|The weather made the decision for us. The WY DOT website showed icy roads, chains required by law and a Winter Storm Warning on the shortest route to Spearfish so we opted to drive all the way back through Yellowstone then up to Livingston where we got back on eastbound I-90 and pulled back into Billings at about 4:30. Who knows how the trip would have gone had we taken our original route but as far as I’m concerned it wasn’t worth the gamble, but was worth the extra 30-40 miles.
By 5:30 we were at dinner with Brian & Anna at a Mexican restaurant, then we went our separate ways – we’ll probably see them and their clan in a week or so.
Our trek Friday started about 9:15 after Michele got back from dropping off a Chicago bound box at the post office, then we – and this makes almost no sense – stopped and got the coach and Jeep washed at a truck wash place...in the rain. My thinking was that as nasty as they both were, any sort of washing was a step in the right direction. Since it rained for about half of the day’s journey, I was mistaken. Well, not totally as they both are still dirty, just not quite as dirty as they would have been without the washing...at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
The GPS said that the journey on Friday from Billings to Spearfish was gonna be right at 5 hours, but it turned into a solid 7 thanks to the rain and a transmission warning light that decided it was not getting any attention from me. We stopped at a WY rest area on I-90 halfway between Buffalo and Gillette and shortly after getting back on the road a funny yellow icon showed up on the dash. After playing “guess the icon” for about 10 minutes, I finally figured out that it was transmission related so we turned back to the rest area to do some more research. A check of the transmission electronically said it was 2 quarts low on fluid…a check of the dipstick showed it was just a little low. Hmmm. Do we push on to Gillette or beat feet back to Buffalo?
Since Gillette is a booming oil town, I figgered the chances of finding the correct fluid were much better there. I was mostly right. I knew there was a Flying J truck stop there so we fueled up and I went in to get fluid. It’s a truck stop; they have to have transmission fluid for – wait for it – trucks. Again; mistaken. Nor did the O’Reilly Auto Parts that we walked to. So, I called an authorized Allison Transmission shop about 5 miles south of town and they said they had it so off we went.
Now, it should also be noted that as soon as we started the coach to leave the truck stop, the warning light was no longer illuminated and the transmission monitor said that our fluid was fine. Screw it...I’m still buying the $40 per gallon special, super-duper fluid anyway to insure that I never have to add any. And the rest of the way to Spearfish the light never came on and the fluid level is still fine. Somewhere, an Allison engineer is just laughing his fool head off.
We got settled in at the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort under improving skies, then Michele whipped up some Chicken Surprise – not really, it was Chicken-A-La-King – then I did the dishes and worked on this here update for awhile before calling it a night.
Saturday my travel agent had booked us on a short train adventure, then a scenic drive. We drove about an hour south to Hill City, about 20 miles from Mt. Rushmore, where we hopped on the 1880 Train https://www.1880train.com/ for the hour long ride to Keystone, then caught the ride back to Hill City 15 minutes later. It was scenic, we saw lots of deer and it wasn’t a bad way to spend about 2½ hours.
Luckily, Saturday’s weather was awesome. I think it got up to about 65° with mostly sunny skies and no threat of snow. There is a lot of snow still on the ground around here...rumor is that over the last few days they have gotten between 6-12” of fluffiness around these parts so today was a welcome relief. More for them than for us I’m sure.
On the way back to the campground we took a detour just south of Deadwood and headed through the less-than-delightful town of Lead and onto the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway...and scenic it was. Not scenic enough for me to stop and take any pictures, but take my word for it...it was scenic.
We decided to hit a pizza place in Spearfish and it was surprisingly good. South Dakota is famous for it’s pizza and is known to rival NYC for bragging rights. Again; just kidding. You should have learned by now that only some of what I write here – maybe half – is actually true. The story about the transmission? Completely made it up. Just kidding.
The middle day of this Memorial Day weekend was mostly a history day. Our first destination was breakfast at the Gold Country Inn in Deadwood. It is billed as the best breakfast in town but apparently that honor is a bit of self-promotion. Either that or the bar is not set very high in this part of SD. It wasn’t bad – it met our needs – it just wasn’t a “WOW”, but then again breakfast very rarely is.
Anyway, the first history stop on our itinerary was the Adams Museum just off of Main Street https://www.deadwoodhistory.com/about-us/properties/adams-museum.html. It was a really well done place with 3 floors of exhibits about the history of Deadwood from it’s early days as a gold rush town in 1876, and home to numerous Wild West legends like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Tootsie the Singing Coyote http://mentalfloss.com/article/73878/tootsie-singing-coyote.
