Friday, June 28, 2013

Devil's Tower Fun with John & Susan

After arriving here at Devil's Tower KOA late yesterday (Saturday, June 22), we now had some time for resting up before the next big rally.

Devil's Tower is awesome and is very sacred to the area's Native Americans.
Our friends, John & Susan, were here too and we had a nice relaxing week exploring Devil's Tower (est. 1906 as the first National Monument) and even taking a long scenic drive where the road became not much more than a two-track trail.  And, we were in our car!  Survived that little adventure fortunately!

John's checking out a neat looking bird up in a tree...

Sego Lily

Yellow Goatsbeard

I thought this burned out tree trunk was beautiful!

Spreading Dogbane (what a strange name!)

The most popular Native American legend about Devil's Tower tells of
seven little Indian girls who were chased by a bear and, in the nick of time,
they jumped on a three foot rock and prayed to the rock to save them. 
It grew higher (865' in fact) while the bear clawed and jumped at the sides
leaving these marks.  The little girls were pushed up into the sky
and are now the Pleiades stars!


And, no, we have no idea who gave them the peanuts!

This guy might want to think about a diet...

Purple Coneflower

On Monday, June 24, we headed over to Rapid City, SD to have our new Brake Buddy "Stealth" supplemental braking system installed in the car.  While there and waiting for the work to be completed, we borrowed one of their loaner cars and went to the mall for lunch and haircuts.  When we arrived back at the motorhome, we reviewed the Stealth instructions (the entire unit had been shipped directly to the repair shop).  Apparently we were the first ones to do so as it quickly became apparent that the RV repair shop had NOT done so!  They said they needed to install the unit only in the car, but we found that the RV portion of the unit needed to be hard-wired in.  Lovely.  So now we have to find someone else to install that portion of it.  Don't believe we'll be going back to Dakota RV in Rapid City for repair work again...

We also wanted to play some golf with John & Susan, so on Wednesday, June 26th, we drove back into Gillette and played 18 holes at Bell Nob Golf Course.  Fun day!

Loved seeing all the pronghorns on the course!

John & Susan

We left the Devil's Tower area at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, June 28th, and arrived back at the Cam-Plex in Gillette a little after 11:00 a.m.  Time for some more fun!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

FMCA Rally

Well, after five and a half years of full-timing in our motorhome, we finally are going to our first big national RV rally.  In fact, we'll be going to two of them in the next three weeks!

The first one is the FMCA rally.  FMCA stands for Family Motor Coach Association of which we have been members since retiring.  Most rallies have side trips that you can sign up for either before or after the rally, so we decided to try one of those, too.  We signed up for the Durham Buffalo Ranch tour on Tuesday, June 18th.  It was great fun!  We boarded the big bus at 9:30 a.m. and headed about 40 miles south from Gillette. 

The bus was guided way out to the far end of the 60,000 acre ranch where the bison (American buffalo are not true buffalo but are related closest to the European Bison and the Canadian Woods Bison) were that day.  The ranch has been owned and operated by the Flocchini family since 1965 and the herds number around 2,500.

We all departed the bus but stayed pretty close by as you can see.

And, this is exactly why we didn't venture far!
Must still be spring here in Wyoming as evidenced by the "shedding".

Really enjoyed seeing all the little ones.
 Afterwards, we were all treated to a wonderful lunch of bison burgers (delicious!), chips and beans.  After seeing how these bison are raised and how little they are "handled" (they spend much of their lives on grass), we now buy Durham Ranch products whenever we can.  Love bison meat!

The FMCA rally began the next day, Wednesday, June 19th and lasted through Saturday, June 22.  All in all, we had a great time.  We met some fun people, went to as many educational seminars as we could, enjoyed wandering around the vendor's area and wandered through the many RV's that had been brought in by various dealers.  The big entertainment was The Buckinghams and we really enjoyed that, too!

