Westward Ho! Part 2

This is part 2 of our big RV trip. If you wish to start reading at the beginning of the journey, please click here.

Day 5 – Nenzel, Nebraska to Deadwood, South Dakota

We were up just after 6:00 a.m.  It was way too early to start the day, but we hadn’t adjusted to Mountain Time yet, and it was a bright morning.  Instead of having our usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast, we did sausage and eggs.  A very nice way to start the day!

The high point of our day was the drive through Badlands National Park.  The rock formations in the park at unbelievably picturesque.  With the different coloured layers and the variety of shapes, there was lots to keep our attention.  Plus add some mountain goats and big horned sheep.  We were only able to do the Badlands Loop Road because of the size of our motorhome.  However, the staff at the visitor centre also recommended Sage Creek Rim Road for the view and the opportunity to see bison. The park is 244,000 acres, so our drive only touched on a tiny piece of the park.

Entering Badlands National Park
Viewing Area in Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

We ended the day at Fish N’ Fry Campground.  We had booked this site for 2 nights so we would have an opportunity to explore the area.  The campground was a bit of a tight squeeze for our rig, but Al’s pretty good at manoeuvring it around.

Day 6 – Sturgis and Deadwood, South Dakota

Since not everyone appreciates having dogs in their space, we dropped Ozzy at a local doggy daycare before we started our day.  It was much easier to get around to sightsee in the F150 than the RV.

First, we went to Sturgis.  Sturgis is the site of a massive motorcycle rally every August.  I can imagine what it is as a bike rally, but in June it’s a rather ho-hum place.  The downtown had a lot of empty storefronts and some of the usual souvenir shops.  We finally made it to a craft brewery though, Knuckle Brewery.  Al was very satisfied with his flight of beers.  The bartender was amiable and chatty.

Knuckle Brewing Company
I made a new friend in Sturgis

Before heading into Deadwood, we detoured into Spearfish to check out Crow Peak Brewing Co.  They don’t offer flights, and Al found their IPA to be bitter.  Across the parking lot from the brewery was Bunky’s BBQ, so we popped over there for lunch.  Al had the country style (sauced) ribs, and I had the regular ribs.  Both plates came with beans, coleslaw and a bun.  We tasted each other’s meals and agreed both were very tasty, but the regular ribs were the best.  Definitely the right choice for lunch.

Outside Crow Peak Brewing Co.

Next, we headed into Deadwood to tour the downtown area.  It’s full of souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and casinos.  It was a fun place to take a wander.  We stopped at the Sick-N-Twisted Brew Pub, which shares space with Naked Winery.  There was a group there thoroughly enjoying the wine and beer.  Since I was DD, I passed on the wine.  Al was less than happy with his beer flight.

Downtown Deadwood

We picked up Ozzy at the doggy daycare and headed back to the motorhome for another night of rain.

Day 7 – Deadwood to Rapid City plus Custer State Park, South Dakota

We were out of our campground before 7:00 a.m. since we had committed to being at the Freightliner dealer in Rapid City bright and early.   We’d been experiencing some loss of power while going up hills when we drove into Deadwood earlier in the week so needed them to scan the RV to figure out our mechanical problems.  While they were doing the scan and associated diagnostics, we took the toad to Roosevelt Park and took Ozzy for a long walk along Rapid Creek.  With all the flooding this spring everywhere, we weren’t surprised to see the creek overflowing its banks.

Flooding in Rapid Creek

Once we knew the problem with the RV and that the parts wouldn’t be available until the next day, we decided to head out to Custer State Park to see the buffaloes.  We were able see several large herds of buffaloes as well as a few lone ones.  Other wildlife included elk, deer, pronghorn and marmots.  I’m not sure if the burros are considered wildlife, but we saw a herd of them as well. 

Feeding Time in Custer State Park
Buffalo Corrals at Custer State Park
Marmot

Most of the wildlife were seen on the Wildlife Loop, but we also did the Needles Highway.  Although I loved seeing all the wildlife, it was the Needles Highway that blew me away.  The granite formations are amazing in their variety and size.  I’m glad Al was doing the driving as the 14-mile road is narrow and winding with deep drop-offs.

