Journal entry – 18 August 2015, Tues – Billings, Montana

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Didn’t sleep at all well last night. Lots of traffic around us – perhaps street racing, judging by the sounds.

The worst sound of all, though, was that of gnawing – so we picked up some mouse traps to scatter around.

The blinker seems to just be a loose connection, though it took about an hour to figure that out. How frustrating!

After breakfast we migrate downtown and find street parking so that we can walk to a local coffee shop. I need internet to upload journal entries (and the many pictures we’ve taken!) plus we want to research Yellowstone before heading that way.

We wrap up and walk down to The Good Earth food co-op where we pick up some items before walking back to the RV. It has started raining so we are wet and cold upon returning.

After lunch our next stop is about halfway across town, the Barnes and Noble. Ashley has been checking out different guides to the National Parks at the various visitor centers and we want to pick one up. It will help us better know what to expect as we plan our next steps for each of the parks. B-and-N have the one she’s liked the best and we pick it up.

It’s already mid-afternoon, so we consider just staying in Billings another night. Save a day of gas and another free night’s stay. There is an empty-looking office building next to the store where I’d like to stay – it will be much quieter than the Walmart next door. We park for a bit, after a few minutes someone comes to let us know that the owner doesn’t like over-nighters. We let him know that we’re just taking a break and don’t plan on staying. So after a few more minutes we head on over to Walmart and find a spot for the night.

We read and have supper and read some more before bed.

Journal entry – 17 August 2015, Mon – North Dakota to Billings, Montana

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

After a cold night neither of us are in a hurry to roust out of bed. We read, enjoying the morning after breakfast.

Once it warms up we head out on our bicycles. A mile or so down the road we pass through a bison herd, sneaking through with the line of cars hiding us.

As the road Y’s off we go left and ride until another herd is completely blocking the road. We turn around and take the other branch of the road.

  

The hills are quite steep and we run out of breath quickly. It also took some time to get warmed up. We feel out of practice now and don’t like it. But then again we haven’t ridden on large, long hills like this before. Iowa had some steep hills, but they were short and over quickly. 

Back at home we start preparing to head out. Ashley grabs a shower and I do yoga to help stretch out my back. Check out is noon and we just make it (not that anyone seems to be checking). We pull over to the picnic area for lunch and then head out of the park.

A quick stop on the edge of Medina nets us a geocache find in North Dakota before we hit the interstate and head on to Billings, Montana.

There we stop at a Walmart and pick up a few odds-n-ends and settle in for the evening.

The passenger blinker is out, so I’ll replace the bulb in the morning.

Journal entry – 16 August 2015, Sun – North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Petrified Forest

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

  

It cooled down considerably during the night. Enough that we pulled the blanket back up, finally. We slept great! We wake early and after breakfast we pack lunch and hop on the motorcycle to ride around to visit the Petrified Forest on the west side of the park.

  

12 miles back on gravel roads we are the second vehicle in the parking area. After about a mile’s hike the trail splits and we take the north branch. The ride over was cold and we are still warming back up.

   
 

This is one of the top 3 petrified forests in the U.S. and we have it all to ourselves. They really do look like wood. It’s amazing! There are stumps and fragments everywhere! It looks like the shores of the lake, littered with driftwood. Some of the trees are massive, more than 4 people could reach around. And it was clearly a forest, with new stumps every few feet.

   
    
 

It’s so interesting to see the layers within the earth and see examples of how they represent time. The trees are all on a single layer. A couple of feeet lower or higher and they aren’t there. I’m sure, too, that if the hills were dug up down to that layer of soil even more trees would be visible.

  

We contine along the trail to the grasslands. As we come up out of the valley a lone bull bison stands in the trail, eating. We pause for a few minutes to see if he will move along. When he doesn’t we continue on, detouring through the grass, giving him wide berth.

  

Our route goes down and up a valley and crosses a ridge. There is sage growing wild everywhere! As we hike we receive a wonderful, encouraging text message from Jim. It was very appropriate to receive such a message while out on a trail! It really is such a blessing that we have such loving, supportive family on both sides!

  

The loop trail is 10.5 miles long and intersects with the Maah Daah Hey Trail – a 140 mile long trail that stretches north and south across both units of the Teddy Roosevelt Park. We are certainly glad we didn’t try hiking yesterday. Even with today’s cool weather it was quite warm along the grassland when the breeze was blocked by hills. In high temperatures and direct sunlight it would be brutal.

