Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fort Laramie and History

It never ceases to amaze me that we can stop in a little tiny town (Lingle, WY pop. 510) and discover so many wonderful things to see.

We found the Fort Laramie National Historic Site just a few miles west of the park near the town of Fort Laramie. It was established in 1834 as a private fur trading post and later became a military fort to help protect the thousands of migrants using the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail.

Of course, our first stop was the visitor center which happened to be the old commisary of the fort.

And we loved the authentic teepee inside the visitor center.

Outside, we wandered over to the barracks. Some of the doors are open to the public and the inside is decorated as if the soldiers just stepped outside onto the parade grounds.

The bunks and equipment as well as the dining areas were a step back into time.

Then, we happened upon this marvelous woman who was not only dressed in authentic costume but acted the part as well. Referring to herself as if she had just stepped out of her covered wagon, she spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of being on the Oregon Trail for months.

She was able to answer every question from the construction of the wagon and the care of the oxen to the preparation of meals and clothing. Easily the most fascinating part of the day.

We strolled the rest of the fort, peering into the officers quarters (they lived quite well) and getting a feel for life in a military operation.

Leaving Fort Laramie, we drove 15 miles further west to the Oregon Trail Ruts Historic Site near Guernsey, WY.

This is the best preserved path of the wagons, animals and people crossing the Oregon Trail. The trail, across a sandstone ridge, was worn between two and six feet deep in places. Truly amazing, the hardships that were endured.

And just a few miles away is Register Cliff. It's the huge sandstone cliff in the background.

Adjacent to an emigrant campground, thousands of travelers have carved their names into the soft sandstone to declare that they had made the trek across the United States. Unfortunately the practice has continued until the present day and we had to search for the names and dates of original emigrants. There were many, many inscriptions dating back to the mid 1800's.

It was a long, hot day of sightseeing but the history came to life for a little while.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Heading South

With the temperatures dropping at night, we have had to turn the heaters on so it's time to head back south. During the day we've been experiencing temps in the high eighties and low nineties but we have such thin blood now that we don't like being cold.

We packed up the coach and headed south on Hwy 14A through Deadwood again. Oops, I didn't realize that there was a huge car show this weekend. Stop and go traffic through town cost us close to an hour although Doug thoroughly enjoyed the old cars. I was nervous as heck cuz he was watching the cars when I thought he should be focusing on the stopped car in front of us. But we made it through without a problem.

From there is was an lovely, easy drive through the Black Hills National Forest and into Wyoming. Once we crossed into Wyoming, the roads seemed to become much nicer for travel.

We stopped at several historical markers including this scenic view over Salt Creek Overlook.

The view was spectacular and Doug took lots of pictures.

But what you didn't see in the above photo is the barb wire fence he climbed over to stand on that rock overlooking the valley. Sometimes he drives me crazy. (Although he wasn't the first to do so considering the condition of the barb wire fence.)

By 5 pm we had covered a little over 200 miles and arrived in the town of Lingle, WY. Another Passport America park, Pony Soldier RV Park, was waiting for us with a mostly empty park.

Doug chose a site at the end of a row with a little shade, a picnic table and lots of privacy.

It's not a fancy park but the owner is friendly and helpful. There's a nice laundry room (which we don't need) as well as a book exchange (which I always need).

We'll be here a few days because there is quite a bit to see in this area.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Running Around

Whew......what a busy day running errands. A little after noon we received a call that our new air conditioner shroud had arrived at Green Star RV.

We already had a couple bags of unnecessary stuff loaded in the car for Goodwill, so we dropped that off on our way into Rapid City. And we didn't even buy anything more!

Then we went to Green Star Rv for the shroud and a new motor for the bathroom fan. Ouch....that stop was expensive, but nice people to deal with. Around the corner was an auto parts store where Doug picked up some paint to make the shroud match the coach.

From there we went to Americas Mailbox to pick up our mail before we leave town and then a quick stop at a pawn shop we passed. Doug is looking for a used lapidary saw but no luck there.

After filling the gas tank, we hit the grocery store and finally got home about 7 pm. Pooped!

Still, Doug found time to paint the air conditioner cover and while it was drying he climbed up on the roof to dismantle the bathroom fan. With my expert help (lol), he changed out the fan motor, put it back together and turned the switch. It worked.....yay!

It was after dark by the time he reinstalled the new air conditioner shroud on the roof and we called it a day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


A neighbor suggested, a couple days ago, to be sure and take a ride along Hwy 14A, the Boulder Canyon. Since it was the road to Deadwood we thought today would be a good day to check it out.It was a nice, curvy road up into the hills and down through the canyon but not unlike anything we have already seen.

As we came into Deadwood we thought we would stop at the visitor center for more information. There's a huge parking lot and what surprised us was the parking meters at every single parking spot. Kinda made us mad so we skipped the visitor center.

We drove through town and there was absolutely no place to park that didn't have a meter. There were a lot of old and cool buildings but they all seemed to be casinos or restaurants. We were definitely not impressed with Deadwood.

