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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where do bad people go????

To the Badlands, of course.  More specifically, Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  And you don’t have to be bad to go there as they let us in with no trouble.

Actually we made 4 major stops today.  First to the Prairie Homestead, then to the Minuteman Missile Display, then through the Badlands National Park, and finally to the famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD.

We got up early to get going as we knew it would get hot.  (Eventually, the temp as registered by the car thermometer reached 97!)  We drover about 90 miles out to the road that goes into the Badlands NP.  But first on the road for us was the Prairie Homestead.

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This homestead was occupied beginning in the early 1900s by the Brown family.

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Because of the lack of wood, they actually built the portion on the left with 3 walls and a roof made out of sod.  Later, the portion on the right was moved from another location and attached to the house.  The old portion has a clay floor and the new part has a wooden one.

I’m going to let Carol tell more about this part of our day as she has more pictures for sure and is also more of an expert on this topic.

Here is a movie I made of the visit (about 2 minutes or so).

Prairie Homestead Sod House Video

After visiting the Prairie Homestead, we backtracked a couple of miles to the Minuteman Missile Exhibit.  This was interesting to me because I was in the Air Force and worked in the Directorate of Operations for the 15th Air Force.  15th AF had command of all the land based ballistic missile wings and so I was very familiar with the Minuteman Missiles.  If you don’t know much about them, you can click here to read an article for more information.

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I thought this poster pretty much says it all.  The missile flight time is 30 minutes and delivery is guaranteed or your next one is free!  (of course you won’t survive to make your claim).

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Each 10 missiles was controlled by a Launch Control Facility (LCF) pictured above.  The 10 missiles were in a ring several miles away from each other and the LCF.  Each squadron had 5 LCFs or 50 missiles and each Wing was composed of three squadrons, or 150 missiles.  There were 6 bases that had the missile wings and all were commanded by 15AF where I worked.  There were always two officers on duty in each LCF and they would wait for the appropriate go-codes to launch their missiles.  Fortunately, that message never came!

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Above is a picture of one of the actual missile sites.  At one time, there were about 1000 of these scattered all over Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Missouri.  Now only the Minuteman 3 sites remain as the others were deactivated through the START treaties.

Next we drove about 5 miles further and came to the park entrance for the Badlands National Park.  Of course our $10 lifetime senior pass got us in with no problem.  (If you are over 62 and don’t  have one of these passes, you are missing out on a great deal.)

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The sky in this area was really affected by the wildfires still burning in Colorado and Wyoming.  So the contrast in the pictures is not as good as we would have liked.

Again, Carol will probably have better pictures on her blog as she touches them up.  Be sure to see her entry at Carolksjourney.

I did produce a 3 minute video which shows some of the highlights of our visit.  You can view it below:

Badlands National Park

 

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I found this formation to be interesting and unique.  We saw it just before we drove onto the plains and out of the park.  Not sure why the two columns are left standing, but it is different than the other rock formations in the park.

Our drive through the park was about 45 miles total and when we left the park, we were only a few miles from Walls Drug Store in Wall, SD.  Carol will have more detail on this very interesting city and stop.

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Look carefully at the above picture.  You can see the tourists engaging in the great pastime of prairie dog watching!

Friday, June 29, 2012

So what state are we in, anyway?

Nope, it is not the state of confusion…..we are in South Dakota!  Specifically in Piedmont, just northwest of Rapid City.  Or to put it another way, 1262.5 miles from home.

We left Sundance this morning at 9:25.  After about 17 miles East on I-90 we crossed from Wyoming into South Dakota.  Stopped at the Wal-Mart in Spearfish so Carol could stock up on some items for the RV and one of her sewing projects.  While she was shopping, I stayed in the RV with the generator and AC on.

Then we arrived at High Plains Campground right behind Jack’s Campers.  It is about 14 miles from Rapid City.  It is hot here, temp in the mid 90s.  We will be here 4 nights and all that time the temperature is going to be in the 90s.  So our two air conditioners will get a real workout.

We gassed the car up before leaving Sundance and the station had their prices on the sign below.

gas prices

I think we now know who was confused!

Tomorrow we are planning to go out east to Wall, SD, and to a sod house from the frontier days.  We will also plan to visit Ellsworth AFB and their Minuteman Missile Museum.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Devil has a Tower, you say????

Yup, that’s right, today we visited Devils Tower in SW Wyoming.  It was going to be another hot day (the temp is 94 as I write this) so we knew to get up and get going before it got too hot.

