A Tour of the Dakotas - Part 1
South Dakota

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We were lucky that Norm and Linda Payne were traveling the entire Lewis & Clark Trail this summer and were a few weeks in front of us. Diane and I didn't plan to follow the trail other than those sections that were on our path as we toured the Dakotas. As a result of Norm and Linda having passed through some areas we were about to cover, we benefited from their sharing some experiences and giving us suggestions as to places we could park our rig, including some free parking spots.

The first suggestion was Lion's Park, the city park in Vermillion, South Dakota. Norm had told me that the park had a few sites that could handle big rigs, and he even told me which sites would allow use of the satellite dish. Initially, we planned to stop just south of Sioux Falls as our first stop in South Dakota, but that changed when we learned from the Paynes and the Holders that the Blue Bunny ice cream factory was in Lemars, Iowa and not too far from Vermillion. It was also coming up on the July 4th weekend and we needed a place to stay for the holiday weekend. Free parking and Blue Bunny ice cream made it a no-brainer to spend the weekend in Vermillion.

We arrived in Vermillion on July 1, the Thursday before the start of the holiday weekend. We figured that we would have a better chance of getting one of the sites if we got to town a day early. When we got there we had no problem finding the park, which was located on the western side of Vermillion. There were two fifth wheels already parked. Luckily, the first site in the park was open and offered a clear view to the southern sky so we could use our dish. The park had 30-amp power on the site. Water was available, if needed, but our fresh water tank was full. Campers are allowed to stay three nights for free and then it was an honor system to pay $5 for each additional night. We stayed four nights and left $5 in the drop box.

Vermillion is small town America with a population of just over 10,000 that sits on top of a bluff along the Missouri River. It is home to the University of  South Dakota. It reminded me of my days at Brockport State in the 60s. It was a small college town in New York west of Rochester. Lion's Park was walking distance to town and we walked it several times during the weekend. There were two small movie theaters in town that were owned by the same people. On one of our walks they were outside one of the theaters changing the marquee, so we stopped to chat with them. Unfortunately, we had already seen all of the movies being shown, but it would have been nice to see a movie in an old small theater. Diane and I are spoiled and look for big screens and stadium seating, but every now and then we enjoy seeing a movie in a small town theater.

The National Music Museum is located on the campus of the University. The museum was founded in 1973 and contains some of the most renowned collections of more than 10,000 instruments. The literature for the museum said that the museum and its collections are rivaled only by museums in such cultural centers as Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and Vienna. There was no charge to enter the museum. They only requested a donation. The audio tour (disc player) was very well done. It explained the main instruments in the collections and, in some cases, also contained the sound of the instrument. We saw and heard instruments that dated back to the 17th century, including a Stradivari violin, guitar (one of only two that survive), and mandolin. We enjoyed the couple of hours we spent in the museum.

The lure of Blue Bunny ice cream was beckoning, so we drove over to LeMars, Iowa one day to find the factory. There were no tours of the factory, but the Blue Bunny Visitor Center had a museum that was very interesting.  LeMars has been home to the Wells' Dairy since 1913 and the Wells family still resides in LeMars. It is known as the "Ice Cream Capital of the World" by virtue of the fact that more ice cream is made in LeMars by a single company than in any other city in the world. The original business was owned by Ray Bowers who was a dairy farmer in LeMars. Fred H. Wells bought a horse, a delivery wagon, a few milk cans, and the goodwill of the business for $250. It was from that start that Blue Bunny ice cream emerged. The museum had displays of the company's history, as well as demos of how the ice cream was made. The end of the self guided tour exited through, what else, the ice cream parlor where we both enjoyed some delicious Blue Bunny ice cream. Yummy.

