Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bad bad Badlands!

July 10, 2007
Hill City to Mitchell, SD

339.2 miles
WINDY!!! Way too windy!!!
The sun rose on a clear cool morning, and I packed up and headed out, but I stopped first to take a helicopter tour of the area!

I took the Harney Peak tour, which included Sylvan Lake, the Mt. Coolidge Fire Tower and the Crazy Horse Memorial! Gave me an opportunity for some more great pictures!

Among other things, we were lucky enough to see a Golden Eagle floating along looking for a snack, and then being attacked by some smaller birds, maybe hawks! He was beautiful - I haven't seen pictures from above - the colors in his spread wings were glorious!!

There is only one manned fire tower now in the area - this one is not it - this is the Mt. Coolidge Fire Tower, which has been abandoned for some time. It was originally built of wood, but had been struck by lightning. It was rebuilt of stone and is now a historical site. As you might guess, it's the high point on this ridge!

The Sylvan Lake is a popular recreation area - and serves as the water source for this entire area!

We saw a herd of about 80 buffalo, which a rancher brings here for the summer and moves back north for the winter. There are plenty of wild buffalo left roaming the mountains too. I saw one big old bruiser was walking down the road blocking traffic in front of me the previous afternoon - he wasn't the least bit worried about us. He was bigger than most of the cars! Sorry I cut off his forehead - he had finally decided to hightail it outta there!

Saw a herd of pronghorn deer yesterday too, crossing the road!

Back to the helicopter - then it was off to Crazy Horse, with views most folks can't see!

He looks almost Egyptian there, doesn't he?!!

Then it was back to the barn, and my little ol' house taking up most of the parking lot!

Great start to my day!!
Saw the bikers again as I headed north to Rapid City and then east. A tough bunch, I tell you!

The wind came up when I got out of the mountains - and I mean it was blowing! I should have retreated back to the safety of the mountains, but I didn't think it would last. Yeah, right. Cross wind howling into my side window the entire day - made for a LONG bloody day! Prairie the entire way across the State - with the grass laying down flat! Even the cattle had bunched up close together for protection from the bloody wind!

There are billboards for miles around - at least 50 miles in all directions - for Wall Drug, the everything store for everyone, in the town of Wall. I figured I had to see what all the commotion was about, but when I got there, the town was jammed with tourists, and the only parking for a beast my size was almost a mile from the famous Wall Drug. I passed on it, but the drive thru the main part of town reminded me of Tombstone . . . cute, touristy, and fun. Maybe next time!

I almost by-passed the little side trip thru the Badlands, but decided I might as well do it, since I was already there. And, oh my heavens, what a place. I turned through a bend in the road and there was the most incredible landscape!

What a surprise - and what a spectacular vista! the colors, the layers, the wear and tear and melting - gorgeous! Looks like a perfect place for the astronauts to practice moon walking!!

I'd been in grassland - where did this place come from? Wild, harsh, arid, colorful, and unbelievably beautiful!

By the time I left the Badlands, the day was already getting old. I had a long way to go to my RV park for the evening in Mitchell, so I just held on tight and kept going. In the wind, it's a battle the entire way, fighting the gusts. I had to wonder if it was normal - the rest areas all had little chapels in the parking lots - as if people needed to say thanks and ask for help to continue!
My hands still ache today, and my shoulders and my elbows, for gawd sake! I slept 11 hours last night, and I'm still exhausted! Decided to stay an extra day here to get caught up and recuperate!

Mama Nature at her Best

July 8, 2007
Lusk, WY to Hill City, SD

The Black Hills
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Memorial
and so much more

141.0 miles
from Sunshine into a Downpour

More miles today of range land and rolling hills of green grass! Lovely countryside!

Then, ahead, maybe some rain in my near future?

By the time I reached the horizon, there were mountains ahead - dark in color - gee, do you suppose that's where they got the name Black Hills?

And I was running into the bikers again (not literally, thank you very much - although they do continue to ride in the middle of the highway!) . . . they're on quite a trip!

This country is simply beyond spectacular - every turn brings another magnificent vista. I worried for the bikers though, because I entered an area heavy with smoke curling along the ground - there was a major fire someplace close, which was getting to my eyes and nose, and they had to cycle through it while already struggling to breathe. You may have heard of the fire near Hot Springs - the Alabaugh fire (I think), and last I heard it was still not under control.

I drove into a very heavy downpour as I was nearing my destination, which was a good thing since my driver's side windshield wiper quit working - the Gulf Stream coach continues to impress!

The rain let up long enough for me to get set up at the Crooked Creek RV park, and then stopped completely shortly thereafter, so I rented a car and Penny and I did a little touring.

There's a twisting/turning road circling through the Mount Rushmore National Monument area, and Sylvan Lake, over Iron Mountain Road. They warn you not to take a large vehicle (like my RV) over these roads - that there are some tunnels that are just too tiny. Well, they're right!

The views around each curve were marvelous - the 'take your breath away' kind of views. And then there was a little tunnel with this opening before your eyes as you drove thru it.

Oh, my! No one seemed surprised when I stopped traffic to take that shot through my windshield! As I wound through the rocky forest, I got closer and closer to the sculpture and was able to get many more great shots as I drove along!
and one spectacular profile of the Father of our Country!

The whole time I was wishing my cameraman (camera woman!!) was along (Sooz, where are you??) - there were so many photo ops, and unfortunately I had to spend most of my time concentrating on the road and the other crazies trying to get pictures while they were driving!