Good thing we did too!  When we got to the tower, about a 30 mile drive from the RV Park, it was already warming up.  There are several trails you can take to hike in the area.  We chose the 1.2 mile trail that actually goes around the base of the tower just outside the boulder field.

This is supposed to be the easies hike in the park but it was challenging enough.  First the trail goes up and down and starts out with a nice steep climb.  The good news is that it is a paved path which is really nice as it winds through parts of the boulder field, it is not an ankle-twisting worrisome walk over loose ground.

It took us over an hour to make the walk.  We had both our hiking sticks (collapsible poles) and our hiking bags with two water bottles each.  We saw many people on the path but very few were carrying water.  It is very easy to get dehydrated on the walk, especially in the hot sun.  The path did have many benches for resting and scenic picture taking spots along the way.

It took us over an hour to make the walk!  That’s primarily because of all the climbs and the great spots where we just had to stop and take pictures!

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View from the road about 7 miles away.

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A closer view, but still nowhere near the actual park.

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A view of the small visitor center near the base of the tower.  Unfortunately, this is a very small center and does not have a movie as most others do.

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Here is a great view of the tower with the sun behind it.  This is as we started our hike.  Later when we finished, the same view would be totally in the sun.

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A view about 20% of the way along the path.

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A close-up picture of the previous shot, this one focused in just above the boulder field.  You can see the cracks in the rock.  Water gets in the cracks and expands when it freezes and plant roots also go in the cracks and push on the rock.  Both of these forces eventually cause boulders to fall down into the “boulder field” at the base of the tower.

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Here you can see the vertical columns that make up the tower.  The columns are thought to form as the magma cooled unevenly.

 

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Here is a close-up of the columns from the previous picture.

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As you drive up to the tower area, you pass several large fields that are invested with these little creatures.  There are literally hundreds of them in the fields.  I tried to do a quick segmented count to get an estimate but they kept going down into their holes and popping up somewhere else!

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We went to lunch at a town called Aladdin.  The place was not the greatest.  (Carol may have more details on her blog).  All I can say is that I should have known better when Carol said the population used to be 18.  There has to be a reason!

Tomorrow we head to Piedmont, SD for a few days.

If you want to see my 2 minute movie on our visit to Devils Tower, you can see it in the panel below.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A trip back through time…..

Today we got up early and took the car to visit the site of Little Big Horn Battle where General Custer and about 300 members of the 7th Calvary fought 5000 plus members of the Lakota Indian tribe and other aligned tribes.

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As you arrive in the parking lot you can easily see the burial sites of  veterans.  (not those from the battle, but from later wars)

Custer split his forces several times to try to flank the Indians.  One group, under Major Reno, was able to partly escape.  None of the others survived.

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A view of the area that gives you some idea of the terrain on which the battle was fought.  The sky is very smoky due to all the wildfires.

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A view looking up the hill where the remaining soldiers and officers, including Gen. Custer fell.

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A marker at the spot where his body was recovered.  It was first buried onsite with all those who fell that day.  Later, the remains of the officers were moved to various locations around the country.  General Custer’s remains were re-interred at West Point.

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The memorial to the approximately 65 Indian warriors who fell that day.

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The memorial listing all those who died on the U.S. side of the battle.  I made a short (3 minute) video of our visit.  You can click on it below to view.  There is no sound with it.

Little Big Horn Battle Field.

Every year on June 25th, they have a re-enactment of the battle.  Of course, we visited on June 27th!  Argghhh!!!

After returning to the RV and getting everything ready to depart, we left at 10:15.  There was no wind today and the temps were in the 80s which was much nicer.  Unfortunately, for all but the last 50 miles or so, the sky was covered in smoke from the wildfires.

We are now in Sundance, WY and will stay here two nights.  Tomorrow we will visit Devils Tower national monument.  It is about 30 miles each way from here.  Hope to have more video & pics to share.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

That Dear Came With Me to Hardin, MT

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That “dear” who was with me at Deer Lodge, MT made it to Hardin, MT with me today!  The above picture is of the campground from the inside window of the RV.  Carol is just getting ready to leave on a local exploration trip of the town.

The camp ground is not the most scenic or the best developed, but it has all we need for a night’s stay.  50 amp power, Wi-Fi, good satellite, water, sewer, and a reasonably level site.  My leveling jacks can adjust for most sites.  The 50 amp power is a must because it is unseasonably hot today – over 106.  But there is only 7% humidity which helps and tomorrow the high is a more normal 84 which will be even better.

The drive from Deer Lodge to here is 251 miles.  We left at 8:25 and arrived at 3:15 after several stops including lunch.  It is so nice to pull into a rest area, fire up the generator, and then turn the AC units on.  They cool the rv down very quickly.

