Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Good Times in the Badlands

Badlands NP
Our drive to Wausau and King’s Camper was uneventful - until we got word from the service department that our routine wheel bearing grease job was anything but routine. Apparently, several seals had blown and coated the brake linings with grease. The labor to disassemble and clean the brakes was more than it would be to install new linings. Fortunately they had all the parts in hand and the work would be completed later in the afternoon. Since we had planned on spending the night at King’s anyway, at least it wouldn’t disrupt our travel plans.

Tom's sister Betsy and brother-in-law Bill
While the RV was being worked on we had plenty of time to drive to Plover and have lunch with Betsy and Bill. By late afternoon, the work had been finished (including installation of  new bathroom exhaust fan we’d ordered) and by Tuesday noon, we bid farewell to Wisconsin and crossed into Minnesota.

Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD
you remember coonskin hats? well...
An uninspiring overnight at a Petro truck stop in Albert Lea, then an overnight at Cabela’s in Mitchell, SD (with a stop at the Corn Palace which was under major reconstruction). We don't care much for quick one night stands, especially in truck stops. But the price is right even if the ambiance isn't. One place we did spend time in was Wall, SD. Realizing that most people stop for a few hours because of Wall's eccentric appeal, we stopped for a few nights at the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Wall, SD with other motives in mind.

Dave Jones, entrenched in Wall, SD
Our principle motive for stopping in Wall was to spend time visiting with long time former Appleton denizen, G. David Jones. Whenever we stop in Wall we’ve always found the town (forgive us) wall to wall with tourists. But given the time of year, many of these tourists were Harley riders since with the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally was still in high gear. Annoyingly loud but certainly colorful. Fortunately, most of the riders stayed downtown or were coming to and from the interstate from the opposite direction of the RV park.

We tempted Dave to our RV with the promise of a home cooked meal which included brats from Jacob’s Meat Market in Appleton. Dave was very excited at the prospect of some Jacob’s brats (although we'd hoped our company alone would have been enough of an attraction). Unfortunately, when Carol purchased the brats, instead of veal, pork or beef, she had purchased brats comprised of chicken. Chicken? Suffice to say, by definition, the words 'chicken' and 'brat' should never be used in the same sentence. No amount of condiment could cover the disappointment Dave and Tom felt. At least the brat wannabes were served on Manderfield buns. That little hiccup aside, it was an entertaining afternoon as Dave regaled us with Wall lore and history. It also didn’t hurt that during our stay in Wall, that we were able to to revisit some of the nicest scenery South Dakota has to offer in the form of an auto tour through the Badlands NP and the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. As an aside, if you get the chance and it happens to be ope, visit the Buffalo Gap National Grassland Visitor Center. Don't overlook the Wall Public Library. And, by all means, whatever you do, do not pass up the chance at savoring some of Wall Drug Cafe's epic homemade fresh donuts.

Big Pines Campground

Our South Dakota driver’s licenses were in need of renewing in 2014 so a few nights in the Big Pines Campground outside Custer, SD was in order. Not only did the park put us within an easy drive to the DMV in Rapid City, the location also allowed easy access to the wildlife auto tour in Custer State Park (and breakfast at the park’s Gamekeeper Lodge), a walking tour of the buffalo artwork in downtown Custer, a swing through Wind Cave NP, a revisit of Mount Rushmore, and a drive along the highway 16A loop which we couldn't have possibly accomplished towing the RV. We included a stop at our mail forwarding service in Box Elder to double check that our voter registrations were in order.
Next on our westward journey was an forgettable overnight at an RV park outside Cheyenne, WY as we headed to Colorado with a visit to a certain exclusive backyard RV campground in mind.

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