Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Black-Hills South Dakota (2) 2013

The plan was to stay today in Lusk and leave tomorrow after most of the holiday travelers are back home. I took a chance and left at 7:30 AM this morning. It was foggy and misty all the way to Hot Springs, South Dakota, a city in the southern Black Hills. It took me two hours for the 90 miles.
Since the weather was not good for outdoor activities I went to the Mammoth Site. About sixty of those giant animals found their demise in a sinkhole filled with water. Warm water did also bring up minerals and soil, and the dead Mammoths were fossilized. 26,000 years later bones were found on a construction site. Instead of houses a 36,000 square foot Visitor Center was constructed. The inside excavation site features fossils of Columbian and woolly mammoths, and other animals.

The tour guide showed a replica of a leg bone. A real bone would be too heavy to lift.

There was a pelvis, part of a jaw, and an almost complete skeleton, one can see the ribs.

Life size cut-outs show the size of those giants.

Interns are still working on the site.

The question is: did man contribute to the demise of the mammoth?

The big Ice Age exhibit hall displays full-sized mammoth replicas.

In the afternoon I went to the Evans Plunge. They claim it is the world’s largest natural warm water swimming pool. On the side of the hill is a sign with the history of the plunge.

The pool is sectioned off. I used the section for lap swimming. There is a section where large rings on cords, spaced about seven feet apart, can be used to get across the pool. Some people made it to the second ring. A few got to the other side of the pool.

There is a water basket ball section, a volley ball section and a couple more. On one end is a large slide. It starts from the outside.

Indians used the warm water pools for medical purposes. Hot Springs is a popular vacation spot for over a hundred years. Several presidents came every year. President Eisenhower was one of them.

On one wall is a picture of the Mammoth Site. It is actually an advertisement. People in Hot Springs are proud of their Mammoth Site. The community came together to make it a first class institution.

After swimming I did some walking on the river walk. The weather had improved. A lot of houses are built with the local sandstone.

Kidney Spring is one of 170 thermal springs in this area.

The lilacs are in bloom and the aroma reminds me of the big lilac bush we had in our garden in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Late afternoon I noticed that the temperature in the refrigerator had gone up to 60 degrees F. I checked out the wiring in the back, but could find nothing. When I asked the owner of the campground whether they have somebody who can help me, she gave me a business card of a repair service. My phone of course did not work. She let me use her telephone and I made an appointment for tomorrow morning. Stores were closed so I could not buy dry ice. The lady was nice enough to let me use the refrigerator in a cabin. I will get another cell phone pretty soon.
Really dark clouds were approaching the area. I had to hurry and transfer all the food. As soon as I was done a strong wind came up and then rain. Suddenly it started to hail. The motorhome got pelted with cherry sized
hail. It lasted thirty minutes. Tomorrow morning I have to set up the ladder and check the solar panels. I hope the glass was strong enough.

This morning the sky was blue.
Jim from Mobile RV and Trailer Service came to the motorhome at 8:00 AM. After some investigating he gave me the bad news. I need a new refrigerator for the motorhome. He has to order it from Denver, Colorado. The cost is $ 1,655.80. To order it he wanted $ 1,510.00. Paying by credit card would have slowed down the process two days until he got the money in his account. So I paid cash with my emergency money. He will order the refrigerator today and hopes it will arrive in Rapid City tomorrow. I wanted to join the WIN,s on Friday. This may not be possible.
The refrigerator in the cabin conked out too and the lady had to move my food items to a refrigerator in a large building on top of a hill. I bought a slab of dry ice and put in the freezer of my dead refrigerator. I keep a few things in there. I do not want to bother the lady by getting some of my stuff. If I were in a large city I would have handled everything different, but I have very little choice now.
After Jim left I drove to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. Five hundred horses run free across the prairie.

The Horse sanctuary is 14 miles from Hot Springs. Last night they had hail the size of golf balls. I saw a lot of broken windshields. Luckily I experienced no damage. The solar panels survived too.
On the way back to town I stopped at Cascade Falls on the Cheyenne River.

After lunch I went to Wind Cave National Park.

The park has a large herd of American Bison. Some of the animals were grazing near the road. There were some mothers with their small calves.

The main attraction of the park is the cave. This cave is not like most caves. It has very few stalactites and stalagmites, instead on the ceiling and walls is box work, thin, honeycomb-shaped structures of calcite.

