Escaping the Eclipse

In keeping with our bad timing theme, we were leaving the South Dakota Black Hills and trying to get to the Oregon coast, then down the coast to South San Francisco. This requires us to pass through Wyoming and Idaho before Oregon. I knew the eclipse was coming, we purchased glasses somewhere in Texas in case we were near, and I knew that our path was going to take us REALLY close to it. I had also heard horror stories about crowds, traffic, lack of supplies, etc. along the eclipse path! I was determined to get to the coast before it happened!

But first, we thought we would head to one of our favorite places, the Grand Tetons. This required traversing the state of Wyoming from east to west and some of the dryest parts of Wyoming also! Our first stop was Douglas, WY where the city allows RV’ers to stay overnight in their park (thanks, Drivin and Vibin!). They also have free hot showers in the restrooms there. They also had a dump station that was ‘closed’ due to the State Fair going on across the street. I think I could have used it if I wanted. It was an OK place to park, it was on gravel, next to a fenced off central grassy location. It was, however, on the North Fork of the Platte River and you can get a great view of it by moving your chairs a bit:

The next day was another haul of just driving, with a WalMart shopping stop thrown in. Roxie also got to get an iced tea from Sonic as we had not seen a Sonic for a LONG time. We hauled off to Lander, WY. A drive through some very desolate locations but here, again, the city had a park for RV’s and tents. There were a LOT of people there. We found a spot next to the creek that we could hear all night.

The city here DID have an operational dump and water fill that we availed ourselves of. Then we started the trek to the Tetons.

We headed north and climbed quite a bit. We knew that many boondockers have certain spots that are in the National Forest but have a great view of the Tetons. We headed to one site. When we got there we dropped the trailer in a parking spot at the bottom of the hill, I took the truck up the hill to assess the road and see if there was space. The first location had very little space where I saw 1 Airstream and 1 Argosy. I drove on up further and really found no better locations. I came back and the Argosy was gone! It appears they found a different space where they could run their generator and let their goat have more freedom. Great! A spot for us!

I went back down the hill and started hooking up. At that time another Airstream showed up and it looked familiar but by that time we were ready to go and we stopped to talk. It was the family from “Less Junk, More Journey” on Youtube. They were heading up there also. I told them that we were going to get one spot but there may be more. We headed up the hill and got the spot. They came up later and grabbed one by some other motorhomes, they later moved back closer to the Airstreams. The other Airstream was “Aluminum Dreams“.

This was the view from our front door and a shot that Roxie took a bit down the road:

We also ‘enjoyed’ our first hail storm in the Airstream!

The next day we drove around, took pictures, had some Thai in Jackson, filled up on diesel.

We drove back to the trailer in a downpour and decided to head on that evening, keeping in line with escaping the eclipse. Most others on the hill were waiting there specifically FOR the eclipse. We said our goodbyes and got back on the road. Leaving Jackson we headed up the Teton pass! This grade can reach 10% in places. We were doing it in the cool of the early evening but it was still major! I was able to do about 40mph up the hill, except on the 20mph corners. My engine temperature climbed to about 215 but the fan kicked in and cooled it right down. The transmission peaked at 235 degrees but no higher. The truck did admirably up the hill and the engine braking kept to slow on the downhill. We made it to Idaho Falls and stayed at the Cabela’s there.

We had previously called Cabela’s and received clearance to stay one night. When we go there there were temporary signs at each exit saying No Overnight Parking. We called again and were told those are there to keep the eclipse crowd away and one night is good.

The next morning during prep to leave I found a broken screw on the trailer step. It made the step unusable as one side of it was not securely latched. Idaho as a state does have an Airstream dealer, 300 miles away just past Boise. I called them and they had one screw left. I asked them to hold it and we headed further west. This time it was on I84 and fighting a headwind all the way. We got there just after 5 so I could not get the part that night, we used a combination of the step Roxie uses to get in the truck and an old ice chest to get in and out of the trailer. The nice thing is that Airstream NW of Idaho has 6 overnight spots that have full hookups for its’ customers to use.

The next morning I got the part and fixed the step. We also got to thinking. We could just stay here for the eclipse and stop running! After all, it was free, they would be closed Sunday and Monday, we could get some laundry done, see a movie and my sister and brother-in-law happened to be 15 miles away for the eclipse! We are done running!

