Vacation 2010

Stacey and I left on vacation, taking Gretchen along with us in the Lil Egg.  We spent most of the day on the road, but made Mitchell, South Dakota, in plenty of time to see the famous Corn Palace,  It was in great condition, with something of a transportation theme this year.  I especially like the canoe and motorcycle.  After we saw the gift shops and surroundings, we went to the nearby campground for our first night of tent camping.  I have not seen such a horde of mosquitoes in many years.  After considerable searching, we could not find our bug spray,  After we paid double for a can of DEET at the campground store, I found ours, of course.  It was hot and humid, so we were having difficulty falling asleep when the campground manager came around in a golf cart to warn us that a big thunderstorm was coming in about an hour.  The temperature dropped suddenly, the thunder and lightning came, and the wind threatened to turn the tent over with us in it.  It rained most of the rest of the night, while our nearly new tent, which I had seam-sealed twice, leaked little drops on us.  

The famous Corn Palace We are there.

As usual, click on any image and you will be taken to a web album with more images from that time and place.
We struck camp and headed west to our next destination, world famous Wall Drug.  The place takes up an entire city block.  We saw everything we wanted to in an hour or so.  Gretchen stayed in the car and howled a bit, at least while she could see us.  We bought a few trinkets and hit the road again, but it wasn’t far to Rapid City, where we checked into our hotel and crashed.  We had sleep to catch up on.  We had planned to see the fireworks at Mount Rushmore that night, but it was canceled this year because of the pine beetles having killed so many of the trees.  The fire hazard was too high.

Classic pick-up truck. World famous Wall Drug.

We stopped at a souvenir shop call the Coyote Claw.  They actually had some good bargains.  We stopped at the little tourist trap of Keystone for more souvenir window shopping.  Onward we went to Mount Rushmore.  It looked great under overcast skies.  I hiked the little presidential trail and photographed the presidential heads about 100 times. 

Stacey gets an angelic glow around historical monuments.. Let’s put our heads together…

We went to Crazy Horse, which is the not-yet-finished equivalent of Rushmore.  It was fairly disappointing, as everything, including admission, was overpriced.  At least they let us take Gretchen in.  We drove on through Custer State Park via the Wildlife Loop, which I had been looking forward to.  It did not disappoint, as we saw a variety of the large mammals.  We drove some extremely twisty and steep roads, which is why, I suppose, so many motorcyclists come here.  We went back to the Hotel again.

What Crazy Horse looks like now. What Crazy Horse will look like in about 1000 years.

Young pronghorn leaping. Prairie dog just chilling.

We started out on the long loop to Devil’s Tower, WY.  It was a cold, rainy day.  We stopped at a gas station at the same time as a pair of Goldwingers who were freezing their butts off.   When we got to Devil’s Tower, it was shrouded in clouds.  We didn’t pay to get into the National Monument, as all you can do is drive around the thing.  We stayed out by the souvenir shops on private property and I took about 150 shots of the ~800 foot rock as the clouds came and went.  Fortunately, I had a bread bag to keep the rain off my camera.  Actually, it was brought along as a dog doo bag for picking up after Gretchen.  We continued on the loop, stopping a couple of times for different perspectives on the monument.  Driving out of Tower Valley, I thought it was some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen.  We stopped at Belle Fourche.  One of our challenges was finding places to eat with a dog.  Sometimes we did fast food joints that have outdoor tables.  Here we found a grocery store with a deli and ate in the car.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, shrouded in mystery.

Deadwood was terribly disappointing, as there is nothing there but an endless array of casinos.  So we went on to Sturgis.  It did not disappoint.  It was a month away from the bike rally, but the town is still all about motorcycles.  Main street is full of interesting shops and night clubs.  After spending some time there, we went to the 4th and 7th Cavalry Museum at Fort Meade.  Stacey went in, while I paraded Gretchen on the grounds.  She pooped somewhere near the WWII memorial. 
We had checked out of our hotel in favor of the more economical cabins at Happy Holiday Resort.  This was a huge campground for everything from tent campers to million-dollar RVs. 

A Sturgis nightclub Proof we were there (note banner over street).

We were tired of driving around so much, so we hung around Rapid City, seeing the downtown and a few outlying shops.  There are bronze statues of the Presidents on all the street corners.  It’s fun trying to figure out who they are from a distance.  Stacey, with a degree in history, outscores me handily.  We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the cabin, while the tent dried on the picnic table.  That evening we took a drive through the wildlife loop again, on the theory that the animals would be more active in the evening.  We were right.  We saw three herds  of buffalo.  Some were crossing road, and we pulled up to get a close look.  One stopped to rub its neck on our car.  Gretchen had been very interested in them at first, but this close encounter scared her.  She never did bark at them.  We saw a lot more deer as well, plus some turkeys and a few pronghorn.  It rained on us on the way down, and even hailed a bit.  Not fun for the motorcyclists, who stopped to wait it out.

How to scratch your head if you have antlers. How to scratch your nose if you’re a bison.
The big guy takes a walk. Baby takes a drink before Mom has gotten up.

We drove out to do the Badlands Loop, a road that passes through the famous Badlands, a National Grassland.  “National” means they charge you just like entering a national park.  The formations were pretty impressive, and a lot of people were out to see them.  We stopped in Wall for lunch, then back in Rapid City.  I bought a new pillow at WalMart, as my little travel pillow had torn.  As a result, I had woken up with little styrofoam beads all over my hair.  We had headaches, presumably from the brightness of the day, and took naps that afternoon.

Spiky badlands Grassy badlands
Cloudy badlands Mountain badlands

Buprestid beetle Ammophila wasp

We packed up and hit the road.  We stopped in Hot Springs to look at a few things, but not for long.  Soon we were in Nebraska, enjoying the views of the Sand Hills.  Shortgrass prairie never looked so good.  The area is not densely populated at all.  We stopped in Broken Bow for the night.  We got a nice hotel room for the whopping fee of $35.

Waterfall in Hot Springs, SD Gretchen surveys the Sand Hills
Unidentified dragonfly Unidentified plant

We stopped at an outlet mall somewhere around Lincoln, Nebraska.  We didn’t get much, but I got a chance to look around an Indian motorcycle dealership.  There aren’t many of those around.  We got into Canton around 7:30.  It was good to be home. 

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