Mt Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road and Jewel Cave

We got up early and I headed over to Jewel Cave to purchase tour tickets as we heard they sell out very early and only sell them the day of the tour.  I picked a tour time of 4 pm so we would have plenty of time for the rest of the day’s activities.

I got back and we headed off to Mt. Rushmore.   It was a short half-hour ride over and surprisingly they have parking garages.  Shade!!   The pups weren’t allowed too close.   I guess they are worried they might pee on the granite.    It was an awe inspiring place.  Hard to imagine guys on wooden ladders with pneumatic tools did that.   I have always wanted to see it in person.  They are huge!

On the way there from Custer, you can see the beginnings of the Crazy Horse sculpture off the 185 highway.   It’s going to also be massive but only the face is close to finished.

There is no entrance fee at Mt. Rushmore, but there is a $10 parking fee,  and as I said, the parking garages are awesome on a warm day in the Dakota’s.

We stayed there about an hour, it was a bit too warm to hike the mountain and there isn’t anything else to see there… just the chatchski shop and some food joint.

From there we headed out to find Iron Mountain Road.   I read about it and a tunnel carved into the rock that had a great view of the dead presidents’ heads.    And they were right.  What an awesome view  it was.   And one of the windiest roads I think I have ever been on.  (and me a brain dead motorcyclist)  Turns our there were three square tunnels blasted out of the granite, and two of them lined up directly with the monument.  They had even cut down the trees in a straight line so they would be visible.   What a great road.   There were also a lot of wooden bridges that were shaped in like a spiral staircase so you curved around and went under where you just were.  Thank god we weren’t in an RV for this road.

After all that fun we headed back to the coach to eat some lunch and change clothes for the tour.   I neglected to tell Kathy there were 750 stairs on this tour.   It was awesome!   Although climbing all those stairs to get back up to the elevator was a real bear.  Thankfully it was 49 degrees down there so we weren’t sweating as much.   It was very different than Wind Cave.  I had a lot of fun,  but I think Kathy is done with caves for a while.

We leave Tuesday morning for the Badlands, staying across the street from Wall Drug.




Ride up to the Black Hills and over to Wind Cave.

We left Devils Tower before 9 am this morning for Custer, South Dakota.        Mt. Rushmore is the main attraction in the hills, but there is also the Crazy Horse memorial, which is a work in progress; then there is Deadwood; Custer State Park; and the two big caves,  Jewel and Wind Cave.

We headed into the hills just below Deadwood, which was nice, but it wasn’t at all like the TV show, so we kept going.  Also,  hard to park a 65′ vehicle in a small town like that.

It was a beautiful ride thru the hills to Custer.   We passed by another huge lake on the way there.   We are staying at a Horse Ranch Campground,  lots of barns and horse trailers,  but quite a few RVs too.   We were having a hard time finding a place to stay when a coach arrived next to us in Cody.   I mentioned we were heading to Mt. Rushmore and were finding it difficult to get a spot to park.   He had just been there and told us to try this campground.   It’s really nice and doesn’t even show up in the Good Sam app.  The pups like all the horses!

We arrived early and decided to check out Wind Cave.   Bought some tour tickets and headed into a very cool crevice at 5 pm (54 degrees cool), felt real nice on a 95 degree day.   It was a very interesting cave.  So far they have explored over 147 miles of it.  They speculate there may be up to a thousand miles left to explore.  There are lots of stairs and low ceilings.  I can’t imagine how hard it was to get concrete all the way in there to make the walkways, but it was carried on people’s backs in tire tubes.     And they don’t spend much on electricity,  pretty dark down there.  The ranger had to pass out flashlights at one point due to the lights going out completely.   You cannot believe how dark it gets in a cave 200′ below the surface.

They had the most amazing formations in there.   These box lattice like things,  I’ve never seen anything like it, never even in pictures.  The ranger explained it’s only found in 7 caves in the world, and this cave has 90% of all the structures found so far.   They explained them as if there was a brick wall and all the bricks were removed, leaving just the mortar.   If they were done by a brick layer,  they should find another occupation as they were at all angles.   And there wasn’t even one stalactite or stalagmite, like I had seen in the only other cave I have been too,  Luray Cavern.  Went there as a kid on vacation with my parents.  It was somewhere in Virginia.  This is a dry cave, so it was very different than what I remembered from back then.

