Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hopping Across Iowa to Visit RV Friends…

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After enjoying our stay in Sioux Falls, SD it was time to point the RV east and go through Iowa. We loved our last visit to the state of Iowa but since we need to get to North Carolina by late August, we are having to pick up our pace. As a result we planned two one night stays to get us across Iowa and still give us a little time to see new parts of the state.

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Our first stop took us 122 miles east into Iowa where we stopped for a single night at the Wild Rose Casino in Emmetsburg Iowa. Emmetsburg is a small little town but has a casino a little way out of town with an RV park beside a small lake. It had no water or sewer but had electricity for $25 per night. It included breakfast in the casino hotel and because they also gave us each $10 in free play it was close to a break even stop. Even better we arrived on Monday night where they offer up a $3.99 chicken and potato buffet that was pretty darn good and at that price couldn’t be beat!

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The next morning we drove another 170 miles (a long day for us) and pulled into Deerwood Park where we scored one of the few remaining sites. Full hookups were here for $19 per night. During our stay we checked out the nearby towns of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo Iowa. Waterloo is mostly a blue-collar industrial town that wasn’t very lively or appealing to us. Cedar Falls (where the University of Iowa is) was just the opposite as we found it to be not only appealing but interesting as well.

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They have done a lot to make their little town alive and energetic so we enjoyed an urban stroll around the small town. Of course we also walked abound the campus of University of Northern Iowa which is a beautifully landscaped campus that provided a delightful park-like setting.  Big trees and lush greenery abound. The buildings themselves are not overly interesting from an architectural viewpoint but we did enjoy the stroll through the “park.”

The next morning we were on the road to stay near Cedar Rapids Iowa to meet up with friends John and Jane former RV full-timers who are taking a small break from full-timing to be near their granddaughter. They saved us a site in Morgan Creek County Park a beautiful and well cared for Linn County Park. At only $20 per night for 50 amp and water service it is a steal (but very hard to get a spot in). Jane and John met us at the site while we set up and afterward we hit the ground running.

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We toured their downtown condo and then walked around Cedar Rapids checking out all their favorite places. Sharon loved how everything was within walking distance of their place as she has always imagined city living would be fun. They do seem to really enjoy it. Of course we had to stop at Iowa Brewing for a frosty beverage and then went to an  interesting restaurant which offered pizzas that are a fusion between Italian and Chinese. We had the Kung Pao Pizza and they enjoyed the Crab Rangoon Pizza. Yum!!!

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The next day Sharon and I walked around the nearby arboretum and hiked out into the prairies where they have mowed trails allowing hikers to get a good look at them. We saw lots of wildflowers and green grass in the prairie with butterflies everywhere. That evening we took in a minor league baseball game where the home town Kernal’s won easily. We sure enjoyed the game and the company of Jane and John.

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Our last day in Cedar Rapids we spent playing a little disc golf and then concluded the day back at Jane and John’s condo where we had appetizers and drinks on the patio listening to live music being played by Alisabeth Von Presley. The concert was “free” for us as we are all on their patio overlooking the stage. What a great day and a great way to end our three day stay visiting our friends…. thanks for the hospitality Jane and John…

NOTE: We left Cedar Rapids Iowa today and headed for Moline Illinois with plans our next stop to be near Peoria, Illinois…

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Things to Do in and Around Sioux Falls South Dakota…

Image may contain: cloud, sky, outdoor, nature and waterLeaving the Badlands National Park we headed for a little R&R, (rest and relaxation). We drove over to central South Dakota to a Corps of Engineer Park called Left Trailrace where we stayed two nights. Its a bit off the beaten path as its about a 15-20 minute drive north off of Interstate 90 up the Missouri River Valley onto the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.

It had nice large campsites near the Lake Francis Case in a quiet and very scenic part of South Dakota. Here we simply walked a lot, rested a lot and played a little disc golf. We also used this slowdown to start planning our route further east. There has been no solid plans as we always keep our eyes on the weather when we are in the Midwest and have many alternative plans should the weather turn bad within our path.

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We left Fort Thompson SD and drove the rest of the way east on Interstate 90 until we arrived at the Grand Falls Casino RV Resort in Larchwood, IAOnce the park was within sight our GPS said welcome to Iowa but as we turned into the RV park it said welcome to South Dakota so while the Casino is in Iowa we are still in SD. Funny…

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We chose this location in order to check out South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls and our first stop was to visit the park where the town earned its namesake from, Falls Park. There had been a lot of recent rain so the falls were in full force. What a show they put on… There were also some trails in Falls Park winding by some historical mill remains which we also enjoyed.

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We needed to do some grocery shopping but as we were shopping we noticed a bunch of tents up in a park. After searching the web we discovered it was the annual Jazz fest and better yet it was free to enter and free to park!!! So we spent the rest of the day chilling in the park and listening to a lot of eclectic (though not jazz) music. What luck we had on this day!

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The next day we chose to do a walk to see the sculptures in downtown Sioux Falls SD. Wow, lots and lots of cool sculptures could be found by wandering around the main street in Sioux Falls. There were ballots to vote for the “people’s choice” award and the one that won was not the one I would have picked but it was pretty cool as well. What a beautiful downtown area which was alive and energetic.

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That afternoon we headed over to a park to play some Disc Golf. Man it was crowded as there was a tournament also going on. When we talked with some of the participants they told us we could go ahead and play as the tournament couldn’t actually take over the course since it was public. They were all so friendly and helped as we were at a loss at times in locating the next hole on the somewhat challenging course. It was a long but beautiful course and one we were glad we played.

