Thursday, August 30, 2012

Storybook Island ~The Journey Museum ~ Landstrom’s Black Hills Gold, Rapid City, South Dakota

We spent a bit of time in Rapid City, enjoying some of the area attractions~~
Storybook Island
We first stopped at Storybook Island simply because it was by the dentist (we had appointments in the morning) and it's free. Basically it’s for young children with “sets” of children’s stories.  Suzanne (Brad went here lots as a child) was expecting older stories, albeit for children, such as James and the Giant Peach or Charlotte’s Web, but the stories were basically for younger children – nursery rhymes for the most part. For small children, this would be great. For us, it took ten minutes! :-)

The Journey Museum
We then went to The Journey Museum, which exhibits the Black Hills from creation to rent times.  Normally $8 per adult, we were able to get in free under our VIP card. We really enjoyed the first part, where one can see the various geologic formations of the Black Hills, but found much of the museum a bit haphazard, even the movie, which needed some narration.  The last bit was a recount of the flood of 1972, which Brad remembers.  Interesting note about this ~ while at Storybook Island, there is a geological marked showing the height of the flood ~ about five feet! In fact, there is a marker at the Keystone post office which the waters came to about four feet, and Keystone is 26 miles from Rapid City! Brad’s father was the director of public works for Rapid City at the time and was part of the recovery and clean-up once the flood waters receded.
Landstrom’s Black Hills Gold Factory Tour
Now this was interesting! Free to all, Landstrom’s gives tours at 10am and 1pm Monday – Thursday.  Landstrom’s is the place to buy Black Hills gold jewelry (Brad has a ring he purchased while attending high school). What was so interesting about the tour was that we just walked around the floor where all the people were working with the gold, silver, and gems ~ everyone was casual, answered questions, and friendly. It was educational, interesting, and really laid-back. This is definitely something to do if in the area ~ no photos allowed and after the tour, you can save 20% on anything in their store. (Nope, we didn’t but anything, but we had Brad’s ring cleaned – once ever 35 years – and it shines!)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

We were pretty excited to go to Wind Cave and check it out, since it’s known to have different types of formations than other caves we’ve explored. As mentioned in our previous post, we got caught in a bison jam at Custer State Park, so we didn’t get to the cave as early as planned (9am was the goal), but still got there around 10am and took the 11:20am Fairgrounds Tour. 

A bit about Wind Cave ~ discovered in 1881 by the White Settlers, used by the Native Americans prior to that as sacred ground, Wind Cave was established as a national park in 1903 ~ the first cave in the national park system. Currently Wind Cave itself is 138 miles – we say “currently” since there is still underground exploration to find new passageways. The name Wind Cave comes from the great gusts of wind coming out of the natural entrance (photo below) ~ and yes, this was the original entrance where people entered to explore the cave.

Wind Cave is known for three specific types of cave formations: popcorn, frostwork and boxwork.
These are the popcorn formations which is small nodes that grow in limestone caves – they look like popcorn, thus the name:

These are the frostwork formations which is needle-like growth (the darker images) that grown on top of popcorn or boxwork.

These are the boxwork formations which are thin blades of minerals on cave ceilings which intersect at various angles ~ this is the fame of Wind Cave. 

Finally, here’s a photo of the cave with no light.  :-)
We enjoyed the tour very much ~ cost of tours range from $7 - $9 per adult, but we again used our VIP card and our tour was free. Regardless, even if we had to pay, we could have gone on a Wind Cave tour. We plan to head to Jewel Cave in a couple weeks, which is a very different cave than Wind Cave, so it will be fun to compare the similarities and differences.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bison Herd at Custer State Park, South Dakota

We were on our way to Wind Cave National Park (more on that in a day or two) and got caught in a “bison jam" at Custer State Park ~ we found the herd! :-)

Here are lots of pictures of what we saw~ 

Bison have the right of way

Many were grazing

Some close to us

Some were scratching their heads

Some were nursing

Here’s a photo to give a perspective on size ~ this guy walked in front of our truck

There were antelope among the bison as well

They liked to run

One last bison group photo~
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mountain Goats at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

We have a lot of wildlife at Mount Rushmore National Memorial ~ including Mountain Goats!  They simply roam freely, and it's pretty cool to see one as you walk to work in the afternoon!  This one was enjoying a snack about two feet from us as we walked to the Sculptor Studio from the Grand View Terrace.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mount Rushmore in the Rain

Well, it does rain here quite a lot, and when it does, the monument looks a bit different. (In fact, it looks different at various times of the day and depending on whether it's sunny, partially cloudy, etc.....)  The above is a photo of Mount Rushmore right after a rain shower.

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Driving along Rim Rock Highway and Deerfield Lake Road, Black Hills, South Dakota

We enjoyed the cooler temperatures by taking a drive along Rim Rock Highway and Deerfield Lake Road, enjoying the sites. 

The first place we came to was the Chapel in the Hills, a completely wooded church built in the 1960’s as an exact replica of the famous Borgund stavkirke, of Laerdal, Norway. The church still has nightly services, can be reserved for weddings, and is free (donations accepted) to visitors.