Capturing sun’s rays through polarized sunglasses

Apparently neither of us have hiked a loop out in the open before. We don’t know how much we like being able to see that we were just “over there”.

  

Entering into the south portion of the Petrified Forest we stop for lunch. In the distance we watch a couple on horse back work toward us. Finished eating we meet them part way. She chats with us for a few minutes and mentions how the forest really illustrates how temporary we all are. This forest was big and strong back when the dinosaurs roamed, or swam amongst them. Back when the arid place we stand on was shoreline. Very humbling to consider.

  

We find a section of log that could have been a surfboard, a piece with crystals formed on it, and some weird series of circles in the side of a hill (petrified roots, perhaps?) Overall, however, we found the northern portion of the forest more impressive.

  

A couple of men were not far behind us. Back at the parking area, which is now overflowing, we find out that one of them, Maurice, is on a motorcycle trip. He’s from Connecticut and is on a week-long tour here, to Yellowstone, and then to Wind Cave and the Black Hills before returning home. We trade destination and road suggestions then head on out.

 I find it interesting how other people’s adventures always sound so exciting. I love our journey and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I hear about his week-long motorcycle tour and think “That would be exciting! We need to do that some time!” Likewise, he loved what we’re doing and was jealous of us.

Back home I journal while Ashley reads. My eyes grow heavy and I lie down for a nap.

Much better! I resume journaling and typing up entries until pausing for supper. I continue on, taking breaks to prep for tomorrow’s departure.

Shower time as the sun sets, then star gazing on the roof before bed. We both see the same shooting star.

Journal entry – 15 August 2015, Sat – North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.



Neither of us sleep well, beween the heat, lights, and trucks. At 5 we’ve both been lying awake and decide to go ahead with our day. We do get to see a beautiful sunrise during breakfast. Inside the store, we grab coffees and hit the head. I top off the motorcycle and we’re on our way.
The park is only a short trip down the interstate so we’re parked and have the motorcycle unloaded before the ranger station is open. Though it’s going to be hot, the morning is still nice and cool on the bike. We pass a number of bicyclists and runners in the first few miles.
It’s not too long before we are stopped in traffic. A herd of bison are crossing the road, with a bull standing in our lane. I pause to let the truck get through before I get too close. Passing a 2,000 lb creature only a few feet away sure does get the heart pumping! He stuck out his tongue and yelled at us as we passed.

 

Soon afterward we stop in the Cottonwood Campground to check it out and top off our water bottles. Nice place, tucked next to the Little Missouri River among the Cottonwood trees. We chat with one of the campers. He’s from nearby and expresses surprise that we didn’t head straight on to Glacier or Yellowstone, skipping North Dakota entirely. “Most people do.”  
 
We stop and hike the Wind Canyon trail. It’s beautiful! The clouds and sky are gorgeous!

   
 More bison, pronghorn antelope, and prarie dogs are scattered throughout the park. As are wild horses!

  
We explore a few more of the trails along the way. There is one paved road, a scenic loop, throughout the park and a few hours later we are back at the campground.

   
 
I chat with Joe, a ranger, a bit before we head back to the RV and check out the visitors center. We walk around the town of Medina and decide to drive on in to the camground. There is one more trail we’d like to hike in the morning, and the weather is supposed to break tomorrow so we’d enjoy the mid-70s for highs.

 

We find a camping spot and settle in, hiding from the heat in the shade. We comment on how the matted grass looks like the bison either came through here or bedded down here recently. Ashley starts the last book in the Sword of Truth series while I catch up on journaling.  
  I hang the hammock up past the picnic table and string up the tarp for extra shade. After a few hours I hear something in the grass behind me and look up to see the bison herd munching its way toward me, about 50′ away. Heart racing, I hurredly untie the tarp and hammock and retreat to the RV.

 
Ashley and I sit and watch them pass through our picnic table area, 35′ away. At least one passes through where my hammock had been less than 4 minutes prior. One nearly trips over a log partially hidden in the grass. How much fun!
They pass on through camp and we sit in the shade of the RV until supper time.
After eating we hop on the bicycles for a quick ride. Looping through the campground we run across the herd. There are more than 50 of them and we very nervously ride through on the road. Coming back upon them as we complete the loop we pause as a couple of big bulls mosey across the road. We leave camp and get out on the main road for a mile or so. Our tires are low, though, and we can feel it so we head back.
Ashley wants to do yoga so she grabs her mat and heads down to the picnic table clearing. A couple of minutes later I realize she’s still standing there and go to see what she is debating, assuming she is pondering where to spread out the yoga mat.
Just up the clearing, a touch over 100′ away, is the bison herd. She’s torn, wanting to exercise but thinking this isn’t the safest place. Also, they’re fun to watch!

