MEMORIES AND ADVENTURES ARE WHAT YOU MAKE THEM

Every year Chip and I hit the road on Saturday morning and head for Wilmington, NC. Chip’s company Christmas party is in that area, so we make a day of it, knocking around from Pelham to Wilmington. We stop at anything that looks interesting and enjoying each other’s company on the ride down. We seem to stay so busy these days, that being in the truck is the best time to have a great conversation.
I really wanted to take the truck camper and boondock somewhere, but he wasn’t too excited about it. For years we have driven down and back the same day, but age has snuck up on us and we just can’t seem to “hang these days.” It seems that drive home has gotten a lot longer. We were fortunate that the company reserved rooms for those with long drives, so we planned to stay the night.
Usually, we stop in Durham at the Habitat Restore, which is one of my favorite stops. Chip said he wasn’t going anywhere that had hand grenades in their store. I was confused about what he was talking about and thought I had misunderstood, because we had never seen anything like that in the store, so I was trying to think if I had misunderstood. He then shared with me he had seen on the news a story about an employee finding a hand grenade in a dresser in the store and how the bomb squad had come in and such. I found it to be a very interesting story, and of course, it was no longer an issue, but by then we had already passed the exit and I decided to not make a big deal about going as I hope to be able to go on my next appointment to see my rheumatologist at Duke. If you haven’t been into a Habitat Restore, you don’t know what you are missing. My favorite one is in Durham and in Chatham County NC.
We stopped in Garner to grab a bite to eat. I love sweet potatoes and order a plain one to go from a cracker barrel. Trying to eat healthily is challenging when you are eating on the run, but if there is a cracker barrel around, give me a sweet potato and I am a happy girl. Today was a prime example that a life with arthritis is usually full of frustrations. Chip had gone into Wendy’s to get him a hamburger and I was going to eat my sweet potato. That was until I could not get into the container. I pulled, tugged and even tried to open it with my teeth, to no avail. I was getting very frustrated with myself and my weak hands, and I was determined to get that container open on my own. I wish the container makers would come up with something that wasn’t so difficult to open. It is like childproof medicine bottles, as they are arthritis proof as well. Thank God pharmacies offer an alternative bottle. After a lot of frustration, I was able to get it open and was eating by the time Chip returned.

 


Other than a few “pit stops” along the way, we didn’t stop again until we arrived at our hotel. I was in awe with our room. It was huge and had more amenities than we would need. If we stay in a hotel out of town, we typically are going to be in the cheapest thing we can find, within reason. One time we made an impromptu trip to Wilmington and we could not find anywhere to stay. We ended up in the blue light district, at least that was what it felt like to me, in a hotel with one room left. We had been on the water all day and we were tired, so we felt desperate to take the room. Oh, by the way, the door didn’t lock, they shared with us. Reluctantly we unloaded the car, and all piled in, it was 2 families, in 1 room and trust me I am pretty sure the kids were the only ones who slept that night. I would never do that again and will sleep in my car. So, this room was like a mansion to me. We could have had several families piled in there for sure. If you are ever in need of a room, the Staybridge is incredible.
https://www.ihg.com/staybridge/hotels/us/en/wilmington/ilmsb/hoteldetail?cm_mmc=GoogleMaps-_-SB-_-US-_-ILMSB

 


We then headed out for a tradition, visiting Redix. Redix’s is a store that has everything from snacks, to fishing rods, to high-end clothing. Last year we lucked up and got a summer beach chair at an incredible deal, but usually, we walk around and dream.
I told Chip I was going to walk through the toy aisle, and he said he was going to look at toys too, big boy toys. I walked upon him as he was looking at some Over Under clothing and he asked why I was in his section and I told him to make sure he didn’t see any toys that he wanted, as I knew we couldn’t afford anything he might want. He said he wishes he could win a 500.00 gift card to the store.
Shortly thereafter I was in the ladies’ section looking at the sales rack. He walked up and said he was there to make sure I didn’t see anything I might want. I told him I found a dress he could buy me, that it was marked down. “OK” I will buy you that dress if you will buy me a coat. I said, don’t be so quick to agree as the dress on sale was still around a hundred dollars. I, of course, hung it back on the rack. We then went to look at his “dream coat” which was beautiful and looked great on him. When he told me how much it cost, I told him to be careful as he took it off and hung it back on the hanger. It was only 369.00. We quickly realized a 500.00 gift card wouldn’t go far at all in the store. We will continue to go there every year and daydream, and maybe every now and then we will find something on sale that we can afford.

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We then had to stop at the boat landing, where we have made many memories throughout the years, usually in the summer, when there are more boats wanting to park than there are parking places. That is a chapter by itself. It was a gorgeous day, a little cool, but we saw several boats enjoying the day.
It was time to connect with some co-workers/friends and head to the Christmas dinner. We arrived back to the room a little early, and Chip had picked up some “beach” reading papers and sat down on the couch to read. I never sit on a chair or couch in a hotel room. I can look at the beds and make sure they don’t have bedbugs, but upholstered chairs, that would be impossible. He looked comfortable, so I didn’t want to worry him about the possibility of bed bugs, so I just crossed my fingers and sat down beside him. And just in case you are wondering, even fancy hotels do occasionally have someone stay that brings in bedbugs. It is common in other countries, so they don’t freak out as I do. I will share a bed bug story some other time.
The Christmas dinner was fun, as usual. The food was delicious, as was the company. I spent most of the evening sitting in a rocking chair by the woodstove. I was in my happy place.
We stayed up late, visiting with friends at the hotel and didn’t get back to our room until after midnight. Disclaimer, we are usually asleep by 9, so this was late for us.
I was more than ready for the bed by the time we got to the room. I was in the room and in the bed in a matter of minutes. I know better than to go to bed without washing my face (causes more wrinkles) but tonight, I didn’t care, I was tired. I was in my usual spot in the bed, the left-hand edge if you are facing the bed. I have no clue why, but I like to sleep on the edge, usually on my stomach, with my feet over the foot of the bed and with my arm hanging over the side. I heard Chip wiggling around on his side, saying, where are you, as he continued to scoot toward my side. He was laughing the entire time because the bed, which was a king, was huge and he had a long way to go to find me. We slept in a double bed for most of our marriage and upgraded to a queen, which is plenty big enough for us. We tried to figure out why anyone would want such a big bed? I am sure there are many of you reading this, with king beds.
While Chip got his shower, I was like a little kid, hiding things before I got caught. The room had a kitchen, a big nice kitchen and an adorable little bottle of dishwashing detergent. When I spotted it last night, he had already told me that I did not need it when I told him I was going to take it. Well, how does he know what I need or not. I can use it camping or donate it to the homeless shelter with the other hotel items I always take, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. I always take those items and have been able to donate them to flood victims two years ago, to a Honduras trip last year and to a homeless shelter this year. The hotel gives you the items to use, and if I don’t need them, I feel that it is okay to take them since they came with paying for the room. Please don’t burst my bubble and tell me that it is not, because I may then feel guilty. I always do good things with them either way.
I ate things I should not have eaten at the dinner and unfortunately did wake up with a few aches in my joints. It is so hard to follow a healthy lifestyle this time of year. There was plenty of food I could eat, but I could not pass up the desserts, and the cheesecake was my downfall.
The hotel breakfast was beyond amazing. I was like a kid in a candy store. One of the staff even asked me if I needed anything and I told her no, that I was just in awe with the breakfast. Unfortunately, I could only eat oatmeal and fresh fruit, but Chip was a happy fella. I would have loved to have splurged on some of the other food, but my hands reminded me that I had my freebie for the weekend, and I had to stick to my healthy lifestyle today.

