Wandering (Wondering?) Our Way to South Dakota

So, I bet you are all wondering, “What the hell happened to that Gauvreau blog thing?”  Good question.  Let’s just say that the intensity of posting most of last year got to me and I needed a vacation.

Or something…

Anyhow, for what ever reason for being gone, it’s back again.  Big yip, huh?

So, we are starting off by going w-a-y back to last September, when we began our next big adventure, heading off to South Dakota and the goal of seeing Mt. Rushmore.  So, here we go…

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We left our home in Silver Lake, Washington, on September 13, 2016, kicking off a 4-week trip to South Dakota. Our first stop was in Walla Walla, Washington, probably best known for the large herds of (now-extinct) Walla Walla’s that roamed the surrounding hills, eons ago. Today it is best known for over-rated $14 martini’s at a local bar, and an RV park run by an insane woman. Oh, and the chickens there are mighty big, too…


After leaving Walla Walla, we stopped in Spokane where we visited our little niece and nephew, Kim and Selby. We always have a great time with these two characters. We closed down the bar in the Elks Lodge one night; the 2nd night we headed out for dinner to a great place on the river, where Selby managed to eat something that disagreed with him – a lot. Enough so to cause them to miss our planned 3 days of camping with them in Montana. Even so, they did manage to drive over to see us for a few hours.


We ran across this odd truck on Highway 84, on the way to Walla Walla. I talked to the driver, who told me that is was a prototype design for Freightliner that he was testing. The complex graphic is actually make up of a peel-and-stick (no kidding…) material design to mask the lines of the truck. I guess…at least that’s what he told me.


With our (really) old buddies, Steve and Linda McCullough – from high school and college times. They took us ATVing up in the hills above Townsend, Montana. We spent a great 2 daze with them – such good friends and wonderful hosts. Charlie greatly appreciated their charming hospitality, at least the 2 lbs. of raw roasts that he swiped off their kitchen counter and ate all in one sitting. Oh, and Steve makes a MEAN martini.


With Steve and Linda, at an old cabin about 15 miles back in the hills. We had a great trip back there and it capped a super-fun day…only to be bested by Steve’s martini’s once we returned to their house; they have a full bar in the garage, and in the kitchen, and in the den, and in the living room and on the deck. You don’t need to walk for a drink when you visit.


Life would not be complete without a stop in Butte, Montana, where we had a great visit with our old Modesto friends and neighbors, Ed and Betty Banderob. Butte is the consummate mining town, and Ed is a veritable font of information about the entire area, since both he and Betty grew up there, and their families go back generations. We were really lucky to have Ed drive us around town in his old, but mint condition, Cadillac. What a treat! Such great hosts!


A tunnel under an open-pit mine access road, Butte, Montana. It led from a visitor information center to a viewpoint.


One of many abandoned mining ‘gallows’ in Butte. This one is fairly contemporary; many are decades old. All are part of the colorful history of the town.


Dee Dee just after we arrived at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. A cold, nasty day…we had this magnificent view all to ourselves.


Another view of Devil’s Tower the next day, complete with buffalo and a Texas Longhorn.


We hiked up and around Devil’s Tower. This is a view from the base of the Tower, looking back towards our campground. Close as a crow flies, but several miles by car. Did you ever see the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?” Portions of it really were filmed at Devil’s Tower. The production company was based at this campground.


And yet still another view of Devil’s Tower, taken from the trail around the base. You can’t see them here, but there were about a dozen or so climbers up there.


On the way down from our 3.5 mile hike around Devil’s Tower. There was a beer waiting just outside the frame…


After about two weeks of traveling, with many stops, we finally made it Hill City, South Dakota, our base camp for a week while we explored the area: Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Sturgis, Deadwood, and surrounding towns. This campground was a great central location; it had only 6 spaces, and 2 of them were occupied by work-campers who maintained the grounds and took care of several cabins on the grounds. It was a perfect location and the guy who runs the place is a total delight.


After almost 2 weeks on the road, Dee Dee and the Boyz are taking a much-needed break.


Dee Dee’s scratched one off her Bucket List when we arrived at Mt. Rushmore! This was the goal of the trip, and we made it. By the way, if you have seen the iconic Hitchcock movie, “North by North West,” part of it was filmed here…but don’t expect to see anything remaining from that time, except for the mountain. No longer can you drive right up to a viewpoint. You are now required to park ($11, no discounts) in a seven-story parking garage and walk about 1/2 mile to the viewpoint. The National Park Service has done a good job in developing the area. You do pay to park (no choice), but entry to the Monument is still free.