  
We sit at the picnic table and watch as they move closer. They get about 40′ away and we decide to move closer to the RV. I stand up too fast and a couple of cows spook and trot out of the main clearing.

  
Under the awning we sit again. They munch their way along – no idea how many. Some get within 20′. The bulls are huge! Just massive. Their deep grunts and noises could be very intimidating. It’s almost as if the bulls are in the back, herding along everyone else.

  
After they have passed and our awe has subsided, Ashley does yoga next to the RV and I set up for stargazing on the roof.
As the sun set it cooled quickly and was comfortable outide for the first time in days.
She wraps up and we grab showers as the sun sets. With darkness almost here, we decide we’re too tired from a long, full, hot day and head to bed.

Journal entry – 14 August 2015, Fri – South Dakota to North Dakota

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

I wake to the alarm and get some journaling done while Ashley snoozes a bit longer. She puts a chicken in the crockpot upon rising and after a quick breakfast we head to the laundry mat to clean up – especially since we’re out of towels after cleaning up the water explosion from the other night!

I journal and she reads as the machines run.

Once finished we top off all of our water tanks, pack up and eat lunch while waiting for the chicken to be done. As soon as it is we unhook and head on out.

We would have loved to stay another day or two to get some hiking in through one of the wilderness areas. However, our Passport America discount wouldn’t have been extended for the campsite, so we headed on. Plus, this gives us something to look forward to during a future visit.

Just a few miles down the road, we stop at Hill City. It looked interesting on the way in, especially the sporting goods store. We explore an art shop and boutique, then in for camping gear. They have Jet Boil fuel bottles so we grab 2 to restock our dwindling supply. Ashley finds a great dress in the sale section – it will be much more comfortable than jeans – and it looks fabulous on her!

  

Following the recommendation of a couple at the campground we route for Deadwood, a “really cute city.” But if you aren’t eating out or shopping (and they have no bookstores) or gambling there isn’t much of interest that we could find. We stopped at the visitors center for a few minutes and headed on. Should have jumped straight on the interstate and bypassed some of the mountain roads.

On up the road to Bowman, ND. We plan on stopping here then riding on up to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, about 60 miles away. Only place for free parking is a truck stop so we pull on in.

We eat supper and I debate our options. We don’t save much money on gas by motorcycling and it will be both inconvenient and time consuming to ride. So we drive on. There’s a truck stop just a few minutes short of the park that we can sleep at to get an early start in the morning.

It’s been a long day of traveling, so shortly after pulling in we head to bed.

Journal entry – 13 August 2015, Thurs – South Dakota – Black Hills and Wind Cave

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Ashley re-organizes the kitchen. The spices had been stored underneath the sink for easy access but after last night’s flood she rethought that arrangement.

After breakfast we hop on the motorcycle and head down toward Wind Cave, on through Custer State Park. Our donated pass is only for cars (one, specifically – they’re nontransferrable) so we buy an entrance pass.

  

We stop at Rankin Ridge and hike up to the fire watch tower. I love these things! They always manage to capture my attention. Unfortuntely, the hatch at the top is locked so we can’t get all the way up to the platform. According to the sign we can see the Bad Lands in the distance, though we can’t quite distinguish them, even using the binoculars.

On down to wind Cave National Park. We find a parking spot and go buy tickets. 1:40 until our tour leaves, so we find a shady spot and eat lunch, relax in the grass, then go check out the displays and gift shop. Ashley reads through some National Park guide-books, researching options for the next leg of our journey.

  

Everyone meets at the elevator and our tour begins. It is the 6th longest cave in the world, and home to 95% of the boxwork formations in the world (and they aren’t growing structures). Gosh, that place is a 3-dimensional maze – tunnels go every which way! I can’t imagine exploring it on my own, much less by candle light!

  

The stone and formations are different than anything we have ever seen before, very cool to experience. Very glad we had a guide as I was soon lost. The group was too large and took too many pictures, however, so we had to rush through a good bit of the passages.

  

Having been in caves before, and even exploring a few all on our own, we both agree that the next time we go it will be on a wild/spelunking tour. Of course, those are booked well in advance, so we will have to start looking ahead at any future caves in the National Parks.