 


When we got home, I was hoping Chip would leave his bag on the bed and I could sneak out my stash while he wasn’t looking. But he started unpacking and then I heard it, “what is all of this?” I walked up, smiled, and started getting my goodies, and told him “sorry I didn’t have room in my bag.”

img_0544-1He handed me the dish detergent and said “why?” and my response was “because it is so cute.” It doesn’t take much to amuse me. He just shook his head as I walked away. He knows he loves me.

Day 2 Yellowstone National Park

Tonight’s posting is especially for my friends, The Durham’s, who shared with me last night how much they were enjoying my journey and reminded me I was past due on a posting. I told them I had worked over 70 hours this past week and I knew I needed to find time to write. We agreed sleep was over-rated so here goes my post for tonight instead of sleep, just kidding. I actually started this post last night but because I had eaten a wonderful meal compliment of the Pelham Volunteer Fire Departments’ annual Christmas party, I did not make it long enough to finish my post. Dinner was catered by Lillards Family Restaurant in Providence, NC. As many of you know I am not supposed to eat pork, which was the main dish, so I opted not to eat that. I thought I was doing really well with my food choices, no macaroni and cheese, no cream potatoes or gravy, and no bread. I had green beans, a tablespoon of chicken casserole just to see what it tasted like, and it was good, and a small salad. But as I was heading back to the table, I thought I heard someone call my name. I looked around and there did not seem to be anyone in sight. I turned to walk away again, and there it was, a soft whisper, “Kathy, over here, it is me, strawberry cake, your favorite.” Well the weakness set in and you guessed it, I had a large piece of strawberry cake. I may have a few extra pains in the morning from the dairy, sugar, and gluten, but I can assure you it was worth it. If you are in the area, you definitely will want to stop in at Lillards.

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Day 2 at Yellowstone National Park:  When Chip and Bailey go hunting it is always early in the morning or in the late evening so it makes sense to go try to photoshoot some animals around the same time so we are up early and heading out. We again did not go far from the campground when we saw a cow moose and then a bull moose. This was one of the highlights of the trip, as we knew moose were not as easily seen as some of the other animals in the park. Yellow Stone has 2.2 million acres of land, and you never know where the animals may be.

We then saw a mama bear and two cubs. This was one of the animals that were definitely on my list that I really wanted to see. I love to see bears in the wild and as soon as I saw them from the road and Chip could get slowed down, he quickly said we had to move on because of traffic. I gave him my sweet look, and he said, get out and I will go find somewhere to park. I couldn’t get out of the truck fast enough and headed up into the woods where a crowd was gathering to get photos of the mama and her cubs searching for food along the forest floor. There were some other tourists like me, that got as close as we could, before the Forest Ranger, nicely, told us we had to back up. What I wouldn’t have given to have had a camera like some of the others near me had. I would have just loved to have seen their pictures. I definitely can say I had never seen cameras as big as I did on this adventure. I would love to have a lens as big as they had, but I know with my weak hands, I would never be able to manage a camera that big, so I will just have to dream about it. Though I may someday get me one and let my right-hand man, Chip, get it set up for me on a tripod and then I can take pictures of the beauty that can be barely seen with the naked eye so I can share them with others. I am pretty sure it will be more than my hands prohibiting me from having a lens that big, as the cost must be astronomical as well. But there is no harm in dreaming, my mama always told me if you are going to dream, dream big.

 


We stopped at the gift shop to pick up a couple of small gifts for family at home, and the cashier told us a coyote had come through the parking lot earlier and everyone was so busy looking at a bear across the road he was the only one who saw it.
Though I would have liked to have seen another bear, there was a large crowd at this one and we decided if everyone was there, we would get ahead of the crowd and see what else wildlife was on the roads ahead. We stopped a zillion times along the way, enjoying the beauty of the land. We saw a lot of buffalo, and I mean a lot of buffalo roaming the meadows, as well as walking along the highway.

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We went to Mount Washburn. The elevation was 10,243 feet and it was not recommended for people with heart problems or respiratory problems. I did not know this and failed to use my inhaler before we started up the mountain for a short hike. It was amazing to me how elevation played such a huge part in me not being able to breathe. We did not go too far though I really wanted to go further up the mountain in hope of seeing a grizzly bear in the wild. Chip had bear spray with us, but he was hesitant to go any further. Was it because I could not breathe or because maybe he did not want to come upon a bear and have to test out his bear spray. We might not have walked to the top this time, but I can assure you if I get to go again, I will have my inhaler in my pocket and he can have bear spray in his, and I am going to the top. I did at least get to play with a snowball. Did I mention how cold it was on the mountain? I had on every stitch of clothing I had in the truck with us.

We stopped at the Grand Canyon of Yellow Stone. We were able to get some beautiful pictures.

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We went to see Old Faithful and arrived early, so we could see all the other geysers there were there to see. There was a nice raised wooden boardwalk trail that winded around a lot of small geysers throughout the park and it was fun to watch them doing their own little “spurting off.” There were signs everywhere warning people to not step off the boardwalk and to not touch the springs. Chip kept saying, I just want to see how hot they are, and I kept saying, no you are not going to, can’t you read. I felt like a mother telling her son, multiple times, no, no no.


We elected to stop on a bench away from the Old Faithful and watched it from a distance. I think we had the best seat in the house, away from the crowd. I was more than glad to sit, as standing I do not do well with. One thing or another is bound to hurt when I stand for very long and more times than not you will find me sitting. It is not because I am lazy, on the contrary, I like to move, I just don’t like to stand. I honestly would rather walk 3 miles than stand for 10 minutes. And anyway, I think I do everything better sitting. My Deddie used to laugh as I would even sit down to peel potatoes. Most people peel potatoes standing at the counter, but not me, I am sitting. Deddie told me I reminded him of his mama, my granny, who also sat to do a lot of tasks, and to this day I still smile when I am sitting down doing tasks that one should be standing, thinking of my Deddie and granny.

We had to stop for this buffalo and wait for him to cross the sidewalk as we were walking back to the parking lot.

As we were leaving the park, we continued to see a lot of random hot springs along the highway and you guessed it, Chip kept saying he wanted to “just see how hot it was.” As you can see in the picture, who won this battle, but he was satisfied to know, they were hot, hotter than you would want to take a bath in. Then he said, well hotter than most normal people would take a bath in, but reminded me I take a bath hotter than is normal. Does that make me “not normal”? Trust me it is not the first time he has told me I am not normal, and I am sure it will not be the last time.

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One of the areas Chip had especially wanted to stop at was the Grand Prismatic Springs, which are a popular destination because of the beautiful colors. The hot spring has orange, yellow, and green rings around the edges and the vibrant blue water in the middle of the spring.

 

We were excited to see this as we had already seen pictures and they were breath-taking. However, it was a cool day and because the springs were hot and the air was cool, there was so much steam we could not truly see the springs. I am sharing some of our pictures but have included the one from the Yellowstone webpage https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/grand-prismatic-midway-geyser-basin. Here you can learn about what has created the bands of color and more facts about the springs.

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One of the next highlights of the trip as we had to stop for a bull elk on the road. We traveled a little bit further and there was a larger bull elk stopped on the edge of the road.

 

We were able to stop beside him and capture him bugling. In the far distance, you can hear another elk bugle back, when assumed it was the first one, we had seen just a few minutes earlier. It was priceless for me to catch this on video. Thank goodness for modern technology. Turn up your sound. You can literally hear him breathing.


