Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 139: Downtown Rapid City

August 31, 2014

Today was cloudy early with strong thunderstorms and heavy rain this afternoon. The temperature never got out of the 50's today. At 4:00 this afternoon when we walked Scout after the storm had gone through it was 55. Tonight we have the heat on again.

We went to the contemporary service at First UMC in Rapid City this morning. We enjoyed the service and found the people to by very friendly and welcoming. Today's sermon was part of their summer series entitled "Posts, Tweets and Selfies from Our Journey with Jesus." We visited with the senior pastor, Greg Kroger, after the service for a while and enjoyed that time as well.

After services we went to Rapid City Historic District to walk the area of the City of Presidents. In 1998 a local resident envisioned The City of Presidents in Rapid City, in which a life sized bronze statue of each US president would be placed on each corner of downtown Rapid City. The project was completed in 2010. Each of the sculptures was privately funded, and the pattern of placement was chosen to eliminate any sense of favoritism or political gain. We didn't go see them all but did go see Theodore Roosevelt since we saw the performance a few days ago, then just walked several blocks seeing a sampling of the sculptures and looking for ones of special significance.
John F. Kennedy holds a special place in the minds of the men and women of the US Army Special Forces since he is the president who authorized the green beret as their official headgear. As a result, the US Army Special Warfare Center and School bears his name.

It was a nice day for this walk downtown but the sky was beginning to look worse so we headed back to the truck and lunch.
Art Alley is a place downtown where artists are allowed to express themselves.

It was Sunday afternoon so that called for a little nap and some reading while the storms went through. We also worked on some route planning for the trip to Branson.

That's about it for today. Tomorrow we plan to do a little more work around the camp. Hope everyone has a safe holiday tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 138: Another work day at Storm Mountain

August 30, 2014

It was another beautiful day in South Dakota. We did have a nasty thunderstorm late this afternoon, but otherwise a beautiful day. The morning temp was 60 degrees and warmed up quickly.

We had planned to hike to the top of Storm Mountain, but today turned into another work day. Since we couldn't get the part for the front AC we had to put it back together without repairing, so it would be stable for the drive. Then we took a break to play some ping pong. Fun. Back at the motor home for lunch it was hot enough we had to turn on the rear AC. Been a long time since we needed that. We then found that the back AC condensation wasn't draining properly. Back onto the roof to work on the rear AC. Had to get that one working properly because of the weather forecast for next week. Fortunately, the condensation drain was just clogged so we were able to clear that and everything was working again. YEA! We are so blessed to be able to do some of this work ourselves. It would be expensive and take a lot longer to get someone else to do some of these minor repairs. Then there was more ping pong and some exercise for Scout. He sure is enjoying it here. He gets to walk off leash part of the time and gets to stay outside by the coach. He is a happy boy.

Tomorrow we plan to go back to First United Methodist downtown Rapid City. We visited here last May and enjoyed it so are looking forward to another visit. We have some other plans for tomorrow, but will have to see how that works out with the weather. We will try to have some pictures from Rapid City tomorrow.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 137: Beautiful Day at Storm Mountain

August 29, 2014

This morning it was 60 degrees – the warmest AM temp we have had in a while. It was a beautiful day – blue skies and sunshine, a light breeze and not too hot. Don't know what the actual high was today but it was a wonderful day to be outside.

We started of the morning going into Rapid City looking for a replacement part for the front air conditioner. Leaving the camp, before we got to the highway we saw 9 turkeys. There are also mule deer hanging around. Some of the staff have seen a mountain lion here, but we still haven't seen one. Maybe before we leave here next week??

Those of you that have been following us know that back in Alaska while we were staying at Denali RV Park the front AC/Heat Pump started making a horrific noise during the middle of the night. We haven't needed that unit because we have another in the rear of the coach and we have a gas furnace. Since we are here for a few days, Max decided to take the unit apart and discovered the needed part but none of the local RV repair facilities have it in stock. Dakota RV said that they had some old units out back and we were welcome to come see if we could get the part we needed from one of those units. We met a very nice man there this morning who even went outside with us helping to take some units a part to hopefully salvage our part. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We will have to order the part and have it shipped to Alabama. That means we will continue with only one air conditioner. It has been no problem so far but...we are now going to be heading south. Hopefully no 100 degree days.

After running a few other errands we returned to camp. Another let down. The replacement tow bar still had not arrived. We called Demco again and discovered that it had never been shipped! We had been promised it would be here by Wednesday. It's Friday and it hasn't even been shipped. After once again explaining the situation they promised to overnight the bar but since it is Friday and Monday is a holiday, they promised it by Tuesday. We shall see. We have no choice, otherwise we will each be driving all the way back – and paying for the gas for the truck. We shall enjoy the weekend and expect the tow bar Tuesday.

