Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Badlands and Minuteman Missile NHP

We have visited the Badlands National Park before and I remember how awestruck we were at the scenery. We’re still impressed with the beautiful scenery here.  We stayed at the Badlands/White River KOA. 

The Lakota Indians and early French Trappers are the ones that gave this area it’s name.  You can be awestruck of the silhouettes of the infinite peaks against a crisp fall blue sky while imagining what it would be like to travel through here on foot or horseback and not be able to find water.  We saw bison and a couple of herds of ewes, and finally some rams.

Standing on the top of the view!

Enjoyed the scenery!

A pretty touch of fall foliage!

We sat outside that evening around our campfire watching the first Presidential Debate.  So glad our neighbors next door came to visit and took our focus off of the yelling and arguing the candidates were doing.

What a beautiful full moon rising!

Watching the debate outside

The next day we drove over to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  Let me quote what is written on the park brochure:  “When Gene Williams was growing up in the 1960s, he knew that his family’s farm held a dangerous weapon – a nuclear missile that could reach the Soviet Union.  ‘You were always aware of the fact that the awesome power that was there could end the world,’ he recalls.”  The missile he’s talking about was one of hundreds of Minuteman missiles hidden beneath the sunflowers and wheat, cows and corn crops during the Cold War. The park interprets this perilous period of world history and explores the choices a nation faces.  We also visited the Delta-09 missile silo site.  It’s crazy to think that if you were driving down Interstate 90 at this time, you were actually driving through a potential war zone.

An unmarked building encircled by a tall fence gave little hint that this was a Launch Control Facility. Above ground, security guards and other staff worked, stood watch, relaxed and rested. Below ground, two US Air Force officers were always ready to launch nuclear missiles.  All they needed was the command from the US President.  What was really scary was there was a display that told 4 or 5 times due to human error we almost launched these missiles.  The one that really stands out was a technician inserted a training video simulation of Russia launching a missile towards the USA.  Oh my. 

Yep doesn't look like anything from the freeway.

And there's Interstate 90

Our travels will be taking us through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Wonderful Park called Custer, South Dakota

It is about a 6 hour drive from Medora, ND down to Custer, SD. When you leave Rapid City, it’s a curvy and slow drive.  I started trying about 2 months prior to get us reservations at Custer State Park.  I was only able to score 2 nights but I knew we needed at least 4 nights so we could see and experience all the sounds that make this a very special area.  The day we arrived was also the day of the Buffalo Roundup in the park so it was even hard to find any openings in a private park.  Our first 2 nights we camped at Buffalo Ridge which is a nice park.  We had fun neighbors and enjoyed sharing a campfire and happy hour with them.

 First on our agenda here was to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Here’s a little history for you.  Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (1908 – 1982) was born in Boston. He was a self-taught and renowned Sculptor, gaining recognition at the 1939 World’s Fair which attracted the attention of Chief Henry Standing Bear who invited Korczak to the Black Hills to carve Crazy Horse.  The Native Americans chose the Lakota Leader, Crazy Horse, as the subject for this project.  Korczak accepted. Ruth Ross (1926 – 2014) followed him, they married and had ten children who took part in the Dream of Crazy Horse as they were growing up.  Dedicated management and staff, including the Ziolkowski children and grand children, carry on the project today. Their mission is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of all North American Indians. There is a Mountain Crew that works year-round. They are still in the phase of carving and removing most rock by labor intensive drilling, feather and wedging, and wire saw cuts.

Crazy Horse is still in progress!

The white lines indicate where they will be carving at.  You can kinda make out his horse.

One day it will look like this.

The model and the mountain.

Another carving

From there we drove down to Jewel Cave National Monument.  President Teddy Roosevelt on February 7, 1908 signed a proclamation to establish this monument as part of the National Park system. At the time it was believed to be a small but extraordinarily beautiful cave.  One hundred years later exploration continues and has proven Jewel Cave to be anything but small, with a current length of 180 miles.  And yes, due to Covid, there were no cave tours and they were showing their introductory movie that was nicely done and allowed us to interpret the park a little.

Thank you Teddy Roosevelt!

The next day we moved to the Legion Lake Campground at the state park.  It is sunny, cold and windy!  Ron set up the BBQ pit for a little grilling.  There are 3 or 4 scenic drives to do in the park.  We drove the Needles Highway which gets it’s name from the needle-like formations along the highway. Fall foliage was very pretty.  We also drove the Wildlife Loop.  It seemed all the bison were still pinned up from the Buffalo Roundup the day before.

Love the tunnels

Beautiful moonrise over Legion Lake

The next day we made the drive up to Mount Rushmore on the winding Iron Mountain Road.  There are beautiful pigtail bridges, outstanding scenery and tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore.

View through the tunnel

We sure love our country!

We ended our stay here with a happy hour with blogging friends Jim and Barb.  I have been following their travels since we started our full time adventures back in 2016.  They recently purchased property near Custer and are in the process of building a barndominium.  It was great to meet them in person at long last!

Thanks Jim, Barb, Daisy and Dakota for letting us come visit! You have a beautiful homeplace!

Next up is the Badlands and Minuteman Missile Park in South Dakota.


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Beartooth Highway and Teddy Roosevelt

After leaving West Yellowstone, our travel plan took us to Billings where we set up camp at a very nice KOA.  Our itinerary was to drive up to Red Lodge and head over Beartooth Pass.  We were fighting the smoky wildfire haze, but the Beartooth Highway was still outstandingly beautiful!  It is US Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming, between Red Lodge and the North East entrance to Yellowstone.  Beartooth Pass is 10,947 feet above sea level. Our hometown in Texas is 30 feet above elevation. It’s no wonder we struggle in the higher elevations!  Here are some pictures showcasing some of the beauty we saw.

Steep, winding and curvy road


Next up on the travel agenda was to head to Medora, North Dakota where you will find the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  First of all, the landscape here is beautiful.  Teddy came here in 1883 to hunt bison.  He was a New Yorker, young, skinny and spectacled.  He couldn’t have imagined how his adventure here in this remote land would affect our nation.  As you know, Teddy Roosevelt helped shape a conservation policy we still benefit from today.  The NPS had the campground closed due to construction updates so we stayed at the Medora Campground.  And by the way, the town of Medora is quite quaint.  Some things were closed and I was not sure if due to Covid or just the season for things to start closing.

Our first time to see a fishing trailer. They ice fish by removing trap doors in the floor. Dual purpose!

We drove through both the North and South Units of the park.  They are 68 miles apart.  We saw lots of wild horses, bison and pretty fall foliage.

Pretty windy at the top!

Little Missouri River

Next up our travels take us to South Dakota to the Custer area.