As we roll towards the Canadian exit, cold rain and wind nipping at our heels, weather contributing to the demise of the leaves also brought on the termination of my pleasant persona. Rain, cold and nasty roads habitually cause my disposition to resemble Oscar The Grouch. The inclement weather and overcast skies have stalked us for several days but will soon dissipate, if one believes the local weatherman.
Crossing the border into the United States, winter wains as we skirt the US side of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest.
Fall is still in full colors, to my delight, on the United States side of the lake. Appreciative of the scenic beauty and the vivid swirls of blue rotating on Lake Superior the combination brightening my mood.
Looming ahead is route 17, across Minnesota, horrid, rough and pitted roads. The highways ribbon of rollercoaster pavement, accented with potholes, bumps and jarring drops in levels, kept me rotating between standing mid kitchen, leaning over the counter giving my back some relief and bent over the dash taking pictures.
After our shake, rattle and roll travel from Ney’s Lunch and Campground in Marathon Ontario Canada to Grand Casino RV Park in Hinckley Minnesota, I was ready for a long respite from the jostled travel but it was not to be. There are no guarantees for fair road conditions anywhere in the US. Luckily we are blessed with folks on the RV Forums who report long stretches of habitually bad road conditions but if you must travel a road to get where you want to go, you are stuck with the rugged ride.
Entering Amish country slows our pace, partially from the rough roads, partially to steer clear of horse and buggies.
Signs warning of consideration for Amish road travel are numerous along the highways.
Arriving at the Grand Casino RV Park, we set up camp for the night.
Here to rest, not gamble, we drove to the casino for an evening meal but smoke floating out the front door brought an about face. Back to LilyPad, we whipped up a light meal and turned in early.
This morning’s rise was to ice cold temperatures with brilliant sun trying unsuccessfully to reach the earth’s surface. Portable heaters have become a necessity and remained in standby mode for warming our evenings since our departure from Sault Ste. Marie Canada, staying with us all the way to Madison, South Dakota.
Driving through Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, also the land of vast farmlands sandwiching small towns between the golden fields of soldier straight crops and the flattened landscape of those plowed.
Driving headlong into the monotone colors of the “fly over” states, we have outrun depressing weather and met up with sunshiny. Fields, in various stages of growth and harvest, fly by us mile after mile.
As with every grain field, there are raptors making their livelihood from dining on rodents living down under. Every few miles one can be seen perched, watching and waiting until something catches their extremely focused vision.
We rolled cross the Missouri River and through naked hills.
Several rest stops were American Indian themed.
Wind turbines whirled, contributing to local city power and safety signs lined fields along our pathway.
Farm equipment, in various stages of disrepair, lay in wait along the edges of fields. A few whimsical creations were settled near a highway and side street corner.
John and I are domiciled in Madison South Dakota and have visited once before to obtain our licenses, secure an attorney and set up our mail forwarding service. Once again headed for our mail box home, this time to exchange my Texas license for a South Dakota license. I will once again become a South Dakodite, although in my heart, I will forever be a Texan.
Madison is a quiet little town located a few miles from Lake Herman State Park. Small in comparison to most state parks where we overnight, the sunsets are beautiful, trees shade the area, the sites are spacious and the lake is peaceful.
I love this tiny forested oasis in a land of flat uninteresting farm lands. Located a stone’s throw from Madison, it is my spark of happiness when we must return to our domicile for business. Friendly park staff and quiet nights, we decided to extend our stay to pause and refresh for a few days before continuing on with our journey home.
After two overnights it was time to depart. We woke to On The Road Again, Willie’s soft Southern harmony of his famous traveling song, our alarm clock music when we roll. This portion of our trip would be an extremely long haul.
Our sanity stop was Wall South Dakota. John had read about Mr. Bill Hustead, the man who became a beloved South Dakota legend by transforming a small town pharmacy into a sprawling tourist attraction of international fame.
This block-long mini town entertainment and shopping venue is a strung together conglomerate of specialty stores. For more than an hour, we explored the interconnecting buildings of hallways connecting a drug store to a gift shop,
a hallway connecting a dining area to old west Shoppe’s,
and a hallway joining several western themed mechanical singers and speakers.