  

We leave the cave and head back north through Custer State Park. This time we take the Wildlife Loop. Our goal is the Needles Highway but this will take us on a different route and give us a chance to see some new wildlife. While the landsacpe was pretty, it was not as dramatic nor majestic as others we have recently seen and we both found ourselves imptiently waiting to see the Cathedral Spires.

Along the way we saw more bison, prairie dogs, white tail deer, pronghorn antelope, and even some wild donkeys. There was a bit of a trafic jam as the herd crossed the road to be petted and (I’m sure) fed.

Some ass was blocking the road

The spires were certainly amazing! There seemed to be a few hiking trails. If only we had seen those on any of the maps we looked at, we could have planned for more exploration on foot! Hot and hungry, though, we were ready to be home so we didn’t explore as much as we would have otherwise liked.

   
    
 

Back home we changed out of riding gear and walked the few blocks back to Maria’s Mexican food truck. Everything we’d read about it was positive, so we were excited to explore. Ashley got tamales and I tried the chicken corn tortilla tacos. We split chips and salsa. Everything was delicious! Fresh ingredients and clearly made from scratch. Simple food, but excellently seasoned – you could taste all of the different components.

   
 

After finishing we walked up Main Street and stopped in a local bakery/sweets shop. Ashley had a cookie while I enjoyed an ice cream cone. She is a cookie monster! 😉 We have definitely been allowing ourselves to have a few more “treats” since we’ve hit the road, but that is part of experiencing the local towns, and we’re careful not to overdo it. 

Back in the RV we poured over maps, comparing options on where to head next. It’s just getting late enough in the season that weather is going to be a factor, hot though it currently is here in South Dakota. We want to backpack in Glacier, but we haven’t researched it enough and fear that we’d be cutting either it or Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons short. We discuss every variation that we can think of before heading in to relax to a movie before bed.

Journal entry – 12 August 2015, Wed – South Dakota – Bad Lands to Black Hills and Mount Rushmore

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

What a tiring day! We wake up early to the sounds of others moving around. So after breakfast we hit the road. Earliest pull out yet (7 AM)!

Out of the Bad Lands and over to the Black Hills. Ashley made a reservation at a campground, French Creek RV, in Custer City that we can use as a base while touring around and visiting Wind Cave National Park and Mount Rushmore. We go pretty slowly up some of the hills on the way.

Arriving at the campground I go to check-in. Our spot is still occupied so we park on the steet and wait for them to finish packing up. There is a paved bike trail so we get our bikes off the trailer and explore a bit of town while we wait.

We stop at the Bank Coffee House and share a delicious turkey, bacon, avacado croissant sandwich and a latte. Fun design/atmosphere for a coffee shop, great sandwich and pretty good coffee. The chalkboard outside was cute: “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”

  

Back at the campground we are still waiting so we go and chat with Fred and his wife. They’re on a 6 month journey. we really enjoyed speaking with them. They have been here for a week and are heading out in the morning. They gave us entrance/parking passes for Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park. They won’t be using them anymore and could potentially save us some cash (though I’m not positive, as they’re car passes and we’re going to be on a bike.)

Our spot finally opens up and we get settled. Time to ride over to visit Mount Rushmore. Except the battery on the motorcycle is dead. Curses! We hook up the charger and head back into the air conditioning while it works. I nap while Ashley reads. After I wake the bike starts right up and we head on out.

  

We pass the in-progress Crazy Horse monument and on to Rushmore. Approaching from the back we catch a side view of Washington from a pull-off. A picnic area that we read about offers a commanding view of the backside of the mountain.

  

We’re in the Black Elk Wilderness. It looks like a lot of fun to explore. Lots of hiking trails along the way, so we’ll look into that.

    

We cruise on past Rushmore and into Keystone, a very touristy town. The only thing that catches our interest is a leather shop. I find a motorcycle jacket that would be an improvement over my current, too-large one. More than we want to spend and a lesser priority than a new helmet so we leave it hanging.

  

Back up to Rushmore. We stop on the roadside to appreciate the views. After debating, all the way to the stop light at the entrance, we decide not to go on in. I suspect our parking pass won’t work on a motorcycle and we have seen the monument.

  

I wonder if we’re bad Americans for not being willing to pay to go in. Ashley says we’re not, we’re bad tourists. And that’s definitely true. We don’t like crowds, activitely dislike the kotchke shops at tourist locations, and love natural magesty and beauty but only appreciate man-made structures.

We head back home. The ham in the crockpot smells amazing as we open the door. We change clothes and walk over to the grocery store for a wine to go with supper. I pick up a root beer and a sarsparilla to compare. 

