Wednesday, October 3, 2012


We traveled this beautiful country of ours for 143 days and saw so many different and wonderful things.  From the desolate desert to the mountains with its snow capped peaks, valleys, canyons and lakes; from rivers winding through canyons to  dried up bedstreams in the desert; from green coniferous forests to petrified wood forests; cascading waterfalls to rapids on the Colorado;  from cliff dwellings to city dwellings and everything in between. Every area that we traveled through had its own distinct flavor with its own geographic features of which we spoke in the previous blogs. Everyone has asked us what we liked the best about this trip. The answer is not as easy as it may sound, but we have decided that Yellowstone and the Tetons were our most enjoyable stays even with the issues with the cold weather and non-working batteries and lack of heat in the RV. That was only a part of the time and the rest of the three weeks there we had wonderful weather and were able to do anything we liked-touring the area, hiking, biking, canoeing, viewing all of the magnificent wildlife and, as a bonus,  smores' around the campfires at night.

Spending the last two weeks with our family was icing on the cake!

We have compiled the statistics for our total journey in case anyone might be interested in taking a similar trip. Here goes:

Sights along the way:
1. Carlsbad Caverns, NM
2. Old Town Albuquerque, NM
3. Sante Fe, NM
4. Santuario de Chimayo, NM
5. Taos, NM
6. Mesa Verde, National Park, CO
7. Leadville, CO
8. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
9. Yellowstone Nationsl Park, WY
10. Grand Teton National Park, WY, UT
11. Bear Lake, UT
12. Arches National Park, UT
13. Canyonlands National Park, UT
14. Zion National Park, UT
15. Bryce National Park, UT
16. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
17. Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim, AZ
18. Sedona, AZ and Montezumas Castle National Monument
19. Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, AZ
20. Winslow, AZ
21. Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
22. Painted Desert National Park, AZ
23. Lake Meade National Rereation Area, NV
24. Hoover Dam, AZ/NV
25. Las Vegas, NV
26. Tehachapi, CA
27. Lake Isabelle, CA
28. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
29. Yosemite National Park, CA
30. Lake Tahoe, NV
31. Mount Rushmore National Park, SD
32. Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial, SD
33. Wall Drug, SD
34. Badlands National Park, SD
35. Niagara Falls, NY
36. Ellis Island, NJ (Upper New York Harbor)
37 Statue of Liberty National Monument, NJ (Upper New York Harbor)

We drove through 30 states and our mileage and gasoline statistics are as follows:

RV stats:
      Miles traveled -10,411
      Cost of fuel- $4,791
     Gallons used-1324
     Highest paid was $5.91 in Lake Tahoe
     Lowest paid was $3.21 near Lake Meade
     An average of $3.62 per gallon.
     Average mpg-7.87
     Average cost per mile- 46 cents
When we look at this we have to keep in mind that we used our generator quite a bit to charge our batteries as we had no electricity most of the trip and the generator uses up gasoline as well. Still not a great average.

Car stats:

Once we landed in a Park for a week or so, we would use the car (Honda Fit) to get around.
Cost of fuel-$981
Miles traveled-7,861
Gallons of Gas used-271
Average cost per gallon-$3.62
 Average mpg - 29
Average cost per mile-12 cents


Total Cost-$3,286
Overall average cost per night-$23

We stayed at 29 State Parks with an average cost of $25 per night; at National Parks at a cost of $10 per night; at Private RV parks at an average cost of $38 per night. Four nights were free as we parked in relatives yards three nights and one night we stayed in a Walmart parking lot.


We didn't track food costs as they would be the same as if we stayed at home. We made picnic lunches every day and had breakfast and dinner at the RV everyday with a very few exceptions when we ate out.

 Total Cost-(excluding food and souvenirs)-$9057
  Average cost of gas and lodging per day-$63

The National and State Park systems are absolutely fantastic. What we can't understand is why more Americans are not taking advantage of them. The majority of the people we met throughout our trip were non-Americans. They were Asian and European. We were in the minority as English speaking people in every park visited. Not only do they come to visit our parks, but they rent RVs do it. Our rate as senior citizens in a National Park was $10 per night and the cost to everyone else, including foreigners, is $20 per night. If you can't afford an RV, then I would encourage the American people to buy a tent and take the children to see these wonderful places. The wilderness is here for us thanks to many of our forefathers, not the least of which, is Teddy Roosevelt. They had the foresight to perserve these untouched miracles of nature for future generations. I hope that more of our children and grandchildren will take the opportunity to explore and experience this wonderful country of ours.

