Category Archives: South Dakota

Happy Hour

Yesterday we didn’t do any tourist activities. I took care of a few chores while Donna caught up on some work she needed to do.

After breakfast, I took a load of laundry to the campground laundromat. We have a Splendide combo washer/dryer on board, but it is limited to smaller loads. It really needs to be run every day, otherwise too much laundry piles up. The campground has full-size commercial washers and dryers, so I did all of our laundry at once.

While I was doing that I met our neighbor, Sheila Pennington. She and her husband, Charlie, have a Newmar Kountry Star motorhome a couple of sites down the road from us. They are from Hamilton, Ohio (near Cincinnati).  Sheila is just beginning her retirement and like me, she isn’t missing work at all. Charlie has an insurance agency and can work while on the road.

They’re on an extended vacation that they’ve been planning for more than a year. They will be on the road for three months. They plan to tour the northwest. Eventually they will meet friends and attend a Doobie Brothers benefit concert in Glen Ellen, California. We agreed to get together in the evening to share stories, snacks and adult beverages.

After I finished the laundry, I rode the scooter to Rapid City. I picked up a few items Donna needed at the grocery store. Finding a grocery store in Rapid City wasn’t easy. I should’ve looked online first. I thought I could cruise in to town and find a supermarket. After riding in circles in town I gave up and rode out to the store near the credit union I visited on Thursday. I knew there was a grocery store there.

I was out and about for a couple of hours. This gave Donna a chance to have some space and quiet time to get her work done. After I returned, I loaded the scooter into the trailer in preparation of today’s move. When I opened the trailer it was hot; the outside temperature was near 90. A strong wind was blowing from the south. With the trailer opened up, the wind quickly cooled it down.

Around 6PM Charlie and Sheila joined us. We sat at the picnic table in the shade and snacked. We talked for for about an hour before the flies and mosquitoes chased us indoors. I had a couple of glasses of the Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Cream Stout I picked up in Custer State Park. I thought it was a local brew, but it turns out the be brewed in Tallgrass  Brewery in Kansas.

Buffalo Seat Stout

Buffalo Seat Stout

We continued to chat in their motorhome. It’s great how we meet new friends on the road. In addition to running an insurance agency, Charlie is a musician. He plays bass guitar. We talked about music and countless other topics for another hour in their coach. He showed me a beautifully crafted guitar stand made of wood that also is an amplifier! What a great concept, perfect for use in a motorhome. I wish I’d taken a picture of it.

Donna, Sheila and Charlie

Donna, Sheila and Charlie

Charlie and Sheila will stay here over the weekend, then head west to Yellowstone. We’re leaving this morning. Our plan is to stop at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, then continue on through Gillette to Sheridan, Wyoming. Tomorrow we’ll continue on I-90 into Montana.

 

 

 

Black Hills Tourists

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.

State flags on the pavilion

State flags on the pavilion

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.

By the 25 cent telescopes

Here again after 46 years

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.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

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.

Mountain goats

Mountain goats

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.

 

Corn Palace

Yesterday was a busy day. In the morning, while I was writing my post, Donna alternated walking and running laps around the campground. When I get the urge to exercise, I usually lie down until the urge goes away. Despite this, because I’m more active throughout the day than before I retired, I’m continuing to lose weight and will need to buy new jeans with a smaller waist size.

After breakfast and showers, we left the campground at 9:15 am and rode the scooter to Mitchell. We rode north a few miles into Salem then headed west on highway 38 for 32 miles. The scenery was a recurring theme. Corn fields, then soy bean fields, then fallow land or grazing cattle punctuated by the occasional wooded plot. Repeat. The road was straight as an arrow for the most part. For me it was a boring ride, but Donna said she enjoyed the scenery.

Mitchell is bigger than Madison with a population of more than 15,000. My first order of business was to find a bank to deposit checks. We tried several banks and none of them had an ATM that would accept a deposit into my Chase account or my credit union. This is frustrating. I’m still holding the check for the sale of my BMW motorcycle.

After running through a few banks, we found the attorney’s office on Kimball Street. We walked in precisely at 10:30, our appointed time. The receptionist greeted us and knew who we were. She remembered talking to Donna about our new lifestyle and asked if we found parking for the RV. The estate planning with the attorney turned out to be a little more complicated than I anticipated. My affairs are simple, as most of my assets already have designated beneficiaries. Donna, on the other hand has passive income, such as royalties that will survive her. This requires the attorney to study her contracts before writing her will.

