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Monday, August 14, 2023

Catch-up - Travel Plans for 2023 (None Now)

 It has been a long time since posting. Every time I sit down to "write" I either get bored or feel that there are other things more important to occupy my time. I figured that retirement would be not caring about "important" things. But, at least in my case, apparently not.

So, we headed to Yuma in the second week of November 2022. The Motor Home was loaded, as was the Jeep. As soon as we started, something did not feel right. There was a vibration when the Motor Home was under load. Take you foot off the accelerator and the vibration disappeared. It wasn't a tire issue, more like something out of balance.

About 25 miles southwest of Lubbock, I pulled over and told Debbie that we either continued and risked being disabled along the road waiting on a tow truck, or we turned around and went back to the "barn" and figured out what to do. We opted to go to the "barn."

We put the Motor Home in our storage area, took the necessaries out of the Motor Home and went home, where we filled the water heater (I had drained it before we left), took the covers off the drains and generally moved back into the house.

After much discussion, we decided to unload the Jeep, unload the Motor Home, winterize the Motor Home, repack a smaller version of what we had in the Motor Home and the Jeep into Deb's Highlander and head for Yuma, AZ in the AM. We would worry about repairing the Motor Home when we returned in April 2023. Of course we had to cancel the RV Park reservations and make a hotel reservation, but that was pretty minor. Down sizing the amount of "stuff" we were planning to take took much more time. But, at least we had a place to stay in the warm climate of Yuma, well more on that later.

Off to Yuma the next morning, it was an uneventful trip. We had to be a little more cautious as Annie was in her kennel in the back of the Highlander and not up front in the Motor Home in front of the air  conditioner . So, a few more stops but nothing major.

Our time in Yuma was interesting, with our friends from Washington State and our Canadian next door neighbors. The weather was not cooperating. This was our fourth winter in Yuma, our neighbors 20+ winter in Yuma, our friends from Washington 14th winter and all agree that it was the coldest and wettest that anyone could remember. Now cold is a relative term. For Yuma, cold meant 40 degree mornings and 60 degree afternoons as opposed to the 50 degree mornings and 70 degree afternoons that we had had the prior three years.

We have always promoted (ok bragged) that the weather was warm in the winter and things were like paradise. My brother Bill and his wife Sonya stopped to visit on the way back to Washington State from a sojourn to Mexico. What was the weather in Yuma? You guessed it, rain, 40 degree mornings and 60 degree afternoons. But, we had fun.

Fast forward to April 2023. We return home from Arizona and within a week take the Motor Home over to the Freightliner Dealer. Less than a day goes by and they inform us that the driveline in the Motor Home was about ready to fall out. A universal joint had failed and it caused failure in the drive shaft. About 10 days and many $$$$$ the Motor Home was back on the road.

Great, back to storage. So, we plan a 5K trip up through the great lakes, Niagara Falls, Cooperstown, Boston area, Maine and make all those RV Park reservations. Get reservations for a tour of Acadia National Park, Trolley Tour in Boston and tickets for the Grand Ole Opry. We will leave the middle of August 2023 and be back in time for Doctor appointments the end of September. Schools should be back in session, traffic should be lighter, RV Parks not as full. 

We still need to take the Motor Home in for the annual maintenance on the "house" part. Adjust a slide, check the seals on the roof, oh, and fix the basement HVAC because that just failed after having been repaired last summer.

The HVAC problem turned out to be the same part that Winnebago replaced last year. The part had been placed where condensation dripped on it and it rusted and failed. OK, a $25 part, but they had to take the HVAC out of the Motor Home, which was a bonus as it allowed them to thoroughly clean it and check it out. Great, all fixed and ready to go.

On a Friday afternoon, we arrive to pick up the Motor Home.  Our trip is two weeks away. The Technician and I go through everything that was done. The HVAC, the sealing on the roof and sides and the slide alignment. Except the slide doesn't work. It moves out a couple inches and stops, wait a bit, it moves a few more inches and stops. Bring the slide in and the same thing happens. 

