Tuesday, July 31, 2007

South Dakota--Day 19--Just relaxing

It has just been a time to kick back and relax this past weekend. Our friends, Bob & Marlene Rea, that we met on our trip to Florida last winter, made it in this past Friday and are set up at Hart Ranch. We met up with them and the Anderson's on Saturday evening and all went to dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company in downtown Rapid City. Good fun, good food and good fellowship. We all got together again on Sunday morning for brunch at the Rapid City Elks Lodge. That evening we went back over to Hart Ranch for a cookout with the Rea's and Anderson's.

On Monday we took the walking tour through historic downtown Rapid City. The city has placed bronze statues of many of the U. S. President's on the street corners in the downtown area. We followed the map that was provided and sought out all 27 that are on display. In the picture here Joanne checks out FDR as he delivers his famous "Day of Infamy" speech.

After our walking tour of downtown we decided we had really not seen enough of Sturgis so we drove back up the Interstate a few miles. Since it is just a week before Sturgis Bike Week officially kicks off the town is now hopping with bikers. We strolled down the main drag and viewed some really great motorcycles.

Today, Tuesday, we drove to Ft. Hays. This is the set for the movie "Dances with Wolves". The actual filming was done about eight miles away from where the buildings are now located. As was expected these buildings look much larger in the movie. This evening we met back up with the Rea's and Anderson's and hit a local BBQ place for all you can eat ribs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

South Dakota--Day 15--Mt Rushmore

We finally make a trip over to see Mt Rushmore up close and personal. Although this is not the first time we have seen this great site it never ceases to amaze at the work that was done to accomplish this creation. It took 16 years to complete this work. The original sculptor died before it was finished and the work had to be completed by his son. A great amount of work has been done in the area since we last visited here in 1992. A huge new viewing plaza and ampitheater has been built along with two enormous parking garages.

After visiting the mountain we took a drive to Four Mile Town, the site of a former stage stop on the Cheyenne, WY, to Deadwood, SD, line. It is now a "ghost town" that is owned by a local family. They are slowly developing it into a fasinating tourist attraction with many buildings from the town saloon to a calvary fort.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

South Dakota--Day 14--and Wyoming too

Today we decided to do our sightseeing over in Wyoming. Since we planned to be gone all day we decided to take the dogs with us. This gave them a chance to get out of the coach for the day.

Our first stop was in Sundance, Wyoming. This is a nice small town with a nice museum. One of the towns claim to fame is that one Harry A Longabaugh was once put on trial here and served 18 months in their jail. They have a sculture in the town square of him sitting in the jail. He went on to take his nickname from the town and became the Sundance Kid.

The next stop, and our main reason for going to Wyoming, was Devil's Tower National Monument. In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt designated the tower as the nation's first national monument. It is actually the core of a volcano exposed after millions of years of erosion brought on by the Belle Fourche River and the weather. Today, Devil's Tower is perhaps best remembered for the 1978 movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

While in the Devil's Tower area we stopped to check out the prairie dog town that is along the road to the tower. This covers 40 acres and is covered with the little critters. As I walked out among the hills the prairie dogs would pop up from their burrows and chatter to one another. As I would get close to one he would jump in his hole and another one, farther away, would pop out and start chattering.

Our last stop was at the Vore Buffalo Jump. This is a very large sink hole that the Indians used to trap and kill buffalo in the 1700 and 1800's. They would drive the buffalo herd over the edge of the hole where they would drop to their death. The Indians would then go into the hole and butcher the herd and store the meat to get them through the winter months. Now the University of Wyoming has a group of young people doing a dig to recover the remains of the buffalo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

South Dakota--Day 13--From Presidents to Waterfalls

Yesterday we decided to take a scenic drive. This way we could stay in the airconditioned car and out of the heat. We headed west over to the Black Hills for Spearfish Canyon. As we drove through the hills we found ourselves climbing up to a higher elevation that we had been used to. The temperatures were in the 80's instead of the 100's.
First stop was a little town called Rochford, population 25. I had been told about this town and it's saloon and mall. The mall bills itself as "The Small of America" and it lives up to the name. We had to travel 11 miles on a gravel road to reach this place. There are about a half dozen buildings in this "town". One, pictured, is the mall. Across the street is the Moonshine Gulch Saloon. Next door to it is something called Irish Gulch.

After leaving Rochford we headed north toward the town of Lead to see the President's Park. This is a privately owned park built on the side of a mountain that contains huge bust of all 43 American President's. These bust are made from alabaster by sculptor David Adickes. Each bust stands well over 20 feet tall. At each bust there is an information panel providing biographical material as well as an overview of each President's impact on our nation's history. They are laid out in order from George W (as in Washington) to George W (as in Bush). Our stroll through the park took most of an hour as we viewed and took pictures of all 43. On the right is my personal favorite, President Ronald Reagan.

