Back to Canada

After a quick 3 weeks in the US we go back to Canada today. Had a great time at Mackinac Island yesterday on Lake Michigan. Tandem cycle around the island of no cars . It is 8 miles. Ferry from mainland takes only 20 minutes. If you are ever here do visit it.




Why I love South Dakota

We ended up staying 8 nights in South Dakota due mainly to alternator problems on the RV. Happily we arrived at an ideal time and were able to see the Buffalo Roundup at Custer Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial walk held just twice a year, visit Mount Rushmore and do several scenic drives on the Needles Highway.

Buffalo Roundup at Custer Park

Each year at Custer Park the park officials do a buffalo round-up. The buffalo are vaccinated and checked for illness as well as culling out a few to make sure the Park can sustain an appropriate number of buffalo. The herd numbers around 1300. We heard about the roundup at the Rushmore Shadows Campground where we stayed the entire time. Around 15000 people attend the roundup and you have to get up at the crack of dawn or in our case 5am to drive to the site. We were glad we got up early as we got a great viewing point. There are two places you can view the buffalo and we were at the one where the buffalo come over the hill and are then rounded up towards the corals. It was a great time with our $6 pancake breakfast.

I found it amusing that politicians are the same all over the world. The South Dakota governor or senator not sure attended with a hugh entourage. They were on a hill opposite us which strangely was a bad viewing point. Given the conversation around us I suspect that the governor lost a lot of votes from South Dakota voters because of his separateness from the commoners on the hills. That aside it was amazing to see the buffalo come over the hill with the cowboys and cowgirls herding them. It must have been breathtaking 150 years ago to see them on the plains when they numbered in the millions all over the midwest.

Crazy Horse Memorial Walk

Twice a year people are given the opportunity to walk through a Volksmarch to the top of the Crazy Horse Memorial. You either make a donation of a few cans of food and pay a $3 per person cost. The day we did it was in glorious sunshine and along with a few thousand other people we enjoyed the walk up to the memorial. Afterwards we returned to the visitor centre which I highly recommend a visit. I never knew that the memorial being carved out of granite was a private undertaking with no government funding and being done by one family. The sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started the memorial in 1948 and after his death in 1982 his wife and 10 children carried on the work. When it is finished it will dwarf Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore

Any visit to South Dakota has to include Mount Rushmore. We went twice during our time in South Dakota. There is no entry charge to visit the site but you do have to pay $11 for car parking valid for one year. The layout of the complex is from the car park you walk up through a corridor of flags from each state and to a viewing platform overlooking the amphitheatre where you go for the evening show. Below the platform are a couple of theatres showing a short film about the history of the site as well as an exhibition you can walk through. The night show is a movie about Mount Rushmore and how Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln, all Republicans, were chosen. It is quite amazing given the equipment they used that no one was killed in the 15 years sculpturing the faces. Mount Rushmore is well worth a visit and it gets 3 million visitors a year although when we were there it did not feel that busy.

I loved South Dakota because the people were friendly and for a New Zealander there are a lot of interesting sites to visit. We also drove the Needles Highway and the amazing scenery, attended a musical show and did some wine and beer tasting during our stay. All in all I would love to return to South Dakota in the summer to do some hikes and explore it more.

Finally leaving Rapid City in South Dakota

Unreliable wi-fi has meant few blogs and mechanical delays with the motor home have delayed the progress of our trip. Hopefully today the problem is resolved after a couple of days work by mechanics on the alternator.

There are worse places to be stuck than South Dakota. There has been so much to do here visiting Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial Walk, Buffalo Round Up at Custer Park, Needles Highway and enjoying a few days relaxation. Today we are heading for Minnesota and then on to Detroit over the next week or so.

Week 13 – Wyoming, Montana & South Dakota

Week 13 – Wyoming, Montana & South Dakota


What we did in the 3 states in Week 13 of our RTW trip.

Originally posted on 52 Weeks:

‘Friendship is a horizon which expands whenever we approach it. – E.R. Hazlip

[So, how this works is each week I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach it’s destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page).]

This last week we’ve, mostly, stayed in South Dakota, as it was agreed we needed some more downtime and the RV needed some more repairs before we embark on our next push.

