Autumn camping

LOCATION:  Just outside of Sioux Falls, SD
CAMPGROUND:  Big Sioux Recreation Area
WEATHER:  Drop-dead gorgeous!  Perfect fall day.  AM crisp; PM warm at 75

We spent the morning hiking around the campground.  To me, this is the best time of year to camp…..the weather is perfect and the campgrounds almost empty. 

We headed to the city of Sioux Falls for lunch.  We took some back roads which took us through booming residential areas.  The city really looks prosperous and seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.  We found a nice English-style pub for lunch.

We did some grocery shopping.  The stores are set up for fall and Halloween.

Back at the campground, we took more hikes along the Big Sioux River.  Just beautiful.

George made another one of his award-winning campfires to cook dinner.

DINNER:  We started with a caprese salad using a tomato from the Harvest Host brewery’s garden.  It is probably the last time we eat caprese salad for the season.  Grilled hamburgers and BBQ beans. 

And then we watched the debate….and almost got sick!

A real autumn day

LOCATION:  Just outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota – in southeast part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Big Sioux State Recreation Area.  A lovely state park with paved, level sites, spaced far apart.  Electricity.  Dump station with water.  Fire rings and picnic tables.  Beautifully clean bathrooms and showers.  $27/night.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER: Windy and cloudy..  High 53
DRIVE:  2 hours

It was another windy day for driving, but the wind was at our back, so was not bad.  Those winds from Alberta! 

This campground is about 1/3 full, so we didn’t have any problem getting a spot.  We spent the afternoon hiking & scrounging for firewood, and exploring the park.

It is really autumn here.  It is fun walking through the leaves and hearing them scrunch underfoot.

George did a few handiwork projects (like fixing the hinge on my clothes closet) while I did some internet work, figuring out a route as we travel down the Mississippi in a few weeks.

We made a great fire.  Its warmth really felt good.  George has perfected the process…

1)  Assemble everything needed to make the fire.  Make sure George has a beer and I have a glass of wine to get everything going.

2)  Make sure the secret weapon handy fire starters are ready.  My project last winter was to collect toilet paper rolls and stuff them with clothes dryer lint with a dab of Vaseline.  We have a big plastic bin full of these guys.

3) Stuff an empty 6-pack beer container with the toilet paper fire starters.  Add any bits of paper on hand.   (Sometimes it is a paper plate left from lunch or newspapers rolled up).

4) Then, add some small kindling in the beer container.  If pine cones are around, place one in each of the beer container holes.

5) Arrange a few pieces of bigger wood on the sides. Then light…..

6) Here it comes; here it comes……

As the fire gets going well, add bigger pieces of wood.  I try to cook dinner over the fire – either directly on or in an iron skillet every time we have a fire. 

DINNER:  Leftover gumbo.  I added more shrimp and one of the green peppers we got at the Harvest Host brewery yesterday.  We cooked it in an iron skillet over the campfire.

Life is good!

A very windy day!

LOCATION:  Arlington, South Dakota in east central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Region Golf Course, another Harvest Host site.  In their parking lot.  Clubhouse with a bar/grill.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Much cooler and VERY windy.  High 68
DRIVE:  3 hours

We did our regular Sunday morning breakfast routine, then went out to the garden of the Harvest Host brewery and picked some veg, at the encouragement of the owner. 

We got some summer-ripe tomatoes and peppers.  Yum!

The owner gave us a tour of their 1800s homestead that they have converted to a B&B.  It has been in her family for 5 generations. 

George did the driving as there were strong cross-winds.  He kept us on the road nicely, even with gusts up to 40 mph.  The farmers are in their fields, busily trying to get their crops, mostly soybeans, harvested.  As we drove throughout the afternoon, we watched the thermometer drop and drop.  The clouds were rolling in; rain and higher winds predicted for late afternoon.  We were trying to beat it.

We were glad to pull in to the golf course to get off the road.  Since it was such a blustery day, there weren’t many golfers and we were told to park wherever we wanted to.  We positioned ourselves next to a shed that would shield us from the winds.  The rain peetered out to be quite light.

If the weather were nicer, this would be a really pretty spot.  The clubhouse overlooks a large lake.  It reminds me of “up north” Minnesota. 

We had a drink in the bar to kill some time, enjoying the warmth inside.  Some locals, having finished their round of golf,  were curious about us and came over to chat. 

We have propane heat, but it was still quite chilly inside the Airstream. 

DINNER:  Wanting to use up more of the skirt steak in the freezer (as we have an endless supply it seems), I made a shepherd’s pie.  I boiled some frozen mixed vegetables and added them to sauted steak bits, mushrooms, and onions.  I put that all in a casserole dish and spread a layer of mashed potatoes on top.  I dotted it with parmesan, butter, salt, and pepper.  Then, I baked it for about 30 minutes.  Baking in the oven gives off a little room heat, so that was a bonus.  Quite good. 