Yankton, a town of about 15,000 people, was a short drive to the west of Vermillion and home to the Gavins Point Dam that separates South Dakota and Nebraska. It is also home to the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center. Long before Lewis & Clark went through the area, it was home to Native Americans of the Arikara and Yankton Dakota Sioux tribes who settled near the joining of the James and Missouri Rivers. When word of the fertile ground was spread by members of the by Lewis & Clark expedition, settlers began to arrive in droves. By the late 1860s, Yankton had become the territorial capital. Up to 30 steamboats a week docked in Yankton.

Some other historical tidbits about Yankton include:

The Benedictine Sisters were credited for calming down the wild west atmosphere when they arrived in 1887 and brought religion to the town. The nuns contributions to Yankton are considered to be impressive. They built a monastery and chapel, a four-year accredited college, a top rated regional medical center, a senior care complex, and an assisted living center.

We stopped first at the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center to learn more about their expedition. Then we drove over to the dam. The dam and power plant were completed in 1957. We were able to take a tour of the power plant, which we found interesting.

On the way back to Vermillion we swung to the north to see Spirit Mound, also known as Paha Wakan by Native Americans in the Omaha, Oto, and Yankton tribes. These people believed that the mound was inhabited by little people who shot any human who came near. Lewis & Clark, along with 11 men and Lewis' dog Seaman went to explore the mound on August 25, 1804. They reached the mound and climbed up to the top, at which time they determined that the mound was natural and not man-made. It was the first time that they had seen buffalo herds and elk. It was a hot day when we were there and we didn't have our walking shoes on, so we didn't walk the path to the top of the mound. We thought we would come back another day, but we never did.

We enjoyed our holiday weekend in Vermillion. The name escapes me, but we ate breakfast in a restaurant on State Road 50 (the road on which Lion's Park is located) that had a cute twist. The menu said that if you told the server "eggs are my fav", they would throw on an extra egg for free. We figured it was worth a try, so we said that to our server and each got an extra egg.

July 4th arrived and we learned that the fireworks display would be at the large park across the street from us. People started arriving just before dark with chairs and blankets. Diane and I took a couple of chairs to the edge of the park next and sat next to some locals who were sitting there and watched a very nice fireworks display. It wasn't like Disney World, but we were impressed with the quality of the display for a small town. I was expecting maybe five minutes of fireworks, but it went on for a good 15 minutes, or so. It was a nice way to wrap up the July 4th holiday before heading north to Sioux Falls.

Our destination after Vermillion was the Red Barn RV Park in Tea. That seemed quite appropriate given that Diane is a devoted tea drinker. She needs her morning cup of tea in the same way some folks can't start their day without a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, there was no tea house in Tea. We had to settle for dinner one evening in the Tea Steak House. The Red Barn was an okay RV park accessed via a dirt road off of I-29.

Sioux Falls took its name from the falls in the Sioux River. Several early explorers of the West, including Lewis & Clark, Joseph Nicolett, James Allen, and Philander Prescott, sent word back East about the area.
Land speculators read these accounts and saw an opportunity for great wealth from the falls. In 1856, two groups of speculators went to the area to claim the land around the falls. These speculators believed that the falls could be used to run factories and that would result in industries and settlers buying land owned by the speculators. However, it didn't work out that way. The Civil War, fear of native tribes, and a depression slowed construction of the railroads to the area. The town was abandoned in 1862 due to violent conflicts between settlers and native tribes in southwest Minnesota. Sioux Falls had a second life about 15 years later when another group of business people and settlers arrived in the area. In 1878, the railroad finally arrived in Sioux Falls and the city flourished. Mills and quarries were the primary businesses in the area and the ruins of some of the mills still stand. We spent a couple of hours visiting the park and walking to the falls.

A palace made of corn? Well, yes, there is such a place. In Mitchell. Actually, it was more like a small arena used for basketball games, trade shows, stage shows, proms, and graduations. The first Corn Palace was built in 1892. The third and present Corn Palace was built in 1921. What is a corn palace you ask and why would anyone want to cover a building with corn? It started when the city fathers back in 1892 wanted to put Mitchell on the map. When Lewis & Clark passed through the area in 1805 they wrote that the area was the Great American Desert and only suitable for buffalo. They said that no one could ever make a living farming in the area. The Corn Belt Real Estate Association wanted to prove them wrong and built the first Corn Palace to show all of the crops that could be grown in the area. The Corn Palace, and the festival that grew around it, became so popular that the building was outgrown. So a new one was built in 1921 and designed to last a long time.

