Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buffalo and Jewels

Sunday: The campfire ripped and roared from 9:30am to 6:30pm. We clambered on rocks and hiked in the woods of Orville campground in Black Hills National Forest. We read and we wrote and we ate.

Monday: We slept in 90 minutes past the 4:45am MST alarm to wake us up to go to Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up. The camp host had advised us we'd better get an early start to beat the crowd of 10,000 that show up annually. He also informed us that this was the same buffalo round-up that was filmed for the movie "Dances With Wolves". It turns out it was a good thing we slept in. Had we arrived earlier, we would have had to wait even longer than the three hours we stood in a field surrounded by buffalo chips (poop, that is) before any buffalo appeared at 9:30am. The whole demonstration was mediocre at best. We did get to see a few hundred buffalo and a few dozen cowboys from a few hundred yards away. One man behind me exclaimed after the fifteen-minute show "We traveled 2,000 miles for that?" My thoughts exactly. At least it was the perfect opportunity to don my (Chris' actually) sweet suede cowgirl (cowboy) hat. On the drive out of the park we were able to see a few buffalo up close grazing near the edge of the road. [Chris' note: "I thought it was pretty cool to see the hundred of buffalo charge down the hill and through the valley."]

After buffalo come jewels. Actually just shiny, pointy calcite deposits covering cave walls 379 feet underground. After exactly 19 consecutive phone calls to the reservation department, we purchased two tickets to take an 80-minute tour of the shiny guts of the South Dakota. Jewel Cave National Monument is the second longest cave in the world and remains a steady 49 degree Fahrenheit year-round. One fun fact our tour group learned is that Jewel Cave smells just like burning wood! Several people throughout the tour remarked on the unusual barbeque or campfire smell apparent in the cave. Chris and I laughed as we bashfully admitted it was surely the campfire odor we carried in our hair and clothes. However, for the other people who didn't ask, I'm sure they'll be telling their friends how strange it was that the cave smelled so much like a barbeque.

After Jewel Cave, the Dod escorted us out of South Dakota (it's been real, SD) and into Nebraska. We quickly discovered that our constant companion The Atlas is missing pages 135-150 inconveniently leaving out most of NE, all of NV, NH, NJ, NM and some of NY. Fortunately, we had just enough of the Nebraska map to direct us to Wildcat State Park (Me-ow!!) The wind was a-roarin' and there wasn't another tent or RV to be found. So, we opted to stay indoors and cook a feast of a fajita dinner complete with avocados, fresh tomatoes and chipotle cheese. Ole!

Tuesday: Woke up around 8:30am to another brisk day. If the wind doesn't wake you up, a quick knife-jab in the hand will. (These bandages sure are coming in handy, BFFs. Today's bandage, alligator-themed!) Chris cooked a delicious sausage and pepper frittata for breakfast, then we were on our way for an errand-filled day in Scottsbluff, NE. First stop, windshield wipers. The ground wire for the wipers' motor was rusted out so we had it replaced by a SBF (silent but friendly) mechanic. Next stop, laundry. Quick Tip: Laundromats are the perfect charging stations. We plugged in our laptops, DS, cell phones and camera while we attempted to wash the campfire smoke out of our clothes. Six loads, twenty quarters later we were finished and on the way to give the Dod her first real car wash. She appreciated us brushing her grill and getting out all those flies, moths and butterflies she's been eating.

Scott's Bluff
Laundromat / Charging Station

After a quick stop at for lunch we headed down through Nevada, took a quick trek through Wyoming and found ourselves in colorful Colorado. My unaccustomed midwesterner eyes look at distant mountain peaks and see clouds.

Well, here we are at Wal-Mart once again. We had to take a picture of the Dod in this parking lot. One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong... Can you tell which one?

Thank you to everyone who has left us a comment or sent us a email. We love hearing from you. If you have a chance, send us a message or post a comment.

Love from the Dod

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Into the Black Hills

"Traveling makes a man wiser, but less happy."
-Thomas Jefferson

President Jefferson, I beg to differ. I couldn't be happier.

We awoke in our quaint little RV park and set out for the Black Hills.
It appears South Dakota saved all their trees and put them here. Whatever they lack in the rest of the state is made up for tenfold.
After climbing up and down and around several hills on steep, winding roads we came to the tiny valley town of Keystone, pop. 311.

A few hotels, cottages and a main street of souvenir and antique shops and restaurants to snag the tired tourist with a few dollars to burn. We browsed, but refrained from buying anything, even though Nikki did find this sweet hat.
Leaving Keystone you can see Mt. Rushmore as you wind your way up yet another hill. It's free to get in, but you pay to park. Damn feds.
The monument is massive, and a true testament to human ingenuity. And while it is amazing to see, you can only take so many pictures. So after an hour or so we hightailed it down the road.