We had to stop multiple times on the way back to the campground for buffalo crossing the highway. We would see car lights flashing at us and quickly learned it was someone letting you know you were approaching something in the road. There were no lights along the roads and buffalo are dark and you would come up over a little hill or around a curve and there they were, in the middle of the road taking their sweet time crossing the road. It took us a lot longer to get back to the campground than we expected because there were a lot of buffalo moving about and they are very slow.

Day 2 was even more spectacular than day one and we now wish we had at least a few more days to spend in Yellowstone, but unfortunately tomorrow we must leave so we can continue our journey in the time we were allotted.

Cooking takes more than a good recipe, it also takes a Ninja Foodi, common sense and a good sponge. 

For many years I did most of the cooking in our home. But when my work often kept me later than Chip’s work, he began doing most of the cooking. Chip is a wonderful cook, and everyone loves his cooking, just ask our camping friends. But when it is time to cook deer cube steak, it is me who is in charge of dinner, and tonight was that night.

I had my grocery list and was heading out the door when Chip came home. I told him I was going to the grocery store, and he asked if I needed him to go with me and I said, um no, I am pretty sure I can buy groceries on my own. He laughed and said he didn’t want me to get lost in the store. You guessed it, he does most of the grocery shopping so yes he knows the store like the back of his hand and I end up going up and down the aisles and crisscross the store multiple times to get what I need, but I do find my way out, and in record time, as I was trucking it up and down the aisles just so I wouldn’t be gone long. If you saw me, you would have thought I was in some type of speed shopping contest. I was trying to impress him on how quick I could shop, but it didn’t matter as he was already in the deer stand by the time I returned home.

Since Chip had gone deer hunting, and Bailey was asleep in the recliner, I was happy to be cooking. I like it when I am alone in the kitchen, that is unless I can’t accomplish a task, which is often. Chip and Bailey are forever putting lids on too tight and then I struggle to open them. If there was a video following me around I swear I would win some kind of weird contest for stupidity or maybe one for being ingenious, as I definitely have done some stupid things that I am lucky I didn’t end up in the emergency room and other times I was pretty ingenious on how I accomplished the task.

I decided tonight to try a new recipe for deer meat in my Ninja foodi. Oh, how I love my foodi. The last recipe for deer meat in the foodi used a cream-based sauce and since deer meat is the only red meat, I can eat, I really wanted a simple recipe I could eat which means it could not contain flour or dairy. I found what appeared to be an easy recipe and started cooking. The recipe called for a can of French onion soup. When did can food makers quit making old fashioned cans? You know the kind that you use a can opener to open. A lot of cans today are the pull tab, which is convenient if you are strong, but for me, they are a challenge. I had to use a spoon to get it started and then use the opposite end to try to pry the tab off. As usual, I was not able to get the can all the way open, but could get it open enough to pour the soup out, good thing it wasn’t a thick cream-based soup, or I would still be trying to get the contents out instead of writing this blog.

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The directions called for setting the foodi on steam for four minutes with a natural release. I set it to start and was busy doing other things and noticed it was releasing the steam and thought, “that was quick” and let it go for a while and then it hit me, I forgot to close the valve and it was just setting there releasing steam. Thankfully it did cook and was very tender, so disaster averted. See this is why I like cooking on my own because when I do dumb things, I don’t like Chip to know about it. The next step of the recipe called for putting the Foodi on sauté and add two tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the gravy mixture. I know how to cook, and yet I did exactly what the recipe directed and added it right in. I knew as soon as I did it that I had made a mess, but I kept whisking away as if the small blobs of cornstarch were going to magically dissolve. My mama taught me years ago how to add flour into hot liquid, but I failed to do as I was taught and followed that recipe. Well, as you know the blobs of cornstarch did not cook down so now the goal was to get it strained before anyone saw my mess. I could not find the small mesh strainer and I was scrambling to find something to use. I found my handheld flour sifter and thought it would work perfectly, well it didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but something was better than nothing. I finally got frustrated, decided there was enough gravy to work with and washed the rest down the sink. There were a lot more cornstarch blobs than these I show here.

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This time I did what I knew to do, to begin with, I mixed my cornstarch in a small bowl with a little water and made a thin paste and when I added that to the gravy it worked perfectly. The gravy was thick with no lumps, well there were a few small ones that I may have missed, but hopefully, no one would notice. The deer meat and gravy were poured into a glass dish, the foodi washed and ready for its next task.

The second part of dinner was to try a new macaroni and cheese recipe. I found one for the foodi that was a copycat of Panera Breads macaroni and cheese. Now, I personally have never had their macaroni and cheese, but I love Panera bread and surely it must be good. I read the directions; did I tell you Chip fusses at me that I never follow the directions on recipes? Well, he does, so I made sure I read the directions and followed them to a “t” as I really wanted this to be perfect. It called for 16 ounces of elbow macaroni and two cups of chicken broth. I knew when I added the chicken broth that there was not enough liquid to cover the macaroni and my gut told me to add more but I was trying to follow the directions, so against my better judgment, I closed the lid and turned it on. When it beeped, I was hoping for the best and found what I had expected, half of the noodles were cooked, the ones in the liquid, and half were not cooked. See I should have followed my gut and used common sense knowing noodles needed more water. I added more water, worried that the cooked ones would get mushy but after a few more minutes it turned out perfect. It called for Dijon mustard, hot sauce and two cups of cheese. I thought I had all the ingredients as we have always had Dijon mustard in our refrigerator, but of course, not the night that I am trying so hard to follow the directions to a “t.” I googled the ingredients in Dijon mustard as I had a cracked pepper brown mustard and wanted to see if it was close enough. The ingredients weren’t the same, but close enough for me. I couldn’t taste it as it had all the ingredients, I am not supposed to have, including milk, butter and lots of cheese, so I would have to wait to see what Chip and Bailey thought. I could only hope for the best.

The last couple of items were easy, green beans and biscuits. Everything was ready just in time, as Chip arrived from hunting.

With plates prepared, it was time to eat. “What is this?” Bailey asked poking her fork at a small white blob of something on her cubed steak. I told her it was flour from the gravy, just eat it, it will not hurt you. She said it looked like an insect egg and she just wanted to make sure. If they had only seen how many small white blobs, it had in it earlier. It did look like an insect egg once she pointed it out, thank goodness I knew it wasn’t. I accidentally ate a ladybug that had fallen in something I was cooking a few years ago and just in case you don’t know, they taste awful. I still remember it as if it was yesterday and I am leery with anything open in the kitchen when my house has so many ladybugs around. The cubed steak was a hit with both Chip and Bailey saying how good it was. The response on the macaroni and cheese was that it was good, but not good as what I usually make. I guess the moral to this part of the story is if you have a good recipe, that most people love, why waste your time trying something new. Thank you to my friend Dana who shared her macaroni and cheese recipe with me over 20 years ago. I will not waste my time ever again trying a new macaroni and cheese recipe.

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In our house whoever cooks gets to sit back while the other cleans, but somehow tonight that didn’t happen, and I did the cooking and cleaning. It wasn’t too bad though as cooking in the foodi really cuts down on cleaning as you just have one pot. The only problem was this was the creamiest macaroni and cheese I have ever seen and there was a lot of cheese in that pot. I instinctively grabbed my favorite mesh sponge and quickly cleaned the pot but unfortunately, my favorite sponge has cleaned its last pot.  All the cheese would not come out of the sponge no matter how much hot water I attempted to clean it with. I reluctantly threw it in the trash.

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I will have to wait until the farmers market opens in the spring and hope the sweet little older ladies, I purchase my sponges from are still making them. If you have not tried them, trust me they work wonders and are very inexpensive.

