Thursday, June 27, 2013

Custer, South Dakota

Custer, SD

Mt. Rushmore

The weather went a little cold on us but we were determined to start our South Dakota visit with a bang. We went to Mt. Rushmore and though it was foggy intermittently, we still got a great look at the monument. We toured the museums, watched informational movies and did walks that allowed us different views. But, in the end, really, how long can one look at a monument?  We enjoyed our morning/afternoon. After our tour we were very hungry and went into Rapid City for a Buffalo burger at the Firehouse Brewery and walked around the town a bit. From there we went to Wal Mart and got our supplies for the week. I am not a big Wal Mart fan but they are CHEAP in comparison to everyone else. We went home and put away our supplies and walked our new camp ground a bit. Our campground host/hostess are really nice. They are from Texas and decided to leave the rat race and open a campground. Very friendly, helpful and they have a great dog, Bo, who loved to be petted so I was happy! We both really miss having a dog but we don’t miss all the associated issues having a dog in an RV brings along with it. I don’t know how long we will feel this way but for now, we are content to be dog less. We did laundry that night while we watched the weather as it predicted golf ball sized hail! Thank goodness it didn’t happen.

Custer State Park
The weather predictions were still on for bad weather so we chose to do a wildlife-driving loop in Custer State Park. We stopped at a visitor center and spoke to a volunteer who has been working there for 3 summers. When you give three days of your time per week (not sure if this is per person or couple), you get a full hook up in the park and a pass to every tourist attraction around and believe me there is plenty of tourist attractions! He was very positive about his experience and Sean and I have already decided we will come back and work camp here as there is so much to do but it gets costly.  A free pass and a free campsite makes it all so much more inviting!  Our drive took us through herds of buffalo; three prong antelopes, chipmunks, prairie dogs, birds etc. We stopped at Sylvan lake and did a small walk around the lake. There was a group of red headed young boys, (reminded me of Jenny’s kids!) fishing. We asked them if they had caught anything and they were quick to wave us over to see their catch! They were adorable little boys. After our walk a storm that had been threatening all day hit. We got home and ate left over’s and prayed that no hail hit us! We also discovered a local pie place called “The Purple Pie Place” and they have the worlds best strawberry rhubarb pie! (sorry mom L) and we had that after the left over’s.  It has been great sleeping here, quiet, cold and wonderful to 
snuggle too!

Wild Horse Sanctuary/ Mammoth site
I really wanted to see the Wild Horse Sanctuary. The kids and I explored the Wolf Sanctuary when I worked for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Pueblo CO. We all remember it as being extraordinary! So, I was hoping for the same experience but with wild horses. I was sadly let down. Maybe it would have been much better if we had paid $45 each to go on a “tour” but I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money. We walked around a bit and left.  We stopped at the Mammoth Site and we both thought it would be hokey but it was so cool! We learned there was a sinker hole there and over 60 (to date and counting) mammoths fell into it and died! There was a guy who bought the property and was going to put a bunch of houses up and he started finding all these bones so he brought in a scientist who discovered this sinker whole and the whole excavation process was started and the housing project was given up. We learned a bunch of great information but the best was that all but two of the mammoths that were found in this pit were teenage males! I guess the herds were ran by elderly female mammoths and when the uppity teen males gave them too much trouble, they chased them off. Being teenagers they were too stupid to see that even though there friend was dying in the mud, they could surely get down into that pit and get good water and food.  Testosterone has been the bane and saving grace of men since the start of time!  Saving grace because it makes the girls want them, and bane because it makes them stupid and fall into holes, starve and die!!! I cant tell you how that made me chuckle all day……

