Category Archives: South Dakota

Now That’s a Wrap!

June 6-10, 2019 – Black Hills of South Dakota

A few years back, our friends Jim and Barb bought some property in South Dakota to use as a home base.  They have been full-time RVers since March of 2014, having hit the road the same month I retired.  You may recall when we visited them in September of 2017 on our way back to Michigan from Oregon.  Back then, they were busy installing fence posts, purchasing a shed and making plans to build a place to store their RV and hang their hats while in the area.  By no means did they want to come off the road completely, but the addition of the property looked like it would put them in the part-time RVers category.

Since our last visit, this dynamic duo has been busy!  With the guidance of their friend Kevin (a custom home builder who is building his own place not far from them), they have started construction on their little shack in the woods.  2018 saw them starting construction by excavating and pouring a cement foundation. This year they have roughed their abode in, pretty much by themselves.  As fellow RVing friends have passed through their area, they’ve jumped in to lend a hand…as was the case with us a few weeks ago.

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Little shack in the woods????  That’s big enough to quite literally store both of our fifth wheels!

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This structure is known as a barndominium.  The one end is a two RV garage, while the other end sports a two bedroom home.  Having watched this building emerge over the past year on their blog, we were eager to detour north to join in the fun.  Barb needed a little help putting up the house wrap, so she enlisted the help of her hubby and I to get the job done.

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A few hours later, we had the lower course wrapped.  We even had enough energy left to put in the kitchen and bathroom windows.

Afterwards, we went for a drive to check out Kevin and Cheryl’s place.  Along the way, we saw a fair amount of wildlife.

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We also saw this unusual cloud formation.  It looked as if the thunderhead was on fire!

The next day, Barb fired up the skid steer and had Jim and I up on the platform while she drove us around the house.

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Literally.

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She was careful not to drop us, which we were grateful for.  Diana provided ground support, along with photographing and videoing the event for posterity.

Here is a little video that shows off her dexterity with a skid steer:

A few hours later, we had the upper section complete.

Now that’s a wrap!

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That evening brought us another beautiful sky.  Not a bad place to hang your hat, for sure.  Having rolled out multiple rolls of house wrap while Jim stapled, my arms were rubber.  We decided to take the next day off.

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For Diana and I, that became a drive through the Black Hills.  We checked on the progress at the Crazy Horse monument.  Slowly but surely, the workers here are getting things done.

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We also drove the Needles Highway.  From that road, we caught several glimpses of Mount Rushmore.  We’ve visited that monument several times over the years, so we skipped it this time around.

That evening, we hung out in Jim and Barb’s new living room for happy hour.

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That included a nightly appearance of a herd of mule deer.  Jim and Barb look forward to being able to sit on their sofa at night and see this crew out their slider.  Best I could tell, the deer were marveling at our progress!

The last day saw Jim and I on the platform installing windows, including two huge trapezoids on the front of the home.

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We ran into an issue with heavy staples protruding out of the bottom of the first one, so Barb climbed out of the cab of the skid steer, scrambled up the scaffolding on the inside of the house, balanced herself on the rough opening and pulled the staples.  All this while the helpless males stood and watched.

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One window after another, Barb guided us as we wrestled the windows into place.  We did eight upper windows that day!

That evening, Diana got one more photo of a very satisfied Barb, her sidekick, Daisy, and Dakota looking on from the back.

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Jim and Barb are an amazing team, and will soon have built a beautiful home in the Black Hills.  It was a pure joy to be able to stop by and help them out.

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The sky even gave us a standing ovation.  🙂

Next up:  We head east through South Dakota to see some familiar places.  Along the way, we find a few surprises, so be sure to stay tuned for that in our next Saturday morning post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Flying Along the Front Range

Along the Front Range, Colorado; May 22 – June 4, 2019

Our trip the past few weeks along the Front Range of the Rockies was a homecoming of sorts for us, as Estes Park was our first big vacation to the mountains as a married couple…some 29 years ago.  Diana had been to Denver with her Girl Scout troop as a teenager and I was there as a 6-year old with my mom, dad, and my sister Judy.  Back then, Dad was the sales manager for Schwayder Brothers in Detroit at their metal chair facility.  You may know Schwayder by the name of their product line: Samsonite.

