Thursday, September 21, 2006

Indian Cave State Park, Nebraska - 3,485 miles

Indian Cave SP looked good on the small Nebraska state park brochure we picked up somewhere. It had dump site and sites with electrical hookups. Only water hookups keep it from being perfect. The sites are spread out with plenty of grassy and treed space in between them. There are lots of trails, bird watching spots in a wetland area, picnic areas, and camp sites. It has boat ramps and places to fish. There are 134 RV camping spots, showers, and phones. It has sites with 50 amp service. We paid $18/night. Indian Cave is 10 miles south of Brownville on Nebraska State Road 64E Spur.

It rained almost the entire time we were here. I had plans to get over to viewing blinds to do some bird watching but the rain got in the way of that.

On the way down US 75 we stopped in Nebraska City to check things out. We found a local meat market that had all kinds of fresh meats and local jams, jellies, mixes, honey and crafts. We got some roast beef and turkey and some gift items for family. Nebraska City has a Pendleton Outlet store. Seven checked out their fabric section. The downtown section was really robust with clothing stores, a hardware store, furniture stores, and the usual collection of insurance and lawyer offices. There is a fabulous old red sandstone bank building on 1st Corso that I should have visited. There was an omnious new building going up on 11th Street south of the main business district. It looked like a Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Harrah's Parking Lot, Council Bluffs, IA - 3395 miles

Seven used to work for Harrah's in Kansas City so we decided to use their parking lot for a couple of days. Iowa must have a 'riverboat' casino law like Missouri used to have. There are 3 casinos in this area - Harrah's, Ameristar, and the Horseshoe - all on the river. Harrah's bought out Harvey's and Bluffs Run and turned them into Harrah's and the Horseshoe respectively. We tried our luck at all three.

The Ameristar has a great buffet. We ate there twice - once for supper and once for dinner (lunch). They give senior discounts so the price was not too bad. As always with Ameristar properties, the food was great.

We did some quilt shop and bookstore shopping in Omaha. We didn't visit any museums or other attractions because we are just about burned out on with museums and related attractions.

Harrah's allows RV parking at the back of their lot near the door to their casino. It is next to the river and the Dodge Park golf course and is very quiet and fairly level. Probably quieter than the hotel rooms which are next to a very busy railroad track. RVs are prohibited in the parking lot next to the hotel. We saw RVs at the Horseshoe and Ameristar too.

We drove down US 75 to head for Indian Cave SP. We had 4 lanes of bumpy road for about 15 miles. Probably better than I-29 which was more like a dirt road than a first class interstate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Vermillion, SD - 3,262 Miles

We were going to push on to Sioux City and spend the night there but we were tuckered out and happened to find a nice spot to stop. We were looking for a Camp Wally but came across a great cement parking lot near the local National Guard facility. Seven went in and got permission for us to spend the night.

We unhooked and went exploring. Vermillion is the home of South Dakota University. The SDU campus is not impressive. We found a local restaurant, full of students, called the Cherry Street Diner that featured "The Largest Sandwich in Town" called the Dagwood after the famous sandwich the comic strip character Dagwood used to prepare. It cost $10. We ordered one and cut it in two. Great sandwich. We were both stuffed. The waitress said there are people who can eat the whole thing.

The next morning we went into Sioux City. We got onto I-29. It was a total pothole. Most SD state roads were much better. We stopped at the visitor's center which was located in an old Corps of Engineer river boat named the Sergeant Floyd. The boat also housed a museum featuring historical photos and documents about the Missouri River. Really interesting. There was a map showing where boats had sunk along the Missouri River. An incredible number.

