Posts Tagged With: RV travel
Today we wound our way out of the Black Hills of South Dakota, snuck through a corner of Wyoming and arrived in Montana – Big Sky Country. The gently rolling hills of Montana’s eastern plains seem to stretch on forever…and so does the sky above them.
It seems like spring has been late arriving in the northern part on the United States. Although landscapes have been green and lush, trees have continually been bare of leaves. That just made it all the more exciting to stumble upon these wildflowers blooming on the hillside behind our campground.
Montana is a new state for both of us, and we are eager to discover what adventures lie beneath this “Big Sky.” Plenty of time for that tomorrow!
The drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial gives visitors several frames for one of the world’s most spectacular engineering achievements. When you steer along Iron Mountain Road, go counterclockwise if you want the four presidents in your windshield.
A quick detour: Can you name the four presidents? (Answer below)
The 17-mile road was designed to connect three one-lane tunnels blasted in the rock. It features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks and three pigtails.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s presidents measure 250 feet across and each head is 60 feet tall. Why were these four chosen? George Washington, for leading the struggle for independence. Thomas Jefferson, the idea of government by the people. Abraham Lincoln, ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states. Theodore Roosevelt, the emerging role of the U.S. in world affairs.
On our way to see the four stone heads, we explored the 71,000-acre Custer State Park. This place alone would be worth a visit to South Dakota’s Black Hills. We walked around Legion Lake, one of several lakes in the park, then picnicked next to a creek.
We began our day by hiking to Cathedral Spires, one of the park’s many treks that vary in length and degree of difficulty. They share a location as beautiful as any we have seen on our journey, which is nearing 8,000 miles.
Custer State Park in South Dakota is home to a herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo. These magnificent animals can be seen roaming freely throughout the grasslands. The best way to view them is from the safety of your vehicle while driving the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road…which is what we did today.
Park grasslands can only support about 1,450 buffalo, so the herd is carefully managed. Every fall the annual Buffalo Roundup takes place, allowing the park to brand and vaccinate the calves, inventory the grasslands and to determine how many buffalo will be sold at auction. The event is open to the public, and this year the roundup is scheduled for September 29…so you still have time to make your plans!
We saw a few other critters out today. A pronghorn was oblivious to my photo attempt. A herd of wild burros begged snacks from a fellow motorist and we waited as wranglers led trail horses across the road to fresh grass. All in all, I’d say we had a successful hunt!
Badlands National Park appears rather suddenly among the grasslands of South Dakota. These seemingly harsh lands are the result of millions of years of earth’s ever-changing climate. This is a landscape of extremes.
We arrived yesterday to clear blue skies and warm temperatures, the first we’ve had in two and a half weeks. Pulling into the first parking lot we came to, we set off on two short walks, eager to get a taste of such a foreign landscape. Surprisingly, trail markers led us off the path to freely walk among the peaks and gullies. We later learned that Badlands is a sort of “open range” park. Visitors are allowed to walk anywhere as long as the environment is respected.
Day two found us on the Castle Trail, a 10 or 12 mile (depending on which map or trail marker you believe) round trip that led us through some of the spectacular park formations and out onto the open grasslands. We had hoped to see some of the wildlife that call the park home and were a little disappointed to only see a few deer in the distance. But, it was a gorgeous day and we were outside in an eerily beautiful national park…not a bad place to be!
We opted for a second night at our Dubuque, Iowa hotel as we waited for wind and snow flurries to blow through the western part of the state. To fill our rainy day, we decided to follow the scenic Mississippi River drive outlined in our guidebook. It seemed simple enough, but wouldn’t you know it…another wrong turn led us 30 miles off course. At least there were no toll roads!
As I studied the atlas in an effort to get us back on course, I realized we were close to the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, Wisconsin. Reg thought I was kidding.
Curious, we decided to see if it was for real.
We learned beer was first brewed in Potosi in 1852. The Potosi Brewing Company was founded in 1906, ceasing operation in 1972. The Potosi Brewery was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
In 2004, the American Breweriana Association chose the site as the home for its National Museum of Beer Advertising Memorabilia. In 2008, after a $7.5 million renovation, the museum and brew pub opened. The 2015 addition of their $5 million brewery allowed Petosi to finally bring all its beer back home again.