Mom pouring over maps

Mom pouring over the maps, trying to figure out new routes, due to our delays!

That meant leaving Cody, Wyoming and heading to Montana for an over night in Ranchester, so we could to to ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’

Custer Last Stand

Custer Last Stand

It was very interesting and…

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Buffalo Bill Museum Cody Wyoming

The Journey to Cody

We left Gardiner and drove through Yellowstone via the Lamar Valley. The Lamar valley is the best place for spotting wolves in Yellowstone although we saw none the day we travelled through it. The valley is lovely with wide open spaces. Our drive to Cody was on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and took us over Dead Indian Pass where there were some spectacular views of the countryside.

In Cody we stayed at the Ponderosa campground on the town edges and only a five or so minute walk to the Buffalo Bill Museum. The campground was good location wise but the bathrooms were a bit tired. It also is beside a main road although I noticed no noise during the night and slept well. It cost $50 a night for the four of us.

Buffalo Bill Museum

The Buffalo Bill Museum is the main tourist attraction in Cody and attracts 200,000 visitors a year. It is open all year round and cost $18 for entry, however the entry ticket is valid for two days and there are five wings or museums to visit. I thought it was good value for money. The Buffalo Bill Museum gives the background and life of Buffalo Bill including his many ups and downs. He had a fiery marriage and was the world’s first superstar with his Wild West show that played throughout Europe. There was even a private show for Queen Victoria. The Cody Firearms Museum has lots of guns and a few stuffed animals of every description.

Draper’s Natural History Museum has some interesting exhibits and information about the fauna, geology and problems facing the environment.
Whitney Western Art Museum has some wonderful paintings and bronzes. The Plains Indian Museum had several exhibits of the life of the Indians. Although I felt it did not really show the conflict with the settlers.

All in all you can spend a few hours wandering around the different museums and learn a lot about Buffalo Bill.

We also went into town and visited Buffalo Bills daughters historical saloon called Irma but it had been converted into a restaurant. The bar attached was a small one and not in the style we expected of the old west. The next day we headed toward Ranchester for a jump off point to Custer’s Last Stand site.

Yellowstone National Park make sure you see Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Park

I have heard of Yellowstone National Park and its natural wonders for years and always wanted to visit it. It did not disappoint. Scenery that is quite simply breathtaking, lots of buffalo, elk and chipmunks and the thermal wonders are all part of the wonders of Yellowstone. Yellowstone was the first National Park in the world and established in 1872. It is around 9000 square kilometres in size and 96% of it is in Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. The park has up to 3000 earthquakes each year with more than 300 geysers including Old Faithful it has fantastic thermal area spread throughout the park. The tallest waterfall is the lower falls on the Yellowstone River at 94 metres high. For me, the highlight of our visit was Yellowstone Grand Canyon.

Where we stayed?

We stayed near the small town of Gardiner at the Yellowstone RV park beside the Gardiner river. The RV park cost $50 per night for the four of us. Gardiner’s North entrance is open year-long and the site of the Roosevelt Arch. The town also has the occasional elk wandering down the street.

Mammoth Hot Springs and Buffalo Jam

On our first afternoon we drove into the Park and bought an Annual National Park Pass for $80 which covers all the US national parks. We first visited Mammoth Springs with its terraces and steam rising from the thermal areas. The Mammoth Springs were nice to view and the walkways allow access to all parts of it. The easy access also draws huge crowds of people and we were glad not to visit in autumn and not summer. Afterwards we went for a twilight drive and got caught up in a buffalo jam of a few hundred buffalo using the road. After getting out of the buffalo jam we then got into an elk jam with people taking photos or observing elk in the centre of Mammoth Springs township.

Old Faithful

We got up early the next day and had a hearty breakfast in Gardiner before heading into the park. It was a lovely drive to Old Faithful where we saw it spout twice. There also is a lovely walk around the upper geyser area where there are lots of pools and geysers. On the way back we stopped at Yellowstone Grand Canyon which has breathtaking scenery. If you ever get the chance to go to Yellowstone make sure you visit the canyon.

Highlights for me was a buffalo jam and Yellowstone Grand Canyon. We also saw a grizzly albeit faraway. Our next stop is Cody home of Buffalo Bill.