After Mt. Rushmore, we visited the privately (tribal) operated Crazy Horse Monument. This is a bigger-than-life-size mock-up sculpture located in the expansive visitor’s center. Work on this monument is largely funded by private resources and donations. It’s been going on for 2 generations and it is anticipated that it will not be completed for several more. In other words, your kid’s kid’s kid’s kid’s may be lucky to see the final product. it is really unbelievable what is going into the development of this area…not just the Monument, but also an expansive regional educational center. Has to be seen to be believed.


Us at Crazy Horse Monument. You can see they have a l-o-n-g way to go before it is completed.


One of the many breweries and wineries in the Hill City area. No shortage of beer here. Lucky for us, we were here at the tail-end of the tourist season. Many businesses were literally within a few days of closing down for the winter. Things really start to taper off after October 15th.


We made it to Sturgis! Not much going on, but at least we have the picture of the Harley Dealership to prove we made it. And yes, we did get t-shirts.

There is a magnificent motorcycle museum in Sturgis. Totally supported by private funds and donations. If you are into bikes, and in the area, this place is not to be missed.

This is one of the many great exhibits in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. They had a whole series of Honda’s from 50cc circa 1964 scooters to contemporary Gold Wings. I owned a Honda 305 Super Hawk just like this one, in 1968. It was a great bike. Still miss it.


A portion of a Big Round Thing, on display in Leadville. It was part of a very important project, related more to nuclear science that mining. It just forget what it was part of… The diameter was over 15 feet.


Fall colors in a magnificent canyon between Deadwood and Sturgis. We were there at absolutely prime time.


“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the ANTELOPE play…” This was taken near a small town in Wyoming. Dee Dee and I were sitting in a local bar having a beer and we told a guy sitting next to us about this herd. “No way,” says he. “Antelopes (sic) have been extinct for over 200 years.” So much for local knowledge.


Storage silos, near Wall, South Dakota. We stopped at the famous Wall Drug (immediately behind where I was standing to take this pic.) It was OK. Great for kids. It’s still a monster tourist trap.


A herd of mountain sheep, blocking the road on the way to Badlands National Park, in Wyoming, about a 125 mile drive from our base camp in Hill City and about 100 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota. No, they (the sheep) are not as yet extinct, but then again, we did not inquire with the locals to be sure…


Entering Badlands National Park, just like the sign says…


Badlands National Park is a small, but immensely spectacular place. The geological formations were amazing. You could spend days here wandering around, exploring. You can actually meander through the entire park in about 2 hours, it’s that small. We were lucky, again, to be here in early October: good weather and few other visitors. It was a great time to be there.


More Badlands…


And even more Badlands…


…and here we leave you with a magnificent view of a portion of Badlands National Park. You have the bench all to yourself. Badlands National Park was the end of our long journey eastward, from our home in Washington to South Dakota.


The way home was not as enjoyable as the trip out. The end of good fall weather was upon us, and winter was rapidly setting in. We encountered nothing but wind and rain all the way back home. Many visitor places, such as RV parks and other campgrounds were closing down or were already closed, on the route home (South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.)

But we made it just fine, and our RV managed to survive the trip with no major problems or breakdowns. (We did have it service by a Freightliner dealer in Rapid City, South Dakota, while we were there.) We arrived home about mid-October, got unpacked, did some work around the place, and then took off again about 10 days later, headed for a 3-month gig as campground hosts at Death Valley National Park, and then some travels in Nevada and Arizona, capped by 10 days in delightful Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

But that’s the next installment of the Blog…stay tuned…

2 Comments on “Wandering (Wondering?) Our Way to South Dakota

  1. Now that is what I call a great summary post of what you did last summer. I felt I was along with you and Deedee on this trip especially that we missed the Devils tower when we were there. You are right that local Wyoming person needs to go out sometime to know that lots of Pronghorns roam around his country side.

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  2. Good to hear some you again. Look forward to hearing about Death Valley and Puerto Penasco. We are travelling through state parks in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana this year before heading back to Ontario by Apr 1. Say hi to Dee Dee and the crew for us. Jim, Lynda & Joey

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