Friday, December 07, 2012

Blogging Blahs

I was tempted to entitle this post "Nothing Amiss, Simply Remiss" but I may have used that one already.  Certainly I was a bit surprised and also a bit appalled to see that I hadn't posted anything since we left Wilmington, Ohio around the 27th of September.  I guess it's simply a case of the blogging blahs.  I am nearing 2,000 posts and it's been seven and a half years that I've been posting here and I think I just got a little burned out.

It certainly doesn't help that we have been maintaining a lower profile because my back hasn't gotten any better since my slip and fall and quite honestly that is beginning to concern me.  If nothing else, it's keeping me from playing golf and that, to quote my mother, "p*sses me off".  Kind of a private joke and it needs to be said with extreme emphasis on the "P".

Since Denny and I pulled out of the Thousand Trails park in Wilmington we have visited with our youngest son Darby and his wife in central Ohio where we celebrated Net's birthday along with her parents.
Next we headed up into New York where we visited with our oldest son, his wife and our granddaughters.  I make sure the girls help out with whatever meal I cook there, simply to teach them how to read and follow recipes.  Despite the faces I think they enjoy it.
Of course there has to be a little goofiness and showing off for the camera by the youngest granddaughter.
Upon leaving Denny and I took the red road route down to Myrtle Beach, staying one night in a beautiful campground in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  We agreed that we'll have to come back here when we can stay longer to do some exploring and just kick back and enjoy the scenery.
Once we arrived in Myrtle Beach we had just the one day to get set up and the chairs pulled out before Darb and Net arrived to stay a week in Myrtle Beach with us.  Of course we yanked out the hide-a-bed sofa soon after we purchased The Beast, so Denny and I rented a park model trailer for the kids.  Since I'm a "get up at the crack of dawn or earlier" kind of person and the kids....well, not so much, this works out better.
Fortunately we had good weather for the most part while they were here so campfires were enjoyed, along with the occasional adult beverage.
For physical therapy purposes I talked Denny into allowing me to buy a folding bicycle.  There are one thousand campsites in this campground so a bike makes it easier to get to the office, the camp store and the indoor swimming pool.  I love this little thing, and we also picked up a carrying case for it so we can put the bicycle in the back of the truck or inside the trailer when we move and not worry about scratching anything up.
There haven't been a lot of spectacular sunrises this year, although I've taken several shots of the state park pier/south Myrtle Beach skyline under a variety of weather conditions and at different hours that could be an entire series of photographs on their own.  When we first arrived there were a lot of military planes including cargo planes and fighter jets that were practicing "touch and go" landings and take offs from the airport just up the road from us so we've been seeing a lot of planes up close and personal here.
This year I managed to take over a thousand photographs of the American Heart Association Heart Ride on the Beach that occurs at the end of October/first of November.  This year there were 1,200 horses from 22 states and even a few from Canada.  There were supposed to be horses from 34 states but apparently a lot of folks cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.  Not surprising although it didn't hit us here. 
I have taken a lot of photographs of the brown pelicans here, trying to get the perfect shot of a group of them skimming the waves like flying surfers.  I'm still working on it.
And of course, I spend a lot of time walking Patches, or rather I spend a lot of time standing around while she investigates every bush, hole and waving stand of grass.  And yes, I'm as bored as I look.  Denny caught me.  I'm also trying to be good about going to water aerobics for the stretching it provides my back.  If nothing else, it feels good to be in the warm water on cool mornings (it's an indoor pool because nights get much too cool here to keep the outdoor pool open). 
So we've pretty much been living on beach time; not doing much of anything and enjoying that just fine.  My back still isn't up to playing golf so we just do a little walking around the campground.  I did ride along with Denny when he played golf this week and it made me a bit anxious to get back out on the golf course but I'm just not ready yet.  The back still grabs me if I move to quickly or twist suddenly so winding up to swing a golf club just doesn't get it yet.  

Tomorrow our RVing friends Don and Vicki arrive.  They will be staying a couple-three months so we'll overlap a month if all goes as planned.  Plenty of time for some fun.  And maybe a blog post or two.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Head 'em up, Move 'em out!