The slide motor/gear box has failed. No problem, get a new one and we are back on the road. Except.... the slide motor/gearbox for that slide on our 14 year old Motor Home went out of production prior to 2011. No one has any idea which motor/gearbox to use to replace what is there. The original manufacturer has been purchased by a different company and they have no clue what to do. Winnebago stated that they do not have the part and don't foresee getting any stock. 

For two days, I along with our repair facility searched the Internet looking for the part. We followed up on forum posts made by other RV Owners that found themselves in the same predicament and generally saying "I can't believe this." While the search continues, the RV Repair facility has disassembled the gearbox and motor. Cleaned them up and reassembled them. Testing is yet to be done on the unit.

Friday, August 12, 2023 - Motor Home is still not repaired. There is still no idea what the solution to the problem will be, or when a solution will be tested. We made the painful decision to cancel our trip. This is not the first time we have had to cancel a trip due to a problem with the Motor Home. But, I feel it will be the last time -

Anybody want a good Mechanically sound, well maintained 38 foot Motor Home? Oh yeah, the bedroom slide might or might not work.

That's what is going on - We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Part 4 - Travels in 2022 - Washington to Iowa

 Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - Arriving in Forest City, we went to the Winnebago Service Center. Inside I got registered for our appointment the following morning – at 7am the Motor Home had to be in the parking lot of the Service Center. 

Customer Service Center

Due to a lack of parking spaces at the Service Center, we moved 100 yards down the road to the Winnebago Visitor Center. Inside the Visitor Center I was given a parking permit for the next four nights. 

Visitors Center

We parked in a gravel section of the parking lot away from the front of the visitor center. The space was a parallel parking space with 50A electrical only, which is all that we required. As we sat in the Motor Home, we decided that it might be better to book another night in the hotel. We were scheduled there for Wednesday (6-22) and Thursday (6-23) nights. The problem we ran into was what to do from 7am on Wednesday, until we could check in at the hotel. Having Annie with us meant that we needed someplace with A/C. So, booking for Tuesday night made sense. A change to the reservations was made and we proceeded to pack the things into the Jeep that we thought we would need. This was a new experience for us and a new experience for Annie, as we have never stayed in a hotel with her. Once settled in the hotel, we temporarily left Annie in the Motor Home and went to dinner at AY Jalisco Mexican restaurant . A good meal, nothing spectacular. Picked up Annie and returned to the hotel for the night.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - Up early and out of the hotel by 6:30a. Moved the Motor Home from the Visitor Center to the Service Center parking lot. After the Center opened, I went inside to meet my assigned technician. Mark was assigned as the primary technician. We talked about the three issues that we had. The Basement A/C being the most critical, the dash air being the next most critical issue and finally the leaking right front passenger window that we discovered on the trip. Regarding the basement A/C, Mark felt that a replacement of the entire unit would be in order. This is an obsolete unit and parts are hard if not impossible to come by. Mark stated that he thought they could build a good enough case to get the extended maintenance insurance to cover the cost. Regarding the dash air, Mark stated that it was probably repairable without issue, but would need to troubleshoot it. Regarding the right window, he stated that they would remove it, check for damage and then reseal it. Mark stated that it would be late afternoon before they would have any information for me. I told him that they could keep the vehicle inside, as long as it stayed plugged in. Mark stated that this was possible.
The Service Center has 39 repair bays. Based on the number of vehicles in the parking lot, they appear to stay busy all the time. The Service Center will take drop in customers, but you might need to be in the area a day or two, as the customers with appointments take priority.

Winnebago holds a national rally every year in July on property they own across the road from the Visitor Center. A number of people attend the rally and get service work done just before the rally or during the rally.

