Our “First Night Out” was at the Covered Wagon Campground, a shady spot, very accessible from the highways and was an easy access, level pull through.
We had such a great time with John’s cousin, Carol & her husband, Virgil Wenger. This was the first time that I had met them and we enjoyed our time together. We had a good rest, and found we didn’t even need ac since the temp was so cool.
June 29, Sunday
We left Abilene early in the morning to light rain, but by early afternoon when we entered Chester, Nebraska, it was sunny & lovely. We had a very long day, made several stops for gas & finally found a rest stop early afternoon. We opened our camper, got our food out of the fridge & found a picnic table nearby. After we ate, we cleaned up & left for our destination in North Platte, Nebraska.
A town we almost missed!!!! caught sight of an old school building as we passed by the city’s welcome sign: Strang: An Historical Town”. He pulled into the next available street and was immediately fascinated by a row of 1930’s automobiles getting ready for a Vintage car show. As we entered the main street of this quaint, very small town, numerous buildings stood out with their National Registry of Historical Places signs. Strang is an easy visit and well worth taking time to see. Sites for your grandkids include a Korean War Memorial and a school/church bell – an opportunity to bring a little history into their life.
Along the way, I read about the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg which had been taken apart then moved to a new location & reassembled by the American Legion. John really enjoyed this little diversion, took a few photos.
Gothenburg is the Pony Express Capital of Nebraska. The Pony Express Station is open from 8 a.m-8 p.m., 7 days a week! Stop in to hear the amazing story of riders that were “willing to risk death daily” and the admission is always free!
After the visit there, we headed to our Holiday Trav-l Rv Park & Campground, North Platte, set up our camper around 7pm.
June 30, Monday
North Platte, NE
Thanks to our friends, Al and Illa Kamp, of the Branson Scenic Railway, we learned about Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte. which is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. The massive yard covers a total length of eight miles and services 8,500 engines per month. And, YES, we did climb the 192 steps to the top observation area because the elevator was being repaired; we did, however, ride the elevator down after it was serviced.
John took a lot of photos & then we left for Keystone, SD, near Mt. Rushmore. We arrived late, near dark and set up the camper at Holy Smoke Camp ground in very windy and chilly conditions.
Wall Drug & Badlands, SD
July 1, Tuesday
We decided this day that we would drive to the Badlands, about 2 hrs. away from our campsite. So many of our friends suggested that we take the time to go.
Prior to getting to the Badlands, we toured the famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, NE. The Hustead‘s purchased the pharmacy in the town of 600 poor people and to bring in new business during the depression era of the 1930’s, offered FREE ice cold water to dry and thirsty travelers heading West in search of a better life. Barb and I had our “picture made” here with some of their unique tourist props.
Badlands National Park
The towering geological rock formations of the Badlands National Park are absolutely phenomenal. John took so many photos that he had to recharge both camera batteries. We drove throughout the park, just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
By the time that John photographed the sunset, we knew it would be late before we returned to our campground. We got home around 11pm, didn’t take long to fall asleep. We knew that this had been a perfect day with lovely weather & so much beauty in God’s world.
Custer State Park
July 2, Wednesday
I prepared a delicious breakfast before we headed off to Custer State Park for a few hrs. John photographed the beautiful Sylvan Lake.
We drove the famous Needles Highway within the park, it has a very narrow tunnel where only one car can enter at a time. It was quite an awesome experience to be surrounded by that much rock being that close to the car window!!!! John was able to get some interesting photos as we drove the highway, but the one we like the best was the adorable, little “pika”, who posed for him.
Crazy Horse Memorial
We drove 11 miles down the road to the Crazy Horse Memorial. What a place this is, words cannot describe the immensity of it. The memorial is funded through private donations and is dedicated to the Native Americans to remind the white man the red man has heroes too.
We enjoyed 7 hrs. there, learning about the history of the memorial sculpted on the mountain and hearing the United States Air Force Academy Band perform and Little Bear, a Lakota Indian and very gifted flute player.
We stayed for the laser light show, 3 hrs. after the special musical program. We returned to our campsite after 11pm. Again, God blessed us with a beautiful day.
July 3, Thursday
This morning around 11am, we left for Mt. Rushmore. What a beautiful monument.
Today was a great day to be there, the park had special activities going on all day. John & I first heard an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln, each of the presidents presentations were 45 min. long & so interesting. We had time between each one so went to the movie, Making of Mt. Rushmore. All in all, we got to see all 4 of the presentations. John even had a photo made with Fritz Klein as Abe Lincoln. We had time for a light lunch before hearing the last 2, Presidents George Washington & Thomas Jefferson. Washington was a man of great faith, so good to hear Carl Closs portray him in such a strong characterization: We NEED another George Washington!!!
The highlight of tonight’s amphitheater program was the Air Force Academy Concert Band, all are professional musicians, such a great concert, played a lot of patriotic, some country & a few movie themes. At the close, as our National Anthem was played, the 4 President’s images were illuminated on the mountain & it was glorious. The amphitheater was packed & you could just feel the patriotic spirit of all the audience. What a great night.
July 4, Friday
Well, today we celebrate the 4th. Since we celebrated at Mt. Rushmore yesterday & spent 11 hours there, today we have to work on photos & John’s blog so these photos can reach all of you soon. So far, I have packed up everything & secured anything breakable. We are going to take it easy, prepare the camper for tomorrow’s trip to Billings, MT & later on, hook the travel trailer to the car for early morning departure.
This concludes the end of our first week; our second week includes Yellowstone & whale watching in Washington plus a few surprises!!!