Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today was another gorgeous day and we saw a high of 83F (29C), can’t argue with that.

We decided to get a few miles on the new differential so drove back to the Badlands. It was a pretty drive through the grasslands, then all of a sudden the landscape changed dramatically and we were in the Badlands – how awesome.

The Grasslands

The Badlands

We took the scenic route to the Badlands then came back on the interstate and when we got back to Rapid City we stopped at Cabela’s, a sporting goods store that carries everything from soup to nuts, then on back home.

We are now hooked up and ready to head out first thing in the morning. And so ends another great gift of a day and we look forward to another nice day tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Today was another gorgeous day, another good day for sightseeing.

These two old trailers came into the park last night - neat!

Today’s tour was around Custer State Park and the Wildlife Loop in the hope of seeing wildlife and we certainly weren’t disappointed - there were lots of buffalo, some deer, some mountain goats and some antelope that were too far away to get pictures of.

Our first stop was at Gordon Stockade. The Gordon Party came to this area in 1874 in search of gold and they built a log fort on French Creek, which served as a base camp. Today we saw a replica of the original stands as a reminder of the Black Hills Gold Rush days.

French Creek

There were also a couple of scenic overlooks and we took the side trip to Mt. Coolidge Lookout at an elevation of 6032’. Of course it was my favourite type of road to get there – gravel, narrow and very twisty and turney. On the way up we were on the outside – not my favourite place to be so I didn’t look down too much, but the return trip was much better as we were on the inside!! The view from the top was spectacular – we could see the carving of Crazy Horse, the Needles, Mt. Harney (the largest mountain east of the Rockies), Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. I am sure the pictures won’t do any justice to the actual views!

Views From Mt. Coolidge

The Wildlife loop was where we saw all the buffalo – lots and lots of them. This weekend is the kick-off of the 43rd Annul Buffalo Roundup that includes an outdoor arts festival, western entertainment and a chili-cook off. On Monday morning the park’s entire herd of 1,500 bison comes thundering out of the hills, driven by cowboys on horseback and four-wheel drive vehicles. We have been told that people start arriving at 6:30 a.m. to view the buffalo being driven across the plains and that the gates are closed at 9 a.m. for this event, which attracts about 15,000 people. Within a couple of days of the roundup there is a large auction - this is how they manage the park bison and keep a healthy herd.

Buffalo, Mt. Goat & Deer

From there we worked our way back to Rapid City to check on the truck and they were finished with it, just had it out for a test drive. So $1400+ later we have a new differential and hopefully this will be the end of our problem with it.

We stopped at Wal Mart to pick up some groceries and when I went to pay I had no Visa card – oh no, I left it at the park this morning when I paid for a couple more nights – that is a first for me and hopefully a last as what a sick feeling I got when I realized I didn’t have my card. When we got back the owner had my card in the till and said we were just pulling out of the driveway when she realized I had left it there.

We had barbecued chicken wings and cesar salad for dinner and now I hope to get this posted before I go to bed – it will depend on tonight’s internet.

And so ends another great gift of a day and we look forward to another nice day tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Today was another gorgeous day with highs in the low 70’s (about 22C) depending on where we were.

Today we took a trip to Deadwood, burial place of Wild Bill Hitchcock and Calamity Jane - it was a pretty drive, about 50 miles from Hill City, through very scenic countryside. I decided to give John a break today and did the driving, hence no pictures of along the way.

When we got there we drove about a bit then parked in the municipal parking garage while we did a walk about. We wandered along the main street and through a couple of stores then decided to take a tour of Deadwood.

The tour guide was very informative and gave lots of local facts as well as telling the true story of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane, all of which was very interesting. We went to Mt. Moriah cemetery, the burial place for Wild Bill and Calamity Jane as well as many other local Deadwood dignitaries.

Buffalo Bill & Calamity Jane's Burial Plots

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

View of Deadwood from Cemetery

Diamond Lil's


Deadwood got its claim to fame during the Black Hills Gold Rush and is now a huge gambling town since gambling became legal in 1898. Most of the buildings on Main Street are casinos – incredible. We had lunch at Diamond Lil’s, which is owned by Kevin Costner and the restaurant walls are covered with his memorabilia. The restaurant is on the 3rd level, with the first two having slot machines and gaming tables.

We came back through Rapid City and checked on the truck and with any kind of luck it will be ready late tomorrow afternoon.

It was after 6 when we got home and now that dinner is over it will soon be time to hit the sack. And so ends another great gift of a day and we look forward to another nice day tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wow, what a day. John was up at 4:15 a.m. and checked the temperature – 31F (-1C) - oh, oh the hose is still on! Out he went and the hose was frozen but fortunately he remembered that the tap next door had been dripping so he connected the hose there and managed to get the water running, then he had to put water into our holding tank as it was empty. Hopefully we relearned two lessons, one, take the hose off if it is near freezing when we go to bed, and two, make sure we always have water in the fresh water tank. Then it was back to bed for a couple of hours sleep before he had to get up to take the truck to Mr. Dodge for our 8 a.m. appointment.

He stayed until they had the differential apart and determined that both the bearings and gears have to be replaced – not what we really wanted to hear but he wasn’t really surprised. Now they have to order the gears from Denver and hopefully they will arrive tomorrow and the truck will be ready on Friday – HOPEFULLY I say! On a positive note they have given us a courtesy car so we aren’t without wheels and can at least do some sightseeing.

I got up and did a good cleaning then managed to get on the internet and get Monday & Tuesday’s blogs posted and was just finishing with my shower when John arrived home.

The day turned out nice despite the cold start, it was bright and sunny and I saw a high of 65F (18C) on the car thermometer – I started out on our road trip with a t-shirt and vest and soon shedded the vest!

We decided to do a scenic tour around the area – the Needles Highway, and then the Iron Mountain Highway back to Keystone, my what a beautiful drive. The roads were very narrow with many switchbacks and we went through 6 tunnels, the last three all had views of Mt. Rushmore as we came through – stunning. We also crossed a couple of pigtail bridges – so named because of their shape but I couldn’t get a picture of them so you will just have to take my word for it that they were different.

The Needles:

Scenic Views

We saw one bison, a lot of little chipmunks and one mountain goat – mainly the rear end of the mountain goat! Unfortunately, the car windshield was really spotted so I had a difficult time taking pictures through the windshield.

The park people go through the park thinning out the trees and keeping the forest floor clean then put all the debris in slash piles. In the winter, when there is lots of snow, professional fire fighters come in and burn these slash piles. Man, are there ever a lot of slash piles throughout the forest, it would be something to see the burning.

Slash Piles

When John was at the Dodge dealer this morning a fellow told him that at this time of year you can sometimes hear the elk calling out near Deerfield, so on our way home we did a detour to Deerfield. Well, there were no elk or elk calling and the only animal life we saw were some cows and horses, a red squirrel, some little chipmunks and one dead deer along the side of the road – not very exciting but it was a pretty drive! Deerfield Lake was a pretty little lake and very quiet at this time of year, there was only one other vehicle in the picnic area when we stopped there and the campground was closed for the season.

Coming back into Hill City from our little side trip to Deerfield we stopped and walked through some of the shops but didn’t find anything we wanted to spend our money on. I thank John for stopping as shopping isn’t high on his list of things to do.

We have some plans for tomorrow so come back and see how our day unfolded.

Just a note - if you click on a picture it enlarges it for a better view.

And so ends another great gift of a day and we look forward to another nice day tomorrow.