Favorite RV Destination

Do you have a favorite RV travel destination? That’s a question we seem to be asked frequently and it’s not an easy one to answer. There are so many variables that make a place special and memorable. With that said, favorite destinations are truly a personal experience based on individual opinion. Of course, I do have a list of faves.

I have friends that have been brought to tears when they first set eyes on the Grand Canyon while others don’t see the big deal. In addition to the actual place, I feel a lot has to do with one’s frame of mind. For example, if you and your partner are quarreling or you have a child who’s being difficult, no matter how beautiful the scenery may be, you probably won’t have the fondest memories of that particular destination.

Sylvan Lake, SD

On the flip side, let’s say all the stars align, the sky is filled with rainbows, and you’re surrounded by dancing unicorns, even staying in a Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota can turn into a fun and memorable place to spend a birthday. Yep, been there, done that!

A favorite destination; the Black Hills in South Dakota

I was around fourteen years old the first time I visited the southwest corner of the state of South Dakota. My parents had just upgraded from a popup travel trailer to a Class A Motorhome and this would be our first family vacation with the new RV. It would also be our first time traveling outside of the Midwest. We lived in the Chicago suburbs at the time, and our vacations for our family of five always revolved around my dad’s love of fishing in Wisconsin.

And guess where I am today? I’m back in Hayward, WI … the very place that I spent many childhood summer vacations, but that’s for another post.

That family vacation was an unforgettable trip to the Black Hills and Custer State Park. Ever since that trip, I had always wanted to return but didn’t get a chance until my daughter and I visited during the summer of 2010, and then I returned in 2015 with Al in tow. And guess what? I was recently able to return again in June of 2019.

A revisit to a favorite destination, but first a stop in Nebraska

Anytime I have an excuse to visit the Black Hills in South Dakota, I’m all in. Well, in reality, I don’t need an excuse but a reason sure does help with any trip route planning. And a fine reason we had on our trek from Arizona to Wisconsin to stop for a spell in the Black Hills in mid-June and connect with blogging pals. Once again, we were offered the opportunity to stay on private property from someone we had never met before. Oh yeah, twist my arm! I love my blog community. ‚̧

But first … Since we had well over 400 miles and nearly eight hours of driving time to get to our South Dakota destination, we broke up the drive into two days and knew just the place to overnight; the Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska. This is the original store and home to the founders of Cabela’s. Unfortunately, Bass Pro purchased Cabela’s in 2017 and closed the headquarters in Sidney putting a bunch of employees out of work. Sidney is a small town and this acquisition has had a definite impact on the community in a negative way.

Considering Al had a few outdoorsy things he wanted (when doesn’t he?), he thought he’d help the local economy by purchasing a few items. Ah, but we didn’t stop there. Since we would be boondocking at Jim and Barb’s, we opted to spend a little on a campsite and get a full hook-up site for the night in their campground in lieu of staying for free in the parking lot. (I think it was around $32 for the night) This is a great spot to overnight with numerous restaurants within easy walking distance and a Walmart just down the road. Plus, it’s super easy to get on and off Interstate 80.

Barb and Jim’s driveway. Our RV in the distance.

Beautiful property with a unique building

The next day, we had no trouble finding Jim and Barb’s lovely property located not far from Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. We arrived just in time to reconnect with Jim and Diana whom I had previously met in Sedona this past April. They would be leaving the next morning. Needless to say, that evening we all enjoyed happy hour together … good conversation and tasty margaritas.

A barndominium in the works. Jim and Barb have been RVing full-time since 2014. A couple of years ago, they purchased their dream property in South Dakota and are now in the process of building a home … a unique home that is part barn (that will fit two RVs) and part house. Actually, it’s quite perfect for those of us that love RVing, and it’s something Al and I have often talked about building. Our problem is we can’t pick a location.

The more Jim blogged about their “barndominium”, the more I wanted to see it … and of course, meet Jim and Barb. It really is a great idea and will meet their needs perfectly. They still intend to continue RVing and traveling regularly.

(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simply click on any image)

During our five day visit, the building process needed to continue. While Barb ran errands (visiting lumber yards, picking up doors, etc.), Al helped “fishing Jim” install some windows. Why “fishing Jim”? When there are two different “Jim’s” on the premises, ya gotta have a way to differentiate the two. So while I call Jim, the property owner, “fishing Jim”, I call the visiting Jim, “Michigan Jim”. Seems to work when I’m communicating with my husband. He always knows which Jim I’m referring to, and yes, Al and Jim did talk fishing, but that was after the other Jim returned to Michigan.

Al and me on the left, Jim and Barb on the right.