The main feature of the building is how it is covered with "paintings" made with corn. A new theme is chosen every year and the process starts in early summer when the old grains and grasses are removed from the building. New geometric designs are put on the building using 3,000 bushels of milo, rye, oat heads, and sour dock. When the corn matures in late summer, the murals are replaced. It is quite a process. It takes about three months to redecorate the building at a cost of more than $100,000.

We were told to check out the Cabela's outdoor supply store in Mitchell where we were able to park the motorhome for the night. Even after having been told about Cabela's, we were awed by its size, and especially by the wildlife displays in the store. There were some 30, or so, large RV parking sites in the lot. There were even several dog kennels where people could leave their dog while they shopped. When we arrived there was one dog in a kennel and we thought nothing of it. However, when the dog was still there in the morning after spending the night in some rain showers, it seemed clear that someone had abandoned it. I went into the store to tell someone about the dog and someone came out in a short time. He said he would take care of the dog and we found out a bit later than a Cabela's employee volunteered to take ownership of the dog. A potentially sad story with a good ending.

The next stop on our Dakotas tour was Wall, home of the Wall Drug Store. Norm had suggested that we could park overnight in the rear parking lot for free, so we parked the motorhome there for two nights and used it as a base to walk around the town and tour the South Dakota Badlands. Actually, it was not totally free. Norm didn't tell me about Black Hills Gold. Once Diane got a look at some of the Black Hills Gold jewelry, the camping was no longer free.  ;-)  I do have to admit that there was some gorgeous jewelry and Diane bought a very nice ring.

The town of Wall, which is located on the edge of the Badlands, owes its success to Ted and Dorothy Hustead. It is truly an American success story. They bought the only drugstore in Wall in December 1931 and planned to give it five years to succeed. By 1936 the business had not grown very much even though they could see lots of cars going by without stopping. And then came the inspiration. Dorothy was sitting out one hot Sunday in July watching all the cars going by on Route 16A, which at the time was a hot dusty prairie. She figured that the people in those cars must have been thirsty, so she suggested putting up signs on the highway telling people to stop in the drugstore for some FREE ice water. The rest is history. What a success story. You can still get free ice water in the drugstore. There is much more to the town now with lots of stores and several eating places.

Badlands National Park is just to the south of Wall. French trappers called it "les mauvaises terres a traverser". The Lakota called it "mako sica". Both terms mean "bad lands". It is raw beauty with many shapes and colors in the rocks. Paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson said "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in summer in the hottest spot of such a place without water - without an animal and scarce an insect astir - without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Bad Lands."

We took two long drive into the Badlands National Park, one of 60 miles and one of 80 miles. As we drove through the park and stopped along the way to take in the vistas and take photos, we were amazed that anyone would ever even think about trying to live in the area much less travel through it. However, humans have lived in the Badlands for more than 11,000 years starting with the ancient mammoth hunters. They were followed by nomadic tribes whose lives centered on hunting buffalo. The river in the Badlands is the White River and the Arikara was the first tribe to inhabit the area. Finally, by the mid-1700s, the Sioux (Lakota) settled in the area. They dominated the area after having learned how to use horses from the Spaniards. For more than 100 years the Lakota way of life flourished in the Badlands, until French fur trappers arrived. They were followed by many more Europeans who were soldiers, miners, cattle farmers, and homesteaders. This intrusion caused problems between the settlers and the Lakota for the next 40 years which resulted in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 after which the Lakota were confined to reservations. How native Americans were treated by the United States government is another black mark on the history of our country.