Thank goodness we only eat deer cubed steak occasionally and I can go back to being in charge of cleaning the house, and not cooking since it never seems to work out for me. Cooking is not like riding a bicycle, as when you don’t do it for a while, it doesn’t always go so smoothly.

Chief Joseph Highway and Yellowstone

Obviously, if you are reading this, you know we did survive our night with no problems with the CO2 detector. We were up bright and early to head toward the laundromat. Laundromat? Really, who does laundry on their vacation? Us apparently. I personally had enough clothes to last me the entire trip, but I guess girls have more clothes than guys, because Chip was down to the last few pair of undies and some of his favorite clothes, and he had planned all along to do laundry. Actually, packing light and doing laundry along the way is the best way to truck camp, as there is limited space anyway, and Chip said if you pack too much it adds weight to the truck. I am pretty sure my clothes surely did not add that much weight to the camper, but then again I always do think the more clothes I am wearing the more my scales say I weigh. When I have gained weight I take no responsibility and always think it must be the jeans, or shoes, or something, never the fact that I have eaten all the things that do add weight to the hips, not the jeans. I like most women think about what I am wearing before I go to the doctor as we all know we have to get on the dreaded scales. When I changed my eating habits a while back and lost a lot of weight, and my doctor was not happy about it and told me I had to put some weight back on. On my follow-up appointment, the assistant told me I could sit my bag on the table and I told her I preferred to hold it. She looked at me like I was crazy and I told her the doctor told me I had to gain weight and unfortunately, I had not and had considered wearing leg weight under my pants, but I thought just holding my bag was easier. I am pretty sure she then thought I was certifiable, as how many of us women actually want to weigh more on the scale? Not me either, but I was trying to pull a fast one for my doctor. But there I go again on that lazy susan so back to the laundromat. Chip had already researched where to do laundry through some of his truck camping blogs he followed and we headed toward the one with the best reviews that were open 24-hours a day. It was actually in the same parking lot with a highway patrol station, so no wonder everyone thought it was safe. Inside we were able to meet the owner who was there doing some cleaning before he and his wife were heading off to Italy. Thank goodness he was there as I had to ask him how to use the washing machines. I have not been to the laundry mat since 1986 when I went to a laundromat in Raleigh while Chip and I were in college. I remember that day fondly as I felt like a little married couple doing his laundry for him. I thought it was so much fun that I added the small paper box the laundry detergent came in, to my scrapbook from our early years dating and marriage. It was the cutest little box, and when it was flattened out it was about 4 inches by 6 inches at the most. I stopped adding to the scrapbook years ago, but it is fun to look back and reminisce about those early memories.
While I got the clothes started Chip was in the camper in the parking lot getting a shower. I enjoyed visiting with the owner as he shared with me stories of his own adventures and travels. Chip and I traded places, and he learned even more from the owner about his travels. I would have to say talking to the Owner while we waited made this a great laundry mat experience. We both ate breakfast and folded our clothes, and we were on the road before the sun was even up good.
If you are ever in Cody and need to wash clothes, at any hour, check out the Cody Laundromat https://thecodylaundromat.weebly.com/, it definitely is the best laundromat in town. And if you are lucky, you will get to meet the owner, Jim.

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Our destination today was the long-awaited Yellowstone Park. We traveled along the Chief Joseph Highway which had a lot of spectacular scenery.  Wyoming Highway 296 also known as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is a forty-six mile-long state highway in Wyoming and follows the route taken by Chief Joseph as he led the Nez Perce Indians.  I had a hard time narrowing down the pictures so here are just a few of the many that we took.

The highway was an open range so we saw cows grazing along the highway, as well as walking in the middle of the road so once again we had wildlife slowly, and I mean slowly, walking along. It did not bother us as we were glad to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

The road was exceptionally curvey and the variation in the mountains was beautiful. These are pictures we took along the drive.

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We saw our first “Bear Sign” and I, of course, was then on the lookout for bear along the way.

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We saw the snow on the mountains in the distance, which was really exciting to me. I love the snow and was very excited we would see some on this trip. 

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We finally made it to the snow and I was a happy girl, though we drove out of it not too many miles later. It was beautiful while it lasted and I will go ahead and tell you a little secret, we do see snow again.

When we got closer to Yellowstone, we began looking for somewhere to stay. We knew there were a lot of campgrounds along the way, and once inside Yellowstone there were over ten campgrounds, so we did not think it would be a problem to find somewhere to camp.

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But we began to get a little nervous about where we were going to stay for the night as several campgrounds along the way had already closed for the season. We did find one right outside of Yellowstone that had a notice up they were closing the next day, so worst-case scenario we could come back to it if we didn’t find anything else. 

We saw a red fox in the campground as soon as we pulled in so we would have loved to stay there knowing it had wildlife in it, but we knew we wanted to take the truck camper off for a couple of days and we really wanted to find somewhere to stay so we didn’t have to move again so we kept going. 

We entered Yellow Stone National Park shortly thereafter and stopped at the first campground we came to, Pebble Creek, and discovered they did have an opening. We had a sense of overwhelming peace that we had somewhere to stay without wasting time doing lot of looking. We unloaded the camper which literally takes just a few minutes and set out to ride the roads to see wildlife. 

We had not gone far when we saw moose and then further down the roadwe saw wolves playing in a field. The wolves were too far away to capture with our camera, so we were only able to see them through the binoculars. Sorry I would have loved to have pictures of those to share.

We went to Mammoth Hot Springs where we saw hot springs. These were absolutely incredible, and again we had a hard time just choosing a few pictures, so here are more than just a few that is for sure.

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We stopped at the Petrified Tree.  Around 50 million years ago, scientists say this area of the park was flourishing with tall trees when volcanic eruptions buried the forest in ash, creating a petrified forest. I am not going to lie, it was not what I expected. When you tell me I am going to see a petrified tree, I seriously am thinking it is a “tree” that had petrified. This looked like a rock formation and nothing like a tree, to me anyway.

We also saw elk in the village of Mammoth Hot Springs and visited the museum. 

We saw a black-billed magpie bird, which I had never seen before and met a raven who obviously had been fed at the parking lot as it was not afraid of people at all.

I would say it was a productive day. We had a nice quiet dinner inside the camper and called it a night as it was getting cold and we had not bought any firewood.  We went to bed early as our goal tomorrow is to get up early and be on the road to try to catch the early morning movement of wildlife stirring around. 

Cody, Wyoming

When we awoke this morning, we did note that a couple more campers came in some time during the night. On our way out we rode up to Warren’s Peak Fire Tower which was right up the road from the campground. We saw some unique log trucks that I really would have liked to have seen working, but they were off the road and we could not see them and we definitely did not want to take a chance going down a mountain road with the camper and get into a predicament where we met a log truck coming back out.

 

The fire tower was manned by a gentleman who apparently lived there in his Volkswagen van with his dog. He, of course, was up in the tower when we arrived. The older I get the worse my equilibrium seems to be, so I did not go all the way to the top. I handed Chip the camera and told him I would wait for him back down at the bottom as I slowly made my way back down without looking around. I can assure you being an attendant at a fire tower will never be a job for me when I become a gypsy.

 

We went made our way back to the town of Sundance, Wyoming, to visit the museum that our friends Charlie and Sue had told us about. It was definitely one of those places you need to have at least ½ day to spend. We did a quick tour, talked to the curator, took some pictures and moved onto our next destination.

