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Showing posts from August, 2011

Escapade Update

This micro-post is just to say we're doing well and all is OK. Since we paid good money to attend the Escapade rally we're committed to getting the most value possible from it... and that means going to as many seminars, workshops, and social things as we can fit in. But blogging takes a back seat.

Today, Wednesday, I'm planning to learn more about digital photography, ham radio, 12 volt systems in RVs, and will attend an informative session on the coal and oil industry of Northeastern Wyoming. And tonight, from 6 to 9pm, I'm a volunteer golf cart driver... shuttling people back and forth from their rigs to the central event center. I'll be able to knock another thing off my bucket list: working as a cab driver.

We're still planning to hit the road again on Friday, continuing our trek toward Portland.

Devils Tower

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Saturday, Dar and I drove up to Devils Tower National Monument. Neither of us have ever stopped here before despite being so close during a number of jaunts through the west while living in the midwest, so it was something we considered a "must see".

The drive took us east about 30 miles to Moorcraft, then north another 30 miles on US-14 to Devils Tower Junction. The Monument's gate is a few miles further and then a short climb to the Visitor Center parking area.


It is an impressive thing. Formed thousands of feet below ground level many millions of years ago when a mass of volcanic lava forced it's way upward and into surrounding sedimentary rocks. The betting is it never made it to the surface... just a relatively small intrusion that didn't have the force necessary to bubble to the surface and grow into a full fledged volcano. It's made up of a rock called phonolite... a mixture of volcanic basalt and feldspar. Phonolite is very hard, much like granite. …

On to Wyoming and Escapade

This morning we're hitting the road again on a short 130 mile drive to Gillette, Wyoming and the Escapees Club Escapade. The big event doesn't really start until Sunday afternoon, but we thought we'd get in early and run out to Devils Tower on Saturday. It's also good to relax a little and meet our close-by neighbors before the event and see if I can motivate someone to make me a batch of brownies.

We're not big rally attendees... have only been to two others, both during our first year on the road. And we really don't join many organizations either (wouldn't think of joining an organization that would have me as a member!)  But we do like the Escapees Club and thought the location and timing of the Escapade fit right into our plans this year.

We'll be in Gillette until Friday, September 2nd, at which time "travel mode" will become primary and "exploring mode" secondary... since we have only 8 days to make it to Portland. Gillette i…

Scratching My Crack

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No big explorations to report on either Wednesday or Thursday. We just hung around the RV park working on more of those catch-up things that have been hanging over our heads, as well as a run to the local Cabelas store.

Bus-house windshield. The bus-house is four and a half years old and has 36,000 miles on the odometer. We still have the original windshield, but it has taken a beating during that time. It's a huge hunk of glass (5' tall by 8.5' wide)... one of those one-piece jobs that some years ago motorhome manufacturers started installing for the "un-interrupted panoramic view" out the front end. I guess that's supposed to be a "feature".

The downside to this whole "one-piece" idea comes when you have to replace the dang thing... it's a major job. With the old split windshield, replacement is a relatively easy task. I've watched the replacement of a half windshield in an RV park some time ago. Two guys from the auto glass serv…

Wind Cave National Park

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Got an early start this morning... for us. Out the door a little after 7am, stopped for breakfast at a nearby restaurant that's already become a favorite of ours, and were back on the road a little after 8am. The prime destination today was Wind Cave National Park. I've written before that visiting as many of the National Parks is one of our themes. Our stop at Wind Cave today will be our 21st of the 58 on the list.

The drive to Wind Cave is about 55 miles and takes us through the Black Hills towns of Hill City and Custer, both of which impressed us as very neat, affluent, and comfortable. After a few days of running all over this corner of the State we've found the roads in the Black Hills to be nothing less than excellent. The main north-south backbones, US-16 and US-385 on the west side and SD-79 on the east side, appear to be nearly brand new, wide, and smooth. And the various other roads that weave through the area are in good shape too. We really haven't found a…

South Dakota Air and Space Museum

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The past couple days we've been hanging around the camper and trying to get caught up on journal posts, photos, and other miscellaneous paperwork/computer work. But today, about noon, cabin-fever was setting in and we had to get out and do something.

A good close option was the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, situated at the edge of Ellsworth Air Force Base... about 12 miles from our camp. Since the day was shaping up to be another warm one (we're getting used to it... heat and low humidity = warm days and cool nights), it'd probably be better to be out and about instead of sitting around the bus-house and sweating.

We both have a fondness for aviation. I've always liked airplanes, the thought of flight... the freedom of it... so much so that many years ago I took flying lessons and got my private pilots license. Dar, on the other hand, just has the hots for pilots... any pilots... anyone who flies. Hmmm. Hope my license is still current.


There's no admission t…

Stone Faced

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Saturday we loaded up the exploration-rig (the toad) and headed into them thar' hills. The Black Hills, that is.

South Dakota's Black Hills are the eroded remnants of a mountainous dome forced upward by volcanic forces many millions of years ago. Despite their eroded nature, they rise 4,000 feet above the surrounding high northern grasslands... like an island in the plains. Harney Peak, at 7,242 feet, is the highest point east of the Rockies and west of the Spanish Pyrenees. The area is about 50 miles by 80 miles and was home to Native Americans for the past 10,000 years.

Heavily forested with Ponderosa Pine, a strong scent of pine is always present when meandering the maze of roads that weave their way through the hills. Due to the ruggedness of the area, wildlife can flourish relatively undisturbed by civilization... although developers are doing their best to turn the place into a vast tourist trap. US16, the road leading from Rapid City to Keystone and the Mt. Rushmore a…

Scenic For Sale

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A few weeks ago in the news media there was a story about a town in South Dakota that was for sale. That's right, the entire town... well, at least most of it. It created quite a stir among news organizations and even hit network TV news shows. The town is Scenic, South Dakota, with a population of 9. The asking price is now $799,000 which could be quite a deal if it included the 9 people. But I don't think the people are included.