After taking care of all of that stuff we spent the afternoon doing some little projects around the camp. We worked on some doors that weren't closing correctly and hand rails that we wobbling. Otherwise we got Scout some good exercise and just enjoyed a beautiful day in the wonderful Black Hills of South Dakota. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 136: Storm Mountain Center

August 28, 2014

It was 56 degrees this morning – warmer as we are moving a little further south. It was cloudy early but later in the day we had blue skies and sun. Nice day.

Today was a day of rest, relaxation, laundry, visiting with friends and some work on the rig. Max took the air conditioner apart that quit back in Alaska. Tomorrow he will go back to town to look for parts. Got to get ready for that Alabama heat. We also drove into Rockerville so Max could make a conference call for Blount County 9-1-1. We sat outside the Gas Light Restaurant while that was going on. We will have to go there for dinner one night because the food smells so good. Scout stayed outside most of the day. We think he was tired of having to be inside so much lately.  That's about it for today.

The broken part

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 135: Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Storm Mountain Center

August 27, 2014

This is morning it was again chilly with a temperature of 47 degrees and again foggy.  The fog burned off quickly and then we had clear blue skies.  Of course it was beautiful.  We had to leave today. 
View from Fred's door this morning

Today was a travel day from Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Storm Mountain Center (SMC) - near Rapid City, SD.  Some of you will remember that we stopped at SMC on the way to Alaska in May.  We spent almost 2 weeks here at that time helping the with various projects and enjoying the great people and location.  The drive was in great weather until we had almost arrived and then it looked rather stormy.  The rain held off until we were parked and set up so that was nice.  Part of the day with the sun coming in the windshield we had to drive with the air conditioner on.  That was only about the second time this summer we have used the air conditioner.  We really couldn't get but a couple of pictures today because we were each driving since we don't have the replacement tow bar yet.  Hopefully tomorrow.  

The drive was through primarily flat farm country with an occasional hill.  They were growing sunflowers, hay, corn and some other crops we couldn't identify.  The small towns seemed even further apart today with miles and miles of farm land.  We also herds of cattle and flocks of sheep.  Also saw several groups of pronghorns. 
What we saw most of the day, and the windshield was clean when we started.

We saw acres and acres of sunflowers and even saw a cropduster spraying some of them.

It was great to arrive back here at Storm Mountain.  It was almost like coming home since this was the last place we spent time before leaving the lower 48.  It was great to see Steve and Pink and Ashley again.  Scott is away on a trip right now.  We will miss seeing him. 

We have no cell phone coverage here most of the time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 134: A Fun Day in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

August 26, 2014

This morning was extremely foggy with a temperature of 46 degrees. So much for the weather forecast of sunny skies. The fog lifted around 9:00, but it was still cloudy. Around 10:00 there started to be some breaks with some blue skies and sun.

We decided to go ahead with our plans to hike to the Petrified Forest in the north-west portion of the park. Shortly after leaving the campground we saw some more wild horses, this time right next to the road. They sure look healthy.

We could have hiked to the Petrified Forest from the campground but that would have been 16 miles so we elected to drive to a trail that was within about 1.5 miles of the forest. See we are not totally crazy. By the time we arrived at the trail head it was a gorgeous day. All the rain the past three days made for a very muddy trail and our boots were soon pretty heavy with mud. We are very glad we did not attempt this yesterday. Today, with the sun, the trail was drying out pretty quickly. It was interesting that we were in the Badlands with the rocky hills, and then hiked over a ridge top where there was a total change and we were in the grasslands. This was still some rough walking with the knee to waist high grasses. We were not really sure what to expect. We have been to some petrified trees and forests in some different areas and at times have been really underwhelmed. Saw things that we certainly couldn't identify and the skeptic in us really wondered about. Today was different. The sign at the trail head said that this area 60 million years ago was much like today's everglades filled with Cyprus trees. When we arrive at the petrified trees, we could actually tell they used to be Cyprus tree stumps. It was really neat. So we hiked around a while. Took lots of pictures of the petrified stumps and the area in general. Then we hiked back out. We both agreed we really enjoyed the hike and would recommend it.
Muddy Trail


One thing we learned about the soil here is that the top layer dries quickly but just under the surface is very slick mud.
After the petrified forest hike, we went to the east side of the park to the Painted Canyon. Wow! Another beautiful location and lots more pictures were required. This was really just a large viewing area of the canyons and all different the colors in the rocks.