Six weeks and two days--that's how long we've been here.  We've seen doctors and dentists, Denny has had his back adjusted and I've had my boobs smashed (October is coming up; have you gals scheduled your mammograms?), we've been issued medications for Denny's new diagnosis of diabetes and told by our family physician to check out the Zone Diet to follow along with beefing up our pretty much non-existent exercise routines.  We haven't made a lot of extra trips into our home town so we missed seeing a few folks this time around.  My back wasn't up to it for a long time and then time got away from us.  

We've sampled local sweet corn, green peppers and tomatoes, picked up goetta and favorite meats at the butcher shop in Cincinnati where Denny's family has purchased meats for the last sixty-five plus years.  Our favorite local restaurants and eateries were visited and enjoyed and we picked up cans and jars of foods that we can only get here.  And we found a supplier for bitter lemon--at least for the times we visit Cincinnati.  We'll still be out of luck once we leave here so we stocked up.  We've shared meals, laughter and hugs with friends and family, avoided getting poison ivy while walking the cat (a biggie for me) and watched the leaves slowly start to change colors.  It's time to go.

Next up is a visit to see our youngest son near Columbus, Ohio and then the two of us are off to the Niagara Falls area where we'll be based to visit our oldest son and his family.  There are chores planned for Denny there and maybe a day of golf with his son.  From there we turn the nose of the truck southward again, taking a few days to work our way down to Myrtle Beach, where we'll plant ourselves for three months.  That's an incredibly long time for us to stay in one place but fortunately our youngest son and his wife will be coming down for a week-long visit and then our friends Don and Vicki are going to show up in December so we'll have a month together before Denny and I decide whether to stay longer or move on.  Because at this point I haven't decided where we're going once we leave Myrtle Beach, only that we won't be heading anywhere north until all chances of snow have passed. Then, who knows?

In the meantime, it's time to be like a tree and leaf.  Ba-dum-dum.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


I don’t exercise.  If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor. - Joan Rivers

Over the past few weeks both Denny and I have had to do a lot of adjusting.  After Denny's episode with the kidney stones we discovered that he is pre-diabetic so we are learning by trial and error what foods will affect his blood sugar.  Of course normally we pretty much eat whatever we want and so this is a big adjustment for Denny and to keep him on track I am trying to eat the same way.  When you get right down to it, a pre-diabetic way of eating is very similar to the Atkin's diet so that's familiar to me.  The instructions for someone who is pre-diabetic are pretty simple; lose weight, watch what you eat and make sure you exercise.  Ah, exercise.  That's the tough one.

And so we are trying to get out to walk.  A few trips to the chiropractor have made that much easier for Denny as he was having issues with his hips.  Now he can walk much more easily.  I was told by the ER physician in Wisconsin that the best exercise for my back after the compression fractures started to heal was to walk.  So it's win-win for the RV Vagabonds.

Denny has indeed lost weight; he is doing not only his chores around the rig but mine also.  It's amazing how the simple everyday movements and chores involve bending and/or twisting and those are two things I cannot do at this point.  Thus, Denny has taken over my chores also and he has lost weight to show for it.  The good news is, he has discovered that now his knees don't hurt as much going up and down the stairs.  So there is a benefit to all this, but I'm sure he'll be glad when my back brace comes off and I can resume some of the housework once again.  Heck, I can't wait either!  

So that's why we've been flying under the radar lately.  We drive into town to see doctors and family but basically are hanging around the campground which doesn't make for exciting blog reading.  It will be a few more weeks before we hit the road again so I'll only be popping in here occasionally.

Happy trails!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Time to Sit a Spell

The Beast had its repairs completed; some to our satisfaction, some not.  Lesson learned, we will no longer use our dealer's service department for service and repairs.  'Nuff said there.

It feels good to be back at our "home" campground in Ohio, knowing we don't have to pick up and move again for a few weeks.  The burden for all of that has been on Denny because so much of the packing and up getting the rig hitched up involves bending and kneeling which is something I am not capable of nor allowed to do at this point.  Thus to be able to stay in one place for a bit is nice.