So, we continued on along Hwy 14A through the town of Lead and several miles further we took the turnoff at Cheyenne Crossing towards Spearfish.

At last we finally found something wonderful. The narrow road winds through Spearfish Canyon following a lovely stream called Spearfish Creek for 20 miles. There were many places to stop and enjoy the scenery and most had fish, so Doug was in heaven.

It took almost two hours to drive the 20 miles with so much to see. This stop was Roughlock Falls. Beautiful and cool amidst the trees.

From there we took a detour down a dirt road to the filmsite of Dances With Wolves. I've never seen the movie so it didn't mean much to me, but Doug was thrilled.

Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls. These reminded me of the some of the falls in Washington and Oregon. We had a nice visit with a gentleman who had ridden his bike eight miles uphill from Spearfish and then was going to coast back down. He advised us to check out the fish hatchery when we hit Spearfish.

So we did! And were we ever glad! It was fabulous. We arrived late in the day and we had the park mostly to ourselves.

The D. C. Booth hatchery was established in 1896 and filled with wood troughs and running water. Today it serves more as a living fisheries museum for the public. It's like a beautiful park.

There's a replica of an old Fisheries Railcar used when railroad cars transported fish across the country.

Hatchery workers used boats like Yellowstone Boat #39 to collect trout eggs on Yellowstone Lake to be brought back to the hatcheries.

We were disappointed that the museum was closed.

But I did get a picture of Doug with his new best friend.

There was so much to see that Spearfish will be on our list for a return visit.

To top off a lovely day, we had a full moon rise over the hilltops to guide us home.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Flying Air Conditioner Covers

Crazy winds pushed us right out of Rushmore Shadows, north on I-90. We were buffeted for quite a few miles while listening to strange noises on the roof. Then, BAM......Doug watched in the rear mirrors as the air conditioner shroud flew behind us onto the freeway.

He pulled over as quickly as possible at 70 mph, then ran back to try and retrieve the cover. Thank heavens there weren't any cars behind us when it blew off. The shroud isn't heavy but it is large and sure could do some damage if it had hit someone.

The surprising part is that Doug had checked both of the covers when he was on the roof just before we left the park. Later we were told that the material becomes very brittle after several years under the hot sun and will just snap if the wind gets underneath.

We continued on another 20 miles after stowing the pieces in the car until we came to the Bulldog Creek Campground. The office was empty with instructions to proceed with a self-check-in. Half of the park has been shut down already for the winter. Their moneymaker time is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

As soon as we got settled, we jumped in the car and headed back to Rapid City to try and find a new air conditioner shroud. Green Star RV had one they said would be a good substitute but after comparing it with the destroyed one, it was apparent that we would need to order the correct one.

Our plan (carved in jello) was to begin our journey south on Wednesday but that will probably change since we need to wait for our purchase. Hopefully Thursday or Friday.

Pics tomorrow of the park.

Near Sturgis

Bulldog Creek Campground is the park we chose for hanging out for the next few days. We're located about 5 miles south of Sturgis where it's very peaceful.

As you can see, it's basically just a huge open field. Behind the coach and trees is I-90 but we are far enough away that it is very quiet.

And this is the view from our front window. The hills are beautiful and the pasture contains two horses that we enjoy watching. There are even deer if we are vigilant.

Here is another shot of the park. It's really empty. There are a couple of other rigs but we have yet to see anyone near them.

So we are just killing time here with all the comforts of home. Tomorrow, we'll check out Deadwood.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mundane Chores

We haven't been doing too much the last couple of days. Doug had the urge to pick up rocks so we took a ride south through the towns of Rockerville, Hill City and Custer to an area called French Creek. It turned out to all be national forest where nothing can be removed. Oh well, a pretty drive with no pictures.

Then we spent some time going through closets and drawers eliminating piles of stuff that we have accumulated. The coach is approaching it's weight limit for the back axle and we need to lighten the load. It's difficult for Doug to part with treasures but he was ruthless. There's still more to do but we feel much lighter.

A weather front blew through during the day and tried to take out our garden. One of the poles went down, dumping the large tomato plant on the ground and throwing a lantern on top of the strawberry plants. We rushed outside to rescue everything but lost a couple of branches on the tomato that were loaded with green tomatoes.

Our tall cactus was also tipped over. It seems to be ok now that Doug replanted it. What a mess! Next year we'll grow tomatoes upright in pots, not in Topsy Turvy upside down planters. They are too heavy and awkward.

Tomorrow we'll be moving again. We're going north a little ways to the Sturgis/Deadwood area to do some sightseeing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Official Again!

Our main purpose in coming to South Dakota was to renew our drivers licenses. Hard to believe that it's been 5 years since we became residents of this fine state. Time flies when you're having fun!

This year, thanks to the National Real ID Act, we will need to jump through a lot more hoops in order to get our licenses. We started looking for our paperwork two days ago and Doug ran into a problem. No birth certificate. Instead of sightseeing and playing, he started going through boxes and drawers and his closet. It's been a loooooong two days.