We were so fortunate to be able to make this trip and we are looking forward to more in the future. We'll see what next summer brings. We'll keep you posted!

Friday, September 28, 2012


September 24th, Monday- September 25th, Tuesday- September 26th, Wednesday-Thursday, September 27th

Knowing what the traffic would be like going in and out of Manhattan, we arose early and were on the road out of the New York area by 5:30am. We were so glad that we did as the traffic was very light and we didn't have to battle semis for space in our own lane.

We spent Monday night at the Kiptopeke State Park in Cape Charles, VA. We had stayed there last year going north and really enjoyed the fact that it was on the Chesapeake Bay. We rode our bikes down to the dock, watched the fishermen for a while and just relaxed after 7 hours of riding.
Chesapeake Bay
On Tuesday we left at a more reasonable time-9:00am and drove about 235 miles to a KOA campground just outside of Fayetteville, NC. This trip was about 5 hours and we arrived early enough to relax from the long ride once again.

And Wednesday found us back in Bluffton after a leisurely 8:30am departure and a 5 hour ride. It's always nice to drive in through those gates and see the welcoming fountains, beautiful flowers and nicely manicured lawns. The temperature is still low 80s and the Carolina skies are gorgeous. We do love it here!

It always takes a while to unload the RV and get settled back in our home. First, we had to turn on the water, adjust the air conditioning, remove the saran wrap from all of the drains, clean the kitchen and the bathrooms so that they are once again useable. The unloading commenced! and continued right on through Thursday. The canoe is back in the rafters, the bikes are back in the bike rack and the laundry has been done. Now we need to figure out where to put all the clothes we brought with us! I think it's time to clean out closets and bureaus! 


Friday, September 21st

We left Connecticut behind and headed for the RV Park and Marina in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is conveniently located just about 20 miles from Tim's daughter, Kristin, and her family and across the harbor from New York City one way and the Statue of Liberty the other. It was definitely a challenge to drive through city traffic with the RV towing our car. When we arrived, we noted, however, that  RVs much bigger than ours had made a simlar journey. I honestly don't know how they maneuver in those streets. I must commend Tim for his expertise in handling our vehicle.

That afternoon before the mass exodus from "the city" started, we drove out to see the kids. We spent a quiet afternoon with Graydon (8), Greer (14), Graeme (16) and Kristin (don't worry, I won't divulge it) on their new outdoor living area under beautiful blue skies. We were amazed to see how much they have grown since we last saw them in April. Greer went off baby sitting and Graydon decided to draw pictures for us and keep us entertained with the games he quickly invents. He has a great imagination. After Peter got home, we had dinner and drove back into the RV park. Another testatment to challenging driving (even in just a car) as we are not used to driving at night especially on highways we don't know.

Saturday, September 22nd

Another great day to enjoy the family. Graydon and Graeme and his friend bravely jumped into he pool even though the water temperature wasn't quite up to 80. While Graeme and his friend enjoyed the larger pool, Graydon displayed his excellent swimming techniques in the spa area.

 Greer played badminton with Pop-Pop. The fall air was decidely crisp and wonderfully refreshing.
 We left before dark to avoid any issues with the highways and drove to the dock in Jersey City. From our vantage point, we could see the Twin Towers Memorial building that is still under construction. At the dock there is a 9-11 Memorial and you can't help but wonder how many people stood in that exact spot on 9-11, willing, but unable to help the victims of that terrible day.
Manhattan Skyline

We dined at a local Irish pub and made it an early night.

Sunday, September 23rd

We met, Kristin and Peter and their children at  Liberty Park so we could take the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, the thunder storm from late last night was long gone and the blue skies and billowy white clouds promised another wonderful day to spend with the kids. Before the ferry, there is a September 11th Memorial for all of the New Jersey residents who perished on that day. If you look down between the two walls you can see where the Towers were.

