2 July 2011 The storm that was pushing us out of South Dakota stuck with us all the way to Sauk Centre and the parking lot of Wal-Mart. Fortunately for us, the storm went south of us and taking warnings of “rotating clouds” (meaning possibly tornado)with it. The next morning we drove further south to St. Cloud. With a full day ahead of us we drove north to try and find some information of Louise’s family. Our first stop was at the museum in Royalton, just off of Hwy. 10. They were just in the midst of setting up new displays so we couldn’t find much to excite us. When Louise was quite small, she visited this area and stayed with her grandmother for the summer. Today, we found the church
and cemetery where her Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother Wiener and Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother Burgraff were buried. Today we could only find a couple of the Wiener graves, but on the other hand, we found quite a few of the Burgraff graves. The cemetery was nicely maintained.
Unfortunately some of the headstones were so old you could not read them. Next we drove alongside the Mississippi River to the small town of Little Falls, the playground of Charles Lindburg. The damn in Little Falls was built in 1830.
Today the gates were mostly open and the water that was racing through gave us quite a sight. Just down the street from the dam, we visited the Weyerhaeuser Museum.
The ladies there have done an amazing job of archiving years of information on the settlers of this area and thank God they did. We were able to find some amazing and interesting articles on the Wiener and Burgraff families. Fortunately we were able to have copies made for us of the most important information of the family we’ve seen before. We’ll have these sent back home for us to digest when we get back next spring.
_It’s always great to get back to “your roots”… I was born in South Dakota AND I still have family there as well. I must admit it’s been quite a few years since I’ve been back to visit but here I am ready or not. My aunt Shirley from Auburn, Washington emailed the names and phone numbers of some of my cousins that still live in and around Aberdeen, South Dakota so just after leaving the park in North Dakota I made a phone call. Debbie (and Larry Ihde) had the lucky number. After a short conversation with Debbie, she asked….”What was your name again”? She then passed me off to Larry to see if I was real or a nut. After a short conversation about the possibility of our dropping by we were welcomed. Hell, if I would have been her I would have said “keep on truckin Cuz”… Well they didn’t do that, it seems that they dropped everything they had planned and TOTTALLY entertained us with food, drink, great conversation and made we were made to feel right at home. Louise and I were lucky enough to have found a site to park the coach at the Mina Lake State Park which just so happens to be right across the lake from Deb and Larry’s cabin. Our first night there, the four of us had a great dinner at the only restaurant around. It just so happens to be right on the shore of Mina Lake. Larry and I ordered a great fish dinner of Walleye. I told Louise a week ago that that was going to be one of my first dinners if I could find it. We not only found it, the Walleye was worth waiting for. The next day Deb invited all the family that lived within 100 miles to dinner so that we could have a chance to meet and re-live old and new lives (all the youngsters) and experiences. The next day Louise and I drove into Aberdeen for the day and a chance to visit with my cousin Greg. Greg owns the Sander’s Sew-N-Vac store in town. It’s been in the family for two generations and still doing very well. That night we joined aunt Shirley, Greg, Deb, and Larry on their “party boat” for a lake-side tour of homes and land.
_We couldn’t have picked a better night for a boat ride. Well our “schedule” was calling so we bid our “good-bye” the next morning and headed east to continue our tour of South Dakota and beyond. When I was 13, my dad and mom sent my sister (8years old at the time) and me to Lanford, SD. One of the reasons was to help on the farm of one of my aunt and uncles and the other was for me to learn how to drive. I wont get into all the details but it was quite an experience. One thing their family liked to do after a full week of farming was go into Lanford on Friday nights. It was a good time for a beer and have conversations with the other farmers from the area. There is still one bar in town and this bank (not a bank any more..).
