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We left Wounded Knee with a desire to return on another day. Early morning on Sunday and a holiday weekend as well are not the best time to visit most any site. Driving on west we passed through the town of Pine Ridge the largest community of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Entering town it looks to be a pretty typical community. As we turned south and left town we saw the underbelly of the community. It was a sad site to see many older native Americans living in poverty, I have added a link for the American Indian Relief Council for those who would like to join us in holding out a helping hand to those in need. A short distance south of town we entered Nebraska. This is a state which never held much interest for me until I discovered some of the interesting and amazing features of the state. Several years ago we took our grandsons on a tour through Nebraska and South Dakota. We visited the State Museum on the campus of Nebraska University in Lincoln, Nebraska. The state has numerous paleontology sites and this museum administers all of them. We visited several sites with the boys, Ashfall Fossil Beds with the most amazing collection of fossilized rhinoceroses you will ever see. The other site was the Trailside Museum of Natural History at Fort Robinson State Park. The latter has some amazing mammoth skeletons as well as some interesting history from the American Indian Wars. We have driven US Hwy 20 across northern Nebraska and enjoyed the relaxed trip through the Great Plains. This time we would drive Nebraska Highway 87 and 71 to I-80 and then on to Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of the newly discovered surprises was the scenery of the Nebraska Sandhills around Scottsbluff. We made a pass through the area but will definitely return to see more of the scenery here on another trip. The weathered sandstone hills and cliffs are beautiful and deserve some additional scrutiny and photography. This route connects to I-80 just a few miles east of Cheyenne which was our destination for the day. We stopped to fill the diesel tank before reaching the campground. I put 112 gallons of diesel in our 127 gallon tank, by my records the emptiest it has ever been! The RV park we had selected for the night was AB Camping and RV Park just south of I-80 and east of I-25. As we pulled into the park we could smell the barbeque. This wasn't just a fellow camper preparing a meal, this was real restaurant BBQ. We were parked by their restaurant. We registered, parked and returned to the restaurant for a fine BBQ meal. We enjoyed a quiet evening and then left mid-morning for the Denver area. I inquired about a place where I could wash the motor home as we had been driving for several days on wet roads. We had no luck so had to roll into the next park looking pretty ragged and dirty. The toad really looked terrible. We arrived at South Park in Englewood, Colorado about 2:00 in the afternoon. The office was closed on Labor Day but our parking assignment was posted on the office door. We pulled the sheet and unhooked the toad. South Park wasn't our first choice, it is on the south side of Denver and everyone we know lives on the north side of town. Staying in this park meant that we would drive across town each time we visited family. For this reason we planned to stay here only six nights before moving to another park. When we made reservations this was the only park we could find with a site and then only for the six nights. Fortunately, our preferred park, Dakota Ridge, had space available starting on the seventh night through the remainder of the length of our stay. I found out later that we were not only looking for a site in a large city on the end of a holiday weekend but there was also a PGA Golf Tournament in town. It ended the day we were able to move to Dakota Ridge so I believe that the golf tournament may have played a roll in the scarcity of campsites available the first week of September. One of the pluses that we didn't expect with South Park is that they allow washing vehicles. The toad went to a car wash but I spent Wednesday morning washing the motor home. It was a quick wash but made a huge difference in its appearance. So we left South Park on Sunday morning with a clean motor home and a clean toad. At Dakota Ridge we have additional elevation and a view of some of the hogback ridges that make up the Front Range of the Rockies. We also have a little more wind and we've had our first snowflakes of the fall. The furnace has had several nights of heavy duty work as temperatures hovered just above freezing. Today the temperature was in the low 80's. The forecast indicates that we will have fair weather and warm temperatures until our departure on Wednesday.
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.
It is hard for me to add things to my BLOG when we are living in our fixed home. Now that we're back in the motor home for the summer I have dozens of things to write about. At home I've been busy settling in for two years now, kind of like a dog turning around several times before it finds just the right spot to lay down. During this period of settling in I am afraid that I've been pretty much ignoring the motor home through the winter. It's plugged in and we keep minimal heat and air conditioning on to keep the interior in top shape. When we hit the road this spring we found out all the things that had quit during the winter. As I explained to Louise, if we were living in it through the winter these things would have occurred one at a time rather than all in the first week back on the road. The list is long, but not overwhelming. We will be making repair stops as we travel. Our first three stops have been complete wash-outs, 0 for 3. Things will get better, I know it. Our first stop out of the blocks was at the Lone Star Chapter of FMCA rally in Rockport, Texas. Being new residents of Texas I want to be involved with a local chapter and Herman Mullins has been inviting us to join for several years so we had to give it a try. We got a royal welcome from the assembled membership. Herman was there to help us get parked! We found lots of friendly people and plenty of good food. We managed to drum up a golf game the first morning of the rally. A happy hour circle, games and other activities gave us plenty of opportunity to get aquainted with the 40+ members at this rally. To top it all off, I was on the championship bean-bag toss baseball game and got a ten dollar signing bonus! That was topped off when we got our official chapter license plate. And then we ran off with the grand prize in the door prize drawing. We actually got our entire registration fee refunded! What-a-deal! Leaving the rally we found out that the generator wasn't in a working mood. It gave us overheating errors on two tries to start it. So, just turn on the dash air for some relief - wrong, it blew only warm air. Louise gave the generator another try out of desperation. We planned to drive 500 miles from Rockport to Little Rock, AR and it was going to be blistering hot. Thank goodness, the