This morning I've shooed Denny off to drive back to my hometown of Kettering to meet with what I call the Liar's Club--a group of our retired co-workers from the PD who meet every morning at a local big box store that has a small coffee shop.  The b-s flows so quick and deep when those guys get together that one needs hip waders to stick around.  That's a good change of pace for my guy, since he's been my rock for the last two weeks.  Both of us could use a tiny breather from each other after all we've been through together during that time.  I promised him faithfully I would behave myself and not try to do things I shouldn't be attempting.  So it's me, the computer, my Kindle and the cat until he returns.

Next Wednesday I'll see an orthopedic surgeon to find out where I stand with my spine (yeah, yeah, I know; upright) and when I can start physical therapy and begin a more normal routine of small chores and bending activities.  We're also going to our family physician to have Denny take a glucose tolerance test since his blood sugar continues to be high.  This visit to our home area is basically to allow us to heal and get ourselves back to "normal" although we may have to accept the fact that we'll both have a new "normal" from this point on.  So be it.

Basically I guess I'm saying things may be quiet on the blog unless I decide to pull out some photos from our travels pre-blog (which I started in May of 2005).  No promises, but we'll see.

Safe travels to our RVing friends and Happy Trails to all the rest of you.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ducks at the Dells

Denny had visited the Wisconsin Dells area years ago (many, many years ago) and had taken a ride on the Ducks and wanted to share that experience with me.  I chose the Original Wisconsin Ducks ride and the boat ride to the Upper Dells for our day tripping experience.

The "Ducks" are actually World War II vehicles that were code named "DUKWs";  the D stood for the year 1942, the U was for amphibious utility vehicle, the K for front wheel drive and the W for the twin rear-driving axles.  Naturally the servicemen quickly nicknamed the vehicles "Ducks".  The DUKWS were invented as landing craft for bringing troops to shore from ships and were first used to land troops in Sicily and continued to be used throughout the war both in Europe and in the Pacific.

After the war, area businessmen in the Dells purchased a "Duck" for use in hauling tourists around through local forests and the Wisconsin River as an innovative, fun way for people to see the area.  The idea caught on and the Original Wisconsin Ducks company has over 90 amphibious vehicles and there are several competitors in town who also provide the service.  I asked if there was a difference in the companies and our tour guide/driver informed me that the Original Wisconsin Ducks was the only company that owned woodland access in town; the other companies pretty much have to travel on local roadways.

The Duck ride consists of some travel through woods and canyon areas, some river travel and a fun splash down into Lake Delton.

 The Ducks ride lasts about an hour and after we were brought back to the downtown Wisconsin Dells area by Duck shuttle Denny and I walked down the two story flight of stairs to wait for our boat trip up the Wisconsin River.  Again narrated by a tour guide, this peaceful two hour trip up river is interrupted by two brief stops to walk around a bit and stretch your legs (and buy souvenirs and food).    
 Black Hawk Rock, named for its supposed resemblance to a Native American tribal member.  Can you see his profile below?

 Stand Rock, made famous by Henry Hamilton Bennett, a photographer credited with inventing the stop action photo.  His photo of his son Ashley leaping across the gap between the ledge and the rock column below is known world wide.  Today, for the entertainment of the tourists who are brought here by boat, a German Shepherd makes the jump.

 This is simply a shot of the Trojan Horse ride at a local amusement park that is near the entrance to the Original Wisconsin Ducks ride.
  While we were out grocery shopping I noticed movement in a nearby field and zooming in with the camera I realized I was seeing my first sandhill crane in summer plumage.  He really was well camouflaged in the dry grasses.
I'm glad we had this one great day in Wisconsin--the rest of the week, not so much.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Wishing We Had Skipped Wisconsin

If ever a nice campground/city had bad vibes/bad mojo, for us it's Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.  Starting with an emergency room visit for Denny immediately after we arrived in town and got set up at our campground things went downhill after that.  Kidney stones, refrigerator malfunctions, the coffee maker died, the stove attacked Denny and then it was my turn for the ER.  Not a good week.

