A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Down Into the Canyon

Picnic Spring, South Dakota

I want to go down there, somehow.

 Maybe this way.

Getting there.
The cliff faces all around are beautifully sculpted by wind and water.
Right above the lone tree center left is white bird poop on the rock.
A hawk must live there.

This small tree in the center is growing out from a narrow crack in the rock.
There were a lot of markings scratched into the sandstone by idiots.
The oldest I saw was 1979.  Made me want to be an idiot and scratch my initials in there 
JK 1879
 Just to mess with people.

It was thick with vegetation at the bottom so difficult to hike through.  There was a trickle of water which I followed back up another canyon and came to this.  It must be Picnic Spring as a stone step trail led back up to the campground. 

Beans likes to sit right on the edge.  
Why must she do this and make Dad all nervous?

No, I didn’t take her down into the canyon with me.
We’d still be down there if I did.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Walking the Loop

Picnic Spring

Every morning I walk the three quarter mile loop around the campground.  Need to know if anyone else is here.  Usually not and if so it is only for the night.

The only not-so-good point about this campground is that the cell signal is weak.  I get only one bar.  Look closely and you can see my booster antenna up.  This thing works and now I have three bars.

It is difficult to tell from the photo but the canyon around the plateau is pretty deep.  Those are the tops of very tall pine trees at the edge of the cliff.  Most every camp has a cliff drop off behind it. 

See the bird?  It is a fledging that I nearly stepped on.  He took off quite awkwardly crashing into a rock and then hung there by one bird foot before falling to the ground.  I wanted to help but left him alone.  He’ll get the hang of this flying thing pretty soon.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Possibly the Best Forest Service Camp Ever


Near the border of North and South Dakota

I wasn’t too sure what to expect at this campground and it was eight miles in off the highway to boot.

I looped around and no one was there. The road was nicely graded with gravel.  There were only ten sites each widely spaced apart from the others.  This is nice.  There is no water, no electricity, two sets of pit toilets and it is FREE!  Fortunately I had just shopped for supplies and have enough water and propane.  Good thing too for there are no big towns for like a hundred miles.  I want to stay here until after the Fourth of July mayhem over.

The campground sets at 3200 feet (975m) so is cooler.  All around are these sandstone cliffs.
Lots of good hiking and exploring to be had here.

Like the sign points out, this small portion of the Custer National Forest sets a top a massive plateau.
  Yep, this place is now one of my special spots.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Police Saves Us


Buffalo, South Dakota (pop. around 350)

I had some business to take care of in Rapid City, SD and then we spent the night at Walmart Camperland.  The next day we headed north into a lot of nothingness as far as towns go.  I had a small town camp lined up and was dismayed to be greeted with this sign.  The app I use to find these places would get an update by me.  What to do?  There was no place else to go within hours of driving and I was tired.  

Back on Main Street I saw the police sign.  I have never resorted to the police before for permission to stay somewhere.  There’s always a first.  Inside the municipal building which must serve the entire county I stopped at an open doorway where several office ladies were chatting away.  “Excuse me, I’m looking for the police department.”  A tall blonde woman said “Well that would be me.”  Turned out she was the entire police force for Buffalo.  

Nice police lady Cheryl (she was unaware of the new sign) directed me over to the rodeo grounds. 
“You’ll be fine there.”
And we were with a nice quiet afternoon and night except for the flies.
Well after all, it was a rodeo arena with horses and their waste material.

I don’t know rodeo stuff.  It is a whole different culture to me.

So is it just me or is this sign a bit difficult to understand without a law degree?

A cute observation: I watch a young new mother carrying her baby daughter over her shoulder, her little cradle in the other hand and leading her horse all the same time.  They got over in the shade where the horse trailer was parked and she leaned over to set down the cradle and switch arms with the baby while her horse body-checks, bumping into her on purpose.  She ignores the horse, sets the cradle down on the ground, puts her daughter in and covers her with a cheesecloth material to keep the flies off of her.  Then she loaded her horse into the trailer.  Made me think of so many scenes I see all the time with frazzled mothers and their newborns and this woman was doing it all with a sassy horse added to the mix. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Wall Drug


Wall, South Dakota

When traveling Interstate 90 these billboards start showing up something like fifty miles away (just guessing).  There is an estimated somewhere between 200 and 300 of them.  I have traveled this area many times and never stopped to check out Wall Drug.  I thought this time I would as our overnight camp was less than ten miles away.