So, while everyone was busy working on the barndominium, I went out exploring with my camera. Hey, I did my part by offering some very helpful and important tidbits. As a former home builder, I’m full of all kinds of useful (and non-useful) information.ūü§£

Actually, door swings, placement of electrical switches, and cabinet layout are rather important and I gave Barb some suggestions on how to ensure an end result that she’ll be happy with. I think we’ve all visited a place where the light switch is in an awkward location or even behind a door. It’s all about the planning and attention to little details and that’s my expertise. Oh, and I’m really good at pointing a finger and telling people what to do. Just ask Al!ūüėŹ

However, it wasn’t all about the build. We did have time for some fun together. One evening we saw a comedic play at the Black Hills Playhouse. Another day, Al and Jim did some backroad exploring with the Jeep and then Jim took me on a 4×4 drive in the four-wheeler in search of photo-ops. This image is for you Jim.

A great campsite

Our five-day stay in the Black Hills whizzed by. We would’ve loved to stay longer, but 1. we didn’t want to overstay our welcome having just met these lovely folks in person for the first time, and 2. rain was expected and with rain comes a very muddy driveway … that’s the real reason we bid farewell. If it hadn’t been for the impending rain, they may never have gotten rid of us … but shhh, don’t tell them that or we may not be welcome back.

Come on, with a campsite like this, why would we be in a hurry to move on? It’s obvious why Jim and Barb fell in love with the property. If it weren’t so darn far away from our children and the winters weren’t so nasty cold, we would consider buying land in the area. Yes, we really do like the Black Hills that much … in the summer, that is.

Thank you, Jim and Barb for opening your home to us. We enjoyed meeting you, hanging out, and hope to do it again. Oh, and let’s not forget about the handsome neighbors.

Jim and Barb’s neighbors

But why are South Dakota’s Black Hills one of my favorite vacation destinations? I’ll share more photos and information about the area in my next post.¬†

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Stinky Feet and a Bust

Whew!!!¬† The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, keeping hubby and me on our toes.¬† I’ll share more about¬†our shenanigans¬†in an upcoming post.¬† For today, I’ll focus on getting caught up on our travels.

Bayard, NebraskaIn my last post, we were working our way south¬†through western Nebraska; America’s Heartland.¬† Much to our surprise, we found the prairies in this¬†part of the country incredibly enjoyable.

As we meandered down Highway 385, there was¬†virtually no traffic.¬† We took in the scenery and although mostly agricultural, the land rolls with the occasional rock butte.free campingThere’s a beauty to the land AND the hard-working people who call this place home.¬† The area is rich in farming and rich in history.¬† The iconic Chimney Rock served as¬†one of the most recognizable¬†landmarks for the great western pioneer migration in the 1800’s.Chimney RockChimney Rock is now a National Historic Site.¬† This slender rock spire rises over 300 feet from a conical base and can be seen from nearly 30 miles away.Chimney RockPioneers used Chimney Rock as a landmark to guide them along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail.¬† The trails ran along the north side of the rock following the Platte River¬†and continued on to Scotts Bluff, another important landmark.

The Platte River with Scotts Bluff in the background 20 miles away

Chimney Rock

It’s no secret that I’m not the history buff in this family, but I’m fascinated by the tale of those gutsy Pioneers.¬†¬† This was, after all Indian territory.¬† As a matter of fact, the Lakota Sioux¬†referred to¬†Chimney Rock as Elk Penis, a name I find much more entertaining.¬† Indians, rattlesnakes, and harsh weather were just the beginning of the difficult journey west for those enterprising pioneers.¬† The fortitude and determination it took to embark on such an ambitious venture¬†is¬†astounding.¬† Many made it to their destination, and many did not.

covered wagon
my horse and covered wagon parked at the Bayard City Park

So while the Pioneers of the 1800’s could park their horses and covered wagons anywhere they saw fit, hubby and I need to abide by rules and laws governing where we can park¬†our modern-day horse and covered wagon.

free campingFree overnighting with electric AND water…..

We find ourselves¬†frequently using the site¬† Campendium.com¬† for camping reference and quickly¬†noted a place to camp for the night.¬†¬† We find the Bayard town park easily.¬†¬†It’s located¬†across from¬†a large¬†grassy picnic area in a small gravel lot with electric and water pedestals for 3 RV’s.¬† What a great find and it’s located only 3 miles north of Elk Penis Chimney Rock.

As much as¬†Al and¬†I enjoyed our free campsite, later that evening¬†we accused each other of having stinky feet…. that is,¬†until a gust of wind brought the rather light stench to one of sheer on assault.¬† Ah yes, we were quickly reminded that we were indeed camped in cattle country.¬† The next day, it was time to take our clean feet and move on!

