(L) As we leave Sioux Falls for Badlands National Park, we are treated to miles and miles of the lushest green grass and grassy topped buttes ((G) not gassy butts) that rival any Scottish golf course. All this greenness is a hard-won prize for a tragically long and bitter winter from which the farmers, ranchers, and highway road crews still have not recovered.
(G) Badlands National Park. Encompassing 244,000 acres of Southwestern South Dakota, the Badlands’ clifts and spires seem to extend beyond the horizon. The area contains one of the richest fossil beds in the world. Sue, the T-Rex now on display in Chicago, and one of the largest, most intact was discovered here in 1990 by Sue Hendrickson. The Badlands also include the largest “mixed grass” praire in the United States. The South Unit is co-managed with the Oglala Lakota tribe. There are no roads into the South Unit and it is intended solely for preservation.
(G) Custer State Park, Black Hills South Dakota. Established in 1912, Custer State Park is South Dakota’s largest State Park. The park is home to 1,500 Bison. The “Needles Highway is one of the most scenic drives in America. We stayed two days, we should have stayed longer. Also in the area around the Park are Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. We saw Wind Cave back in 2013 and one visit was plenty. ((L) Gary gets queezy even thinkng about caves) ((G) I don’t get queezy I just don’t like caves. I only get queezy around orange food.)
(L) From the 1880’s until the depression in the 1930’s westward expansion opened up some of the most remote and rugged country in America. The Transcontinental Railroad’s Golden Spike was driven in 1869 in Promontory Utah. Railroad outposts became towns almost overnight. Most of the Grand Lodges in the National Parks and mid-west were consequently built in the early 1900’s. The partnership between the railroad companies and the Park Service advertized luxury train excursions for wealthy city dwellers. Grand Lodges like the Old Faithful Inn and the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park South Dakota are two stately examples. Like most of the enduring structures of the National Parks, State Game Lodge in the Black Hills of South Dakota was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The lodges most famous visitor, President Calvin Coolidge, designated Custer State Park State’s Game Lodge his Summer White House. We had a delicious dinner of Bison tenderloin and Bison ravioli in the Presidential Dinning Room. Gary felt the need to cull the herd. Just too many of those Bison roaming the range.
Some of the best ‘modern medicine” of the time consisted of treatments at sanatoriums, health institutes, and taking “the waters.” That’s where Gary is today, taking in “the waters” at Hot Springs, South Dakota’s Red Rock River Resort. Hot Springs was incorporated in 1890 and attracted many health resorts attracted by the mineral springs located there. As the visitor center host explained, “after you leave the spas you sure feel better, but you are not necessarily cured.” The hilltops around the town are dotted with beautiful mansions. When asked about them at the visitor center, I was told that they were originally the homes of the physicians and senior staff at the spas. Today, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium (built in 1907) and designated a National Historic Landmark, houses a large VA hospital and home for disabled soldiers.
(L) Then the less glamorous side of RV life intruded with a leak in the water line to our toilet. I guess that the small earthquake generated in the Airstream by several miles of washboard dirt roads to get to secluded free camping at the edge of the Badlands had its cost after all. I did my job and reported the problem. My work complete, I promptly took a nap.
(G) Because all the plumbing is a high-pressure tubing called PEX and the location of the leak was a bit tight to say the least, I needed to consult a higher power. So I made a phone call to Colonial Airstream in New Jersey where Steve the service tech walked me through the fix. Now I was an expert. So, with the leak stemmed with a wooden spoon from the kitchen, we headed to the nearest ACE Hardware, only fifteen miles away! PEX tubing requires a special tool to cut it, the special clamps require a special tool for removal and another special tool for connecting. It took a bit of Houdini like contortions to get enough tube pulled out from behind the refrigerator, but I finally got enough room to make the connection. So, the $3 repair only cost me $147 in new tools. But, as we have about a million miles of this tubing in the Airstream and another million of those special clamps, I figure it was a good investment.
Today is June 21, 2019. We are at Malstrom AFB in Great Falls Montana. Doing chores, buying tires and planning our route through Canada. So far we are averaging around $30 a night for camping and about $22 a day for deisel.
Hope all is well in your world.