Crickets, Mooing & Stars

Highway 385 NebraskaWe hit the road bright and early the day after Labor Day (Sept. 8) waving good-bye to the Black Hills.  With South Dakota in the rear view mirror, we vowed to return another day.

The roads appeared to be rather quiet this Tuesday in early September.  Just the way we like it.  We allowed ourselves five days to travel 400 miles (643km).  Aaahhh, this is just the pace we like to travel.

Alliance, NebraskaWe didn’t have a reservation anywhere until the 13th, thus we were able to meander along highway 385 south into Nebraska foot loose and fancy free.  I did however have one quirky little stop that had been on my radar for the past two years.  Other than that, no items on the must see list.

Before we hit the road, we do like to have a general idea about where we plan on overnighting including a backup plan.  Al and I are all about “backups”.  The evening before our departure while hubby and I were relaxing and enjoying a couple of drink’s, we each had an atlas on our lap.  As we perused our route south, hubby noticed the little green marker on the map indicating a state park with camping.  Hmm, that was only twenty miles away from my must see target in Alliance, Nebraska.

Although I consider myself a planner, I do have my moments when I find it adventurous to wing it.  And the next few days of travel fell into the winging it category.

Nebraska State Park

camped near water at Box Butte

Box Butte Reservoir State Park was our stop for the evening.   While setting up camp near the shores of Box Butte Reservoir, the birds were chirping and the cackle of a Great Blue Heron was heard as he flew across the water.  Yes, we were off to a good start!

That evening the sky was wonderfully pitch black except for a crescent moon and stars.   We went to sleep to the sound of crickets and with the blinds left open.  It was so incredibly peaceful having this little slice of America’s heartland to ourselves.Falcon

The next morning we woke up to the glow of the rising sun and the sound of mooing cattle in the distance.  After a great rather a fantastic nights sleep, we both agreed this turned out to be such a wonderful and unexpected little find in western Nebraska.  Crickets, birds, water, mooing, and stars sums up our stay here perfectly.  And this is why we RV!

But what about that quirky must see stop, you ask?  I’m a little old school and maintain a three-ring binder which includes a calendar, info on our reservations, and travel ideas.  Oh, I have plenty of items bookmarked on my computer, but somehow I always forget to check the electronics (I did say old school, didn’t I).   That three-ring binder remains my favorite source of reminders.

Tucked in amongst some other Nebraska sights to see paperwork was information on Carhenge.  Turns out, the route I had chosen through Nebraska was taking us in the direction of this whimsical sight…… making it a must see.

Carhenge, Alliance

Since I figured I most likely would never visit the iconic Stonehenge in England, a site that has always fascinated me, I’d settle for the next best thing; a replica made from old cars.Alliance, Nebraska

Here’s what the Carhenge website has to say…..
  
   The artist of this unique car sculpture, Jim Reinders, experimented with unusual and interesting artistic creations throughout his life. While living in England, he had the opportunity to study the design and purpose of Stonehenge. His desire to copy Stonehenge in physical size and placement came to fruition in the summer of 1987 with the help of many family members.Stonehenge

    Thirty-nine automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet (29m) in diameter. Some autos are held upright Stonehengein pits five feet deep, trunk end down, while other cars are placed to form the arches and welded in place. All are covered with gray spray paint. The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.

    Carhenge was built as a memorial to Reinders’ father who once lived on the farm where Carhenge now stands. While relatives were gathered following the death of Reinders’ father in 1982, the discussion turned to a memorial and the idea of a Stonehenge replica was developed. The family agreed to gather in five years and build it. The clan, about 35 strong, gathered in June 1987 and went to work. According to Mr. Reinders, “It took a lot of work, sweat, and beers”.

Reinders donated the 10 acres of land where Carhenge is located to the Friends of Carhenge who have preserved it till 2013. On October 1, 2013, Friends of Carhenge gifted the site to the Citizens of Alliance. Stonehenge

While I was wandering the grounds with camera in hand, hubby stepped inside the Pitstop, aka gift shop, and started up a conversation with the gal manning the store.  I joined the conversation mid stream and talk about a small world.  We all lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the same time in the 1990’s, during the building boom, plus she was originally from Wisconsin; the same area where we visited just a few weeks earlier.

Carhenge

The conversation flowed freely and we discovered how she came to live in Alliance, Nebraska.  The short version:  Farmer from Nebraska goes to Las Vegas on vacation.  StonehengeFarmer meets cocktail waitress in Las Vegas.  A romance ensues followed by a marriage.  Cocktail waitress moves onto a farm in Nebraska and now works for the town of Alliance happily married to said farmer and loving life.

