Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota.
Sunday, July 24th – Left Devils Tower. Bits of rain. Easy drive on I-90. Stopped in Deadwood, South Dakota at Family Dollar for bread and ice. They had neither. Arrived at the Mount Rushmore KOA – that place is like a circus. Dropped the trailer and headed to Mount Rushmore.
Was able to squeeze in a 3pm and 3:30pm ranger program. Helped us understand why the memorial was built and how. The girls finished their Junior Ranger books.
It was pretty emotional for me to complete our last “park” of the trip.
… what a Summer!
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming.
Friday, July 22nd – Toured Wind Cave. Once we entered the cave and started to descend, Emily was scared at first but then was ok. After the tour, the girls finished up their Junior Ranger books and received their badges for Wind Cave.
The day started getting hot. The expectation was temps into the upper 90s. I had gotten a prime parking spot in front of the Wind Cave Visitors Center which allowed me to connect to their wifi. I used the wifi connection to make reservations at the Devils Tower KOA. The heat made me want to camp at a location where we could make use of our air conditioner.
We left the Elk Mountain Campground around 1pm. Elk Mountain Campground is a good place to camp if the weather had been a bit more cooperative. I was disappointed in the lack of any substantial Ranger-led evening program.
It was a nice drive in a northeast direction through a national forest to I-90 where we were only on I-90 to go up one exit. Checked into Devils Tower KOA (located immediately outside the monument) and had some food across the street at the trading post. Ended up getting a pull-thru site next to another ham (KF5SA). He has an HF station mounted inside his trailer.
Quick trip up to the visitors center to get Junior Ranger books (from Ranger Erin Cahill). Attended evening program at the campground amphitheater which was blown out by bad weather into the picnic area.
Wednesday, June 8th – Refit and reprovision. My concern for the axle seal and bearings on the driver’s side of the trailer had continued to grow since our time at the Meteor Crater RV Park in Arizona. Why was there grease coming from the end of the axle seal onto the tire rim? Why was it continuing? At fuel stops I would physically feel the axle temperature and compare it with the other side. There was no difference in the temperature. I was still worried. There was a van parked in the KOA that said 24/7 RV maintenance done on site. I called the number and an hour later I had a mechanic verify what was the best case scenario: excess grease from when the bearings had been repacked was making its way onto the tire rim. Although the house call was expensive, the peace of mind was worth it.
We got our laundry done at the KOA (it is good to change in a few $20s for rolls of quarters before the trip), Christa got the shopping done at the Walmart (across the street from the KOA), and I was able to swap out our propane tank.
Here is my note about propane. Last year I had two 20 gallon canisters with me. One hooked up to the trailer system and one carried in the bed of the truck. This year features no truck bed. I thought about carrying an extra canister in the back of the trailer (peace of mind with a spare canister of propane). Last year I only had to change out the canister once. The trailer really doesn’t use much propane. I decided to only go with one canister and no spare. The downside is that I have to swap out canisters even if I am not out. I guess in the end it is worth a bit of extra money to not have to lug a spare canister around.
Tuesday, June 7th – Departure from Yosemite went pretty well. Although when I went across the street to the dump station at Upper Pines Campground, I forgot that my drain is on the driver’s side and had to drive through a second time to get lined up properly. The drive out of Yosemite on CA 140 was pleasantly uneventful, as I took my time.
The Chevron in Merced (just prior to CA 99) has the nicest bathrooms we have ever seen! CA 99 from Merced to Bakersfield was better than I-5 (note to self – always take CA 99). A good portion of it was three lanes. My jaunt over the Tehachapi Pass seemed a lot less white knuckle going east bound than the west bound trip.
Staggering heat awaited us on the east side. Temperatures soared above 100F as we passed Edwards Air Force Base, through Barstow, and on to I-15. The station wagon continued to be a solid performer with the temperature gauge steady. We passed the turn off for Death Valley and the temperature was 110F. Christa got a heat advisory message on her cell phone. That sounds about right.
At last we pulled into Las Vegas, our GPS guiding us down past the major casinos. Pulling a trailer through the middle of Las Vegas was not my idea of a good time. We made it to the KOA campground. I assumed that the campground would be on the outskirts of Las Vegas, covered in desert dust. Nope. It adjoined a full-blown casino. And that is where we had a fine dinner at the TGIF inside the casino (that gave a 20% military discount – unbelievable!). A shower before bed… hadn’t seen a shower in a while.