Just prior to getting into the cave, we got to experience why it was called Wind Cave.  As far as they know, there is only one natural opening into it.   It’s a small hole in the rock about 15″ in diameter.  There was a stiff breeze blowing out the hole while we were there, maybe 20 mph, and cooler than what blows out of your air-conditioner at home.   It all revolves around the air pressure.  When there is a storm coming (low pressure) it is really blowing out the hole, and when it’s beautiful outside (high pressure) the hole is like a big vacuum cleaner.   There was a big thunderstorm brewing when we got there, so we got to experience the big outbound wind.

The search for Richard Dreyfuss

We left Buffalo Wyoming for a short jaunt to Devil’s Tower,  maybe a 2-hour cruise.   I like the short trips,  but they would be even better if we were staying longer…   We checked in at the campground next to the entrance gate.   Turns out it was where the movie scenes at the tower were filmed back in the 70’s.  I had no idea it was the 40th anniversary of the film’s release, but I saw the T-shirts!   That makes me wonder if I would even recognize Richard now.

All fun aside,  we deployed the living space and headed over to the park.  I figured it wasn’t going to take a long time to see the park, that’s why we were leaving in the morning.   I was right,  it’s an awesome site.  You can walk right around its base on a short trail.   We chose not to as it was very toasty and there was no shade at the tower’s base.   We didn’t see any climbers on the face, but were told by a ranger over 5,000 people climb it every year, just check in with the rangers and have the correct gear so they can look at it.  [I talked to a couple that had just come down and they said it took about 8 hours to go up and back down.  I can’t imagine how they do it because it looks almost straight up!  Plus it was about 100 degrees.]

On the way out we stopped at the Prairie Dog Town on the main road.   They appeared to be the big hit with the kids., especially when they stood up on their hind legs to look around.  There was even a young teenager with green hair and the dogs were looking at him more than the others.

The campground shows the movie every night at 8 pm, but of course it started to pour and then the lightning and thunder began just a few minutes before 8.  So we headed back to the coach and I rented it from Amazon and streamed it to the TV thru the Mobley during the storm.   Kathy had never seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  She wasn’t super impressed.   I loved it.. again!


Buffalo Wy

We left Cody on Tuesday morning heading for a KOA in Buffalo Wy.   Not a particularly long drive, but we did need to go over the Big Horn mountain range so we knew it might be a scenic one.  (steep)  It didn’t let us down.   Just past the town of Ten Sleep, we started to climb.   Once we reached the really steep part, we were a few cars behind a cattle truck going 15 miles an hour.  After we slowly passed a few turnouts, I knew we were in for a long day.   This joker wasn’t going to pull over.   About 20 minutes of driving that slow and I was ready to pull my hair out.  [I can’t tell you how much it bothers Bill when people drive too slow in front of him, even in the beautiful, scenic parks.  Something new I discovered about him.]

I saw a large turnout coming up and we pulled over to grab a bite as it was just after noon anyway.  We were there probably 15 minutes,  including the dog walk.   Then we got back on the road up.   Not 10 minutes later we ran into the back of a much longer line of cars and trucks with that dang cattle truck way up front.  Oh, The Horror!

He was still not pulling over.   We sat behind that line for at least another hour [Really probably 20 minutes] and at times we were at 5 mph.  Never exceeded 15.  Finally, as we were about to find the summit, he pulled over.   And all the vehicles went around him until a trailer that was two spots in front of us.   He was going to let that guy back in…. I leaned on the air horn… for at least 45 seconds before he pulled out and we got past.  I was not going to stay behind that truck any longer.  Can’t imagine what he would be doing on the long, steep grades heading to the valley below and Buffalo, our destination for the day.

There were four very long 7% downgrades with mandatory brake checks for trucks  and RVs.  Had never seen that on a sign before.  But the grades were amazingly long straights ending with sharp turns all the way down.