We would eventually see several prairie dog towns as we toured the Dakotas, but this was where we saw our first one. They were everywhere. Thousands of them. Probably tens of thousands of the little creatures. Lewis & Clark referred to them as "barking squirrels". It was hard to get a good photo with my camera as they scoot as soon as you stop the car and get out. Then it seemed like the "scout" was alerting the others to potential danger by constant high-pitched "barking". We enjoyed watching prairie dogs scurrying around their "town".

The Black Hills in southwest South Dakota was high on our list of places to visit and we planned to spend a couple of weeks in the area. We figured we would start in Custer to tour the southern part of the hills (Custer State Park, Hot Springs), then move up to Hart Ranch in Rapid City for the center (Mount Rushmore), and finish with a few days in Sturgis to tour the northern area (Deadwood, Spearfish).

Our first stop was Custer and we chose to stay at Heritage Village Campground, a small 32 site campground located down the road and within site of the Crazy Horse Memorial. We had a very interesting first day in Custer.
After checking in, we started in to our assigned site with me driving the motorhome and Diane following in the car.  On the way in I saw a Newmar Mountain Aire with folks sitting outside, so I stopped and opened the window to say "hey".  They were new full-timers out of Gainesville, FL.  We chatted for a couple of minutes and then we pulled into our site down the road and across from them.  Diane decided to do laundry in the campground laundromat (remember, we have no washer/dryer at present) and I did email.  No local number, so I had to use the 800#, but the phone jack was available 24/7.  Now for the interesting part.

As I was walking back to the motorhome, I heard someone call my name.  It was the guy from the Mountain Aire.  He came running over all excited and said he had just realized he recognized the mural on the back of our motorhome.  He said he had been following our website for a few years and was thrilled to be able to meet us.  That was twice since we hit the road out of Atlanta in early June that someone had recognized us from the mural on the rig.  I love it.  ;-)   Their names were John & Giorgianna Shepard. Traveling with them was Arlene Lewis, a good friend of theirs.

Our site faced the Crazy Horse Memorial, so we enjoyed dinner with a nice view. After dinner, we took a ride into Custer State Park.  The folks at the entrance booth were Escapees, so we got to chat for a few minutes with them.  They worked at the park for four months in return for a campsite.  They worked three days a week and said they were loving it.  Both of them were truly thrilled at being able to be in an environment like the Black Hills and not have to work too hard to get a campsite.  We continued on and did one of the loops in the park.  What a place.  It seemed like wherever we visit is our favorite place.  If it's the shore, that's our favorite.  If it's the mountains, that's our favorite.  We saw some wildlife, but just deer.  We hoped to see some free roaming buffalo during another venture into the park.  We bought a one-week pass for $10 which would allow us ample time to explore.

The town of Custer was originally inhabited by prospectors, muleskinners, and madams. They were later replaced by merchants, bankers, and other professionals who would build the first city in the Black Hills to what it has remained a century later. Today there are lots of shops, motels, and restaurants to service the tourists who flock to the area to take in the Black Hills and Custer State Park. We enjoyed a couple of meals in town and loved the Purple Pie Place for its ice cream and pies.

As we drove to Custer we passed through Hill City and it was enough to make us decide to go back and walk around the town. We enjoyed walking through the shops and we had a good lunch one day in Hill City. We had been looking forward to buffalo burgers, but didn't see one restaurant that had them. We were told they would be plentiful in western South Dakota. We both had buffalo burgers. One of the shops had a great t-shirt. Across the top it had the words "Homeland Security". Below that was a photo of four Native Americans, including Sitting Bull, all holding rifles. Under that were the words "Fighting Terrorism Since 1492". Perfect.

From our base in Custer we drove into the state park several times, drove down to Hot Springs, and went to see Mount Rushmore. Although the Crazy Horse Memorial was within site, we didn't go into the grounds for a closer look. We had been told that it was a bit pricey, which we found to be the case at $9 per person.