 

Our next stop was the Devils Tower National Monument in Devils Tower, WY. This was definitely a sight to behold. As soon as it was barely in sight, I am snapping pictures “left and right” and Chip kept saying give it a chance, you will see it even better in just a few more miles. He did give in and stop at a pull-off, and we took a selfie with Devils Tower in the distance. At the tower itself, we hiked around the base enjoying the walk while viewing this huge rock formation. Devils Tower’s summit is around 180 feet by 300 feet which is about the size of a football field, and the circumference of its base is right at a mile. It stands 867 feet from top to bottom.
https://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm

 

This day was mostly travel. We were heading to Cody, Wyoming. We again saw beautiful sites along the way. We went through the Big Horn Mountains which had an altitude of 9666 feet. We saw a storm coming in, and it was breathtaking it was so beautiful. It produced a hailstorm that left the ground looking like snow, and anything that looks like snow makes me happy.

 

There was free camping on the Bureau of Land Management land aka BLM land where there were wild horses and I had been excited about finding a camping spot there. When we arrived in one of the areas with wild horses, we noticed how wet the ground was. I guess after the hail melted, it left the ground very wet and we were nervous about the weight of the truck and camper on the soggy ground, so we proceeded on. I was disappointed as I would have loved to have been able to see the horses a little closer as they may have been curious about this contraption in their field and came a little closer. But I definitely was not interested in a towing bill if we had gotten stuck, so I am glad we moved on.

 

We elected to be safe and headed toward Wal-Mart to do some “Wallydocking”. We were shocked, and I mean truly shocked to see the Walmart parking lot when we arrived. There were no less than 30 campers already in the parking lot. We were a bit over-whelmed and circled the parking lot more than once before deciding on our spot for the evening. There were 9 truck campers in the lot, multiple tagalongs, huge driving campers and several big rigs settling in for the night.

 

I was amazed at how quiet it was once we were inside the camper. That is until our CO2 and gas detector started beeping. We kept resetting it, but it kept going off. Chip wanted to cut the wires, but I was uncomfortable not knowing that there was not truly a gas leak. I did not want to wake up the next morning dead. And yes, that is possible as one of my Deddies favorite poems was this.

One bright morning in the middle of the night
two dead boys got up to fight
Back to back, they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
and ran to save the two dead boys
If you don’t believe this story is true
ask the blind man, he saw it, too.

Back to the story of the CO2 detector. I asked Chip if the type you put in a house would work and he said, “good idea.” See that is a big deal as I usually am not the one to come up with good ideas. I really should have had him write it down that “I” had a good idea. He went into the Walmart to purchase one while I sat by the detector pushing the reset button every time it went off. He wasn’t gone long, thank God, and cut the wires and attached the new detector to at least get us through our trip safely. It did not go off at all and I felt better about climbing into the bed and closing my eyes, knowing that I should wake up tomorrow morning. It was really nice to be camping in the Walmart parking lot with this dilemma. I am sure we would have gotten no sleep at all if we had been anywhere but Walmart where we could easily purchase the CO2 detector.

Here are some random pictures that I took today.

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So, if we survived the night, join us tomorrow as we head toward Yellow Stone National Park.

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

We were up early, as usual, and had the camper packed up and headed to Spearfish Canyon today. The drive was another scenic by-way with breathtaking scenery. I wish I could capture what I saw perfectly and share it with others, but it would be hard to do. We did drive slowly to capture the beauty and stopped at the known go-to spots such as Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls.

I was mesmerized by the clear water at one of the pull-offs for Spearfish Creek.


We went into Deadwood South Dakota, but just did a drive-through as we didn’t see anything that particularly caught our eye, and we were ready to keep traveling to see what we might pass.


In Spearfish South Dakota we saw a sign for a fish hatchery and decided to check it out. It was worth the stop. It was called the DC Booth Historic Established in 1896, D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. It was established in 1896 to reproduce trout, stock the mountain streams, and increase the trout population in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

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The Hatchery closed in the 80s and reopened with a new mission and partnerships to help preserve the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s historic and cultural heritage.
They have many things to see on their beautiful campus, including their trout runs with trout at various stages. Beautiful ponds stocked with trout and ducks. You could buy fish food to feed the trout. They were well-trained as we quickly learned you could just throw your hand like you were throwing food, and they would all flail around trying to get it. I kind of felt guilty for tricking them, but not guilty enough to have bought any food. I am sure they were well-fed.

They also had a museum that housed the largest collection of fisheries artifacts in the country. It was very interesting to see the history of fish hatcheries. They had a rail car as well, which was used to move fish from the hatchery to lakes and streams with a discussion on how they kept the fish alive. They also had a large aquarium viewing area.

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We made lunch in the camper and sat at a picnic table on the park grounds for lunch. It was a little cool, so Chip had to pull the picnic table into the sun. It was a very nice city park and even had a campground, but it was too early in the day to stop.

We later found a nice campground for the night, Reuters National Campground in Sundance Wyoming. The cost was $10.00. It was only about 45 minutes away, so we arrived early and decided to enjoy the evening and relax. There were only two other campers in the entire campground so it was easy to find us the perfect spot among some trees, in the back of the campground. We put up hammocks and kicked back and relaxed.

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Now, it didn’t immediately start off as relaxed as my crazy husband, decided to put our hammocks up like the younger folks. He put his above mine. We did have a good laugh as he tried to get into it, but I can not say it was relaxing as I was a bit nervous looking up and thinking what if the rope did not hold.

He eventually took his down from above my head and tied it up in another tree, but I don’t think he spent much time in it. Chip doesn’t spend much time sitting still anywhere.

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Chip cooked dinner, and we decided to go for a hike. Like most National Forest, the trails were plentiful and beautiful. We were hoping we would see a bear, okay, I was hoping to see a bear, but we did not, but we did see some deer. We walked along the Sundance Trail System at the Reuter Trailhead.

Though we had rested all afternoon, we were still ready for bed and a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we head toward Cody, Wyoming.

Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road and Pigtale Bridges

This morning was a cold crisp mountain morning. The kind of morning you look around the campground and are thankful you are not in a tent. Don’t get me wrong, in my younger years, when I could actually get up and down off the ground, I loved tent camping, except when it was cold and I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag and this was that kind of cold morning. Thankfully I was able to get dressed in the warmth of the truck camper before preparing breakfast and hitting the road for a day of site seeing.

Needles Highway was one of Chip’s “go-to places” that was on his list. We purposefully stayed at a “real” campground, so we could leave our camper behind because of the low clearance tunnels. When you see our pictures, you will definitely understand why we did not have the camper on the truck.

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Needles Highway was the vision of Peter Norbeck who was the South Dakota Governor in the early 1920s. Norbeck laid out the entire highway on foot and horseback; imagine what a task this was back in the day.

We took some awesome pictures, but I had to share this one that is an aerial view to show you just how curvy the road was and of course, we couldn’t do an aerial view so this is compliments of this site which describes in more detail about the Needles Highway.Custer-State-Park_Needles-Highway_Jacob-Moon-body

https://www.visitrapidcity.com/things-to-do/black-hills-cruising/needles-highway

Some of our pictures of the views and narrow tunnels.

One of the go-to places while in Custer State Park and off the Needles Highway was the Black Elk Fire Tower aka Harney Peak. The tower is the highest point in South Dakota with an elevation of 7242.

This is a picture from a google search, as I was trying to show how far away we were, you know 22 miles, but I couldn’t find anything. This is an aerial view that shows the beauty of the fire tower.

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I love to hike, and we were prepared for this journey with our walking poles, water, and snacks. There were a lot of people heading up the trail, of all ages, so I thought, “how hard could it be.” The initial part of the hike wasn’t bad, but I remember stopping along the way at an overlook and Chip pointing way off, and I mean way off, across mountain tops, sat this small building formation and he said: “that’s where we are going.” I should have been a little more suspicious when we had to sign a paper and deposit it that we were walking this trail. Is that so they know who to go look for that didn’t make it out?