We also stopped at the Argosy Casino near the visitor's center. It was kind of seedy as casinos go and we didn't stay long. There is no RV parking at the casino but since the parking lot was almost empty we just took our usual 200 spaces and figured we'd be gone before the security people knew we were in violation. We could see a nice city campground across the river in Nebraska. Looked like it had electrical hookups.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Snake Creek State Recreational Area - 3,118 miles

Snake Creek SRA has to be one of the windiest places on earth. The wind blew from the time we set up until we we dumped the next day. Incredibly hard. We could not begin to enjoy the beautiful site we had next to Lake Francis Case (Missouri River) because we couldn't stand up without holding onto something. One of our neighbors had a large, barking dog that we couldn't stand either. I finally went over and asked the female owner if they could quiet him down. This earned me a 20 minute stare at our RV from the male owner but they found a way to keep him from barking. Another camper said that the dog had been barking constantly for 5 hours or more.

Snake Creek has electrical hookup sites. No water or sewage hookups.

Our drive to Vermillion was down the backroads of SD. The roads, SD State Route 44 primarily, were generally good. It was as if we had a private road. We stopped in White River for lunch at the city park then drove down Main Street to finally mail some post cards we picked up in Yellowstone and at Mt Rushmore. While Seven was going to the post office a local guy came out of an autobody shop and began talking to me. He told me a lot of interesting things about White River and the surrounding area. White River is in the Rosebud Indian Reservation and most of the residents were Indians. He told me that the White River residents were 'at war' with the Pine Ridge Reservation Indians. I didn't know if he was joking or not. He told me a couple of really funny jokes about the Pine Ridge Indians. He told me that most Indians are really racists and hate white people and other Indian tribes. This surprised me. He also said that he was regarded as an apple in his community - red on the outside and white on the inside. Another tall guy joined us and told another really funny joke at the expense of the Pine Ridge Indians. Finally 2 more guys showed up so we had quite a get-together going on on the streets of White River. Some weird stuff happened that I won't go into but Seven and I became really uncomfortable with the situation and left.

While traveling across the US we also notice how the fauna changes as we go from one area to another. From high desert to tree covered mountains to grassy plains from Wyoming and across SD.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Badlands Ranch RV Resort Interior SD - 2,955 Miles

From the description of Badlands Rand RV Resort we thought we might be checking into our best RV resort yet.

We pulled into Badlands Resort after a 2 mile ride down a washboard dirt road and immediately were met by a mob of flies. We opened the door and pretty soon we had 4-5 of them inside with us. The resort offers trail rides and has horses hence the flies. The resort didn't charge for the flies but charged for everything else. We picked a place next to the road because it was time for Karen's soap and we needed to get set up in a hurry. For the second time in a row we put out the antenna and hit the satellite almost immediately without much adjustment at all.

Being next to the road wasn't too bad because the wind was blowing away from us and there weren't that many cars coming by.

Seven wanted to do some sewing so we left Badlands just before checkout time. I did some work on the inverter setup and then went out to bird watch with my new Sibley's and binoculars. There were 50 small birds in the trees and grass near our RV. When I first looked at them I thought there were 3 different species. I took one of at time and checked it against Sibley's. Sibleys is so comprehensive that it includes juvenile, 1st year, adult, and breeding plumage for each bird in most cases. As it turns out there were juveniles, 1st year and adult birds in the group, all with different plumage. I am getting educated.

While sitting there watching the birds, a flock of turkeys walked with 100 yards of me. I didn't check Sibley's until after they moved on down the hill out of my sight. To my surprise there are two different types of turkeys in Sibleys. I didn't even bother to look at the birds through the binocs so I didn't know which kind of turkeys they were. Bummer.

Our trip to Snake Creek State Recreation Area took us down SD State Road 44. When there wasn't any construction going on it was a smooth ride down what was a deserted road.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rapid City/Mount Rushmore - 2,865 miles

We left Three Flags RV Park and all of its road and train noise and headed 8 miles down the road to a nice, clean, quiet place: Camp Wally. We will spend the night then take off for Interior, SD visiting Wall Drug Store and Ellsworth AFB on the way there.

