ones were scratched and starting to crack so it was time.  I also got a haircut and Pat colored my hair.  Pat did a much better job on the color than the stylist did with my cut.  Still not quite sure what she did to my bangs, but I should have known when she parted it on the wrong side when she was done.  Hmmm.  Fortunately I’m not that fussy and it’ll grow.  I also retired some worn out t-shirts and replaced them with new ones.  I give Mom great credit for schlepping all over the place with me to find new shoes to no avail.  I’m still on the hunt for those.  Also, Bitsy got an oil change, but Pat gets credit for that task.

Finally, we said our good-byes, but will look forward to seeing most of the family again in three weeks in Sturgis, SD for Pat’s sibling gathering.

Next up – one short stop in Wyo on the way to a new state.  South Dakota here we come!  See you on the way!

 

Yampa River State Park

May 20 – 22

This turned out to be a family stop although we didn’t know it would be ahead of time.  We booked this stop months ago – February-ish?  Turns out my niece Sydney just moved here a month ago, with “here” being a tiny little northern Colorado town named Craig.  Not really on the way to anywhere.  A complete fluke that we took this route since our original campground picks didn’t have a spot for us.

The Town of Craig

We didn’t have an agenda for this stop originally.  It was just one way to meander our way to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We made a lunch date with Syd when we arrived, and then set out to explore the little town.

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Pat read that the town has a collection of wooden chainsaw carvings, so we went in search of a few.  The city park has them scattered throughout the grounds.  Syd told us that the trees were dying and rather than just chop them down, they decided to make carvings out of them.  Here’s our favorite – “Ol’ Copper’s On The Hunt”.  The big old baying hound has treed him a racoon!  The carvings reminded us of the ones we saw in Chetwynd, BC last year.

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Our shiny boy, Jackson, approved of the lush grass in the park.  He really didn’t care about the carvings.

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Here’s the other carving I thought was clever.  Bulldog Statue of Liberty?  We saw this one when Syd and Mark took us on a driving tour of town after treating us to a grand Mexican lunch.

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The deer stroll around the neighborhoods and don’t seem to be too disturbed by us gawkers.

You know how I like to take pictures of the local flowers.  Well it seems to run in the family.  Mark stopped the car and both Syd and I jumped out to take flower shots.  The orange ones were in someone’s yard and I have no idea what they are.  Gorgeous vibrant orange.  Those yellow ones reminded me of Indian Paintbrush from Texas, while I think those purples ones are some sort of lupine.  And the white tiny daisy-ish flowers?  Those really reminded me of the fleabane that Mom used to have growing in her yard in Florida.  They came in lavender and white, and Daddy was not allowed to mow them down even though they were weeds.

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Then there’s the “mushroom yard”.  The edge of this yard has a bunch of wooden mushrooms with critters sitting atop each one.  We had to make another lap in the neighborhood to catch this one.

Home Tours

Part of our visit involved touring each other’s tiny homes.  We showed off our setup in Lucy and then Sydney & Mark showed off their setup in their new trailer.  They, too, are full-time RVers!  It’s always interesting to see how other people arrange things in small RV spaces.  They seem to have taken to the lifestyle quite well and love it so far.

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We have our Jackson and Syd has her Jack.  He’s a spunky little papillon who also seems quite fine with the new living arrangements.

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My favorite photo of the day.  The redheads together.

Yampa River State Park

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This was a peaceful spot.  A tad close to the highway with some road noise, but that tended to quiet down in the evenings.  I ventured out without my camera again, but managed to snap this evening shot on my phone.  I just caught the tail end of the pinks and purples I like best.

The park is right beside the Yampa River and seems to attract lots of critters.  The birds were very active here.  We kept hearing this loud chirp, like a smoke detector with a low battery, and immediately looked up in the trees to spot the culprit.  We never caught sight of anything.  Syd solved the mystery for us.  She and Mark camped here, too, and told us that sound was from the big fat ground squirrels.  No wonder we didn’t see anything looking up.  Pat spied one the next morning and boy was it a fatty.  He said it watched every move he and Jackson made after sounding the alarm.

Then there’s that fragrance I’ve been trying to identify ever since our stop in Albuquerque.  I first smelled it during our bike ride along the Rio Grande.  I was certain it was a tree of some sort, but I’d smelled every piece of bark and tree leaf I could since then and couldn’t pin it down.  An elusive fragrance a lot like the incense in church – sweet, smokey, pungent.  It was always strongest near rivers and streams.  Smelled it again in Durango and now here.  I snatched a few leaves off a nearby tree during our evening stroll.  Eureka!  It’s the Peachleaf Willow found mostly in riparian areas.

Next up – Family time in Cheyenne and a high school graduation.  See you on the way!