Returning to the hotel, we hung out there. I had signed up for a tour of the Winnebago factory that afternoon. This was very informative. The company employees about 2,000 people from about a 30 mile range of Forest City. Stitch Craft is where they do all the sewing for all the Winnebago products, plus other outside jobs. The upholstery, curtains, drapes, whatever is sewn at Stitch Craft. After pointing out several buildings on the campus, including CDI, which is the company that paints all of Winnebago Motor Homes we moved to the assembly building. In the assembly building we watched the floors being installed in Class C Motor Homes. These were all on Mercedes Van chassis. Winnebago is the point of entry for all Mercedes Vans. The floor is the first stage in the assembly. Walls and roof are put on and then the slide, populated with all cabinet and furniture is installed next and then the interior is finished. A cart that contains all of the components for the particular Motor Home, travels with it. Each piece has a tag indicating the serial number and model number of the Motor Home under construction. There were probably 20 Class C Motor Homes on the line and I guessed 16-18 Class A Motor Homes. No photographs could be taken on the tour.

About 2p, the Service Advisor assigned to me, Al, called and stated that they had completed the removal, sealing and install of the right front passenger window. He also stated that the Extended Maintenance Company had approved the repair of the basement HVAC which would entail replacing the interior/exterior fan capacitor. The dash A/C was also just as simple, with the expansion valve being found defective. The Extended Maintenance Company agreed to cover that repair as well. Not hard problems, but ones that it took super experienced technicians to track down.
Dinner tonight was an excellent pizza from Borderline Pizza and Taco Jerry’s.

Thursday, June 23, 2022 - Today Annie got to go to Nose to Toes Pet Grooming and Daycare. Conveniently located across the street from the Hotel, we dropped her off for the day and then went and did laundry. About 11a Winnebago called and stated that the Motor Home was done and ready to be picked up. We arrived and my Technician Mark brought the Motor Home out. He explained what had been done and pointed out that the seals on the roof and along the walls and “beauty” trim should be replaced. He suggested using a wax and grease remover to take off the existing sealant and then using a multi purpose sealer made by Henry to replace it. He stated that it would take about 10 tubes of sealant for the entire coach. After paying the bill, we relocated the Motor Home back to the Visitor Center, same spot, pulled it in and turned on the A/C and left it. We planned to run the A/C all night and then check it in the AM. If all is good, we will move from the Hotel to the Motor Home, hang out in Forest City and leave on Saturday morning.

A trip to Mason City, IA was next on the list to visit Walmart and restock supplies for the trip home. Dinner tonight was from A&W after we picked up Annie. Reservations were made at RV Parks for the remainder of the trip. Last night in the Hotel.

Friday, June 24, 2022 - After completing our morning routine, we packed the Jeep with everything brought out of the Motor Home. When we arrived the Motor Home was comfortable at the 74 degrees we had set the thermostat at when we left the previous evening. After unloading the Jeep and putting things away, we sat back and relaxed for the rest of the day. By the time we leave at 8:30a tomorrow morning the HVAC will have had almost 48 hours of operation time.

Saturday, June 25, 2022 - Heavy thunder and rain storm came in about 2:30a and continued until after 6a. Annie was pretty scared and the pounding rain on the roof of the Motor Home did little to induce sleep. The positive is that the front right window did not leak. After breakfast, we secured everything for travel and were on the road by 8:30a. Travelling back toward the center of Forest City on US69, we turned east onto Iowa9 to I35. At I35 we headed south for the entire 200+ mile drive to Eagleville, MO. Pulling into the Eagle Ridge RV Park, we were assigned a FHU pull through site. The owner stated that she and her husband had purchased the RV Park last fall and that this was their first summer operating it. They are working hard at getting things in shape and making upgrades. This is a gravel road park with most of the spots arranged for back-in, on grass parking. The park has been in existence since the 60’s and was not designed for the “big rig” RVs of todays world. Another park with the power, water and power at the back of the site.

Sunday, June 26, 2022 - Up and on the road early today. More miles to travel today than yesterday. After stopping for fuel at Love’s, we were headed south on I35 toward Kansas City. At Cameron, MO we turned west on US36 going past St. Joseph, then turning south on US75. Both US36 and US75 were very good two to four lane roads. In the Topeka, KS area, we merged onto I70 west to Salina where we pulled into the KOA for the night. This KOA is a large park with a mix of back-in and pull through sites. We were given a pull through between two giant cottonwood trees. We were on the outside edge of the park and the property line was delineated with a panel fence. The space was comfortable, but the two trees made the thought of pulling out in the morning a little concerning, based on how close we were to the fence. Cable TV entertained us for the evening.