More RV repairs and Mickelson trail ride
What I didn’t mention before was that Sean had wanted to get our wheel bearings packed on the RV before we left Texas. His research had said that they could be an issue but with all of the rest of our problems we never had a chance to get it done and it preyed heavily on his mind. When we were leaving Sioux Falls, we left our site and went four miles up the road to get gas before we hit the freeway to make our way to Custer. When we pulled in Sean noticed large puffs of black smoke coming from our RV! My heart did a flip and we both jumped out to see what was the problem. Sean figured out that our quick release cord on the hitch had gotten trapped under the hitch and it had caused the emergency breaks to start breaking on the RV and thus smoke! Luckily there was a RV repair nearby who disengaged the cord and we bought a new one but now we knew the wheel bearing packing was even more important so as to surmise the damage done to the brakes.  The strange thing was we both had a bad feeling when we left tour campsite. Sean said he kept checking gauges and nothing showed. I just waived my bad feeling off to my general paranoia though I hadn’t felt this way the whole trip. I need to listen to my bad feelings! Anyway, when we got to Custer our wonderful camp hosts pointed us in the direction of a local mechanic. Sean called him and he got us in today. He was awesome. He packed the bearings and sanded down the brake pads and replaced the grease as it had melted away from the smoking and charged us HALF what camping world had quoted. While we had this done we went and had a hardy breakfast and did a 25-mile ride on the Mickelson trail to the Crazy Horse monument.  We then went back and got the rig and took it back to our site where we got everything hooked up again.

Deadwood, SD
We drove about an hour away and went to a historical town called Deadwood. It seems that both Wild Bill Hickok was murdered here and Calamity Jane called it home for a while too. Deadwood is like Tombstone with their own boot hill but much bigger. It was a nice day and we walked around and had lunch.

Back to Custer Park/Lovers Leap and Mule fun!
Today we went back to Custer Park and did a 3.5-mile hike straight up a hill to Lovers Leap. Supposedly an Indian couple jumped off this peak and died. Sean and I just took some photos and didn’t leap. It was a great hike. We went down and had a picnic then took the wildlife loop again in the hopes of seeing the mules we didn’t see before. We did and they were very cute!  We got back to our campsite to do laundry but a large encampment of Catholic high school kids on a large camping expedition beat us to the laundry mat so we went back into town and did all of our laundry.  We had dinner and started the process of packing up for our 2-3 hour drive to Gillette Wyoming today for the Escapees’ Escapade!

Friday, June 21, 2013

RV park internet stinks!

OMG! I hate RV parks Internet service! We had heard how sketchy it is but I had no idea! So, my blog will be intermittent at best until we get a handle on this Internet thing.

I just want to comment here, this blog is to keep friends and family up on our travels but also as a way for us to log/diary our travels. So, this being said, I will need to go back and try to remember a few things, add dates, etc. to get me back up to speed. I have decided to log onto word perfect or an ipad notepad every day so that I don’t have to go back and re create all of this. My memory aint’ what it use to be!

So, on June 15 we finished our driving lessons and headed on our way. They were very helpful and answered many questions though we both think just time and experience will be our best teacher. Needless to say we left feeling a lot better about our knowledge of how to pull this huge rig.  From Sanger TX, we went on to Guthrie, OK on June 15. Oklahoma was way nicer then we thought! Green, pretty but very hot and humid! This photo is from our morning walk before we hit the road. We also went through Moore and saw a bit of the devastation from the last tornado right of f the freeway. Very weird and scary!

We stayed one night in OK and then went on our way to Kansas and spent one night on June 16. My thoughts on Kansas….not very pretty, flat and they don’t sell alcohol on Sunday, even if it is fathers day. Boo!!  And it is still hot. Kansas was flat but a little prettier and they still had weird beer selling rules. I think we could have done a few more days in Kansas and saw Dodge City and a few other places but we were on a mission.

The highlight of our trip to Kansas was the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker, Kansas on June 17. My personal thought is they could have done much to increase tourism but they didn’t ask me.  I have always wanted to see this large ball of twine after seeing one of my favorite movies, Michael with John Travolta. I was a little disappointed to see that the movie was not really filmed at the actual site but on some Hollywood movie studio.

From Kansas we went to Nebraska on June 18.  Not many thoughts on Nebraska….more flatness and corn fields.  We left quickly and got to South Dakota on June 19 and went to the great Corn Palace! It was really fun and Sean got to remember some great trip memories of having gone here with his mom and three younger siblings.  We spent the night in the middle of nowhere South Dakota that night but did see a nice sunset.

