Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks

I’m on the 10th day of my 6-wk Swing Around the USA, which I should probably rename “Zoom Around the USA.” On travel days, I’m driving between 215 and 297 miles a day, not counting the first leg from Pasadena to Zion, which was 433 miles. I’m paying between $2.77 and $3.59/gal for gas depending on how remote I am. I thought I would boondock more, but so far I’ve had only one free night. The free view over the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was amazing, but I wasn’t very comfortable with the isolation. Feeling less brave, I look first for state park campgrounds, which are gorgeous and inexpensive ($12 to $24 so far), then RV Parks ($33 to $45). I’ve only had to dump my tanks once. I prefer my own coffee to anything I can buy out and eat lots of fruit and granola for breakfast. In order to eat plenty of veggies, I cook most of my dinners. Cooking and eating outdoors is a nice thing to do at the end of a day of driving and sightseeing.

Yesterday I started with Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. It offers two highlights: The “Park” itself is a calming, preserved prairie complete with buffalo and prairie dogs.

Under the park, like a subway maze, is one of the world’s most complicated and extensive natural caves. The native Americans thought it was the Source, where buffalo came from. 436 miles have been explored so far by daring people who like crawling through dark, tiny spaces. In the 1800s, all they had were candles to guide them in, and string to lead them out. It’s thought only 20% of the network has been seen so far.

Though I overcame my fear of heights to drive the 12000-foot-high trail over Rocky Mountain NP, my even worse claustrophobia and the excuse not to leave Annie in the car too long (there was an hour wait for the Cave tour and the tour itself takes an hour) led me to the 20-minute movie in the visitor center auditorium.

To get from Wind Cave NP to Badlands NP, also in South Dakota, I wiggled through the pine-covered Black Hills in Custer State Park.

Like every National Park I have seen so far, Badlands offers sights you can’t see anywhere else in the world. The 45-mile drive through the canyons of its white mountains kept me saying “WOW”.

At the end of the drive is a campground but off limits to rigs over 18 feet. Ramsey is 20.5 feet. However, not much farther down the road is a tourist spot I’m glad I didn’t miss. The little town of Wall has two RV Resorts. The reviews on the app AllStays, which I frequently use to find places to park, praised Sleepy Hollow RV Resort, which is where we are now.

It’s very nice and friendly, and only a short walk away from the real highlight of this town, Walls Drugs, a super touristy mall of shops offering everything from cowboy boots to ice cream to BBQ beef sandwiches to silver decorate rifles.

I now have two days to get to St. Paul, Minnesota. My National Parks map says that Pipestone National Monument is about halfway.

Wyoming and Nebraska

I made it through the Mohave Desert without melting and toured Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches, and Rocky Mountain National Parks with my jaw dropped in awe — snapping photos all the way. I then downloaded the pix to my computer. But none of the gorgeous campgrounds have wifi that allows for me to upload the pix from my computer to this blog, so I’ll recap those days with videos when I get home. Here’s one of Bryce that escaped the download.

And this one of Ramsey my second night. I boondocked overlooking the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Boy, was that sunset spectacular!

Today I visited Fort Laramie (the covered wagon) and the (in most cases cast copies of) 19-million-year-old bones of Miocene period animals on display at Agate Fossil National Monument in Nebraska, from where the bones were excavated.

The drives between each destination have been equally exciting. Even these vast expanses of prairie.

Now Ramsey is hooked up at campsite number 67 at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford Nebraska amidst a gaggle of vintage camper trailers owned by Sisters on the Fly. (12000 women members who meet up for fun events all around the country. Eighty will be here this week. I took a tour of their cute, theme-decorated trailers. Check them out on YouTube if you have never heard of them.) My silver spaceship seems quite plain in comparison.

On to Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks tomorrow. I’m due in St Paul MN Friday night.

Back to rambling. …….

