4th day -Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop

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On our 4th day (Saturday) we are still at Horse Thief Campgrounds near Hill City SD.? This allowed us to visit Mt Rushmore quickly, and also was very close to Needles Highway and the Wildlife loop.? We took the whole day just to drive and see some AMAZING sites and spectacular scenic views.

Needles Highway viewing was highly recommended to be done “IN THE CAR/toad”, not the RV !!!? You would never make it through the tunnels which are barely big enough for a standard size pick up.? We witnessed several F250 go through and had to fold in their mirrors to keep from breaking them off.

We saw buffalo, prairie dogs. antelope, deer, turkey, sheep, and a lot of magnificent scenery. ? It took an entire day to drive both routes, but was well worth it.? ( see photo album below ). ? Then after we returned to Horse Thief campground we connected the toad in prep for leaving on Sunday morning around 6:00am trying to not wake everyone else up. ? The diesel is loud enough without the clanking of hitches and chains that early.

View the small percentage of photos actually taken below.?? Sunday we drove to Yellowstone.?? Come back soon to hear about the adventures getting to Yellowstone from Mt. Rushmore.

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3rd day leaving Sioux Falls to Mt. Rushmore

The Falls from the viewing tower at Sioux Falls SD.
The Falls from the viewing tower at Sioux Falls SD.
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We got up early Friday morning, and disconnected the “toad”.? We drove the car from the Wal-Mart parking lot where we dry docked just off the Southern exit of I-29 and drove up I-29 a couple of exits to the Sioux Falls Park which was spectacular.? The park and the surrounding downtown area was just as we expected.? Clean, nice? friendly people, and beautiful.

After we walked around the entire city park and purchased a few souvenirs for the grand kids, we quickly drove back to the camper at Wal-Mart, hooked up and off we went to see Mt. Rushmore.

As we typically do, we drive a couple of hours then stop to stretch, and take care of any needs we have, fuel, coffee, restroom, etc.? and then back on the road.? We typically don’t stop for longer than 15 minutes just to get our blood flowing again.? However, on this particular trip we did want to see the Corn Palace, and Wall Drugs which we had heard about and saw a lot of bill boards on the way. ? So we spent a little more time than usual seeing these “tourist trap” but very nice points to see along the way.

Wall-Drug-tourist-trap

 

It took approximately 8 hours time total including stretch breaks to arrive at the “Horse Thief” campground and RV resort.? We collectively give them a 4 out of 5 “shade trees”? score because the park was convenient to everything we wanted to do, and fairly easy to get to in our big rig with a toad.? However we don’t give it a 5 due to no internet access even though they offer it as included, it did not work at all.

MtRushmore-LitUp?We arrived Friday night and got setup early enough to find our way to Mt. Rushmore for the nightly lighting and flag lowering ceremony.? It was AWESOME.? They had all the military in the audience come down and participate in the flag lowering ceremony and it was an intensely reverent few minutes.? Then they lit the monument and had a film documenting the reason each president was chosen to be honored and memorialized.? We then went back to the campground and slept soundly with plans to see Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop road on Saturday…… keep tuned.

 

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Second Day – Mt Vernon IL to Sioux Falls SD

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We started the day early (7:30 a.m.)? and were still a bit tired with only 5 hours sleep, but we are anxious to get on to the major points of interest. ? While we were driving we saw things like the Kansas City Royals stadium, the St. Lois archway and a lot of interesting scenery. With Steven driving part of the way, we arrived at Sioux Falls SD at 10:00 p.m. but it was still pretty much daylight outside.? We dry docked in a Sam’s Club parking lot next to the Wal-Mart because there was still a lot of traffic in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

We saw deer, landscape that looked like “The Shire” in the Hobbit, two large round bails of hay in the middle of the interstate that apparently had just been dropped.? Everyone in front of me was slamming on their breaks, and I had to as well.? Just so happened Norma was up in the RV at the time, and she fell and cut her foot.? We also found that there is more sections of road IN ROAD CONSTRUCTION, than not. !!?? Some spots I was sure we were going to hit the concrete barriers because they were so narrow.

Just as we were leaving Iowa and about to reach the South Dakota state line,? we were met with all our cell phones alarming a weather alert.? Tornado warnings, tornado in the area. (see images in the slide show). ? So we pulled the RV off the interstate at the first exit along with all other interstate drivers. ? We did see that the McDonald’s could accommodate large vehicles so we pulled in there and waiting till the excitement was over and the siren stopped alarming.?? See slide show below for today’s photos.

