The Black Hills

Devils Tower

After leaving Teddy Roosevelt National Park I rolled south, following the North Dakota/Montana border into South Dakota and then Wyoming to arrive at Devils Tower. Pretty cool looking piece of rock! The trail around the dome is interesting and has great views of the tower. Sighted lots of climbers and one guy looking over the side from the top. Have never had any desire whatsoever to climb rocks but respect the skills and strength of those who do.

Deadwood & Lead

A quick 89 mile drive to Deadwood, SD wound through eastern Wyoming’s farmlands and through the Black Hills National Forest. I checked into the cool, cozy and cramped KOA. Nice place tucked into the side of the mountain but the terraced sites leave little room for maneuvering or parking. Regardless, I got one of the better sites and was good with that. Once settled I headed into the historic mining and brawling town.

Deadwood is cool, kinda touristy. I hit a couple of the historic saloons and left the cemetery and other historic sites until Brad & Julie arrived. Back at camp I grilled a pork loin and just chilled.

Friday was laundry day. I’d rather have my teeth drilled. It had been a couple weeks so I filled all four washers at the campground and at least killed the miserable chore in an hour or so. Rewarded myself with a visit to Dakota Shivers Brewery in Lead (leed). Ubercool place. Yes, it’s my latest favorite brewery! Bought their stainless mug and a t-shirt. I only get shirts from breweries I really like, and then the shirt needs to be cool. Theirs are.

Hill City & More

En route to Hill City to meet up with Julie and Brad I rolled through Rapid City and got a haircut and a much needed bath for Synko. Nearly an hour later I was set up in our adjoining campsites, put a hoodie on to battle this chill and waited for Julie & Brad to arrive. Kay & Dave came over and we all headed out for a brew at Miner Brewing Company in town, followed by pretty decent buffalo/elk burger at Slate Creek Grill.

Needles Highway (7539)
Needles Highway (7539)

In the morning we headed out, got a check in the box at Mount Rushmore and then drove through Custer State Park and onto the Needles Highway. Needles Highway is yet another wonderful road that winds through trees, across a couple ridges and through very narrow and low tunnels among outcroppings of wind chiseled rock. The Eye of the Needle had us folding in side mirrors and ducking low. Extremely cool! A couple videos of the tunnels: A Fairly Wide Tunnel and Eye of the Needle.

From Needles Highway we made the couple hour drive back over to Devils Tower so Julie & Brad and Dave & Kay could enjoy that pretty cool site. Then we headed back to camp but this time through Spearfish Canyon. Another wonderful road. This part of the country is full of ’em! Our day culminated around a campfire enjoying a couple cocktails in the chilly evening. ‘Twas a perfect way to wrap up a week in the beautiful Black Hills.

Next, on to Yellowstone!

 

Grand Tetons & Snake River

We set up base camp for a few days at Colter Bay in Grand Tetons National Park. The RV section is a cozy place among lodgepole pines with bear warning signs everywhere. After watching church on a weak and intermittent WiFi signal Sunday we checked out the town of Jackson, meeting up with my friend David for lunch at the Silver Dollar Saloon in the Wort Hotel. Good elk gyro!

Late afternoon brought on some rib smoking using my new A-MAZE-N smoke pellet device. Worked great on keeping a nice think line of blue smoke venting from my little portable smoker! I managed to overcook the ribs though, dammit. I kept the temp at about 220 and am now convinced the thermostat reads high. Maybe not having to open the smoker every twenty minutes to add wood chips contributed to higher overall cook temps. More trial and error!

Monday we had a blast white water rafting on the Snake River. The time flew by; we saw a river otter and mountain goat on the riverbank, and a huge osprey nest on a power line. Lots of wildlife here!

On the way back to camp we enjoyed pizza and a brew on Dornan’s deck looking out at the towering Tetons. Awesome place to hang for a while! Then we night-capped at the Blue Heron lounge at Jackson Lake Lodge, watching the sun set over the mountain peaks. WHY DON’T I LIVE HERE?

Julie flew home Tuesday to meet her new grandson; Brad left early Wednesday for the two long-days drive to Frisco; I left Thursday mid-morning, headed to Saratoga and then Beaver Creek to meet up with Shelley & Brett for a week. Was kinda sad leaving the Tetons, party because I recognized I was starting my slow roll back to Texas and partly because I can’t answer the question: WHY DON’T I LIVE HERE?

Tetons View from Jackson Lake Lodge Video

Pahrump & Death Valley

In early March Julie, Brad & I were having dinner and got to talking about this upcoming trip. We realized I was only gonna be a few hours from Las Vegas when I was in Flagstaff. So since our cousin Pam & Billy live outside Vegas Julie decided to fly in and join me for a week hanging out with Pam & Billy.

I overnighted at a KOA in Vegas (this old man was in bed by 8:30, lol!) and then picked Julie up at the RV lot at McCarran Airport, after buying a new taillight assembly to replace the one I killed in Williams (a $150 ugh). We drove up to Pahrump, set up camp at the nice Lakeside Casino & RV Park, and then Pam came over for cocktails and Billy joined us for dinner after he got home from work.

We really did just about as little as possible all week. I installed remote door locks, a tire monitor booster and fixed a few minor things. But the overall theme was “chill.” Enjoyed some of Pam’s great pulled pork and a fire in their backyard; bummed around town a bit (you can’t do much more than “a bit” in Pahrump!); and had brunch with $1 Bloody Mary’s at the golf course.

Sunday night Shelley and her work friend Tissa stopped by for a glass of vino on their way to check out Death Valley Monday, before attending a conference in Sin City. Julie & I joined them at Badwater Monday morning to quickly take in some of Death Valley’s attractions. The Valley was really pretty this time of year—even featuring some water in low places! And it was not freaking hot! It was a good day, certainly worth the drive. More noteworthy: huge thanks to Pam for doing my laundry while we were away for the day! Truly a sweet, much appreciated favor!

It was so great hanging with Pam and Billy; we hated to pack up and head out after the week. But Julie needed to get back to her retirement life in Frisco. For me, Utah was calling!…