Oktoberfest Fun

LOCATION:  Wagner, South Dakota in SE part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host site – Choteau Creek Farm Brewery.  Wonderful!  We managed to be here for their Oktoberfest party.  5 stars out of 5!
WEATHER:  Sunny and windy.  High 78
DRIVE:  4 hours plus lost an hour with time zone change

We left the Badlands National Park with its eerie scenery, and quickly entered an Indian reservation.  There was a Covid-19 stop.  They asked us where we were going, our names, took down our license plate number, and instructed us to wear our masks as we passed through.  They are being very careful!

The Badlands gradually disappeared and we drove through a lot of farm country, once again.  We passed by fields of corn, soybeans, sorghum, hay, and sunflowers.  All look ready to be harvested soon.

As we arrived at our Harvest Host site, the owner greeted us in the driveway and helped us get parked.  She invited us to come in for the Oktoberfest celebrations.

We are on an old farm with a vegetable garden, guinea fowl, and chickens. 

They were just getting ready for the women’s Steinhoist contest…..who can hold a liter of beer with a straight arm the longest.  Here we are competing…

Obviously I was the oldest contender by far!   Lifting that heavy stein was hard!   The girl on the far right won.

I gave my liter to George to finish up.  We sat in their cozy bar and talked with the locals.  What fun!

DINNER:  Yaki-soba – Japanese buckwheat  noodles.  I warmed up some leftover ribs and cut in small bits.  Then, I cooked up some mixed vegetables and added them to the ribs.  Cooked everything together with the soy sauce mix that came with the noodles.  Nice and light (after all the beer we drank!) 

The Badlands….not so bad!

LOCATION:  Badlands National Park in south central South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  Cedar Pass Campground, in the park (the only campground for RVs).  About 60 pull-in sites along 3 loops. Many tenters.  Flush toilets.  Pay showers.  No campfires.  Nice picnic tables with shelters.  $13/night with senior pass.  4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:   Another day of perfection – high 78.  Sunny
DRIVE:  2.5 hours

We had an easy drive from the Black Hills through Rapid City.  We drove through Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and the Badlands National Park.  The scenery is rock and sand formations.  Very unusual.

We did not have reservations, but were lucky to get a site here in the park.  The electric sites were full, so we did another night of dry-camping. 

First things first – a late picnic lunch under the sun/wind shelter..

We have very fond memories of camping here a few years ago with our good friends Tony and Jenny from Nova Scotia.  We met up here for a few days of hikes, great dinners, and robust conversations.  We miss them and hope to camp together next summer.  Our site last time was similar to this one…

We hiked a bit around the camp and the surrounding area.  This is the view from our campsite…

The sun set with a powerful burst of red, and then it got dark fairly quickly.  We are hoping for a great night sky tonight.

DINNER:  To use up the huge amount of skirt steak that we have in the freezer, I made soup and steak  sandwiches for dinner.  Soup was some leftover chicken/broccoli that I added to. 

Even though we don’t have electricity, we can use our inverter to watch TV.  Strangely (and happily), we found a PBS channel and watched some home improvement shows in the evening. 

BOOK:  “Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel.  A very strange book about a mother and daughter, both certifiably psychotic..  Lots of twists and turns.  4 stars out of 5

Happy Birthday to me!

LOCATION:  Black Hills National Forest in South Central South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Lake Roubaix
WEATHER:  Perfect!  High 78

Today’s plan was to do another scenic highway loop and do laundry!  What a great way to spend my birthday!

We drove through popular Deadwood, a wild Western-type town famous for its outlaws like Wild Bill Hickock.  It is now full of tourist shops, casinos, and saloons, It is on the National Historic Registry list and is well-preserved.   Then, through pretty countryside to Spearfish.

We spent the rest of the morning at Suds & Duds doing laundry.  There was a Bud Light bar/casino next door where we were encouraged to pass our time while the clothes were washing, but we passed.  We seem to  be going through more laundry than usual.  It is because of the weather fluctuations – we wear sweatshirts and long pants in the morning, and by mid-day switch to shorts and t-shirts. 

With a backseat full of clean clothes, our next stop was a brewery, of course!  We even had a coupon for a free beer that we had clipped out of a tourist guidebook. 

Good beer.  We picked up some BBQ from a shop next door and ate it with the beer on their patio.

We then joined a lot of autumn leaf-lookers on a drive to through the spectacular Spearfish Canyon.  The colors were beautiful.  We passed through an area that had a sign saying that the movie “Dances with Wolves” was filmed here. 