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On the way home we stopped at a small arboretum which was a work in progress. it will be spectacular when finished as even in its infancy it was a nice stop. There are big plans for a garden expansion and a wedding area. There we saw a little waterfall and pond,  beautiful trees, flowers and a little leopard frog. Fun!

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We ended the day by stopping at the Attic to pick up n order of Chislic, a unique South Dakotan dish made of chunks of beef (sirloin) or lamb/mutton then seasoned and fried. We paired it with some fried jalapeno cheese curds… decadent? Yes, but an outstanding little splurge… Yum, yum!

NOTE: We left Sioux Falls SD and made several one night stops to where we will be today in Cedar Rapids Iowa…

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Badlands National Park, SD –Other Worldly…

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Before I write about what we have been doing I just wanted to point out that blogspot has made some recent changes with regard to comments on our blog. “New comments can only be posted either from a Google account or labeled as “Anonymous”.  This is their new philosophy for comments on blogspot. What this means is that they no longer support OpenID, so if commenters don’t have a Google account they can only comment as anonymous or unknown.  I allow anonymous or unknowns to comment on the blog whereas some other bloggers don't – just a heads up to commenters. And by the way, we love comments so please keep them coming even if you are anonymous or unknown…

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Anyhow after leaving Rapid City we headed east down the highway until we arrived in Wall  South Dakota. Anyone traveling through South Dakota becomes keenly aware of Wall Drug… the infamous tourist trap. Al roads into Wall have many billboards coaxing travelers to come. We stopped there, not to see Wall Drug, but to see the Badlands National Park.

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We stayed at Sleepy Hollow Campground in Wall, South Dakota, a very pleasant place to spend a night or two exploring the Badlands. The next morning we could have driven south 8 miles to the national Park but we drove 22 miles to the east end of the park to take the scenic loop drive. However before touring the Badlands we checked out the Delta 1 Minuteman Missile Site which was on the way.

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Case in point I was stationed in Ellsworth Air Force Base back in the early 1970’s where I worked on Minuteman Missiles. So for me this was a fun stop to show Sharon what I use to do in the Air Force. It was a hoot to look down into a missile silo once again and it was a pleasure to share with my bride all the tasks we had in and around a missile silo.

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Next up was the Badlands… and bad they are. Think moonscape! This is an otherworldly place of rough topography where there are few colors to the naked eye. However careful study reveals hues of brown, black and sometimes yellow or red dominating the landscape. Occasional patches of green grass somehow thrive in such a desolate place.

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The views and the hikes in such a surreal place are such a treat. The hills resemble giant mazes one could hike for hours within. As we walked we noticed fossils abound as we found bone pieces including vertebrae, hip joints and jaw segments with teeth still intact… so cool. As desolate as this place is there are still wildlife present as we saw both pronghorn antelope and numerous big horn sheep…. yep, so much fun.

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We spent two days hiking to fully experience this wonderful place and are so grateful that it is preserved by our National Parks system for generations to see. Leaving this place was difficult but we must continue our journey east,,, on the road of retirement…

NOTE: We relaxed in Fort Thompson SD for a couple of days before heading over to Sioux Falls SD where we are now…

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Scenic Loop Drive to Devil’s Tower National Monument


I had hoped to be in Wyoming longer to see a bit more of the eastern area of the state. However, with all the repair downtime combined with our change in plans to head back east to help our daughter with her pre wedding events, we have had to cram in a lot in a very the short amount of time while here in Rapid City SD. So today I told Sharon get ready for a long day and a long drive…


Our target was Devils Tower in Wyoming, a bucket list item for me. I have always regretted not visiting the tower when I lived in Rapid City. Along the 200 plus mile loop we will see many other places where I used to “play.”


Our first stop was in Spearfish SD a town I spent some time in but the real treat there is Spearfish Canyon (especially n the fall) but we will see that on the way back. Our second stop was to see the famed Sturgis SD where all the bikers in America, or so it seems, will descend upon in a mere few weeks for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally starting August 2nd. This town sure has changed since I was last here in the mid-70’s…. many, many more mega-bars!


We left Sturgis to enter Wyoming once again and after a nice scenic drive we had our first glimpse at the “Extra-terrestrial” Devils Tower. There was a short line into the park and we drove the three miles up to the trailhead where we luckily scored a parking spot. We donned our hiking boots and although I wanted to do the 2.8 mile lower loop around Devil’s Tower we opted for the 1.9 mile upper loop due to the time. What a fabulous hike it was with great views from various angles of what is revered by the Lakota Indians as a spiritual place. We can see why after our hike…

Leaving Devil’s Tower we headed back east and stopped in Deadwood SD another town that has changed a lot but at least kept the old town feeling it always had. It is definitely a tourist centered town now with lots of shops and several casinos. We did take a small break to visit one casino and let’s just say we left a small donation to help support their economy.

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From Deadwood we drove down Spearfish Canyon. What I like most about this place is the change from mostly Ponderosa Pine to species of fir and spruce typically found at higher elevations. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls which we thought was apropos since our daughter was that day having her bridal portraits taken back in Raleigh NC.


Another long drive back into Rapid City and our day seeing lots of sights we stopped in at great little spot called Paddy O’Neill’s for their Sunday all-day half priced drafts. There we enjoyed a nice Deschutes Fresh Hopped IPA…. A perfect ending to an eventful day…

NOTE: We are in Wall South Dakota this morning but leave today for Fort Thompson SD for a couple of days…