We stayed with friends in Yankton, South Dakota last week. It was a nice long weekend visit. I played golf twice while Louise got her quota of card games. We shared plans and updated each other on family matters. As we left, we had a two travel days planned on our way to the Denver area where we are now. As we pulled away we began talking about the possibilities. I asked if Louise would enjoy a drive along the South Dakota border and what roads were there for us to travel? She looked at the map in her lap and gave me a suggested route. We departed to the north on US 81 to SD Hwy 46. The roads were good and traffic was light. I set the cruise on 55 and we enjoyed a leisurely trip. The speed felt right on this narrow two lane road with no shoulder. At Pickstown we left Hwy 46 for Hwy 18 which took us across the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River. This is a beautiful valley with a nice view of Lake Francis Case as you descend into the valley.
Along the southern border of South Dakota are a number of Sioux Reservations. The population is sparse thorough this area with scattered farms. A succession of small towns gave glimpses into life in this part of the state. In the Rosebud Reservation we turned south on US 83 and drove to the South Dakota State Line. We pulled into the Rosebud Casino parking lot for a place to stay for the night. We shared the lot with one other motor home and several trucks. The night was quiet and we awoke the next morning, ate breakfast and continued on south into Nebraska and the town of Valentine.
South of Valentine US 83 passes into the realm of the Nebraska Sand Hills. Once a desert, the sand dunes now support grasslands with low areas exposing the high water table in the area. These low spots form marshy lakes which can be seen for miles along this scenic highway. There are no streams here, water simply pools and sinks into the sandy soil.
Near the town of Thedford US 83 joins Nebraska Hwy 2. At the intersection of the two highways is the Thomas County Fairgrounds and a parking area with information about the Sand Hills. We made this a lunch stop and enjoyed learning more about the Sand Hills and their history.
We have driven Hwy 2 before but I wanted to travel west toward Hyannis and Nebraska Hwy 61. The scenery along Hwy 2 is beautiful and this time of year everything was green and vibrant. There were hay fields that look like they should be greens on a golf course. Hwy 61 turned out to be a very narrow two lane road. With very little traffic, it was a pleasant drive. The Sand Hills just went on and on. There was so little traffic on this road that I noticed there were grasshoppers sitting on the roadway. We were driving right over them - wrong! When we stopped for the night I found them all on the lower portion of the nose of the motor home, about as high as a grasshopper can jump! I got out the scrub brush and washed them off before they got baked on.
We stopped to stretch our legs in the town of Arnold. Like many towns in the area, there were many old buildings. Unlike other small towns, these buildings were still kept in good condition and many being used. There was a hotel with a magnificent frieze depicting cattle and a cowboy. Across the street a small cottage labeled the Old Cowboy Rest Home. On the rail fence out in front were four saddles. We parked in front of the tack shop which had a sign that said Fed Ex Keep Off. Someone had issues! Leaving town we passed the cemetery which had a fence in front. Each fence post had a boot inverted atop the post.
As we approached I-80 we drove across the dam on the North Platte River that forms Lake McConaughy, the largest lake in Nebraska. The recreation area around this lake is one of the prime vacation and recreation areas in Nebraska according to the information presented on signs in the area. There were numerous storage areas with huge numbers of RV in storage for the coming winter.
Once on I-80 we quickly turned south on I-75 to Denver. At Julesburg there is a very nice welcome area and rest stop on I-75. We made that our stop for the night. During the night I awoke to hear a chirp. It wasn't a cricket, it was an electronic chirp. I listened and heard it again. After several more I decided I had to investigate. It was of course the smoke detector. I took it down and removed the battery. Then I heard the chirp again. We have three smoke detectors, an after effect of a fire safety seminar at an FMCA rally. One is in the bedroom, another is in the cockpit and the third is Louise's cooking timer, located above the stove! Before I went back to bed I changed the batteries in all three detectors. Louise mused that the battery life alarm always goes off in the middle of the night.
We awoke the next morning to news that Denver had washed away overnight. Heavy rain and flooding, cars washing away in roaring creeks, homes flooded, and loss of life. The sky looked like more rain and indeed most of the way to Denver we drove in rain. Approaching Denver we saw the runoff basins along the highway filled with water. Small creeks and larger streams were roaring with muddy water. A low spot in the campground we are staying in is flooded, including several sites which now have no occupant. We unhook the car in a steady rain. It lets up and I get our utilities hooked up. I start to take the tow hardware off the car and the rain resumes. That's it, I'm soaked, time for a nice warm shower and something to eat. Tonight the furnace is running. Rain on the roof always makes for a good night of sleep. Tonight we are camped well up the hill at Dakota Ridge RV. We won't worry about high water.