Saturday, August 30, 2014

Old Faithful August 29, 2014

Check it off the bucket lists...we have seen Old Faithful in action--twice!  It is 32 miles from our campground to the east entrance of the park and from there it is another 60 miles to Old Faithful, but the ride is beautiful!  We stopped at some overlooks to admire the spectacular scenery, got gas and shopped at Fishing Bridge, then proceeded on to Old Faithful.  It was a picture perfect day.            
A fine looking group.  

Kepler Cascades.
Beautiful Yellowstone Lake
We arrived at Old Faithful in time to have a tailgate lunch before heading over to watch the geyser erupt.  We timed it right, so we only had about a 20 minute wait before the spectacular event occurred.  Afterwards,we all decided to hike the Upper Geyser Basin, stopping to admire the many hot springs and geysers there.  We were also delighted to see a buffalo grazing in a nearby field.  This landscape is so unlike anything else here on earth!  To see the ecosystem of the caldera is fascinating!

Right on time!

Old Faithful isn't the only one that's active.  
After our hike, we went to the famous Old Faithful Inn for refreshments before making the long trek back to the campground.   We were disappointed that we had seen so little wildlife today.  One elk and one coyote  along the roadside and one buffalo at Old Faithful was all we had seen.   On the way back, however, we were rewarded by seeing a huge grizzly bear and another (huge) buffalo.
Buffalo near Old Faithful
A big grizzly,
Resting beside the road.  
Back at the rigs, we had happy hour and Larry prepared quesadillas for our dinner.  We watched a lovely sunset at the campground before retiring for the night.

Happy hour.
Sunset at the campground.  

Travel Day August 28, 2014

We spent the day traveling from Buffalo, WY, to Cody, WY.  Some of us (who shall remain unnamed) missed a short cut turn and we traveled through some interesting countryside to Cody.   There we were delighted to find a SuperWal-Mart where we could all replenish our necessities.   We are camped in the Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Park, about 32 miles from the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.   We got settled in, had happy hour, and some of us ate in our rigs while some of us ate at the restaurant.   Steve had wall-eye fried in a light panko batter, and it was wonderful.  The night was very windy, shaking our RV's and  keeping us awake, but not for long.
Colt RV

Shields RV

Ida, Larry, Steve, and Corky

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Badlands National Park August 26, 2014

Today we took the scenic ride through Badlands National Park, stopping frequently at overlooks to admire the beautiful colors and unusual rock formations.  We were disappointed that the only wildlife we saw was 1 jackrabbit and a great many prairie dogs.   Bonnie and I think the prairie dogs are very cute in spite of the fact that they carry plague and cause havoc with farmland with their extensive hole-digging.  We were able to take several short hikes and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and landscape.  We continue to be awe-stricken when we think of the pioneers who traveled across or lived on this rugged land.  They were certainly a strong breed of men and women.

Back at the RV's, there was happy hour (of course),  and a nice dinner prepared by Larry.  In gratitude for the dinner, we let Larry win 3 games of Mexican Train before the hiking and fresh air took its toll and we all turned in early.

Rapid City, SD August 25, 2014

This morning Steve could stand it no longer, so he washed the RV himself.  After discovering that we had not changed our clocks to Mountain time, so we were up an hour early,  Bonnie and I took Precious and Jacques to Petco for grooming, got our nails done,  did some shopping at the Rushmore Mall, and ran other errands.    We returned to the RV's in time for happy hour, where we were joined by our friends Ida and Joe (from the Drifters Chapter).  We all had a nice dinner at the Elk's Lodge and then headed for the evening show at Mt. Rushmore.

The Rapid City Elks Lodge

Dinner at the Elks  -  wake up Joe!
To all SMART members and anyone else who loves a great show of patriotism, please don't miss the evening show at Mt. Rushmore!   Do go see it in the daytime, wander around the park and the gift shop for sure, but come back that night (your ticket is still good).  In the arena, the sculptures fade into shadow as dusk falls.  A ranger comes on stage to present some history of the park and show a brief film about the presidents.  At the end of the program, everyone stands and sings the National Anthem as the lights come up to illuminate the sculptures.   Then the ranger asks everyone who has served in the armed forces to come to the stage.  Each one is asked to state his/her name and branch of service.  There is a huge round of applause in honor of these men and women, and then the flag is lowered.    Many a red-blooded American has to wipe away a tear at this program.  It is truly worth seeing.  We were so proud to see Steve, Larry, and Joe on that stage!

Military men and women honored.  

Another interesting thing happened while we were in the arena.  Sitting in front of us were several young Taiwanese students.  They are here to work in the various resorts in the area for the summer.  They were very friendly and likable group and seemed to enjoy kidding around with us.  When Steve, Larry, and Joe were going down to the stage, this group of young people were applauding and cheering even more than Bonnie, Ida, and I.  They were very attentive and respectful throughout the tribute  to our military, and when it was over they turned to us and asked each of us what service our husbands were in and how long.  They couldn't thank us and the guys enough!  Then one of these young people said something that knocked our socks off!  She said, "If it wasn't for men like your husbands, we wouldn't be here today."  It was a very moving moment for all of us.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tacky Tourist Day August 24, 2014

A severe thunderstorm in the middle of last night took out all the electricity on one side of I-29.  Why is this important?  Because Steve was once again thwarted in his efforts to get the RV washed; the truck wash had no electricity!  So, off we went to Rapid City.