Development of the park began in 1938 when the Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Kanawha and began cleaning up and improving the area. Work continued until 1942 when World War II began and the camp was closed.
Hiking trails, picnic sites and shelters, numerous playgrounds and 45 campsites are available for all who want to leave the city behind.
The area is also known as a wildflower haven, with 574 species sprinkled throughout the landscape. We saw quite a few in bloom today as we wandered along the nature trail. As it turned out, today was a great day for a walk in the park.
Another day of clouds and drizzle sent us to downtown Charleston to explore West Virginia’s capital city. After a leisurely cup of coffee in a downtown coffee/bookstore, we wandered along a walkway that follows the Kanawha (Ka-naw) River, which flows through the city.
Charleston’s present state capitol took eight years to complete, with work beginning in 1924. The 23-karat gold leaf dome soars 293 feet, making it the tallest of any state capitol dome in the United States. The capitol is open to the public and the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. After a quick security check, we were handed a lengthy history of the capitol and urged to “make ourselves at home.”
The governor’s mansion is also located on the Capitol Complex grounds, perched on a grassy rise with a view of the river below. Not quite as welcoming, it sat behind locked gates, so we had to be content to peer through the fence.
Notes from the backroads, week six
We have continued pull one of the smallest trailers, often less than half the size of other RVs. Even after all this time, we feel we have everything we need and we have not even come close to strangling each other.
There are advantages to going small:
–We can fit in virtually any campsite. We don’t require pull-throughs. Plus, back-in sites give me a chance to entertain other campers when I try to avoid backing into Sue as she signals directions.
–We don’t need a full-size pickup truck.
–We are more mobile in urban areas and parking is easier.
–We have less floor to clean.
–Drivers of huge pickups love asking me “So, how does that Tacoma tow a trailer?” I am tempted to answer, “You know, size can be deceiving.” (I would love to hear other suggestions.)
–Our RV storage cost is lower and our pickup and trailer cost less than the monsters.
–We are forced to bring less stuff.
–We have no room to bring along other people or dogs.
Speaking of dogs, it seems like everyone brings dog(s) in their RV. Often multiple dogs. We have seen up to four. Most are well-behaved. (Dogs, that is).
Pet peeves. Barking dogs, cigarette smoke from neighbors, people who share their music and TV with the campground (many RVs have outdoor televisions.). Park staff who use all the washing machines. Luckily, these have been rare happenings on this trip.
RVers have come to expect the amenities of a fancy resort. We have stayed at many parks with swimming pools. One had a bowling alley. Two had cafes and offered food delivery to your RV. Many pick up your trash. RV and truck washing can be arranged.
RVers also expect laundry rooms and will quickly complain if the wi-fi signal is weak. Putt-putt golf. Fishing ponds and boat rentals. Convenience stores. Propane service. Walking trails. Cable TV, even HD. Table and chairs, with a grill. Dog-walking parks. Playgrounds. Bike rentals. Horseshoes.
Our place in Tucson had a pub. So far, no parks offered happy hour. One did prohibit alcohol. Good luck with that!
It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend since arriving in Charleston, West Virginia. Chris and Gail enjoyed a mini vacation when they spent Saturday night in a cabin at our campground. We enjoyed having them “right down the street,” if only for one night. After a barbecued steak dinner at the cabin, followed by two highly competitive rounds of our dice game Yamslam, Reg and I headed back to our trailer to rest up for the Sunday breakfast we were hosting.
Chris has been working at Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse for the last year, and today he gave us a tour of the company’s retail store and 20+ greenhouses. We weren’t quite prepared for the scale and quality of this family operation.
A kaleidoscope of colors and textures greeted us as we wandered through most of the six acres of production greenhouses. We saw flowers, vegetable plants, house plants and potted blooming plants, all grown and nurtured to supply Gritt’s retail and wholesale operation.
As amazing as all of that was, the greenhouse where the tomatoes grow surprised us most of all.
We were fascinated with the 1.5 acre hydroponic tomato operation. These are vine ripened tomatoes and the plants produce continually except for the months of December and January.
We were tempted to sneak a couple for our dinner!