Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's Official!!

Yes, it's official! We are now South Dakota residents! As I mentioned earlier we are saving $400 a year on our insurance by doing this. We basically have had the same thing in Florida since we sold our house there and had to have somewhere to get our mail. Thursday we went to America's Mailbox in Rapid City and officially signed up for them to receive our mail. They in turn provided us with an address to use for registering the truck and 5th wheel and for our driver's licenses and a means to register to vote. The cost for this is $99 a year plus $100 for a postage bank and a one time $25 set up fee. For another $25 they would do the registering of our vehicles for us but since we didn't have anything to do anyway we decided to do it ourselves. They really kinda discouraged this as they said we would be there all day and if we didn't have all our ducks in a row we would have to go back another day and wait in line all over again. Well, I have to say it was extremely easy for us to do it ourselves and the lady who helped us at the Courthouse didn't even ask for half the stuff that our mail service said we needed. Yes, the line did seem long when we got off the elevator but it went really fast and we were at one of the windows within 15 minutes. Another 15 minutes later and we were out the door with our new license plates in our hands. It was too late in the day to get our driver's licenses so we did that the very next day. Again, a very easy process. Sheesh, when we were in Florida we had to make an appointment to get our driver's licenses and even with that we still had to wait for 2 hours! We walked into the DMV and I looked up on the wall where one of those electronic "Now Serving" things was and it said #1. I pulled out a ticket and it was #2. LOL. The lady who helped me looked at the address on my application and said, "Oh, you're RV'ers, huh?" I guess they know that address. LOL. Took an eye test and a new picture and we were done.

Here they are!! Look how much smaller the one for the 5th wheel is

Looks like he's holding up a convict number

After that we left to go do laundry, get some cash at the Bank of Walmart and bought a phone card. We had to find a public phone to call Rod's mom and NO, it's not easy finding a public phone. People just don't use them anymore. We did find one but when Rod tried to call the 1-800 number he got a recording that said "you cannot dial an 800 number from this phone. Huh?? What's up with that?? Oh well, I guess our mission today is to find a phone that WILL let him dial an 800 number.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Black Hills Caverns, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse

WARNING!!! LONG post and LOTS of pictures!!!

Tuesday we went into Rapid City to our mail forwarding service. We still had not gotten an email from our insurance company so we used the phone in the office to call. The person Rod talked to said they don't give estimates and would refer it to the person who does. That person sent an email later that day and we found out our savings would be about $400. That would definitely make it worthwhile to change our residency so we're back on track for that. We couldn't do anything else that day so we left there and went a few miles down the road to Dinosaur Museum. What a joke that place was. It was a bunch of plaster dinosaurs painted green and looking pretty ridiculous. We left there and decided since it was so cold we might as well do some cave exploring. There are LOTS of caves in this area. We ended up at Black Hills Caverns. It was a nice cave that was privately owned as opposed to a government run place. They don't start doing guided tours until June so we were on our own. The lady gave us a book with information about the cave and directions so we wouldn't get lost. She even had to turn on the lights for us. This cave had very low ceilings and very narrow passageways. We loved it! The only thing is that the further down you go you know you have to climb back up. It was great fun trying to decipher which passageways to go down and then coming back realizing we were on the wrong path. LOL. At one point Rod and I got separated and couldn't even hear each other yelling for each other. That was kinda scary since Rod had the book with the directions out of the cave and all I had was a flashlight. It was really fun exploring by ourselves though.

The Entrance

The temp inside the cave, BRRRRRR

Very narrow passageways at times

We made it to the bottom, now for the climb back up. We were actually glad it was only 47 degrees inside!

Today we finally had a nice day. We woke up to sunshine and not a cloud in the sky! Off to see The Boys on the Mountain. Mount Rushmore! We had to pay $10 to park but when Rod told him we would be South Dakotans tomorrow he made our pass good for a year. It's one of those places that you see over and over again in pictures but when you actually get there it's WAY more than you expected. It was absolutely incredible. It took 17 years to complete. I could explain the history of it to you but if you click on this link it will do it way more justice than I could. It's very interesting but kinda long. The making of Mt Rushmore. One interesting thing I didn't know about was the Hall of Records which sits behind Lincoln's head. I didn't see the movie National Treasure but now I know it's something I really have to see.