Custer State Park was great. Named for General George A. Custer, it covers 73,000 acres in the Black Hills. Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills in 1874 where they discovered gold. The rush of fortune seekers that followed took a toll on the area and its wildlife. The state park was created in 1919. The herd of bison in the park numbers close to 1,500. We got to see a portion of the herd on one of our drives into the park, as well as a couple of up close and personal encounters with bison walking along the road. Also in the park were the "begging burros" who poked their noses into cars looking for a handout. They were friendly and would stay close to you only if you gave them something to eat. If not, they were off to the next group of people to beg for a treat. Other animals in the park included pronghorn sheep, prairie dogs, deer, elk, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. We never did get to see any bighorn sheep, but we did see a coyote through the binoculars way up on a hill.

There were two roads that go through the park that deserve mention: SR 87, also known as Needles Highway; US 16A, also known as Iron Mountain Road. Both roads offered some great views, tunnels, and pigtail bridges. The Needles Highway had three tunnels and the Iron Mountain Road had four tunnels, some of which were only wide enough for one vehicle to pass at a time. At least two of them were too low for an RV to pass through. We drove those roads several times during our stay and never got tired of the views. At one point on the Iron Mountain Road, one could see Mount Rushmore perfectly framed by one of the tunnels.

Neither Diane nor I had ever been to Mount Rushmore, but it was always on our list of places to visit. It was everything we expected it to be. Awesome. The sculpture owes its beginning to an idea by a South Dakota state historian named Doane Robinson. The goal was to draw visitors to the Black Hills area. His first idea was to put the sculptures in the Needles (along the Needles Highway). They were clusters of tall, thin peaks that looked like spires on a Gothic cathedral. He wanted to carve sculptures of Indian leaders and American explorers who shaped the frontier.

At the time Robinson was floating his idea of a massive sculpture in the Black Hills, Gutzon Borglum was carving a Confederate memorial on Stone Mountain east of Atlanta. Robinson knew of Borglum's work, which included a remodeled torch for the Statue of Liberty, saints and apostles for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, a seated Lincoln in Newark, New Jersey, and an oversized bust of Lincoln in the United States Capitol. Borglum thought the Needles were too fragile for a massive sculpture and scouted out the 5,725 foot Mount Rushmore. Borglum didn't like Robinson's idea of Indian leaders and American explorers. He wanted to carve something that would represent the history and philosophy of the United States. He chose four presidents: George Washington, who represented the BIRTH of our country since he was our first president; Thomas Jefferson, who symbolized EXPANSION since he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803; Abraham Lincoln, who represented the PRESERVATION of the Union; and Theodore Roosevelt, who represented the DEVELOPMENT of our country with the construction of the Panama Canal and his backing  of conservation and economic reform.  President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the memorial in 1927 that started 14 years of work to create the sculpture. Borglum died in 1941 before the sculpture was completed. His son, Lincoln Borglum, finished the work.

We took a guided walk along the Presidential Trail and got to see the sculpture from different angles. We also walked down to Borglum's studio and listened to a talk given by one of the rangers. It was quite interesting to hear how the sculpture was carved into the mountain. The amazing thing was that there was not one casualty during its construction.

Hart Ranch in Rapid City was listed as a 5-star RV resort and, to some folks we have spoken to who had been there, it was the cat's meow of RV parks. But I had also heard some less than flattering reviews about the park, including folks who had to move two or three times to different sites during a week's stay. I kind of figured that maybe I didn't know the full story and it was possible these stories resulted because people just showed up at the park without a reservation. We were told by an RV buddy that we met at the Newmar rally that we shouldn't have to move given we had a reservation that was made 30 days in advance per the Coast to Coast rules. Well, we had to move because they didn't have one site for seven consecutive days. Of course, they blamed it on Coast to Coast, but we thought that a reservation would allow us to get a site without having to move. Rich and Maude Williams, who we met at the Newmar rally in June, arrived and were given a water/electric site because Hart Ranch couldn't give them a full hookup site even though the Williams made a reservation for a full hookup site. However, I counted at least 10 empty sites at 9 p.m. when I went to the clubhouse to do email.

