Wow, a busy few days. Saturday we had breakfast in Michigan, lunch in Wisconsin, and dinner in South Dakota. The point of the first few days of the trip was to get out West as soon as possible, and we averaged 475 miles a day for those first five days. Yesterday we spent the whole day in South Dakota, and we’ll be here all day today, too. But this is going to be a somewhat lengthy post, as I catch up to this morning.
When I left off Friday morning, we were in Wells State Park in Michigan, our second night in the Wolverine State. The first night we got severe rain, and the second night we got a plague of mosquitoes. Apparently, Lake Michigan itself is still far too cold for use by humans; we probably spent 6 hours driving along the lakeshore, and in all that time we saw only one boat. It appeared that nobody uses the lake. We didn’t see any shipping either. All the people we met were nice, but we wanted to get going to the West, so at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning we were on the road, headed through Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, it turned out that Green Bay had the worst stretch of road of the trip so far, by a good margin: I-41 South is a mess. But we finally got on Highway 21 all the way to Tomah, and that was a pleasant drive. We had originally planned to spend Saturday night at Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota, on the Mississippi River, but when we got there it was only 1:30 in the afternoon. After some discussion, we decided to push on, and we spent another four hours booking through Minnesota, and landed just over the border in Brandon, South Dakota. That was a long, hard afternoon of driving, but if we had spent those four hours kicking back in camp in Great River Bluffs, we still would have had to drive across Minnesota on Sunday.
In Brandon we found a campsite right off I-90 that was … umm … unique. It was Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a “theme” campsite with hundreds of kids, costumed characters from the Yogi cartoons (I’m old enough to remember when they were new) and a tiny little campsite right by the interstate so you could listen to the big rigs rolling by all night long. But it had everything we needed, since we only stayed there about 12 hours total.
We hit the highway early again yesterday, and by about noon we were in the Badlands National Park. The Badlands are one of my favorite places, and they were particularly bad yesterday. Uncle (my brother) John and I went there in the late ‘70s, and it hasn’t changed much since then. One minute you’re in South Dakota farmland and prarie, which looks like this:
The next minute, the landscape has changed so much it’s almost unbelievable.
We did some hiking and got some photos of the terrain, and (under instructions from their mother) a few photos of William and Alex.
Not long after our hike, a few longhorn sheep walked up to the road and I got some great photos.
Uncle John and I also visited the Black Hills of South Dakota on that trip. Unlike the Badlands, that area has changed enormously since we were there. There’s an awesome amount of commercial development, just the sort of thing I love to avoid. Little villages like Hill City and Custer are basically gigantic outdoor malls now. The self-promotion is ugly. After I saw literally several thousand billboards all across South Dakota advertising something called Reptile Gardens — and sometimes more than a dozen billboards in a 1/4 mile stretch of highway, you couldn’t persuade me to even slow down as we passed it. We’ll see reptiles in Arizona and New Mexico later on in the trip.
Today we’re at a lovely mountain camp just a few miles west of Custer, SD. We’re in the West, by gum. Yippee-ki-yay! We’re fixin’ to spend the whole day in the Black Hills, and then tomorrow we’re headed to Bighorn National Forest. We might visit Mt. Rushmore, but to be honest I wasn’t terribly impressed by Rushmore when John and I saw it. Sadly, they still haven’t added President Obama. When they do that, maybe I’ll come back lol.
For the record, we are not roughing it in our various campsites. We have three cots and a tent that’s 9′ x 12′ and tall enough for me to stand in without bending over. Over the years I have become a master campsite cook. Saturday night we had homemade chili with red and black beans, whole kernel corn and diced tomatoes; last night we had grilled pork roast with peppercorns and garlic, and buttered linguine with Parmesan cheese. We’re eating like kings and enjoying the luxury in this private camp. It has showers and laundry (we’re ready for some laundry on our sixth day). They even delivered firewood to our campsite. You can’t get that kind of service in a five-star hotel. Hotels simply will not deliver firewood to your hotel room; I have no idea why not. The only thing we didn’t have was someone to turn down the corner of our sleeping bags and put a little chocolate on our pillows, but we managed to survive the deprivation. I had a great Father’s Day and I hope all you other dads did too.
We had a big thunderstorm last night. Of course, we stayed warm and dry in our tent, but the noise made it hard to sleep. Thanks, Obama.
Today the Sun came up and we’re well-rested. We have a whole day to play in the Black Hills. It doesn’t get any better than this, yay!