Our first view of "The Boys" The flags represent each State and the columns tell what order and what year the state was added to the Union.

In case you were wondering what the back side looks like. JUST KIDDING!!!

As we were leaving and heading for the Crazy Horse Memorial we caught this profile view.

From there we drove down the highway to check out the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is a work in progress (started in 1948) and has no estimated completion date. When finished it will be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high. The cost to get into the museum was $20 so we passed on that. We could see it from the road anyway.

This is what we could see from the road

This shows what it will look like when completed.

From there we went to the Black Hills Museum of Natural History in Hill City where Rod knew about a T-Rex named "Stan" that was on display there. Stan is one of the most studied dinosaurs and was found in the Black Hills. Stan was a replacement for "Sue" who was one of the most complete skeletons of a T-Rex ever found. Sue is now in a museum in Chicago. The admission price to see Stan was $7.50 per person!! I don't think so. We were the only people there so the lady at the counter let us at least snap a picture.

Molly told us about a restaurant in Hill City called The Alpine Inn where they serve filet mignon for $7.95 so that was another reason we were in Hill City (they've upped the price just a bit). It was way too early for dinner so we decided to check out some other places in the area. We heard about a place in Four Mile that had an old western town that was supposedly also a ghost town. We found it but it looked pretty lame so we continued on down the road where we had heard about Jewel Caves. We went there but the last tour had departed at 3:30 and it was already 4:00 so back to Hill City we went. We'll probably be going back another day. By the time we got back there it was almost 5:00 so we figured an early dinner was just fine. When we got to Alpine Inn we found out they don't open until 5:00, they don't take reservations and they don't take credit cards. You had to enter the restaurant through the lounge and then wait for them to open the doors. It reminded me of when we were on a cruise waiting for the dining room to open. You remember that, don't you, Sissy?? We pooled our cash together and found out we had enough for a beer each and dinner. WOO HOO!!! We sound like po folk, don't we? The menu was steak (6 oz for $8.95) or steak (9 oz for $10.95). After pooling our money we discovered we could afford the 9 oz so of course that's what we chose. What a fantastic dinner!!! You got no choices of anything but that was okay with us. We had an iceberg lettuce wedge with Ranch dressing, baked potato and our steak.

Everybody waiting for the doors to open

Our dinner

We were stuffed when we left and headed home (after stopping at the Bank of Walmart for some cash). Whew, what a day! I'm tired just reading about it.

By the way, anything that appears in blue you can click on and it will take you to their website. If you want to view more of my pictures from today click on this link MY PICTURES. You can click on any of the pictures there to make them bigger.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Today we decided to visit Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. The Native Americans don't like it called that because of the negative connotations so they call it Bear Lodge. We’re pretty close to the Wyoming/South Dakota border but it was a 90 mile drive one way. As we were driving we were thinking, “why didn’t we wait to do this on our way out of town?” Oh well, we were already on the road and it is pretty far off of Interstate 90. It’s a beautiful drive through rolling hills that looked like they had just been mowed. They hadn’t, it just looked that way. It kinda reminded me of the countryside in Kentucky but there were no buildings that hold all the whiskey barrels.

As soon as we turned off the highway we could see the tower off in the distance. There was a 1.3 mile trail that went completely around the tower and of course we wanted to do it. It was interesting to see the difference between the front and the back of the tower. There were also people climbing up. It's called a "crack climb" because they climb in the cracks. American Indians have regarded the Tower as a sacred site long before climbers found their way to the area. Recently, American Indian people have expressed concerns over recreational climbing at Devils Tower. Some think climbing on the Tower as a desecration to their sacred site. It appears to many American Indians that climbers and hikers do not respect their culture by the very act of climbing on or near the Tower.

A key element of the Climbing Management Plan is the June Voluntary Climbing Closure. The National Park Service has decided to advocate this closure in order to promote understanding and encourage respect for the culture of American Indian tribes who are closely affiliated with the Tower as a sacred site. June is a culturally significant time when many (not all) ceremonies traditionally occur. Although voluntary, this closure has been very successful - resulting in an 80% reduction in the number of climbers during June.