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Issac Schwayder (right) and his four sons. Jesse Schwayder, second from the right, was my dad’s boss.  The company slogan was “The Samsonite – Strong Enough to Stand On”.

At that time, Schwayder was consolidating their operations to their headquarters in Denver, so we were on a scouting mission to see if that would be our new home.  Mom and Dad chose to remain in Michigan, as the pull of family won out over the Rockies…thus forcing Dad to find a new employer.  As much as I love Colorado, I’m very glad they chose to stay in southeast Michigan.  🙂

As mentioned in our last post, we had to change plans to stay at lower altitudes.  That took us south out of Page through Flagstaff, east on I-40 to Albuquerque and then north.

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While in Albuquerque, we picked up some Oboz waterproof low hikers from REI for our trip to the UK in the fall.  These beauties were field tested by our friends Linda and Steven on their 500 mile walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  Accomplishing that without blisters is a pretty good testimonial for Oboz, which is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana.  We then headed up towards Santa Fe, spending a couple of nights at the Black Mesa casino.  Again, we managed to hit a jackpot on the casino’s free play and walked out the door without spending a penny of our own.  We will take it!  We also paid a return visit to a little Venezuelan restaurant in Santa Fe called Santarepa Cafe.  We went out of our way to eat there again, as it is that good.  The owner is a sweet woman who comes to your table and genuinely inquires as to how you like your meal.

Scooting around the southern end of the Rockies, we headed up the east side and said farewell to New Mexico.

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In the process, our Colorado fifth wheel entered the State of Colorado for the first time!  We continued up to Colorado Springs to spend the better part of a week.  The first morning at the KOA, we noticed what we thought was an early riser playing music on his RV horn as he left the campground.  Nope…we were parked across from Fort Carson, which plays Revelry every morning at 6:30 AM and Taps at 10 PM.  We’re in the Army now!

Here is a spot I had visited with my family when I was a child; Garden of the Gods.  This land was given to the City of Colorado Springs by the children of late owner Charles Elliott Perkins in 1909 to use as a park.  The stipulation was that they could never charge an admission fee or allow ‘intoxicating liquors’, which they haven’t to this day.

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I distinctly remember Balance Rock as a 6 year old. 🙂

We also happened to be in town during the Air Force Academy graduation.  Our first tip-off to that was when we heard a jet approaching our car from behind, only to find out we had been buzzed by…

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…a B-2 Stealth bomber.  We also saw the Thunderbirds practicing. The next day was the graduation, so we set up our chairs in a field across I-25 from the academy.  When the cadets tossed their caps in the air, the Thunderbirds streaked across the field.

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There was a long delay after that first pass, and we noticed that there were no cars on the freeway.  Soon there was a procession of motorcycle police, followed by this:

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There goes the President!  Not too long after he had left, the show resumed.

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It sure is fun to see these planes…

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…especially with Pike’s Peak as a backdrop.

The other place Diana wanted to do visit was the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, which is located in town.

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She really was hoping to meet Scott Hamilton.  It wasn’t meant to be, but she did get to see his gold medal from Sarajevo.  There was even someone there that I appreciated…

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Frank Zamboni!  Those twirlies would fall flat on their faces if it weren’t for the superior talent of us Zamboni drivers.  🙂  All kidding aside, we both really enjoyed the museum.

From Colorado Springs, we headed up to Denver to meet friends and family.

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First stop was to our college friend Kirsten’s house for a wonderful meal.  Here we are with her mom and her husband Mike.  It sure was great catching up with them.  Mike is an excellent cook!

We also visited Diana’s cousin Abby, her husband Josh and daughter Tara.

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We forgot to get a photo, so Abby let me use this one.  Abby is Diana’s cousin Jerry’s daughter.  We loved getting to spend the afternoon with them in their beautiful home, especially the sidewalk chalk drawings that greeted us, along with Tara jumping for joy at the front door upon our arrival.  🙂

We also visited a place we long wanted to pay our respects at; the Columbine Memorial.

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Located in a Littleton city park adjacent to the school, this beautiful remembrance moved us.

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Since the thirteen students and staff were killed at this school in 1999, over 140 more have died in our learning institutions.  As the husband of a teacher, I worried about this constantly…as I knew the innocent students’ safety was first and foremost to Diana.  If you can, take the time to visit here.  There are moving tributes to each of the victims, along with snippets of thoughts from the survivors.