We had company during the rally also!  Our oldest son, Eric, was moving their stuff down from Alaska to Colorado and he stopped by for an overnight.  It was great to see him again!  At the same time, my sister Deb and her husband Mark were moving from Alaska back to Missouri and they also stopped by for a couple of hours.  They had run into some delays the day before but we had a nice visit for the short time they were able to stop.

On Saturday, the 22nd, we prepared to leave for a week.  Unfortunately, it had been raining and we had heard all the horror stories about RVers needing to be towed out of grassy fields like this at other rallies, so we pulled out early and parked on one of the nearby streets until it was time for us to get weighed.  In the meantime, we were headed back to the motorhome after saying goodbye to the Escapees crew and noticed that there was a big black cloud headed in from the west.  Got back inside just before it hit.  Wow!  It hailed for probably nearly 10 minutes.  We hid out in the back on the bed since our big front windshields were facing directly into the storm!  Afterwards, the little trees next to us didn't have a leaf left and we found out later that some RV's a bit to the east had some hail damage.  As soon as things calmed down, we headed a couple blocks away and got weighed by Howard and Linda Payne (we had met them several years ago in Benson AZ).  Hooked up the car and headed out to the interstate only to find that there was still enough hail on the road that we didn't feel comfortable continuing.  We pulled off onto a long pull-out (where 3-4 other rigs soon joined us) and waited another half hour for the hail to finish melting.  We headed back east about 4:00 p.m. and arrived at the Devil's Tower KOA at 6:30 p.m.

Time for a little R&R with our friends, John & Susan!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Westward Ho!

Time to head out for our summer wild-west adventure!  On Friday, June 7th at 10:50 a.m. we left Steamboat and headed north on I-35.  We arrived at the Minneapolis NW KOA in Maple Grove MN at 4:30 p.m. and got set up for a few days.
The next day, Saturday the 8th, we headed downtown to explore the haunts of our early marriage days!  Here’s the apartment building we lived in while John attended Dunwoody Institute and I worked at Insurance Services Office in downtown Minneapolis.  The apartment building and my office building both look just the same!! 


We had lunch downtown and then drove to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden located in Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park.  Wow!  Photographer’s heaven!!  Here are a few of my photos from the oldest public wildflower garden in the U.S (founded in 1907):


Dames Rocket

Wild Geranium


Summer Tanager

On Sunday, June 9th, we spent a delightful day at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul.  A zoo is always fun...

Fortunately for me, John always manages to entertain himself while I'm taking pictures...

Marjorie McNeely Conservatory


There was also a small bonsai exhibit that we enjoyed.

At the end of the day, we headed over to the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden – it was very peaceful and beautiful!  Apparently the City of Nagasaki, Japan was the first ever sister city partnership in 1955 and, in 1977, Nagasaki presented the city of St. Paul with plans for a Japanese garden.  It was designed by a Nagasaki 9th generation landscape gardener, Mr. Masami Matsuda, and opened in 1979 with donations from the family of Charlotte Partridge Ordway and others. 

Time to move on…On Monday, June 10th we left Maple Grove MN at 9:15 am and arrived in Jamestown ND at 3:45 p.m. and camped at the Frontier Fort Campground.  We enjoyed a late afternoon stroll around a small historic area, including the Louis L’Amour Writer’s Shack.  Louis L’Amour was born in Jamestown ND in 1908 and lived there with his family until he was 15.  He wrote a total of 118 books, many of which were made into movies.
The buildings here, including this old railway station, were well maintained.
Anyone know exactly what a "ruction" might be??

I was fascinated with the old Lewis and Clark maps.

This one shows present day North Dakota outlined in orange.


This map shows parts of western Washington and Oregon.  You can enlarge this picture by clicking on it and see if you can find locations you are familiar with!
This log cabin was built in 1898!