After a week of suffering bouts of extreme pain off and on all week, Denny agreed to go to the casino but we only got as far as Walmart when he started feeling pain again. So we turned around and I told him I would drive back home. Denny pulled over part way into a driveway on the two lane roadway and I stepped down from the truck, only to slide on the newly laid loose gravel and land on my tail bone. I immediately knew something was badly wrong due to the pain and the weird feeling in my arms. Denny wanted to raise me up right away but I knew I'd have to figure out a way to position myself for causing the least amount of damage and pain and eventually pulled myself back up into the truck. We drove to St. Clare hospital in Baraboo where Xrays showed I had a compression fracture of the T12 and possibly also of the T7 vertebrae. After pain meds and laying there several hours the nurse tried to get me to stand up to walk to go home and boy, that just wasn't happening. So they admitted me to the hospital overnight for observation only, just to attempt to control the pain and make sure there wasn't any obvious spinal cord damage.  I was able to walk with assistance the next morning so I was so out of there.  Not that the hospital and staff of St. Clare's Hospital weren't terrific, because they were.  The two of us wanted no more of the hospital.  Did I mention that while I was upstairs trying to walk Denny was once again downstairs in extreme pain asking if he could be referred to a urologist in Madison so he could have his kidney stone lasered or broken up by ultra-sound?  Yep.  And naturally the staff down there did blood work and found his blood sugar was sky high and they freaked out about him getting follow up care.  

After being released from the hospital we drove to Madison so I could be fitted for a back brace until we can get to Dayton and see our own doctors for our individual problems.  Denny has passed one of the two kidney stones, we purchased a glucose monitor and Denny's blood sugar has come down quite a bit.  After we rest a couple of days we're taking the rig to Elkhart, Indiana for whatever repairs are needed to remove the gremlins and then we'll head for Ohio, cancelling several weeks worth of travel plans and visits with the kids.  We need to get ourselves patched up and back on an even keel before we hit the road again for a while.  We're kind of reeling here right now.

Posting may be even more sporadic at this point, but we'll be back.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

No Fun in the Dells

Years ago Denny vacationed in the Wisconsin Dells area with his first wife and he thought I'd enjoy taking a ride on "the Ducks" so I arranged a stay at one of our affiliate membership campgrounds a few miles south of town.  Of course they snagged me into signing up for a sales pitch with the offer of discounted golf here at the resort as well as a gift card before I had hardly finished registering for our campsite so we had a commitment for that before we'd be able to do our sightseeing.  But first we had to find our campsite and set up, which we did.  Too many trees for our DISH TV satellite, but the resort has decent cable so we were okay with that.  Cell phone reception is very spotty but the aircard works for Internet access with the use of the Wilson antenna and the amplifier so that was good.  What wasn't good was as soon as we had eaten Denny became nauseous and his back started hurting.  I gave him aspirin and he rested a while but when he said he was hurting worse I took him into town to the urgent care center which was getting ready to close up for the day.  The nurse practitioner said from Denny's symptoms and the location of the pain she thought he might be getting shingles rather than suffering from a kidney stone as he has in the past.  However, she didn't take a urine sample and told us simply to watch for a rash and to continue taking aspirin.  So I took Denny home.  Which only lasted a couple of hours before I had to drive him to the hospital ER in Baraboo, Wisconsin where it was discovered he had two 5 mm kidney stones.  After absorbing a full IV bag of medication for pain and nausea Denny was finally comfortable and after getting his prescriptions filled at an automated medication dispenser in the lobby of the hospital (because it was after midnight and there were no pharmacies open for 50 miles) we were able to leave, arriving back at the rig shortly before 1 AM.  That made for a pretty long travel day!

We were able to make the sales appointment on Monday but by Monday afternoon Denny was uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  Tuesday dawned pain free so we left early in the morning to ride the Ducks and take the boat tour of the upper Dells (another post) but by the time we were finished the pain was creeping back.  Yesterday was a very bad day with Denny staying in the recliner most of the day trying to find a comfortable position and having to make use of the pain meds.  Today so far there's no pain but he's still queasy/not hungry so I figure the stones are lurking around waiting to make their moves once again so we're just kind of hanging around waiting to see what will happen.  It's raining today so it's a good day to just hang around and the rest of the week may just be too hot and humid to play golf even if he felt good so we'll just play the wait-and-see game, hoping the kidney stones will pass soon.  I have to say, it certainly is hard to watch someone you love be in so much pain and not be able to do a thing about it.  Stupid stones.