Starting today with a drive to see the Falls at Sioux Falls.

Heading out – first stop Mt. Vernon IL.

We left out of the driveway at 6:30 pm ( intended to leave at 6:00 ) had blinker bulbtiny-loaded-ready-to-go issues.?? Got all that worked out and was attempting to make it through Nashville avoiding rush hour traffic.? HA! apparently there is no non-rush hour in Nashville.

It rained just a tiny bit during the Nashville non-rush-hour leg of the trip. Other than that, everything was perfect.? The Newmar did an ourstanding job, and was very comfortable.

tiny-wal-mart-mt-Vernon-ILWe spent the night in the Wal Mart parking lot arriving at 1:30 am (very tired).? Slept well, and about to head out on day 2.

382 Miles into the trip and 7 hours behind us and a long way to go.

Embark on a new Adventure

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Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas — get ready, here we come.?? We have been planning and budgeting for this trip for over a year now.? This is one of our “bucket list” dreams is to finish visiting all 50 of these Blessed United States.?? After this trip we still lack Maine, and Connecticut.? However, this marks off a lot of the remaining states for us.?? I can’t wait.

We have planned 3 weeks +/- of vacation time for me.? My wife gets every summer off from the school system so she won’t have to burn any of her vacation time.? We are leaving after I work a full day to get a head start on the first leg of our drive.?? We hope to get to Mt. Vernon Illinois the first night, then wake up early to drive another 12 hours the next day to get to Mt. Rushmore.? Our 2 night stay should be enough to see the monument and take several photos and then head on to the lengthiest stay of our journey which will be Yellowstone National Park.

yellowstone3 yellowstone2yellowstone1

We hope to see a lot of Yellowstone, but realize that the size of the park is just too large to see everything.?? Norma has planned for us to see the highlights at least.? Starting with Old Faithful,? Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Heyden Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake, North Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, Tower Falls, Lower Geyser Basin, West Thumb Geyser Basin, and all the wildlife that we can photograph with a zoom lens.? You won’t hear about me on the news being trampled by a buffalo, or mauled by a bear.

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We will be using a combination of dry docking, or boondocking, and paid for locations at each park.? We plan to see Mount Rushmore first Rushmoreas we rotate counter clockwise through the country.? We have friends that have given us advise on what to see and how to navigate around the hills area.? I will post later where we stay at each stop and how it measured up to our standards.? We have everything booked, reserved and first night paid for at each stop.
Then we move on to Yellowstone National park and invest the largest single amount of time of our 3+ week tour.? We plan to stay 5 nights and 4 days to see as much as we can.?? I have promised my co-workers that I will call them while standing in front of the live web-cam at “Old Faithful”? and wave so they can see that I haven’t been just making this up :-).? Check out the live streaming web cam here.
StHelensThen we move on to Mt St Helens in WA state.? This will be another 2 day drive from Yellowstone to Mt St Helens, and we will dry dock again one night to get us by until we get there.?? Another webcam is available here but it is not a live streaming video feed, just a static image that refreshes every few minutes.? Still a nice view.
More to come……

Recent RV Adventure

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First RVing adventure of the season.

Well,
As usual the week started out beautiful, warm, and sunny as I witnessed from my office.? My wife is also off work this week for Spring Break so what better time to get in the RV, hook up the tow car (toad), and head out on another adventure.

Newmar Dutch Star

We wanted to go somewhere we haven’t been for a while.? We spent a couple of days searching, and reading reviews on several places within an hour or two from the house.? The decision we came to was to leave Thursday and stay the weekend at Desoto State Park in Fort Payne Alabama. ? It has beautiful scenery, and is a difficult enough drive for us to test towing the car up mountains and around fairly tight curves and obstacles.

[Photos of RVing at Desoto State Park]

So, the 100% guaranteed forecast every time we go camping, it turned off rainy, foggy, and cold.?? BUT ALAS, that did not deter us from our long awaited adventure and getting out and enjoying our RV.?? So much for sunshine, and warm weather.? IT IS GOING TO RAIN IF WE GO RVing !!!!

Told you it was foggy !
Told you it was foggy !

We are very blessed to have several friends that decided to join us and we followed each other to the beautiful Desoto State Park.? Traffic was mild as we had hoped it would be since we decided to drive after the 8:00 rush hour was over.? We had no issues driving up the steep mountain other than one of those huge oversized crane’s that have 10 axles was going 15 miles per hour up the mountain to the campground.?? When we arrived we were greeted with hostesses that were exceptionally helpful and friendly.