We stopped at the Devil’s Bathtub where we walked along the river that slices through Spearfish Canyon. 

We finally found the bathtub….

We have some pet-peeves about people’s disregard for the outdoors.   One new one is seeing Covid-19 masks strewn along hiking paths. 

This pet peeve joins others we find on trails – cigarette butts,  plastic bags full of dog poop,  and those plastic tooth-flossers.  Ugh!

The last town we went through on our scenic highway loop  was Lead, an old mining town on a steep hill.

Back to the campground, George built another great fire.  A couple (our age or older) came in and set up camp in the site next to ours, sharing the parking area.  We were surprised that they did not set up a tent.     Later we realized that they just were sleeping in their car.  And….two other cars were doing the same!

DINNER:  Gumbo.  I had George grill some brats and then I sliced them up.  In an iron skillet, I placed onions, bell peppers, shrimp, and a cajun herb mix and had him saute that up over the fire.  I brought the skillet into the trailer, and finished it off by adding some cooked Italian sausage, the brats, and cooked okra.  I served over rice.  Yummy!

BOOK:  I am reading a weird one – the review will follow soon.  Facebook sent me this photo and I thought it spoke to me….

Camping in a perfect lakeside spot….Free!

LOCATION:  In the Northern Black Hills Forest, in west central South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Roubaix National Forest Service Campground.  The campground is closed for the season, but they left 10 sites open.  Since it is technically closed, it is free!  We snagged a great site with a lake view.  Pit toilets.  No other services.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Another perfect day for camping.  High 75.  Cool at night.
DRIVE:  45 minutes

We left the Harvest Host brewery/winery early as the RV bus next to us turned on their stinky diesel engine.  We only had about 30 miles to Lake Roubaix.  We didn’t know if there was a campground here or if it would be open.  We really scored!  It is beautiful here, and extremely peaceful. And did I say free??? This is the view from our campsite.

Today and tomorrow we will spend driving around the area.  This is called the northern section of the Black Hills.  It is very scenic. 

Before we got on the scenic highway that follows a large canyon, we passed this Trump store.  Wow!  We couldn’t resist taking photos.

Trump is very popular here.  Throughout Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota,  we have seen thousands of Trump signs and flags in people’s yards, like at this ranch…

After that, the scenery got more interesting.  So bucolic!

We stopped and took a nice hike.  We saw some sort of animal prints that looked like cougar or bobcat. 

We drove through Sturgis, of motorcycle fame.   I think it is pretty dead most of the year, outside of Bike Week in August. 

Back at the campground, we took a hike around the lake.  It got a little dicey the farther we went.

George built a really nice campfire with the wood we scrounged from other sites where people had left pieces. 

DINNER:  Steak fajitas.  Using some of the leftover skirt steak we had grilled and frozen, I added bell peppers, poblano peppers, onions, and mushrooms and grilled everything over the fire in an iron skillet, with Mexican herbs.  I served with a grilled tortilla, tomato slices, bits of cheese, lettuce, and salsa.  Muy bueno! 

A Day of Decadence

LOCATION:  Hill City, South Dakota – in SW part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Naked Winery/Sick & Twisted Brewery.  Another Harvest Host site.  With 5 RVs in their parking lot, we are a bit crammed together.  On a nice stream.  Great beer, wine, and food.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 80.  Sunny
DRIVE:  40 minutes

While still at Wind Cave National Park this morning, we walked over to the visitor center to use their wifi and to get some exercise in.  It was tricky crossing this cattle gate with sandals on!

The cattle gate is to keep the bison out of our campground.  Right beyond the gate, this fellow was happily munching on grass.  Normally when we see bison up close, we have the comfort of being next to the car, in case he decides to charge.  Today, just walking, was a bit tense.

We only had a short distance to drive to get to this Harvest Host site.  We were thinking about doing laundry, but didn’t see any laundromats in the town… we went wine and beer tasting instead!

The first place was very good.  We shared a delicious charcuterie board.  George tried a small IPA and stout;  I had their cabernet.  Surprisingly good.  They bring in their grapes from OR and WA.. 

The second place was actually two separate businesses, but with the same brewer owner.  George got an Oktoberfest, while I walked over to the winery.  I tried their Mouvedre, and brought it over to the businesses’ shared common outdoor area.  It was lovely to sit outside in the near-perfect weather.

Then – to our place for the night.  It is also a brewery and winery.  Amazing how 3 similar  businesses can survive in a town of 1000 people.  It is in a great location – not far from Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, and Custer State Park, bringing in a lot of tourists. 

The owner met us in the parking lot and helped us back in.  We have the best spot – right on a little bubbling creek.  Later he helped 4 other RVs get parked. 