Kristin, Peter, Graeme and Graydon at the New Jersey Towers Memorial
Ellis Island

Since we had been there in 1995, Ellis Island has many more exhibits and we were able to use the headsets for self guided audio tours. From the tour and the pamphlet, we learned that starting in 1892 about twelve million people came through Ellis Island looking for a better life. Two of those people were my paternal grandparents, John and Ellen (nee Keating) Leahy and two of their children. My genealogy information is at home and not with me as I write this, but I have the date that they arrived in America and the name of the boat they came over on from Ireland. Standing in the same rooms, the Registry, the Health Inspection and the major halls, I got a sense of how it must have been extremely intimidating to them and all of the others as they were separated, questioned, examined, poked and prodded before being allowed to enter. My ancestors were allowed to enter with no problems, but, sadly, some were not allowed to enter and were returned to their homeland. Some call this island the "Island of Hope" while others call it "Island of Tears."
Picture of Eye Examinations with Button Hook

After lunch, we boarded the ferry taking us to Liberty Island. We didn't go ashore here as the Statue is under going renovations and we wouldn't be allowed to enter it. The history of the Statue of Liberty is that in France in 1865 a group of French intellectuals, led by Edouard de Laboulaye, were unhappy with what they felt was political repression in their own country and decided to make a statement honoring the ideals of freedom and liberty present in America with a symbolic gift. Sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi,  completed the "Liberty Enlightening the World" sculpture. The height of the statue is 151 feet and the thickness of the copper skin is 3/32nd of an inch or about the thickness of two pennies. It  was dedicated in New York harbor on October 28, 1886. This year they are celebrating the 125th anniversary of this historic event.

Statue of Liberty
Pop-Pop, Graeme and Greer
Greer, Peter, Graydon, Kristin, and Graeme

We settled for excellent views from the water and a wonderful ride around the harbor before landing back at Liberty Park. 
Let the Race Begin

Reluctantly, we said our goodbyes to Peter, Kristin and the crew with proimises to see them again at Christmas. We enjoyed our three days with them immensely and just love being with the children and seeing how they change and grow each time we venture north. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


September 4th-September 21st

After many months touring unknown territory for us, we started our trek to more familiar surroundings and to family and friends.

On September 4th, we left Niagara Falls and drove to Thompson Lake State Park in the Catskills where we virtually did nothing but sit by the fire for 3 days. Knowing that we would be on a whirlwind tour of New England after this, we relished the quiet time in this quiet, out of the way retreat.

On September 7th, Friday, we drove down to Brookfield, CT where we had a great visit with my sister Ellen and her husband Art at their Candlewood Lake home. Fortunately, their driveway was long enough to park the RV in it for the  night. While there, my nephew, Jim, and his wife, Beth, with thier youngest child, Jack, came to see us. Ellen and Art are heading out to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands as well as to the round up in Cody, WY next week so we had lots to share with them about our recent trip there. Jim and Beth have a 38 foot RV and will be doing traveling of their own with their 3 children.

On Saturday, September 8th, we headed down to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT. This is where we stayed for the next two weeks. It's really a great park located right on the shoreline with great access to the beach, the highway and the really neat little town of Madison. 

That afternoon we saw my children and grandchildren for the afternoon for lunch and a walk to the beach with the roaring waves from an incoming storm. Kevin and Wendy and their children Amanda and Kaleigh along with Kelley and her son Brian were a sight for sore eyes. We enjoy them all so much and haven't seen them for a while. Kaleigh is one year old and is walking, Amanda who just turned 14, is a Freshman and Brian is looking at colleges for next year. Where does the time go?

For the rest of the two weeks, we traveled to Maynard, MA west of Boston to see two of my other siblings, Fran and her husband, John, and Rita and her family- Kim, Amy and Ben and their two children, Abbey and Charlotte Jane. Lots of laughs as usual when this whole group gets together.  The beginning of the second week, we drove to Bristol, Rhode Island to visit with my brother, John, and his wife, Maureen, for a wonderful afternoon and dinner.