There are a number of lovely stories about the artist, Gutzon Borglum, and the story of the development of this monument. One interesting take on it can be seen at Probably not a very PC opinion! Especially since this is so phenomenal, no matter how it may please some critics!

The Crazy Horse Memorial is much more accessible, and, as you probably know, is a work in progress.

This is a picture (copied off the net) of what the finished product will look like and the work as it is now.

A terrific site to get the whole story about Crazy Horse himself, and the memorial, can be found at

There is so much to see and do in the Black Hills - you definitely need more time than I had, to do it right. . .the Black Elk Wilderness, Harney Peak, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Centennial Trail, Devils Tower National Monument, Dinosaur Park, George S. Mickelson Trail, Jewel Cave National Park, Mt. Coolidge Fire Tower, the Northern Plains Heritage Center, the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, Chapel in the Hills (a replica of an 850 year old Norwegian chapel), Cleghorn Springs Fish Hatchery, Wind Cave National Park, Speakfish Canyon, Bear Country USA, Big Thunder Gold Mine, the Black Hills Caverns, Christmas Village, the Cosmos Mystery Area, Custer State Park, Old MacDonald's Farm, Rushmore Tramway/President's Alpine Slide, and, of course, the Badlands, but that's another day! I'm sure there are many more activities that I missed! All in all, a marvelous part of our country!

On Monday, I took the coach to the shop to get an oil change and to get the windshield wiper taken care of. I suggested to the mechanic that it acted like it had come loose, which thankfully was the problem. A new wiper motor would have been a disastrous problem. Two nuts were tightened down and all is well again for a while!

The drive to the shop took me to the little town of Rockerville,
where they have a lot of history involving the trains of the early days. There are several different engines and carriages and these, that look like they've been in a fire and need a little more restoration!

The Black Hills are worth another visit!

Crooked Creek Resort 
24184 S Hwy 385/16
Hill City, SD  57745


July 7, 2007
Denver, CO to Lusk, WY

283.4 miles
Lovely day!

I learned a lot today! About a half hour north of Denver I thought I spotted an oil bird –

your know, those funny looking birds that keep pecking the ground looking for oil?

I was surprised to see it, and then saw several more. I had no idea there was oil in Colorado – so I looked it up on the net when I stopped that night.

I learned it's been revealed that what is probably the world's largest oil source, yet untapped, is known to exist in our country and is now ready to be tapped - Colorado oil shale, in what may be over TWO TRILLION gallons of oil. According to The Wall Street Journal: "(When the oil is extracted)...America would become the world's single biggest oil source, exceeding Saudi Arabia's proven reserves of 261 billion barrels." More information can be found at

The area is the Green River Formation — a barren stretch of land covering portions of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Each acre holds 2 million barrels of oil.

I thought Colorado was famous for Coors beer – I’ve not seen a single Coors facility, but Budweiser is very present in almost every city I’ve driven through – like today in Ft. Collins, where CSU is located.

Again today, I passed thru miles and miles and miles of range land, rolling hills with nothing but grass, hardly a tree

– an occasional sign announcing so-and-so ranch, but not a ranch house in sight. I couldn’t help thinking of the settlers crossing the prairies so long ago in their covered wagons, wondering if they’d ever see water again. I’m sure they weren’t drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Then suddenly the land ends, falls away, down to a little creek, green trees – they find a way down and chug down their first cool fresh drink in days to quench their parched throats - it’s so beautiful, some choose to stay. They name their little community Chugwater! Don’t you just love it when a story comes together!

And then I learned another lesson – two really neat lessons in one day!! There’s coal mining is this area! Lots of it! I started seeing trains pulling over a hundred cars each, full to the brim with coal! I found a study showing that Colorado and Wyoming are two of the largest producers of coal in the nation!

Colorado produces 85 percent of its electricity by burning coal to produce steam to turn steam turbines, compared to 52 percent nationwide. Pretty impressive! And strangely enough, Colorado utilities don’t burn much Colorado coal - low-sulfur Colorado coal is expensive because it is mined underground, but it is in demand in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky where the Clean Air Act is forcing utilities to burn lower-sulfur coal blends. Colorado utilities mostly buy cheaper surface-mined coal from the strip mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, which produces about 38% of the nation’s coal. If you want more info, check and

Crossed the North Platte River near Douglas, WY, and passed the large metropolis of Lost Springs, with a population of 1 (as in ‘one’) at 4,995 feet. Interesting, ‘cause there was what appeared to be a small church, a home, a grocery and another building – a lot for one person!

Started passing a bunch of bicyclists, with jerseys saying “America by Bicycle” – probably about 30 of them, spread out over several miles…young and older. Quite a ride for them, because there are some serious steep grades here! I admire them their choice of adventure, but wish they’d stay in their own lane. Riding two or three abreast on the grades is kind of rude, I think, on these two lane roads. When I slow down for them, they can get back up to speed before I can!

Arrived in Lusk, Wyoming, “the gateway to the Black Hills of South Dakota to the north, and Yellowstone and the Grand Teton Parks to the west . . . where over 100 years ago the famous Cheyenne and Black Hills Trail and Texas Trail ran through the area giving us a strong western heritage.” As they say, if you like wide open spaces, fresh air and plenty of sunshine, you’ll like it here! That pretty much covers it! Lovely place to spend the night!

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