We finally got down to see Mt Rushmore today. We didn't stop in Keystone, a first class tourist trap and proceeded to the park immediately. We stopped in one of those semi-tacky lots-of-road-signs places on the way to Mt Rushmore and did all of our Christmas shopping. Just kidding. We did find some neat things we have never seen before.

We thought our National Park Pass would work at Mt Rushmore but the park is run by a non-profit company and they do not charge an entrance fee. They charge a parking fee. Big whoop. It was worth it but it was annoying.

We checked out the Gift Shop first of course. I added to my tee-shirt collection, got some post cards, and a Sibley Bird Book. Karen got a nice ring.

We walked the Presidential Trail that circles in front of the monument on nice shaded walkways. We visited the sculptor's workshop where there are scale models of the faces on the monument. These are 1/10th the size of the actual ones. The original plan was to do waist-high figures but they ran out of money. We enjoyed the visitor's center where one of original workmen was doing a book signing.

We drove through Custer SD and stopped at quilt shop. Most quilt shops are run by neat freaks and are clean and well-organized. Quilt makers have to be organized and detail oriented so it is understandable. This shop was unusual in the fact that it was dirty and a total mess.

We stopped at the Wood Carver's Museum but decided not to put up the bucks to go in. Same with the Crazy Horse Monument. We didn't do the wildlife tour of Black Hills State Park either. We have seen lots of bison this summer. We saw two large bulls along the road through the park along with 4 flocks of turkeys.

Tonight I had a nice chat with a former mechanic from Maine who is parked near us in Camp Wally. He had his TV on but his RV's generator wasn't running. That meant that he was running his TV using his house batteries (RV's have 2 sets of batteries - coach and house) for power. He had to be using an inverter which changes direct current to the alternating current most electronic devices use. We have never used our inverter because I didn't have a clue how to use it. He showed me what he was doing and after a long chat I came back to the RV and hooked up the TV, the TiVo and the DirecTV box to the inverter. It worked. Now we do not have to fire up the generator to watch TV. The generator uses diesel fuel and is somewhat noisy so we usually didn't use it. Some campgrounds outlaw generator use after 8:00pm.

Looking forward to moving on in the morning. We have seen our last mountain and our last pine tree until we get to New Mexico next month sometime. The Great Plains are beautiful too. Mountains are more dramatic and varied. We have seen some amazing sights the past 3 months.

Lots of RVs are pulling into this parking lot now. We are almost totally surrounded now. There were 12 RVs here last night. It is great that Wal-Mart lets RVers use their parking lots this way. We will pick up trash in the lot to repay them somewhat. It saves us lots of money to dry camp.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Butte, Montana September 2

We toured Butte today. Very interesting town. Lots of old houses in the central historic district. We visited 3 things on our list. We missed the Brothel Museum. Closed on Saturday I guess.

The Copper King Mansion was great. We had a guided tour of the 38 room mansion by knowledgeable and enthusastic guides. William A Clark (Clark County Nevada where Las Vegas is located is named after him) rose from being a humble teacher in a one room school in Missouri to being the richest or one of the richest men in the world during his time. The mansion in Butte was just one of his houses. I couldn'tbegin to tell you about all the interesting things in the house. The web address is (not as shown on their brochure). Definitely a must see. $7 admission

We also toured a World Museum of Mining. Lots of old mining equipment and a 'town' with buildings filled with antiques. One of the most interesting was sauerkraut factory. A German immigrant and his wife made tremendous quantities of kraut and shipped it all over in 400 lb barrels. His diary was there and was really interesting to read. We got to pan for gold - found some - in big stock tank. We taught some nice people from Missouri and South Carolina how to pan. Can be missed. $8 admission.

We visited Montana Tech too (school team name: the Diggers) and went through the mineral museum. Lots of great mineral specimens, even Smithsonite. I looked for a ball cap with the Diggers name on it without success. MT is a mining school. Free.

Finally we stopped at a memorial to miners killed in a mine fire. 37 miners were killed and over 160 were missing. All due to a careless accident. It devastated the town of Butte at the time. Some of the miners wrote their last words knowing they were going to die on scraps of paper that were later found. Horrible. Free. Should be seen.

