Sept 9 – Oct 12, 2013 San Diego to western South Dakota and back

The trip map – – >


Sept 9 – First stop on the way to South Dakota. Vegas. Bloody hot here, hanging in the air conditioning for a bit before venturing out to explore.


Sept 10 – Our abode for the evening. A Flying J truckstop @ Willard Bay, Utah. Just across the street is the Great Salt Lake, and some nice mtns out the front window. Grass for the puppy and it’s free:)

FlyingJ In Willard Bay, Utah
FlyingJ In Willard Bay, Utah

Sept 11 – Made it to Gros Ventre camp outsite of Jackson Hole/Moose, WY via Idaho and the beautiful Snake_River.  One of our favorite places.

Snake River Idaho
Snake River Idaho

Here’s the welcome bull moose hiding in the trees in Gros Ventre camp:


Our sweet dog, Poppins, at the campfire that evening:


Sept 12 – Was a bit chilly and rainy, but got out for a walk around the campground and the Gros Ventre River:



Along this walk we came upon a bull moose in the brush a little too close for comfort for me, but he was very non-plussed with us, and after checking us out a bit, ignored us. 🙂


Beavers wanted a dam — right here!  EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 379

Nice cloud wrapped view of Grand Teton at the end of the walk: GrandTetonFromCamp

Sept 13 – Took the ferry at Jenny Lake in Teton Natl Park to the Hidden Falls trail.  Several years ago we hiked around the lake to Hidden Falls from the visitor center.  This one was much easier: CanonCamera 794  EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 389

Jenny Lake
Jenny Lake

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Caught a cool looking rainbow effect on the horizon on the way back to camp:

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Had a nice simple supper-picnic along the upper Snake River Overlook tonight 🙂

Sept 14 – Walking around the Gros Ventre campground with Poppins, came across the momma and 2 baby meeses meandering around the camp.  Coolest thing ever.MeesesCruzinGrosVentre MeesesInCamp9-14-13   Lunch in the valley just past Kelly, with the Teton Range in view

EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 409  Poppins is thrilled….

Sept 15– Rain and wind most of the trip from Gros Ventre/Jackson/Teton to Casper, WY.  Saw 3 pair of bears along the way.  Caught this one just before our diesel engine made it meander away like the others… EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 410

Sept 16 – Left Casper, WY, drove thru Thunder Basin, and logged in at Beaver Lake Campground in Custer, South Dakota

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Sept 17 – Sept 23 In and around Custer SD

NeedlesHwy Custer Natl Park
NeedlesHwy Custer Natl Park-9-18

On the 19th we went up to the top of Mt Coolidge Lookout and Fire Tower at the southern end of the Black Hills and Custer State Park. It’s around 6,000′ with breath taking 360 degree views. You can see the Needles, Badland, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse with binoculars. It was built in the 40’s by the CCC (one of the MANY wonders we saw built by the CCC):
DebAtMtCoolidge  EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 421

On the way down the mountain, we came across a herd of “wild” mules in the park. I say “wild” in parenthesis because they seemed quite happy about the cars stopping and the several people that were feeding them. This guy came right up to my window EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 424
as we were trying to pass some of the people who shouldn’t have been feeding them!
IMG_20130919_121115_155  …as well as the random bison cruzin the road… IMG_20130919_115834_413

Then on to Mt. Rushmore. Stunning views before you even get to the park. Thank goodness the government hadn’t shut down prior to our visit.

EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 432  EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 430  And, once in the park – just amazing

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Back at camp, my little buddy (one of the many living and well loved at the campground) was waiting for a treat! 🙂EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 437

EverythingOnPhone-to-09-23-13 438

On Sept 20 we toured Wind Cave Nat’l Park: Wind Cave  WindCave  We went 225′ under ground.  The cave was found in the late 1800’s, and they still haven’t mapped the entire place.  Beautiful “boxwork“.