We found the KOA, checked in and was led to our spot for the night.   We deployed the living space and unlatched the car so we could go into town.   It was HOT so off to the showers.

Once back we headed into town.  It was still pretty hot,  mid-90’s.  I had read a bit about the town.  I guess its current claim to fame is Longmire Days.  (I had missed that part)  Turns out the guy who wrote the books the TV show is based on lived here and wrote about life in and around Buffalo Wy.  As fate has it,  the celebration begins on Friday.  We were leaving on Thursday.  But I heard Starbuck wasn’t going to show, so I didn’t care.

We stopped by a local museum and picked up a few walking tour maps.   Geez,  they were so incorrect it was comical.   Many U-turns and lefts listed but were supposed to be rights.  I wondered who compiled this mess.  [Thank goodness we were driving.  We would have died on the tour it was so hot!!]

After we drove all around the town’s back streets for about an hour, it had cooled off by at least a degree,  maybe two.  It was about 95, so we parked on Main Street and started walking the very short old downtown.   There are a lot of places called “Crazy Woman”  something,  Square, Canyon, Road, liquor store, Realty etc.  I still don’t have any idea what that is all about.

There was a farmers market happening but not like any I had seen before.  No produce.  Mostly trinkets, and some raw milk tents,

We stopped in the Mishap Brewery and the bartender noticed my dogs looking in the window and said there was a patio out back and that we could bring them in thru the brewery.    Had a decent pint and Kathy had what looked to be a highball glass of white wine (Cold, Anything Cold she had told him)

The beer was just OK,  so I didn’t bother getting a growler fill.   It was still really warm on the patio, so we left and headed up the street to a bench on a small bridge crossing the Clear Creek.  There was a glorious breeze there, and we sat there a bit conversing with a lady driving a horse-drawn cart.    The horse was maybe five feet from us and the pups didn’t let him out of their sight.   She mentioned she grew up just outside of Cody where we had just come from and said she had moved to Bellingham, Washington for some time and missed riding horses,  Not sure why she was in Buffalo and not in Cody, but before we could ask, she got a fare.

We headed off for the Occidental Hotel.  It’s the main attraction in the town,  nice place.  After looking in there and the attached saloon, we walked back to the car and headed back toward the campground.  Kathy was dying of heat prostration, starved and wanted Mexican, or anything where she didn’t have to cook.   Taco John’s.   Kind of a glorified Taco Bell but slightly better.  The street tacos weren’t bad.

That night a big storm blew in, lots of wind, lightning and thunder.. and of course, large drops of rain pelted the coach.

In the morning it was beautiful again, and getting warm fast.   Packing up and heading for Devil’s Tower!




Fourth of July In Cody Wy.

This is small town America!   It started out with the proverbial 4th of July parade down Main Street.   Lots of cowboys and cowgirls, old cars and trucks,  marching bands, a few floats, and the inevitable Shriner’s in their small go carts, these all having tortoise shells for bodies.   The little kids loved it.

The marching bands really had to watch their step due to all the horses that preceded them in the parade.   The fire trucks were showering the kids on the side of the road.   And it turned out the Grand Marshal of the parade this year was the Sheriff of Absaroka County,  and he even had his sidekick Ferg.   Only Starbuck was missing,  that was a bummer!

We also got to see that last mounted Marine Color Guard in existence.  I’ve  seen lots of Marine Color guards living in San Diego, but never one mounted on horseback.

I still think the Coronado 4th Parade is the best.   Maybe it’s the cool weather…   But had Starbuck been there… you never know.

We decided to skip the Rodeo due to the heat.  Moving it up to 5 from 8 pm was putting it in the hottest part of the day here.    It doesn’t get dark here till close to 10 pm, so that is when the fireworks begin tonight.

We drove over to the hospital parking lot where we could see the fireworks going off,  amazingly there was only a small crowd.   Nothing like trying to get to a fireworks display in San Diego.   We brought the dogs and chairs and it was great.  Dusty was bored with it till someone walked behind him and he perked up to growl.   Baxter was a bit scared and pushed his head into Kathy’s shoulder toward the end.