Monday, June 27, 2022 - After carefully extracting ourselves from between the Cottonwoods and the fence in the RV Park, we headed west on I70 for a short distance before turning southwest on KS156 to Great Bend. At Great Bend we again continued southwest on US56 through Larned, KS, and Garfield, KS where the road changed to US56/US183. Another road number changed it to US50/US183. We arrived in Dodge City, KS and after wandering around, following two GPS units to roads that did not exist on the ground, we finally called the Dodge City KOA and had them talk us into the RV Park. This park is all paved roads and a choice of pull through or back-in, on gravel or concrete pads. Getting setup by about 1PM, the rain started and did not stop until late evening. Needless to say, we stayed inside. OTA TV and satellite TV along with books kept us occupied.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - Today we explored Dodge City, KS. Known for the TV show 'Gunsmoke' with James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone and others. We found that the locals liked to associate Dodge City with Bat and Ed Masterson, Wyatt Earp and a few others. 

Entry sign and overlook
Sculptures made from horse shoes welded together
Informational sign at the overlook

Dodge City, known as the Queen of the Cowtowns, is very much centered around the cattle industry. Just at this overlook you can see the feed yards of two of the biggest beef producing companies, Excel Corporation and National Beef. 

The Feed Yards

Dodge City was founded in 1872, the same year that the first train arrived. They have been in the cattle business ever since with a large amount of their cattle having been driven up from Texas.

After driving to the overlook on the outskirts of town, taking photos of the entry signs, we headed to the Visitor Center. Arriving there, we found we were just in time to catch the next Trolley Tour of the City. The tour was interesting, taking you through the town and pointing out the various statutes and other markers, describing the historical buildings and the like. 

If Deadwood, SD claims Wild Bill Hickok as their hero, then Dodge City, KS lays claim to the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and his brother Ed. All three serving time in law enforcement in the city and the county. Wyatt even convinced John Henry (Doc) Holliday to come to Dodge City.  Doc would be a dentist in the daytime and a gambler at night.

After the tour, we headed to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. Again another good meal, but nothing special.
After lunch, is was on to the Boot Hill Museum. The museum focuses on the history of the "real Dodge City" and not the fictional version portrayed in Gunsmoke. In fact the only reference to Gunsmoke is the statute of James Arness, and a couple businesses bearing names of characters, The Miss Kitty Café being one. Now there real was a Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, the real Dodge City and the fictional one. A re-creation of the  Long Branch Saloon is at the Boot Hill Museum, though it resembles the original and not the fictional. All in all it is a great museum, again with people dressed in period attire.

Looking down "Main Street" in the Boothill Museum
Long Branch Saloon at the Boothill Museum
Businesses along the Main Street in the Boothill Museum

Cattle is the largest industry in the region with companies such as Cargill, Excel Corporation and National Beef having processing facilities there. Agriculture is next with production of Corn, Milo and Wheat. This is a town we could go back to and spend another couple days.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - Today, we head to one more overnight stop before getting home - Oasis RV Park in Amarillo, TX. Leaving Dodge City, we travelled south on US283 to Minneola, KS where we turned on to US54/US160 going through Mead, Kismet and Liberal before entering Oklahoma. US54 took us through Hooker, OK, Guymon, OK and finally Texhoma before we crossed back into Texas. At Stratford, TX we turned south on US287 travelling through Dumas and finally turning west on Loop335 which takes you around Amarillo on the north side, depositing us at I40 for a quick westward drive of a couple miles to Arnot Road and the Oasis RV Park. We have been coming to this park since they opened 15 or so years ago. A paved Park with concrete pads. It boasts a hot tub, swimming pool, fitness center, wind and sun. OTA TV is good here as is satellite TV. Dinner was at Outback Steakhouse before retiring for the night.

