Posted in: Exploring South Dakota, Newbie Mistakes, Sightseeing

Moving and Exploring Again Day 3 (June 12, 2020)!

Sunday, fun day! Well…a little bit of fun mixed in with a lot of driving.

Tonight as I am writing this, I am exhausted. It was a long day of driving, with some tourist stops thrown in. I got a few blog posts started tonight as well. I had made notes, but hadn’t had a chance to sit down and write things out for posting until now.

Another early morning travel day, this time we finished up heading towards Mt. Rushmore. We had things mostly packed last night and were just going to empty the fresh water tanks (since we would have full hookups) and the black and grey tanks. The black tank valve handle had been in the same position since we bought it. It could be pulled open, but not shut any further, so we thought that was the closed position. Nope. Big stinky nope. Poor Ben. He got sprayed with the black tank before managing to somehow get the valve actually shut all the way. We had the water hose out, so he could spray down and change clothes, but what a shitty start to the day. (Pun intended.)

After cleaning up the area and Ben, we were finally on our way. We had lots of hours of driving to get in so we could arrive at our next stop. The whole point of this trip is to learn and to see things we haven’t seen before, so we did make a couple of stops along the way.

Our first touristy stop was at the Corn Palace. Yes, you read that right. The Corn Palace. It’s another quirky place we found online. It has an interesting history, with American entrepreneurial spirit behind it. Today, it is a permanent building in the downtown of this small town and is decorated each year with a new design. The decoration is made out of corn! Different colors of dried corn are used to create patterns and murals. It was rather busy on the inside (again with limited mask wearing), so we mostly admired the outside. There is a video presentation, but with so many people crowding around, we didn’t stay to watch it.

https://cornpalace.com/

Among our hours and hours of driving, we had seen signs for Wall Drug. (I think we started seeing signs in Iowa.) We had seen probably a hundred signs?! They ranged from banal (Wall Drug ahead) to outrageous (YOLO Wall Drug). In a testament to the tough character of the people of South Dakota, Wall Drug’s marketing never stopped. For literally hundreds of miles in either direction, they broke up the somewhat boring drive with focused, fairly low cost advertising. Along with being funny, you just have to respect the tenacity.

It turned out Wall Drug was on our way to the next campground. So, another win for Wall Drug advertising. We decided to stop and we were glad we did.

It was crazy! We tried to see as much as we could in an hour, but we probably could have spent the better part of a day there. There were a bunch of little shops (bookstores, camping supplies, fudge, ice cream, cafe, souvenir, etc.), a chapel, a splash pad…There was free water near the splash pad, a tribute going back to when the store offered free ice water to travelers in the 30’s. It wasn’t ice cold, but it was cool. We bought some donuts and a slice of cherry pie to share. We also tried the $0.05 coffee. It was actually good coffee! Ben liked it so much, he bought another cup. đŸ™‚

http://www.walldrug.com/

We took a quick video of a walk through at Wall Drug that you can see on our YouTube channel here. https://youtu.be/ZM6fYTvHo2E

RVer NOTE: Stop for gas before the Wall exit if you have a larger RV and/or are towing and need to refuel. There were two gas stations right near the highway exit/entrance, but neither were set up for larger vehicles. The next exit had 1 broken diesel pump. Finally at exits 60 or 61, we found diesel and spaces large enough for us.

We got to see part of the Badlands on our drive. The change in scenery was amazing and beautiful. Ben and I were talking about the settlers who came through. To get all the way there and see just more vast open space, somebody must have just said “Nope. I’m done. Not going anymore.” The sheer amount of openness is daunting to think about crossing on a horse or on foot.

We checked into our campground and Ben finally got to put up his netted pop-up room/clam shell/tent. We got situated, set up, and ready to relax. Our spot is great. It has an amazing view of the mountains and it’s nicely shaded. The laundry room isn’t too far and the pool is open. The boys are excited to go swimming.

~Sarah

Posted in: Exploring South Dakota, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Day 2 Of Travel

On to our next stop! (June 10, 2020)

Most of the truckers that had also used the casino’s overnight parking last night were gone by the time we left. Let me tell you something; I feel huge when we are driving and towing the RV. However, when we pull into a gas station with truck pumps or park next a semi truck, I feel a little small.

We started early again to get the most of our day. We had left the slides in and everything put away for the one night, so we had much less to do in order to leave. We hadn’t even unhooked the RV from the truck. Our next stop was also in Iowa, although right near the South Dakota border. It was another casino, Grand Falls Casino. This one had an RV park with full hook ups for $35/night. We also had access to their outdoor pool.

It was pretty standard driving, no sudden storms this time. There was some construction, but nothing eventful. We did see lots of windmills and water towers. One water tower was even painted yellow and had a smiley face on it! We found a pay phone at a rest stop in Iowa. Seriously! Blue frame and all. We became card carrying rewards members of Kum & Go.

Once we arrived at our destination, I had to go into the hotel check-in desk to get the key to the electric box and our designated spot assignment. We also got the wristbands for the pool. The campground was all pull through spots, with full hookups. The RV park was towards the side of the property (road behind us and the driving range in front of us).

We grabbed some dinner, and this time it was pretty much what I expected. I did get to make a nice salad though!