We’re always interested in the paths people choose and hearing those entertaining life stories.  It was a delight visiting with her.

Along with the mimicking Stonehenge, over the years other sculptures by various artists have been added to the grounds.

Carhenge

Toward the right; Fourd Seasons sculpture (Fourd seems to be a combo of the words four and Ford). On the left; guests are encouraged to leave a message on the white car.

CarhengeWhile most folks stop by Carhenge and spend about ten minutes strolling around, we found ourselves hanging around this novel site well over an hour.   Between the unique quirkiness of it and the engaging conversation inside the Pitstop, this was an amusing and worthwhile stop.Carhenge

Next up; more compelling sights in Nebraska 😉Carhenge

Technology is wonderful, but I still like having a backup in the form of a hard copy. So we keep a library of maps handy along with a daytimer that helps keep our travels organized. We don’t always have internet connection and occasionally my phone battery dies (when I least expect). Having a backup has saved our rears more than once.

DayTimer Essentials Monthly Planner 2016, 8.5 x 11 Inches Page Size (452221601)

 

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Wildlife is the Best

Custer State ParkWe thought a week in the Black Hills would be enough time to see all the sights that were of interest to us, and although we touched on the ones at the top of our list, we could have easily spent another week exploring.

Hubby and I were both curious about the towns located at the northern end of the Black Hills:  Deadwood, Sturgis, and Spearfish.  As we embarked on a scenic drive, our first stop was a quick drive through Sturgis; famed for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  Not our thing, but we were curious.  I’m sure this place can get really crazy during the cycle rally.  During our excursion, it appeared to be just another small town with a twist; businesses geared toward motorcycles.

Bear Butte State Park

Bear Mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes who come here to hold religious practices

While in the area, we checked out Bear Butte State Park and its sacred mountain.

It was then on to Spearfish where we took the Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway.  Twisting and turning through towering limestone cliffs, along mountain streams and waterfalls, the drive was reminiscent of Boulder Canyon in Colorado and very pretty.  We didn’t stop much for photos as our bellies were growling which kept us focused on rolling.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota

We arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota, just in time for lunch.  Hubby and I were really curious about Deadwood and this was the focus of todays drive.  We’ve watched the complete series of the HBO production Deadwood ….. a couple of times, which was the catalyst that piqued our interest in laying eyes on this historic town.   The series tried to stay true to history with a little Hollywood thrown in for amusement.

We ate lunch at Diamond Lil’s located inside the Midnight Star Casino and owned by Kevin Costner.

Diamond Lil's

The place is adorned with costumes from Kevin Costner films. Even Whitney Houston’s costume from “Body Guard” was hanging in the place. The wall décor provided a level of entertainment.

The food at Diamond Lil’s was average, but the walls decorated with movie costumes made it interesting.  Gaming in little casinos, average food, tourist attractions playing off of the Wild Bill Hickok days, and plenty of cigarette smoke sums up my take on Deadwood.  I can check Deadwood off my list with no compulsion to revisit!

Pactola Reservoir

Pactola Lake, west of Rapid City, South Dakota

On our way back to Rapid City, we stopped by Pactola Reservoir and fell in love with this picturesque lake.  It reminded us of the many lakes we enjoyed paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota; surrounded by granite rock and pine trees….. pristine and beautiful.

The next day found us returning to Custer State Park and meandering some of the scenic byways around this part of the Black Hills…. again!

mountain goats

mountain goats along side the road

mountain goats

Which one do you want?

mountain goats

Is there anything better than coming across wildlife when you least expect it?  How cute are these mountain goats?  Wildlife is the best!

mountain goats

“I know, I’m cute, but you can’t take me home”!

I could’ve sat there watching these agile hikers for hours, but lunch was calling.  We’d heard Custer, South Dakota restaurantsfrom a couple of bloggers that the Black Hills Burger & Bun was the place to have lunch in the town of Custer, and boy, it did NOT disappoint.

The food was delicious and we wanted to go back on another day before we left town, but they closed for a few days for some much-needed time off.  They grind their own meat daily and everything was very fresh.  Hubby had the bison burger while I enjoyed Angus.  Seriously, for anyone looking for a great meal while visiting the Black Hills, this is the place to go.  FYI – it is a busy place, for obvious reasons.

scenic byways

The scenic byways are a main attraction to the Black Hills

Sylvan LakeOur last day in the Black Hills had me longing to go back to Sylvan Lake just one more time.  We met fellow blogger, Lenore, and her beautiful Golden Retriever, Honey, for a stroll around the lake and a picnic lunch.  We had a lovely visit and the weather was perfect.