During June, the NPS asks climbers to voluntarily refrain from climbing on the Tower and hikers to voluntarily refrain from scrambling within the inside of the Tower Trail Loop.

Definitely not something I would do but it's still very impressive.

On our way out we were starving so we went looking for something to eat. We found a little cafe on the side of the highway so we stopped in. Rod had a buffalo burger and I had a bacon cheeseburger. Just can't bring myself to eat buffalo. We also each got a Devil's Tower Lager to go with it. Pretty tasty.

Rod kept himself entertained with a game that was on the table while waiting for our food

From there we took a scenic highway back to our campground. There are so many scenic highways here and we've managed to find several of them already. With the cold weather it's nice to just take a drive and enjoy the scenery and believe me, the scenery here is AMAZING! This drive went through Spearfish, Lead, and Deadwood. We saw some gorgeous waterfalls along the way and one we had to hike to see it. Boy, am I gonna be sore tomorrow...

Bridal Veil Falls (right on the side of the road)

It was a little bit of a hike to get to the next one

Spearfish Falls (it was worth the hike)

Tomorrow (if the weather cooperates) we're going to go see the "boys" on the mountain also known as Mt Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument. It will be a lot shorter drive than we did today.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Deadwood, Mammoth Site and Custer State Park, South Dakota


Friday we were trying to decide where we were going to go. First we had to find out why we were having a propane smell in the rig. We had turned it off in Salt Lake City because we smelled it but knew we could do without it until we got to Rapid City. Since we are on the property of a RV dealer Rod went over to the service department to see if they could have a look at it. One of the mechanics came over, diagnosed the problem and contacted our extended warranty company. They agreed to pay for the repairs so the guy said he'd fix it shortly. Well, we waited and waited for him to come back but it wasn't until about 3:30 in the afternoon before he came back. He fixed the problem in no time at all but by then it was after 4:00. The only thing left to do that late was go to Deadwood where the casinos are. LOL. Deadwood is also where Wild Bill Hickock was killed at Saloon Number 10 while his back was to the door. The cards he was holding, Aces and Eights, has since been known as the "dead man's hand". We both lost a little bit but I'm pretty sure we're going to be going back again. It was late and started raining so we didn't stay long. We also need to get back the money we left there...

We had GREAT ribeye steaks at the restaurant above the casino

Look at the "ladies" in the upper windows.

Today we decided to go to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs where there is a real sinkhole that they have been excavating since 1974 when construction workers clearing land for a housing development discovered a huge bone protruding out of the ground. They built a building over the site so they can work whenever they want to (although they only excavate in July) without the dig being destroyed. It's pretty awesome the way they did that. This is a real working dig with 55 real mammoth and one short-faced bear bones. Usually the ones you see in a museum are made from molds and put together. Rod would have stayed there ALL day but we still had Custer State Park to cruise through.

There are little markers everywhere to identify the bones they find

Pretty impressive

You know he wanted to read every single thing there. That's the short-faced bear, by the way. It stood 15 feet tall on it's hind legs.

From there we went to Custer State Park. It's only a 30 mile loop through the park but very slow twisty turning roads. Rod has one of those old people cards that get us into National Parks for free so he was a little miffed that we had to pay $6 per person to get into this state park.

We saw lots of bison,

Pronghorn antelope,

"Wild" burros,

And wild turkeys

From there we were going to take Iron Mountain Road to some scenic back roads to get something to eat and then back home. We missed the road we were supposed to take and ended up in Keystone right by Mt Rushmore. Darn, we didn't want to see it until the weather had warmed up later in the week so that we could get out and hike around the area. It was overcast and 50's all day and one of the ranger's said he'd heard from somebody that the clouds were so low you couldn't see the "boys" on the mountain. The road was extremely twisty and very narrow. We had to go through some tunnels that were one lane and one vehicle at a time. It was a beautiful drive though.

See how twisty the road is?

One of the tunnels. Good thing we didn't have the 5th wheel with us.

We went through three tunnels and they were all designed by Peter Norbeck so that you could see the "boys" through each one of them. Can you see them?

The "boys". You can tell it was an overcast day. I can't wait till we can go back when the weather is nice. Should be later this week.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting Devil's Tower. If you've seen the movie Close Encounters you'll remember Devil's Tower.