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Jun 20

We’re Out West!

Those of you who are on Bill’s Face Book  know that we are in South Dakota right now … even though the last Blog we wrote was about part of our stay in Washington DC back in April!  Oh dear …. time surely has gotten away from us, hasn’t it?

Since then our days have been filled with sightseeing (and car shows!) in Pennsylvania, sightseeing and spending time with family in Michigan as well as Wisconsin, a side trip to Pender, a small town in Nebraska, to have our tow bar serviced.  While there we had a very interesting tour of the Blue Ox factory that makes the tow bar for recreational vehicles as well as commercial, agricultural and defense equipment.  And now here we are in South Dakota.  From time to time we’ll go back and bring you up to date on the highlights earlier in our trip.

Oh, by the way, since leaving St. Augustine, we’ve driven over 3,700 miles (5,954.57 kilometers).  Actually, let’s correct that …. Bill has driven the Coach 700 miles and, of course, he drives our tow car on the sightseeing trips, too!  So what has Priscilla been doing all this time?  Well … thanks to the GPS … not much! But we make a good team and so far are getting along quite well!

Corn PalaceAs we traveled to our next destination – The Badlands – we unfortunately had to miss “The World’s Only Corn Palace” in Mitchell, South Dakota!  By all accounts it is quite an amazing site.  Every year a committee selects the theme, an artist then designs the huge murals for the sides of the building.  Selected farmers plant corn of various colors to be used for the murals.  These murals are changed each year and workers use a template to create the finished product.  Apparently, some 500,000 people come each year to admire this work of art.  Sounds corny?  It’s one of the many quirky sites you find as you travel across this country.  Absolutely A-Maize-ing!

A-Maize-in

The Badlands National Park

BadlandsAs mentioned, our destination was The Badlands National Park and, since we have a National Parks Senior Pass, we were able to enter the Park without paying an entry fee.  As we approached the first overlook we were driving through the flat mixed grass prairie and had no idea what was ahead.  We stopped at the first overlook – Big Badlands Overlook – and as soon as we got out of the RV we were faced with the most amazing sight!  In fact – we were speechless … and very emotional.

Spread in front of us was a panorama of peaks, buttes and valleys painted in a myriad of colors that seemed to change in the sunlight and the shadows thrown by clouds.  This is just part of the Wall which extends for about sixty miles (96.5 kilometers) across the South Dakota plains.  Words really don’t do justice to the magnificence of the Badlands.  You just have to see it!  At times we felt we were on another planet – Mars, perhaps!  After standing there in awe for a while, we drove to our campground a few miles away and sat outside looking at a beautiful view of the Wall!  WOW!  We couldn’t wait for tomorrow to explore the other faces of the Badlands.

At the Visitor Center the next day we watched an informative 20 minute presentation about the Badlands and then drove the Loop Road.   We stopped at most of the many Outlooks, enjoying the different aspects of the landscape and having a picnic lunch at one of them. During our lunch break Bill saw the outline of a longhorn sheep standing atop a peak on the other side of a valley miles away!  He just stood there as if posing!  Further on we came across more longhorn sheep, the older ones looking pretty ratty while shedding their thick winter coats!  Watching them skipping across sheer cliffs makes one hold one’s breath in case they fall.  But, sure-footed as they are, they make it look easy.  We noticed that some of the sheep had collars which indicated that the Park Service was monitoring them.

Longhorn SheepErosion has caused this incredible landscape and it continues to erode 1 inch (3 centimeters) a year.  The biodiversity of this park is quite remarkable. The large mixed-grass prairie gives life to bison, prairie dogs, antelope and the black footed ferret among others, while the ragged cliffs of the Wall are home to longhorn sheep.  Many of these animals were reintroduced by the Park Service.  The Badlands is also a treasure trove of fossils which scientists continue to excavate and study today.  At the Visitor Center Paleontological Lab we watched paleontologists at work while they carefully worked on fossils.  They answered questions and helped us understand the scientific discoveries still being made.

Campgrounds ViewBack at our campground outside Interior – a town of 67 people! – we spent time trying to absorb everything we’d seen before getting ready for our short trip to The Black Hills the next day.

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