Grasslands to the Badlands


Our RV on the Prarie

We slept in because we could, for we reached the portion of the trip where all pressure is off.  We have no schedule, no deadlines, no one to see, until we get word from my daughter that they are settled in, and ready for visiting grandparents.  We have, at this time, only potential destinations in a limited time, but the duration is almost two months. As a strange twist, we didn’t realize until the end of the day that we had crossed into Mountain Time Zone and were actually an hour ahead.  Early without realizing it, what a concept!

The sound from birds all around us coming from the grasslands around us was amazing.  We had enjoyed the different bird calls the evening before, when everyone was roosting, but the morning sounded as if an orchestra of birds was warming up for a performance, except no one was visible.  It’s intriguing to think that all the birds were successfully hiding in the 8” tall grass that surrounded us. I can’t believe that there were as many birds hiding in the short grass as there was, as it sounded like there were thousands of birds.

I’d recharged the laptop battery over night but we hadn’t run anything else.  It’s looking early out, that solar panels, although they have the cool factor, will be unnecessary because of our style of traveling.  The RV is our primary transportation, so it’s in use for the bulk of the day, and not stationary.  The true test will be a hot night where we use the fan all night, and then leave the RV in place for a full day, or if we run into a cold spell and run the furnace all night.  We’ll cross those bridges when we come to them.

We had a nice breakfast of omelets and hash browns, and I was surprised to find that I left my favorite breakfast sausage home.  I hope that we can find it in the store this side of the Mississippi. None the less it was an excellent breakfast, with toast and all the fixing’s.  We are not suffering or missing diner food by traveling in the rig.  We still have to find some good Kaiser rolls somewhere since I brought the makings for Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a hard roll with us. The roll part will be the hardest as far as I’m considered.

After breakfast, we decided to ride the bikes through the grasslands to a nearby lake.  I have the bikes locked on the bike carrier and was surprised to discover that the paint on my bike, is really getting beat up by the cable of the lock and the bike carrier.  The carrier wore a hole through the paint and wore down part of the aluminum frame.  When we left the prairie, I placed some small bubble wrap between the carrier and the bike in the hope that the wear will slow.

The ride over to the lake was much easier than walking, and the bikes were designed to do exactly what we were using them for.  The gearing was perfect, the forks took some shock and the seat took the remainder.  In the sandy locations, the lugs on the outside of the wheel provided traction, but on the smooth portion of the roadway, they didn’t get in the way.

While we were leaving the prairie and heading towards civilization, we were surprised to see a crow chasing an osprey, in a moment we were transported to Florida all over again.  I was most surprised that there was an osprey in the area. I never thought that there were enough lakes, or that they were full of enough fish to support an Osprey.

We jumped onto Interstate 90, and while we were cruising along, we saw a pair of pronghorn antelope standing within 300 feet of the Interstate.  I was surprised that they were as close to the road as they were. There were almost a hundred signs on the side of the road for the Petrified Garden and Louise for some reason wanted to go there, a tourist trap since 1956, unchanged since 1960.  Admission was $6 each, so in we went.  The first exhibit was some fluorescent rocks from all over, including some Fluorite and Whillemite from New Jersey.  The exhibit exited to a fenced yard with weathered examples of assorted petrified wood from the area (Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota) arranged in an indecipherable manner since the place opened in 1956.  There were some rocks you could buy for $2 a pound, which was actually a bargain for some of the samples.  There was an acceptable collection of local fossils labeled as a museum, but it was a good collection of local fossils and miscellanea. Being a talker, I found that the proprietor was running the place his grandfather started.  It was a nice place to visit, considering the price, from the standpoint that the exhibit was a remnant from a time that no longer exists.  As a petrified wood exhibit, not so much, as a remnant of a time long gone, it was excellent. It all depends on what you are looking for and how you see things.

badlandsWe left and drove on the local roads, and along the way we saw sheep and cattle in the fields next to the local road. We entered the park, and went straight to the campsite area.  We discussed whether we needed power or not, and decided that it wasn’t necessary.  Louise often feels cold when it’s running and it gets darn cold at night.  We cruised around, selected a non power site that was as flat as a billiard table and parked.  The camp host is Marc, nice fellow that has been full timing for about five years, a retired CPA of all things.  After we secured the campsite, we went to the town of Interior, filled up with diesel, and considering the location, the price of $4.20 was reasonable.  We’ve paid more for diesel at less remote locations.  After leaving the gas station, we went to the visitor center, took a tour of the exhibits, got a brochure and discussed the possibility of using the bikes on a ‘trail’.  It turned out that the ‘trails’ I had read about are gravel roads inside the park.  This place is definitely not Arcadia National Park.

We hopped I the RV and headed off on the loop road, heading towards the town of Wall, home of the famous Wall Drug. We found a nice place to stop for lunch, and after lunch took a walk, and in the process took some neat pictures of flowers, but didn’t spot any fossils or fossils parts, like I hoped.  After lunch, we continued and took a walk on the upper portion of the saddle trail. The weather looked like a storm off to the east and was supposed to blow in right away, so we headed back to the campsite to get set up, relax and have dinner.  As it turned out, the storm never blew in.

On the way back to the campground, we drove into the town of Interior over an alternate dirt road, and met a Lakota Sioux, very nice older man, who said that the rain should start in an hour.  Trust in the connection to nature that Indians are supposed to have has been compromised.  I hope that the next Indian meet is more on the money.

We picked up some miscellaneous stuff at the store, and returned to the campsite.  We set up the RV, tried to repair the faulty license plate lamp that suddenly decided to malfunction, and had an enjoyable evening and ate the left over ribs from Smoki O’s.  The taste of the ribs was incredible, but the ribs were tough.  If Smoki’s were able to make the ribs tender, and keep the taste, well, that would be the best.

sunsetAfter dinner I started writing when I was distracted by a flow on the mountains to the east of the campground.  Pointing it out to Louise, she pointed out to me that half the campground was out with cameras taking pictures of the sunset.  The sunset was spectacular, and I tried my best, but wasn’t able to capture even a part of the event.  All I could think of was the instructor of my photography course at Morris County College who said of sunsets “Phhht, my mother takes pictures of sunsets, they are worth nothing, anyone can take a picture like that”.  I wish his mom was here to give me some tips.

After the sunset we met a nice couple. He was a digital animator, soon to work on a pilot for a show.  She was a professional photographer, working, apparently just out of school, and they were off to visit her family in Wyoming.  They are on the same circuit, maybe we’ll see them again, the world is small.