Along the topside of Wind Cave Nat’l Park lots of Prarie Dogs and bison cruzin’ around: WindCaveTopside  CanonCamera 814

On the 21st we visited the largest “in situ” mammoth dig site in the world. Such a great tour, just amazing history and everything is so well preserved! Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, South Dakota

MammothHotSpringsDig  MammothSkullTusks

Also had a great greasy spoon lunch, and quite possibly the best french fries ever, at Dale’s in Hot Springs! 🙂 BestFriesEver-HotSpringsSD

Went back to Rushmore afterward to hike around the area a little closer, got some up close and personal shots of the inside of the presidents’ nostrils (which I will spare you from). Greg really liked the art deco lights they had at the viewing area: RushmoreWithDecoLight  RushmoreWithLight2
The trees grow right out of the rocks around here:

On the way out of Rushmore, we saw this big guy on the side of the road: LonghornSheepAtRushmore

Then we drove along Needles Hwy to enjoy some spectacular scenery along a challenging road with hairpin turns and tunnels! Would have been a blast in the Mini Cooper we just sold!!
NeedleEye    This is called the eye of the Needle.  Very popular with climbers 🙂


TunnelAtEyeOfNeedle  The VERY NARROW tunnel to get to/from the eye on Needles Hwy.

Some more great pics of Needles here from climbers.

A herd of longhorns on the drive down the mountain:LongHornsAtCusterSD

On our last day (9/23) in Custer we took a picnic lunch to a beautiful spot called Horsetheif Lake
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Sept 24 Left Custer, SD for the Badlands of SD for one night. Complete change of scenery.
Badlands  GregBadlands  PoppinsAndIAtBadlands  ExpanseBadlands
Here’s our spot for the night.

And the view…
OurViewAtBadlands  BadlandsCampground

That afternoon took a hike around the Fossil and Castle Trails. SpireAtBadlands

Came upon a bighorn resting in the shade along Castle Trail.
BigHornOnCastleTrailBadlands  SheepCastleTrail


Sunrise at Badlands the next morning:
SunriseBadlands  SunriseBL57  SunriseBadlands56


Sept 25 This morning we met a really nice couple, Virginia and Roger, with a beautiful 1992 Country Coach Concept ( which Greg zoomed in on quickly 🙂 ). They’re planning a trip to San Diego in the next couple of months and we hope to get together with them again. Roger is a professional speed skater and they travel around to his races. These people are in GREAT shape! 🙂

After a chat, we headed out from Badlands to Spearfish, SD to catch some changing of color! Along the route to Spearfish was the town of Wall, SD, which apparently is quite well known for a drug store which has become almost a block long in itself. Of course we had to stop and visit Wall Drug, it has a great story behind it, and was a fun stop.

Once at Spearfish, we set up at a very nice park called Elkhorn Ridge in Spearfish for a few days, and had a nice lightening/thunder and hailstorm that afternoon/evening!

Thurs, Sept 26 – On a recommendation from the campground office, we took the scenic drive loop through amazingly beautiful RoughLock Falls, around Spearfish, Deadwood, and Lead,
LeadSign  RoughlockFalls3
wih an excellent lunch at Lewie’s! Highly recommended it if you get the chance!
GreatBurger-LeadSD  Lunch-Lewies-Lead


Cold storm came through tonight – – here’s a “before the storm” shot:   JustBeforeStormAtSpearfish  (we had a perfect spot at this campground! #111)

Fri, Sept 27 – A snowy, cold day – 34 degrees. Perfect for a visit to Devil’s Tower, WY

DevilsTowerPath  DevilsTowerWy

No dogs allowed on the trail up to the tower – – Greg and Poppins stayed below in the wet and cold….  ColdPoppinsAndDadAtDevilsTower

Sat, Sept 28 – Beautiful, clear day in Spearfish. We et out for the museum, didn’t find it, and wound up at a small street fair in old downtown Spearfish. Great little country block party with a band, lots of food, and nabbed some fresh, homegrown vegetables! 🙂

That afternoon, picked up Poppins and went back to RoughLock Falls for a picnic. This place is freakishly beautiful:

SpearfishCanyon  SpearfishCanyonWalk

Part of the film “Dances With Wolves” was filmed at our picnic spot:  LunchInSpearfishCanyonHere (yeah, I cut off the left side of the signpost)

Sun. Sept 29 –  A very windy, warm day.  Hung out at camp and got some cleaning and laundry done, and a couple of nice walks with Poppins.  Beautiful sunset that night.  SunsetAtSpearfishCamp  SunsetAtSpearfishCamp2  SunsetAtSpearfishCamp4

Mon. Sept 30 – Figued it was time to head south as a huge storm was coming in from the Pacific Northwest. Turns out the Spearfish/Rapid City South Dakota area was to get 4-5 feet of snow from this storm. Us Southern California wimps wouldn’t have made it!! 😉 Made our way to Cheyenne, WY today.

