Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Three

IMG_1448

→Note: this post is the third in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Three

Destination: Custer State Parkimg_1266-e1534024838736.jpg

  • Website link: Custer State Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car for one week pass (as of August, 2018).
  • For the best wildlife sightings, arrive early in the morning or early in the evening.
  • This park has everything from biking to hiking to horseback riding to swimming.

Travel tip: this will be a full day trip. Pack road snacks and plenty of water, along with a fully charged camera battery/phone and a picnic lunch. Or, drive (15 minutes) in to the city of Custer and have lunch.

*Recommended restaurant in the city of Custer: Black Hills Burger and Bun Co – 441 Mt Rushmore Rd. Their burgers rank in our top three best ever, and their cheese curds… All we can say is you’ve gotta try ’em!

IMG_1262
View from Custer State Park

From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Highway 36 west. Continue west on Highway 16A to the park entrance. Drive time: 45 minutes.

Travel tip: Custer State Park is a place where you could spend an entire week and never have to leave the park. Great vacation destination by itself, and one of our very favorite state parks.

Lodges, cabins, tent and RV camping available in the park. Hotels available in the city of Custer.

*Recommended hotel in the city of Custer: Holiday Inn Express.

IMG_2608 (1)
Pronghorn herd

After entering the park, turn south on to Wildlife Loop Road for potential wildlife sightings of all kinds, including herds of bison and pronghorn. Look for prairie dogs, turkeys, and other wildlife along the way, too. Take your time while driving this road, and stop at the visitor centers for information about the park. Check out the lodges or campgrounds while you’re here so you can plan a trip back in the future!

IMG_1264
Along Needles Highway

At Highway 16A turn left to go to the city of Custer or turn right to go east to Highway 87, then turn north on to Highway 87 (Needles Highway).

Travel tip: Needles Highway has low, narrow tunnels. Check with the park before attempting to navigate this road in/with a large vehicle or RV.

Continue on Highway 87 northwest to Sylvan Lake. Drive slowly, and take advantage of the pull outs for the many photo ops along this road. Sylvan Lake is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch and then a hike or walk around the lake. Nice visitor center/store here, too.

img_1245.jpg
Sylvan Lake
IMG_1263
Panorama along Needles Highway
IMG_1271
Center Lake – good place to fish
IMG_1260
Narrow tunnel
IMG_1256
Needles

Backtrack south on Needles Highway to US Highway 16A. Turn left (east) and take US Highway 16A to Highway 36, and then Highway 79 north to Rapid City. Drive time: 1.5+ hours.

Alternate route: From Sylvan Lake, continue north on Highway 87 to US 385 toward Hill City. Stay on 385 north then take Highway 44 east to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

IMG_1248

That’s our wrap up of Custer State Park. We hope your trip there is as amazing as we think it will be. Check our site next week for Day Four of our Black Hills itinerary. Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Two

IMG_1448

→Note: this post is the second in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Two:

Destinations: The Mammoth Site and Wind Cave National Park

Travel tip: pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Wind Cave National Park and wear sturdy walking/hiking shoes with non-slip soles. A light jacket may be needed for cave tours.

The Mammoth Site

IMG_1222

From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Hot Springs, South Dakota. Drive time between Rapid City and Hot Springs: 1 hour. The Mammoth Site is located at 1800 US 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, South Dakota.

img_1217.jpg
Replica of a Columbian Mammoth in the visitor center

Website link: Mammoth Site. Take a guided tour of the active indoor dig site and see the bones of mammoths right where they were found. Great learning experience for kids and adults! Tours can be booked ahead of your trip or you can book when you arrive. Plan to spend two hours visiting the site. This is a National Natural Landmark.

img_1211.jpg
Bones, bones, and more bones!
IMG_1215
Preserved baby mammoth found frozen in Siberia

From Hot Springs take US Highway 385 north to Wind Cave National Park. Drive time between Hot Springs and Wind Cave National Park: 15 minutes.

Wind Cave National Park 

img_1232.jpg

  • Website link: Wind Cave National Park.
  • Cost: free, although guided cave tours have various prices, depending on the tour. Wheelchair accessible tours are also available. Click the link above for details.
  • Hiking, biking, and horseback riding available in the park.
  • Campground with seasonal restrooms. Backcountry camping allowed with a permit.