While we were in Mitchell, we decided to visit the Corn Palace. This is Mitchell’s main tourist attraction. I have to say it’s unique. The Corn Palace is basically a community center with an auditorium, basketball court and performing arts stage. They hold various events there. What makes it unique are the murals inside the building and decorating the exterior. These murals are made from corn. They are created with different colored ears of corn and stalks. The murals are stripped from the building and replaced with new ones every year. Admission is free unless a special event is being held.

Southwest corner of the Corn Palace

Southwest corner of the Corn Palace

We saw tour buses at the Corn Palace from Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Apparently it’s a popular stop on the tour bus routes.

Corn mural on the exterior wall

Corn murals on the exterior wall

One of many murals inside the palace made from corn

One of many murals inside the palace made from corn

We had lunch in Mitchell at Pizza Hut. Donna had the salad bar while I had pizza. It’s sad to say this was the best pizza I’ve had in a while, but it’s the truth. The place in Madison or the pub pizza in Salem was that bad.

Back at the campground Donna, e-mailed her contracts to the attorney (she had scanned them all before leaving Michigan). Then she spent the next hour doing a recorded interview for “HOW” magazine on organizing and productivity. I sat outside and watched the changing of the guard while she was on the phone.

When I say changing of the guard, I’m referring to the turnover at the campground. When we returned from Mitchell, the park was nearly empty. All afternoon I watched RVs pull in to the park and set up. This park seems to be an overnight way point for many RVers. We’ve been stationary here for six days now – a new record for us.

Today we have a change of plans. No big surprise as our plans often have a way of changing. Instead of returning to Mitchell to complete our legal matters, we’ll go back to Madison. We found out that the licensing department is open there on Tuesdays. We can obtain our new driver’s licenses and also meet with the insurance agent there. I reviewed her quote yesterday and will activate new policies.

Tomorrow we will break camp and drive west in the motorhome. We’ll make a stop in Mitchell to sign our documents at the law office, then head west toward Rapid City. This makes more sense than our original plan which had us backtracking to Madison.

I found good news online. In the Rapid City area there are several credit unions that are linked with Genisys. This means I can finally deposit my checks when we get there. I’m also hoping that when we go through the Badlands and into the Black Hills, my allergies will calm down. I’ve been miserable the past few days with itchy eyes and blocked sinuses.

Time for breakfast now and then we’re off to Madison.

Scooter Tour

Yesterday was a fairly lazy day. I wrote the blog while Donna practiced yoga. I’m suffering a bit from pollen allergies. I’m having a reaction to all pollens I was tested for – tree and grass pollens. I’m guessing the many thousands of acres of corn surrounding us are the reason.

Later in the morning, I rode the scooter over to Salem. Salem is a town of less the 1,500 people a few miles from here. I looked around Main street but it was pretty quiet. They have a park with a community pool. There appeared to be some kind of picnic event with more than 50 people at tables under a roof.

I decided to scooter over to the next town 10 miles to the east, Montrose. When I arrived there, I found it was smaller than Salem. I was hungry and looked for a place to eat. There was a restaurant but it only served dinner. The only place to get lunch was the Montrose Irish Pub. It seems like no matter where you go, you can find an Irish pub. When we were in France the the James Joyce Irish Pub was next to the Westin hotel where we stayed in Paris. They’re everywhere.

I thought it was a little early for an Irish pub, so I rode back to Salem. After searching the town for a diner, all I could find was fried chicken at the gas station/convenience store or pizza at the brew pub here. I decided it wasn’t too early for a pub after all. I could watch a little pre-season football as I washed down pizza with a pint of Guinness.

In the afternoon, Donna played piano. She has a digital keyboard that we set up in the bedroom. I set up an amp and played electric guitar for the first time since we left Lake George. I need to get back into practicing.

Later a new neighbor arrived. We chatted for a while. His name is Fred, He and his wife are from Yucaipa, California. They make an annual trip in their motorhome to visit family in Wisconsin. They’ve been doing this for the last ten years, Fred gave me a suggestion for our next campground in Hermosa, South Dakota.

Donna looked it up online and it looks like a nice place, It’s in a location that will allow us to make a day trip to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument. It’s also conveniently close to Custer State Park while being far enough away to avoid the crowds. We’ll try to book a couple of days there.

I don’t have much excitement to post about. Maybe Donna will add a post today.

Site 33 - Campground America

Site 33 – Campground America

Why South Dakota?