After viewing our President's we headed to Spearfish Canyon Senic Highway. This is a section of Highway 14A that goes from south of Lead and winds it's way north up to Spearfish, SD. It is about 40 miles of the most beautiful part of the Black Hills. The road travels along side Spearfish Creek with towering cliffs and pine trees on each side of the roadway. On the route are waterfalls along the creek. The picture here is of Bridal Veil Falls.
Upon the completion of the trip through the Canyon we wound up in the town of Spearfish. By now we had dropped down to normal elevation and the outside temps were back up to 103. After a late lunch in a small cafe in town we headed back to the coach.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

South Dakota--Day 10--It's hot!

The sightseeing continues. This past Friday was a down day with us pretty much staying around the RV Park here on the base and relaxing. In the evening we picked up our friends, Lew & Dottie, and drove up to Hill City to have dinner at the Alpine Inn. This is a very unique restaurant that once had been a Bed & Breakfast. They have no menu and only serve two dinners: 6 oz steak or 8 oz steak. They do have a fantastic dessert menu.

On Saturday we drove up into the hills west of Rapid City. First was Sturgis. This is the place that has the big motorcycle rally each year. They are currently setting up for the rally, which will be next week. A few bikers were there but next week you will not be able to stir them with a stick. Also, the heat has increased while we have been here. It was 105 degrees while we were there around noon.

From Sturgis we drove over to visit Deadwood and check out the casino's. Deadwood was a mining town back in the 1800's and was also a wild town. This was where Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead during a poker game in the No. 10 Saloon. Both he and Calamity Jane are buired in the town cemetary, along with many other notorious characters of that time. We stopped at one of the casino's to try our hand at the machines. Did not stay long. I put a dollar in a penny machine and played 25 lines at 1 cent per line. When my winnings hit $10 I cashed out and we headed out. We then drove up to Mt Moriah Cemetary to check out the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane.

Our next stop was Lead. The claim to fame of this town is the big Homestake Mine which is a hugh pit mine that operated for many years. It is now closed but many tons of ore had been pulled out of this big hole in the ground. Although Lead was established around the same time as Deadwood it does not hold the same reputation as a wild, lawless town.

Today we headed out to the east and more toward the center of South Dakota. First stop was at Wall Drug in the town of Wall. Although this place may have started out as a drug store it is much more today. It is enormous and offers just about anything a person could want. From Wall we headed south and through the famous South Dakota Badlands. This is a beautiful place but I sure would not have enjoyed being out there during the cowboy days on horse back. The outside temps while we were there got up to 110 degrees. We took about a 40 mile loop down through the Badlands National Park before heading back to the RV.

Friday, July 20, 2007

South Dakota--Day 7--From USAF to Crazy Horse

We are out of Hart Ranch and now set up at the FamCamp at Ellsworth Air Force Base. We arrived here yesterday after spending most of the day at the diesel repair facility. As expected both fuel filters needed replacing. This is normally done at the time of an oil change, which we will be having done when we get back to Oklahoma. Also, we had a fuel lifter pump that was bad. This also had to be replaced.

When we arrived at the base the campground was full so we were sent to the overflow area. This is basically an old parking lot on the opposite side of the base, next to the air strip, out in the middle of nowhere. They have put in 12 electrical outlets with 30 AMP service but with no other hookups. First thing this morning the campground host called to say she had a spot for us in the main campground. We are now set here for the next two weeks.

Today we did some more sightseeing. We went back to Custer State Park and drove what is called the Needle Scenic Highway. This is a fairly narrow and winding road over one of the mountains in the Mt Rushmore area. This road had three very narrow one lane tunnels. At the last, and smallest one was a hugh semi-trailer truck that was stopped along the road. Now these tunnels are just over eight feel wide and just over ten feet tall. There is no way this truck was going to get through the tunnel and no one really knew why he was on this road. There was no place to turn him around so the authorities were kind of in a quantry of what to do. We did not stay around to see what happened.

Of the three scenic roads through Custer State Park the Needles is the best. It rises higher than the other two and has some beautiful rock formations. To the left is a picture of the Cathedral Spires. We stopped numerous times to get out of the car and hike up to get a better look at some of the rocks and to take pictures.

Afterward we drove down to Crazy Horse Mountain where the memorial to the Souix indian Crazy Horse is being built. This project has been going on for many years and is many years away from completion. When finished this will be the largest mountain carving in the world. Much work has been done since we were here in 1992. The completed project will show Crazy Horse with his arm stretched out over the head of his horse with both Crazy Horse's hair and the horse's mane flying in the wind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

South Dakota--Day 5--Wildlife

Today was the first actual day of sightseeing here in South Dakota. We started off the day by going to Bear Country USA. This is a delightful drive through animal park. In addition to many bears they have areas with big horn sheep, wolves, mountain lions, elk, and several other species. Although everyone stays in their cars you are able to get close enough to the animals to get some great pictures.

