May 12-June 4, 2019 Custer, South Dakota
It was bittersweet leaving Jim and Barbs, I was excited to see Kathi and spend time with her, and Guy wanted to continue working on the barndominium. Guy and I arrived at the Heritage Village Campground before Kathi and got all settled in…we got to pick our own site with Kathi being next to us facing door to door.
Our view was awesome, we could sit and look at the Crazy Horse carving high on the mountain in one direction. The other direction looked down into the valley and the surrounding mountains with cows and sheep feasting on the lush green grass.
The first thing we did was plan a menu for the week and head to the Dakota Market for our weeks worth of food. Kathi’s rig is not conducive to cooking for 4 so it was easier for me to do the cooking for our dinners.
We had a wonderful time sitting outside the first day just catching up and hearing about her travels for the last few months. Kathi and I have been friends for 45 years, our sons were born one day apart, our husbands worked together as Deputy Sheriffs in Los Angeles, Ca. She and I both worked in the cosmetology business, we both love to quilt. We have camped together for a few years while our husbands were working together. When we bought our last class a in 2014 Kathi decided that she was going to camp with us and bought her 25’ Leisure Van. Our first trip together was in Oregon.
Our sunny day last for the first day only, from that day forward we have had nothing but rain. It didn’t stop us, we went with Guy to Rapid City to get our mail and pick up some prescriptions. We decided to drive Hwy 16a going thru Custer State Park. With all the rain the area has been experiencing all the rivers and streams were over their banks and moving pretty fast. A couple of the little lakes we pasted were also over their banks and were now big lakes.
As we were headed home we decided lunch was in order, in Hill City we changed course, instead of heading to Custer we veered off and headed to Deadwood. It was a cold rainy drive with the mountains and trees kind of erie…the drive is pretty rural with of farms and with lots of cows and horses grazing on the open grassland.
We drove by Lake Pactola, we had gone for a visit last year when our rv friends Les and Sue and their traveling companion PoPo were staying there. Last year it was a beautiful sunny day, what a difference in how it looks with all the rain and clouds.
We drive thru the town of Deadwood trying to decided where we wanted to eat, Kathy and I couldn’t decide so Guy stopped in front of Bodega Steakhouse Saloon and dropped us off. He had to find parking as there is no parking on the street, there are many parking lots. It turned out to be great food, they had a special prime rib open faced sandwich with fries. Guy ordered the special which he said was great. I had a mushroom swiss burger with onion rings, Kathi opted for the Bison burger with onion rings. In the room next door was a casino, Kathi loves to gamble so we went in and she played with $5.00 and left with 20cents.
The Crazy Horse Memorial site has a great museum and can take hours to see all that there is there. When we got to the entrance they gave us half off due to the weather, we would not be able to see the monument since it was so foggy and cloudy.
The museum features American Indian Art and artifacts from tribes across North America. We decided that we didn’t need to see the monument as we could see it from our site on a sunny day, but the museum would keep us dry.
For those that don’t really know about the Crazy Horse Memorial site and have not been there:
The idea for the monument started back in 1947 when Chief Henry Standing Bear’s idea of creating a memorial to honor the living heritage of the North American Indians. Crazy Horse wanted to protect and preserve the culture and tradition of the North American Indians. He invited Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a Memorial to honor his people. The Memorial is pointing southeast to the lands where many of his people lie buried. Standing Bear wanted the memorial to create a cross cultural understand between the Natives and non-Natives. He wanted the memorial located in the Black Hills which honored his people and wanted it equally as large as Mount Rushmore.
The elevation of the mountain is 6,532 feet above sea level and ranks 27th highest mountain in South Dakota. The entire carving will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. Crazy horse’s face is 87 feet 6 inches, the arm will be 263 feet long.
The difference between Mount Rushmore is amazing, the arm of Crazy Horse will be 263’ long, while the heads of the 4 presidents are each 60’ high.
The memorial is being built by donations, no government money has been spent on it. To this day the children and grandchildren of Ziolkowski work for the Memorial. There is now a college and medical facility for Indians tribes.
On the day we decided to go to Custer State Park it was nice and clear, even tho there were plenty of clouds. We drove on every road throughout the park, even the dirt roads looking for the elusive buffalos and donkeys.
It was our lucky day as we did find lots of buffalo, donkeys and pronghorn. We even got to see the prairie dogs, two of them let me get about as close as 5 feet from them, and they chattered and squeaked at me the whole time. The donkeys held up a line of cars going from one car to the other looking for handouts.
We drove the Iron Mountain Road towards Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the road had two tunnels and 2 beautiful bridges. It’s a really beautiful ride and along the road there are a few times you can see Mount Rushmore. We drove to the memorial but did not go to the view platform or museum as it was raining once again.
We all had made arrangements to stay for 5 days in Custer but Guy and I changed our minds and signed up for another 5 more days. On the day Kathi left, of course, it was the warmest and sunniest that we would have. Guy was excited to head back over to Jim and Barbs to once again help them. They would like to have the house closed and get the outside and windows in before the winter sets in.
While I was in Alabama I picked up some parts for my electric bike. We were looking forward to taking some bike rides while in Custer. The George Mickelson Trail is right out our campground and is a 109 miles trail. The trail runs through the heart of the Black Hills, connecting Deadwood with Edgemont. The trail consists of a crushed stone pathway, with 100 wood converted railroad bridges and 4 tunnels, most of the trail is through the national forest.
The tail goes thru mountains, ponderosa pine forests, over creeks and through narrow valleys. On some of the trail it is close to granite walls on one side and steep slops on the other. One of the tunnels is 40′ long and was blasted through rock and lined with wood beams.
Along the way towards Custer we encountered a snake on the path, deer in the lush green valleys, cows grazing in the fields, even a horse that had escaped the corral, and a baby cow sitting outside the fence with mom on the other side. It was such a beautiful ride. We were hoping to make it into Custer which would have been a 12 mile ride. We were watching the weather and the big black clouds, when the thunder and lightening started we knew it was time to head back. We barely made it, as it started hailing and pouring just as we shut the door.
Since the rain we have had two nice sunny/cloudy days. We were able to ride 30 miles round trip going towards Hot Springs, the next we went in the other direction up to Hill City for 24 miles round trip, along the Mickelson Trail. We both did not think the trail was as pretty or scenic as going towards Hot Springs.
We leave here in a few days changing our plans once again. We are heading higher in the mountains above Hill City, going off grid (no hook ups, internet or cell service. We are looking forward to this move, there is lots of buggy riding, biking and fishing.
Thanks for hanging with us and following along on our journey, we hope this whets your appetite for travel and maybe will have you visiting some of this wonderful country. Come on back to check on the fishing and if we get to have any for dinner, until next time happy travels to y’all.