For the last six weeks, we have rushed through Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota because we were closing down campgrounds as the winter season approaches. We had to move on because there wasn’t any reason, or place, to stay.
With the Boise State – Wyoming football game on Saturday as the book end for this journey, we found ourselves spending nine nights at Hart Ranch outside of Rapid City. This campground stays open year round and there are a surprising number of rigs (60) getting prepped to hunker down for winter.
The resort is huge and it takes me an hour to walk the perimeter each morning. A few times I have been fortunate enough to see this big horned owl.
We also slowed down our excursion activity because we were here in 2006 and visited the famous attractions then. We saw Crazy Horse, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave and Mount Rushmore on that trip. This time we were content to see Mount Rushmore from the highway turnout.
The only place we visited in 2006 and again on this trip was Custer State Park.
We have fond memories of driving the wildlife loop and seeing the bison roaming and the burros coming right up to the truck looking for food or attention.
These are our burro pictures from 2006. We didn’t see them at all this time.
We did see the bison this time! Most were near the corrals as they were rounded up in late September. The young calves are branded and about a third of the herd are sold. The bison feed on park grasslands so the herd must be maintained at a level that can be naturally supported.
We saw pronghorn and wild turkeys!
Driving the Needles Highway, also inside Custer State Park, we were thrilled to watch these mountain goats!
We saw some great scenery along the Needles Highway and went through some tunnels that were a tight squeeze for our big truck!
In nearby Keystone, we went to the National Presidential Wax Museum.
All 44 presidents, and some other historic notables, are represented in wax, some in bust displays and some in scenes.
An audio tour provides information about each president. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was related to eleven past presidents!
Grover Cleveland was the only president married while in office. He was 49, and his wife was 22. They had five children together, the last being Ruth. Baby Ruth candy bar was named for Cleveland’s last child.
Continuing with the president theme, Rapid City is the City of Presidents. The downtown district has presidential statues on each street corner.
When we went to lunch at Que Pasa?, we found Herbert Hoover. (Que Pasa? also had a terrific pumpkin spiced margarita, but I digress…)
On the other corners of the intersection, we found Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur.
Still in Rapid City, we found something totally unexpected – The Berlin Wall, or rather two sections of it.
We traveled to nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Behind the sign is a B1-B Lancer.
We were adjacent to the runway and watched several B1s doing “touch and go”s while we looked at aircraft on the museum grounds.
Berlin was divided into four quadrants after WWII and in June, 1948 Stalin made a play to control the entire city, blockading roads, railroads and canals. Food, clothing, and electricity were cut off to the free quadrants in Berlin.
A massive humanitarian effort to feed 2.5 million people was undertaken by the allies, flying a sky bridge 24 hours a day. For 15 months massive transport planes brought food and supplies along a narrow 20 mile corridor.
This effort included the Berlin Candy Bomber, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who began dropping candy by small parachute. The candy bombing was taken up by other airlift pilots as well, and the allies eventually dropped 15 tons of candy to Berlin children.
Protecting the humanitarian efforts were sixty B-29s that were rumored to be nuclear armed. Half of those were from the 28th Bombardment Group from Rapid City, South Dakota. Stalin discontinued the blockade in 1949 and an uneasy peace was maintained.
We have enjoyed our slow stay at Hart Ranch. Handy Randy even got a little work in, adding a water filtering system.
Tomorrow we are on the move again to meet our friends Kent and Pam in Laramie for the previously mentioned Boise State – Wyoming football game. The winner will be in first place of the mountain division of the Mountain West conference. Go Broncos!