Since everything we were doing today was within the National Park and they don't allow dogs on any of their trails we then went back to Fred to get Scout and take him on a good walk around the campground. He was very appreciative. That's it for today. Tomorrow drive both vehicles to Storm Mountain Center (Rapid City, SD) to visit with our friends there (and hopefully our new tow bar will arrive within a day or two).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 133: Scenic Loop Road, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

August 25, 2014

This morning it was a cold, damp 48 degrees. The forecast was for clearing skies and a pretty day. It was not to be. We had some additional rain early this morning. The wind blew all night long, but did quieten down by around 10:00 am. We decided we would go ahead and do the Scenic Loop drive knowing that the lighting was going to be poor for pictures.

We stopped for the first prairie dog town and took pictures even though the critters were not as active as we have seen in the past. We think they were cold too. We shot some videos but the wind covered up all their little squeaks. They are fun to watch, but we think there are a nuisance around here.

The Scenic Loop is indeed scenic. We enjoyed it enough we will probably do it again tomorrow if the sun is out where all the colors will stand out better. This area is really beautiful – in a rustic sort of way.

In addition to the prairie dogs we saw lots of bison. These animals are so big – over 2000 pounds and cause frequent injuries to tourists who don't respect their space. There are more injuries from bison each year than grizzlies. Once today they were blocking the roadway for a good while, but we were afraid they might gore the truck if we tried to go through the herd. We also saw the wild horses that North Dakota Badlands are known far. Good looking animals. Along the loop we stopped and did a few short hikes with trail heads off the loop.
Bison jam
We always like seeing the little ones
This young fellow was not happy with the pesky birds

After completing the loop, we came back to Fred and grilled out for dinner and then went back out on the loop to watch the sunset. It was pretty, but certainly not the most colorful one we have seen. However, we have seen very few sunsets this summer so we enjoyed this one and it gave us the opportunity to get some practice with our cameras.

That's about it for today. It will probably be more of similar tomorrow although weather permitting we do plan on some additional hiking.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 132: Medora, ND

August 24, 2014

Today's high was at about midnight last night. It was 59 when we got up and was down to 53 at 1:30 and will continue to fall into the 40s tonight. We discussed it with a ranger today at the Visitors Center for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He said that 2 weeks ago it was “hot” (mid-seventies, low eighties) and humid. It is actually suppose to be back up into the mid seventies or low eighties by the end of the week. Of course we won't be here then. We are currently (6:30pm) running our furnace. It's just so damp.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Sunday. We are so blessed in this country to be able to worship. With all the atrocities in the world we should never take that freedom for granted. Thank you to all who have or are serving in our military. We would also appreciate prayers for safety for our nephew (Marine), who has been “repositioned” to Iraq – again. Also, remember his wife, 2 very young children and his Dad. We again today listened to our home church's message, Lester Memorial in Oneonta. Being able to download the message each week has been such a blessing while we have been gone so long. We will certainly be glad to see everyone there in a few weeks.

The forecast was for improving weather today and we had thought we might drive the “loop” looking for wildlife. However, when it became apparent it was not going to improve we decided to drive into Medora and explore the little town. It is a quaint little place with lots of tourist shops with everything having a classic western flare. Theodore Roosevelt moved here when he left New York to be a cattle rancher after his wife died secondary to the birth of their first child in 1884. Roosevelt evidently loved being a “cowboy” and living in this area of the country. He appreciated it's rough beauty.

The rope was wet
While in Medora we went to a performance in the Old Town Hall Theater by Joe Wiegand, the world's premiere Theodore Roosevelt reprisor.  He is amazing at portraying President Roosevelt. He tells first person stories of Roosevelt as a young boy, a young adult, a Rough Rider, and as President. We are so glad we treated ourselves to this “show” on this rainy afternoon. We just happened to meet him before the show as we entered the building to purchase tickets as he was arriving. We greeted him “good afternoon, Mr. President” when we met in the doorway and so he just started talking to us. He found out where we were from and he knew about Joe Wheeler State Park and Wildlife Refuge. He even added a story to the performance about General Joe Wheeler just for us. He told us he would do that but we thought he had forgot, but just before he closed and started taking questions from the audience he turned to us and talked about General Wheeler. Cool!

After the show we stopped by Badlands Pizza and Saloon for some very good pizza and sarsaparilla before driving back to the campground.

First time we have ever tried Sarsaparilla. It's similar to root beer, but not the same.