Supper was delicious and very filling!

As Ashley got ready to shower, we suddenly heard what sounded like water exploding under the kitchen sink. I run outside and turn off the water at the faucet. Apparently, due to some combination of water pressure and rattling loose during travel, a line to the secondary faucet in the kitchen sink came loose. Water went everywhere, soaking the cabinet and wetting everything in it. We pulled everything out and Ashley dried it while I put the faucet back together. After a couple of tests it was working fine and seemed dry. We left everything out to air dry over night. Phew, at first we were worried that a pipe had burst, so although inconvenient, we were happy the issue was simple and easily fixed. 

Showers for everyone and then an over-due bed time.

Journal entry – 11 August 2015, Tues – South Dakota – Bad Lands

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

  

We slept past the alarm. After oatmeal for breakfast we hopped on our mountain bikes and headed left out of the campground. Had to wait for a traffic jam in the middle of camp. A bison wandered in and, just as a truck was approaching it, stepped into the road and stood there. We cycled over for a closer look and then off-roaded around to head on our way. That hill on the main road must have been a mile and a half long. Thought we’d never reach the top!

  

Finally at the top we stop for air and water, then continued on. Out of the park and down a couple of roads, all gravel. Flat and windy. It’s like a geographic cracker jack box. Flat grass lands as far as you can see and then SURPRISE! Here’s the Bad Lands’ crazy formations!

  

We head back and settle in for a day – hiding from the sun, moving with the shade. I journal while Ashley reads. We research campground options in the Black Hills for tomorrow, grill supper, and generally take in the scenery.

 

Hiking in their footsteps brings a whole new meaning to “Where the Buffalo Roam”

  
 

After supper we hike up a hill across the stream. The sunset is beautiful, but not as awesome as the first night’s, with no clouds in the sky tonight. With fading light we head back down to the RV for bed.

   
 

Journal entry – 10 August 2015, Mon – South Dakota – Bad Lands

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

We wake early and fill our bags with water and food, then hike up another hill. A bison just came down the path and we pass just 200′ away from him.

   
    
   

On a rocky outrop at the hill’s peak we sit and enjoy our breakfast. My binoculars come in handy for checking out the expansive views in greater detail. Another bison munches his breakfast on the hill behind us.
We head back down and prepare for our day. While donning motorcycle gear we see the first bison about 100′ out our bedroom window, eating his way through the valley.

Unload the bike and, after great debate, we’re off – without our jackets. It’s going to be hot. More importantly, they’re a hassle to take off and on at every stop – and worry about when away from the bike.

  

It’s truly a beautiful awe-inspiring landscape – unlike anywhere we’ve ever been before. Ashley (and I agree) named it one of, if not the, most beautiful motorcycle rides she’s ever been been on. The best description that we can come up with – the feel that we have while taking in the view, is that God made a small-scale “practice” model of the Rockies with extra color added. It’s as if we are giants inside a rugged mountain range – still towered over but they are imposing so that they feel so much larger than they are.

   
   

We stop at a majority of the view points. If the one sign is still accurate, last evening we saw nearly 1/2 of the 100 Big Horn sheep in the park.
We explore the Fossil Trail and then head on to the lodge and the Visitor Center for lunch. After refilling our water bottles inside, we grab a shaded picnic table and eat. Feeling much better we head back inside to see what trinkets they have and to learn from the displays.

 

Just a mile up the road are the hiking trails, so we ride on up. Window Trail is little more than a plastic boardwalk so we head on to Notch Trail. Any trail whose description includes suggestions to wear sturdy boots, pack water, and a suggestion to not attempt if you have a fear of heights (due to a wooden suspension ladder and narrow ledge) captures my interest immediately. The ladder was fun to climb and the views were spectacular. We sat in the notch to enjoy the view for a few minutes and then the heat had us moseying along. Shoes would have been easier than the boots.

  
    
  

This “Popcorn Rock” that the hills appear to be made of seems like hardened dirt. As non-geologists (professional or otherwise) it’s hard to tell that all of the BadLands aren’t dirt with some rocks included. The stone is so crumbly it doesn’t seem solid and hard – not like the limestone or granite that we’re accustomed to. Up close, it looks like what I expect the Marvel comic character The Thing’s skin to look like.

Back at the parking lot we decide to head down Door Trail, which begins a lot like Window. However, it is on a whole different level. It’s like walking through an alien landscape.