Tue. Oct 1 – Nice tour of the Cheyenne State Historical Museum, and afternoon around Holliday Park in the middle of town. Very pretty small town.


Wed, Oct 2 – Left Cheyenne, WY around 9:15am. Arrived at Tiger Run RV park in Breckenridge, CO around 1pm. This is our second visit to this park, we just love it, and the entire Breckenridge area.

Beautiful drive (again)… DriveFromWyoToBreck  RockiesAroundDenver

Thu, Oct 3 – Drove down Hwy 9. Took a little walk around what seemed like the top of the world. Hoosier Summit along the Continental Divide at around 11,000 feet: ContDivideSouthofBreckenridge

right next to a teeny town called Alma, with a catchy name for the liquor store:

Stopped back in Breckenridge proper for a great lunch at Kenosha, then a little shopping for a sweater at Goochi Poochi and Me as snow is expected tonight. 🙂

Walking around the RV park after: RiverWalkAtTigerRunCamp

Fri, Oct 4 – It snowed last night! Not too much, just enough to make it pretty. Poppins’ first time in the snow, she really seemed to like it. 🙂

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Sat, Oct 5 – It wasn’t expected, but we got more snow overnight here in Breckenridge. More than the previous night! So beautiful.

Snow Flakes on car window, reflection of trees in the background
Snow Flakes on car window, reflection of trees in the background

Lots of local walks today. IMG_0669  IMG_0670

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Put the PAWZ booties on Poppins to help with the cold.  Still had ice stuck to the hair on her legs, but her pads were nice and dry. 🙂  IMG_0678

Sun, Oct 6 – Got ready to head out of Breckenridge (reluctantly) by 8am.  Started up the coach and the slides wouldn’t retract.  The awnings wouldn’t roll in over the slides – they were frozen.  We’d seen a couple of coaches the day before on walks around the park and noted their slides were retracted early in the day … being the well-worn nomads we are, we figured they weren’t staying in their coach that evening … come to find out that the *smart* travellers know to bring the slides in if cold/snow/frost is coming that night and you want to leave early the next morning because THEY’LL FREEZE!  Chalk this up to a lesson well learned – – check with us on our planned Alaska trip next year to see if we remember! 😉

Caught some snow on my phone:

After waiting for some sun to hit the awnings, Greg climbing on the dangerous, icy roof and scraping, wacking the awnings from below with a stick, and running my blow dryer on high on them for a couple of hours, we were able to get both slides in and secure and on the road at 11:30.  On our way south to Moab, UT to avoid more of the storm coming in from the west.

Mon, Oct 7 – Arrived at Moab Rim Campground around 4:45 pm. Just gorgeous – surrounded by cliffs and red mountains.

Let Poppins rest after the drive (she’s still not liking the actual moving of the vehicle), and Greg and I drove up to Dead Horse Point State Park. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.    IMG_0694  IMG_0695

Picked a rock and had a great picnic lunch with a view:
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IMG_1380  UsAtDeadHorsePointMoabUT

We asked a couple of park rangers if we’d be ok taking our all wheel drive Honda CRV back down the to Moab along the dirt road past the Gemini Bridges. One said “it’s a little sandy in places so as long as you’re comfortable driving in sand”… and the other said “oh, yeah – no problem, rental cars go on that dirt road”. So, we went. Took pictures up to the point where WE ALMOST DIED, SLIDING OFF A CLIF, WHEN THE WHEELS SLID UPON BRAKING! We’ll rent a 4×4 next time… AtGeminiBridgesMoab

Tue, Oct 8 – After a beautiful walk on the trail, behind the campground along Moab Rim, we were off to Monument Valley. Arrived at Gouldings Campground around 12:30pm.

This place has lots of history, from the couple who founded the place to the John Wayne movies filmed there. 🙂

We set up camp, and drove over to Gooseneck State Park. Wanted to check it out as apparently you can dry camp up there. We’re absolutely going to have to plan a short stay there sometime in the future!

