As I mentioned in our last post, the news that we were told that we had a unit was available to us in Stoneridge at the Park caused us to make a drastic change in plans. While we were still in Lansing at the Cottonwood Campground, we said good-bye to some of our friends from the area.
We ordered our ReloCube from U-Pack. Some of our stuff, mostly photographs, was at my sister’s house in Canadian Lakes, neat Stanwood and we drove there to pick them up and spend some time with her. From there we drove to Irons to see some friends from our old church Roger and Darcy, and Stan and Betsy. On September 18th, we drove to Pat’s brother’s house to pack our Cube with the stuff we had stashed in the farmhouse. While there, we took a short trip to Freeland to see our niece, Tara and her family. We were able to watch their son, Grant, in a soccer game. He is only four and it was fun to watch him and his teammates.
On September 22nd, we drove to Grand Rapids, spent the night at Woodchip Campground, another one of our “go to” campgrounds, and spent some time with Kay and Lynn, two friends of Pat’s from her high school days. September 23rd found us at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park in Milwaukee where we visited with Pat’s sister, MaryLee and her family. We also picked up a cedar chest that we had left with them. It’s not as if we had stuff scattered all over the place, right? Staying at the State Fair RV Park is interesting in that it is a good location, but it is essentially a parking lot. Some of the people staying there are temporary workers in the area and stay in mobile bunkhouses. The electric and water only sites share an RV power post, so one site gets the 50 amp connection, another gets the 30 amp connection the two others get the 15 amp connections. I’ve never seen such a set up anywhere else.
When we left Milwaukee on September 26th, we began a “sprint” across the Midwest.
We made two stops at Walmart parking lots. Our second one was in Mitchell, SD. We actually drove our rig into downtown Mitchell to visit the World’s Only Corn Palace. This “one of a kind” attraction has been around for over 125 years. It is made unique every year with new designs. Over 350,000 ears of corn of various colors are sliced and nailed in place, like a “paint by numbers” mural. Local corn is grown and harvested by Mitchell farmers in 13 different colors. The murals are designed by Dakota Wesleyan University students. The inside of the Corn Palace is used as a performance venue and sports auditorium. If you are driving across South Dakota, it is worth your time to stop in for a visit.
On our way to Rapid City, we took a detour to drive through Badlands National Park. We have stayed in the park on two previous occasions and were content with a drive through to renew our memories. What many people don’t realize is the Badlands was once a large, shallow salt-water sea. There are fossils of sharks, alligators, and other aquatic life that prove this. When the Rocky Mountains were formed by a shift in tectonic plates over 285 million years ago, the sea drained into the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.
After our drive through the Badlands, we arrived at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, SD. When we stopped at a South Dakota Welcome Center, we learned that we would be in the Rapid City area during the annual Buffalo Round-Up at Custer State Park. We had planned to spend a few days and see some sites we had missed in the past, and this sounded like an excellent opportunity.
Custer State Park is home to one of the largest American bison herds in the world. Herd numbers vary from year to year, but typically, there are 1,350-1,450. The annual roundup keeps the population in balance with the available land and resources. Most of the bison return right back to their home, the grasslands of Custer State Park. The bison herd roams freely throughout the park and is often found along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road in the southern part of the park. Bison seem docile, but can run very fast and turn on a dime. Weighing as much as 2,000 pounds, these animals are forces to be reckoned with. Visitors should stay inside their vehicles when viewing the bison, and not get too close.
The Buffalo Roundup is part of Custer State Park‘s management plan to maintain a healthy balance between the number of bison and the available rangeland forage. The park can only sustain a certain number of bison, based on the condition of the grassland and how much food is available. The Buffalo Roundup allows for some of the animals to be sorted out of the herd. They are then sold at an auction in November.
The Buffalo Roundup began at 9:30 AM on September 30, with the parking lots opening at 6:15 a.m. We drove to the North Viewing Area and were able to find a place to set up our chairs on the slope with a nice view. We saw part of the herd go past the South Viewing Area and waited anxiously for the rest. After a short wait, we saw the herd of over 1,300 bison, driven by cowboys and cowgirls come into view – what a site! They passed right across our front as they were driven into a large fenced in area to be separated and processed.
We walked to the corrals where the buffalo were processed. The wranglers herded them into chutes, and the buffalo ended in a chute that held them immobile while they were inventoried, tested, treated, and branded. Then they were released back into the herd, or separated for auction.
It was quite an experience and we were glad we had the opportunity.
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is right outside the main gate to Ellsworth Air Force Base. It was created and is operated by the Ellsworth Heritage Foundation in 1982, as a part of an Air Force program to establish museums at bases around the country. It officially opened for business in 1992.
The B-1 bomber at the entrance is appropriate, as the 28th Bomb Wing, stationed at Ellsworth, is a B-1 unit. While its official name is the Lancer, it is referred to by its crews as the BONE (B-One). The B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress are the three strategic bombers in the Air Force fleet.
Unfortunately, the interior was not open when I visited, but the outdoor displays were great. Every aircraft has its own, unique story. For example, the B-25 Medium Bomber on display was used by General Eisenhower as his transport during WWII. Unlike normal B-25 bombers, this one had no weapons and had tables and chairs for “Ike” and his staff to use.
One day we drove into Rapid City to tour the Museum of Geology and the “City of Presidents.” Rapid City commissioned monuments of every president and placed them on street corners in the downtown area. As we navigated from one to another, I found it interesting, and challenging, to recall what I know about each one. For a few of them, it was quite a challenge. After our tour, we had an early dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company. If you are in Rapid City, check it out!
Just west of Rapid City is the Devil’s Tower National Monument – the nation’s first National Monument, created by President Theodore Roosevelt. We stayed at the Devil’s Tower KOA. The campground is right outside the entrance to the park and we could see the Tower from our campsite. We arrived in the early afternoon, set up our site and headed into the park. Devil’s Tower is a destination for climbers. While we were hiking around the Tower, we could see climbers at various stages of their climb.
The Devil’s Tower area was once 1,300 feet higher covered by sedimentary rock. One theory is that volcanic magna was forced up through a fissure and cooled underground. As rivers eroded the soft, sedimentary rock, the hard, igneous rock of the Tower was left. Now this spectacular tower of volcanic columns looks like it was thrust up through the earth’s crust. In 1906, President Roosevelt proclaimed the Tower and over 1,000 surrounding acres a National Monument. During the Great Depression, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps built camping and picnic facilities, and log buildings for the Administration and Visitor Center.
Over 20 indigenous tribes continue to maintain sacred stories of the Tower. The Kiowa version says, “Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run on his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur as he transformed into a bear. The sisters were terrified; they ran until they came to the stump of a great tree. The tree spoke to them and bade them to climb on it. As they did so, it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky and became the stars of the Pleiades.”
There are several trails at the Monument. We hiked a combination of the Red Beds and Tower Trails. The Tower Trail provided some up close views of the Tower. About 5:00, the park was closing and we headed back to our trailer. When we woke up the next morning, we were happy that we scheduled our visit when we did. We woke to find the Tower completely shrouded in cloud and fog. We would have been very frustrated if we had been a day later.
When we left Devil’s Tower, we had planned for two Walmart stops and a stay at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. As we were re-evaluating this plan, we decided to push through with an additional Walmart stop and arrive at Camp Murray Beach a day early.
Three straight day of driving quickly got old, but we were happy to make it to our final destination and start making plans to move into our new home.
Great adventure, glade that you finally became Free
Dee & Ray