Trip Out West 2008 travel blog

Lazy Bison


Kids at Devil's Tower

Lounging in Billings

We would like to say how much we appreciate the emails from our family and friends. We love them. Thank you….

Once again, sorry for not writing the last couple of days. We either had no internet, or were just too beat to log in.

Well, July 4th was a hoot. After sleeping in a bit (till 8am), we decided to let the kids let lose a bit with the campground activities. First on the list was the campground-sponsored “all you can eat” pancake breakfast. Of course, the kids only ate one helping, but they were good. After that was a giant bounce pad (think bounce house without the roof and four times the size of a normal one.) Then on to the water slide. The place also had two large pools and a splash park. The lady in the pancake breakfast tent said they served about 2,500 pancakes the day before, and would probably do 3,000 that day. She also said some considered that campground the 4th largest city in South Dakota in the summer. Not sure what that says about the state or that place???

After all this, we moved off our campsite and parked the trailer in a lot they have there so we could explore Custer State Park with just the truck (and it’s new rear-view mirror). Custer State Park has one of the largest bison herds in the country. We drove around the park and saw many Pronghorn Antelope, Deer, a few lone Bison, other animals. The books Chris had on the park said there were begging burrows around. We saw a herd of them, but they never came close to the road. We also saw the main herd of Bison (about 600 animals), but they were far off the road so we didn’t get any pictures. We also stopped at a lodge in the park for lunch. The kids all tried Buffalo hamburgers. They all agreed it tasted just like beef (of course the price was higher). It probably was just beef. After driving around this place for two or three hours, Annie’s same comment came out – she was sick of “green”. Actually Chris was pretty sick of it as well. So we headed back to the campground, got the trailer and headed off toward Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

This was ‘only’ a four hour drive. Much of it on two-lane roads so it seemed like a looong time. We were fully expecting a full but quiet campground given how far this is off the interstate. Unfortunately, the town-folk had other ideas. We pulled in to a full-fledged 4th of July party complete with BBQ food, DJ, and many, many locals lighting off fireworks. In fact after Chris parked to go into register, a guy packing heat on his belt lit off a huge pack of fire crackers about eight feet from the truck. Annie had to put the windows up to stop the papers from going inside. This local fireworks display lasted right up until the actual official fireworks started about 10. Meanwhile we enjoyed the locals singing Karaoke, most not well, but fun.

The fireworks were good and bed came soon after.

On July 5th, we went over to Devil’s Tower National Monument (literally a stone’s throw from the campground). On the drive to the visitor center, we stopped at a huge Prairie Dog town. These little critters run from hole to hole in a field about the size of three football fields. There were a lot of them. We got some good pictures before moving on to the visitor center. We looked around there, and then Chris, Marissa, Makayla, and Christopher walked all around the monument on a trail of about 1 ½ miles long. The kids were OK for this distance, though a bit of complaining started about 300ft from the start.

After we got back, we went back to the campground, hooked up and were off to Billings, Montana.

This was a longer ride. About six hours. But almost all interstate which means it went by quicker, especially for Chris who’s been doing all the driving.

Things were going well up until about 15 miles from Billings. We were going up a long hill (there are many of these starting about the middle of South Dakota) when the truck started losing power and eventually stalled doing 65. We made it off to the shoulder and Chris and Annie checked the engine oil and other fluids to see what may have caused the problem. Annie of course volunteered to climb under the truck to see what was the matter.

After waiting about 10 minutes, the engine started again, and we started up the hill. Unfortunately, we only got about a mile before it stalled again. We did this a couple of more times before calling it quits and calling AAA. While we waited for AAA to call back with towing plans for truck, trailer, and six people, Annie was able to get a hold of a Billings GMC dealership. Unfortunately by this time it was after 3pm on a holiday weekend, and they couldn’t look at the truck, even if we could get it there.

AAA ended up sending two trucks – first so they could carry all six of us, second, so one could haul the trailer to the campground and the other haul the truck to the dealership. We waited a total of about two hours on the side of the road. Both drivers were great. The one who hauled the trailer (with Chris, Marissa, and Christopher) offered to drive us anywhere on Sunday if we needed it since his shop is just around the corner from the campground. The other guy who took the truck brought Annie, Makayla, and Miranda to the campground before taking the truck over so they didn’t have to wait in the un-air conditioned truck (it was high 90’s and humid)

The campground extended our reservation without a problem since it will be Monday at the earliest before the dealership can look at the truck. The one driver thought it was perhaps a clogged fuel filter or perhaps fuel pump. (hopefully something easy). While we were supposed to drive to our campground in Yellowstone today, we will instead spend a few days here in Billings. Luckily the campground is great. Clean facilities, Putt-Putt, a nice pool, and playground.

We will hopefully be on our way either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. We called Yellowstone to cancel Sunday’s reservation and they were also accommodating. They aren’t going to charge us the normal cancellation fee and told us to call them Monday mid-day to let them know if we’d need the Monday reservation. We’ll take it one day at a time.

We are now considering whether to still go to Yellowstone, just a bit later, and skip our Colorado activities, or skip Yellowstone and move on to the other stuff. I guess we’ll see how long it takes to fix the truck.

Meanwhile, here we are. The kids rented some pedal-powered four wheelers today and spent a long time in the pool and on the playground. You’d never know how much you miss being able to drive somewhere until you’re at a campground without a vehicle. Luckily we have enough food and other supplies with us.

We’ll let everyone know how things turn out in our next update. Meanwhile, if you need anything in Billings, let us know. We can take care of it (as long as its within about a mile of this campground.)

See ya!

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