We have in our acquaintance a couple of good souls who have been toying with the idea of buying a piece of property and starting their own country. They, like a lot of us, are getting close to giving up on the good ol' USA... feeling helpless, powerless, and represented by idiots. They long for rationality, reasonableness, and equal opportunity... things many of us feel slipping away. I know... there'd be a lot of hurdles to making this a reality and the idea has about as much chance as a snowball in South Texas. But it's certainly a go…

The Badlands and the Doomsday Machine

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The Badlands are exposed layers of silt, mud, ash, clay, sand, and goop that have been semi-compressed into a soft stone. These layers were once the bottom of a vast inland sea that covered much of the central USA many millions of years ago. Due to geologic forces these layers have been thrust upward here, in the area of Badlands National Park, and are eroding away at the rate of about an inch per year -- quickly in geological terms. In a few hundred thousand years what's visible today will all be gone.

At first glance it all looks so desolate and lifeless. And it's true... these are tough conditions for life. But on closer examination life is everywhere. Small plants shoving aside a shard of crust and poking up through the soft rock... a little pine tree clinging to a crevice on a vertical slope... burrowing animals. When viewed carefully and up-close, it's rewarding to find these small footholds of life... and to marvel at their adaptations to this harsh environment.


Th…

Whippersnappers and Fossils

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What he said:
"Hey Mister... this is a pretty intensive hike. It goes straight up that wall to the top. A few miles down the road there's another trail that'll get you to the same place... but it's much more level and a lot easier."

What I think I said:
"Oh, (pause)... OK... thanks for the tip"

What I heard:
"Hey, grandpa... I don't think this is the hike for old fossils like you. It's for young fit hardbodies that workout and exercise every day... people like me. Why don't you elderly folks drive a little further down the road where there's another much easier trail. Why, I think you can even use a walker or wheelchair on it."

What I wanted to say:
"Hey you smartass whippersnapper... how old and crippled do you think we are? Why don't you come over here and grandma will introduce you to the side of her walking stick."

We were at the Saddle Pass trail-head in the Badlands National Park and intending to take the short…

A Good Drive to the Badlands

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We got an early start out of Cottonwood COE near Yankton on Wednesday morning. The day was bright and quiet... and what little wind we experienced during the day gave us a push to some degree. We decided to once again shun the Interstate Highway System and stick to mostly 2-lane US and State highways. Our route took us over the Fort Randall Dam... the next higher dam from Gavins Point on the Missouri. From there, we clawed through the heart of southern South Dakota, through farm country and Indian Reservations and, somewhere, oh, maybe somewhere west of Winner, South Dakota, crossed from the "Midwest" to the "West". I notice this every time we make the trip west... there's a point, OK, maybe an area... where you cross from the Midwest with it's farm fields of corn and soybeans, it's dairy cows, it's county fairs, it's smaller farms and fields... to the West with it's wheat fields and grazing land, horses, steers, it's rodeos, and it'…

Camping with High Water and Mayflies

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We're at the Cottonwood COE (Corps. of Engineers) campground just outside Yankton, South Dakota. We arrived about 3pm yesterday. This campground was built as part of the Gavins Point Dam project in the 1950's and is just one of many around the dam and the resulting impoundment -- Lewis and Clark lake. Of the two campgrounds being operated by the COE only this one is open as the other, Tailwaters, is still under a few feet of high water... part of the ongoing saga of the big Missouri River Flood of 2011.

And speaking of high water, the COE is still "spilling" 150,000 cubic feet of Missouri River water through the Gavins Point spillway. Although the crest of the 2011 flood occurred some weeks ago, it's August and they've got to start lowering the reservoirs to prepare for next years runoff. It's impressive indeed... to stand next to the spillway and watch all that water violently churning as it speeds downriver. We made a short video (click here) for anyon…

Hobos and Tramps

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Since we were this close we felt we had to go. I mean, it's only held one time each year, on the second weekend in August, and this year, 2011, this is the weekend.

I may have heard something about it... on PBS or NPR... years ago.  But really... who's going to go far out of their way to attend something called the National Hobo Convention? Com'on... I'm not a hobo. Am I? Sure, I'm a wandering itinerant, live "on the road" fulltime, and I do look for handouts along the way... I don't have a permanent home in a fixed location... and the only reason I'd consider "working" is if or when my money runs out. Hmmm. Maybe I have more in common with this hobo-thing than I thought.

So, since we're so close, just 27 miles away, and with nothing else to do on a cool cloudy Saturday, I guess we have a responsibility of sorts... to ourselves... to find out what we have in common with hobos and to learn a little more about what this lifestyle is a…

Rockin' Around Kossuth County

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Wednesday, yesterday, was originally the day we had planned to continue westward. But after much research and some phone calls to the State and Federal campgrounds around Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River near Yankton South Dakota... where we'd planned to stay through this coming weekend, it became apparent that, 1) every campsite that could be reserved was reserved for the upcoming weekend, 2) the few walk-in sites they have were currently full, and 3) even if we took a chance and snagged a cancellation or possible walk-in site it was going to be busy and congested. Hmmm. This is all to be understood... I mean, it's summer, August! Probably the busiest month of the year for family camping vacations. Add to that the big lake  behind the dam, and all the boating and other water sports activities... and all the population that lives close by -- Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Omaha... Well, we'll just make adjustments to the trip plan and chill out.

So, our "bird-in-the-h…