Thursday, June 30, 2022 - Today was an easy drive. Leaving the The Oasis RV Park, just before 9A, we got on I27 and made the 120 mile drive to Lubbock. After stopping at the Love's Truck Center by Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport and fueling, we were back in the storage facility by 11:45A. After loading the Jeep with the essentials, like the laundry, we arrived home, unloaded the Jeep and started the water heater. We then surveyed the condition of the yard, which our former lawn care service left in a mess, and started the work of getting our Internet Service restored. The technician will be here between 8a and 12 noon tomorrow. Another trip to the Motor Home was made to bring back another load of items from the Motor Home including most of the contents of the refrigerator and freezer.

The Trip is over. It was fun, interesting and educational - But, it is nice to be home.

Part 3 - Travels in 2022 - Washington to Iowa

 Tuesday, June 14, 2022 - Spearfish, SD - Once we got set up in our spot for the next five nights, we headed for Deadwood, SD. This was an interesting drive on US85 to Deadwood. Once we arrived, we drove through the town, dominated by casinos, including the infamous Cadillac Jack’s. Of course a gun fight on main street caused us to detour a few blocks. Deb was satisfied that we had seen enough of Deadwood to know that we would come back, so off we went toward Sturgis, SD. Taking MT 14A from Deadwood we went through some more of the famous Black Hills (Black Hills National Forest). 

Arriving in Sturgis, we drove through the town looking at the sites that we see on TV when the streets are full of motorcycles. We found a carwash and got thousands of miles of grime washed off the Jeep, then stopped at a T-Shirt/Souvenir shop. We went in and shopped the wears that were on display, settling on a T-Shirt touting the 85th Annual Motorcycle Rally 2022, and a magnet. Talking to the clerk of the shop, she did not sound really enthused about the annual rally, which she stated started the middle of July and ended after the first of August. She stated that coming prior to that event was a good idea, as the only thing missing were the thousands of motorcycles and people. She stated that at least now they made the intersections four-way stops so that you could get onto, or across a street without having to wait for a break in the never ending stream of motorcycles. A quick stop at the Hotel Sturgis for a Frappuccino, and a stop at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, then back to Spearfish on I-90. Along the way we located Wal-Mart where we have a pick-up order scheduled for later today. At the Motor Home we settled in for home made stroganoff and TV.

A little more about Spearfish KOA, this park backs up to a natural area that has trails that will take you to the other parts of the town. It is a great place to take the dog. 

Spearfish Creek

Map of the Natural Area adjacent to the KOA

Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - Today was the Badlands Cruise. Out on the road by 10A , we headed east on I90 to Rapid City. In Rapid City, we took US16 Truck Route south to SD44 and headed east to the town of Scenic, SD. Just east of Scenic, we turned onto County Road 590, (Sage Creek Road) which makes a loop, with intersections with several other roads, through the Badlands National Park. The road was gravel, but it was the smoothest gravel road that I had ever driven on. 

Start of Sage Creek Road (County 590)
US Flag along Sage Creek Road

Entry to Badlands NP
Sage Creek Road

The speed limit when we first turned onto it was 50MPH and it was easy to travel that fast and maintain control. When the road entered the National Park the speed limit was reduced, but the road surface was still excellent gravel. Scenery started out to be rolling green hills and flat pastures. Once we entered the park the landscape changed to arroyos, rocky hills and rocky outcroppings. 

Looking more like "Badlands"


The floor continued to be green grass that seemed to go on forever. Traffic was light initially, but it increased the further we got into the park, Of course if an animal was sighted, then you had a traffic jam as everyone stopped to take photos of whatever the unlucky subject was. In our case we only saw Bison. This is very beautiful country, but it still was not what I had expected. I remember the westerns on TV talking about the Badlands. Lines like “we chased them into the Badlands, but they probably won’t make it out.” I expected to see and finally did see a harsh desert environment with steep cliffs and lack of water.  It has been an extremely wet year so far, so the pretty green we saw would probably be brown and parched. When we reached the junction of State 240, we turned north and headed to Wall, SD and the infamous Wall Drug. 