In the USA, every state is a sovereign in our federal system. Each state has its own laws regarding things like taxation, marriage, inheritance and so on. A domicile is the status of permanent residence in a particular jurisdiction. This doesn’t mean you have to be physically present in that jurisdiction at all times, but you must have sufficient links to that jurisdiction to prove intent to remain or return there.

There are a number of ways to establish a residence, the most common being to live in a particular jurisdiction. Since we are living a nomadic way of life for the foreseeable future, we don’t want to buy or rent a home at this time. We’re establishing our state of domicile in South Dakota by 1) having a mailing address here 2) obtaining driver’s licenses 3) registering to vote 4) registering our vehicles 5) having an attorney draw up our will 6) obtaining vehicle insurance and declaring South Dakota as our state of residence on our health insurance.

It’s important to take these steps and not leave connections in other states. The main reason for this is taxation. I wouldn’t want my last state of residence, Michigan, to collect income tax from me.

That leads to the question, why South Dakota? It works for us for the following reasons:

No State Income Tax. There are other states without state income tax such as Florida, Texas and Washington. This quickly narrowed the field of which states we wanted to domicile in.

Mail Service. South Dakota has a few businesses that are set up specifically to cater to our nomadic needs. These businesses not only collect and forward mail; they also assist with licensing, vehicle and voter registration.

Driver’s License Requirements. A South Dakota’s drivers license is fairly easy to obtain and doesn’t have restrictions or special requirements for large RVs.

Jury Duty. South Dakota may send us a notice for jury duty but they will excuse a full-time traveler.

Vehicle Insurance. South Dakota is one of least expensive places to insure a vehicle. When the 50 states are ranked by insurance cost – most expensive to least expensive – South Dakota is number 47.

* I have to add a correction here. The above statistic does not reference vehicle insurance, it’s overall insurance costs. In the vehicle category South Dakota is ranked 16th.

Residence. South Dakota requires proof of being physically present in the state for only 24 hours before you can obtain your driver’s license. Pretty easy, right?

So, yesterday we rode the scooter over to Madison. Madison is a town northwest of Sioux Falls and is home to about 6,500 permanent residents. It’s also home to a business called “My Dakota Address.” We went there first and met with the proprietor, Terri Lund. Terri gave us a pile of mail that she had already received for us and prepared our driver license and registration documents.

We weren’t able to obtain our driver’s licenses since it was Friday and they only do driver’s licensing on Thursday in Madison. We’ll complete that task on Tuesday in Mitchell. We’ll need to bring a receipt from the RV park with  both our names on it. This will provide proof of our physical presence in the state.

Our new hometoen

Our new hometown

Yesterday was unseasonably cool. The scooter ride seemed like it would never end. From the campground, we bombed north on 81 at 60 mph for about 21 miles. The roads around here are mostly straight and fairly flat. Speed limits on secondary roads are mostly 65mph. It’s all farm land. When 81 ended, we headed east at 60mph for another 13 miles before we entered town.

Donna was chilled from the ride while we met with Terri and then walked over to the courthouse on the next block. I was hoping the walk would warm her up. We paid for our vehicle registrations and were given plates for the trailer and scooter. Our RV plate will take a couple of weeks since we opted for a personalized plate. Neither Donna nor I have ever had a personalized plate before, but we went for it. We’re doing a lot things we never did before.

We strolled around, looking at our new “hometown.” We stopped at an insurance agency that Terri recommended and gave them information so they could prepare a quote. Later I applied online for a quote from an agency in Sioux Falls that specializes in RV insurance. I want to have that wrapped up before we leave. Most insurance companies have a grace period of 30 days. Since we won’t be legal residents of Michigan, our vehicle insurance policies won’t be valid for long.

The people we talked to in town were very pleasant. It’s a nice place to call home. We had lunch at a pizza place called Skippy’s. I can’t give it more than a 2.5 on a scale of 5. The service was good but the pizza was bland. After lunch we walked a around. We boarded the scooter and looked for RV friendly parking – we’ll stop back in town with our rig to pick up mail again when we leave the campground.

We stopped at the Sunshine Grocery before leaving town. Donna wanted to pick up a few things for a special “balancing” diet she’ll be on for the weekend. I’ll have leftover pizza and balance it with beer!

One of the items in our pile of mail was a check from USAA for the sale of my BMW motorcycle. We bank with Chase and Genisys Credit Union and neither have a branch in the area. I want to deposit this check into the Genisys account and park the money there in case of emergency. I’m thinking about “what if” scenarios. Like, what if I lost my Chase credit card and debit card? How would I pay for things until they were replaced? I keep my Genisys debit card separate from my other cards. That way I always have an an account I can access if I need to.