Finally this afternoon, it turned up in an envelope in the big lockbox. We quickly gathered our social security cards, birth certificates, my marriage certificate and stopped at the park office to get receipts proving that we had spent at least one night in SD.

We got to the DMV about 3:30 and it was packed. An employee checked that our paperwork was all in order then had us fill out application forms and take a number. At that point I noticed a sign on the wall stating cash or checks only. While I waited in line, Doug ran to the local Safeway to get cash.

At 5 pm, our number was called and everything went smooth as silk. Paperwork was perfect, eye exam was perfect, pictures were less than perfect and we're good to go for another five years. What a relief! prepared if you haven't renewed your license this year. All states are in the process of rolling out the Real ID Act and they mean business.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Home Again, Home Again....

First, a photo of the not so great park we just left.

Good, that's over. So, we left as early as we could get away and had another easy drive of about 150 miles to Rapid City, SD. There were a couple of light rainshowers along the way, but not enough to clean the coach.

The park is another ROD (Resorts of Distinction) park which means we can stay free for a week. Woot!! Lots of trees and green grass with our garden doing very well.

In the pictures it looks like we are very close to the coach next door, but it's deceiving. The park is very nice and we would definitely stay here again. Great power, water and internet!

So, tomorrow we'll head into the big city to pick up our mail at our mail forwarding company, America's Mailbox. We have dealt with them for 5 years now are very pleased with their customer service.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Another short travel day had us departing Creekside RV Park in Chappell, NE around 11 am. It's nice to not have to run around like chickens with our heads cut off getting ready to move.

The sun was shining and we chose a backroad that paralleled the freeway but took us through several small towns. I read the history of each one as we passed them and we were able to pick out a number of buildings or businesses that were over 100 years old and historical.

When we got to Sidney, only 30 miles away, we decided to take a detour based on something I had read about a bronze strip being place across the interstate where the east interstate met the west interstate during construction. We jumped onto the freeway and headed west hoping to see the bronze strip. Nothing......bummer.

A u-turn at the next exit brought us back to a rest area where we discovered this sign. It turns out that the Golden Link is a state marker, not a national one and the it's located north of the highway. Oh well, interesting detour anyway.

We turned north at Sidney and followed Hwy 385 for about 70 miles through gentle rolling hills. This road is nicknamed the Gold Rush highway because it was used to transport the gold that was discovered in the Black Hills to the railroads waiting in Sidney. Lots of history in this area.

In Bridgeport, NE we found the historical marker where the Mormons camped near the North Platte River. Bridgeport is recognized as the "Trail City" since the Pony Express, Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, Big Medicine Trail and the Sidney-Deadwood Trail all passed through here. I would have loved to see the actual ruts that are still visible nearby at Chimney Rock but it isn't alway easy to use the motorhome for sightseeing.

So, we continued on to our destination, Alliance, NE. where we found the Sunset Motel and RV Park. The original plan was to spend just one night here but we usually chose to not travel on Sunday and we paid for two nights.

The rv park appears to be an afterthought, tacked onto the back of the motel. Small and marginally acceptable, it will do as a stopover. Pics tomorrow.

After getting set up we jumped in the car to visit the highlight of Alliance. Carhenge! Yup, you read that right.

Just 3 miles outside of town is this hysterically funny take on Stonehenge built in a dusty field with 38 cars buried in the dirt. According to the "road culture" website Roadside America, this was constructed in 1987 much to the dismay of the people of Alliance.

It has now become a popular tourist sight with a visitor center and thousands of visitors each year. The American made autos are arranged in a 95 foot (diameter) circle copying the original Stonehenge in shape, proportion and size.

The admission is free and it's well worth the stop if you are in the area.

There are many other sculptures and "art" built from car parts in the field, including this ode to the four(d) seasons....

and a towering dinosaur.

Continuing down the road we discovered a rest area that Doug couldn't resist.

Perched on top of haybales is a recliner, toilet and pvc wifi pole. It's hard to take pictures when you're laughing so hard! Those Nebraskans have a great sense of humor.

It was a long day but very relaxed and entertaining.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


When Doug learned that the Cabela's main world headquarters was located in Sidney, NE, just 30 miles from us, of course we had to visit.

Right off the freeway we found this huge complex consisting of not just a large hunting, fishing and outdoor gear store, but they also have a big rv park, a horse camping area, truck and rv parking (overnight) and what appears to be their main headquarters buildings.

We checked out the rv park which was very nice, clean and well kept but a little too pricey for our blood. (Make that waaaay too pricey!)

Then we entered the store to wander and drool over all of the items Doug thought he needed. But as we meandered and checked prices we discovered that everything is horribly overpriced. Maybe we just haven't done enough retail shopping lately and are out of touch. Still even Doug was terribly disappointed with the place.

After our short visit, we picked up a few groceries and headed home.

Near our rv park we found the Pony Express Park with a lovely little lake. It was so peaceful and relaxing that we spent a while gazing over the water and watching the blue gills dart through the weeds.

The park was named for one of the hundreds of historical pony express stations that was located nearby. It was a nice way to end the day.