Many animals, reptiles, and birds call this park home. See how many you can find. We bet you’ll see one of these ↓

img_1229.jpg

IMG_1235
Natural entrance to the cave
IMG_2595 (1)
Boxwork formations inside Wind Cave. This is the only place in the world it has ever been found.
IMG_2596 (1)
Another view of the cave ceiling
img_1224.jpg
Bison grazing on the rolling prairie of Wind Cave National Park

Take US Highway 385 south to Highway 101, then east to Highway 79 north, back to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

Recommended alternate route: Drive time: 1.5 hours. Take US Highway 385 north to Custer, South Dakota. Bonus stop: Jewel Cave National Monument. Several different cave tours available. Advance reservations recommended for the popular Scenic Tour. Many stair steps in the cave and children cannot be carried. Click here for information about the park: Jewel Cave National Monument.

Stay on 385 to Crazy Horse Memorial. Bonus stop: Crazy Horse Memorial. Click here for information about the site: Crazy Horse Memorial.

Continue on 385 to Highway 44 east to Rapid City.

IMG_1199

Hopefully, the second day of your Black Hills vacation has been interesting and fun. We will cover Day Three next week, so stay tuned! Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to the Black Hills of South Dakota – Day One

img_1448.jpg

→Note: this post is the first in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

  • Rapid City, South Dakota is a great “home” base for all this area has to offer.
  • Rapid City has a major airport.
  • Excellent family vacation destination.
  • When to go: Anytime. We recommend May, June, July and September. (Note: the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place during the first two weeks of August. We do not recommend going at this time unless you are planning to participate in the rally.)

There is so much to do in the western part of South Dakota that you could actually spend several days (or weeks) at most of the sites we’re going to talk about, however, we’re going to do it in one week. For those who want to do it all and see it all, but don’t have a lot of time, this road trip is the one for you!

Starting in Rapid City, let’s hit the road.

IMG_1231

*Recommended hotel in Rapid City: Holiday Inn Express on I-90. (Restaurants and shopping nearby.)

*Recommended splurge restaurant in Rapid City: Minervas Restaurant & Bar – 2111 N. LaCrosse St.

*Recommended family restaurant in Rapid City: Chili’s Grill & Bar – 2125 Haines Ave.

*RV and tent camping available in many locations in and around Rapid City.

Day One:

Destinations: Devils Tower National Monument and Spearfish Canyon

Travel tip: this will be a full day, so plan to leave early in the morning. We recommend 7:00 am. Pack a picnic lunch, road snacks, plenty of water, and suitable-for-hiking footwear for this day trip.

Drive time between Rapid City and Devils Tower National Monument: 1.75 hours.

IMG_1299Take I-90 West toward Sturgis. Bonus Stop: Sturgis, South Dakota. Even if you’re not a biker, the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is worth a stop.

Continue on I-90 via Spearfish, and then on to Sundance, Wyoming. At Sundance, the road changes to US Highway 14. Bonus Stop: Sundance, Wyoming. Crook County Museum – 309 E Cleveland St. Nice museum with history about the area and the Sundance Kid.

IMG_1309

Travel tip: top off your gas tank in Sundance.

Continue on US Highway 14, then take Highway 24 north toward Devil’s Tower.  Make a quick stop at the Devils Tower Trading Post for souvenirs before proceeding to the park entrance.

IMG_1330

Devils Tower National Monument

  • Website link: Devils Tower National Monument
  • Cost: $20.00 per car (as of August, 2018). Travel tip: the National Park Service will be increasing all park entrance fees during the next year.
  • RV and tent camping available in the park.
  • Picnic areas and hiking trails in the park.
  • Night sky programs.
  • Climbing is permitted with registration of climbers.

 After a stop at the visitor center, we recommend taking Tower Trail for a hike around the base of Devils Tower. Just a little over a mile long, the trail is easy (stroller friendly) and has some tree shaded areas and benches. Look up to see (the very gutsy) climbers on the tower. Afterward, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park.

IMG_1338
Devils Tower from Tower Trail
img_1326.jpg
Another view of Devils Tower

Take Highway 24 back to US Highway 14/I-90 east toward Spearfish, South Dakota. Bonus stop: Vore Buffalo Jump (archaeological site). Take Exit 199. Here’s a link: Vore Buffalo Jump.

Spearfish Canyon

At Spearfish take US Highway (Alt)14 south (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway). Breathtaking scenery. Can’t miss: Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls for photo ops. Plan to hike the easy, paved trail at Roughlock Falls.

IMG_1358
Bridal Veil Falls
IMG_1373
Roughlock Falls

Continue on US Highway (Alt)14 to Deadwood.

