We left Ely on June 21 to continue our rv adventures, heading east on Route 1 which took us to Route 61. We went south this time, toward Duluth. We stopped at Tettegouche State Park and hiked out to Shovel Point, high up on the cliffs. There are amazing views of Lake Superior from this point – I still couldn't get my mind around the fact that it’s a lake, not an ocean!
We spent two nights at the Wal-Mart in Duluth and took some time to explore. We wandered through Leif Erickson Park where the lilacs, wild roses and pinks were in full bloom - the smell was divine. From the park, we saw one of the big ore ships leaving the harbor, fully loaded and riding low on the water.
On June 23 we arrived in Nerstrand Big Woods where we spent a little over a month in a lovely shaded spot at the edge of the woods. On Sundays, the park emptied out, leaving just a few of us campers during the week – on Friday afternoons it filled up again with weekend rv adventurers.
With few exceptions, the weather was terrific, so we walked almost every morning in the woods and again in the evening. One day, heading out to do errands, we saw three adult wild turkeys and 17 little ones crossing the road. The little ones were so funny as they scurried across; one laggard had to be fetched by an adult.
The corn was “knee-high by the 4th of July” so the farmers were happy. The green fields of corn, oats and soybeans stretched as far as the eye could see. When the wind blew, it was like waves crossing the fields. Wild oats and timothy grass lined the roads and the ferns were waist high in the woods.
We visited Wabasha, on the banks of the Mississippi. This was the first town settled west of the Mississippi and is the oldest town in MN. Wabasha is also where much of the filming of “Grumpy Old Men” was done. It is home to the National Eagle Center where we saw three big bald eagles and one golden eagle – all had been injured, and were unable to fly. They were quite magnificent!
Robert sold his pickup truck and traded his boat for a trailer with ramps to carry his Toyota Highlander. I was very glad to have my standard shift Corolla – unloading and reloading his car on the trailer is a lot more complicated than unhitching mine. I like to keep my rv adventures simple!
On August 4, we left MN at last. The corn was now well over our heads and we had eaten it several times – so tender and sweet, fresh from the farmers!
We had been living just in my RV since
heading up to Ely, leaving Robert’s parked in Skip’s meadow, but now we
headed off to S. Dakota with both of them. Even though two of us having rv
adventures in a 27' rig sometimes got a little claustrophobic,
traveling with both rigs was starting to make less and less sense. He
put a For Sale sign in the window of his, so we will see what happens.
We spent three nights at an RV park in Sioux Falls where I took care of getting my SD driver’s license and registered to vote. I'd had SD plates on both the car and RV since the end of May.
I was expecting Sioux Falls to be some sort of fancy cowtown, but it turned out to be a very cosmopolitan city – great restaurants, active arts community, great medical center, etc. We were both happily surprised.
The falls for which the city is named are on the Big Sioux River – several levels of the river run through a park, and are surrounded by cliffs and outcroppings of pink quartzite (also called jasper or pipestone).
We left Sioux Falls and spent one night at Oahe State Park, just below the dam on the Missouri River – a pretty location, but the mosquitoes were fierce.
On August 9, our rv adventure took us across some lovely rolling hills on Hwy 14. We saw lots of wheat fields, cows and horses, stacks of beehives, and a field of sunflowers. The wheat fields here were more golden than those in MN – durum wheat, Robert said. There were great rolls of hay in the fields, sometimes scattered across as though tossed by a giant, other times grouped together or stacked in long rows.
We also saw an unbelievable number of motorcycles; this was the week of the big rally in Sturgis, SD. We stopped in Wall and went to Wall Drug for lunch. Wall Drug is a famous landmark and it looked like all the motorcyclists had stopped for lunch there, too.
Later that afternoon we arrived at Badlands National Park where we stayed for four nights. National Parks are great for seniors – we got free entrance with a Golden Age pass and 50% off camping fees, so our cost was just $5/night! There are no hookups at this park, but there is water available to fill the tank, restrooms (no showers) and a dump station.
The scenery was incredible in the badlands - a wonderful place for an rv adventure. We hiked and drove, saw lots of mule deer and got great photos.
One evening a ranger gave a presentation at the amphitheatre near our campsite, showing photos taken of the stars through a telescope. At 10 pm, all the lights were turned off and we enjoyed an astronomy lesson.
The Badlands are in one of the rapidly shrinking areas of really dark skies. Even with a pretty bright half moon, we could see the Milky Way, and the ranger pointed out several of the major constellations. We also got to see a rattlesnake that had crawled up onto the concrete to catch toads and bugs under one of the little lights along the path. The ranger encouraged the snake to go elsewhere, which it did, rattling angrily as it slithered away. I hoped we wouldn't see too many of these during our rv adventures.
On August 12, we left the Badlands and drove to Hart Ranch, a wonderful member-owned RV resort at the foot of the Black Hills Nat’l Forest, just south of Rapid City. We took advantage of a promotional price for a 3-night, 4-day stay, during which time we were told about all the advantages of membership. The amenities are great here – there’s a lodge, an Olympic pool, tennis courts, WiFi, water aerobics, etc. The air is dryer here and the nights have been cool – it’s lovely and quiet and well cared for. We both felt we could happily stay here for a month or so in spring and/or fall.
I swam laps early in the morning a couple of times, having the pool all to myself which was delightful. Ellsworth AFB was about 10 miles away – Robert is retired AF, so he had access to everything there. The only negative news we heard about this area is that it is prone to summer hailstorms.
We visited nearby Custer State Park three times on a 7-day
pass and saw lots of antelope, buffalo, prairie dogs, and white-tailed
deer. We loved the park, and took lots of photos. We also visited Mt Rushmore
(where we caught sight of some mountain goats) and Crazy Horse, each of them quite
We did join the ranch and stayed for three weeks, during which time I got a fishing license. Since I was a legal resident of SD, it was very inexpensive for me to get licensed - not so for Robert so he cheered from the bank while I stood in the middle of the creek. My best catch was a 14” rainbow trout – it was delicious!
One day we took a trip to Hill City, population ~1300 and most of them artists, I think – there were eight art galleries. Another day we took the scenic byway up to Spearfish and stopped in Deadwood on the way back to leave some of Robert’s money in the casino.
There was plenty to do around the Rapid City area, but more rv adventures were waiting and we were getting anxious to be on our way.