Arriving in Wall, I was disappointed to find that Wall Drug was 3-4 blocks off I90. All the pictures that you see indicate that it is right on I90. Getting to Wall Drug, we had no trouble finding a parking place on the street that runs in front of the store. There were a lot of people there. The parking area was filled, but not packed. Then I saw the two tour buses stop and disgorge their passengers. That is why there were so many people there. Inside the front door (Entry #1) it reminded me of walking into the Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo, TX. You got kind of an arcade feeling. Lots of western memorabilia, figures you could pose with for photos, stuffed animals on the wall, wooden floors and wooden walls. 

Covered porch outside of Wall Drug

Inside Entry #1 of Wall Drug
Stand alongside "Slim" and have your photo taken

This was a place to have fun, eat and spend your money. All of which we did. The interior is divided into sections, with each section hosts a different type of goods or service. There is one section for jewelry, one section for T-Shirts, one section for knick-knacks, and on and on. We made a few purchases and then found ourselves in the café. Even the café has separate dining rooms, one showcasing what is billed as the largest private collection of Western Art. We found a table (one of three pushed together with two others) sharing the space with three gentlemen riding motorcycles around the country. Two were from Florida and one, the father of one of the ones from Florida was from Illinois. As we ate lunch, (Deb had a cheeseburger and I had a fried chicken sandwich) Deb talked to them about their travels, where they had been and where they were headed. They also talked about the number of people leaving Illinois and the number arriving in Florida. Fun conversation. We stayed in Wall Drug about 30 minutes after we ate and came across one or all three of our lunch companions several times more. 

Interior of Wall Drug
Wild Bill Hickok

After expending our limit on trinkets, we got into the car for the hundred mile drive back to Spearfish. Most of the freeway east of Rapid City has an 80 MPH speed limit and a 75 MPH limit on the west side of Rapid City.

Thursday, June 16, 2022 - Today we went to see Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custer State Park. We started the trip by again going to Rapid City and then south. A GPS/Map Program confusion caused us to go several miles the wrong direction, which we discovered when we turned into the same fueling station to get gas as we did yesterday. Once fueled, we started off in the proper direction, going south on US 16 and US16A to SD244. We turned west on SD244 and arrived at the Mt. Rushmore Parking Garage. 
From the road, prior to the Memorial Entry

Parking on the fourth level, we took the elevator up to the Monument level and the entrance to the Memorial. 

From walkway from Parking Garage to Entry

The first thing that struck us was that the carvings were so small. 

From entry to the Avenue of Flags

Every picture you see show the giant carved faces of the Presidents. Then standing there, you take your camera and zoom in, suddenly you have the pictures that you see in books. 

Using zoom lens

You never see the grand plaza area, the avenue of flags or the amphitheater at the base of the Mountain. All you see are the magnificent, awe inspiring carvings of the President’s likenesses. 

Avenue of Flags

From the viewing Plaza


Spending time taking photos from many different locations including in the surrounding Plaza, and the hundreds (seemed like thousands) of people posing for group photos and selfies, you get a better perspective of the size of the carvings. After taking multiple photos from multiple angles, we adjourned to the Ice Cream Parlor and had ice cream cones. Deb had Praline Pecan and mine Strawberry Swirl and each with a scoop of Thomas Jefferson Vanilla Ice Cream. This ice cream is made from Jefferson’s own hand written recipe. We both found the vanilla to be excellent. Returning to the Jeep, we left along SD244 toward US16. Along this route, a pull-off gives a great profile view of George Washington’s likeness. 

George Washington in profile

With zoom feature on camera

On US16 we headed south to the Crazy Horse Monument. On arriving at the Monument, we were surprised to have to pay a $30 entry fee. This allowed us into the parking lot and the Interpretive Center. 