South Dakota sunflowers

Going across I-90 in southern South Dakota is an experience in itself.  The terrain is all flat grassland and farms in the east,  fields of sunflowers in the middle, and the beautiful Badlands and Black Hills in the west.  Along the way are two National Parks and numerous tourist traps.  We managed to take in a couple of the latter.

Off to Cabelas
We stopped in Mitchell to see the Corn Palace, but first our guys had to spend a little time in Cabelas.   The Corn Palace was, as usual, "corny",  but we were able to join a tour group and learned a bit more about the building and how the corn murals are made.  It was surprisingly interesting.  We learned the meanings of the interior murals and saw two outside ones that that are works in progress.  Steve, who stayed on the RV while I toured the Palace the last time we were here, joined us this time, but he says it will be his last visit here.

Proof that Steve was there!

Representing Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, the Black Hills, and SD wildlife.
Ready for the corn to be applied. 

We bypassed the "Original 1880's Village" and proceeded on to Wall Drug Store for our "free ice water."  It is a really tacky tourist place, but since Larry and Bonnie had not experienced its charms, we felt compelled to stop.  At least the ice cream was good.  Of course we also had to take some "tacky tourist" photos!

On we went to Rapid City, where we are staying at an Elk's Club.  Nice, inexpensive camping with 50 amp sites with water.  There is even a golf course!  After setting up and happy hour, we were off for a fast food dinner followed by an early bedtime.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sioux Falls, SD August 23, 2014

The day began with uncertainty.  Would Larry and Bonnie's coach get fixed or not?  We had all sorts of alternative plans, but the day turned our wonderfully.

Larry, Bonnie, and Jaques came over to our campsite hoping for the best.  We were prepared to go on to Rapid City tomorrow, leaving their coach here and coming back for it Tuesday.  Happily, that was not necessary.  Their coach is fixed, under warranty, and we will be ready to head west tomorrow!

We decided not to waste our time here in Sioux Falls in the meantime.  We headed for a Wal-mart and Sam's  outing followed by lunch at Culver's, home of the "butter burger."  Then we went downtown to see the sculptures and visit "Falls Park."

This is such a lovely urban park.  While we were there we saw two wedding parties that had come to this beautiful place for their ceremonies.   We climbed on rocks and admired the falls before the word came that the RV was fixed!  It was a lovely day with a great ending!  Off to Rapid City tomorrow.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Problems on the road. August 22, 2014

We were very proud to be up and on the road at 7:30 this morning for the long trek from Portage to Sioux Falls, SD.  We were ensconced in a cloud at Sky High Campground, but had pretty good going once we got to the bottom of the mountain.   By the time we reached Minnesota, the sun was out.  All went well until we stopped for gas and as we left the station Larry's "Check Engine" light came on!  After much consultation, we decided that he should push on toward Sioux Falls where there is a Freightliner  Repair Shop.   After several calls, they were able to get an appointment to have the coach seen at 4 p.m.

Steve and I had an unusual experience at the Tower RV Park in Sioux Falls.   The management did not seem to know what sites were available.   They assigned us to site 111, a pull through, but there was a small trailer parked there.  They reassigned us to 324, but that turned out to be occupied as well.  We finally pulled in behind the trailer on 111, and he finally pulled his rig out about an hour later.

Bonnie and Larry, meanwhile, were having their problem evaluated.  They will stay at Freightliner tonight.  The problem will either be fixed by noon tomorrow or they will have to stay here until next Tuesday.  Needless-to-say, this has left all of us up in the air.   Stay tuned folks.   We have plans for any alternative.

Wisconsin Dells August 21, 2014

We woke this morning to a rainy, cloudy day.  We were so disappointed because we wanted to do some sightseeing here.  After sitting around most of the morning, we decided to go into Wisconsin Dells anyway to see what we could see from the car in the rain, and we are very glad we did because the rain let up and we had a great afternoon.  After a stop at the Visitor's Center and lunch at McDonald's we decided to take a chance and book a boat tour of the Dells.  The rain had stopped and although it was still cloudy the boat was running and had a place to get out of the rain if we needed to, so off we went!

Our two hour tour of the Upper Dells wound through narrow canyons and past the towering sandstone cliffs for a 10 mile round trip ride.  It included stops at Stand Rock and Witches Gulch. The weather cooperated beautifully, with no more rain and even a little bit of sunshine.
Waiting for our boat ride

 The sandstone rock formations are among the oldest exposed bedrock on Earth, forming more than 500 million years ago in the early Cambrian period.  This particular kind of sandstone is only found in 4 places on Earth: Potsdam, Germany; Potsdam, NY; Zurich, Switzerland; and here.  They are remnants of ancient sand dunes, part of a desert that once covered the continent.   About 14,000 years ago a large ice dam gave way letting the glacial waters of Lake Wisconsin  flood the area, cutting out gorges and leaving behind the towering sandstone cliffs we see today.  This is some of the softest rock on Earth and is very porous, allowing even large trees to grow from its surface.

Aboard the Joliet
Chimney Rock

Going into Witches Gulch

Witches Gulch

Standing Rock
 Back in town we wandered down very touristy Broadway to the Carr Valley Cheese Factory where we loaded up on good Wisconsin cheese.  The shop is located in the "Bavarian Village" which also boasts a glockenspiel that tells the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.  It was tacky but fun to watch.  
The Pied Piper

Back at the RV's Larry prepared a spaghetti dinner for us, and Steve once again walked away with the dominos game.