It was a very windy drive.  Winds were between 30-40 mph with gusts over 50 at times.  Unfortunately, most of the time, they were a direct cross wind.  With the large slab side RV, I often had to quickly slow down.   When the wind would gust, it would push me into the other lane if I wasn’t ready for it.  We often were travelling between 50 and 55 mph when I normally go 65 on the interstate if the road was in good condition.  The winds were worst in Livingston and for that 25 miles or so, we were down to 45 and slower just to keep on the road.  Thankfully this Bounder has the large tires and that helped a lot.  Our old Bounder would have just made unexpected full lane changes in this wind.

Tomorrow the wind is supposed to abate down to about 10-15mph or so.  We plan to get up early and go 15 miles to the Valley of the Little Big Horn and see the battle site.  Apparently there is a drivable 5 mile road through the battle site you can go on.  The RV Park has some of the trail narration CDs and they loan them out to guests to go to the trail.  So we have one and will get up early tomorrow and give it a try.

Apparently it is no place for a hike though as it is infested with rattlesnakes!  Maybe I can get a picture of them!

Last night I was thinking of staying up and checking out the stars.  But since we were on the western edge of the Mountain time zone, the sunset was quite late and I was too tired.  Now that we are closer to the eastern edge of that zone, maybe I can do it tonight if it is not too windy.

Tomorrow after visiting Little Big Horn, we will drive 250 miles to Sundance, WY.  We will stay there two nights and visit Devil’s Tower on Thursday.  It was featured in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and should be interesting to see.  Also, that is when the Supremes are supposed to rule on Obama Care so by staying put, we can let our DVR record the news and we can watch it later.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Are there any Deer at Deer Lodge, MT???

The short answer is NO, I haven’t seen any!  Of course, I did bring a “dear” with me, but she wasn’t here earlier.

We left Post Falls at 8:30 under mostly sunny skies.  Lots of little puffy clouds, but no real concentrations.  We arrived at about 3:45 local time but since we traversed a time zone boundary, it was 2:45 pacific. 

Just after leaving one of the rest areas, a state trooper when racing by with lights and siren.  I was doing about 65 and he must have been close to or over 100mph. There was an accident along the way up the road which happened a few minutes before we got there.  The traffic was totally stopped on the road and we could see the flashing lights about a half mile up the road.

After about a 15 minute delay, one lane was opened and we slowly passed the wreck.  Seems a mini-van towing a travel trailer had jack-knifed and flipped the trailer and the van.  A patrol helicopter landed at the accident site which is probably why the freeway was closed.  Carol will probably have some pictures of this.

About half a mile down from the accident there was another major accident.  This time a car appeared to lose control and flip several times.  There were bystanders trying to get into the crushed car and a state trooper had just arrived as we went passed.

Carol’s theory (and I agree with her) is that the car in the second accident may have caused the first accident by pulling in front of the mini-van causing the driver to brake hard.  Since the trailer probably had more weight than the van, it took control and flipped.

It is quite warm here (unseasonably so according to the campground staff) but our air conditioners are working well.

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Above is a picture looking out our front window.  (At Donna K’s request, I did not take any pictures while driving!)  We are sitting at 4,389 feet altitude and the air is very clear.  Maybe tonight might be a good night to check out the stars.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where is Ida’s Hoe?

Well, that’s where we are!  Post Falls, Idaho.   We are on the way to the Black Hills area of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore.  We left at 8:50 this morning and after 381.1 miles, 2 fuel stops, 3 rest area stops, and only 2 light rain showers, here we are 7 hours and 50 minutes later.  It was a fairly uneventful trip (so far).

When we left home, the sky was cloudy and we hit two or three light rain showers.  Once we were through the Gorge, it was scattered clouds and bright sunlight with temps mostly in the high 70s.  There was some periods of wind, but nothing that slowed us down.

The price of gas here is 34 cents cheaper than just down the road 2 miles across the border back into Washington.  Must be the highway taxes.

Tomorrow we head for Deer Lodge, MT, a distance of about 255.583 miles, give or take a few feet.  We are trying to time the trip so that we are there by 4pm MDT so we can watch Special Report on Fox News Channel and see, what, if anything, the Supremes did on Obama care and the Arizona Immigration case.

Sorry I don’t have any pics for today.  Carol frowns on me taking pictures while cruising down the highway at 65mph for some reason.  And I am too tired now to go outside.  I had a semi-pro football game to officiate last night and am still somewhat tired from that.  So if you want pics, be sure to visit Carol’s blog at Carol Ks Journey