Entry to Crazy Horse Memorial

Interpretive Center, Conference Center and Native American Education and Cultural Center

After watching a short film on the history of the carving and what the future vision of the site was, we exited the theater into a room where several Native Americans were selling their wares. We went into the main section of the Center and found out that it cost $4 per person to take a bus to a location within 1,000 feet of the carving. We both decided that after spending $30 to get in that we would leave and continue with our travels. 

From upper parking area

From upper parking are with telephoto lens

After leaving Crazy Horse Monument, we headed for Custer State Park. Entering the park via the west entrance, we took the Wildlife Drive, going south and looping to the east and then back to the west where we came to the Needles Highway. The Wildlife Loop takes in some splendid scenery and a large number of Bison that control the road. A traffic jam caused by the Bison roaming the road and going back and forth across it took about 20 minutes to clear. 

Can't roller skate, let alone drive, in a Buffalo herd.

This is their land...

At the intersection of the Needles Highway, we turned north. This road winds its way up through the Black Hills, going through stands of pine and other evergreens. 

Needles Highway

Needles Highway

At one point I mentioned that the name Needles Highway must have come from all of the pine needles. Then the road got narrow, a very narrow two lane road without a center stripe. Higher we climbed and then there was a sign that stated two tunnels were ahead and the dimensions were something like 8ft high and 8ft wide. This would be interesting. We passed through the first two tunnels and continued climbing up on this narrow road with no guard rail, until we hit and intersection. 

Iron Creek Tunnel

Suddenly through the trees and brush we saw the “Needles” that the road is named for. Rock formations that look like needles protruded along the side of the mountain. The windy narrow road suddenly became worth the drive, well almost. 
The Needles??

Looks like we are getting closer

Oh Boy! Glad we are not in the Motor Home

Got to be the "Needles"

Needles Eye Tunnel

Along the Needles Highway

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

A left turn would take us back toward Custer (city of) and a right turn would take us toward north toward Deadwood, which is where we wanted to go. The road did not get better, we continued to climb and then another sign warning of two tunnels ahead, about the same dimensions as the previous two tunnels. 

Low narrow tunnel ahead

Hood Tunnel

We came around a corner to the right and crept around the rock outcropping, to enter the tunnel, only to find it filled with a pickup truck coming the opposite direction. Luckily no one was behind us and I was able to back up and let the pickup pass. We then continued through the tunnel and on up the road. 

Along Needles Highway

Along Needles Highway

Along Needles Highway

Deb took the pictures as I kept a tight grasp (ok white knuckle grip) on the steering wheel. Beautiful country and well worth the drive. We found out later that you can get a tour and leave the driving to someone else.

We finally made it back to US385/85 and headed north through Deadwood and then onto Spearfish KOA.

Friday, June 17, 2022 - Today we decided to take a drive through Spearfish Canyon and then spend some time in Deadwood, SD. Spearfish Canyon is about a 15 mile drive that follows Spearfish creek through a canyon that connects Spearfish, SD to Lead, SD. The drive is beautiful paved two lane road with a limited number of marked pull outs. One of the highlights was Bridal Veil Falls. Deb and I know that there are Bridal Veil Falls in Oregon, Alaska, Canada and now this one. Guess it is a common name for waterfalls. 

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

One of many photos of Spearfish Creek

Spearfish Creek

Getting through the canyon we went in and drove through the town of Lead, SD. 

Lead is another old west town that came to be during the gold rush days of the 1850’s. There are a number of buildings in Lead that have been there since the city came to be. Though not the same inside, the outside of the buildings reflect the era they were built in. Down the road a piece, you come to Deadwood, SD. 

Sign says it all

This town has so many western legends tied to it that Deadwood is synonymous to the old west. 
Deadwood’s favorite son is Wild Bill Hickok who was shot in the back while playing cards in Saloon #10. 

Wild Bill Hickok - Watching the people go by

Site of Wild Bill's murder

Holding the infamous “dead man’s hand” of black aces and black eights, Hickok is revered here today as he was back in 1856. 