We were checked in by 10:30 in the morning and were driving to the pull through sites which both of us benefited from.? However once we got everything disconnected from the tow car, and his truck disconnected from his fifth-wheel.? We realized the sites were a little more uphill than they appeared.?? My camper had to sit the front bumper on the ground by evacuating the air from the suspension, while raising the back jacks to the point that the rear tires are just barely off the ground <yikes>.?? But, again, I am happy to be RVing with my wife and friends.

After about an hour of levelling, and hooking up electric, water, sewer, and putting the slides out.?? We also stretched out the awnings for the first time since last season.?? I ALWAYS get my wife to check the faucets while I turn the water on ( read other pages to find out why ).? The kitchen faucet blew completely off the sink due to over pressure and it appears it may have frozen and cracked over the winter.?? Anyway, no big deal, there is a Lowes at Fort Payne and we picked up a repair part and replaced the sink nozzle.

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Our friends also were working out some kinks from their winter storage too.?? They got settled in just to find out they have no hot water.?? So we worked with that for a short while.?? GOOGLE is great for troubleshooting, but in this case everyone who posted their problems, and their fixes were all unique.?? Nothing in common with his problem.? So my fall back strategy is to take things apart one screw at a time until I find the problem.

We checked fuses, circuit breakers, power, tried lighting the gas pilot light with a manual charcoal starting lighter.? All to no avail.?? I started taking things apart to see deeper into the problem, and the only thing I noticed was that their was a normal oxidation from being an outside appliance.? There was normal wear and tear from a gas burning element which left a little rust like residue inside the burner tube.?? We vacuumed that out, and cleaned everything we could find with a steel bristle tooth-brush.? When we put it all back together we asked the ladies to turn it on and see what might happen, and POOF.?? It light right up immediately which I wasn’t really expecting because we didn’t really do anything but scrub off the oxidation and put it back together.

Summary after thought was that cleaning everything and tightening everything back must have grounded wires back to a better surface connection. ? For whatever reason, it works so we took credit for fixing it like we knew what we were doing.? Our wives were happy that their skilled men fixed a critical and life dependency for hot water.

No better day than today to go RVing!?? I love my camping adventures.!!!!

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Learn from our Years of RV Experience

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Retiring and travelling the country in?a 42 foot?RV and towing a “dinghy” was not alwaysUnited States Visited our dream. ?But, as we get close to the point of retirement we find that there are many benefits and positive reasons that point us in this direction.?? We looked for an affordable class A?RV for years, and our standards were higher than our savings.? We eventually found one that was exactly what we wanted, and in our price range.

As many of you may have done, we started our camping adventures at a young age.? We began in our 20’s when our young son was in the Scouts and our daughter was too young to believe that girls don’t go camping.? She picked that idea up later in life around 12.tent_

Tent Camping

We began with a SMALL tent which was all we could afford, but was also required by the Boy Scout program.?? This was great for hiking for miles up-hill both ways to and from the camp site.? We learned after the first trip that an inflatable mattress was also an essential part of our camping gear.

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Pop-up Camping

After my wife and our daughter slept,? ooooh I would say about 30 minutes,? in the scout tent they decided it was time to graduate to the next level.? This was in the late 1980s and pretty much ended our dream of “living off the land”. ? So we invested all our life savings into a Coleman pop-up camper that we pulled behind our Pontiac Bonneville? until I could afford a truck worthy of towing our new prized possession.

An image of our first REAL CAMPER.? had an air conditioner, an awning, and one side was a king size sleeper mattress !!!!?? Who could ever need anything more than that ?

1980 Coleman Pop Up
1980 Coleman Pop Up

This worked for years, and we enjoyed many trips together to enjoy family time together.? We went so far as to take a two week summer trip from our home in North Alabama to stay one night on the Pacific Coast in Los Angeles at Will Rogers State Beach.

Along with us and a few Volkswagon love buses 🙂 like this one. california-love-wagon? The campground was nice when looking at the coast, and the wife and kids enjoyed it immensely. ? Then there was the hourly passenger train that blew by the campground at about 100 miles per hour and the Ventura Freeway that was just beyond the tracks.? Then there were the portable potties that had not been emptied in a couple of decades and the gentle ocean breeze that was trying to use my pop-up as a kite.? But other than that, we all loved it.

Oh yea,? there was an issue with the exit that we needed to take to get off of the interstate was closed for construction.? The next exit put is smack dab in the middle of down town L.A. ? Did I mention we were in a pick up towing a pop-up with Alabama License Plates ???? ? The fact that we were lost, and going 1/2 the posted speed limit when everyone else wanted to go about twice the speed limit led to a lot of interesting and educational gestures from the onlookers.