A block away there was a nice large parking area for RV’s and the like.  
“Be back soon Beans” and I walked on over to Main St.

Across the street from Wall Drug wasn’t encouraging.

I walked on in front of Wall Drug itself glancing in windows and open doorways.
I saw all I needed to see without stepping inside.
Sorry folks, but I am not one you would want to be with at tourist traps.
If you want to see what all I passed up Google Wall Drug and click on images.

I can’t do this.  At least I came.
I paused outside to take another photo and saw the words ‘Pharmacy Museum’.
Well I would like to see that and I pushed myself to go back inside.
I can do this.

Inside it is a maze of alleyways with all manners of gift shops.  I finally asked a clerk in one such shop about the pharmacy museum.  He pulled out a colorful map and pointed out a spot way over on the other side of the complex.  “Sigh”  “Oh it is not that far” he said.  I told him its not the distance I am concerned with but all the humanity I have to work my way through.  He said “Oh you’re lucky you are here in the morning.  You ought to be here in the afternoon.”

So I got to the general area and saw this real drug store.  Oh, I must be close.  I’ll ask the young lady at the counter.  “Hi.  I’m looking for the pharmacy museum.”  
“This is it” she said.
“I’m in it?”

“It is just all the items on the top shelf and in the front display windows.”

So I looked around at the top shelf throughly amused at myself,
giggling inside that I was in the pharmacy museum and had no idea I was.

The front display windows.

Someday masks may be a museum item but not yet anyway as far as I’m concerned.

But hey, it wasn’t a complete waste of my time.  I got a free bumper sticker in the pharmacy museum.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Outside the Badlands


Badlands, South Dakota

We are just outside of the national park as I write this.  We are not going in.  I have been here before a few times.  It is more enjoyable when doing so with someone else and we did that four years ago when Amanda and Dresy, her kitty, were traveling along with us.

There are way more people here this time.  It was the month of August the last time.  That shouldn’t make a difference.  I think it is COVID related.  People cannot travel abroad as easily and so they are doing so here in the U.S. more so.

That is not a UFO.  It is the consequences of through the windshield photography.
A bug splat.

I am looking forward to things getting back to how they used  be.
Guess I best not hold my breath.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Grateful For...it Will Surprise You


Great Plains Grasslands

This past weekend Tropical Storm Claudette left a path of flooding, destruction and death across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and beyond.  We could have been caught up in all of that mess.  Thank goodness for humidity (I never thought I would be writing those words) for it forced us to leave the area before Claudette arrived.

At the time when we left I was disappointed.  I really like the southern states and was looking forward to touring them again.  Now here we are in the vast great plains of the midwest.  I really like them too, in fact I like this area even more so.  I knew I did; I just needed the reminder.  People think I am nuts when I tell them I love driving through Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and more.  They find it boring; I do not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

White River City Park


White River, South Dakota

White River is about the same size as Burke.  Their camping area had ten spots, one table, no electricity, one water faucet centrally located, no shower, two pit toilets, no trash can, no people and no cost.

The best spot for shade.  Anything bigger than us may have some problems.  
A trailer would be really difficult.  All good for an overnight stay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Pleasantly Stuck


City park campground, Burke, South Dakota

It was so nice that first afternoon and night here that we decided to stay a second night.  The next day when I was planning on leaving high winds were predicted all day.  Not the best to be driving a small house down the road in so we stayed a third night.  I could not have had a better place to be “stuck” than this little park where no one has come by except two travelers who stopped for lunch. 

I have a friend who we write back and forth often.  She wants to do what we do but is fearful being a solo female out on the road.  I have met and talked with dozens of solo women travelers over the years and not one has had a bad experience although they too started out the same, fearful and with apprehension.  I follow a YouTuber who interviews nomad travelers and he’s spoke with hundreds of women who say the same thing; never a bad experience.  The women all say they go with their gut feeling.  If something doesn’t feel right they move someplace else.  Even myself I have done that.

