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..

Since we were in the area…

We were in northern-ish Pennsylvania. West Virginia to the south and New York to the north. We succumbed to the adage of “we were in the area so…’. The area we were near was Niagara Falls! Honeymoon capital of the USA! This is one of the places that Roxie and I have both wanted to see but for years it seemed unattainable. Not until now.

We were unsure where to stay until I looked at the WBCCI courtesy parking for the area. I had tried this before for a couple locations earlier but it didn’t pan out. This time we got a quick response from Mike Clack and he said he had plenty of room for about 6 or more trailers and we could come on by. I wanted a secure place to drop the trailer for the day while we went to the falls. This worked perfectly.

We made it to Mike’s, not until I had missed the turn once and had to reverse. It was easy to get to his parking area and setup the trailer. Very grassy. As soon as we go there it started a downpour of rain and it was on and off all night. The next morning there was standing water in the grass by our trailer, about 1-2”. I was unsure if I was going to get out the next day. Here are some pics of his location and the secluded entry for it:

Yes, those are ruts I carved getting out in 4×4.

Mike’s location is about 30 minutes from the falls themselves and we enjoyed seeing them. The first stop was down from the falls to see the whirlpool:

Everything at the falls was a bit commercialized but I kind of expected it to be, still a disappointment. We immediately set off on the Maid of the Mist:

Yes, you get wet but you don’t care.

We also went to the edge of the falls:

We have heard the view from Canada is prettier and also there will be fireworks. So we decided to head north.

We got to the Canadian border guard and he asked if we had any weapons with us. No, did not bring the gun. But he mentioned pepper spray as one of the ‘weapons’ so that sent us under the ‘canopy’ for a bit more investigation. They looked in the truck, in the shell. Roxie thought they might want to take everything out of the truck and look in each bin. Oh well, if that is what they wanted, we had some time to kill. They didn’t look too thoroughly and let us go our way. They were somewhat interested in our full-timing and why we had so much stuff in the truck.

Since we were over the border we did a bit of driving around, went to Niagara-by-the-Lake and was able to see a glimpse of Lake Ontario. Got some diesel and had to convert liters to gallons, and USD to CAD (it was more expensive than the US). We went back to the falls and decided not to pay the parking price of $5 per 15 minutes. We finally parked up the hill, ate some dinner and walked down to the falls and waited for the fireworks.

Since we are so far north it doesn’t get dark until 9:30 or so. Fireworks didn’t start until 10 and there were lots of people. They also light up the falls. You can see the American Falls in red, white, and blue with the Canadian Falls in red and white:

It took us a while to walk back up to the truck but not too long to get back to the US. We were back to the trailer about 11:30 and leaving the next day.

We were able to see Mike on the day we left and thanked him for the spot. We said that he welcomes anyone to stay there when they want. Look at the Airstream Courtesy Parking group on Facebook for more information.

We headed off down the road to our next destination.