This was a very good day for traveling. It was cloudy; the sun came out occasionally. I went north to Rapid City to check on my next stop. Instead of using the free way, highway 79, I drove up highway 385, 89, 16, 16A, 36, and then 79.
Nancy, the host, is there already, so is Maynard, Karin and her friend. On the way back I went through Custer State Park. I stopped first at the Visitor Center to get some information.

The seven day car pass for the park costs $15.00. It takes several days to cover this large area. Custer State Park has a very large herd of Buffalo. They try to keep it at 950 heads. Right now with the calves the head count is about 1,150. In September is the 48th annual Buffalo Roundup. Visitors are welcome. The excess animals are auctioned off.
From the Visitor Center I took the Wildlife Loop Road. At the first stop the hill was covered with Buffalo.

In this group were six calves. They are so cute.

Along the road I met some beggars. One stands in the middle of the street and the rest come and beg for food. The wild burros are not stupid. I follow the rules and do not give food to wild animals.

The Black Hills are a beautiful region of South Dakota. I experienced some spectacular views. The camera cannot catch this.

Coming around a bend I had to slow down. Five Buffalo were on the road.

A male pronghorn was feeding on the side of the road while his harem was way down in the meadow. Pronghorns are commonly referred to as antelope. They look similar, but antelopes live in Africa.
Just like we call the American Bison buffalo.

Late afternoon I went to the library and then called the refrigerator man. He has my new refrigerator in his truck and will install it tomorrow afternoon.

It was windy today. At 9:00 AM I paid the Pioneer Historical Museum a visit. The museum was originally built as a sandstone school in 1893.

I was surprised of the collection of items they have. It appears people in Hot Springs never threw anything away. The docent told me the reason for such a great collection is the wealth of some of the citizen in town. Many rich and influential people came here to take the baths. In 1927 the Summer White House was in the lodge in Wind Cave National Park, near Hot Springs. President Coolidge liked the place.
The museum has a complete store.

A doctor’s office.

A school room.

On one wall is an old banner listing all the stores in town. I got a kick of the telephone numbers. They are single and double digits.

On a farm nearby two calves were born joined together.

There is a bedroom collection. In one of the beds slept President Coolidge.

One room has a sewing machine collection. Some of the brands I have never heard of.

The music room has machines and players from Thomas Edison.

There is a complete kitchen.

The Iron Lung was supposed to cure poliomyelitis.

In the afternoon it started to rain. Because of the strong wind the rain came sideways. I gave up on getting the new refrigerator today. At 5:30 PM the man showed up. Getting the old refrigerator out of the hole and out of the motorhome was rather difficult. On the left side is a wall with the thermostat for the heating and cooling system for the motorhome. Getting it past the couch and dinette was no easy task either. There was one inch clearance between the refrigerator and the motorhome door. We were lucky and did not have to go through the window. Getting the new refrigerator in was just as bad. The hinges and handles for the doors had to be changed too, because the sink and rest of the kitchen is to right of the refrigerator.
After the installation I had to clean the floor. I am glad I removed the carpet from the living room area and installed a wood like floor. The floor is so easy to clean now.

I emptied the holding tanks this morning and got my groceries out of the camp owner’s freezer and refrigerator. I also called the refrigerator repairman and told him to save me the shelves from my old refrigerator. The new one does not have enough of them. Sometimes I am not very smart. I should have noticed it earlier, but I worked hard with the guy to get the job done. He left at 7:30 PM and I was tired by then. Now I will be 80 miles away from those shelves.
The drive north was not easy. Occasionally the wind pushed me a bit to the side. When I arrived in Rapid City it started to rain. I was able to set up the motorhome before it really came down. Ten or more members of the group are now here. Most of them are regulars, so it will be a good trip. We will be staying here ten days. The grassy area we are camping on belongs to a business. The donation is $ 5.00 a day. John Priest Sr. one of the members, who lives in this area, arranged this. We are lucky to find places like that.
At 4:00 PM we had the circle meeting. When I saw everybody dressed like in winter, I ran back to the motorhome to get my camera. But it was windy and wet and Maynard invited everybody in his large 5th wheel trailer.
We had a long meeting. There is so much to do in the Black Hills that it is difficult to decide what to see first.

I went back to Custer State Park. Joanne, Donna, Linda, and Caroline came along. When we left the camping area, at 9:00 AM, it was still cold and windy. There was very little wind at the park and it was pleasant in the sun.

We took the scenic Needles Highway. There are three tunnels on this road.

The highway is named because some of the stone formations on the mountain are thin and tall.

The Sylvan Lake is a small, beautiful reservoir.