The Wisconsin Dells area is really popular with families as there are water parks and miniature golf as well as an amusement park along with the various resorts and campgrounds, somewhat along the lines of a Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Baraboo is a few miles down the road with its circus museum and show and there are shops and touristy things to do all around the general area.  Denny and I located a farm stand and were able to enjoy some real field grown tomatoes and corn on the cob before he lost his appetite.  I think I'd like to come back to the area again, perhaps later in the season and minus the hospital visit and the kidney stones, of course.

Laying Low Again

Well, there's certainly no escaping the heat, is there?  No matter where you travel (unless you're on the Pacific coastline) it's hot and humid.  Blah.  Last week we had one breezy, not-up-in-the-100-degree day, so Denny and I went out to play golf but for the most part we were closeted in the Beast's air conditioned interior.  We did have a good day of thunderstorms as evidenced by the photo above but it didn't cool things down a bit.  During a break we wandered down to Big Pine Lake since our campground had a little bit of lakefront but most of it was taken up by the marina and so it wasn't a really pretty view.  Nice if you had a boat, though, and great for the fishermen.
Our campground was about 30 miles south of Detroit Lakes, a popular tourist area but there wasn't a ton of things to do in our general area and it was just too danged hot anyway.  The good news is that I didn't pick up any poison ivy from Patches who I simply could not keep out of the beds of it that lined the woods since that's where all the mice and ground squirrels played.  The great (gray and) white hunter actually reduced the rodent population a bit while we were there--of course once Patches catches a critter she has no idea of what to do with it.  She just knows she has to hunt.  Or as much as I'll allow her on a leash which isn't much but sometimes she manages to find something despite me.  And that was our exciting week.  Which if we had known what was coming the next week we would have appreciated the relaxation a bit more.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Medora Redux