Now in my mind, it seemed impossible we would ever get to that point. I mean it was so far away I was concerned we didn’t have enough food and water as I wasn’t sure we could make it in a day. But we kept trudging along. People amazed me as they would pass us as if we were walking too slow, and then low and behold 10 minutes later we would pass them because they stopped to rest. This happened time and time again. We never stopped and rested, we just kept an even pace and beat them to the top. Yes, it became a contest for me, and I do not like to lose. The closer we got to the summit the tougher the hike was, but in the end, it was definitely worth the exhaustion. The view was amazing and quite honestly, I was still amazed we made it across all those valleys and mountains on the same day. I told everyone we hiked 22 miles up the mountain to get to the peak and Chip continues to correct me that it was just over 7 miles round trip. It was the longest 7 miles I have ever been on that is for sure.

Because I do not like seeing the same thing twice, and quite honestly, I was not looking forward to going back down some of the steps we went up, we elected to take a different trail back down the mountain.

It was definitely a much easier hike but a lot longer. I remember seeing a parking lot in the distance and was thinking in my mind, “thank you Jesus” when Chip said, “don’t get excited over there, that is not our parking lot”. Boy, he had no clue how disappointed I was. I did scope out some of the cars and I really thought about asking someone to take us to our parking lot, but I didn’t as I am sure I would have been riding by myself and I would see Chip walking off in the rearview mirror. I reluctantly continued to follow Chip along the trail, silently praying every corner we went around that I would see the parking lot with our truck. Chip kindly reminded me more than once we would already be at the truck if we had gone back down the mountain on the same trail we went up. He may have been right, but I still am glad we took a different route out.

When we finally did see our truck, I snapped this picture and sent it to Bailey. She replied with a question so I added the message “I have never been so happy to see my truck”.

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At the time I told Chip if we ever came back out there with Bailey, he would have to accompany her to the top, that I would be waiting on a bench at the bottom. I said I would not go back up that hike again but honestly now that I have recovered, I really would hike back up and yes, I would still come back down the long way.

Once we got back to the truck, we decided to ride back into the town of Custer and walk around. I was intrigued by the buffalo statues around town. They were neat but not as neat as the pigs in Lexington NC. I may be biased since I love pigs.

While we were in Custer, we found a wonderful ice cream store, Horatio’s Homemade Ice Cream. They actually had dairy-free ice cream, so I splurged and had a scoop or two. I did get my scoops in a waffle cone because who can pass up a waffle cone. The nice lady did tell me the waffle cone did have dairy in it, but I smiled and said a little bit wouldn’t kill me, and p.s. it didn’t.

One of the other highways we rode was Iron Mountain Road and the Pigtail Bridges. Norbeck wanted to create a highway with tunnels that would frame Mount Rushmore. It is known as one of the most crooked roads you’ll ever drive, and it definitely was.

When you came through the tunnel you could see Mount Rushmore.

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It too has an interesting history that you can read about it here.  https://www.ironmountainroad.com/

Norbeck Scenic Byway consists of three roads, the Needles Highway, the Iron Mountain Road, and The Pigtail Bridges. The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway was named one of the top 10 scenic drive by the Society of American Travel Writers. It is definitely a trip to plan if you go to South Dakota.

We ended our day riding off the beaten path, as usual, and was able to capture this beautiful picture of a bald eagle hunting for dinner.

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Tomorrow we head to Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota.

Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park

We couldn’t leave the beauty of the National Forest Land we camped on last night without taking a hike. We had a nice leisurely walk a couple of miles along an old roadbed. It was so peaceful and quiet, except for us talking. We did try to walk without talking so we could hopefully see some wildlife, but we as always had too much to talk about. I was either asking questions or Chip was quizzing me on my trees. See he is a Forestry major and ever since we started dating back in 1986, I always have lessons on trees when we walk. Sometimes I really impress him when I know a tree, but usually, he just questions the fact, “how do you not know this one you have seen it hundreds of times”. Ummm my thinker doesn’t work as well as it used to.

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On our walk back to the truck we walked upon an older gentleman, like really older, setting up a target to do some shooting. I think we surprised him because it was early morning and we were a good distance from the campsite. I am glad we came back before he got set up as if he had missed his target, he may have been shooting toward us.

We toured around Mount Rushmore, walked the trails up to the base, and took pictures. It was really neat to see this up close as it is one of those all-American things to do. It was a lot of steps up to the base. So many steps that you made conversation with people you passed. I must have had a painful look on my face even though I didn’t think I did, as I had more than one person tell me you are almost there. I gave the same advice to those we passed on our walk back down. It wasn’t because they looked pained, just to give them encouragement so maybe I didn’t look pained either and they were just being friendly. I did have a bit of pain though as I developed a recent problem with my hip that causes me pain to pull my right leg up. So, whether I am putting on a pair of pants, or walking up steps, every movement “up” with my right leg is uncomfortable. Though it does hurt the worst part is the loss of ability. Sometimes I have to pick up my pants leg and pull the leg up, like getting in the truck or getting up on the bed. It is not in the joint, but a muscle. My orthopedic doctor described it as similar to a trigger finger. I had a cortisone injection in it before I left town, which I thought was going to work as for a few days I had no pain at all, but it didn’t last and had started hurting before we left town. I keep thinking I am going to “walk it out” like a cramp, it just hasn’t happened yet. Going back down the steps doesn’t hurt the muscle at all but does hit a grind here and there with the knee. But I can assure you the view was definitely worth every step and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

We saw our second Earth Roamer camper in the parking lot. I bet when they parked beside us, they were like, “look how cute that little camper is, remember when we had one like that”. That will be me when I win the lottery. I will be that Earth Roamer, but I will never forget what it was like to have a truck camper. My truck camper is my memory maker.

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Our next stop was the town of Custer. We had to stop and get milk. Chip loves his milk. We were surprised to see the grocery store sold Liquor. You definitely would not see this in North Carolina, so we had to take a picture. They had a wonderful gluten-free section which surprised me as it seemed to be a small local kind of grocery store.

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In the parking lot, we saw a cool “old fashioned” truck camper. I would have loved to have met the owners and looked around the inside. I thought it was awesome looking, but Chip wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was. He said he would keep the one he had.

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Tonight, we had to pay for camping. I had set a budget for 100.00 for camping fees for the entire trip and I was not happy to have to pay out, but we didn’t have a choice as tomorrow’s adventure would not allow for a truck camper. I will let you know at the end of this journey if I was able to stay within my budget.

We stayed at Center Lake Campground. We knew we wanted to stay in an actual campground tonight because tomorrow we plan to travel a road that has tunnels that are too small to accommodate a truck camper, so we will be leaving it behind. Our camping fee was 19.00 a night and we planned to stay 2 nights. It was a beautiful yet rustic campground with no service such as electricity or water. It was still boondocking, just in an actual campground.

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While Chip set up camp, I had to walk to the telephone that was across the road and literally was an old-fashioned type of phone on a pole. I was leaning against the telephone pole talking to the man who was taking our reservation and when I say leaning, I mean leaning. I looked like I must have had a long day. I felt like I was Fonzi back in the 1950’s talking to his girl. Two park service men rode by and were laughing. Not sure if it was at me or a story they were telling, but I felt self-conscious and stood up more ladylike. By the way, the campground was so remote there was no cell service and that was why they provided a landline telephone to use.