They were shooting them off in a big field with lots of dried grass, so we also got to be entertained by the fires the falling embers started.   One of the flareups got fairly big where the flames looked to be 10 feet tall or so, but before long that one seemed to burn itself out.   We couldn’t see anyone fighting the fires prior to us leaving after the show.  I was hoping all the firemen in the parade weren’t at the bars!

Kathy mentioned it was odd as almost no one there spoke, no oohs or ahhs at all.  And there were some very sophisticated (expensive) fireworks,  a few I have not seen before.  And no music.  Not like the Lake Murray fireworks at all.  I hope you all that went there had a great time!!!

There was a bit of traffic on the way out, though, because they don’t have many intersections with traffic lights, so that reminded me of home.

Tomorrow we are off to Buffalo, Wy.




Buffalo Bill Cody Museum

Sunday morning we headed over to the Museum.   What an excellent museum it is.   It’s 5 different museums under one big roof.  It took us a few hours and we just toured the Buffalo Bill, Plains Indians, and the Gun sections.   Bill was quite a character!   And I guess he must have been one of the first “hoarders” as there is so much stuff packed into that section, it’s truly an amazing exhibit.

I was intrigued by the gun section.  I had never, ever thought there were that many different types of guns.   The oldest was from around  1609,  a Blunderbuss, all the way to an AR16.  Along the way are so many six shooters, rifles, shotguns and machine guns your head will spin.   There were even a couple of Gatling guns from the civil war. The most amazing thing was that most of those guns were in pristine condition.  There were several thousand guns.  They even had some of the tiniest Derringers that you could put in your vest pocket!

There was also a collection of President Roosevelt’s rifles and shotguns from his years living in the west.


From West Yellowstone to Cody Wy

Saturday morning started out sunny and cool.   After a quick breakfast we started our process for moving which begins by putting cloth napkins between all the plates and the pots and pans to prevent them from rattling on every bump and seam in the road.   We pack all the loose items away in their places,  sometimes a different spot and then they can be difficult to find when you need them later.    We lash  the recliners to the bulkhead with seat belts that were for the couch that previously occupied that space,  bring in the dog crate and wedge it under the dining room table.   I set up the TPMS to see if any tires need to be topped off and also fire up the Vmspec engine/tyranny monitoring system,  dump all the tanks.   While that is progressing, I move the Equinox into position for towing and let it idle the 5 minutes required prior to each day’s pull, during which I hook up the tow bar, safety cables and electric cable so the brakes and turn signals work on the TOAD.   You have to tow the Equinox with the key in the ignition and turned on one click so the steering wheel is unlocked,  also the transmission must be in Neutral.

After that is ready, it’s time to stow the hoses from dumping the tanks,   disconnect the water line and 50 amp electrical cable and wind them up on their reels.   By this time Kathy should have the inside ready to haul in the slides.   There are four of them, and I usually bring in the bedroom slides first,  then go up front and bring in the living room and kitchen slides.   Once those are in, I can depressurize the hydraulic jacks.   That’s when all the racket starts, the bells telling you not to drive away with the leveling jacks down and some buzzers telling you there isn’t enough air pressure to release the parking brake or to use the air brakes if needed.  Once the compressor gets both sides to about 60 lbs, the buzzer stops.   That leveling jack bell usually shuts up at about the same time, indicating the Jacks are stowed.  One more circumnavigation of the coach, making sure everything is disconnected, locked, and the ladder and antenna are cinched tight, it’s time to get on the road!

We head back into Yellowstone Park as that is the shortest way to Cody.   We have already driven about 2/3 of the route we will take in the car, so we know what to expect.  The last third over a pass and out the east gate will be a new road.   It’s another fairly high pass with switchbacks all the way up.  They are hardly noticeable due to slow traffic in front of us the whole way up and the gorgeous views out the front!   Going down the other side was a different story.  Very steep downgrade for about 18 miles with lots of 20 mph turns at the bottom of long straightaways.  Thank god for the Jake brake!   No way would the brakes still be working after the first few miles going down.