View At Gooseneck
View At Gooseneck

Then took a drive thru the Valley of the Gods The pictures don’t do it justice…IMG_0712

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Wed, Oct 9 – Got up this morning and took a hike thru the box canyon just across the way from the camp.

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IMG_0730  Trying to get the echo – – it was all fun until a few rocks started falling, we were out of there pretty quickly after that! 😉

Then we took the rough drive thru Monument Valley on Navajo Tribal land.
IMG_0740  Poppins was happy to get out of the bumpy ride for a bit at one of the view points along the road.

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Loved looking up at this from the RV window at camp:  IMG_1446

Thu, Oct 10 – Had an extremely windy, rainy night here at Gouldings. The campground is in a valley where the wind just funnels through. Talking with some other campers, they were worried they were going to be blown over a few times. We have red, clay colored dirt in every single possible crevice of the RV and car – – and it’s amazing how much of it made it inside! It’s just everywhere. Headed out around 9:15am, south toward Prescott, AZ via Flagstaff. Had some ice and snow along the way in Flagstaff:  IMG_0748  IMG_0749

Arrived at Point of Rocks camp in Prescott around 3pm. We like this little park.
Fri, Oct 11 – Our last full day before heading back to San Diego tomorrow. Hiking on the boulders and over to Watson Lake is so much fun here.IMG_0750  IMG_0751


In the afternoon we headed into old downtown Prescott. The town has a beautiful central park and shops along historic Whiskey Row. Since we had Poppins with us, we decided to get pizza and salad to take back to camp this evening, and boy are we glad we did! Bill’s Pizza is seriously good eats! Can’t wait to go back here again.

Sat. Oct 12 – Set out from Point of Rocks Park at Prescott Lakes, AZ for San Diego via Congress, AZ to get the coach weighed, took a wrong turn thanks to an incorrect entry into the Garmin, and ended up on a very narrow, winding, mountainous road along Hwy’s 96 & 97 toward Bagdad, AZ which is right before Nowhere, AZ.  Found our way back  to 8 West, via 10 and 78, after looking at the hard copy atlas!

After almost 5 weeks on the road – this was the only time we had gotten lazy and didn’t cross reference the routes against the hardcopy Atlas.    We learned a lot on this trip, and this was certainly one of the lessons we’ll keep in mind as we head out on the next journey tentatively planned for Alaska end of April 2014! 🙂

Deb, Greg, and Poppins

9 thoughts on “Sept 9 – Oct 12, 2013 San Diego to western South Dakota and back”

  1. Great pics of your trip! Thanks so much for sharing! Looks like the solar panels were enough to keep up with most of your needs. I’m ready for your Alaska blog!

    1. I got teary-eyed looking at the amazing pictures and you write beautifully! Thanks for sharing this great adventure, it almost felt like I was there.

      1. Hi Sandy – Yeah, she writes as good as I make Martinis! (Pretty good in a picture too…)
        Looking forward to seeing you soon…

    2. (On Edit – This is in regards to Jeff’s comment, dang thing keeps getting indented under Sandy’s! Probably a UNIX thing:)!)

      You can never have enough power. I have my eye on some new tube HiFi, and just for Deb, some new speakers…. Those tubes suck power as fast as I uncork a Silver Oak!

  2. Great photos! What a beautiful country we live in. It sounds like you made a right turn, instead of a left at the Kirkland intersection coming down the hill from Prescott. Great story about the slide-outs. Looking forward to your next adventure.

    1. You nailed it Mark! I entered the right stuff into the GPS, it just gave bad directions – and I should have known better. Deb was so good about it, as she really hates curvy, high drop off, narrow, no shoulder or guard rail roadways. After 90 minutes of agony, I stopped singing, and she felt a bit better….

  3. How amazing. Thank you for posting so many pictures. Everything looks fantastic except the ALMOST DYING part. LOL No more sand driving for you!! I love you guys and miss you so much! Can’t wait to see more.

    1. Now Crystal – No way was she going to die then, she had chocolate cookies waiting for her back in the RV:)! And she did gppd, learning that skidding front wheels ‘don’t turn’ in the direction you point them… Of course, many a mountain sheep is in therapy after seeing first hand her drive that day!

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