By the way… ¬†there were¬†a total of four¬†bloggers all traveling through this part of Nebraska within days of each other.¬†¬†For a different¬†view on the same area, I’ve¬†attached a link¬†to the other bloggers.¬† First up was Pam and John followed by Mona Liza and Steve, then us (although we didn’t¬†visit Scotts Bluff), and¬†lastly Nina and Paul.¬† I find it¬†interesting to¬†read four very different and distinct blogging¬†accounts on the same subject.Morman Trail

Corn HuskersWe continued our journey south through western Nebraska. We could not possibly pass through Sidney, Nebraska,¬†without a quick stop at the original Cabela’s store.¬†¬† I love success stories and this is certainly a tale of the American dream.

Dick Cabela turned $45 worth of fishing fly materials into the number one outdoor retailer.  You can read the entire story here.

We also appreciate the RV friendly facilities found at most Cabela locations.  The Sidney store offers a couple of dump stations along with plenty of free overnight parking PLUS a campground complete with full Sterling, Coloradohook-ups for a nominal fee.

On to Colorado……

We pulled into the North Sterling State Park in northeast Colorado.¬† It was midweek with no ranger in sight and plenty of open campsites.¬† We drove around looking for a nice site with a view and noting any reservation notices on the site posts.¬† We pulled into site #6 which required a little creative leveling but nothing we couldn’t handle.¬†¬†A mere two hours later, the camp host came by and reluctantly said, “I’m sorry folks, but I’m going to ruin your day.¬† I need you to move to another site”.¬† Apparently, the ranger failed to post the reservation notices that morning and this site was already reserved for the evening.¬† We responded in a very understanding manner.

North Sterling State Park
Site #49 at North Sterling State Park, Colorado

With the camp hosts assistance, we found a site that was available for that night and into the up coming weekend.  Within 30 minutes we were all set up in our new spot Рsite #49, which turned out to be equally as nice as #6 with even more spacing between sites and more privacy.

North Sterling State Park
Who knew we’d find white pelicans and herons at this lake in northeast Colorado.

That evening the camp host dropped by bearing a gift of the most delicious full SLAB of BBQ ribs that he had slow cooked all day.  Yum!  A little visiting over drinks ensued.

Pawnee National Grasslands
Where am I? Pawnee Buttes are in the distance on the left.

Pawnee National GrasslandsThe next day I was off on my adventure; an excursion I had planned a few months earlier and one not of interest to hubby.

I wasn’t optimistic about by sojourn to the Pawnee National Grasslands, but¬†I was curious since a blogger recommended I might enjoy it.¬† I drove, and I drove…. down this gravel road and that gravel road.¬† I encountered one 18 wheeler after another.¬† At one point, I was sandwiched between two.¬† The cloud of dust was blinding at times.

18 wheelers at work - fracking all over Pawnee National Grasslands
18 wheelers at work – fracking occurring all over Pawnee National Grasslands

Pawnee National Grassland

You see, this is serious fracking country.  Beneath the surface of the Pawnee National Grasslands are oil and gas reserves that are being extracted.  The land is dotted with production facilities and evaporation ponds (the waters used for fracking turn toxic after use and need to be dealt with).  Not exactly fitting of the scenic category.SterlingIt took me awhile to find the trailhead to the famous Pawnee Buttes, but after a little Pawnee National Grasslandsmeandering down various gravel roads I eventually found my destination.  I spent 15 minutes looking around and talking to the cows before hopping back in the truck.  No hiking for me.  My interest had totally waned.

I wanted so much to like this place. ¬†I tried really hard to find the beauty, but after 4 hours of driving one gravel road after another and sharing the dust with semi-trucks, I turned tail and headed home.¬† I would categorize this visit as a bust (aka failure, flop, fizzle, dud).¬† Don’t get me wrong, there is¬†a beauty to the land and I enjoy communing with cows, but the industrial aspect took away from the experience.

Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.
Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.  A wind farm can be seen in the distance.

Perhaps birders might find this place of interest as the Colorado State Bird the Lark Bunting was flying around in abundance, or perhaps the western region of Pawnee NG offers something more photogenic, but the area I explored held little interest to me personally.

facilities like this, dot the landscape
facilities like this, dot the landscape

When I returned to the RV, hubby and I looked up reviews for the Pawnee National Grasslands and discovered the majority of the reviews were negative.¬† I’m glad I went with an open mind and read these reviews AFTER my visit.¬† Even though it was a bust, I’m still glad I visited.¬† Not all places in Colorado can be labeled majestic.

Let’s move on to Denver……Sterling

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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‚Äô father who once lived on the farm where Carhenge now stands. While relatives were gathered following the death of Reinders‚Äô 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, ‚ÄúIt took a lot of work, sweat, and beers‚ÄĚ.

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.


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.

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 ūüėČCarhenge

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)


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

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, South Dakota


Black Hills
Sylvan Lake, Black Hills, South Dakota

Quick, quick as we skirt through Nebraska,

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 ūüôāNebraska
Wall Drug
Badlands, South Dakota
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