When we came through one tunnel we saw Mt. Rushmore in the distance. Diana told me that two more tunnels are facing the monument. We stopped and I tried to take a picture from inside the tunnel. Unfortunately the Presidents cannot be seen on the picture because the dark sides of the tunnel make the monument real bright and invisible.

At a small picnic area we had a lunch break.

For the way home we took the Iron Mountain Road, another scenic highway. We went through three more tunnels.
Buffalo were feeding on both sides of the road and some stopped traffic. It looked like they all were mothers with their babies.

We came back to the motorhomes at 2:00 PM. This was a wonderful outing. The loop we drove was 102 miles.
John Priest Sr. came to the 4:00 PM circle meeting. He looks very good. He does not travel much anymore, and his small motorhome is stored where we are now. In the winter he stays, in his motorhome, at the Elks Lodge in Chula Vista, California. A Minni Cooper is his tow car.
In the evening we went dancing at the Elk Creek Steak House. The place was twenty miles from the camping area, in the country on the other side of Rapid City.

This was another beautiful day. In the afternoon it was 70 degree F. and no wind. The whole group went to the Crazy Horse Monument. Linda, Cheryl and I went to see the progress on the monument, the museum, workshops, Native American artists, Cultural Center, and to see the film about the sculptor and artist Korczak Ziolkowski. Ziolkowski started alone to carve the memorial out of the mountain.
Mt. Rushmore will be very small compared to Crazy Horse. This monument will be three dimensional; the figure can be seen from all sides.
The museum is very large. This picture shows only part of it.

He used an old compressor which stopped running very often when Ziolkowski was up high. He had to come down and restart it sometimes nine times in a day.

He built a model first and from the model measurements are transferred to the mountain.

Today people were able to go to the top.

There are pictures from different dates, showing the progress. Hanna, Claudia and I were at Crazy Horse in 1970. Claudia was seven years old and it was raining.

After his death seven of his ten children are involved to further the project. The head of Crazy Horse is finished. Now they are working on the head of the horse. I forgot my camera. After the morning Hugs and Mugs meeting I prepared my lunch and did some other things and completely forgot to put the camera in the car. Cheryl has a big, very expensive camera and lets me use some of her pictures.
While the three of us enjoyed our self the remainder of the group participated in a 6.2 mile round trip Volksmarch to the top of the memorial. This was a special weekend. The entrance fee for the monument was three cans of food, and an additional three dollars for the Volksmarch. I did not participate because there was some steep, hilly terrain, and I did not want to end up with pain in my right knee. Most people did the walk in three hours. We spent that much time in this large complex. It has grown over the years.
When we were done the two women and I drove again the Wildlife Loop. Cheryl had not seen it yet.

We saw of course buffalo.

The burros were begging again.

Today we went to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It is only ten miles from the Crazy Horse Memorial.
The group left at 8:15 AM. I have problems with the brakes on the Saturn and stopped at Tri States Tires and made an appointment for Thursday morning. Then I drove to Mount Rushmore and joined the group.

The sculptor of the memorial was Gutzon Borglum.

We did the Presidential Walk and visited Borglum’s studio. There is the model used for transferring the dimensions to the mountain. The figures on the mountain are twelve times as large as the model.
A ranger gave a talk about the work on the memorial and about the people who were instrumental that it was built.

Here are some of the WIN’s on the President’s walk.

At the memorial is also a large museum, an information center and a movie theater. At the movie theater the film shows how Borglum was able to transfer what the model looked like to the mountain. 90 % of the sculpturing was done with dynamite. Four hundred people worked on this site.
A few years ago Doreen and I were standing near the flags admiring the memorial when a person behind us said: “Richard Sturtz, I recognize this voice anywhere”. It was Mike Yoggerst, a former work mate.
The group left for the Needles Scenic Highway and I drove back to Rapid City. I had done the highway already and went to the library and Walmart.

We could not ask for better weather. Three cars, Brad on his motorcycle, and one pickup truck went today to Spearfish. Our goal was to drive through Spearfish Canyon and hike to the three waterfalls.
The first waterfall was only a few steps from the road.

To get to Roughlock Waterfall we had to walk one mile. The trail was very good. We experienced only one small problem. There was water coming down from up the mountain.

The scenery along the creek was beautiful and the waterfall was worth the walk. There were wooden walkways near the waterfall for better viewing.

We could not walk to the Spearfish Canyon Floor- Natural Hike Trail because the bridge was washed out.