"While in Deadwood, South Dakota, Wild Bill Hickok became a regular poker player at Nuttal & Mann's Saloon. On the afternoon of August 2, 1876, he was playing cards with his back to the door, something he seldom did. A young drifter named Jack McCall walked in and approached Hickok from behind. Not wasting a second, he quietly drew his revolver and shot Hickok in the back of the head, instantly killing him. Even in death Hickok's legend grew. The cards he was holding at the time – a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights – became known as "the dead man's hand."" From (

Wild Bill was joined here by other wild west icons such as Calamity Jane. After having a terrific Rueben sandwich at Paddy O'Neill’s, we walked up the “old” main street. 

Robot Waiter brings food from the kitchen to the Human waiters

Since we just happened to be there on Wild Bill Hickok Days, the town was preparing for a series of concerts on the “old” Main Street, there were stages and seating areas filling an entire three block area. Numerous photos were taken, including the Saloon that Wild Bill died in, and some people dressed in period clothing. 

There is a Marshal in town

Hope he is a "good" guy

Interesting Bar Stool - Probably not a lot of male customers

Bullock Hotel
Main Street

It also happened to be the week of the Cowboy Fast Draw competition. Having seen as much as the feet would take, we headed for the car and “home” at the Spearfish KOA.

Saturday, June 18, 2022 - Since this is our last day here, we figured it was time to do laundry. Thankfully the RV Park and a laundry facility with enough washers and dryers that we were able to get it completed in relatively short order. With the laundry complete, we decided to go eleven miles back north to Belle Fourche, SD. Belle Fourche bills itself as the “Center of the Nation.” Arriving at the Interpretive Center, we found that the “Center of the Nation” is technically 20 miles north of Belle Fourche. Now by the “Center of the Nation” it is the north south center, with Alaska and Hawaii being part of the nation. 

Geo Center of the US Plaque - Belle Fourche, SD

When I questioned the location, the docent stated that Belle Fourche was within 5 degrees of the location of the actual point. I asked about going to the actual point and she stated it was on a dirt road in the middle of a farmer’s field and the only thing there was the USGS Brass Cap, a “stick” and an American Flag. 

Monument to the Geo Center of the US

Close up of the Monument

So, we have been to the farthest western point of the US while we were in Alaska, have been to the southernmost point in Key West, FL, I guess we need to go to the farthest eastern point in the US.

Belle Fourche is also listed as the end of the Great Western Cattle Trail, with a railhead being established here.

Great Western Cattle Trail plaque

A trip to the grocery store to restock was next on the list, then back to the Motor Home to pack for travel.

Sunday, June 19, 2022 - On the road, travelling to Plankinton, SD – Hills RV Park. This was an easy drive on I90 the entire way. Hills RV Park turned out to be a very nice 30+ space RV Park, some with full hookups and some with just power and water. This Park is like one or two others we have encountered on this trip, and unattended Park. 

Hills RV Park - Plankinton, SD

No on-site personnel, though there is a make shift office. There is a laundry and a swimming pool. The park is gravel base with fairly wide sites with grass and trees between them. Electrical, water and sewer are at the back of the site, so long runs of both sewer and water were required. 

Swimming Pool and Laundry

I could have unhooked the jeep and moved it in front of the Motor Home for the night and then put the Motor Home at the back of the site which would have shortened the hose runs. Definitely designed more for a vehicle towing a trailer. Satellite TV was fine, few if any over the air stations.

Monday, June 20, 2022 - On the road today to KOA in Albert Lea/Austin, MN. Today's drive was another full day of I90 eastbound. The Albert Lea/Austin KOA is located just east of I35.This KOA is like most of the rest we have encountered along the way. The sites were a little close, but well maintained. A good stop for the night when travelling in the area.
Albert Lea/Austin KOA

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - Breakfast at Perkins Family Restaurant, then on the road to Forest City, IA, home of Winnebago Industries. This was a very easy 50 mile drive, partly on I35 and then a good two lane road – IA9 for 15 miles or so into Forest City, IA

Part 4 - the last page (I know, your getting bored) will cover our time in Forest City, IA and the service at Winnebago, It will also cover the trip home and our two days in Dodge City, KS. -