It is a large RV resort with more than 400 sites, but it is in the middle of nowhere. I would imagine it would have lots of appeal to weekend RVers and vacationers. Hart Ranch is a nice resort, but certainly not the best one we have stayed at. We liked Roundout Valley in New York better for its ambiance, as well as the Encore park in Orlando. Some other impressions:

We got to visit with Rich and Maude a few times during the week, including an evening ride to Mount Rushmore. The evening show consisted of a short talk by a park ranger, a short movie, and lighting of the sculpture. It was very moving. We had a final meal together at the Rocking R restaurant where we had "all you can eat" ribs. Yummy.

Diane and I went into Rapid City to see a couple of movies (Anchorman; I Robot), went to see the Berlin Wall Exhibit, drove to Hill City for lunch and to pick up the aforementioned t-shirt for Curt and Jill who said they wanted it, and visited the Chapel in the Hills.

The Berlin Wall Exhibit had two 12 foot segments of the Berlin Wall. The grounds also had photos and placards with descriptions of the origin and life of the wall. You may remember that we missed seeing pieces of the wall when we visited Fort Leavenworth because they were moved and no one seemed to know where they were moved to in the fort. So this was another opportunity to see some of the wall segments.

The Chapel in the Hills, or Stavekirke, was built in 1969 and was an exact replica of the famous 850 year old Borgund Church in Norway. We walked around and in the church admiring the intricate wood carvings.

After a restful week in Rapid City, we said good-bye to Rich and Maude, who were heading east, and then we drove to Sturgis to take in some of the northern parts of the Black Hills. We chose to stay at the Rush-No-More RV Park, which was a Good Neighbor park, as well as a Good Sam Park. It was nestled into a valley a mile off of the interstate, so it was quiet, yet not wooded. We had a nice, large pullthru site with full hookups. After setting up the motorhome, we drove into Sturgis to get an early meal. You may remember that Diane and Linda decided to call our late lunch/early dinner meals "lupper", so that's what Diane and I had in Sturgis. We drove through the town, which doesn't take very long, and selected the Knuckle Saloon for our meal. It was a fairly large place, but pretty empty at the time we were there. We had a delightful server who told us how incredibly busy the town would be in a couple of weeks when more than 500,000 people would descend on Sturgis for its annual Bike Week. That isn't our cup of tea, so we would be out of town before that event started. We found it incredible what the prices go to during that week. The RV site for which we paid $13/night would go for around $600/week for Bike Week. The cabins would rent for $1,000 during that week. After eating, we walked around the town and saw lots of activity going on in preparation for the horde of bikers that would be arriving in two weeks.

Sturgis was a good place to use as a base to tour more of the Black Hills, including Spearfish Canyon and Deadwood. We drove up to Spearfish and through the canyon. Canyons are cool with all the steep cliffs rising up on both sides of the road.

Deadwood is a tourist trap to be sure, with lots of shops, restaurants, and casinos, but a cool town nonetheless. It was about a half hour from where the campground we were at south of Sturgis and we drove there a couple of times to eat and walk around. Tin Lizzie's had all you can eat shrimp on Friday and Saturday nights and that wasn't something we could pass up. Neither was the all you can eat crab legs at the Silverado.

