Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sioux City, Iowa to Buffalo, Wyoming

Tonight is June 4th and we are in Buffalo, Wyoming. Decided to stay at a KOA campground overnight to catch up on internet, laundry and to get off the road a bit earlier than we usually do. There is a cold, driving rain and we are hopeing that this rain at 4,500 feet elevation is not snow at the 9,000 feet elevation we will be tomorrow. Here's a catch up on where we've been.

June 1st
What a truly amazing country the USA is. Neither of us has ever traveled west and it is quite the journey. Today we left Iowa and took Route 20 from Sioux City over into Nebraska. Talk about the heartland of farming - mile after mile of huge farms, cornfields, and cattle feed lots which you could smell a long time after you passed them.

North we then went on I-81 to 18 to 281 to finally I-90. In Chamberlain, IA we stopped at an Iowa Information Center which also was an interpretive center for part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Good artifacts and a lot of decorative panels added to the interest.

All along I-90 there are places where the earth just drops away in the distance and all you see is a curve with sky and a thin line where the land just stops. We'd never been in a place that you couldn't see something in the distance. We're very curious as to where all the cattle are that should be grazing the pastures. Yes there are a lot of beef cattle but the land is so vast there surely could be more.

The weather radio sounded an alert just as we were getting a bit anxious of a huge thunderstorm ahead of us as we neared the Badlands. Did we feel it could be a tornado? No but what do we know! NOAA put out an alert for a severe ail/thunderstorm but fortunately it passed to our south.

and gave us a rainbow over the Badlands

We kept thinking of the pioneers walking across this land and coming upon the Badlands as a barrier to progress. Fortunately the Badlands don't go as far north/south as a big mountain range but the sinking feeling seeing that range must have been a real downer. We walked out on three separate trails in the Badlands, each quite different in geological features. Many rabbits and ground squirrels but fortunately no rattlesnakes though there were many warning signs. It is a lot
hotter than our normal New England and this is still the cool side of a western summer.

Tonight we are in a Badlands campground near Interior, SD so we can catch up on laundry, internet and a rest time. Tomorrow we go up to Rapid City to several museums and then to find a camp spot inside of Custer State Park.

June 2

Thunderstorms all night with big boomers and lightning but the TC is snug and dry. Sure glad we took the time before we left to recaulk a few questionable seams. Looks like rain for the next week but so what!

We saw pheasant, quail, what I think were partridge, rabbits, coyotes and one lone buffalo on the trip through SD so far. Gonna have a bison burger. We're headed off for an oil change and museums in Rapid City.

June 2
Sitting in the parking lot of a hotel in Hill City, SD using internet.

Oh what a day! Today made the entire trip worth every gallon of diesel. We'd stayed overnight in Interior, SD and slept through a big thunderstorm with lighting and some hail. Little blobs of hail still on the ground in the morning but the day turned into bright sun and 70+ temps. There is almost always a wind in the west but it keeps the bugs down. As we only got through a small edge of the Badlands
yesterday, we wanted to drive through more. Leaving Interior on Rte. 44 we found a one lane dirt road that cut back up to the Badlands at Conata. With the rainstorm last night, this was one slick, red mud road.

Why there is a town name I don't know as there is nothing there but an intersection. We drove over cattle grates and started towards the Badlands in the distance. Along the way there were pronghorn antelope,

herds of cattle, many hawks, prairie dogs and beautiful flowers. This 20 mile drive was one of the reasons for coming west, to see what it must have looked like before suburbia descended. We'd hoped to find such a road into scenic wonders and this was a gem.

The truck and TC however need a major bath. We stopped after reaching pavement and scrapped off pounds of red, heavy mud but need a power washer to get it back to semi-clean.

On to Rapid City to the Ford dealer for an oil change. We'd called ahead and they graciously worked us in and did the work quickly. From there we went to the Journey Museum which had geology, paleontology, early plains settler and Lakota Sioux exhibits. We spent a good deal of time here as the exhibits were well documented and interesting.

After lunch at a bodega with spicy chili and fry bread, we headed for Mt Rushmore. The drive takes you from 3,200 feet elevation in Rapid City to 5,500 feet at Mt.Rushmore. The climb is long, slow and done in tow haul for the most part. Sorry South Dakotans but your state allows billboard advertising and they got pretty thick and ugly. The tiny town of Keystone is just prior to Rushmore and is one solid tourist trap with screaming billboards. There is no way to easily avoid
Keystone unfortunately.

I was oddly moved by the rock sculpture at Mt. Rushmore. I had expected just tourist hype but it was a very patriotic display especially as you walk through a gallery of all the state flags to the main view point. We'd thought of skipping it but glad we didn't. Plus there were a total of five TCs in the parking area !!

We'd called Custer State Park to be sure the Iron Mountain Road, a portion of Rte 16 we wanted to take from Rushmore to a Park campground would take the TC. We are under 12' barely but count ourselves as 12' tall. There were three tunnels on that road, all over 12' but just barely.

The road snakes and twists back on itself in hairpin turns. FUN road to drive. We're tonight in the Game Lodge campground and have taken the Host off the truck.

Tomorrow we will drive more of the Custer State Park roads including going through the tunnels that won't take the TC. One is only 8'4" wide and the man camped next to us tonight scraped one of his dually fenders going through. Wonder if we have a steadier hand? We're most interested in driving the Wildlife Loop to see buffalo, mountain sheep and wild horses.

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