_Our next destination was Amherst, SD. Amherst is the small town where my mother was raised. As we drove down Roadway 27 we came to a small sign that pointed us to Amherst 8 miles to the right. About a half mile into our quest we started finding that the road was full of pot holes and deterating fast in front of us. Just as we spotted what we thought was Amherst we passed the corner of this dirt, dusty road by 150 yards. Now you’ve got to understand we can’t back up with the car attached behind us so out we go to unhook. We got the car separated just in time for a huge dirt carrying truck to come up behind us. There was no way that he could make it without me moving the coach way over to the side and then he could barely make it by. We did find too late that there was another road just on the other side of the railroad tracks that would take us to the center of Amherst without having to unhook the car. Well we didn’t hook up, we just headed out for Amherst. Amherst consists of a double grain elevator, one bar/restaurant with 4 young “very private” gents having lunch, and a post office/museum and a dozen small homes.
_That’s it… We spent about a half hour looking at the pictures hung around the walls and found a picture of my mother and three of her brothers (my uncles) all from their high school days.
_I told them I would send more pictures that I had and they seemed excited to get them. About 10 more miles to the north northeast is Britton, the town where I was born.
_Unfortunately the hospital is no longer a hospital but an apartment building for the elderly but on the other hand, the new hospital is very nice. I’ve got to mention now that ever since we left Aberdeen, a large storm has been following us so with lightning flashing, thunder crashing, and heavy rain falling, we head out for Minnesota.
_21 May ‘08 Wednesday
Tuesday was going to be our last fully sunny day for the next couple of weeks so we jumped into the car and headed over to see the Badlands National Park.
_We were about 75 miles west of them so making this drive was going to be an all day affair.
_Badlands National Park consists of nearly 240,000 acres and made up of some of the most beautifully eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires that blend with the largest mixed grass prairie in the country.
_In 1939, the government designated this area as the Badlands National Monument, and then in 1978 it was established as a National Park. The Badlands are a type of “arid terrain” where softer rocks and clay rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. Fact is, these softer rock/clay soils on the buttes, pinnacles and spires, lose about an inch of soil each year. Louise and I have had a chance to hike a number of canyons, ravines, gullies, and hoodoos in the last few months, but the canyons and all here are very difficult to navigate by foot. The soils just will not hold…it’s just like hiking on a soft sponge while on flat surfaces and the sides they just crumble at the touch. The Badlands don’t have the colors of those down south, but they definitely are mesmerizing as they stand there before you. They have their own beauty… Today we spent the day searching out and finding the DMV Office so that we could apply and pick up our new drivers license. It took no longer than 40 minutes and $8 a piece and we were officially licensed for the state of South Dakota. Next stop was the courthouse. There we were directed to the 2nd floor and the vehicle licensing department. Just like the first stop this morning, we were in and out in 30+ minutes and had written a $180 check for the motor home and the “toad” registration and plates. OK, time left over so what do we do now??? Geesss, a movie… we took in Baby Mamma. It was just “good”, you know, a movie that you would pick up at Safeway or someplace like that for the night.
The rain has finally caught us…I mean REALLY caught us… We are just about ready to pull up stakes, but with the water rushing all around us, we just might put up “sail” and hope for a trailing winds. Now it’s onto Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for Trev’s graduation.