Spearfish Canyon is worth visiting. I can imagine how spectacular the canyon is in the fall with all the aspen and birch trees changing colors.
Our next stop was Deadwood, an old mining town. We stopped at the Steakhouse Saloon for lunch. The place was busy and when the fifteen of us arrived the staff had to get in fast gear. We told them that we have time. Their special for the day was an eight ounce steak with potatoes, and soup or salad. Since it cost only $ 10.95 I ordered it. It was the best steak I had in a long time.

After lunch we went window shopping.

Wild Bill Hickok was shot in Saloon Number 10 and the town makes a big deal of it. They have Wild Bill Days in June, and there are Wild Bill bars and other stuff.

There is also the gun fight.

The Deadwood Trolley passes a bordello. The ladies show their legs in the second story window. Those times are gone, even in Deadwood.

The Mt. Moriah Cemetery draws a lot of visitors. We paid a dollar to see Wild Bill’s and Calamity Jane’s final resting place.

The cemetery is on a high hill and one has a good view over the town.

When we got back to the motorhomes, there was Mel and Donna Lee. They will be staying with us for a few days.
This was an all day trip. We left at 8:30 AM and came back at 4:45 PM. Not everybody went. Because of the length of the tour a couple of dog owners decided to stay home. Others gave their motorhome key to the people staying behind and had them take their dog for a walk. Because of that kind of problem I am now alone on the road.

We decided to have a day of rest. I rested at the Laundromat. The laundry basket was full. Then I went to the library. From there I drove to the Verizon store and signed up for a new cell phone. The Virgin Mobile phone I will keep for a few months until I have spend all the money on the cards. If I would have seen a barber shop I would have gone for a haircut. I need one. I can hardly see out of my eyes and the hair grows over my ears, probably impacting my hearing.
Sometimes I show what I see out of the front window of the motorhome. This time I do not see beautiful mountains. The neighbor of our host has a portable toilet business. We are enjoying though Rapid City and the Black Hills. Four of us had refrigerator problems. Cheryl’s refrigerator is broke now too. Her rig is only two and a half months old. The refrigerator in my motorhome lasted ten years.

This was a busy day. At 8:00 AM I was at the brake repair place. Cheryl picked me up and brought me back to the motorhome. Joanne was ready to drive Down Town and look at the presidents. Every city has a gimmick to draw tourists. Rapid City has, on some Down Town street corners, bronze statues of all the presidents. I went with Joanne and Donna followed us in her pick up camper.

After we admired some of the statues we jumped on the trolley and took the city tour. We went by some beautiful parks. I could not take any pictures. When I have some time left I will drive to those parks. On the way home Joanne dropped me off where my car was.
When I came back to the camping area I ate lunch and then drove to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at the Ellsworth Air Force Base. Their prize possession is a B-1 Bomber.

The B-29 was the largest bomber in World War II.

Presently the largest bomber is the B-52.

The largest bomber ever build was the Convair B-36. They were stationed at the Ellsworth Air Force Base, but they do not have one at the museum. Only three are still in existence.

I am familiar with the General Dynamics F-111 Fighter Bomber. The Convair-Division of General Dynamics built major assemblies for this airplane. Later we built spare parts. I traveled to Forth Worth several times to facilitate the production.

I am also familiar with the Convair C-131. It is the military version of the Convair 240 or 340.

Late afternoon I went to the library and then walked to Main Street Square where every Thursday, in the summer, a band entertains. There was also a beer garden.

After listening to the noisy band for an hour, I checked out the other band in the next street. The street was closed off and there was entertainment for the children and also a beer garden.

To be able to buy beer one had to show proper identification at the entrance and then received a colorful wristband.

This was another busy day. Seven of us drove to the Badlands National Park. I had been there many years ago and thought it would be a good time to do it again. Dan and I were passenger in Karen’s Jeep. In Nancy’s SUV were Maynard, Tom and Mary Jane.
Our first stop was the Visitor Center where they have wonderful displays. We also saw the movie about the park.

We walked the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. I would have liked to see a rattle snake.

After we stopped at several outlooks it was time for lunch. Every picnic table was taken so we sat in the grass under a cottonwood tree.

Then we walked on the Fossil Exhibit Trail. There are fossils, which they found here, in boxes with glass on top.

We did not hike on the Castle Trail, but we saw the castle in the distance.

We saw miles and miles of prairie dog villages. The little critters were all over the place.

The most beautiful area was near the Yellow Mounds Overlook. The magnificent colors come from plants which grew millions of years ago in this area.