Hopefully tomorrow's forecast will be correct and we will be able to get out into the Park some. We did see some of the wild horses today as we were leaving the park but they were too far away for photographs. For those that have asked, we will be in contact with Demco tomorrow and hope they can ship the new tow bar to Storm Mountain in South Dakota so it will be there Tuesday or Wednesday. We could not get it shipped to the Park here. Hope everyone has a great week!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Day 131: Rainy and Restful Day in the Park

August 23, 2014

It started raining during the night and rained all day today.  Yesterday was a long drive and tiring day with the tow bar coming apart so we elected to just stay inside, watch some movies, read and rest.  The rain did finally stop about 4:00 this afternoon so we walked around the campground and took some pictures.  It is a very nice park and we are looking forward to exploring it when the weather improves.  That may not be until Monday, but the forecast for tomorrow afternoon is a little better.  We shall see.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 130: Havre, MT to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

August 22, 2014

Thanks to everyone for the nice happy anniversary wishes!

We were up at 5:30 this morning so we could leave about 6:00. It was 59 degrees. It really didn't cool down overnight as it was 60 when we went to bed. It was overcast as we were leaving but before 7:00 it was raining and it rained most of the day. We had road construction as we were leaving Havre but that was about it for the day, with no travel delays. No more construction until we reached Theodore Roosevelt National Park where the last three miles to the Cottonwood Campground is being repaired and is a muddy mess today. Our poor vehicles. They haven't been really clean for much of the summer.

Again today we stopped for breakfast at a little historical roadside pull off after we had been driving for about two hours. Glad we weren't planning to eat outside because you could see the mosquitoes swarming.
Breakfast stop, finally.

Today's drive was primarily through miles and miles of farm land. There were small agricultural centered communities scattered out along our route. We noticed one Chevrolet dealer who was also a tractor dealer. We saw huge fields, acres and acres of what we think was barley. Then massive fields of sunflowers and hay. The road was primarily straight and flat as we drove to the eastern border of Montana and entered North Dakota on I-94.
Montana scenery
Acres and acres of sunflowers
North Dakota scenery was a little more interesting
Just inside ND. Didn't see any deer or antelope, it was cloudy all day and the discouraging word from the weather service is that will rain for a few days.
Today we had our first major problem of the trip. It was very scary and could have been been tragic. We were driving on a narrow 2 lane road (of course with 70 mph speed limit, but we were not going that fast) with basically no shoulders when we felt and heard something different, but didn't know what it was. Fortunately we have made a habit of always driving with the backup camera on so that we can keep and eye on the pickup. Immediately Max could see that the tow bar that goes between Fred and the truck wasn't right and the truck was starting to pull to the side. The passenger side arm of the tow bar had come apart.
Fortunately the built in safety cable kept the truck in line and Max was able to keep everything under control and bring us to a safe stop. However, we were still in the highway because there was no where to get off. Again we were blessed that there was very little traffic. We got out of Fred, saw what had happened and quickly disconnected the truck from the rig and put the broken piece in the truck so we could move down the road to a safe place to pull off and figure our what was going on. Only 4 vehicles came by while we were frantically working. It was probably 15 miles on down the road before we came to a grain elevator with a parking lot we could pull into. We sat down in the motor home and just thanked God for keeping us safe. Then we started trying to determine what we could do. We knew we certainly did not want to drive the truck and the motor home the rest of the way home. We called Demco, the manufacturer of the tow bar. They took our information and said they would call us back in a few minutes. When they called back and understood what had happened, they said they would ship us a new tow bar at no cost to us wherever we wanted them to send it. They would like for us, if we can, to get the old bar back to them at some point so they can try to determine exactly what caused the failure. It was bad that we had the failure, but it sure is nice when a company stands behind their product and lifetime guarantee. Even after close to 10,000 miles towing with the bar over some very rough roads.

Interestingly, we had just bragged to someone last night who was admiring the tow bar that we had towed the truck from Alabama to Alaska, all around Alaska, and were now headed back south and had not had a single problem. Today reminded Max of the times he would walk into the 9-1-1 Center and comment on how quiet it was and all the phone lines would light up.

This whole situation could have been so much worse. If Max hadn't gotten things under control the truck could have separated completely from the rig and crashed, or hit someone else. It could have happened while we were driving some of those mile high mountain passes yesterday. It could have happened in Canada. As it is, the truck and motor home are fine, we are safe, although a little rattled, and we will have to find somewhere we can stay for a few days that will accept a package for us – probably not here at the National Park. We are truly blessed and thank God, every evening when we come off the road, for keeping us safe that day. We thank all of you who check on us and pray for our safety. He is listening. Please keep praying.

We had scheduled a long driving day today and it turned into a longer day than we planned. Here's hoping for a good night's sleep.