Wall Drug Backyard offered visitors a fun entertainment area and I took full advantage of humorous props for amusing Kodak moments with John as my subject.
A giant dinosaur, a mini Mount Rushmore and a cowboy Pappy Zoltar rounded out the eclectic collection.
Unwound and refreshed, we climbed back into LilyPad and continued on our way to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we rarely take a direct route to anywhere. Retired and homeless, we have few reasons to be in a hurry. John wanted to see Mount Rushmore so we turned LilyPad in the direction of the big mountain with the giant carved heads and away we drove. As this was an election year, the political references throughout the Monument site were appropriate although most were ignored by us both.
Driving headlong into the Black Hills, our arrival in Rapid City South Dakota was uneventful. The next few overnights would be spent at Rapid City Elks Lodge RV park. The central location allowed us to tour the Black Hills area easily.
Friendly being the norm of Elks Lodges around the country, this Lodge was no exception. It had the added draw of being large and well appointed, with a full bar and huge dining room serving meals daily. Neither of us being in a cooking mood, we opted to have dinner at the Lodge.
Next morning, the drive up into the hills was rolling but with smooth surfaces. From a distance you could see the famous faces looking out over the Black Hills.
The entrance to the memorial is long and lined with state flags and plaques.
I searched out the Texas flag for a photo and continued walking towards the giant heads.
Along the sidewalk, on the sidelines but prominently displayed, several political groups waited to capture the attention of passer byers and fill them with their ideals. I walked quickly, not of their beliefs and no longer tolerant of the Dump Trump society.
Impressive presence but even more so when you step inside the museum and read about the rest of the story.
The Mount Rushmore project was met with skepticism and criticism largely due to its only function being to bring tourism to the Black Hills. The story is full of high expectations, bitter frustrations, struggles between egos, fascinating characters, hard dangerous work and finally, triumphant celebrations. The project took longer to build and ran over budget. The unveiling of the 1,278.45 acre memorial park now brings over two million visitors a year.
Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the carved granite sculptures were begun in 1927 and completed in 1939, a year after Gutzon died. Gutzon’s son completed the carvings and lovingly sculpted a bust of his father that stands in tribute near the Museum.
The original plan, credited to South Dakota historian Doane Robinson, was to have famous people carved into the Needles of the Black Hills region but the location was rejected due to poor quality of granite and the spires being too thin to support sculptures. Additionally, the Native American groups strongly opposed sculpting the Needles.
Working in treacherous conditions, the story boards in the museum depicted the life of the stone carvers and the challenges they faced daily.
The four United States presidents were each chosen for specific reasons, all playing important rolls in American History.
George Washington was chosen for his role in the Revolutionary War and his fight for American independence. Often called the father of our country, he was the first US president.
Thomas Jefferson was chosen because he believed people should be allowed to govern themselves, the basis for democracy.
Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for being such an influential president and world leader. Roosevelt is my favorite. His statement “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight – that he shall not be a mere passenger…” A statement with which I heartily agree.
Abraham Lincoln was chosen because he believed all people are equal and he helped to end slavery in the US.
Having watched the Mount Rushmore Visitors Center movie and finished our exploration of the monument area, we drove back into the Black Hills.
Another prominent head depicted on a mountain side in the Black Hills National Forest area is the face of Crazy Horse carved on the side of Thunderhead Mountain.
The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is yet to be completed. Currently, only the face, from chin up, is complete. The land is privately held and at conception, it was to depict the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The project is surrounded by controversy as the land is considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. Commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, operated by the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, it was to be sculpted by Polish-American Korczak Ziolkowski. The memorial master plan included the carving, an Indian University of North America, Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.
If completed, the stone carving may become the world’s largest sculpture, the head alone being 87 feet high with the final dimensions 641 feet wide by 563 feet high. In comparison, the heads of the four presidents each measure 60 feet high.
Taking a photo from the road and continuing on, the fee for a partially carved face and a gift shop was more than we considered reasonable.
On our journey back to LilyPad, we spotted a winery with a come hither name. Prairie Berry Winery and its “best seller” wine, Red Ass Rhubarb Wine. Exploration of a winery was a no-brainer so we stopped.
Imbibing in a tasting, we decided on one bottle and continued back to our patiently waiting KatieBug pug. A long walk, dinner and early to bed.
