Analise here. We’ve made it to Grand Rapids, Michigan — 1,000+ miles, 5 state lines, and two time zones covered in two days! There’s lots of pics from last week, so let’s get to the visual aids.
Custer State Park
When we planned our route east, South Dakota was a good halfway place to stop for a week. But it turned out to have so much to offer, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We stayed in Sturgis which appears to have been designed as a Harley Davidson tribute town. In the summer, it’s home to one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the country.
Since we bookended our trip with two full weekends of driving, weekday mornings were the best time to sightsee. A neighboring RVer back in Montana had told us about Custer State Park which has a scenic drive called the Wildlife Loop Road full of bison and other plains fauna. The animals are most active early and late in the day, so we got up to see them at sunrise before work. The only animal we saw but couldn’t snag a snap of was the coyote loitering around Prairie Dog Town; he was indeed wily.
Click the pic for a bigger pic
Near Sturgis is the South Dakota gold rush frontier town of Deadwood, immortalized in that cultural icon of TV history: the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6, Episode 8 western holodeck romp A Fistful of Datas.
There was also that HBO show. We were out of season for the western reenactments, but the old town was still fun to walk. Many buildings are designed like and named after original Deadwood staples (the town has been rebuilt several times after fires) like the Gem and the Bullock. We got burgers surrounded by antique photos and taxidermy at Saloon No. 10 and wandered the shops/casinos on the main road.
Iron Mountain and Mount Rushmore
The Iron Mountain Road scenic drive stretches from Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The drive takes you through prairies and the Black Hills, and is meant to be taken slowly. Instead of switchbacks to change elevation quickly, this drive features “Pigtail Bridges” where the road loops under itself. One-lane tunnels are carved out of house-sized boulders, and several lookouts are positioned to give you a view of Mount Rushmore on your approach.
This post’s title is accurate for Mark as he’d been through this region as a kid with his grandparents, but it was new to me. I marveled at the engineering and scale of the sculpture but couldn’t identify with the occasion for its construction. It’s the most impressive monument that no one would probably ask for today. We had the viewing area almost to ourselves just before the sun disappeared for the day. As we left, crowds were already gathering in the plaza — just some of the 2 million people that visit the site every year.
Rexy’s holding together as we add conveniences and become more experienced, but the maintenance continues:
- Mark got the combo washer/dryer unit back in position and replaced some old hoses. But something is leaking at the back, so we’re taking advantage of our campsites’ laundry facilities while we work on a fix.
- The dinette table leg separated from its bracket, so we’re not setting heavy things on the table at the moment.
But improvements continue, too:
- Mark installed a sliding garbage can to fit under the sink.
- We’ve been to the truck wash for the first time! There are car washes big enough to handle semi-trailers. Rexy’s now free of clay and dust from the last 2,000 miles.
We’re in the Grand Rapids area for two weeks. This part of Michigan has come up a few times as a place we want to look more closely at, so more details to come.
If you have any suggestions for things to see in west Michigan or questions about RV life and our travels, let us know in the comments.