After completing the drive through area we parked the car and strolled through their nursery area. They had several pens with some of the smaller animals. The main attraction in the nursery area is the bear cubs. There were several on display today and it was fun to watch them frolic and wrestle with each other.

After our visit to Bear Country USA we headed to the Black Hills National Forrest. We took the Iron Mountain Road senic drive. This took us around Mt Rushmore, although we did not get very close to it today. We will do that trip later in our visit. Iron Mountain Road has many switchbacks as it rises up the mountain. It has several narrow, one-lane tunnels. Several places along the way give great views of Mt Rushmore. Also very unique to this road is what is called the pig-tail bridges. These are bridges stacked one above the other and you spiral up the road and over these bridges in the form of a "pig-tail".

After leaving the National Forrest we continued on to Custer State Park. When we were here several years ago this park was full of buffalo herds. Today we only saw two, a cow and her calf. We did see many of the wild burrows that roam the park. Actually, these burrows are not very wild and are very friendly. They are used to people feeding them so they come up to the car to beg.

In addition to the burrows the park was full of deer and they were out in force, even though we were there in the early afternoon.

Monday, July 16, 2007

South Dakota--Day 4--Coach cough

We arrived in South Dakota on Sunday after three days on the road. We were not sure if we were going to make the last 20 miles though. The coach was doing a good job pulling the hills heading toward Rapid City when we started to experience engine troubles. The motor would start to "cough" and lose power and then the "check engine" light would come on. We pulled off the road several times and let the coach set awhile. We had no sign the she was over heating. It acted like it was just not getting enough fuel. Finally, we got going and limped in the last 10 miles at about 45 miles per hour. (We now have an appointment on Wednesday morning with a Cummins Diesel repair shop.)

But we did finally arrive at Hart Ranch. This is a member owned RV Resort with all the facilities the RVer would desire. We have a concrete site with full hookups, including cable TV and WiFi access. We are parked next door to our good friends, Lew & Dottie Anderson. These are the folks that led our caravan to Florida last January. They invited us to join them, with some other friends, for a hamburger cookout during the evening. We had a good time with good food and good company.

Monday was spent just relaxing around the coach and checking out Hart Ranch. Since this is a member owned park you are supposed to be a member to stay here. They have a special to allow folks to stay up to three nights if they will take the "tour", which is a sales pitch to become a member. We did our "tour" around 2:00 pm on Monday. After telling the salesman, "thanks but no thanks", we met up with Lew & Dottie and went out to dinner.
We will be here at Hart Ranch until Wednesday. At that time we'll move up to Ellsworth Air Force Base, after a stop at the engine repair shop.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

South Dakota--Day 2--On the road again, finally!

Well, we are finally out of the house and back on the road, where we belong. We left home yesterday and started our trek north toward the Badlands of South Dakota. (To read about our "fantastic" start off read the previous post about Friday the Thirteenth.)

We drove from the Oklahoma City area north up I-35/I-135 to Salina, KS, and then west to Russel, KS, a little over 300 miles. Today we moved on west and north and stopped in Bridgeport, NE. We are about 200 miles from our destination of Rapid City, SD. The RV park here does not have cable but we can pick up three stations with the antennae, ABC, CBS and PBS. The main thing is they have WiFi so we're back on line tonight.

After getting into the RV Park here and getting set up we decided to unhook the car and do some sighseeing. This area of Nebraska is very pretty and has some very unusual rock formation. Out west of town is a place called Chimney Rock. This is a very unusual formation. Adjacent to the viewing was the Chimney Rock Cemetary where many of the pioneers that died on their trek west were buired.

Another formation was call Courthouse and Jail Rocks. The early pioneers coming through this area on their way west decided these rocks looked like a Courthouse and a Jail. The formations rise over 400 feet above the North Platte Valley.

We'll leave out of here first thing in the morning heading for Hart Ranch RV Resort in Rapid City for a visit with our good friends, Lew and Dottie Anderson.

Friday, July 13, 2007

South Dakota--Day 1--Friday the Thirteenth

I swear that, never again, will we start out on a trip on a Friday the Thirteenth. We had planned to begin this trip up north on Friday, July 6, but due to the mess with the new pool liner (see previous blog) we had to set the trip back a week.

As it has been doing in Oklahoma since early spring it was raining when we got up that morning. Not heavy but just enough to get you good and wet if you had to be out in it for very long. It had rained the previous day but had cleared off by noon and we had been able to get the coach loaded and ready to go. So, this Friday the Thirteenth morning we only had to get the coach out of the drive and on the road. This included unplugging it from the 30 amp hookup on the house, rolling up the cord and the extra 30 foot extension cord and putting them away, in the rain. Once we got the coach in the street we had to hook up the car to the tow bar, in the rain. Finally, around 9:00 am we were ready to roll, although I was now soaking wet.