My sister told us that about 12 of them were having a fish fry at the KOA and we should come visit and eat. We took our steaks, as I don’t eat fish, and pulled out our Weber from the truck and did our steak as they did their fish. It was a nice evening:

Monday was eclipse day. Most people were trying to get into the zone of totality. We were in a 99.7% coverage zone. To avoid all the traffic I opted that we stay where we were at. We should have gone to totality. It was interesting to watch where we were but I was unable to get any good pictures, even with solar glasses taped to my iPhone and GoPro. So you will have to settle for these:

The next one is in 2024 and we will make sure we are in the totality this time!

Tuesday came and it was time to head on. I felt pretty good about this as we were now headed into locations where people were vacating now!

Closing the ring

Since the decision was made to head back for our grandson’s birthday we decided to take a northerly route and pass through South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore, Roxie’s main point of interest on this trip. When we have a deadline and/or destination we tend to travel a bit farther each day and try to find ‘cheaper’ places (read free) to stay.

As we crossed over the Mackinac bridge we stopped a bit further down for a picture:

Yes, the weather was dreary and it got worse. During our drive to a Passport America campground, we encountered the worst rain ever while towing. My wipers could not keep up so we slowed down and after about 100 miles we got out of the rain.

The next day we went through Escanaba MI, where the WBCCI had just had the international rally here about a week ago. We stopped a Walmart for supplies:

We breezed through Wisconsin and Minnesota with a couple of Walmart overnights in each state. We found a very nice place for lunch in MN just before the South Dakota border (Lake Benton) and then entered South Dakota:

We did another Passport America stop in Mitchell SD and the R&R Campground (how appropriate!). We got in relatively early that day so we went out to eat and after eating we visited the Corn Palace! I have been to the Cow Palace in SF before but although this is a venue also that is where the similarities ended. It is an homage to corn and it is decorated with corn (the Cow Palace is NOT decorated with Cows):

After Mitchell, we ended up in Rapid City SD for an evening at Cabelas. Our reservations at the Rafter J-Bar campground in Hill City, SD weren’t for another day. It was our first time at Cabelas and won’t be the last. But before we got to Rapid City was Wall SD and Wall Drug! I remember bits of Wall Drug growing up but Roxie had never been there so we stopped for a bit:

See all the motorcycles? Yes, our trip of bad timing bit us again. We were here during Sturgis! Luckily we weren’t staying in Sturgis but it still has an impact.

When we got to our campsite, where we would be for 5 nights, we immediately headed to Mt. Rushmore since it was on Roxie’s birthday:

We found a place to eat in Keystone where they surprised Roxie with a dessert:

The next day we went to see the Crazy Horse monument. It was much different than Rushmore in many ways. Privately funded instead of government, still in process instead of completed, and a totally different personage they each honor. I was glad we went as their museum and content is more informative and we also had a good tour guide. We were able to come back within 7 days if we wanted:

We continued down to Custer State Park to find some wildlife and we did. Buffalo, antelope, and burros. The burros were obviously more friendly:

We also got a drive-by shot of George:

The next day we took a drive to Deadwood, which was overrun with bikers. We also drove through Sturgis but I didn’t get any photos because I was trying to not hit any pedestrians or bikers. This was the second to last day and it seemed extremely busy! Here is Deadwood:

The next day was a drive through the Needles portion of the Black Hills. This was a road that was carved out of the rocks, literally. We did NOT take the trailer and you will see why when you see the pics. It was a slow road, made slower with the bikers all over. We took our lunch and were able to eat at a very nice lake in the hills also:

That evening we went back to the Crazy Horse monument to see their light show. It was a combination of illuminating lights and a laser show projected on the mountain. It was very entertaining but hard to capture with an iPhone (contrary to what Apple claims).

Our last day was a trip to the Badlands. It is quite a way to get there so it required a full day. We again saw quite a large amount of wildlife. Especially at the end with a coyote walking through a prairie dog town (see the Youtube link below):

We topped off the night with evening lighting ceremony at Mt Rushmore. It was a ranger led program in their amphitheater with a film preceding it.

The title of this post talks about a ring. See the Google Map below that shows the locations that we have stayed on our trip. I also have a representation of our state map from the trailer:

Just a few more states to create the ring. Stay tuned..