The Mt. Moriah Cemetery is pretty interesting; a place to see the graves of Hickok and Martha Jane Cannary – Calamity Jane’s real name – and other historically significant members of the community, but not Tootsie, and also a place to get a great view of the town. The cemetery is supposedly the most popular tourist spot in the town and based on the number of folks we saw wandering and coming in by bus, they might be right.
We waddled around there for about an hour then Jeeped it out of town in a quest to see the Mount Roosevelt Friendship Tower, a monument built by Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock back in 1919 to honor his friend Teddy Roosevelt. However, as we started up the trail to the tower a thunderstorm started to move in from the SW so we decided that we would skip it for now and maybe come back before we leave on Thursday.
We then headed north of town to the town of Belle Fourche to what is considered the geographical center of the U.S. We was mislead.
After driving a few miles west on I-90, then north on Highway 85 we reached the very official looking Center of the Nation Tri-State Museum/Visitor Center for a chance to see what, after Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, is now the center of the nation https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/us/02land.html. One minor detail they left out is that where the Visitor's Center is, ain’t where the center of the nation is. That my friends, is located over 20 miles away in a farmer’s field and marked by a pole in the ground https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/us/02land.html. And the Visitor's Center is closed on Sunday, which, you guessed it, is today. So, we walked over to the counterfeit monument just as the rain and lightning started so our visit was short-lived. We were ripped off...but not bad enough to drive 20 more miles, 8 of which were on a gravel road to see a pole in the ground. Take my word for it, it’s probably there.
After driving through some rain and a few really noisy rounds of hail, we did a short Walmart stop then had some Culver’s for a late lunch on the way back to the campground. There were quite a few Severe Thunderstorm Warnings flitting about on the radar so we opted to ride out any future nasty weather at home...better to be in the middle of it when it happens as opposed to coming home to find your house in pieces. At least that’s my theory which luckily, as of right now, remains untested.
Our Monday was spent gazing not very far out the windshield into the very foggy, drizzly and eventually rainy day. We couldn’t come up with a good reason to leave the warm confines of the house, so we didn’t. In fact someone, and it wasn’t me, didn’t even get out of their PJ’s all day but at least that mystery person took a shower. We filled our day with some computer work, some TV, some trip planning and some eatin’...which is kinda nice every once in a while.
Tuesday wasn’t much better weather-wise but at least I could see the campground office from our spot so we decided that we have plenty of experience navigating in rain so we took off to Rapid City, about 45 minutes to the east. Our soggy quest was for some restocking at Harbor Freight, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, with some totally unproductive stops at Kohl’s and Cabela’s. Following a splendid I-talian lunch at Olive Garden we pointed the Jeep-a-roo back westbound to home in Spearfish. It finally stopped raining about 5:00 but we were not too enthusiastic about doing anything so some nachos and TV brought our Tuesday to an end.
Wednesday was much more productive thanks to the better weather. I commenced to cleaning the very dirty and quite embarrassing Jeep, then about 11:00 we headed to Sturgis to snoop around. Our first stop was at Bear Butte State Park https://gfp.sd.gov/parks/detail/bear-butte-state-park/ north of town but it wasn’t all that. Things around here are a bit hazy today so a 2 hour hike to the top wasn’t going to be worth it so we wandered through the Visitor’s Center for a few minutes then hiked about ¼ of a mile up the hill, gawked at the view, then left. Told you it wasn’t all that.
We left there and stopped at Fort Meade https://www.fortmeademuseum.org/history to take a quick trip through the museum. The fort was established in 1878 and continued in use till 1944 as a U.S. Army installation and today is used by the National Guard for training. The museum had lots of fort history exhibits and some local info so for $10 it was a decent way to spend an hour. That pretty much topped off our Sturgis journey.
We got home and I spent a couple hours doing some re-arranging of coach storage thingies and some other tasks that have been pending for awhile...there is always a list of things I HAVE to do, SHOULD do and would LIKE to do...today gave me an opportunity to do some of each...but each list still has things on it. I’ll never run out of those things, but I sure do run out of desire to tackle them.
Michele has booked us for Thursday and Friday in Sheridan to play tourist, then Greybull for 2 more where we plan to visit the Museum of Aviation and Aerial Firefighting, then catch up with our nephews and their families over the weekend. After that…