Our time in South Dakota’s Black Hills went by way too fast.  I know we’ll need to return for further explorations.

Sylvan Lake

above the damn at Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Al and I at Sylvan Lake

George WashingtonA few of the things that hubby and I didn’t get around to doing that daughter and I did do……

No visit to the Black Hills would be complete without a visit to Mount Rushmore.  After all, it is the American thing to do, isn’t it  🙂

Be sure and stroll this memorial leisurely and take in some of the displays sharing the model and the history of this spectacular sculpture.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Memorial in the distance

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse is another monument not to be missed.  Once complete, this sculpture will be the largest mountain carving in the world.

Daughter - Harney Peak hike

Daughter – Harney Peak hike

Black Hills hikingAnd then there’s the fabulous hiking in the area.  When Ashton and I visited, my hiking abilities at the time consisted of the necessary walking required in a super Wal-Mart or Mall.  I was twenty pounds heavier than I am now and called a workaholic by my children.  The thought of hiking a 7 mile round trip trail with something like a 1,000 foot plus elevation gain was beyond my thoughts….. AND abilities.

Ashton and I started our Harney Peak hike via the less popular trailhead off Needles Highway and quickly took a wrong turn which lead to us enjoying the view of the Cathedral Spires before retracing our steps and taking the correct turn.  This of course added a little distance and a few chuckles to the day.Black Hills hikingThe hike took us about 4 hours, which included some hanging around time at the top.  Upon our return to the trailhead, I was exhausted, but felt incredibly alive.  I hadn’t felt that way in years and I credit this hike with sparking the hiking bug within me.  Even though I was so sore and moaned with each step taken the following day, I looked forward to embarking on my next hike.Black Hills, South DakotaSo that about wraps up our time in the Black Hills.  Next up, we move down into Nebraska.Longhorn

Deadwood: The Complete Series
Merrell Men’s Moab Waterproof Hiking Shoe, Sedona Sage, 12 M US

Skilled, Adventurous, or Crazy?

Black HillsMy reminiscing didn’t end in the Badlands.  The memories continued as Al and I moved on to South Dakota’s Black Hills and Custer State Park.

Not only did my childhood family of five visit this area umpteen years ago in dad’s new Motorhome, but four years ago my daughter and I visited during a gals road trip.

Mount Rushmore

My daughter, Ashton, and I visit Mount Rushmore

Mount RushmoreAshton was in college at the time and enjoying  a break before heading off to Sydney, Australia, for a semester abroad.   She and I hopped in my little red Toyota Tacoma and made the five-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colorado to Custer, South Dakota.

Ashton and I had such a fabulous time during that visit that I couldn’t wait to return to the Black Hills someday.  And return I did in early September……… with hubby in tow this time.

The three-day Labor Day weekend was nearing and since we were traveling via Plan B, without reservations, we had concerns about a place to stay.  After an exhaustive search, we ended up finding a place to park at the Elks Lodge in Rapid City.  The lodge offers ten RV sites on a first come, first serve basis and had an open spot for us.  It wasn’t the picturesque setting I usually crave, but the lodge was really nice and even located on a golf course.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn – Custer State Park, South Dakota

With the RV parked, Al and I ventured off exploring Custer State Park.  Shortly after entering the state park, we needed to stop for pedestrians bison in the cross walk…. smart guys, huh!

Bison, Custer State Park

A managed herd of about 1,300 bison roam freely throughout Custer State Park.  The herd is one of the largest publically owned herds in the world.  Bison are huge and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).  During the third week of September the park holds a Buffalo Roundup.  This is an event I’d love to attend someday.

Black Hills, South DakotaDuring this recent visit, we spent a great deal of time in the truck taking in the sights by driving the scenic byways.  The first was the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road that twists and turns through rolling prairie and ponderosa pines.

As the name implies, we saw plenty of wildlife on this scenic loop during this visit as well as previous visits.  From buffalo…..Wildlife Loopto Pronghorn, and prairie dogs, to free-loading burros.  You know how you’re never suppose to approach wildlife or feed them?  Well such is not the case with these entertaining burros.Burros

Custer State Park

During my visit with Ashton, we shared an apple with this cutie

Burros Custer State ParkIt’s ok to bring them goodies.  Keep it healthy though.  I forgot to bring the bag of carrots that I purchased especially for these guys.  Once this burro realized I had no treats to offer, he was on to the next car.

Unlike other wildlife, the burros hang around one particular area in Custer State Park and a ranger at the visitor center is more than happy to brief you on that location and the do’s and don’ts.