Yesterday, June 20, we got to Wall Drug Store pretty early before the crowds. Again, very cute and I talked Sean into the Jackalope photos plus they had great homemade donuts for a $1 and a $.05 cups of coffee. I am not a big donut person but I gotta tell you, these were delicious! It was probably the 500 hundred signs leading up to it that made them so good.  One sort of sad note….many signs read that if you were a Veteran you got a free donut.  While we were waiting to pay for our donuts and coffee an older gentleman stepped up with his military ID and asked about the free donut. His donut was chocolate iced and the young man informed him that only plain donuts could be given out with that deal. The veteran was disgusted and said forget it and left. I felt really bad about the whole thing. Really, a tablespoon of chocolate icing is deal breaker?!  The poor kid serving him looked so sad about it but I guess he felt he didn’t have a choice.  I wish I had been a quicker thinker and offered to pay for his chocolate donut but I didn’t.

Wall Drug had many shops to look at but we aren’t big shoppers but some of the stuff was fun to look at.  We stayed an hour or so and left.  After a few short hours we finally made it to our destination, Custer South Dakota! It is beautiful here. Lots of pine trees and nice and cool.  We set up the rig to stay for a week. We will see the sights before we head to Gillette Wyoming where we will be attending the Escapade and attending our full timer boot camp.

As a side bar, Sean and I don’t intend to travel like this all the time. We are on “vacation” and doing many miles a day. We are trying to attend a seminar with an organization we belong to call Escappees.  This is a huge gathering of their members and we are hoping to learn much about our new full time RV lifestyle. Eventually we will travel very slowly and also work camp along the way.   We are spending a $100 a day just in fuel!

Today we are off to see Mt. Rushmore!

Friday, June 14, 2013

And so it begins......

Well we finally hit the road but not without a few mishaps along the way. I am sure that will be a repeated theme as time goes on……

We got the rear levelers replaced on Wednesday and decided to leave the next morning. We started breaking down everything around 8:00 a.m. Now remember, neither Sean nor I have ever broken down or set up this rig (or any other fifth wheel) OR put it on a hitch or moved it anywhere so this is a big job. I knew a lot of things since I have lived in it for almost a year and Sean has become an RV Utube expert.  He also created a checklist, which will be a work in progress for a long time to come. But eventually we got everything ready to go and Sean got the new hitch on the RV and we were ready to raise the front levelers as the last task before we leave. Well, these haven’t been touched in almost a year and one was frozen solid. After 20 minutes Sean got it unstuck and we were ready to go to Discount Tires but we were about 30 minutes late.  We called and let them know and they said they would fit us in as soon as possible.  So now we are ready to only drive about 15 minutes down the freeway but Sean has never pulled anything other then the tent trailer we had when the kids were small. Somehow pulling a 15,000 lb, 39 foot fifth wheel is slightly different.  So off we went…me silently praying and Sean handling it perfectly.  We got to Discount and they had us wait off to the side while they finished another truck/trailer before us. Let me just put in a plug for Discount Tire here. They were the most courteous, polite and helpful group of people that you could ask for! You couldn’t ask for a better company to get your tires from.

By the time we got to Discount Tire it had to be 100 degrees and 75% humidity. Sean and I were soaked and exhausted. We were more then thankful to go into their nice air-conditioned lounge and drink copious bottles of water. It took the crew about 1.5 hours in that heat, laying on hot asphalt to put on the new tires and install the tire pressure monitoring system on the Chevy. They didn’t charge us a penny to install the monitoring system on the Chevy and they did have to remove the tires to do so. They also had the best price on the tires by far over any other store I checked. By the time they were almost done and were putting the spare on the jack under the rig, the manager called Sean over and told him the spare tire jack was bent and they couldn’t get the tire on it. He said it looked as if someone had hit something very hard and bent it. I am starting to see a theme here….bent rear levelers, bent tire jack….hmmmm. I haven’t moved this RV once but I know who did and I will be giving him a call soon! I had the rig inspected before I bought it and hired a guy to move it from the coast where we brought it to Sean Jr.’s house and from there to Texas.  He knew I would not be moving it for about a year and I think he decided to just not tell me anything about what happened on the trip to Texas. I’ll update you on that issue after I get a hold of him.
Anyway, we had them throw the spare in the back of the truck and off we went. Again, my husband handling the driving and me with the silent prayers but he seemed to handle this huge rig really well but I could sense his apprehension. Within about 20 miles we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. I was silently sweating bullets but Sean seemed fine. We eventually broke out of the horrible traffic problems and made our way to Sanger.  Now, for those of you know Sean really well, he did not cuss or yell once. That in it self is a miracle!