18 May ‘08
Our stay here in the Rapid City area has given us a little time to stay close to the coach. After our travels through Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah in which we seemed to be on the go 24/7, it feels pretty good. Now that’s not to say that we haven’t been out. As I wrote the other day, we saw Mt. Rushmore, the Needles, and Custer the city and the State Park which we totally enjoyed even though it was our second visit in 2 years. We have spent more time close to the “couch” but just about every other day we also found ourselves heading down the road as well. Most of those trips were to Safeway, Wal-Mart, or Lowes, and with quick stopover at Starbucks (yes I know, I’m selfish and want my coffee…). Well with the weather being so wonderful, we decided today was going to be a great day for a “Sunday Drive”… Our route took us west to the end of Hwy 16 and then a large circle route back to Rapid City via. Hwy 44. One thing that we have found that really has surprised us…they, South Dakota, have a lot of water. That is, water as in lakes, rivers, ponds, and large reservoirs. One of those bodies of water that we saw Sunday was Pactola Reservoir. This reservoir seemed to go on forever and the fishing must have been pretty good as there were fisherman all over it. The setting was pretty nice with Pine trees lining the shoreline, covering the rolling hills and continuing all the way up the surrounding mountain sides. Further down Hwy 44 we came across a site that we had been reading about…”Chapel In The Hills”. The chapel is an exact replica of the 12th century Borgund Stavkirke (stave church) in Laerdal, Norway. It is adorned with intricate woodcarvings, beautifully hand split cedar shake roofing, and clear cedar siding that we all would love to have surrounding our home. A beautiful piece of architecture, a copy or not…
15 May ‘08
Yesterday we got right at the reason that we came to Rapid City. We are here to establish “residency”. We’ve lived most of our married lives in Washington, set up an LLC in Montana, and feel that this is the best route for us…South Dakota. Actually I was born here, but that was many, many years ago. We met with the people that will help us establish our needs and then spent the rest of the day checking out Rapid City. Rapid City is very clean, has a good selection of stores for all our shopping needs, and is easy to get around in. It also offers a ton of options for those wanting to explore hiking trails, kayaking, or sightseeing some fantastic sites, natural or man-made. Today we went exploring… a couple of years ago, we were here but we still wanted to re-visit a site or two and visit some new. As we left this morning we had in mind to do a little hiking, but as the day went on, hiking soon became something we would be putting off for another day. Our drive took us on one of the most twisting and winding roads we have been on. At a couple of the curves, we found ourselves facing a single lane tunnel that had been carved out of solid rock. Directly through and at the other end were the faces of Mt. Rushmore in the distance.
_Over the next 20 miles of hills and dales, we saw Mt. Rushmore from 6 or 7 different angles.
_Taking another route that would take us through the Needles we came upon the Lodge at Sylvan Lake. The original lodge was built in the early 20’s, but with a little remodeling and enlarging, it has still maintained its true character. It sits above Sylvan Lake and is shadowed by the highest peak in America east of the Rockies. We were hoping for a place to have lunch, so having the lodge in front of us we ventured in. As we walked into the entry of the lodge, we were met by the General Manger. Now it was either that we looked like we were VP’s or maybe it was that they haven’t started their “season” yet, but he was there to take care of us PERSONALLY.
_He gave us a lot of information on the area and answered all of our questions like we were family. When it came time to head into the dining room, he escorted us to the entrance and introduced us to the hostess…nice huh??? Yep, we had a very nice lunch and will go back again. Following lunch, we headed for the Needles.
_These rock formations are really unbelievable and have been worth our while to make it back again.
_We ended our drive with a coffee break at a restaurant/bakery in Custer. It was a very full day and when we got back to the coach we were more than ready to just crash…
13 May ‘08
Leaving Moab, Arches and Canyon National Parks behind, we headed north. The roadway north was on secondary roads but we found that they had less traffic and the scenery was wonderful. We left with the sun shining and ended the day with the sun setting. Our first stop north was actually east (of Moab that is). We stopped at Grand Junction, Colorado. We had been camping without hook-ups for over 8 days and we just wanted to “plug-in” for a night. In doing that, we were able to charge the batteries, do some laundry, and find some reasonably (I hate to use that term) priced diesel fuel at $4.12 p/g. Just after 10am the next morning we pulled out and headed north again. We took 10 east to Rifle and then turned due north up 13. About the time we passed Craig we encountered rain mixed with snow and carried that with us all the way into Wyoming. About Rock Springs, the weather changed to heavy clouds so we decided to hit Rawlins and stay the night. We knew the night temp was going to get into the 20’s so again we opted for plug-ins again. When we woke the next morning we were somewhat surprised to find 3 to 4 inches of fresh snow covering the cars and trucks around us. We were fortunate to have cable at this campground so we got the local weather stations. They told us that the weather pattern was going to be more of the same, but as we looked north on their map, it showed that we would most likely have it better traveling north than if we were to stay another day…so off we went. What we saw was it was even better than “advertized”. Again the roadway was a nice 2 lane road, but we also found that this was a passage way for the big trucks…oh well. Our route was to take us to Casper and from there to Rapid City, South Dakota. We normally don’t travel the long distances, but we decided if we were going to stop in our “normal” day of travel time, we would only be 60 miles from our next day and final day destination of Rapid City. Fortunately it wasn’t dark yet when we got to our campground, but they had already closed the office. We had a great drive, although a little longer than I like, but traveling the roads and scenery to get here were great.