After our successful wildlife viewing, we stopped at Stockade Lake for a picnic lunch.  It’s a beautiful lake that allows boating and has a wooded campground.   As pristine as Stockade Lake was I couldn’t wait to show hubby Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

As a fourteen year old gal from Illinois, I thought Sylvan Lake was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen.  My brother and I hiked and explored all around this little mountain lake.  We were intrigued with the granite rock and boulders and the clean, clear, cool water.Black Hills

We even rented one of those paddle boats.  While my brother and I exercised our legs, my dad sat on the back with a fishing line in the water.  Yep, dad brought his fishing gear. Nothing like trolling via sustainable energy;  as long as brother’s legs and my legs held up that is.  Dad was great in giving directions on where he wanted us to paddle and gave no thought to our weakening leg muscles.

Needles HighwayOn my recent trip to Illinois, dad and I shared some laughs as we reminisced about this trip.

After giving hubby the tour of Sylvan Lake and sharing some of my childhood memories with him, I had one more memorable item on my list that I had to show him for Al to fully comprehend.

We ventured over to scenic Needles Highway; named after the needle-like granite formation located just past Sylvan Lake.  There are two one-lane tunnels along this stretch of road.  Tunnel #5 is 8 feet 4 inches wide and 12 feet high.  My dad drove his brand new motorhome through this tunnel back in the early 1970’s.  I remember my mom begging dad not to go through the tunnel and covering her eyes in fear.  As children, we thought dad could do no wrong and found humor in mom’s dramatic behavior. Needles Highway

As Al and I waited for on coming traffic to clear the tunnel, we pulled in the side mirrors on the F-250.  When it was our turn, I slowly drove through the tunnel all the while I kept repeating, “I can’t believe my dad drove the motorhome through this tunnel”.   I now understand why mom freaked out.  I asked myself, was dad a skilled driver?   Did his sense of adventure push him?  Or was he just plain crazy?

In dad’s defense I must add, dad did do his homework before driving through this tunnel.  He spoke with a ranger.  He jotted down all the dimensions on both tunnels and verified the Motorhome’s size.  He also discovered a tour bus once a week would travel this route.  I guess with that tidbit of information, that sealed the deal for dad and through we went with inches to spare.

Needles Highway

If a tour bus could fit, so could dad’s motorhome.

As Al and I exited the tunnel, we were greeted with stunning views.  Needles Highway traverses through rugged granite mountains, a diverse forest, and mountain prairie.  This is a beautiful drive not to be missed, but a lot less stressful and much more fun in a small vehicle!

Needles Highway

another view of Tunnel #5 as a vehicle enters

Needles HighwayThe next day hubby and I explored Iron Mountain Road.  This scenic drive connects Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  “Experience the road that engineers once said couldn’t be built.”  This road was built in the 1930’s and considered an engineering marvel at the time.Iron Mountain

There are three tunnels to pass through and each one frames Mount Rushmore in the distance when entering from Custer State Park.Mount Rushmore

Iron Mountain Road is another very fun and scenic drive not to be missed.  For anyone interested in engineering, construction, or design, this is a captivating road.  I loved all the log bridges, the tunnels, and the views.

Black Hills

We had just driven through the above road and tunnel before looping underneath

Next up, more Black Hills adventures!             Custer State Park Map

RoomMates PJ2003SCS Happy Halloween Peel & Stick Wall Decals
Lina & Lily Halloween Bat Print Infinity Loop Scarf Lightweight (Grey)

Our Boomerang Trip – Badlands

South Dakota, BadlandsFrom Mitchell, South Dakota, we continued our westerly trek.  I couldn’t wait to get to Badlands National Park.

South Dakota’s Badlands holds a special place in my heart.  I was a mere 14 years old the first time this gal from Illinois laid eyes on this incredible land.

It was the first family excursion in my dad’s new pride and joy; a brand new motorhome.

South Dakota Badlands

Badlands, South Dakota

That was an exciting adventure for our family of five, because this was a trip that didn’t entail fishing in Wisconsin, my dad’s favorite pastime.  Family vacations ALWAYS centered around camping near fishing action.  No fishing involved during this trip!South Dakota, Badlands

My brother was eighteen at the time and getting ready to head off to college.  Dad put him in charge of navigating, which was a much better choice than my mother, who could get turned around in the blink of an eye; directionally challenged one might say.  While the guys were up front driving and navigating my little sister, mom, and myself sat at the dinette table taking in the sights out of the motorhome’s big windows.Badlands, South Dakota

The barren, rugged land made mom quite uncomfortable. While the rest of us were oohing and aahing, she sat in silence.  You see, mom and dad grew up in Germany, even my brother was born in Germany and this kind of vast desolation doesn’t exist in her homeland.  This was like nothing she’d ever seen before and it made her feel uneasy.