  

On the motorcycle we head down to Saddle Pass, a connector trail that joins with Castle Trail. Saddle Pass is a .25 mile hike from the floor up to the peak of the hills. Sounds like a great challenge! The trail is slippery with loose pebbles, and it’s a hot climb in the sun, but it didn’t take too long to work our way up. We spot a shady seat beneath a boulder and sit for a break and snack. Another gentleman joins us to wait for a friend and chats merrily along. He was really enjoyable to talk to. His friend, Bob, came along and after a few minutes break they head along to the top. Which, as it turns out, was only about 15 more feet!

  

We head on up, look round for a few minutes – Castle Trail is up on the level ground, it almost looks more like grassland than stone, at least in this section. Then we head on back down.
Back on the motorcycle we head back toward the visitor center and detour to exit the park, heading to Interior, 2 miles away, to top off the gas tank. On the way back into the park we learn that our pass sticker is only for unmanned parks and we should have brought our pass card along with us. However, she didn’t make us pay the entrance fee.

At the visitors center we fill all of our water containers to help stretch what we have at the RV, pick up candy bars at the Lodge, and then on back to the RV. We scooted on past all but one of the overlooks, though Ashley snapped pictures of the herd of Big Horns that we passed – including the one only a few feet off the road!

Between the heat and hiking we were wiped out! Great evening to sit under the awning and relax. Grilled out for super, read, and before bed went outside to see the stars. With so little light pollution the night sky is fabulous! So many stars! The Milky Way was clearly visible and Ashley spotted a shooting star.

Journal entry – 9 August 2015, Sun – South Dakota – Bad Lands

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

We wake up, have breakfast and head out to bicycle. I spotted a park on the map that is supposed to have a bicycle path. Unfortunately, like all the bike paths in Mitchell, IA, it is merely a wide sidewalk so it’s very bumpy. The roads are tarmack and also less than enjoyable to ride on. So we hit the 10-mile mark and head on home where we pause and grab a backpack before heading across the street to get eggs, onions, and hummus from the store.

Packed up, unleveled, and headed back to the grocery store from last night for some Caribou Coffee. Swung in too quickly and a kitchen cabinet swung open, belching out a coffee mug. Thankfully, it somehow managed to bounce across the floor but didn’t break.

I had a delicious dark chocolate mocha while Ashley had a vanilla latte. We sipped our drinks as we headed down the road. About lunch time we pull into a rest stop for lunch and pick brochures and maps for The Bad Lands and Black Hills area. Ashley reads up and finds a free campground as I drive on.

Hopefully the bulk of the Sturgis crew is gone by now – we are close enough that it doesn’t make sense to wait another night. Having seen signs for Wall Drug for over 100 miles our curiosity is piqued and we decide to check it out.

  

While the Sturgis rally is officially over, Wall is still a tourist trap and there are plenty of bikers around. It’s packed! We find a parking spot and head to the drug store. Very much a tourist spot, we tire of it quickly. I grab an ice cream cone and read the history of the store, then we head to a gas station to top off. So much traffic it’s hard to maneuver in the small space but we manage to squeeze in and then make it out safely.

   
    
 

Out of town and on the road to the Bad Lands! Our National Pass lets us in the gate quickly and we soon spot the turn off to the campground. Immediately the view is breathtaking and we move in a line of cars to see the rock formations and herds (2) of Big Horn sheep.

   
   

We pull off in the first view point and take in the sights. Magnificent!

12 more miles of washboard gravel roads, we slowly work our way along. Ashley is worried about how the campground might end up, after having such a drive down into nowhere. We pass by miles of prairie dog town along the way. We watch them watch us go by.

I see the campground miles before we reach it, tucked into a valley of grassland. 1.2 miles off the road we finally pull into the loop, like the eye of a needle. Lots of tents inside the loop with a few RV’s scattered around.
We pick a spot and settle in, facing away from the main grounds. Only one wheel needs leveled, so that’s pretty handy!

What a beautiful setting! We are in the grasslands, rather than the rocks but still gorgeous. In a valley, we have a stream bed east of us and hills on all sides. With the awning pulled out over our door, we seem to have the place all to ourself as our back is to the campground.

We grill supper and go for a short hike to the stream. The trail peters out so we go the other way, up a hill to see the cairnes people have built. The sunset is amazing and we are stunned by the views. Almost out of light, we head back down, watching a bison head up the next hill over.

   
   

A bit of reading before bed, periodically checking for stars in the sky. Too cloudy, though.