John picked our next day long adventure, Sturgis South Dakota. An easy drive from our current Elks Lodge site, we ate breakfast with KatieBug and all three of us hit the road. It was a scenic drive through the Black Hills.
The Sturgis claim to fame is its motorcycle gathering, one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world.
This year will be the 77th. Held annually on the second full week of August, thousands of motorcycles head towards the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. If you are traveling the freeways near South Dakota during Rally week, thousands of fantastical bikes pass by.
Known for their supreme week long parties, bars in Sturgis are plentiful and gigantic.
Off season you could hear your own heartbeat and it was as deserted as a ghost town when we arrived. Preparing for the event is a yearlong task. During our visit, Main Street was blocked off for repaving.
The history of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began in 1938 when Pappy Hoel and his wife gathered with friends who were motorcycle enthusiasts to have fun, picnic and race. Dedicated to nurturing and expanding the motorcycle events to ensure their success, they had no idea the gatherings would grow to the enormous size they are today. His passion for the sport created many opportunities for the community and his dedication to the motorcycle industry through donations, charities and scholarships helped to expand the rally to the world largest.
To get a feel for the event, we paid the small senior priced fee to enter the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.
It was a wonderful peek into the world of motorcycles. Bikes were everywhere. There was a section of women in the motorcycle world.
A history of Senator Dave’s world record of the Million Mile Ride and the 50th Sturgis Anniversary Bike..
1938 Harley with a Luchenback Texas sticker and the 1967 Dream Honda, famous for introducing motorcycles to a wider population.
A 1938 Indian Chief.
And several vintage bikes, a 1904 Strap Tank Single and a 1910 Indian Tri Car.
But my favorite was the 1969 Triumph T100C, the exact year and style of Triumph I had when I was 17. A heart tugging reminder of my wild teen years.
After scoring a few previous year Rally sale items, we drove to the nearby city of Deadwood South Dakota, named after the dead trees found in its gulch and famous for its lawlessness and murders. Proud of their tiny historic town, there were signs everywhere.
Illegally begun in 1870’s on land granted to the Lakota Native American Indians in the treaty of 1868, the land was disputed after gold was found on French Creek near Custer South Dakota. The Black Hill Gold Rush drew gamblers, prostitutes and the opium trade, increasing the population to nearly 5,000.
The local theater also contained a dance hall and brothel. The town is an easy walk up and down the street and many of the buildings have been renovated and turned into nice boutique shops and eateries.
The town further gained notoriety for the murder of gunman Wild Bill Hickok in Saloon Number 10, August of 1876.
Wild Bills final resting place is in nearby Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Calamity Jane’s final request was to be buried next to Wild Bill and their graves lie side by side at Mount Moriah.
Several days had past and it was time to pack up LilyPad, pull up stakes from the Elks Lodge and continue on down the road. We left mid-morning passing more Sunflower fields,
over train bridges with miles of cars carrying tons of coal,
past a local welding company with welded metal art prominently displayed out front,
and through adjacent fields where welders torches created interesting art pieces out of left over metal.
We overnighted in Plankinton South Dakota at Hills RV Park. Just off the highway, in the middle of nowhere, dirt roads, deserted and ghostly quiet, we slept lightly, got up early and got back on the road.
Next driving day was overcast with fog swirling just outside our travel path. War like art pieces posted like sentries on either side of a bridge we passed.
At the end of a long travel day, we would spend the night surrounded by a golf course. Wilds RV and Golf Resort in Bartlett Iowa had cement pads making it an easy set up for the evening.
Pleased with the gentle coolness of the evening, we walked KatieBug and binged watched a favorite TV series before falling asleep.
Next morning we rose to a town blanketed in fog. On temporary hold until the fog lifted, after waiting two hours with the roads still partially covered, disrupting our schedule was not appreciated so we crept along slowly until the sun broke through.
Another full day of rolling, pulling into Walmart in Festus Missouri shortly before the sun dropped behind the horizon. We boon docked (no hook-ups) near the garden center, alongside the town’s local “youth designated meet-up and make-out area”, each mode of transportation revving its engine in turn to show their macho rides and impress whomever might be watching. If the revving had kept up, we might have had to rev up our 425 hp diesel engine and blast a few times on our air horns to quiet them all down.