After we returned to campground, I rode back a few miles to the town of Salem. I stopped in at a credit union to see if I could deposit the check through their ATM. They didn’t have one, but they directed me to the Dakota First Bank a few blocks away. When I inquired about making the deposit there, they said an ATM would be the way to do it, but not their ATM. It doesn’t accept deposits. I’ll try on Monday at a bank in Mitchell.

We’ll hang around the campground this weekend. Monday we have an appointment with an attorney in Mitchell to set up our estate plan. Tuesday we’ll return to wrap that up and get our driver’s licenses. Wednesday we’ll be back on the road.

 

Hippies?

It’s 6:30am Friday morning. We’re in the land of my paternal ancestors – southeast South Dakota.

Wednesday, I was still a bachelor as Donna was in New York City shooting a national TV satellite media tour. I didn’t do much. I took a couple of walks around the area and explored a little on the scooter. For lunch I walked to the casino in search of a cheap meal.

I wouldn’t call the menu there cheap. Reasonable? Maybe. I had two tacos with Spanish rice for  $9. It wasn’t bad – I’d rate it a 3 on a scale 5. I’m looking forward to Roberto’s for tacos when we reach San Diego.

I read more of “Covert” by Bob Delaney and snoozed in the outdoor recliner. I decided to get a head start on packing as we would pull out of Dakotah Meadows RV Park in the morning. Before I knew it, I had almost everything loaded in the trailer and the awning secured. After taking a shower, I thought about dinner. Doh! I’d loaded the scooter in trailer and had things packed behind it.

The grill was put away and I didn’t have anything laid out for dinner anyway. So, I walked to the casino for another mediocre meal. This time it was a mushroom burger and fries. Doesn’t measure up to the meals I’m accustomed to – life with Donna means I usually eat well!

Around 9pm a text message appeared on my phone – “Outside now behind the coach.” I walked out and found Donna sitting in a Lincoln Town Car behind our site. I was happy to have her back!

Yesterday we were up around 7:30am. After coffee and yogurt I disconnected the hook-ups while Donna packed the interior. We pulled out of our site at 9am drove over to the RV wash. I pressure washed the coach and trailer, then topped up the tank. 29 gallons of unleaded at $3.37 – the cheapest we’ve had so far. It’s the first time I’d left the pump without spending over $100.

Our route took us southwest through Mankato. We hit I-90 at Worthington where we stopped at Walmart to to stock up on groceries. I don’t know what was going on there. We saw several young people in parking lot and store. They looked like “hippies” from the 60’s. Unwashed, strange clothing and hair. I must be getting old – I was one of them decades ago.

As we headed west on I-90 it got dark with heavy cloud cover. We drove through some light rain, nothing much, but enough to undo the hour I spent washing the coach and trailer. It’s what they always say – wash your car and it’s sure to rain, right?

I wanted to stop at the Welcome Center when we entered South Dakota. I’d heard good things about it – like free detailed road maps of the state and plenty of tourism brochures. Immediately after we crossed the state line there was a truck scale and rest stop. I blew by it, then realized that was the Welcome Center. Oh well.

Our site at Camp America

Our site at Camp America

We arrived at the Camp America Campground in Salem, South Dakota around 4:00pm. I booked a week here a couple of days ago. We have a large pullthrough site in the back corner. Nice! The view out our windshield is farmland with woods in the distance. Full hook-ups with 50 amp service. The weekly rate if you pay cash is $175 – that’s $25/day. Not too shabby. We’ll appreciate the 50 amp service in a couple of days. The weather forecast calls for temperatures to rise into the 90’s. With 50 amp service we can run both A/C units at the same time.

I’m getting our set-up routine down. I had the rig hooked up, leveled and slides out in no time. It was still cloudy and cool – in the upper 60’s which is very unusual at this time of year here. Today will remain cool before the temperatures rise over the weekend.

At dusk swallows (maybe they were martins) swooped through our campsite. Once again we had insectivores targeting flying bugs. Whether they’re birds or bats, I like it!

The business side of the rig - utilities hook up

The business side of the rig – utilities hook ups

Today we’ll scooter over to Madison to get our driver’s licenses and register our vehicles. We also need to change our insurance as we’ll no longer be Michigan residents. I’ll explain our reasoning for this in my next post.