The drive to the Badlands was our longest single-day drive, yet. I always fill up the truck the day before a travel day so we don't have to fuel up with the camper attached. However, anytime we go over 300 miles in a day, we'll more than likely have to refuel along the way and today was no different. The trick is to keep our eyes open for an easy-in easy-out fueling opportunity as soon as we've gone about 100-150 miles. There are apps to help with this, but so far we've had pretty good luck. Today was no different. We found a great truck stop about 150 miles into the day that made fueling a breeze and we were off again.
South Dakota is beautiful and so varied in topography, more so than I remembered from being here as a kid. In the summer of 1982, when I was 10 years old, my family (mom, dad, 14yo sister and I) went on a mammoth vacation. My dad was in the Marine Corp and was to be stationed in Okinawa for a year, but as a helicopter pilot, he needed to go through flight renewal training in California for a month before shipping out. We decided to make a big adventure out of it and took the whole summer to travel. At this point there should be no wondering at all as to where I got the travel bug from :) We took 2-3 weeks to go cross country by the northern route, stayed a month in Southern California, then took 2-3 weeks to get back to Virginia by the southern route, all in our Volkswagen Westphalia camper. As the travelogue continues, I might throw in an anecdote or picture from that trip, too.
Before the trip, on the recommendation of some folks online (this may be where I went wrong), I bought an RV-specific Garmin GPS, the 760LMT. In theory it sounds great. You punch in your height, length and weight and it will only route you on roads that won't get you in trouble. On the whole it's been pretty good, but today it let us down. It routed us way south of the Badlands, through the towns of Wanblee and Interior, before we arrived at the Cedar Lodge Campground. I've later come to suspect that the GPS started with truck maps and routes and therefore avoids National Parks like they are plague-infested. Lesson learned and an additional 30-40 miles driven on an already long day, but we made it. The campground was odd, though, no back-ins or pull-throughs, all the sites were just wide spots in the loop roads with a picnic table. Ours was just long enough for our camper, but then parking the truck in such a way that it wasn't blocking traffic proved difficult. No water again, just electric, so we had to fill our tank before pulling into our site. We managed, though, and settled in for the week and WOAH what a view!!! Totally worth the inconvenience and our favorite campsite so far, by far!
In showing Crayton pictures of the Badlands before we arrived, he was convinced that this is where you find Dinosaur Bones. He's not too far from right as South Dakota is known for it's fossil hunting, but the Badlands have the wrong rock layers to find much. When a 4 year old boy wants to dig for dinosaur bones, though, you let him. We just had to direct him to digging in places that were legal, this being a National park and all.
Each evening, we'd drive around and explore a different area of the park, go for short hikes and laugh our butts off at the Prairie Dogs, which Pam dubbed "Little Furry Land-Manatees". Work was hard this week with such a view out my window beckoning me outside, but we managed.
Early in the week, I was inspecting the camper and noticed grease on our wheels. This reminded me of a problem I'd heard about online with leaky/failing bearing seals on Lippert frames of which ours was one. I posted a picture on an online owners forum asking if this was what I thought it was and the answer was a resounding "YES". Within an hour I had a private message from a service rep from Lippert Components, and she tried to arrange and mobile tech to come help us out, but the national park would not allow that kind of service to occur in the park. Our next site was in Custer State Park and she was having the same issues there, so we changed up our plans and switched our next reservation from Custer State Park to a commercial RV park in Rapid City. She was able to get us in touch with a willing mobile tech and we were set to have the work done the next week.
Saturday, we had the whole day to explore and we went to see the Minuteman Missile National Monument and Wall Drug. Come Sunday we were off to Rapid City and already missing the Badlands, what an amazing place!
Little Furry Land-Manatee
A very grumpy Crayton at Wall Drug
The colors really came out at sunrise and sunset
Also terrifying, but from the safety of the truck.