South Dakota, BadlandsWe stopped at various pull-outs and scenic overlooks before it was time to decide where to camp for the night.  Dad was definitely feeling adventurous during this trip and decided to take the twelve mile rutted and rough gravel-dirt road to the primitive campground.  It wasn’t a campground, but merely a designated parcel of land allowing overnight camping.   I don’t even remember there being a pit toilet, just raw open land.  Ah yes, this is what us RVer’s now refer to as boondocking.South Dakota, Badlandsprairie dogsThis was definitely not mom’s idea of a relaxing vacation and I remember her freaking out as my brother and I took off exploring.

I wanted to see buffalo and maybe even a rattlesnake.  I saw neither during that trip but wasn’t disappointed because the adorable Prairie Dogs captivated my attention.South Dakota

So here I am, umpteen years later and oohing and aahing every bit as much, if not more, as I did years ago.  I really wanted to camp at that same primitive campground from the family trip, but with temperatures in the 90 degree plus range, we opted to stay at the Cedar Pass Campground with electric hook-up so we could run our air-conditioning during the heat of the day. camping in Badlands

Cedar Pass

Loved my view! Cedar Pass Campground – Badlands National Park

However, a trip to the primitive Sage Creek Campground was in order.  I had to refresh my memory.  Unlike my last visit, this time I saw plenty of buffalo aka bison.

camping in the Badlands

We pass herds of bison on the way to the Sage Creek Campground

We turned off the main paved road onto a well maintained gravel road.  The road was in much better condition than all those years ago.  We continued the twelve miles down the road passing herds of buffalo in the distance.  The sky was hazy with smoke drifting down from the Pacific Northwest wildfires.South Dakota Badlands

Not only was the road very well maintained, the campground turned out to be a little more developed than all those years ago.  There were picnic tables and pit toilets…. no water.  The campground is used predominantly by tents, but is also accessible to RV’s.

camping in the Badlands

Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park

Bison routinely meander through this campground causing a need to watch where you step…. fresh Bison droppings wouldn’t be fun to step in.

Buffalo in the Badlands

The cars give perspective showing how large Bison are.

I assure you, on our next visit to the Badlands National Park we WILL definitely be Badlands National Park, South Dakotastaying at this campground.  I’ll admit though, I did have an uneasy moment with one Buffalo.

I was sitting in the truck taking his photograph when he started to approach me; heading straight toward me and the driver’s side door.   As his pace quickened in my direction, I dropped my camera and put the truck in drive, not waiting around to see what his intentions, if any, were.  Perhaps we made eye contact a little longer than he liked or perhaps he just wanted me to scratch behind his ears horns.  Didn’t matter, I was outta there!

Bison have been known to attack, so ample distance, a wide berth, and good judgment should always be heeded.

Badlands National Park

Check out the wounds on this guy!

After my fun moment of reminiscing and communing with buffalo, we continued on the scenic drive to the town of Wall, located near the Badlands National Park western entrance.  This is definitely a tourist attraction complete with plenty of souvenir and T-shirt shops.

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug is the focus of this tourist draw and although Al and I usually shy away from such venues, we found ourselves entertained.  The story of the Hustead family is one of tenacity and the pioneer spirit.  You can read their fascinating story here.  We were also surprised to find a place where you can still get a cup of coffee for 5¢.  Granted, we’re not talking designer coffee (aka Starbucks), but for a nickel it was a tasty cup of Joe.

Wall Drug

The corridors at Wall Drug were filled with old photos and newspaper clippings. History buff hubby loved it and even non history buff me, found it enlightening and interesting.

Three T-shirts later (yeah, I have a thing for T-shirts), we headed back to camp.  I spent the next couple of days close to camp observing natures beauty.

Badlands South Dakota

Beauty near and far!

Upon first glance, the buttes, spires, and pinnacles of this steeply eroded land may look desolate.  But if one looks closely, diverse and beautiful signs of life can be discovered.Badlands

There’s an abundance of rich and varied vegetation, including one of the largest mixed-grass prairies in the country.

Badlands National Park

 

 

And then there’s the bountiful wildlife.  A watchful eye and a silent slow pace will reward onlookers.

This land of extremes, evokes a sense of mystery.  While living in my RV surrounded by the Badlands, I immersed myself in this surreal landscape.

South Dakota, Badlands

I share the amazing scenery with my friend perched on the picnic table.