5 July ‘06
On the 3rd we left Hot Springs and headed off to see Wall, South Dakota and from there we would run down into the Badlands. The weather had cooled enough so that we thought we might have a chance to see the Badlands without “sweltering”. We did find that the wind was blowing pretty good, and it just happened to be blowing in our face all the way. It is amazing just how many more times the coach shifts into lower gears when you have that wind pushing against the front end. When we arrived in Wall, after setting up, we walked up to see just what the home of “Wall Drugs” is all about. First of all, the town of Wall would be nothing but a dust bowl if it weren’t for Ted Hustead and his wife needing to do more marketing to make it a go for their drug store. Dorothy came up with the idea to place signs out on the highway (which is now I-90) promoting a “Free Glass Of Ice Water”. This turned out to be more than anyone could ever have imagined…fact is, the rush started to their “drug store” even before Ted got back from installing the signs. It could take you a full day to see the whole complex of stores that surround the drug portion if you were inclined to let it. We did spend about 2 hours looking around and having our lunch. Then it was back to the coach for a little rest, dinner, and then about 7 we left for a sunset tour of “The Badlands”. After traveling about 8 miles down highway 240 and seeing nothing but flat farm lands all around us, we were all of a sudden stunned as the land dropped away from us and exposed those Badlands before us. Amazing site, amazing colors… some of the hills were mounds of light green going to soft red, some of the high peaks were streaks of red, pink, light brown and purple. These streaks were so straight that it was like looking through some type of special filter that would only let you see the horizontal…it was freaky but yet absolutely beautiful. Our drive back home was on the same road, but now it was dark and with a half moon above us. The speed limit was 45, but we found out that we safely could only do about 30-35 max because of the animals that seemed to come out of no-where…deer, wild goats, and coyote. This morning we awoke to the day that we will start heading back to the Pacific Northwest. There is no hurry, but we want to take our time. Right now, we have landed in the “Legendary” Sturgis, South Dakota. We stopped here to see what brings the motorcycle crowd each year. This is the 66th year, and they have started to arrive already. Sturgis is expecting about 70,000 bikers here by the end of the month. The sounds around here are deep and throaty. Tonight, Louise wants to head off to Deadwood tonight and do a little gambling, so wish her (and me) luck…
3 July ‘06
We decided to throw out our plans to visit Mount Rushmore tonight. They have planned one of the best fireworks displays in the state of South Dakota and we had planned to be there. Since arriving in the Black Hills, we had heard nothing but how difficult it would be to get close enough to enjoy the fireworks at the park. Mount Rushmore is reached by traveling up the mountain from Keystone for 3 miles (straight up) or from the opposite side (where we were camped) in which you have 3 ½ miles of straight up hills. They have told us that “you must consider arriving by 9:30 in the morning so that you will have a parking spot at the memorial. Of course you could park on one side of the road going up the hill, but there is limited parking available there as well. The best option is to “walk” from Keystone or our campground in the 85-90 degree day, and then back after the fireworks are over at 10:45pm… in the dark, with a ton of others bearing down on you with their cars and trucks and all wanting to get home as fast as possible… Tough decision, but that’s the one we decided to do…get the heck out of “Dodge”. We packed up everything this morning and headed further South. Our destination…Hot Springs, South Dakota. We were both surprised by the size and uniqueness of this town. It follows a meandering river with buildings of red sandstone to very old (and new) wood structures. Fact is, most of the “old” sandstone block buildings, were built in another town. Columbia was to be “the” location for the railroad to go through, so they started to build these wonderful sandstone buildings