Yesterday we closed out our first month on the road. Donna and I talked about how the time seems a bit warped. On one hand, it seems like the month flew by. On the other hand, when we think about all of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve visited and the things we’ve seen, it doesn’t seem possible that it all happened in only a month’s time.
I am humbled by the fact that more than 4,000 hits were recorded on this blog at the end of our first month. I hope our readers will continue to follow our travels and find our adventures interesting.
Yesterday I rode the scooter to Rapid City. I went to the Black Hills Credit Union to deposit checks. This has been an ongoing quest since we picked up our mail in Madison. The Black Hills Credit Union is affiliated with my credit union in Michigan. I made the 19-mile ride feeling confident that this task would finally be completed.
Along with my checks I brought my Genisys Credit Union debit card, the bank routing number and my checking account number. To my dismay, the teller asked for my credit union member identification number. She couldn’t help me without that number! After a couple of failed attempts I was able to contact Donna and get my member identification number. Attempting to deposit these checks has really tested my patience. The people here in South Dakota are so friendly and genuinely apologetic when they can’t help and that makes it easy for me to keep cool.
When I returned from the credit union, Donna was working on her newsletter. She was having trouble with the formatting for viewing via smart phone. I don’t know how that works, but apparently there are certain things that have to be specially formatted to be viewed properly on a smart phone.
After eight or nine test versions were sent to my phone, she was still finding errors. I was getting impatient. It was after 11am, I was hungry and wanted to head toward Mt. Rushmore and get something to eat along the way. Donna decided to take a break and finish the formatting after we returned from our sightseeing trip.
During Donna’s early morning walk, she talked to the owner of the Heartland RV park (where we are staying). He gave her tips on which route to take to Mt. Rushmore and other sights to see. He told her I should stop by the office and he would give me a map.
While Donna was working I walked to the campground office around 10:30am. It was closed with a sign on the door saying they would return at 11:00am. There was a UPS driver at the door making a delivery. I talked to him and he suggested taking route 40 to Keystone, then go up the hill to Mt. Rushmore. He described Keystone as a “tourist town.”
I went back to office at 11:00am and found a note saying they would be back at 11:30! I gave up on getting a map of the local attractions and decided to follow the UPS driver’s advice. We rolled out of here a little after 11:00am. Route 40 was a scenic ride on a smooth winding road that gained elevation over the 20-mile ride to Keystone.
When we entered Keystone, I saw a sign that said the population was 397. As we rode through the town at 30mph, it didn’t look like a “tourist town” at all. It looked rather shabby and run down. With a population of 397, I didn’t think it would extend more than a few blocks. I was really hungry at this point and stopped at the first place that offered food.
We went into an establishment that was a combination antique/junk dealer, bar and restaurant. I use the term restaurant very loosely. The man behind the counter said he had pulled pork but it was cold (apparently he had only just turned on the crockpots) or he could serve us pizza. This wasn’t a good start to our day trip. Donna asked if there were any other places to eat nearby. To my surprise he said we just needed to go up the road to the “new Keystone.” Apparently we were in “old Keystone.”
A half mile up the road we found the “tourist town” the UPS driver described. The new Keystone is a couple of blocks of buildings with old west facades. It has numerous restaurants and shops including the usual souvenir shops and of course, Black Hills gold jewelry.
We had lunch at the Red Garter Saloon and were entertained by the staff and cowboy re-enactments in the street. We walked up and down the street to take it all in before we rode up to see Mt. Rushmore. My take on it is this; the “old Keystone” is where the population of 397 lives. The “new Keystone” is where they work. Without the new Keystone there wouldn’t be much reason to live in old Keystone.
When we entered the Mt. Rushmore parking lot we stopped at a toll booth and were charged $11 to park. I guess they justify the $11 fee by telling us it’s good for a whole year. I forgot about my National Parks Pass; actually I didn’t realize it would cover parking fees.
I remembered visiting Mt. Rushmore when I was kid in 1967. Things change over 46 years. My recollection is of an open parking lot and short walk to the viewing pavilion. There were telescopes that cost a dime for three minutes of viewing.
Today there’s a parking deck. The walk to the pavilion is longer and there are more buildings. They have the flags of the fifty states of the union displayed. You can rent headphones for an audio tour. There’s a trail you can hike called the Presidential Trail. The 10 cent telescopes cost 50 cents now.
My recollection might be flawed after all this time, but it seems to me that the sculptures have deteriorated. I remember being struck by the way Teddy Roosevelt was depicted with wire rim glasses. Now the wire rims are barely there. That’s not to say it isn’t still an an awesome sight. It’s incredible. It’s also an American icon with international appeal. We heard a few different languages spoken among the crowd there.
From there we made the 11-mile ride to the Crazy Horse monument. This is another impressive sight. It’s a work in progress and won’t be finished in my lifetime. We backtracked to the Hwy 16 junction and followed it to Custer State Park and the Needles Highway.
At this point we were over 6,000 feet above sea level. The RV park we’re staying at is about 3,500 feet above sea level. The route we followed into Custer State Park was a winding road with tight switchbacks. The first switchbacks had speed advisories of 15mph. Then we saw 10mph as the switchbacks tightened. Eventually there was a switchback marked 5mph! This road was steep and tight. I wouldn’t want to take an RV up it.
We stopped at Sylvan Lake. I can’t describe the beauty of this lake. It was so peaceful and an awe inspiring sight. From there we rode the Needles Highway. This road has a few tunnels that are one lane, only 8 feet wide and about 12 feet high. At one tunnel we saw a tour bus inching its way through! The driver had to fold the mirrors in for clearance. I don’t know how he made it.
We saw a mountain goat with two kids along the roadside. I also saw a bull bison five feet off the road (somehow Donna missed seeing him). We stopped at scenic overlooks with vistas beyond description. We took a break for ice cream at a shop along the way. Donna was gushing over the sights she had seen. She’s loving our new home state. I wish I could find the words to describe this magical place. I’ll just have to say, you must visit the Black Hills and Custer State Park.
Today will be a maintenance day rather than a tourist day. I’ll ride to Rapid City for groceries and do laundry here at the park. I also need to lube the rams on the hydraulic jacks and slide outs on our motorhome. Maybe I’ll find an interesting book to read at the campground office.
Tomorrow, we’ll pack up and head to Wyoming.