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Wisconsin to Wyoming

  • After spending several days in the Badlands of South Dakota we head over to Rapid City and the Air Force Base for some grocery shopping. This is the first time we have been to a military base since Covid-19 began and I am impressed with how tight the controls are. After getting our groceries we went to the military campground hoping to do laundry and a long hot shower but they are closed to any new campers, laundry is closed as well.

    Mount Rushmore was as expected from others telling us about it. Impressive that this feat was done on such a grand scale but after staring a few minutes you have nothing else to do. I had a great conversation with the Ranger about other things such as visitor volume compared to this time last year. A lot fewer people, the most impactful is tour buses are not coming because of Covid-19.

    Not 5 miles away we camped in the Black Hills National Forest. There were a lot of people sleeping in vehicles who were climbers. Apparently it is common for climbers to sleep in their vehicle rather than tents. OK…. But I prefer my little RV :)

    Try the Needles Highway – it’s windy, some steep parts and 3 narrow tunnels. Slow going for sure but very pretty, the rocks are all pointed straight up! Now I see why there are so many climbers here there is so many different places to climb vertical rocks.

     

     

    We stopped to hike Cathedral Spires, 2.3 miles and 500 ft elevation change. Nice hike we had a good time going slow and resting when we wanted to.

    As we enter Custer State Park a herd of buffalo decides to cross the road, traveling the wildlife loop road. We did not see that many animals, apparently in the heat of the day they prefer to go into the shade from trees. Boards at pullovers explained that. At the visitor center there was a display of prairie dogs and how their burrows were constructed, it also showed a burrowing owl which explains why we saw 3 tiny owls over in the Badlands on Sagebrush road.

     

     

     

    Camping in the Black Hills National Forest that night was great, very quiet, shade, we took outside showers and the air is so dry we were dry in no time. Breaking out the BBQ we cooked poblano peppers with black beans over the grill, Mmmm yummy!

    This morning a lone turkey wanders by as I have my morning tea. We returned to Custer in the early morning and saw even more wildlife.  Bison, antelope, prairie dogs, burrows. Stopped on one of the pullout and made breakfast. So great RVing!

    Both Wind Cave and Jewel Cave were closed due to Covid so we decide on another scenic drive.

    Spearfish Canyon National scenic highway,  Tanya fell in love with this road. Stopped for 2 short hikes to waterfalls. Read about this area here:

    https://maps.roadtrippers.com/trips/20168743

    Found a dispersed camping site high on top of a mountain near Roosevelt Mountain. Views are fabulous! Working out well to head for a campsite in midafternoon rather than waiting for late afternoon or evening.  One of the enjoyable things about having unlimited time available. Interesting people you meet while boondocking - molecular biologists who gave up working, software engineers working remotely. Different vocations but all in love with traveling.

    We had a great time staying on top of the mountain overlooking a vast mountain range all the way out to the Prairie where the Badlands are. The road was gravel and a little wash boarded and quite steep, pulling 1st gear most of the way up for 2 ½ miles, but this good old Rialta runs like a champ and had no difficulty. I did have the gear selector in 1st and run the AC so that the fan would blow over the transmission cooler and radiator. This technique worked fine for this use. We enjoyed it there, the three other campers up there and we all had a good time sharing stories and boondocking ideas, it was really interesting.

    Deadwood, SD where Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane became famous. Calamity Jane and Wild Bill you sometimes wonder is a were they lovers who knows there are stories going both ways.

     

    Move on down and go over to Devil’s Tower National Monument. It turned out to be everything that you had imagined, that you read or see pictures - a vertical column sticking out of the earth out on a vast Prairie with straight lines carved straight down through it. We saw two people climbing up through those straight lines up to the top so we didn’t use the telescope with the zoom for the camera (which attaches to the phone and uses its camera to zoom in). It was that close and we could see them and get a decent picture. A mile and a half walk around the Devil’s Tower is all you need and that’s all there is to see, there’s not much else there, so we had planned to camp there at the National Forest but it was closed due to Covid and the visitor center was closed to the construction, so all there was to do was a quick look. We headed on down the road to a Walmart to stay the night. Even though it’s 90 degrees out today the air condition is doing a great job.

     

    Driving on down the road, suddenly a bird followed by a hawk crossed right in front of us and there was a high hill on our right side so they flared up to keep from hitting the hill and that hawk almost caught that bird. For this to happen right in front of us, wow, that’s something you don’t see everyday.

    A couple of nights in a very pretty campground in the Black Hills National Forest, it is very quiet, full of beautiful pine trees and with several very nice hiking trails. Last night was a little bit cool so we run our generator this morning to take a very nice hot shower. I love it, it's like having our regular house anywhere we choose to go. We got some food and then we went for a hike that was 6.5 miles and 1,250 elevation gain. Whew, this old man was pooped when we got back home, and his old lady was singing songs on the way back to distract herself from pain in her hips. :)

     

    After camping in the forest, we went back to Gillette, WY and took care of some stocking up the refrigerator and dumping our holding tanks before leaving Gillette and traveling down Hwy 50. Along the way we’re seeing oil fields, black tailed deer, antelope, sheep and cattle herds and approximately 60 miles in the distance is the snow capped Bighorn Mountains,  wow - just amazing this wonderful country of ours.

    Very cool National Trails Museum in Casper, WY. I also learned there is a new National Trails state with it’s own passport stamp. They did not have the passport but did have the guide books. I got the whole collection 6 books of the Oregon trail, Mormon trail, California trail. Wow, another road trip someday! The museum had several interactive displays, ride a stagecoach, ride a wagon crossing the Plate River.

     

    It appears that Casper, WY is known for the Pioneer westward trails which intersected here, oil fields, cattle, and Rodeo. Unfortunately due to Covid there is no rodeo right now.

    Stopping for the night at a wildlife management area outside of Riverton, WY, we are alone overlooking a lake, can hear the wind driven waves moving on the shore. Oh my, it’s going to be pleasant sleeping tonight. 

    Crossing over the Continental Divide we are finally on the western side of the country. This route (Hwy 25) was great because it did not have severe steep climbs but a long steady climb that the Rialta was able to handle very comfortably. Only 3 times did I have to shift into 2nd gear. We kept seeing signs for bears on the roadway – don’t stop! Unfortunately, we did not see any bears, well maybe soon in Yellowstone we will see some bears.

    First views of Grand Tetons along Hwy25. Took this pic as a panoramic.

    Camping in a National Forest Dispersed Camping area where I had camped before. A different spot though and this one provides an excellent view of the Grand Tetons right from the campsite.