I was all set to write a blog post about our return visit to Medora, North Dakota and its Pitchfork Fondue and Musical when I decided to check my journal from the year 2001.  Sure enough, I found our previous visit logged there on August 30, 2001.  So what follows is the narrative from 2001, but the photographs are from this year's visit since I didn't get a photograph of the steaks from the Pitchfork Fondue the last time around.  I've already blogged and posted photographs of our visit to the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park but this post has a little bit of additional information.
 Thursday. August 30- Denny started the morning off by changing the oil in the truck, then we dropped off the old oil. I had packed a picnic lunch and grabbed the cameras, so after that we headed for Medora and the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was about 33 miles away, and we stopped first at the Painted Canyon visitors’ center where we purchased a great bird book, then lunched while overlooking the Badlands. We then pushed on to Medora, the town on the edge of the park and decided we’d have to check out the town after doing the park, as it was all rustic buildings. We stopped at the Harold Schaefer center for our tickets to the Medora Musical that I had ordered, and Denny got to talking with an elderly volunteer who explained who Harold Schaefer was; he grew up in Bismarck, and was enamored of Teddy Roosevelt, and started marketing a product called Glass Wax, which became a huge hit, and then later he marketed Mr. Bubble, which was an even bigger hit. He wasn’t into the manufacturing end of the business, he’d just find a good product he believed in and then marketed the hell out of it, making the product successful. It worked, and he began pouring money into Medora to rebuild it. They have a nice little museum about his life and his company and it was really interesting. Anyway the old guy talked us into trying the “pitchfork fondue” dinner before the show, so we bought tickets to that also.
We headed into the park, and right away found the prairie dog cities. These were right next to the road, so the little guys just ignored the cars since they were so used to their presence, unlike the ones at the north unit where you had to hike back a mile to see them, so they were unused to people and no cars were around. We saw several elderly male lone bison, which the volunteer had explained were males no longer to fulfill their duties as stud and herd leader, so they were chased out by the herd to live out their remaining days alone. We also saw a herd of wild mustangs in the distance, but were unable to get close enough to take pictures. It is an awesome area and well worth the trip. After exploring the park, we wandered around town a little, then sat on a park bench and read the newspaper until it was time to head up to the dinner and show. The dinner consisted of crudities and dip, coleslaw, cubed melon, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, rolls, baked beans and brownies and a big rib eye steak which they threaded on a real pitchfork and dropped into huge vats of boiling oil, deep frying them. It seared the outsides and kept the juices inside. Boy were they good, and it was easy to cut them with the plastic utensils we were given. All this while sitting on top of the canyon overlooking the Badlands while the sunset and the almost full moon rose. Not bad. We chatted with one of the ticket takers for a while since we had an hour to kill, then went down to our seats for a really good show. When they introduced the members of the band we were very surprised to hear that the guitar player was from Beavercreek, Ohio!   We certainly didn’t expect that! There was lots of singing and dancing, a stand up comedian, a family of trampoline artists and horses and Teddy Roosevelt and good fiddle playing by a young lady from St. Louis, and fireworks and it was fun! It was a longish ride home on a very dark highway as we were tired, but it was a great day!
2012 version; this year immediately after dinner at the Pitchfork Fondue there was a "trick golfer" who supplied entertainment while we waited to be able to be seated for the Musical.  He did everything from standing on a ball on a table while hitting a golf ball to jumping rope on that same ball to hitting the ball left handed with the right handed driver being held backwards/upside down.  Denny and I spoke with him privately while waiting for our meal and Joey said that he practice 14 hours a day for years to develop his act.
 Before we could be seated for the show, a thunderstorm rolled in and the show was cancelled.  We exchanged our tickets for the next evening.  This is the view of the stage from our seats.
 The show starts off with "The Star Spangled Banner" after the cowboys ride onto the stage.
 It was children's night so there was a "bit" where all kids were invited on stage to receive a gift and be told a brief story.
 There are songs and dancing and a live band provides the music.
 Since Teddy Roosevelt built a cattle ranching business and a home here, there's always a section about Teddy.
And some audience participation during a segment involving long distance spitting and a spitoon (all pretend of course.)
It's all good clean fun.  And just to see who is paying attention--because the show was rained out when we exchanged our tickets we were given a second set of tickets to be used any time this year or any time next season until September of 2013.  If someone would like to see the show while traveling in North Dakota this year or next, let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thanks, Teddy

"I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."  That's a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, who came to North Dakota one summer to hunt and who ended up creating the Maltese Cross ranch with a couple of partners and then later building anther residence, Elkhorn Ranch, on his own.  After watching the decline of the bison due to non-stop hunting and disease and seeing the grasslands disappear because of overgrazing by cattle, Teddy Roosevelt became concerned about what was happening in the Dakotas and areas of the west.  Once he was elected president he created several national parks, created the US Forest Service and signed the US Antiquities Act, leading the way in preserving a great part of our heritage; our own beautiful country.

Eleven years ago Denny and I explored some of North Dakota, stopping at both the north and south units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This time around we stayed in a campground in the town of Medora which is the gateway to the south unit of the park.  Our stay here has seen temperatures reaching 100+ degrees on several days so when the day started out overcast Denny and I jumped in the truck hoping the slightly cooler temperatures would allow the animals of the park to show themselves.  According to the brochures handed out at the ranger station we had the potential to see bison, wild mustangs, deer, elk, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelopes, big horned sheep, badgers and coyotes that live here, but we only managed to see the deer, bison, wild mustangs and prairie dogs. 

The south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a visitor center near the entrance with a small museum, gift shop and the original Maltese Cross Ranch house which has been moved to its current location.

Once you've checked out the museum, toured the cabin and watched the brief video in the visitor center and checked out the ruins of the meat packing plant on the grounds it's time to jump in your vehicle and start driving the 36 mile loop in the park.  There are a lot of short hiking trails near the overlooks as well as longer hikes throughout the park.  There are also riding trails and a stable that has guided horseback tours available if that's your inclination.  Just bring along a lot of water.  There are also primitive campgrounds available within the park; there are no hook ups there but there are restrooms.