We had lunch at Gamers, a local restaurant. Karen had a chicken, ham and swiss cheese sandwich and I had a Cornish Pasty with gravy. Good stuff. They only make 2o of them a day and they are usually sold out early. Our waitress looked like she could have been a linebacker for the Diggers but she was a peach of a person and a great waitress with a great sense of humor. Great place to eat. Downtown historic district.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fairmont, MT August 31-September 1

We left Missoula behind and took off down I-90 to Fairmont. We usually avoid interstate highways usually but had no choice to use I-90. It was a welcome relief after winding up and down US-20 from Kamiah to Missoula.

We stopped briefly in Drummond after almost heading down Montana Route to Phillipsburg. In the downtown area there was a quilt store that Seven had to visit but it was closed because the owner was at a library board meeting.

We wanted to see the old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge but we fooled around for some time in a quilt shop, book store, and a second hand shop in beautiful down town Deer Lodge. The quilt shop, the Quilter's Corner, was in a beautiful old bank building. The original stone teller counters were still there as was the bank president's office. The shop was well stocked and the clerk was really helpful and knowledgeable. We would have only had an hour to view the prison and the other museums associated with it so we went on down the road.

We are staying at Fairmont RV Park off exit 211 of I-90. It is a very nice Passport America park. Like almost all the parks we have encountered it is not full. It doesn't look like there are any long term campers. The setting is beautiful.

We went over to Anaconda, MT to see what was at one time a big time copper mining operation. We got there just as the Copper King Express was pulling out for a trip to Butte. We could have made it but it was a four hour round trip and we would be going to Butte the next day anyways. We stopped and went into one of those bookstores that was owned by a person who enjoyed buying books. It didn't look like he sold all that many of them. The place was piled to the rafters with books, mostly romance and western books. Seven did find a couple of quilting books she could not live without. We also visited the small museum The Copper Village Museum and Gallery. Do not waste your time on this attraction.

Missoula, MT August 30-31

Hello Wal-Mart. We couldn't find a good Passport America campground in Missoula so we decided to dry camp at the first Wal-Mart we came across. After asking an assistant manager we found a spot far away from the front door and put down the jacks (on wood blocks of course). We didn't put out the slide or awnings.

The drive to Missoula from Fort Lewis Clark near Kamiah was arduous. I can't remember a single straight stretch of road. The scenery was spectacular. The beautiful Clearwater and Lockse Rivers were always within sight as we gradually headed up towards Lolo Pass. The last mile or two were straight up I think. We stopped a couple of times to take a break: once to have lunch and another time to pick blackberries.

We saw a woman picking berries and thought she was picking huckleberries and pulled over the first chance we had. They were blackberries. She had already worked over the patch but there were enough left for us to fill a couple of Cool-Whip tubs. Blackberries on ice cream!! Blackberries on corn flakes!!

Fort Missoula is an interesting place to visit. It has several annual celebrations held there and it would be better to visit there during one of those celebrations. There is a lot of worthwhile things to see because the grounds have become a respository of historical buildings and objects. I liked the old school, the saw mill, and the detention building (an exhibit depicting conditions in Fort Missoula where Japanese and Italians were detained during WWII).

We drove around Missoula quite a bit the two days we were there. One annoying thing was the way US-20 cut through the town on a diagonal creating lots of 6 way intersections making it a challenge sometimes on which way to turn or turn around. The down town area was active probably to its close proximity to the University of Montana campus (it took us a while to figure out what Go Griz on every sign meant. The UM mascot is a Grizzly Bear.)

We tried washing the CRV but were thwarted by a coin machine at the car wash. I put the coins in and nothing happened so I gave it a couple of whacks and set the alarm off. We sat there waiting for the owner to hopefully show up so we could get our quarters back. Instead a couple of police officers responded. They didn't cuff me.