We left Jamestown on Tuesday, June 11th at 9:50 a.m. and arrived at the Bismarck KOA at 11:45 a.m.  Later in the day we headed over to cousin Linda & Darcy’s place.  So fun to see them after so many years!  Dinner time rolled around and the four of us and several of their grown kids headed over to Red Lobster.  I heard someone at a table behind us mention “Iowa” so I eavesdropped a bit.  Hey!  I know that voice!  There was Charlie from Iowa Falls!!  What a small world it is…

On Wednesday, June 12th, we headed over to the 1,006 acre Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park where Linda gave us a wonderful tour.  This fort is North Dakota’s oldest state park, dating from 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt deeded 75 acres to the State Historical Society.  Many of the buildings were built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the park includes the ruins of “On-A-Slant Indian Village”, occupied by the Mandan Indians from 1575-1781.  The village included approximately 85 earth lodges.

One of several earth lodges.
The displays inside the lodges were very well done.


The military occupation of this area began in 1872 when Ft. McKeen (later renamed) was established.  Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his wife lived here from 1873-1876 when Gen. Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.  The fort was later abandoned in 1891.

View from the fort's blockhouse.
John at the site of the bake house.

Reading the headstones at the cemetery was fascinating!

My cousin Linda!

General Custer's [last] home.

The bunkhouse.

We enjoyed the guided tour of General Custer's home.
Later we toured the North Dakota Capital and enjoyed an extensive art collection hung along the many corridors.  Afterwards the three of us headed over to Famous Dave’s where one of Darcy & Linda’s sons works.  Good food again!

Thursday, June 13th found us leaving Bismarck at 11:00 a.m. and arriving at the Medora Campground in Medora ND at 12:30 p.m.  We’re now in Mountain Daylight Time.  Wandered around some of the shops this afternoon, but didn’t find anything special…

On Friday, June 14th, we toured the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park along a 36-mile scenic loop road.  Teddy Roosevelt loved this area and owned two large ranches, the Maltese Cross (with partners) and the Elkhorn.  During his presidency he established 18 national monuments, five national parks, 51 federal bird reservations, four national game preserves and 150 national forests, for a total of 230,000,000 acres.

I-94 actually cuts through the southwest portion of the South Unit.

Goatsbeard (a/k/a Yellow Salsify)
We enjoyed the loop road, the prairie dog towns, the wildflowers, bison & wild horses.  We also took several short stops/hikes: Boicourt Overlook, Buck Hill, Badlands Overlook and the short Ridgeline Trail.

Wild Blue Flax


Saturday, June 15th and time to explore the North Unit, about an hour north of Medora.  Did the 14-mile scenic drive: slump formations (including cannonball concretions), more wildflowers, more prairie dogs, and more bison.  We also hiked the Caprock Coulee Trail and the trail to Sperati Point.
It's a little disconcerting to see one of these large critters while out hiking!

An example of a cannonball concretion.

Scarlet Globe Mallow (yeah!  I know it's orange...)
The Little Missouri River

Love the wide open spaces of the West...


We didn’t end up attending the Medora Musical as many visitors do, but sure did enjoy the national park.  Maybe next time…

On Sunday, June 16th, we left Medora at 9:40 a.m. and arrived at the Spearfish KOA in – you guessed it! - Spearfish SD at 1:50 p.m.  And, because we so enjoyed it the last time we were in this area (last year about this time), we went back to Spearfish Canyon to see Roughlock Falls again. 

Lots of wildflowers - such a gorgeous area!

Blue Columbine
Canada Violet
Yellow Lady's Slipper, I think (a wild orchid)

Red Baneberry


Monday, June 17th:  time for our first big national RV rally!  We left Spearfish at 9:05 a.m. and arrived at the Cam-Plex in Gillette WY at approximately 11:00 a.m.  Parking went smoothly with all the volunteers they had and we spent the afternoon wandering around and visiting with the Escapade staff who’d been working on-site for several weeks already.  The FMCA rally will be fun, but we’re pretty sure the Escapade two weeks later will be even better!!