Saturday, July 17, 2010

Trip: Day Twelve

Before leaving our Wi-Fi endowed campground, Maria looked up the Black Hills for us and, having picked out Bear Country USA as our tourist stop for the day, got us directions: Take exit 61. Lucky for us, that exit also hosted a tourist information stop, so we made lunch while Paul went inside and procured a full area map and more complete information.

While eating, a car pulled alongside us (in the truck parking area), a man got out and offered us free camping in the area. Having absolutely no plans to stay, we politely accepted his brochure to get rid of him, discovering upon reading it that he actually offered a timeshare arrangement with a mandatory 90 minute sales pitch. That was in the fine print along with an income level to qualify that eliminated us anyway.

Oh shucks.

We headed down to Bear Country USA, paid our admission, and proceeded inside with cameras at the ready. It was great fun touring, or became so the second we broke their rules and opened windows. It was absolutely sweltering inside the RV with no air circulation and no AC. Slowly as we were going and in full sun, I can easily make a claim for it being a health issue.

It was also a photography issue. Pictures are so much better when taken without the filtering effect of an extra layer of dirty glass. The windows were all high, and we were always alert for any critters that might approach for a quick window-close, and we proceeded completely without incident. I also noticed that several other vehicles had open windows. Many animals were already distant enough that there was never an issue, and the cougars were completely sealed in behind sturdy fencing. The bears were busy ignoring us even before the truck came noisily through tossing what looked like bread on the ground for their feeding. While that attracted most of them on site to one area, we liked their more natural actions before the feeding started.

Our one incident had absolutely nothing to do with open windows. Maria was moving seat locations when there was a sudden need to stop, and fell in the aisle. She hit her hand on something as she went down, but luckily we had abundant ice for an ice pack, and that was all that was needed.

Her camera was unharmed.

Once we were ready to leave, we had the option of touring a building where young animals were visible. Did we want to? The unanimous vote was no, but a request was put forth: Could we head just a bit more away from the freeway and visit the Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone? Two of Steve's sons are really big into panning for gold, and he wanted to buy each of them a bag of panning dirt, guaranteed to contain some gold or your money back.

It was quickly located on the map, and away we went. I was thinking about black hills gold jewelry, if some were affordable in the shop, and enjoying the scenery. Others were thinking restrooms, in addition to their own personal buying goals. (We had no time for more than a quick stop, so couldn't tour the mine even if we had wanted.) The billboards along the way were very good, up to telling us where to turn and when, so the route was easy, especially with four pairs of eyes spotting.

Once there, it was my knees that gave me the advantage over the others. I had to sit before heading into the shop, and again on the way out. Right there on the deck were tables, one unoccupied. It was a chance to watch panners in action if you wanted, but having already done that on several occasions, I looked around instead. That gave me the opportunity to be the only one to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rushmore, though only two and a half heads are visible from that angle. It was such a long enough walk over and back that I'd made my selection, spotted Paul, and handed him the money for my purchase before going out to sit down again before heading back. Naturally I wasn't interested in fighting my way back through the crowd in the store to find him to mention the view. I'd completely lost track of the others as well by this time. Once back at the RV, nobody was interested in heading back to the store for the view, especially me.

Shopping done, it was time to head on, no further stopping except for gas. We had another 200 miles to cover before hitting our campsite along the Missouri River in Chamberlain. The drive was exactly what you expect from South Dakota: hot and boring. We did, however, pull in in good time, set up camp, hve supper, and go for our swim and hot tub soak. The pool was open until 10. It was an inside pool, located in the resort part of our campground, so we drove up. Steve elected to stay at the campsite with his favorite chair and pipe and just watch the river flow by and get acquainted with our neighbors for the night. We left him with a bottle of OFF!

Cedar Shores gets one thing wrong, and I never figured it out until presented with it after my knees went bad. Instead of steps down into their pool, they have ladders. The ladders have very low hand railings to support yourself when getting in and out. I mostly fell in to the pool, rather than climbing in, but it was warm enough that it was fine. Nearly an hour later, however, wanting to use the hot tub while there were a few minutes before they closed up, climbing out again was another matter. It took about five minutes, even with Paul's help. The water level is low enough that I couldn't just put my arms on the pool edge and hoist myself out. The ladder was OK enough for the first step, less OK for the second, and gave absolutely no leverage for that last one. My shoulder hasn't healed enough for him to be able to pull on both arms, and there was no good way to shift my center of gravity and climb out that last step. I finally went to my knees on the pool edge and stood up from there.

It wasn't fun.

The hot tub, at least, has steps. Paul is more of a sauna guy, but Maria and I enjoyed our 15 minutes in the massaging jets of hot water, even though they were poorly placed to hit what ailed us. Unless, of course, you get off on foot massage. For that they were wonderful.

We finally returned to the RV for our hottest night of the trip, ready for our hottest and final day. Of course, we had to have our last disaster first.

Maria had left a lot of dishes to do, and Steve and I assured her that we could make our beds and sleep while she used the RV kitchen for the task. There was no dish sink in the camper facilities. What I had forgotten was that Maria likes to run lots of water while doing dishes. Mostly, I just hadn't paid that much attention. Suddenly Paul popped his head in to report that the RV was leaking water all over the ground. The greywater tank was overflowing. Luckily, we had a dump station right on our site and didn't need to move to hook up in the dark.

The procedure is to dump the blackwater tank (from the toilet) first, then flush the system with the greywater contents, usually considerably cleaner. Something went wrong with the hookup, and the blackwater tank contents went all over the ground instead of down under ground. Luckily it was by now full dark, and most of our neighbors were either asleep or at least retired inside with windows and shades drawn. Paul used the hose to dilute and scatter the mess, hooked up again, and now emptied the greywater tank. Maria finished dishes and went to bed. Paul set his alarm to get up again around 5AM to pick up toilet paper after it had a chance to dry a bit.

Zipper baggies make great gloves in a pinch.

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