At the bottom was the Buffalo Bill State Park and the Buffalo Bill Dam.   The reservoir was pretty big,  went on for miles.   Once we got to the dam parking area, we pulled in and walked over to the the dam.

I couldn’t figure out what all the noise was, but as we got fairly close, I realized the water was right at the top of the dam and they must be in a big hurry to get the level down, so that must be the loud roar.

It was.   We walked out onto the top of the dam and it was deafening.  I took a few pictures, then thought I should take some video to see if I could capture the roar.    I listened to them later and it didn’t seem like a roar.  I guess the phone isn’t really suited for capturing that.

They were letting out a lot of water.  I asked inside about it and they said they were just barely able to keep ahead of the snow melt, and that all the T-Storms recently were adding more water than they could release.  She seemed concerned about that.   Note to self… don’t extend the stay in Cody past Wednesday.

The campground is pretty nice,  but not much shade.   The trees are tall but very skinny.



Can’t wait to see the Museum!


Grand Teton National Park

After a couple of days hunkering down while a few big thunderstorms passed thru Yellowstone,  we decided to head down toward Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park.   Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I didn’t write in the blog during that downtime.    Anyway,  we headed toward the Yellowstone park entrance and traveled toward the south entrance which also takes you to Grand Teton NP.    It’s about a two-hour drive, you go past Ole Faithful and lots of other geysers along the way.   Its amazing how many geysers there are,  you can really see all of them in the cold mornings due to the steam.  In there afternoon you can’t see as many from the road.  l guess its similar to seeing your breath when its really cold, but after it gets a bit warmer you cannot see it anymore.

The Grand Teton did not disappoint.  It was truly grand.   I was so glad we drove there.  The views were magnificent!

Both Yellowstone and the Grand Teton were not very pet friendly.  We finally had to buy sandwiches at a deli and eat outside, practically on the parking lot a Dornans, as the pups were not allowed on any of the restaurants’ patios, not a single one, and we stopped at a lot.

Yellowstone National Park, Day 2

We got off to a late start this morning and there was quite a line to get thru the entrance station.   It was backed up all the way into the town.   If you are going to hit Yellowstone in the summer, it appears you want to get there before 9 am.  The ride from the entrance station follows the Madison river for most of the 16 or so miles to Madison.   There are lots of fly fishermen in their waders out there, but I haven’t seen any two that would be able to see the other.   Idyllic for a fisherman!   I wonder if my brother does any fly fishing?   This place looks like a fisherman’s paradise.

About 14 miles into the park you come to a tee intersection,  to the right is Ole Faithful and to the left was yet unexplored.  We were heading to Mammoth Hot Springs and beyond for the afternoon.   The road to Norris was blocked off, so we passed that and turned for the hot springs.   About halfway there there was a flagman and a very long wait for the cars heading southbound.   Lots of road construction going on this route.   Once the southbound cars were past us, we got to go and probably drove 10 miles of dirt and broken-up one-lane road,  passing lots of earth movers of all description along the way.  Quite a jostling ride from Kathy’s POV.

We finally got into Mammoth and found a parking spot at a huge green lawn area with a few picnic tables under some trees.   The pups were in heaven and it was pretty nice for us too.   Across the busy road was a restaurant with ice cream.   We munched on our picnic lunch and then Kathy made her way over to the ice cream shop and since  it was lunch time, there was about 50 people in line to get a table.   After a bit she noticed that ice cream wasn’t on the menu and saw a sign in the corner of the room listing it.  No line at all!   It was heaven to have ice cream under those trees.

Once we were ready to go, we headed out toward Tower-Roosevelt.   I had no idea what that was, but it looked like we could loop back toward our campground, so we were off!   Quite a scenic road and not a bit of construction to spoil it.   I have never been to a place with so many fast moving rivers.  Yellowstone should be called waterworld or something like that.   Maybe I have just lived in the desert of San Diego so long, running fresh water seems odd to me.   It seems like all roads have a river or a huge creek running beside them.  