Bonus stop: Deadwood, South Dakota.img_1383.jpg This town is a National Historic Landmark, rich in Black Hills Gold Rush and Old West history. Shopping, casinos, bars and restaurants, as well as historic homes, a museum, and the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Hotels and camping available in Deadwood.

Continue on US Highway 14 to Sturgis, then take I-90 east to Rapid City.

We hope you had a fun and exciting first day of your Black Hills vacation. Check back next week for Day Two. Until then…

Travel safe, travel smart and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

Sedona 2007 012
Magical, misty mountain with rainbow at Grand Canyon National Park

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Vicksburg National Military Park

IMG_1686

Where in the world is it?

Vicksburg National Military Park is located in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

For forty-seven days in 1863, Union and Confederate troops battled for control of Vicksburg, a stronghold on the Mississippi River, but the Union forces persevered and forced the Confederates to surrender on July 4. It was a turning point of the Civil War, as the Confederates lost control of the Mississippi River. Today, the national park is a beautiful memorial to the sacrifices made there. Two of the many monuments that are located in the park and the Vicksburg National Cemetery are pictured below.

IMG_1709
Missouri Memorial
IMG_1711
Texas Memorial
IMG_1707
Vicksburg National Cemetery

Second Stop: Terlingua Ghost Town

IMG_2730

Where in the world is it?

It’s in Southwest Texas near Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande River. Cinnabar, from which mercury (aka quicksilver) is derived, was mined at the Chisos Mine (Chisos Mining Company) in Terlingua from about 1905 to 1943. During the height of the mine’s operation, Terlingua reportedly had a population of 2,000.

IMG_2719
Terlingua Cemetery

The Terlingua Cemetery, established in the early 1900s, is still in use today. Terlingua Historic District, which includes the ghost town, the remains of the mine, and the cemetery, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s a fact, Jack!

Approximately 17,000 Union soldiers are buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery. Confederate soldiers are buried in the Soldier’s Rest section of Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg. The Terlingua Cemetery is the final resting place of miners, citizens of the town, and victims of an influenza epidemic back in the early 1900s. One Civil War veteran, John M. Southard aka Tomas Southard White, who died in 1910 and was a member of the 47th Kentucky Artillery, is buried in Terlingua Cemetery. And now you know…

That does it for this week. Thank you for joining us! Come back next week for another exciting post. You never know where we are going to take you! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go To Fort Union National Monument

IMG_3160

 

IMG_3168

  • Website link: Fort Union
  • Cost: free
  • Hours vary seasonally
  • Short film in the visitor center about the history of the fort
  • Self-guided or ranger-led tours of the grounds
  • When to go: anytime

Fort Union National Monument is:

150 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and since Albuquerque has a major airport, we will start our adventure from there. Let’s go!

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

IMG_3155
Prairie near Fort Union. Imagine a wagon train ambling along the Santa Fe Trail here. Aside from the barbwire fences, this scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.

Getting There

From Albuquerque take I-25 north toward Santa Fe. At Santa Fe continue on I-25/US 84 east toward Glorietta and Pecos, New Mexico.

IMG_3877

Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Take the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Plan to spend a couple of hours here. The visitor center is very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link: Pecos National Historic Park.

Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Waltrous. Follow the signs from Waltrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Destination: Fort Union National Monument

IMG_3163
Fort Union’s Officer’s Row

Fort Union was an important outpost on the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was originally established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the trail. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, better living conditions were needed, and the fort’s original wooden buildings were refurbished or rebuilt with adobe and brick. Larger supply warehouses were added at that time, and Fort Union began providing supplies to all the forts in the region.

IMG_3175
Mechanic’s Corral. This is where they worked on the vehicles of the day.
IMG_3169
Post Commander’s Quarters
IMG_3183
Detail of the Hospital Walls

Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. Even after the Civil War, the post continued to operate with soldiers in place to protect the Santa Fe Trail. The hospital continued to operate during this time, too. However, with the advent of the railroad, the Santa Fe Trail became less traveled, and the fort was abandoned in 1891. Some wheel ruts on the trail can still be seen at Fort Union.

Below are additional shots of the buildings.

IMG_3181

IMG_3174

This concludes our Fort Union National Monument post. Thank you for joining us on our journey. We hope you will return every week as we post more great road trips. Please leave us note below and tell us about your journeys. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Colorado National Monument

IMG_3616

  • img_3680.jpg
    Independence Monument

    Website: Colorado National Monument

  • Cost: $15.00 per car for a 7 day pass
  • Campground available for RVs and tents
  • Backcountry camping with permit
  • Scenic drive
  • On or off trail hiking
  • Biking
  • Backpacking
  • Regulated climbing
  • When to go: anytime

Colorado National Monument is located between the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. Grand Junction has a regional airport serviced by a few national and regional carriers, so that is where our trip is going to start. Grab your camera and get ready to be amazed!