Other than that, it really was the most memorable family vacation we had ever taken.

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Travel Trailer

Jumping forward in time to the mid 1990’s we decided that going to the bath house to use the restroom or take showers was unacceptable because we can’t allow anyone to see us before we are beautifully adorned.?? It would be embarrassing to have others think we are less than perfectly groomed and clothed with our wrinkle free pressed shirts and polished shoes – right?

So for our next step in the maturing process ( speaking of camping equipment of course ) was to upgrade to something that require stabilizers, and a larger truck to pull.? It must have a bathroom, couch for a nap, and a TV for “the game”.

My parents had a 28 foot airstream camper and a membership to one of the nicest resort campgrounds on Guntersville Lake.? We figured if we spend all our money on a used ( but new to us ) camper to fit in with the upper crust membership only camping clubs.? We purchased a 1989 Holiday Rambler which was a very nice, very well built, but very heavy camper.holiday-rambler-image

We pulled this Holiday Rambler ( named “HOLLY” by my wife ) with a Chevy extended cab Silverado truck for several years.? We pulled this one to Orlando to Disney World, and Pensacola Florida with my parents where we were entertained every day by some gentleman who was very talented with the bagpipes.? But, Alas,? The pain finally hit when our children both reached their teens that this too was not large enough to meet our needs.? All the other camper owners had a new technology called “slide outs” which made the living area and bedrooms actually larger that our brick and mortar home ! ? Even though we had many good times, adventures, and experiences in the Holiday Rambler we were undersized yet again.


We soon moved up to a larger 1998 Sunny Brook camper (named Sonny) with slide out and everything.? This was to support our growing family and had much more room to relax and take naps, and enjoy time with the family.2001-Sunnybrook

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RV and Dinghy camping

We have good friends who have a motor home, and enjoy towing a dinghy behind them as they travel all over the country.?? This is what we hoped to be able to do in our retirement years.? In 2014 we were blessed to accidentally find the motor home of our dreams.? We had been looking for years, but not with any real hopes of finding anything we wanted AND could afford.?? We just continuously browsed the internet in a daze, dreaming like a child would do before Christmas.

One Friday evening I was just cruising the internet, and Google searching for motor homes for sale by owner, and bank repo’s and the like.?? Mostly dreaming and killing time before bed.? To my surprise and shock I found something unusual.? More like suspiciously wrong!

Normally I could divide my findings in to two categories.
(1) Junk that I would not want, and
(2) what I want but couldn’t afford.

We wanted a Class A RV similar to our friends, and preferred a diesel pusher RV due to long trip durability.? It had to be new enough to have slide-outs and plenty of room for grand children.?? We really wanted something that would last through our retirement years that we were about to enter.

For the first and only time I found one that crossed the boundaries of both categories.?? One that we could afford, and it was what we wanted.? Class A RV, low miles, like new, had been in the garage most of its life, and was close to where we lived.

Well, you can imagine my doubts, and I called my wife in to show here just to make sure I wasn’t delusional.? She read the ad, and didn’t see anything wrong either except what is one this nice doing at that price??????? The motor must be frozen up, or no transmission or something.? We just are not that lucky.

I called the owner because we both had agreed that something must be wrong or a typo in the ad or something.? When the owner answered the first question after confirming I had the correct number was “What’s wrong with it?”.?? He promptly said nothing and explained his need to quickly sell the motor home.?? It was a terribly sad story that I won’t go into, and that in itself made me feel guilty about the reason he was selling it.

Well, I quickly got over that, and we took off like Batman leaving the bat-cave, and drove to look at it.?? It was about an hours drive, and it was as nice as the photos represented it to be.? We took it for a spin and the owner let everything in it go with it.? We also got lawn chaGSV-motorhome-shotirs, lights, dishes, coffee maker, silverware, aluminium foil, tools, grill, etc.

When we sealed the deal and purchased it, we immediately drove it to Monte Sano State Park and only purchased food items and enjoyed a fully stocked motor home without needing anything else.? My wife named this one “Newman” since it is a Newmar Dutch Star.?? She names every vehicle and becomes personally attached to them. (nuts I know but I still love her)

GSV-anothersunsetWe love to watch sunsets over Guntersville Lake State Park, and drive up to the lodge (walking is out for me – too old and fat).?? Either way when you get there the view is breathtaking.

 

Our motor home is down there somewhere 🙂

GSV-view-from-lodge2015
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