The boys enjoyed the pool for a few minutes before it got too crowded and we left. We have noticed that not very many people are wearing masks in Iowa or South Dakota. There are signs “recommending” wearing masks, but nothing requiring people to wear them. We are one of the few, other than employees, and we are still trying to maintain a social/physical distance. The night ended with the boys filling in our travel map*. We have one on the kitchen wall and one in their room for them to fill out. (Thank you Denny & Gabe for the map, the boys love coloring in where they’ve been!)

Saturday we explored the area a little bit and went to the pool again in the evening.

We began Saturday morning with getting bagels from Bagel Boy. They were pretty good (and reasonably priced when compared to back home).

Will really wanted to see some oddities/quirkiness on this trip (things like the biggest ball of twine). We checked on AtlasObscura.com and RoadsideAmerica.com and found a few options. After seeing how far they were from us, we decided on Mr. Bendo, a large statue holding a tailpipe outside of a muffler shop. He was pretty large! According to roadsideamerica.com, in 2018 the city said he could no longer hold his tailpipe, as it acted as a sign for the business and was too tall. When the city’s people heard about it, they were upset and got the city to reverse their decision. Since it had not been considered a sign when it first began in the 60’s, they said it was a work of art instead.

Our next stop for the day was extremely out there. We went to Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town. This one was definitely an experience. It was out in the hillsides, and this man has created quite the livelihood. He was very nice as he showed us around. He had a two pump gas station, a souvenir shop, the cowboy town, buffalo (also sold buffalo hides, skulls, and burgers), had several billboards on his land (both for rent and to advertise the cowboy town), and offered overnight parking. What an entrepreneur!

The town consisted of several buildings/exhibits: a gold mine, antique farming equipment, a saloon, a sheriff’s office, etc. There is an upper walkway so you can view the town as well. The other option to get a bird’s eye view is to climb the tower. You can see the buffalo herd sometimes from here as well.

The town had many hand-painted signs explaining what each exhibit is about. There are mannequins in each location, some of them are animatronic and speak or move. It was certainly an experience! The town is a little run down. It is a huge undertaking for one person. He also said he is still cleaning up some tornado damage from a few years ago.

Some of the robots still work, although they are a little worn. The town does sit out in all of the elements, so there is some weathering to the paint, wood boards, signs, the mannequins and their clothes. Some areas smelled a little musty, so I didn’t stay in there too long with my allergies. You could tell that a lot of work had gone into making the town, although I’m not sure exactly how historically accurate some of the information was.

I would definitely stop and check it out if you like finding oddities and things off the beaten path. When we went it was $8/adult (12+) and $4/kids. We did a quick video of some of the exhibits, if you want to check it out!

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Hiking, Sightseeing

Caesar’s Creek State Park

Caesar’s Creek State Park is located in Ohio. We didn’t stay in the Caesar’s Creek campgrounds as the full hookups were completely booked. We do know several people who have enjoyed camping there though. Our campground was about a 15 minute drive to the hiking areas, so we ended up making several day trips. Most of the trails are really well maintained, some with gravel paths.

NOTE: Some of the trails had a No Pets and No Bicycles restriction.

Our first time venturing out into new hiking trails, we were trying to find the waterfall, but ended up taking the wrong trail. However, we did end up seeing a mom and two baby raccoons!

We stopped at the damn and saw a few boaters and a kayaker on the lake. It was a beautiful day. The boys loved the hike and we only saw a few other people out. (It was great for social distancing!) We walked through the fossil area and all of the boys added a rock to the tower that had been started.

We have tried four of the Caesar’s Creek trails:

Caesar’s Trace: This one was our first trail. No pets or bikes. It had a few spots where the trail went close to a creek. The boys had lots of fun climbing around the banks and over tree roots. It was on this path that we saw the raccoons. We were both minding our own business and ended up startling each other. They ran up a tree to watch us, while we stood on the trail and watched them.

Horseshoe Falls: We started on part of this trail and must have crossed over to another one. I want to go back to finish as it looks like there are several cool features. We ran into the fossil collection area as well. When I actually used Maps from the All Trails app (we just use the free version for now), it got me to the right parking lot! We loved this trail. In fact, it was just the boys and I since Ben had a meeting. I think this one is one to go back to so Ben can hike it too. The path was nicely compacted dirt, just a few muddy spots that were easily dodged (it rained a few days ago), and wide enough that I didn’t feel like I had to turn sideways to make it down the path. There was plenty to see along the trail; a glimpse of the lake, a creek, tiny waterfalls, a cool rock wall, then finally the falls (now granted, they are not like Niagara Falls, but still pretty darn cool and beautiful). You can stop there, or if you walk up the trail a little bit more, there is a rope bridge and a path that you can take to cross to the other side of the falls. Nick found out the hard way (probably the 100th time) that wet rocks are slippery. Luckily he only scraped the side of his leg a little bit, and may have some bruises.

Gorge Trail: We liked this trail a lot. If you take the path one way, you go up a somewhat steep set of wooden stairs. If you go the other direction to begin the hike, you will end up walking down the stairs. There was a pond, several bridges, and the water runoff area was pretty cool to see. To help wear the boys out, they ran up the steep hill that makes up the side of the dam (this is by the water runoff area).

The hill from the dam and them stopping halfway up for a break

Fifty Springs Loop Trail: I would skip this one. This was not as well maintained or marked. It was supposed to be an orange marked trail, but because of organic pigments in the sun, had faded in many places to yellow. It crossed an actual yellow marked trail, so it was easy to get on a wrong path and not end up where you wanted to go. Much muddier after the rain than the other trails.

~Sarah

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