IMG_3621

Getting There

From Grand Junction, take Highway 340 (Broadway Avenue) west to the park entrance. Drive time: approximately 20 minutes.

⇒Alternate Route: from Fruita and I-70, take Highway 340 south to the park entrance and visitor center. Drive time: approximately 15 minutes.

*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn

*Recommended restaurant in Grand Junction: El Tapatio – 1145 North Ave.

For additional information about the area, here’s a helpful link: Visit Grand Junction.

IMG_3677
Monument Canyon

Destination: Colorado National Monument

Rim Rock Drive winds through the park from east to west for 23 miles and is the best way to see the highlights of the monument. We suggest taking the drive and stopping at the visitor center before trekking off to hike or backpack in the park. The scenery is spectacular (excellent photo ops), and there are about fifteen viewpoints or overlooks along Rim Rock Drive. Stop at all of them to see the unique rock formations and deep canyons that make this monument so breathtakingly beautiful.

IMG_3626
Cold Shivers Point
IMG_3649
Fallen Rock

Travel tip: Rim Rock Drive is a two lane road that has twists, turns, drop offs, and hills. Be cautious. Stick to the speed limit, and watch out for the bicyclists who also use this road.

IMG_3673
“Wow” moments at every viewpoint!
IMG_3664
Coke Ovens Formation

When driving or hiking through the monument, you would never know that there were busy cities just a few minutes away. Come to Colorado National Monument to get away from the hustle and bustle. Feast your eyes on its beauty, while taking a break to enjoy nature. Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep here, as well as collared lizards and a variety of birds that also make their homes in the park. Some visitors may be lucky enough to spot a golden eagle or peregrine falcon.

IMG_3655
Interesting shapes and beautiful colors!

IMG_3684

The photo above was taken at the visitor center. This vista can be viewed anytime online via the park’s webcam. Log on to see how the seasons and changing light affect the view. See our Places/Links page above for the link under the National Park Webcams section and scroll down to Colorado National Monument.

IMG_3662
Up close and personal

Thank you so much for joining us! We hope you will return to our site for more great American road trips. If you have questions or comments, by all means, leave one. We love hearing from you. We will conclude this post with a shot of the interesting terrain south of Grand Junction along US Highway 50.

IMG_3611

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

 

IMG_1111
Cold and lonely highway

We decided to do Quick Stops to showcase places that merit a nod, shout out, or round of applause but to which we can’t devote an entire post. As we’ve said before, we will drive a long way out of the way or completely change up our itinerary to go see something that piques our interest. (We must be channeling Clark Griswold. Thankfully, neither of us has an Aunt Edna!) Some of the places we plan to feature in the Quick Stops posts will be fascinating, some will be fun, and some will be funky! Additionally, some locations will be on the beaten path, some will be off of it, and some may just be a photo we like, such as the desolate road above. The locations will be posted at random, and there will be no particular order or itinerary. We can’t wait to share them with you!

Just get in the car and we’ll be on our way…

First Stop: Monument Rocks (Kansas)

Where in the world is it?

IMG_1704

Monument Rocks is about 28 miles south and east of Oakley, Kansas off of US Highway 83. The landmark is on private land, and some of the roads to get there are unnamed, graded dirt ranch roads. These roads can be very bumpy and muddy, but under normal conditions it is well worth the trip to see the rocks. Take a look…

 

IMG_1730

IMG_1721

IMG_1729

Truly out in the middle of nowhere, these fascinating rocks are the remains of an ancient sea bed.

Second stop: Carhenge (Nebraska)

Where in the world is it?

Carhenge is located about four miles north of Alliance, Nebraska. This funky tourist stop is on private property, but thanks to the property owners there is no entrance fee. The sculpture can be viewed from outside the fence that surrounds it. Check it out…

IMG_1184

IMG_1187
Other sculptures at Carhenge

It’s a fact, Jack!

Below is the sign for the Annie Oakley Motel in Oakley, Kansas. Annie Oakley was not from Kansas (she was from Ohio), but she was a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill Cody once called Oakley, Kansas home. And now you know…

img_1708-e1541977411489.jpg

That does it for this week. Thank you for joining us! Come back next week for another exciting post. You never know where we are going to take you! If you liked our first Quick Stops post, leave us a message and let us know we should keep doing them. If you didn’t like it, tell us that, too. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018