View along the Needles Highway
Needles Eye Tunnel
Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park

Back in Rapid City, we moved the RV into the parking lot of the Freightliner dealer, so it would be available to them as soon as the parts arrived the next morning.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this was the first day of our vacation that we didn’t have any rain.  Yippee!

Day 8 – Rapid City to Custer, South Dakota

It was mid-afternoon before the motorhome was fixed.  We had spent the morning doing a bit of shopping and then hung out in the drivers’ lounge until it was ready to go.

We went directly to the campsite we had reserved for the night before and set up camp for the remaining 2 days of our reservation.  Custer’s Gulch is a beautiful 62-site campsite.  Nice big grassy lots with level gravel pads.  We had a bit of a rain in the late afternoon, but we had the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy a beverage while the sun was shining.

Whitetail Deer at Custer’s Gulch

Day 9 – Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer, South Dakota

We decided to start the day at Mount Rushmore.  Unfortunately, before we got to Mount Rushmore, Ozzy decided to have a pee in the back seat of the truck.  On the good news side, we have a platform for him in the back seat area of the truck that we were able to remove and put into the bed.  On the bad news side, the park ranger who stopped was not happy with us for parking in a fire lane; although he was not a friendly guy, he didn’t give us grief and let us get the platform moved.  Also on the bad news side, Al had to open the tonneau cover, which exposed a piece of furniture that we had been transported to Alberta to give to my nephew.  Considering the amount of rain that we’ve seen this vacation, it was a risky but necessary move.

Because we had Ozzy with us and he wasn’t allowed anywhere other than the parking area, and we didn’t want to leave him in the truck, we had to take turns going into the Mount Rushmore site.  It was a bustling place, but the view of the heads is impressive.  Unfortunately, the visitors centre was closed for renovations.  I did walk down to the sculptor’s studio, but they were partway through an explanation of the how the heads were carved, and I couldn’t get a spot to view.  I headed back to the truck via the nature trail rather than the main pathway so that Al could do his visit.

Mount Rushmore — Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Lincoln

Next stop was the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Here Ozzy was allowed everywhere but the welcome centre and the gift shop.  I went into the welcome centre on my own and did a walkthrough.  The welcome centre includes the Indian Museum of North America which includes art and artefacts from over 300 native nations.  Funnily, the first set of beaded moccasins that I stopped to look at came from Rama First Nation, which is only about an hour from home.  When I went to switch spots with Al, we could see some very dark clouds coming our way.  With the exposed furniture on the truck, we decided to head back to the campsite.

Crazy Horse Memorial

We did get a few drops of rain, but all was clear by the time we made it back to Custer.  We stopped at the hardware store to pick up some cleaning supplies and then headed back to the motorhome.  After doing a clean up of the platform, we took Ozzy for a walk and then headed back into Custer.  This time we left Ozzy behind in the RV with the windows open and an electronic monitoring system for the temperature in place.  We also left our phone number with a neighbour in case there was an issue.

Custer is a charming town with lots of restaurants, stores, lodging (including RV parks).  We picked up a few gifts to take home and then headed to Mount Rushmore Brewing Company.  Al ordered a flight of beers and was pleased with all of them.  He declared this his favourite brewery of the trip so far. 

Downtown Custer

After the brewery, we went to Bobkat’s Old Fashion Purple Pie Place.  On the recommendation of our neighbour at the campground, I tried the raspberry-rhubarb-jalapeno pie; Al had the turtle brownie.  My pie was fabulous and even better once I stole a bit of the vanilla ice cream from Al’s dessert.  There was no heat from the jalapeno and just a bit of the flavour.  Al’s turtle brownie was equally excellent.

Yummy!

Back at the RV for the night, we did a bit of housework and walked Ozzy again.  By 9:30, Al was snoozing on the couch, and Ozzy was laying on the floor next to him running in his sleep.

I hope you enjoyed our journey from Nebraska into South Dakota. Check back soon for the next instalment.

Safe travels!

Vanessa

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