Mission Accomplished in Pasadena

Pasadena-sm

It’s roughly 400 miles from Marin County to Pasadena, a trip I take nearly every month because my daughter and two of my grandsons live there. To pass the time on the boring, straight, Interstate 5, I watch YouTube videos. Yes, it’s safe. The iPhone is propped up at eye level and I watch things that require more listening than looking. I’m addicted to the videos about Tiny Houses. I don’t know why except that I’ve always been interested in architecture, fitting things into small spaces, and living minimally.

Map San Rafael to Pasadena

Not only did I want to see my family before departing on a six-week road trip across the country, but I wanted to deliver to them their dog, Basil (pronounced like the name Basil Rathbone). He had been with me for a couple of months while his family was on vacation.

Basil was happy to be home, and I had a great time being Nanna. The LA Zoo is a lot of fun to see through the eyes of a four-year-old.

zoo

Tomorrow I drive through the tough part, miles and miles of lonely desert. I take the same road east toward Zion National Park that I took a few months ago heading west from Death Valley National Park. The desert has its own beauty, but driving through it can be hot and tedious. YouTube may not be an option if my cell service doesn’t work.

BTW. Before I left home, I upgraded my AAA membership to ‘premium,’ just in case Ramsey breaks down far from a service station.

Map Pasadena to Zion NP

Revised Route for my USA Swing

2018 Swing around the USA Map

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of my goals for purchasing Ramsey was/is to see all the National Parks within the contiguous United States before I turn 76. I reached the goal of visiting all the California NPs within the first year – not counting the Channel Islands, which I had already visited. Nine years to go. I added the locations of the National Parks to my initial draft of the route for my upcoming swing around the country and made a few alterations. I only have nine days to get from Pasadena to St. Paul, Minnesota. There are a lot of National Parks on the way. Doubt I’ll make it to all of them.

Getting Ready for a Swing around the US

2018-AugSep-US-Roadtrip

Hi. I am getting Ramsey ready to take a six-week road trip around the US. First I’ll drive from San Francisco to Pasadena to deliver my daughter’s dog, Basil. He’s been staying with Annie and me while his family was on their summer vacation. From Pasadena, Annie and I will drive to Vermont for my niece’s wedding, passing through Minnesota. There is someone very important I want to see in St. Paul. After the wedding in Vermont, I will take the Henry Knox Trail from Westfield, Mass, where I left off in June, to Cambridge. I have a box full of my book, Henry’s Big Kaboom, so I can hand them out to all the libraries along the trail. From Massachusetts, I’ll travel through Virginia to Memphis, then west and home again. I picked up a stack of maps from AAA yesterday.

As part of my preparations, I dedicated this WordPress blog to just my travels in Ramsey. I’ve renamed the blog and given it a new banner. I also made this little video. What do you think?

I will create a different blog about my book writing later.

The Dodge mechanic gave Ramsey a thumbs up after his 16,000-mile check-up. I’ve washed the rugs and taken everything out of the drawers and lockers I don’t use. I emptied the gray and black tanks and washed them out with a power hose. Now all I have to do is fill up with water and propane and pack.

One hitch is that I realized too late that my passport has expired. Crossing my fingers, I have an appointment with the office in downtown San Francisco to see if I can get an update before my departure in two weeks. Otherwise, I won’t be able to swing through Canada on my way from Minneapolis to Vermont as I want to.

If anyone has suggestions about what to see along my proposed route, let me know in the comments section. That’s it for now.

 

Lighthouse Road Trip – Epilogue

Ann Delfin sent me the group photo that our PleasureWay RV group took of ourselves on the last night of our nine-day rolling rally. Here it is.

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally - Group Shot

PleasureWay RV Club Lighthouse Rolling Rally – Group Shot

Here is a map showing the lighthouses and RV Campgrounds we visited.

Lighthouse Rolling Rally

And here is the whole trip starting in Anacortes compiled into a 25-minute YouTube video.

Thanks again Tim O’Malley for organizing everything.

Death Valley, not a great place for an old dog.

A trip I intended to last five days turned into a three-day dash to, through, and from Death Valley. Annie, my fourteen-year-old corgi, did not do well in the heat, which is why I cut the trip short. It was still an amazing get-out-to-see-my-country experience. Here’s the vlog.

And here’s the route.

RouteToDeathValley