generator finally gave in and ran. We turned on the roof air and kept our fingers crossed. Thank goodness it has been working ever since. The dash air is out of commission until we can get the compressor replaced. It's on order... The KVH dish has quit so we're back to broadcast TV. I was surprised to find that the number of channels that are available have increased. Our stop to determine the problem revealed a faulty computer card, no replacement available. The company wants the entire antenna unit returned to the factory... I'm thinking about it. Arriving at our destination in Missouri the next day, we picked up our two grandsons for a ten day tour of Nebraska and South Dakota. At ages 10 and 11, they are really interested in paleontology so we made the U of N State Muesum in Lincoln, NE our first stop. These are two exceptional 10 and 11 year old boys. They actually stop to read and learn from the displays. Sure, the gift shop is not an optional stop but they really love all those bones! Then we were off to Custer, SD. We made that our base for four days of exploring. We hiked to the outstretched arm of the Crazy Horse Monument with the annual Volksmarch. The boys would get 20 or 30 yards ahead of Louise and I then wait for us to catch up. I have lots of pictures of them standing by the side of the trail waiting! Our next day was a visit to Mount Rushmore followed by a drive through Custer State Park. I've been through the park several times and seen only an occasional bison. Thank goodness this trip was different. We saw many herds of the giant of the plains. Frequently they were only a few feet outside the window of the toad. And there were huge numbers of calves. We arrived back at the campground just before dark. Speaking of the campground, we stayed at Beaver Lake Campground and found it to be a great place for the boys. They actually had a collection of bicycles for use in the park, free. The boys would pick their bikes to ride and the next day get a different one. They enjoyed the playground, pool and the rabbits. Our final South Dakota activity was on the way back to Nebraska. We stopped at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD. We had arranged two special experiences for the boys. They learned to throw an atlatl in a hour session with Chelsea. We ate lunch in the motor home parked on the parking lot. Then returned to enjoy the advanced lessons in paleontology. The boys learned to map and record their finds and how to preserve the fossil bones by plaster coating them. Then they were tunred loose on a plot to find bones. With each find they would record the find on the map then continue excavation until they had exposed the bones sufficiently to identify them. As the proceeded they would update the information on the map. Chelsea was our instructor and with the help of several assistants they even got Louise and I through the exercise. We then drove on to Nebraska and stayed two nights at Fort Robinson State Park. We explored the reconstructed buildings on the frontier cavalry post. We walked the ground where Crazy Horse died and learned about the life of late 1800's cavalry soldiers in the western prairie. They also have a paleontology museum at Fort Robinson which the boys still found interesting! The boys are cousins and they really enjoy each others company. I told Louise we got double points for this vacation with the boys, one point for the places we took them and one point for their chance to be together for an extended time. Through all this they never tired of each others company. Our final stop with the boys was at the Ashfall site in northeastern Nebraska. Here there are rhinocerocus bones that were buried in a volcanic ashfall. The rhinos had clustered at a waterhole along with camels and horses and other animals, trying to cope with a smothering ash cloud. Four feet of ash fell and the animals suffocated and were buried. The site was discovered about 40 years ago and has been preserved inside a large building that protects the unfossilized bones. There are dozens of skeletons and excellent information about the nature of the animals. Both this site and the museum at Fort Robinson are extensions of the U of N State Museum in Lincoln. We returned the boys to their parents and picked up their sisters. Two girls ages 7 and 8 are a world apart from the two boys. We planned an eight day trip to Indiana and Kentucky. We visited the zoo in Evansville, Indiana. The youngest was disappointed that there was no elephant. They managed to make friends with a jaguar. Both girls got to hand feed a pair of giraffes and they enjoyed the many play items on the grounds of the zoo. Then drove on to Palmyra to stay in the county park there. Our first day we toured the Schimpff's Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana. This is a great place to take kids and adults. The tour covers the history of the business which has been in continuous operation by the same family line for over 100 years and they have the equipment to show for it. We got to watch them make their signature red hots and then got a sample that was still warm. We got a special treat at the county park has a swimming lake with a sand beach. The girls enjoyed several hours of play in the water and on the beach. The next day we drove the toad to Lexingtion, KY to vist the Kentucky Horse Park. The girls weren't ready to leave when the park closed. The horseback ride around the park was followed by several visits to the Children's Barn where they learned all about horses in hands on activities including a brush and shine lesson with a real horse. Thomas, a large black Frisian, stood absolutely still as a dozen children brushed and combed him to be show ready! We saw several shows and rode the horse drawn trolly around the park. After all that it was Pizza Hut, a break for Louise, and a long drive home. Their final experience was at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. This museum is a wonder for young children. We've visited this museum a number of times and it never disappoints. They seem to find ways to make it more interesting every time we visit. The girls loved the carousel and then spotted the play houses. They even enjoyed the Lego's and Hot Wheels exhibits. Taking after their brothers they even enjoyed the dinosaurs. After returning the girls we attended a baseball game for the 11 year old boy and then celebrated fathers day with my son and the 10 year old boy and the 6 year old girl. Today we rested. Louise caught up with the laundry and gave the entire motor home a thorough cleaning. I was off to spend the afternoon working at my mothers home, helping to get the house ready for sale. We buried my mother in late April followed by Louise's mother in mid-May. Both were near/in their 90's and had been in failing health over the last few years. We are parked at my daughters home and they are leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'm looking forward to some quiet days ahead. We'll leave Missouri mid-week next week and be pretty much on our own for the rest of the summer. Dozens of things to write about... more soon.