Badlands National Park

these little blue birds offered a sharp contrast to all the unique colors seen in the Badlands

South Dakota, Badlands

Mountain Sheep abound in this harsh environment

Badlands National ParkThe weather can be extreme but when approached with a preparedness, the Badlands can offer an endless supply of pleasure and fascination.Badlands National Park

Due to the smoke-filled, hazy skies and extreme heat during our visit, our explorations at Badlands National Park may have been minimal, but the visit was equally as memorable and special as my childhood experience.Badlands National Park

I’m so glad we changed up the trip and added this stop to the itinerary.  I know….. I’ll be back! (she said in a heavy Austrian accent)Badlands National Park

The Next Exit 2015: The Most Complete Interstate Hwy Guide
Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook: Over 100 Gluten-Free Recipes to Help You Shine from Within

 

Our Boomerang Trip – Part I

I can’t believe it’s September already.  It seems like just yesterday when I was in the planning stages for our Midwestern excursion.  And here we are, it’s the middle of September and I’m back in Colorado where we started six weeks ago.  It was pretty much an out and back trip….  Kind of like mimicking a boomerang one might say.

Let’s do a quick recap of the first part of our trip…..  We pulled out of Cherry Creek State Park (Denver) at the end of July and after a quick overnight in a Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, (forgot to add this stop on the above map – oops) we arrived at Starved Rock State Park.  We took in a couple of days exploring this interesting Illinois State Park before driving up to the Paul Wolff Endangered CranesCampground.  I loved the location of this county park.  It was an easy 20 minute drive to my dad’s place which allowed us to visit with him often, and if we had wanted to take the train into Chicago, the train station was only 5 minutes away.

From our Elgin location, we moved over to Rockton, Illinois, where we stayed at Al’s sister’s place for a wonderful ten-day visit.  After Rockton, our next destination was Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I was thrilled with the hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, but the highlight of this stop was my visit to the International Crane Foundation.

Green Bay PackersAfter communing with cranes it was time to commune with friends in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where I was challenged to wear a Packers Jersey.

After my momentary lapse, we moved over to Algoma, Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Michigan.  This is where I discovered Door County and its magnetic personality.  Quite frankly, I fell in love with the area and could’ve stayed a month.  I can imagine the fall colors around here to be stunning and worth sticking around for.

Algoma, WI

Camped in Algoma, WI. The marina on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Loved camping on this peninsula with water on 3 sides. Sunrise Cove Marina and Campground was basically a gravel lot with electric hook-up and thus merely ok, but the location was great; waterfront & walking distance to town.

As much as we considered hanging around Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a little leaf peeping, we decided to turn the RV around and head back west to assist our daughter with a project.

Foggy morning

Early morning fog as we drive through Wisconsin

So with Plan B in mind…. It was time to say good-bye to the Midwest and mosey in a westerly direction.  The morning of August 27th started off foggy as we began our journey west.  We put in an eight-hour travel day (360 miles – 574 km) that first day, crossing the entire state of Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.

Wisconsin

We enjoyed driving some back country roads but sure hoped this bridge was high enough. No height was specified and an RV crew cut was NOT part of our plans. Fortunately, we did see a tall truck pass under first.

We stopped frequently and even enjoyed a road side picnic near Necedah, Wisconsin.Ship Rock Wisconsin

By dinner time that first day, we checked into a campsite at Myre-Big Island State Park, near Albert Lea, Minnesota.  This is a heavily wooded state park and even though they market the White Fox Campground loop as the prairie loop, it is in no way situated in a prairie.

Albert Lea Minnesota

Myre-Big Island State Park. We’re camped in site 55 White Fox CG loop.

Albert Lea Lake

After an eight-hour day in the truck, it felt good to stretch the legs and check out the trails

Albert Lea Lake

Albert Lea Lake – it was disappointing that there were no trails with access to the water’s edge.

We originally intended to relax and spend two nights at this state park, but it was raining when we set up.  It continued to rain all night and was expected to not let up for another day.  So we hit the road early the next morning, wearing rain gear as we broke camp, and drove through the rest of Minnesota in a consistent and steady stream of rain.Minnesota

A few miles into South Dakota, the rain stopped.  We encountered sunny skies with a hint of haze caused by the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.  Just in time for a late lunch, we set up camp in the Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Cabela's

We’re parked in the distance at the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota

Cabela’s had a HUGE area for RV’s.  The semi-trucks seemed to be parked off in another lot and there was even a separate area for equestrians complete with horse corrals.  This turned out to be a great place to overnight, complete with pond.

Cabela's

The smoke from the wildfires gave the sky an interesting hue at sunrise.

Cabela's

Although overnighting at a Cabela’s is free – we always manage to find something to buy.