Lots of waterfalls and rapids.  But we never saw a raft or kayak on any of them.   Even the huge Yellowstone Lake,  we only saw one boat.   If this was San Diego,  there would be thousands of boats on that lake.

This was the waterfall near Roosevelt,  It turned out to be a Lodge.   After that we started climbing and when we were above the treeline the views were spectacular.  You could see forever.. or maybe even further. 


Once thru the pass, we stopped at Canyon Village.  There are lots of these islands of civilization in the park:  stores, shops, visitor centers, gas, and even medical clinics.

After that we headed back toward West Yellowstone.  It was a long day.


Yellowstone National Park, Day 1

It was a gorgeous morning, probably in the high 50’s when we started out for the park around 9 am.   The park’s west entrance station was about 4 blocks east of our campsite, so we were there in less than a minute, showed our pass, and without further adieu we were off.   We determined that getting to Ole Faithful early was the smartest move, hopefully prior to the hoards of buses I was anticipating.   That was a good call as when we left there close to noon, the parking lot was full and there were hundreds of cars cruising the lots looking for a spot.

When we arrived, we parked close to the lodge and hiked over quickly to see the geyser as we had no idea when it was going off, only that currently it was going off every 90 minutes or so.   As we were walking over, it blew; so the first pic is from the parking lot and I am running over there.  It was probably halfway done by the time I cleared the trees.   Once it was over, we started walking around, checked out the lodge where I picked up a nice Yosemite pint glass.  Now I have to figure out where to get my growler filled… oh, the problems we create!

The lodge was nice.   I took a picture of the fireplace in the main hall.  It was very big,  not the size of the ones in the Ahwahnee at Yosemite, but still very nice.

We headed over to the visitor center which was full of exhibits.   One of them was showing how the caldera changed during each of the last few eruptions, 2.1 million years ago,  1.3 million years ago and 640 thousand years ago.   Hmm, that’s a disturbing pattern.   Hopefully it doesn’t go off before you get to visit!

I had stalled long enough to where the geyser was supposed to go off in about 10 minutes.   We headed back there.  The crowd was enormous.   Of course it was late, and I think it blew about 10 minutes later than the signs had indicated.


But it was a great eruption and had a pleasing effect on the crowd.

Then we were off to West Thumb.  I had no idea what that was when I saw it on the map, but it was a long way away and we wanted to get far away from the crowds.   Turns out it was a small bay on Lake Yellowstone.   I hadn’t even realized there was a lake in Yellowstone,  and it’s huge.  I mean really huge.   What makes it more amazing is it’s close to 8,000 feet in elevation and a beautiful blue.   And right in the parking lot there was a small mud pot with a small wooden fence around it.

We headed just a bit further to Grant Village.  Lots of things to do there, mainly real bathrooms for Kathy.  [Very important!]

Our plan was to hit all the sites we bypassed on the way to O’F on the way back.   There were some spectacular sights to see.   Some amazing colored pools and smaller geysers that were terrific as you could get very close to them.  There were lots of small holes in the ground with bubbling water that would go unnoticed except for the sounds they were making.

Years ago I had been to a Mauri village on New Zealand that was smack dab in the middle of a similar volcanic area,  but there, the sulfur smell was 100 times worse than here.   That struck me as odd.   There was very little rotten egg smell at any of the sites we visited today.

On the way to and from the Thumb, we crossed the Continental Divide twice in each direction.  I  never realized Yellowstone was in the Rockies.

We stopped at a turnoff to have a picnic lunch and Kathy asked if there were bears.   I expect there are,  although we didn’t see any this day.   I was wondering if the rangers had to move these spots to keep the bears away,  although they looked fairly permanent to me.   One thing I noticed in this park, there are a dearth of signs.   Easy to miss turnoffs as it seems if there is a sign, you only see it as you pass the turnoff.   And the park map leaves off just enough info so reference points you do occasionally see a sign for are not listed on the map.  At least according to my navigator…

Enjoy the pictures.  The scenery in the park is just beautiful and changing around every corner!!