It was early afternoon, so we decided to go ahead and ride on the wildlife loop road in Custer State Park. Custer State Park has over 71,000 acres of land and sits in the Black Hill region of South Dakota. The Wildlife loop road is 18-miles long and animals that you might see included bison aka buffalo, white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorns aka antelope, mountain goats, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep and of course more prairie dogs.

We were fortunate to see a lot of buffalo, antelope, and some deer. It was just fun riding around seeing the beauty of the land while anticipating what you may see next.

Chip had to stop and make some work calls and this adorable chipmunk caught my eye. Chipmunks were everywhere on this trip. There were at least five playing together right where we were parked, but they wouldn’t cooperate and all get in my picture at one time.

It was getting dark and we decided to splurge for dinner. The only option was a beautiful lodge, the Blue Bell Lodge. I was hesitant to go in as we were “camping” which means ballcaps. I was not about to take my hat off as I would have gotten a lot more looks without it then I would with it. We decided we didn’t know anyone there, would never see anyone there again, so why did it matter. Though beautiful, yet rustic, it wasn’t fancy on the inside. There was at least one more lady with a ballcap on, so I felt better. We both had buffalo to eat. I typically do not eat red meat, and that will be in another blog, but I splurged tonight, because how often would I get to have buffalo meatloaf. It was not what we call meatloaf in North Carolina as it was just ground meat with mushroom gravy, it had no tomato sauce, peppers, and onions and things like that we put in our meatloaf. But it was delicious. Chip had buffalo tips with gravy as well. We thought we would have some to eat for leftovers the next day, as our plates were very full of potatoes, cowboy beans, and steamed vegetables, but we didn’t. We cleaned our plates like two cowboys who had been working on the range all day.

https://custerresorts.com/lodges-and-cabins/blue-bell-lodge/

Picture courtesy of their webpage. I was going to take a picture, but I would have had to take the picture of other people and they would have wondered why this woman was taking their picture.

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Needless to say, with bellies full and a full day of riding, we were tired and called it a night. Join us on our ride tomorrow through Needles Highway.

Day 4: My Jackalope Adventure

What a beautiful view to wake up to. Time to eat, pack up and go scouting for all types of animals but we had to take some typical fun pictures before we left our camping spot. We bought our t-shirts at an outlet within the Wall Drug store and thought Bailey would want one too, but she definitely wasn’t interested. She missed out on a great idea for a cute Christmas card picture.

Today we went into the Badlands National Park which was literally within sight of the road into the camping area. I was excited about seeing all the animals’ Chip had told me about. He said we would see prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, antelope, mountain goats, jackalopes, rattlesnakes, buffalo, and mule deer. Chip had talked about hunting Prairie dogs while we were out there and had done the research on a license, took his gun and was prepared to hunt. Apparently, farmers don’t like prairie dogs as they tear up their farmland and there is no limit on killing them. In my mind prairie dogs must be some type of wild mangy dog if you could kill all you wanted.

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As we were entering the park, people were out taking pictures of these cute little creatures that reminded me of groundhogs. Chip said, “oh look, there are the prairie dogs.” Where I asked looking around. There he said, pointing at those adorable little creatures. What? I thought a prairie dog was a dog. He started laughing. I emphatically said, “You are not hunting those; they are adorable.” And they were. I have a zillion pictures of them because they were everywhere and after a while, it seemed like they were posing for their picture. I wish I could have brought one home with me. Chip said it was against the law to catch one. If he could kill all he wanted, why couldn’t I have one as a pet? I am not sure he was telling me the truth about the law. He just didn’t want to watch me try to catch one.

We went into the visitor center, and it was interesting to see what the Prairie Dogs burrows look like down inside as you can see in the picture. I also learned the “kissing” I caught in one of the pictures is their way of grooming each other.

The next thing we saw was buffalo. There was one inside the gate scratching his back on a signpost. He was huge and I couldn’t believe he was so close. I was impressed that we got to see one so quickly, but I soon learned he was one of many we would see over the next few days. Buffalo out there are like deer here, they were everywhere.

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We had not gone far at all before we saw antelope aka pronghorns. It honestly took me the entire trip to remember when Chip said pronghorns that he was talking about antelope. I guess I don’t get out much because I thought antelope were in places like South Africa. I had seen National Geographic and programs like that where you would see a lion or some other large animal stalking a herd of antelope. Needless to say, I learned a lot about animals on this trip.

The road around the park was over 20 miles. We took our time, looking close as well as far off in the distance to see any wildlife that we could. We were constantly pulling over letting people go by as no one seemed to want to drive as slow as we were driving. What they don’t know is they missed a lot of animals by not slowing down and taking it all in.

Because we drove slowly and looked around, we were able to see some bighorn sheep laying on the rocks resting in the morning sun. You had to look down into a ravine to see them, and you couldn’t do that driving as fast as those that passed us were driving.

We took a short hike down into the canyon. There were a lot of rocks to climb up and around. The landscape was just so interesting. As you can see Chip is still a kid at heart and was constantly climbing up and over the rocks.

As we were leaving Chip said, “We saw everything but mountain goats.” I said no we didn’t see the jackalopes. Chip didn’t say anything but did have a smirk on his face. At first, I didn’t think anything about it. He had told me all the animals we would see, and jackalopes were one of the animals. Plus, we had taken our pictures on a replica at the Wall Drug store. Now I am not dumb, I knew jackalopes would not be as big as the ones we took our picture on, but I was looking forward to seeing one. After Chip didn’t reply when I said we didn’t see any, I decided to “google” them to get a better idea of what I was looking for and what their habitat was, so I would know where to look. There they were, just as I had seen before in pictures, rabbits with horns. There were lots of different pictures, so I knew I was looking for the right thing. But then, there it was, the word that jumped right off the page “a mythical creature” what, mythical, that means they aren’t even real. I am pretty sure my hand hurt a lot worse than his shoulder when I hit Chip as he was laughing when I realized he had been pulling my leg the entire time. I am so gullible.

We did not see any jackalope to take pictures of, of course, but this was what I thought I was looking for. Picture courtesy of google. See how real this looks, how was I supposed to know it had been altered. If you don’t believe how real they look, go to google, just look at images of Jackalope and see for yourself why I thought they were real.

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We left the Badlands National Park but was still in what is considered “Badlands” for miles and miles. We stopped at various places to get out and walk and look around. One of the places as you can see reminded me of another planet. I am sure it has been used in the movies before, it was so awesome looking. You could spend hours roaming around and they even suggested you make sure you had plenty of water with you. I guess maybe it was easy to get lost. Here are just random pictures we took of various stone creations, some bighorn ram sheep we happened to see laying by some rocks and a sign describing why the rock layers are different colors.

After seeing everything there was to see, it was time to leave the badlands. Our next stop was Rapid City, South Dakota. We had found a boondocking location through the https://freecampsites.net/ website and were excited to get set up before dark. The webpage said it was National Forestland and there was room for a relatively long camper. When we arrived, there was already a nice tagalong camper set up and we were afraid we might not be able to find a spot to park, but there were plenty of places since we had four-wheel drive and was relatively small. We found the perfect spot.