On the lookout for public campsites, we passed one already closed for the season. The next seemed good, but we still needed firewood, so we continued on.

Then we came to the Crazy Horse Monument. This depiction of the famous American indian is hardly close to being finished, but the scope of it is pretty awesome, when seen from the road. Maybe when they finish we'll spend our money to get a closer look. No hard feelings, just being frugal.
Here you can see it in the distance. the face is completed and you can see a long flat plateau that will be his arm. The have stenciled on the rock the head of the horse on which he rides.

We eventually entered Custer, SD, named after the same Custer whose regiment was slaughtered at Little Bighorn by a superior force of American Indians.
Custer is also home to the Flinstones campground and amusement park. Too rich for our blood, though.

We continued on to the Jewel caves after coming across yet another campground closed for the season to find out all the tours were full for the day. To our dismay we also found out that there were no other public campgrounds available, and we would have to backtrack to the site we found before the Crazy Horse Monument.

So a half hour later we were set up in the campsite where we will finish out the weekend. After setting up we took a small hike around the surrounding area. It wasn't long before we came across some deer.

And then we came across a mysterious cave which I appropriately named Mountain Crotch cave.
We're not exactly sure what, if anything, lives down there, but as suggested by the plastic blue keg cup, I think it's probably a drunk.

Well, tomorrow we're going to take it easy, probably morph the Dod into full leisure mode. Then we'll head out Monday to see the Jewel caves, and then the Wind caves further south. For tonight it's tequila and hotdogs. God bless America.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."

-Thomas Jefferson

Right on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

B-b-b-badlands! (inc. Wall Drug)

The Badlands are BAD ASS. For real. You need proof? Just check out these pictures...

The Dod resting in the sunset after a long haul.

The view from our window from the campsite.

As my best friend Amanda put it, “Walking through the Badlands is like walking on another planet”. So true...

Upon arriving in Badlands National Park, four big-eared deer greeted us on the road. We camped in an open-land campground for only $5 per night with our America the Beautiful pass. The treeless, burn-ban campground was non-traditional compared to most camping experiences. but we had fun nonetheless. Unlike the campfire ban, the stars burnt bright and unconstrained in the heavens. Never have I seen so many stars. The Milky Way was clearly visible and shooting stars were not uncommon. (photos unavailable)

Capturing the depth and magnificent beauty of the Badlands through photography is simply impossible. Every single step issues more photos. Gray and white stone build up to bashful purple and golden orange layers mimicking the sunset. The four-mile hike Chris and I took could have easily taken 3+ hours hadn’t Chris prompted me through the trails without shooting photos every other minute. Here's a few we did find time for...

We started waaay over there!

The beautiful grasslands...

This sign made me a nervous wreck for the whole first hour of the hike. Here, here, here little rattlesnake...

A couple of friendly co-hikers offered to take our photo.

What a fantastic sunset to end a pleasant day...

After the hike, we biked two miles back to the campsite and heated chicken soup and leftover kielbasa for dinner. [By the way Darin, that soup is fantastic! (that should mean a lot coming from the soup queen herself)].

Chris and I adopted a pet named Meow Meow. Meow Meow is a broke-ass bee from the Badlands. He landed on our picnic table and promptly dived into the whisky. We hung out with little Meow Meow for a while until he got bored and went to play with the bun-rabs. An hour later Meow Meow stumbled back for a second shot and promptly pencil-dived into Chris’ drink. Meow Meow flew around in circles until the birds woke us up the next morning. We looked high and low for his silly drunk ass all morning until we finally gave up and headed out toward Wall, SD.

Lo and behold, on Friday morning, there was Meow Meow chillin’ on the window and soakin’ up the rays trying to nurse his poor hangover! Just before we exited the Badlands, Meow Meow recovered and opted to join the Prairie Dogs instead of accompanying us to Wall Drug. (He's been there at least a billion times. Freeloader.)

We were lucky enough to happen upon a happy family of prairie dogs on our way out of the Badlands.

Just like Jason promised, Wall Drug is the absolute kichiest place in the wide USA. What a treat! T-Rex and five-cent coffee were the biggest perks. Chris and I spent an hour and a half roaming the aisles purchasing crap like flyswatters and postcards.

Currently, we are camped out at an RV camp called “Tee Pee Campground” just south of Rapid City listening to “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes” and snacking on pretzels and chips for dinner. Till next time, peace!