Next stop; South Dakota’s Badlands and Black HillsBadlands
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Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow

Not only does it sound like we’re doing the Two-Step, it feels like we’re doing the Two-Step ….. country dancing across America’s Heartland.Two-stepping across the country

Amish

Our horse and buggy goes a little faster, but we stop and shop at the same store

Quick, quick across Wisconsin and Minnesota.Wall DrugSlow, slow as we explored South Dakota’s Badlands and Black Hills.

Badlands

Badlands, South Dakota

Buffalo

Black Hills

Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, South Dakota

Quick, quick as we skirt through Nebraska,

Carhenge

Not Stonehenge, but rather Carhenge

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

and slow, slow as we settle into Colorado for the rest of the month.Monarch ButterflyAnd come the end of September, it’ll be back to a quick, quick pace to Phoenix, Arizona to settle in for the winter.  The slow meandering we had hoped to do on the way to the desert southwest won’t be possible due to assisting a family member.kidsSo once I catch my breath, I’ll fill you all in on our time between Door County, Wisconsin and Denver, Colorado.  In the meantime, enjoy some of my photographs from our journey as hubby and I get back to Two-Stepping down the road 🙂Nebraska
Railroad
Wall Drug
Badlands, South Dakota
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Death’s Door

Every now and then hubby and I come across a place that’s so picturesque, it calms the body and clears the mind.  Perhaps for some, it even stirs the soul.  A place that’s home to quaint villages and distinct agriculture.  A place that could easily become an addiction and for many it has.  Door County, Wisconsin has a way of luring folks in causing them to return time and again.Door County, Wisconsin

The land may be one addiction but the water is another.   Most of Door County’s shoreline is surrounded by shallow, rocky ledges.  Delightful islands both large and small add to the splendid scenery.Door County, Wisconsin

Whether it’s sailing, power boating, or paddling; boating of any kind is a beloved sport around here.

Algoma, Wisconsin

home for the week was in a marina in the town of Algoma surrounded by water – RV center rear

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, lighthouses assisted sailors in navigating the lake and bay waters of the Door Peninsula and surrounding islands.  Many of the lighthouses are still operational to this day and are open to the public.  There are eleven historic Door County Lighthouses.  I was able to visit the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which I found charming and interesting.  My mother was a huge fan of lighthouses, and I always think of her when photographing one of these delightful landmarks.

Lake Michigan Lighthouses

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse built in 1868 located in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin

So where did the name “Door” County come from?Door County

In a dangerous and unpredictable confluence of currents is Death’s Door.  Historians have long blamed these waters for more shipwrecks than any other body of fresh water in the world.  It’s here, where the waters of Green Bay meet the waters of Lake Michigan with sudden, unpredictable squalls, erratic wave patterns, and shallow shoals resulting in many a fine ship being dragged to a watery grave.Door County, Wisconsin

The Door Peninsula got its name from the dangerous straits that pass between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island.  213 identified wrecked vessels in the waters of Door County have been listed.   The Door County Maritime Museum in the town of Sturgeon Bay, is a must see for any nautical buff.scenic sights in WisconsinDoor County, WI

Door County agriculture

Sharing the road

Since our RV was parked in the little town of Algoma, south of Sturgeon Bay, we were able to not only explore Door County’s scenic towns and shoreline, we ventured inland Door County Cherriesnavigating some off the beaten path roads.

It was here we discovered the agricultural side of Door County.  We passed vineyards, cheery orchards, berry orchards, and apple orchards.  During our end of August visit, cherry and berry seasons were pretty much over, but apple season was just around the corner.  There’s something so appealing about a crisp juicy apple that I personally picked from a

apples

In another month, these beauties will be ripe for the picking

tree, or enjoying a cup of fresh milled cider directly from the orchard’s store that captivates my attention.  The thought evokes cool days and stunning fall colors. The inland peninsula is dotted with farm stands, wineries, and small shops selling local goods; homemade pies, jams, fudge, and local honey, just to name a few.

The fall colors of Door County easily rival those found in the northeast, and although our original plans were to stay in this part of the country to enjoy the fall festivities, we ended up changing directions.  More on that to come.Door County Orchards

Door County fishing

The fishing gang

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fine people that call Wisconsin home.  No matter where we went, we felt welcomed and valued as a visitor.

And then there’s Al’s buddies… the guys had a great time fishing out on Lake Michigan and although the fish stories were plenty, the guys did all agree they had hoped for a little more action (as in more fish).

Door County

And while the guys were out fishing, I was off connecting with a fellow blogger.  When I made mention in one of my blog posts several months ago that I’d be visiting Wisconsin, I received an email from Kathlin of The Badger and the Whooping Crane inviting me out to lunch should I be near her neck of the woods.