Since Mary Jane and Tom had never been at Wall Drugstore we stopped there for a while. The store encompasses one city block. They sell everything from cheap Chinese products to expensive merchandise.

On one outside wall is a picture of the Badlands. I like it.

Tom and Mary Jane were sitting on the Jackalope.

Everybody wanted to go to Dairy Queen for a sweet. I had a soft ice cream. Everybody else had some exotic concoction.
We came back to the camping area a little bit late for the 5:00 PM circle meeting. Everybody had already talked about their adventure of the day. So I do not know what everybody else did today, and I was too tired to hang around and find out.
This was a wonderful day. I was lucky that I wore shorts. The temperature was 85 degrees F.

When we arrived here, Nancy our host asked the person at the Visitor Center what the most popular tourist attraction is in Rapid City. She was told that it was the Reptile Gardens. When we heard that we laughed.
We had expected Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse. Some of the group went to the Reptile Gardens and liked it.
Today was my turn. I almost did not make it. It rained all night, but by 7:00 AM the rain stopped. I was advised to get there early so I can see the three shows without waiting too long. The gardens open at 8:00 AM and I was there.

First I looked at the snake exhibits. The snakes are behind glass and it is not easy to get good pictures.

Then I went in the Sky Dome. It is an inside jungle. Orchids and colorful birds are at home here.

The Komodo Dragon was in the corner and resting.

This tree is actually a post with many flower pots attached to it.

They have several large and small turtles.

There is also a fake Old West Town.

The prairie dogs were eating hay.

At 9:00 AM I went to the Snake Show.

The Alligator Show started at 9:45.

And the Bird Show at 10:30 AM

From the Reptile Gardens I drove to the Chapel in the Hills. It is a replica of the Borund Stavkirke, in Norway.

In the log cabin are items emigrants from Norway used in their daily live.

My next stop was the Dinosaur Park which is located on a hill above the city.

One has a terrific view of Rapid City from this place.

This is our last day in Rapid City. The whole group went to Canyon Lake.

We walked on the rim of the lake and watched the mother geese and ducks, with their babies, feeding in the grass and swimming in the lake.

Some geese showed us their butt.

Gazebo Island is a wonderful spot for weddings.

On the other side of the lake are a lodge and a campground.

Cheryl and I walked back to the picnic area while everybody else walked to the Norwegian Church. I had been there yesterday.
When the rest of the group came back we ate our lunch.

This was an enjoyable ending of our stay in Rapid City. We could have stayed another week. There is plenty to see and to do in this area.
Traveling with this group is fun. I believe this summer circuit will be amazing. Some members who went with the winter circuit are on their way to join us. They went to Texas, down to Florida and came up the Atlantic coast. Some of the kayaking group are also heading west. They spend time in Arkansas and Missouri.

I left this morning at 5:15 AM and arrived at the Rest Area in Sundance, Wyoming at about 7:00 AM. I left the motorhome at the Rest Area and drove to Devils Tower, which is 27 miles north of Sundance.
The tower can be seen thirty or more miles from the surrounding region.

Devils Tower is the first National Monument in the US. We can thank President Theodore Roosevelt for that.

Native Americans attach prayer bands to bushes and trees.

The tower is getting smaller over time. Columns are falling off from time to time. They come in several shapes. Some are six sided and eight sided.

The valley below the tower is all green and beautiful.

There was a fire; the park service treats this as something natural.

When I came back to the Rest Area in Sundance I saw Karen and Dan. They had their kayaks inspected by the authorities of Wyoming. The state makes sure that tourists do not bring any little critters into the state with their watercrafts. Karen and Dan were ready to go Devils Tower.
I ate lunch, said goodbye to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and then continued on my trip to Sheridan, Wyoming. At the Rest Area near Moorcroft I had a thirty minute nap. I did the same at the Rest Area between Gillette and Buffalo. Actually I had enough of driving for the day. But the Rest Area was not to my liking and I figured that I was pretty close to my destination and I continued driving.

I arrived at the Sheridan County Sportsman Gun Club at about 4:00 PM. The club is in the middle of nowhere. The last four miles were dirt road. When I came to the camping area I saw Bob Parker sitting in his lawn chair enjoying the afternoon sun. It is always nice to see the old timers. Donna and Bob are Former Members. They join the group when they are near our weekly stops.
After setting up the motorhome I attended the 5:00 PM circle meeting. Caroline, the host, has a busy schedule for us. She signed up as host for Sheridan because she wanted to tour the Little Bighorn Battle Site where Custer lost his life. This will be an all day tour.