I wrote to her about how nice this little park is to be stuck at.  She wrote: I just fear leaving my tent and equipment unattended…

I said just stick to small towns, especially like here in the midwest.  “The house right behind us the people just leave their nice bicycles out leaning up against the house.”  Ever since we entered Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, etc. I rarely see vandalism or graffiti.  

Gee, why did Dad have to make this barrier?  Just because I walked on out one time when we were at a Walmart in Kentucky while he was taking a nap...sheesh!

This lady gets my award for the best road construction traffic monitor.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Burke City Park

Burke, South Dakota

We have been trying to follow the Missouri River as much as possible.  There was a scenic route along our route for most of the day’s planned traveling but when we reached the turnoff it was closed.  Detour.  Just my luck.  Still we had a nice drive through the largely all farmland of southern South Dakota.  Not many towns along the way and when there, they are small.  Burke has a population of 600 give or take.

But they have a nice city park travelers can stay at for ten dollars.  I gladly paid ten dollars for here than what we just left behind at Lewis and Clark Lake.

This little town has a nice for the most part appeared unused park.

I took the one spot that had the most shade and plugged into electricity since the solar panel wouldn’t be of much use.  Plus I can run the refrigerator on electric and save propane.  Across from us is the group picnic area and restrooms.

I walked into the mens restroom and two large blackbirds were inside.  They freaked out trying to escape while I was trying to step inside.  It was a scene out of a Alfred Hitchcock movie.

There are even showers to be had, not all that common for small city parks.
I used the shower and was horrified after seeing only one incoming line - “this is going to be a cold shower”.  I pushed the button and in about five seconds came perfectly tempered water, nice and warm.  I have never come across that anywhere; it always has to be adjusted.  Wide and spacious this truly has to be one of the best on-the-road shower set-ups I have ever used.

What really blew me away was the nice track at the high school on the other side of the tree line.  I spent most of my life in a small town that was six times the population of Burke and it had a miserable dirt track around the football playing field.  Ah, but that was in California.  There’s why.

The instructions said to fill out the form and leave it and your money in the envelope provided and drop into the mailbox slot on the restroom building.  “A police officer will later come by and verify payment.”
Barney Fife never showed up.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Camping is Not Like How it Used to Be - part two

 Lewis and Clark Lake

Why did I think I can’t do this.  

The camp sites were so close together that your neighbor was right outside your window or door.  You can hear them talking or arguing all the time.  Their music is playing and many modern RV’s have outside televisions so you hear that.  There is no escape from any of it. 

One of the three open sites I could have taken had four frat boys sitting outside drinking and whooping it up on one side and on the other side was an unseen dog barking incessantly. 

After I secured my spot in the tent camping row the park ranger stopped by in the early evening.  He wanted to talk with me.  I put my shirt and pants on and stepped outside.  Nice young man.  He simply wanted to know if I had paid to stay as he found it unusual for a RV to be in the tent row.  I told him yes and how camp host Shane had helped me out.  What I couldn’t understand was why he didn’t simply have a tablet he could refer to online for all the sites, who was in each spot and for how long.  After a bit of going back and forth I finally learned the rangers had to give their tablets to the camp hosts and now had nothing to work from.  Well that is weird but hey, this is a government agency so what else could one expect.  And too, he could have checked with Shane so as not making me put on my pants and shirt.
He thanked me and being as I had no tag receipt for payment like in the old days to show him or display in my window he said he would go down and check with the camp host to verify I paid.
Ok, think about that for a bit. 

Having to make a reservation to camp in a campground is making a commitment.  You will be here at such and such date.  This strips away the freedom of travel that I enjoy.  I am a wanderer.  I never know exactly where I will be nor when I will be anywhere.  These government run campgrounds should set aside a number of sites on the good old first come first serve basis as in the old days.  
Aww John, you are thinking ‘in a perfect world’.  This is now, deal with it.