Well, she didn’t have to twist my arm.  Thanks Kathlin.  It was a joy and a pleasure spending the day with you.  Next time, I’ll definitely hang around a little longer for those great fall colors.Barns of Door County

Our time in the Midwest has come to an end and although we had a fabulous time, we’re ready to have the wheels on the RV rolling again.Maritime Museum

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

Door County 330

Door County Tales:: Shipwrecks, Cherries and Goats on the Roof (American Chronicles)
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A Momentary Lapse

We truly enjoyed our visit to Devil’s Lake, but had commitments necessitating we pull up jacks and start rolling north toward Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Baraboo Wisconsin

Baraboo, WI Farmer’s Market

Between the hiking, the crane foundation, and the Baraboo farmer’s market, we had a wonderful stay at Devil’s Lake State Park and wouldn’t mind returning some day.

It is however Wisconsin’s busiest state park and even though I booked our reservation five months in advance, I was still unable to secure a site over a weekend.  During the week, there did appear to be plenty of open sites available for drop-ins.  (We stayed here during the middle of August)

friendship

driveway camping at a friend’s home

Al’s best friend from college and best man in our wedding was eager for our arrival.  We fit comfortably in Roger’s driveway and set up house within minutes.  Even though we only stayed in Marshfield the weekend, we managed to get in plenty of catching up.  That Sunday was preseason football and the Green Bay Packers were playing.  This is serious Packer Land and Cheese Land.

cheese head

Oh no, this Bronco’s fan has been turned into a ‘cheese head’

Roger planned a tailgate party at his house which included a bunch of people we hadn’t seen in years.  Even though the Packers lost, it was a super fun day.  We loved visiting with everyone and the weekend flew by.  I may have worn Packer green that day and been turned into a cheese head, but I assure you, it was a momentary lapse and I’m back to wearing the orange and blue of the Denver Bronco’s.

Lambeau FieldBut there was more impending fun with the guys to be had …. for hubby;  a fishing trip on Lake Michigan.

The day after the football game, we packed up the RV and headed to Algoma, Wisconsin.  But first, a stop at Cabela’s to empty the holding tanks was necessary and a cruise by Lambeau Field (home of the Packers) was in order, for posterity.  After all, we were Green Bay Packer fans for a day.

PepeLePewPulling into the Green Bay Cabela’s was easy.  Quite a few Cabela stores offer a dump station free of charge. Not this one. (for all you non-RVer’s, this talk is about the not so fun and stinky part of RVing. Our holding tanks contain our waste water, including potty waste and when we’re not staying in an RV Park with full hook-ups we need to find a place to clean out our tanks before they fill up).

There was a $5.00 charge to access the dump station or free if we bought something.  Hmm!  We stepped inside the store and quickly purchased some chocolate walnut fudge.  We took our receipt to the customer service counter and were given a number that would unlock the dump cover.  Let’s see – they gave us fudge and we gave them shit …. literally!  Sounds like we got the better end of the deal 🙂Wisconsin

With clean tanks and plenty of fresh water on board, we continued the drive from Green Bay to the little town of Algoma, Wisconsin.  The rest of the fishing gang wouldn’t be showing up until late the next day allowing Al and I to have a day to explore Door County.

Door County

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is a popular tourist destination especially for residents of Wisconsin and Illinois, boasting 300 miles of scenic shoreline, 5 state parks, and 19 charming communities.

With our RV comfortably parked in Algoma, we set off on a scenic drive that had us skirting up County Road B, along the waters of Green Bay.  It didn’t take long for Al and I to realize why this is such a popular place for vacation homes.  Homes of varying architectural styles are nestled in the woods along the shores of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.  Most homes enjoy their own private dock for easy watercraft access.  As we approached the quaint town of Egg Harbor, we were greeted by plenty of old fashion charm.  This would be merely the first of several such communities we explored that day.

Door County, Wisconsin

quaint shops offering locally grown and handcrafted products.

We saw plenty of unique shops, eateries, brew pubs, wineries, art gallery’s, and marina’s, but what stuck out to me the most were the beautiful gardens.Door CountyEach business seemed to take the extra effort in the gardening arena, adding more character and ambiance to an already lovely place.

Door County

How could I resist stopping here? That sidewalk going through all those flowers was irresistible.

Considering this is Wisconsin, I shouldn’t have been surprised with all the lush and beautiful vegetation.  The rich, black soil makes it easy to grow just about anything.  All those flowers did continually captivate my attention to the point hubby asked jokingly, “How many more Black Eyed Susan’s do you have to look at?”

And then there’s the orchards…. apples, cherries, and berries oh my!   Up next.

Green Bay

An overcast day along the shores of Green Bay

Door County Outdoors: A Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking, Paddling, Beaches, and Natural Places
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