in anticipation of the new “boom”. As it was, the railroad didn’t get to Columbia, and Columbia just didn’t ever get its feet off the ground, so they dismantled those beautiful sandstone block buildings and moved them to Hot Springs where the hot springs were doing great with the “tourist”. In arriving in town, the first thing we had to accomplish was finding a campground. Coming into Hot Springs, we saw a sign along side the road telling us of a campground beside a lake, and that sounded good to the both of us, a home for the night. Detaching “Toad”, we headed off to see the sights of Hot Springs and the surrounding areas. First stop was for our lunch…”Spicy White Bean Chile and half a sandwich of a “Spicy Grilled Turkey”…boy was that tasty…I wanted the recipe for the soup, but didn’t get it. From there, we headed out to see the site were they are excavating the Columbian and Woolly Mammoth. Can you believe it…a WOOLLY MAMMOTH ??? They found this site just by accident when a building contractor started to do a housing project, he dug into this huge tusk. What a find !!! This is a working site where we can not only walk around and see the volunteer “Earthwatch” crew excavate the bones, but we can see just what has been excavated since 1974. It is amazing to look down at these huge bones and tusks that roamed these hills many centuries ago. Another great day here in the USA…
30 June ‘06
Another South Dakota day…nice and warm sunny day here in the Black Hills. We were slow to move away from the campground, but when we did we had a great time. I had asked about a good location for us to go kayaking and they sent us to Sylvan Lake. Sylvan Lake is about 7 miles further up into the Black Hills in Custer State Park. Sylvan Lake is a small lake that had been developed by damming up a small opening between some large rocks. This allowed a stream to fill and keep filled this beautiful lake. Fishing is very good and kayaking was excellent. We spent about 2 hours in the water, and then headed down the “Needles Highway”. The Needles Highway starts at the far end of Sylvan Lake and continues down the mountain for 14 miles. The road is something that we have never traveled before. The “Needles” are large rock formations that sprout directly out of every crevice of un-used land on the mountain. Some spring as far up as 200 feet. We had to circulate through very narrow roadways that wound us up like a top. During the 14 miles we drove through at least 8 to 9 tunnels that were cut out of the stone, and were just wide and tall enough for a standard sized car to go through one at a time. All this was traveled at a 7 to 10 degree decent. Our drive from the campground and through the sweeping circle took us about 5 hours including a stop in Custer. We were both hungry and wanted to try out this restaurant that I had seen a couple of days ago…”The Purple House of Pie and Ice Cream”….
29 June ‘06
Day 2 here in Hill City, South Dakota and it is getting hotter. Today we were close to 94 degrees, but that didn’t feel un-bearable. This morning we went to an “All you can eat” breakfast of pancakes. They have a large tent set up behind the office of the campground in which they serve up these great pancakes every morning. The first helping was 3 large pancakes, and I can’t remember when I was able to finish a plate of 3…hell, here it was easy and I went back for more. One of the best I’ve had (not quite as good as those I get at home).
Before it got too hot, we headed up to see the presidents at Mount Rushmore. You can see the pictures of Mount Rushmore, but until you have a chance to see them in person, you haven’t really seen them. As they looking down on you from above, you are taken back with the history each of them represents for us in this country and how many people come to see them to personally reflect themselves. The visitor complex here is also well done. They have you moving in with your car or motor homes, easily finding a parking place, and walking the Plaza of State Flags as you approach the monument…very nicely done.
A couple of hours at the memorial and then we went to see the towns of Keystone and Hill City before heading back to catch up on a couple of loads of laundry. Tonight we went back to the tent and enjoyed a Buffalo Hamburger, potato salad and baked bean dinner…very good, I must say.