Being fully self-contained has its advantages so we fired up the generator and dined on home cooked chicken pot pies followed by local TV and bedtime. Tonight, I considered myself lucky as sleep was interrupted only twice by train whistles.
Morning arrived and another long drive was in our immediate future. Needing a diesel fill up, John pulled a little too close to the steel guard posts at the gas station.
Not planning his exit well, he was forced to take the car off the dolly, move the car and dolly away from the poles while I backed out LilyPad so he could hook everything back up. Not being an issue that it set us back an hour, another plus side of being retired.
The journey to Caruthersville Missouri Lucky Lady Casino was comfortable and relatively short. We crossed over the Mighty Mississippi several times on our way to the RV casino park.
We will have full hook-ups tonight. Upon entering, I realized sleep time will be spent on the “flood” side of the flood gates but our site was flat and had an ample cement pad.
Flooding was not terribly concerning as the weather here was sunny and cloudless. Local forecast predicted a beautiful tomorrow. Neither of us wanted to donate money to the casino so having full hook-ups meant we could catch up on laundry, washing dishes and making dog food, all to be completed before dinner and sleep. KatieBug happily marked every blade of grass during her walk on what she considered to be her territory. Barring any sudden flood waters washing over the RV park, we would have a peacefully quiet evening, all three of us going to sleep early.
One more all day long drive to reach my least favorite semi-annual necessity, Red Bay Alabama, home of LilyPad’s manufacturer. We have been way down yonder in the land of cotton for days. Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, nearly uninterrupted travel, landing us in the land of the Tiffin manufacturer.
This year we will be serviced by Bunk House, formerly known as McKinney’s, and should not need the long wait required at Tiffin unless something they repaired the last time turns out to be incorrectly done. It will be a first, so fingers crossed as we pull into our site and await a service bay in the morning.
I’ve been told how lucky I am to have such wonderful scenic places to explore and my yard is the great outdoors. I have to shake my head in wonder as many of the places we spend the night are Walmart parking lots, local Elks Lodge parking lots, older struggling Passport America RV Parks and Red Bay parking lots. Below was our “great outdoors” view for the next few nights.
The last dozen places we spent overnights are not exactly the fabulous wilderness settings others have pictured in their minds eye.
Several days have gone by and our repairs are complete. While John makes the final adjustments to the car and LilyPad, I pause to look out the side window. Water is dripping down on the inside. Another roof leak. Turning to a new page on the repair book I add another item for repair to our “it’s always something” list. Fixing the leak will have to wait until we get back to Texas.
An early rise and a marathon driving day, sleeping in a closed-due-to-remodeling-from-the-floodwaters-in-a-Louisiana-Walmart with a few 18 wheelers as neighbors and police officers patrolling the area throughout the night.
Across the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and breakfast of two fluffy tender and warm Cracker Barrel biscuits. They nearly made the memory of the lumpy bumpy ride through Louisiana melt like the butter on the biscuit.
Finally arriving at Grand Texas RV Resort in Texas for an overnight, we were met with unpleasant surprises, the impossibly narrow cement pad and our steps extending over soft red mud instead of the expected grass. Quickly setting up camp, we fell asleep exhausted.
Next morning we frantically booked an appointment for a pressure leak test in the Galveston area and pulled the slides in readying LilyPad for travel. When the bedroom slide retracted I heard a loud “clank”. Searching the floor I found the metal slide roller had broken off its metal brackets and clanked to the ground. Oh explicit, explicit, explicit!
One overnight to fix the leak, the slide roller would wait until we were closer to our go-to repair shop in Montgomery Texas. For the next month we will live at Galveston Bay RV Park, visit our son, future daughter-in-law, grand dogs and grand chickens in Seabrook, relax and enjoy the sea breezes and watch the wild parrots that visit our back yard.
John will be patching up what he can on LilyPad. Plans are to move next month to Conroe KOA in Montgomery Texas while we search again for a sticks-n-bricks home and have Action RV Repair shop complete the rest of the motorhome repairs.
Hard to believe this is the beginning of our fifth year. However did we last this long? Probably a mix of insanity, senility, John’s love of traveling and my love of being in new places. Besides, we both agree, you only go around once.