Over a hundred years ago Deadwood was a real wild west town made famous by names such as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It started as a gold mining camp in the Black Hills territory, which was lawless at the time. Everyone who came to Deadwood was looking to get rich in some way, by finding gold, or running businesses, which included gambling halls and brothels. It was in Deadwood that Wild Bill met his end. He was a gambler and sharpshooter and made lots of enemies. He refused to ever sit with his back to the door. Unfortunately, the only seat left at a poker table on August 2, 1876 was a chair that forced him to sit with his back to the door because Wild Bill was never one to miss a poker game. It provided an opportunity that Crooked Nose Jack McCall couldn't pass up and he approached from Will Bill's rear and ended Wild Bill's life with a single shot. If you have ever played poker, you may be aware of the term "dead man's hand". That term came about from the cards Wild Bill held when he was shot: two black aces and two black eights which would have won the hand. Saloon #10 was where Wild Bill was shot and it still stands today on Main Street. Several times a day therewas a reenactment of the shooting of Wild Bill. It was fun to watch as Jack McCall runs out of the saloon and up the street while being chased by the law in the town.

A relatively new attraction just outside of Deadwood was Tatanka: Story of the Bison. It was a museum and a larger-than-life outdoor bronze sculpture featuring 14 bison being pursued by three Native American riders. Up to 30 million bison once roamed the Great Plains. By 1900 there were less than 1,000 bison left in the wild. This attraction tells their story. Native Americans relied on the bison for their entire subsistence. They used it for food, housing, and clothing. When settlers arrived in the West and conflicts arose with Native Americans, someone had the bright idea that killing off the bison would result in major problems for Native Americans. Buffalo hides were becoming very popular, as was shooting buffalo for sport. In a relatively short period of time, almost 30 million bison were killed. Fortunately, there were some settlers who saw what was happening and captured some bison and kept them confined to their ranches. Without such foresight, bison may have been killed off to extinction.

Our final stop in South Dakota was Pierre (pronounced "pier"), the state capital. We drove out of Sturgis on State Road 34 and admired the countryside of various shades of green and brown. The land varied from flat to rolling hills. Each time we crested a hill or rounded a curve we could see what seemed forever in the distance. Norm and Linda were in Pierre a few weeks ago and had stayed at Griffin City Park. It was free. Norm had told me that he learned they would be renovating the park later in the year, but didn't know when that would be. Well, it was during the time we were there. Our first clue as we drove down the street approaching the park was that we didn't see any RVs. Our second clue were the barriers blocking entrance to the campsites and the workers inside the barriers. We saw a parking lot and left the motorhome there while we went to check out a couple of other parks in the area. One was Lilly Park in Fort Pierre, but there was a fishy odor in the area, so we went to check out the Farm Island State Recreation Area four miles to the east of Pierre. We decided to stay there on a large campsite right along the water, which was an inlet from the Missouri River.

There was a free WiFi spot in Pierre at the Pier 347 Cafe. We ate breakfast at the cafe before heading to the state capital building a few blocks away. There was a self guided tour of the building, which was beautiful and interesting. It was built between 1905 and 1910 and comprised more than 114,000 square feet. A variety of materials were used to construct the building, including native field stone, Indiana limestone, and Vermont and Italian marble. An annex was added to the building in 1932. After touring the capital building, we went to visit the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center that contained a museum showing life in South Dakota from Indian tribes to the present. The building was constructed mostly underground, which made it energy efficient. We enjoyed this museum and it's displays.

The Oahe Dam and power plant was a nice ride north of Pierre. We stopped at the visitor center for some information and then took a tour of the power plant. We had taken a tour of the Gavins Point Dam, but this tour was more informative and interesting and we got to see some parts of the plant we didn't see at Gavins Point. We had a good tour guide and it was very interesting.

We had seen a brochure for the Triple U Buffalo Ranch which was further north from the dam. We wanted to buy some buffalo meat, so we headed up to find the ranch, which ended up being a ways down a dirt road. We bought some ribeye steaks, ground meat, and patties, most of which we have grilled and eaten at the time of the writing of this travelogue, and it was all very good. The Triple U Buffalo Ranch was the site where much of the movie "Dances With Wolves" was filmed. The buffalo scenes, Fort Sedgewick scenes and prairie scenes were filmed at the ranch.

Well, this concludes the South Dakota portion of our tour of the Dakotas. From Pierre, we would head due north to Bismarck to start our tour of North Dakota.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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