Once again we were parked and ready to begin a process we had never yet experienced. Setting up the rig to sleep in. We took our time and eventually got it all accomplished. It was still probably 95 degrees but maybe only 50% humidity but we were still very, very hot! We cranked the AC and decided to take a few cold ones to the pool. Let me tell you, beer and the pool never felt so good!  We had done it! Our first night in our rig after our first day on the road….and we were still alive!

We set our alarms to wake up by 6:00 a.m. so we could get our morning walk in and breakfast before our instructor arrived at 9:00 a.m. He went over the process of taking down everything and hooking up. Even though we had successfully accomplished this task yesterday, we still had many questions. Then from there we went to our driving lessons. We spent a while doing right turns, then left turns, then we spent a better part of the day backing into RV spots here at our park. Sean did a great job but I know we were both very tired by the end of the day. Our instructor, Art, took us back to our site where we then went over the whole process of hooking up again. He gave us many tips and suggestions. This whole big rig lesson idea has been money well spent! Tomorrow we will continue on the backing up and parking and then we will go to a high school parking lot and practice many other scenarios. We have decided after the day ends at 1:00 p.m. with our instructor to just continue on and get a few hundred miles under our belt before we end our day. We hope to get past Oklahoma City. We don’t want to get hit with any of their tornado weather and a storm is set to come in.  More in a few days!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The best laid plans........

Sean has been home for six days and we have gotten much accomplished! We have gotten the hitch put on, some accessories added to the truck, sold some things we didn't need, and organized a bunch plus picked up some tools and things that we didn't have. We also bought two new bikes and a bike rack. And we have managed to fulfill some of his many food first and foremost, Krispy Kreme donuts, pecan rolls, steak, and taco bell tacos. We have only just begun in that area as he still has much to consume from his deprivation in Afghanistan.  Things are going along so smoothly.....then a bump in the road.

 Sean's new ride!
 New hitch

I had a guy come out and put on some stabilizers (stabilizers stop alot of the movement you feel when walking around the RV) that Sean had bought. I wanted it done before he came home so he could relax a bit before getting started on his to do list. When they went to install the stabilizers on the rear auto leveling system, the repair guy called me outside to inform me that the whole rear auto stabilizer system was ruined! He showed me where it was off the track and bent. How could that be?!?! I had the RV moved here and set up and I hadn't touched anything since. The only thing he could surmise is that 1.) it had rust on it (we bought the RV from a guy who had it parked across the street from the ocean) and had thus been weakened and 2.) who had ever leveled it had not leveled the front nose first and then gone to the back levelers to just basically finish off the leveling and instead put to much pressure on the rear levelers. Obviously I was clueless but there wasn't much to be done about it but to replace the WHOLE rear leveling system! The repair man wasn't even sure the levelers could be raised to pull the RV and if they could be raised he doubted whether they would ever come back down. Soooooooooo.................obviously this repair had to happen before we could leave.  He made some phone calls and started the process of finding the parts etc. and then since we were lucky enough to have an extended warranty, calling them and getting the approval to move on it. This took several days and today he called and said it would take 7-10 days to get the part here.....Um.....we are leaving in 7 days? We have paid extra to get the parts here sooner but whether or not we can get it installed and then over to the tire dealer to have new tires put on and then get on the road is yet to be seen!