I don’t know if I had mentioned it earlier but we did not like the blinds on the bedroom windows blowing in the wind so I mentioned to Chip maybe we could tint the windows like my nephew’s truck, where you cannot see in at all. Since we were traveling and not where we could have this professionally done, my professional did it for me. We stopped by a home improvement store and purchased a roll of privacy tint prior to heading out for the night. Chip spent about 15 minutes taking down the blinds, cleaning the windows and eventually applying the roll of window tint. He had me go outside, so he could wave at me from the bed area to see if I could see him. I could not see him inside and was impressed with how well it worked. When I went back inside he said he couldn’t see me, I was like wow I didn’t know we couldn’t see out, and he laughed and said no dummy you were on the wrong side of the camper, go try it again. I still couldn’t see him, but he did see me this time, which I guess was the point, see out, not in. I love having the windows tinted as it seems brighter without having blinds up. Now in saying that when we were in a parking lot, I did prop my pillow up at the window until I was tucked under the cover. I know you cannot see in at all during the day and if the lights were out, but I never looked for myself at night and with the lights on, so until I do that, I will prop my pillow up until I am under the cover and the lights off.

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So lights off for tonight. Tomorrow we head to Mount Rushmore.

Day 3: Iowa to South Dakota on the road less traveled

We will get to one of my favorite places on this journey, and when you see it, you too will be mesmerized, but we, of course, had to travel to get there and traveling comes with pictures and stories. Last night the Wallydocking was not bad at all. It was safe and quiet, and as usual, we were tired, so we slept like babies.

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We took some backroads first thing this morning. It was nice but very foggy for many miles, which slowed driving down but also limited our views. The fog eventually cleared up and we saw a lot of beautiful farms. We drove from Iowa into Nebraska where we continued to stay on a highway instead of interstate driving. We did come across a neat find, the Lewis & Clark Campsite which was a Nebraska Historical Marker. We stopped to read about this piece of history. It was things like this that made us glad we took the backroads.

 

We eventually did end up back on the interstate which was fine with me too because this is where I was most likely to see another truck camper and state tags. We crossed the Missouri River, which had flooded, and that was, of course, interesting to see. The most interesting part of the flood was the interstate was flooded. I am sharing pictures, but I also have a video of tractor-trailers going through the water as they put up quite a splash. I know it seems silly, but remember, it is the little things that I find amusing.

 

It must flood often there as they seemed to be well organized in the process to get everyone through the water and onto their destination. Unlike here in North Carolina where a sign that says “merge right lane closed in 1-mile” brings a bottleneck of traffic. We did not see any problems with traffic anywhere we went, and in over 6,000 miles of traveling only saw one wreck which appeared to be a fender bender and one person stopped for probably speeding, which is crazy being the speed limit was 80 mph in a lot of places. We even saw school buses that were running over 60 miles an hour. We, of course, did not run that fast with a truck camper, but I do think I would like to travel that road in a car. I used to say when I “grow up” I want to be a race car driver, but age and experience have changed my perspective. I do like to get where I am going and I cannot stand to ride behind something that I cannot see around and therefore will sometimes “speed” to get around them, but for the most part, I am content driving slower than I used to. Now my co-worker seems to use the brake or lack of, on her side often when I am driving. If she could comfortably hold her “oh shit bar” I am sure she would never let go of it when she rides with me. It’s not that I drive fast, it’s more that I wait until the last minute to brake, hoping the person in front of me might get a little spunky and get up the road. Chip rarely ever lets me drive and is usually holding on when he does. I am good with it though as I would rather ride and look than drive, as I may miss something I wanted to see.

 

There I go with that lazy Susan again. Back to our trip. We typically ate our lunch at a rest area. Today we ate at a beautiful rest area in South Dakota. I did not see anyone else take their picture with the rest stop bathroom “wall” but why pass up a beautiful backdrop, even if it was the bathroom. Chip wouldn’t let me ask anyone at the “rest area” to take our picture together but at least did amuse me and let me take his picture.

 

As we continued driving on the interstate, several hours later, we decided to stop at a rest area to stretch our legs. We were on Interstate 90 near Chamberlain South Dakota. This was another interesting rest area. A breathtaking statue that is best described from their website:

Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the 50-foot Native woman gracefully wears a dress patterned after a two-hide Native dress of the 1850s. She holds outstretched a quilt featuring 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. During the day, her star quilt – a representation of respect, honor, and admiration in Native American culture – glitters in the sun with color-changing pieces that move with the wind. At night, LED lights cause the diamond shapes to glow in the night sky, casting a peaceful presence easily visible from the Interstate.

https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/trip-ideas/story/dignity-earth-sky

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The short hike took you to a beautiful overlook of the Missouri River. I, of course, was on high alert after seeing this sign at the beginning of the trail. A sign that became as common as the stop sign on most of our journey. Rest areas were also great places to spot other truck campers. The white truck is ours, the dark one was someone that parked beside us.

 

 

 

Our next stop, not planned, off the beaten path was in Mitchell, South Dakota. Did you know Mitchell was the home to the world’s only corn palace? Don’t fret, I didn’t know that either, but it was worth seeing. Every detail was made from a part of a stalk of corn. It started as part of a fall festival in 1892 and now attracts more than half a million visitors annually. I could not capture the uniqueness in my pictures; you will need to check out their webpage to learn more about it.

https://cornpalace.com/

 

The next stop, which was planned, was Wall Drugs. It was once a small drug store that was started in 1931 and was looking for a marketing idea to get visitors to stop in. The success of Wall Drug back in the day was anyone who stopped in the drug store was given free ice water, today you can still get free ice water, but trust me they don’t need to bribe visitors into the drug store today. Wall Drug store has over 2-million visitors annually. The highway on the way to Wall reminded me somewhat of South of the Border in South Carolina as there were catchy billboards lining the highway to pique your curiosity.
I had a lot of fun with the camera at this stop. It was a chance to be like a kid, and I never miss those opportunities. I even got Chip in on the fun, though reluctantly, I can assure you.
https://www.walldrug.com/

 

Once we left the Wall Drug store, our next stop was our camping destination for the night, and this was as beautiful as Chip had told me it would be. I had eagerly anticipated this night since he started planning our trip months ago. The view was even more spectacular than I thought it would be.

There were all types of campers already set up and enjoying the view when we arrived. There was everything from tents to million-dollar motor homes, tag-alongs, of course, truck campers, and our dream camper an Earth Roamer. If you want to see the ultimate boondocking camper, then check out the Earth Roamer website. I can only dream.

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https://earthroamer.com/

It was a perfect ending to the day. We ate an amazing dinner of venison chili and cornbread Chip, my personal chef, cooked in his lodge cast-iron skillet. I love my easy cleanup frying pans but he only cooks in cast iron, but he is an amazing cook, and he always cleans his own pan, so I am definitely not going to complain. Did you know you are not supposed to clean cast iron with dish detergent? I didn’t either, but that is why I no longer get to help with his pans. I didn’t ruin it, but he had to “re-season” it, and I got the lecture on how to care for cast iron. It makes sense, but out of habit that Dawn went into the cast-iron pan and the rest is history.

 

It was a full moon and though it was beautiful Chip really wanted me to see a true nighttime view of the stars with no light around. See this camping spot is off the beaten path as it was basically a road on the rim of the badlands. So, there were definitely no city lights anywhere in the distance and would have been the perfect location to be in true darkness. We may have to schedule our next trip on a moonless night. Did you know that a moonless night is a true fact? Once a month the moon does not appear to be visible because of the proximity of the sun and the moon. It may be a little complicated for scheduling the perfect time as just my luck it would be a cloudy night and no stars at all. We sat outside and enjoyed the beauty as the sun was setting and the badlands became illuminated by the moonlight. Chip heard coyotes in the distance, and we were hoping they would come closer in. We slept with all the windows and doors open that evening hoping I would hear the coyotes, but we never did. It was perfectly quiet and a perfect night. I hope you enjoy the pictures. They do not do justice to seeing in up close. I hope you get the chance to see the Badlands for yourself someday.

 

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