One of our destinations was Thunderhead Underground Falls, farther down Rim Rock Highway, another freebie on our VIP pass we were given as a perk for our workamping (normally $7.50/adult).  

It is a self-guided (you read a few signs along the way) walk 600’ to the falls. It is actually quite pretty ~ here is some copper found in the mine. 

This was, as with all of the caves and mines in the area, a claim for a gold mine back in the 1800’s, but gold was never found and the mine closed in 1900.  In 1949, a curious visitor to the area wondered why Rapid Creek simply disappeared and where did it go? Eventually with a little searching, she found the waterfall known today as Thunderhead Underground Falls.

(This is the view as you depart ~ a bit different that the walk-in.)

We continued our drive to Deerfield Lake, which is a huge reservoir with some beautiful camping within the Forest Service. We also saw a few Big Horn Sheep along the way 

and ended-up at a local winery trying some wines and enjoying a picnic lunch.

All-in-all, a nice day!

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Seeing Friends, Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

One of our favorite aspects of being fulltime RV'ers is reconnecting with people we've met along the way. Just last Tuesday, we had a great dinner with (left to right) Jack, Bill, Mikki, Billie, and Us in HIll City. Who are these people?  Well, Mikki is the one who hired us for our first workamping gig at Mesa Regal RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona.  Bill is her husband who also works there, and the rest of us are in the Black Hills this summer workamping. In fact, Billie works with us at the Mt. Rushmore Bookstore Association and her husband Jack works in Keystone. 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Out First Year Fulltiming ~ A Racap

Well, today is the first anniversary of when we hit the road. Let’s see…we’ve stayed in 33 different places, including one WalMart, two workamping gigs, one RV parkfor a month-long stay (not workamping), another RV park for two 2-week visits, Quartzsite where we boondocked with fellow Montana owners, a hotel in Las Vegas while our RV roof was repaired, the RV dealership in Las Vegas where our roof was repaired, one state park, one national park, and a hospital parking lot (twice) for post-op appointments for Suzanne.

We’ve been through Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado,  Wyoming and South Dakota. We’ve traveled lots of miles, but haven’t kept exact track, which is sort of a bummer.

We've hiked (including Harney Peak), walked beaches on the Pacific coast, canoed, went to a banned books reading, been to street fairs, museums, an international film festival, walked on Crazy Horse, seen a naturalization ceremony, among other things.......

We've even started a successful business ~ Brad's RV Blind Restringing.

We’re surprised how quickly Year 1 has gone, and look forward to Year 2. We have a few plans, but not too many, since we’d like to be a bit more carefree.

Zoey (the dog) enjoys traveling, although doesn’t much like the South Dakota thunderstorms.

As we wind-down our five months workamping at Mt. Rushmore in the next few weeks, we look forward to hitting the road again and exploring more as we drive into new territory for the three of us.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Big Thunder Gold Mine, Keystone, South Dakota

Another freebie on our VIP card is the Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone.  Owned and mined by only two men decades ago, it took them 40-years to mine - - stopping only when they reached another mine on one side and an iron wall on the other.  In all that time, they mined 10 ounces of gold ~ valued at approximately $20 per ounce. In forty years time, these two men earned $200.

The gold mine tour was actually interesting, and more educational than the Mining Museum tour, as it was more at a lay-person’s level of understanding. At the end of the tour, we were able to pan for gold. Brad was much better than Suzanne, whose idea of panning for gold is a nice air conditioned store, pleasant salespeople, and clear glasses cases full of pretty things.  
We did find gold (Brad learned previously that the gold flakes are purchased from a company in California and added to some dirt for the panning experience)
so with our claim, we plan to retire in style! :-)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The 72nd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, South Dakota

We went to Sturgis today to see the official rally, although trust us, it seems as if the rally is all over the Black Hills.

First thing we noticed when we parked was that many home-owners make a few bucks during rally week – by allowing tenters to crash on their front lawns. It’s probably rather profitable since every hotel, campground, motel, etc… raises prices quite a bit this week.

 Basically, Main Street was closed to all but motorcycle traffic, and it felt like any kind of street fair – just this one was geared towards bikers.  There were booths and tents of various companies (Harley Davidson, Jack Daniels, etc…), free things given out to passer-byers, and shows.

We saw the Free Style Motorcross (FMX) bikers who did a show in the street – that’s all the photos below – very cool.
Yes, there were a few naked women with body paint wandering around, and we did see a few outlaw bikers (noted by the 1% diamond patch), but overall, it was just a bunch of bikers meandering and enjoying the activities.  For all you RV’ers out there ~ picture a Quartzsite for motorcyclers.

All this being said, however, we were there during the day and were told by some people we ate lunch with that the crowd this year seems tamer than past years and that the real “fun” (direct quote) starts around 8pm each night. By the way, Suzanne sat down next to one of the meanest looking guys there to share a table for lunch and conversation, but he and his girlfriend were actually quite nice.

Would we go back to Sturgis if in the area another time? Absolutely yes!

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

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