As we drove away from the house and headed out of the neighborhood I turned on the windshield wipers. We then made it almost the two blocks to the main cross street when the driver's side windshield wiper fell off. (This has happened before and I've had it repaired twice, once at the Monaco America rally in Louisiana and last month at a local Monaco dealer.) Well, out I went into the rain again. Had to get my tools out because the wiper holder was now bent and had to be strightened. Took a good five to ten minutes to get this fixed, all the time we are parked at the stop sign at the end of our street blocking traffic from getting out of the neighborhood. Wiper was back on and we were on our way after a quick stop to fill the fuel tank at the Flying J station in Northeast Oklahoma City.

As we headed north, away from the Oklahoma City area, the rain lessened up and eventually stopped. The sun came out and we decided our bad luck was behind us. Wrong. Just after we crossed over the Kansas state line I noticed that the fuel gauge was showing less than 1/4 tank and the low fuel light was on. Since we had just driven a little over 100 miles this indicated a problem. With a 75 gallon fuel tank there was no way we had burned that much diesel. A few miles down the road was the first fuel station on the Kansas Turnpike so we pulled in there. After checking all around the coach we determined there was no fuel leak so the fuel gauge must not be working. To be on the safe side we pulled to the pumps and topped off. It only took enough diesel to replace what we normally should of burned in that 129 miles to the fuel station. Now, knowing we had a full tank we headed north again. I flipped the odometer over to the trip meter and used that to know when I need fuel since I'm aware of my fuel range. We can go at least 600 miles on a tank of fuel and still have a margin for error.

The fuel gauge kept us entertained all day. It would go all the way down to Empty and set there for awhile then move back up to 1/2 or all the way to Full. Each time it got below 1/4 the low fuel light came on. (Fortunately this coach is not equipped with a low fuel bell alarm.) Finally, around noon, the guage went all the way to full and stuck there, where it stayed for the rest of the day.

We stopped around 3:30 pm in Russel, Kansas, to spend the night. Jo fixed us a good dinner and the RV park had cable TV so things were okay. I'm not normally a superstitious person but never again will we start an adventure on a Friday the Thirteenth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The perils of home ownership

Some people wonder why I want to sell our house in Oklahoma and become a full time RVer. We have been planning to leave this Friday, July 7th, to spend a few weeks in South Dakota. About three weeks ago we discovered that we had a leak in the liner of the swimming pool that takes up the majority of our back yard. This had to be taken care of before we could even think about going off for an extended period.

The average life of a vinyl liner in one of these pools is normally around 10 years or so. We have lived here almost 18 years and the pool was approximately four or five years old when we bougth the place. That means the liner was around 23 years old. During this time we could only find one place that had been patched to fix a small leak, and that was before our time here. So, we probably have gotten our monies worth out of the liner.
We first attempted to find the leak with no results. During this time the pool was losing about a foot of water each 24 hour period. We pretty much kept a hose in the pool trying to keep up with the water lose. At the time we were experiencing heavy rains everyday but the water was still going out faster than it was going in. Finally we gave in and called a contractor to put in a new liner. At that point we gave up on keeping the water level up and just let it drop. That meant turning off the pump and filter which, we knew, would cause the pool to start turning green pretty quick. Due the rains the contractor was not able to get in at all last week and yesterday was the first chance he had to do the work.

They spent most of yesterday draining the pool and removing the old liner. Also, the previous owner had built the deck after the pool was in. He ran the deck boards right up to and under the top coping trim on the pool. Because of this the contractor had to cut out a four inch section of the deck on all areas where it was against the top of the coping to be able to stretch the liner down over the sidewalls. Next they stretched the new liner in and started refilling. When completely full this little pool holds 22,500 gallons of water. It is 28 feet in diameter and goes from 3 1/2 feet to 7 feet deep. The liner was cut out in pieces, rolled up and put in trash bags. There is now a large pile of trash bags in front of our house since tomorrow is trash pickup day. It took most of the afternoon and until around 10:00 pm last night to get the water level up to the bottom of the skimmer, where it was left until they could return and finish the job.

They returned around 10:00 am this morning and finished up redoing the top coping and cutting in the skimmer and return port. It took them about two hours today to finish the job. After they left I started up the hoses again, one from the back of the house and one pulled around from the front. About 5:00 this evening the level was up to where it should be and it now looks like we have a new pool. Still have to put the steps back in and get the chemicals up to par. Later I'll have to figure a way to fill the strips that were cut out of the deck around three sides of the pool.

As I said at the beginning we were scheduled to leave day after tommorrow to head north. That won't happen now since I've got at least a couple of days work left to do. Oh well, we have rescheduled everything and will now leave on Friday, July 13. Oh, the perils of home ownership.