From Denver, we moved up to Fort Collins for a couple of days.  That was our lower altitude base to revisit Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park.  Our last time there was 1990, and we were driving a regular cab Ford Ranger pickup pulling a very heavy Steury pop-up camper.  The number one hit on the radio that trip was Shenandoah’s Next to You, Next to Me.  One verse stood out in my memory:

“If the Good Lord’s willin’ when we’re old and gray
The kids are grown up and moved away
We’ll be rocking’ here side by side
With the BBQ chicken and the TV guide”

Fire up the grill, sweetie and I’ll grab the rockers.  🙂

This go around our mission was to see Bighorn sheep, something we hadn’t seen since our last time there.

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Mission accomplished!  We actually saw several of them.

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We also saw plenty of elk.  This guy was happy to show off his velvety new rack.

Our special treat was when we drove up Trail Ridge Road towards the Alpine Visitor Center.

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We got to Rainbow Curve, 10,500 feet up, and the road was closed due to snow at the top.  They were allowing visitors to walk up as far as they wanted, so we took advantage of it.

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It was an absolutely amazing treat.  We went up a half mile or so…over 11,000 feet, before returning.  Although out of breath, we did just fine!  Everyone was having a great time…

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…including this young pair.  I’ll bet the road being closed made their day.  🙂

Well, that wraps up our flight along the Front Range!  Next up, we head north to South Dakota to help some friends with a little project.  More on that in our next Saturday morning post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

A Bunch of Fun Meet Ups in the Black Hills!

A few posts back, during our wrap-up of our time in Oregon, we received an offer from Jim and Barb to stay on their property in South Dakota.  We had been following their blog, Jim and Barb’s RV Adventure, since 2014….yet we hadn’t met in person.  Our original plan was to take our time and visit several Lewis and Clark stops on our way through Idaho and Montana, but the smoke in those states put a damper on that.  We were scheduled to meet a friend on her day off in Bismarck, North Dakota on September 16, so a detour to South Dakota would add 300 miles to the trip. 

Except this isn’t a trip….it’s a journey.  😊

We had the time, our home has wheels, and we really wanted to meet them!  We found our way towards their place and up to the back of the property, to a site that Jim had just leveled out for us with a skid steer.  Sweet!

How’s that for a view?  To top it off, Jim and Barb made us a delicious dinner of Pasha Lake walleye.  Very tasty!  We then watched the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints…which was OK with me, as my Lions had won earlier in the day.  The Vikings and Lions are in the same division.

Of course, their dog Daisy had to let me know what she thought of the Detroit Lions team colors on my shoes.  😉

The next day, we walked their property and checked out some of the trail cameras they had placed.  They revealed that there is plenty of wildlife that make their way through the land!  We then went for a drive with them and saw the Crazy Horse Memorial.

This is definitely a work in progress.  It’s hard to imagine how huge this carving is, until you zoom in on the top of the warrior’s arm.

Those are two huge backhoes up there!  There is a lot of controversy surrounding this monument and Mount Rushmore, as the Oglala Sioux consider this sacred ground.  Since this mountain is being carved, it would be nice to see it finished.   The Native American museum at the site is very well done.  Tribes from all over the country are represented.

The next day, Diana and I met up with her cousin Nancy and husband David.  You may remember them from our trips to Big Bend and also to Napa Valley.  They were on their way from visiting David’s South Dakota relatives and heading out to see their niece and family in Colorado. Getting to see them was another bonus to being in the area. We toured Mount Rushmore this time!

Walking on the Presidential Trail, you really can see the intricacies of the carvings.  But when you back away…

You can clearly see they’ve been busy adding additional figures…by George!  

On our way out of town the next day, we stopped by the Mt. Rushmore KOA and saw our friend Kathy, who we met at Amazon last fall.  She’s been working at the campground all summer and has really enjoyed it.

We failed to get a picture, so I borrowed her Facebook profile photo.  She’s the one on the left.  😉

So as far as detours go, this was an excellent side trip!

We really appreciated Jim and Barb’s generous offer and we had a marvelous time with them!  It will be great to meet up again down the road, that’s for sure!

Up next, we move up to North Dakota. More time with friends and some great Lewis and Clark discoveries!  Be sure to stay tuned!

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