But the main attraction here is miles and miles of scenery and rugged, rocky terrain softened by areas of cottonwoods along the Little Missouri River that winds throughout the park. 

What you won't find here are crowds--this is sort of off the beaten path although its entrance is just a couple of miles from an interstate exit.  So you can wander at your leisure, being enveloped in the scent of sagebrush and immersed in the sounds of silence.  Which we did until the thunderstorms rolled in and we rolled out.
Of course, I have to close with an "awwww" moment; this wild mustang foal who was all tuckered out from being so darned cute.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Getting Partially Around Custer State Park

One of our favorite state parks is Custer State Park in South Dakota.  The last time we were here was the week of September 11 in the year of 2001 so that was a very weird and somewhat somber time to be visiting Mt. Rushmore and Custer SP so we thought we'd visit the park at a different time period.  I was surprised that the park wasn't more crowded with tourists, but then again, we were still suffering through 100+ degree heat here in South Dakota.

The visitor fee of $15 per vehicle might seem a bit steep until you realize that it allows you access to the park for a period of seven days; not bad.  This time around we entered from the eastern side of the park and headed south on the Wildlife Loop.  It wasn't long before we discovered one of several large herds of bison blocking traffic, so we settled in to take some photographs and a couple video clips.

This one makes you think of the buffalo nickel, doesn't it?  These guys are huge, weighing about a ton.  If you see a lone male buffalo, they are normally the older males who have fought for their herd of females and lost.  The older, losing male will then spend the rest of his days alone.
The bison have no fear of vehicles and simply amble across the roadway at will, assuming traffic will stop for them.  The truck pulled off near the center left of the photo below is a park ranger with a whip (I asked if it was to force the tourists to move along and got a grin from him).  I assume the whip was to assist in getting the bison to move if they blocked traffic for too long or created too much of a back up.
The wild donkeys are descended from animals that were once available for trail rides in the park.  When that business was closed, the donkeys were simply let go to live free in the park.  They are the park's beggars and will pretty much eat anything that's offered to them.
This little guy was not only adorable, but his coat was unbelievably soft.  He accepted pats and ear rubs but still preferred mom's milk to any treats being offered.  That's mom poking her head into the picture on the lower right.

Circling west and then north you arrive at Needles Highway.  There are three tunnels on this route, the smallest being 8'4" wide and 12' tall and the next smallest being 10' wide and only 10' tall.  It was at the 10' tall tunnel that we saw a Class C RV trying to figure out what they were going to do because they were too tall to enter and the roadway behind them (2 lane) was a long series of hairpin switchbacks.  I will say that when you enter the park you are given a booklet that has a map that lists all the interior roadway, all the tunnels and all the height and width limitations on said tunnels.  So no excuses for folks who get stuck.

 Needles Highway was named for the tall spires of rock jutting out of the ground in this section of the park.  It's quite a change from the rolling hills of the Wildlife Loop.

Can you see the resemblance to a bear in the yellowish rock below?
This time around we only saw bison and pronghorn antelope.  Our last time through we also saw big horn sheep, although there are also mountain goats, elk, and a couple of varieties of deer that live in the park.

Originally there were 50,000 forested acres in the park.  Wildfires have burned 23,000 of those acres, some of that thanks to the pine beetles that are killing the trees, turning them to tinder.  Trees that have been damaged by the pine beetles turn red/brown like those below and whole mountain sides are covered with these dying trees.

If you enlarge the photo above, you'll notice the kayakers.  This is Sylvan Lake, where there are boat rentals and a beach for swimming as well as hiking trails and picnic tables.  Another nice area for a picnic is by Legion Lake.  There are several campgrounds within the park, most of which have at least a few electric sites and fishing is permitted after you purchase a license.  Rock climbing is also permitted within the park and there are ranger talks and children's programs as well.
This bridge is actually located on Hwy 16 north of Custer State Park but is attractive because it's made of wood.  Somehow the huge beams were bent (I assume by soaking in water) and formed into these huge arches.  It's a lovely piece of work.
There is so much to see and do in the Rapid City area but I have to admit, I think I prefer the area after Labor Day when the crowds are a bit smaller.  I'm sure we'll be back to this area again.
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