The decor is Marilyn Monroe/James Dean, and their wines have irreverent names related to nakedness.  (The owner’s wife said it is because they don’t add anything to the “naked” grapes they get from Oregon.)  We had some some smoked chicken wings as an appetizer. 

We decided on a red wine, and sipped on it on the patio while waiting for our flatbread pizza to cook.  Then, we took the pizza back to Joy to finish up the evening.  Here she is enjoying the sunset.

BOOK:  “When We Left Cuba” by Chanel Cleeton.  2nd in a trilogy recommended by a travel/book club I belong to online.  This piece of historical fiction is about a refugee who joins the CIA and tries to kill Castro.  4 stars out of 5

Wildlife and Wilder highways

LOCATION:  Wind Cave National Park in SW South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Elk Mountain Campground, inside Wind Cave
WEATHER:  Perfect!  Sunny.  Clear skies.  High 75

We started the day with a hike near the campground on a nature trail.  The second hike was a steep climb up to the park’s fire tower, the highest point in the park.

Then, we started our scenic highway trips around Custer State Park. 

We saw quite a bit of wildlife again today:  lots and lots of prairie dogs, several bison, another coyote and deer.

The highlight was a small herd of big-horned sheep…

We stopped for a picnic lunch at the visitor center.  Lovely fall colors…

Hike #3 was around this beautiful lake…

Then, our scenic highway adventures began.  First was Iron Mountain Road.  It is a 14-mile “road” that includes 360 curves (we counted them!), 32 switchbacks and two tunnels.  At several points, I had to stop to allow oncoming cars to pass.  I had to put our side mirrors in to avoid hitting others’.  We barely squeezed through some…

If that weren’t enough, we then drove Needles Highway.  I think the two highways vie for the scariest stats – 17 miles with 314 curves, 3 tunnels, 3 pigtails (when the road does a corkscrew and turns over itself on a bridge), and views of 4 Presidents!

We saw Mount Rushmore from afar, on a peak along Needles…

Finally, we actually drove right by the monument

We did hike #4 around another pristine lake.  At points, it was a bit rocky.

To celebrate the fact that we survived both highways and that we hiked a total of 6 miles, we stopped at Mount Rushmore Brewery at the end of the day.  It is in the town of Custer, a very touristy place, but the brewery was nice.

DINNER:  Back at the campsite, George built another great fire.  We grilled hamburgers.  I baked some TakeNBake buns in the oven.  (These are great for traveling as I can keep them in the freezer and pull them out when we need them.)  The meat was from one of the Harvest Host farms where we stayed a few weeks ago.  Excellent.  One side was fried potatoes.  A few days ago when we had electricity, I baked some potatoes in the microwave and wrapped them in aluminum foil.  Tonight, I thickly sliced them and  lightly cooked them in a little oil on a skillet over the campfire.  They are so much easier to saute when they have already been baked.  Another side was cucumbers and tomatoes with a pesto dressing. 


LOCATION:  Wind Cave National Park, in southwestern South Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  Elk Mountain Campground, in Wind Cave.  Like most national park campgrounds, it is rustic.  Spaces far apart.  Water available.  Clean flush toilets.  No dump station or electricity.  Firepit and picnic table.  $9/night with senior pass.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very nice.  Less smokey.  High 78
DRIVE:  4 hours

We got an early start at the Pine Bluffs Distillery, as we wanted to get to Wind Cave early enough to snag a first-come, first-served campsite.  George was a bit excited…

We drove four hours straight north, slicing the state of Nebraska from its southern to northern points.  The landscape was very bleak with grasslands and a lot of stone and sand bluffs.  Kind of like the Badlands. 

After setting up, we took off to explore Wind Cave and the adjacent Custer State Park.  Both are known for their wildlife.  We took a circular scenic route around the 2 parks. 

We were lucky to see quite a lot.  First, lots of prairie dogs…

Then, YAY – bison!  We saw a lot farther away, then these next to the road.

Next up were wild burros.  They have become habituated and tourists were petting and feeding them (right next to signs saying not to feed wildlife)….

An unexpected surprise was this lone coyote loping along the side of the road…

We also saw some pronghorns but they are too fast to photograph.  The trees are really starting to turn.  It was very pretty.

South Dakota does not have a fire ban, so George made a nice fire.  He was happy!

DINNER:  In the iron skillet on top of the campfire, he sauteed a mix of shrimp, onions, and mushrooms for me.  Meanwhile, I made some pasta.  I added the saute mix in with the pasta, then for flavor added cream cheese, horseradish, and some pizza peppers.  The horseradish made it pop!  The side was a nice lettuce/cucumber/tomato salad. 

Right before bed, George went outside to ……(you know what).  As he was standing there, an elk came right up to him.  He said it was like a ghost.  Cool!