In between times, we had two different cookouts with our sailing group of friends and lunch with Tim's brother, Pat and his wife, Kim, and long time friends Tom and Grace.
Friends at Shennecossett Yacht Club

While we do keep up with everyone on a regular basis, it was great to see everyone in person and be able to give them all a hug!

We were able to spend an afternoon with Kevin, Wendy and Kaleigh on the beach. I couldn't believe how much Kaleigh loves crawling through the sand and seaweeds to get to the water! Kelley and Brian spent a day with us at the Hammonassett Beach as well. Great days!
Kate, Brian and Kelley at Hammonassett Beach in Connecticut

We had wonderful Fall New England weather for the two weeks here in Connecticut with the exception of one major storm that came in on the 18th which carried tornado warnings with it. When the weather radio reported that anyone in a mobile home should evacuate, we did. The RV was rocking so much, we were considering it anyway. We went to Tim's daughter's condo in Old Saybrook until it quieted down around midnight. The only damage at the park were a few branches down, but there were several neighboring towns with trees down and power outages for the night.

We've had a wonderful time these two weeks and are looking forward to seeing and having a wonderful time with Kristin, Peter, Greer, Graeme, and Graydon this weekend in New Jersey.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


September 1st, Saturday- September 3rd, Monday

The KOA Campground is located about 8 miles from the American Niagara Falls. We arrived midday, got settled in and drove over to the State Park to purchase our Discovery Passes for Sunday. With the passes we would not have to wait in line to purchase ticket the next day. We could not believe the hordes of people everywhere. Even for a holiday weekend, this was extraordinary.  Fortunately, the line for the passes was not too long and we were able to purchase them and get out of the mayhem before too long.

Sunday we arose early, drove to the Niagara State Park, parked and got in line first for the 25 minute Maid of the Mist cruise knowing that it was sure to be as crowded as the day before.  We were glad to be there early as many busloads of foreign tourists unloaded and crowded into line behind us. There was much pushing and shoving from them as we made our way to the boat, but we made it to the entry, donned the ponchos we were given and boarded the boat. As we approached the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the mist and water were all over us. We managed to get a few pictures, but were afraid to leave our cameras unprotected from the water too long.
Horseshow Falls

American Falls
American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls
Tim on Maid of the Mist
Maid of the Mist Near Horseshoes Falls

The boat stayed in the one spot for a few minutes before heading over to the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The thunderous roar of both the falls was very intimidating and reminded us once again how forceful Mother Nature is.  The Horseshoe Falls span 2600 feet wide and are 167 feet high. About 600,000 gallons of water flow over it every second! The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls together span 1060 feet and are 176 feet high with 75,000 gallons of water flowing over them every second. The hydroelectric plant regulates the flow of both of these and slows the flow somewhat during the night hours.   There are two stories that folks here tell about survivors of the Falls. One was of Annie Taylor, a school teacher,  who, on her 63rd Birthday in 1901, went over the Falls in a barrel and survived with only minor cuts and scrapes. The second was of a 7 year old boy who fell out of a boat with his sister when the boat had engine trouble. The owner of the boat drowned, the sister was pulled to shore by onlookers before she went over the Falls and the young boy went over the falls with his life jacket on and survived with minor injuries. The Maid of the Mist rescued him at the base of the falls. There have been many other stunts at the falls, including hire wire walking across the falls, going over in barrels, boats and rubber balls.  Some of these people survived, but there was a high incidence of death so now all stunts are banned.

Our next stop was the  Cave of the Winds. Here they not only gave us ponchos, but also rubber sandals. We ventured down through the tunnel to the staircase leading down to the base of the American Falls. The wind was strong and the water was flying everywhere as we made the climb up the other side. At several places you could stop and almost reach out and touch the water and at one point, if you stood against the rail, the water would come through the fencing and drench you thoroughly. It was a wild experience!

Base of the American Falls

Kate at Base of American Falls

Staircase at the Cave of the Winds-Note the people near the water

We ventured on back up to dry land, had lunch, and took the shuttle through the park over to the top of Horseshoe Falls. The incredible volume of water and its forceful nature are a marvel.

Horseshoe Falls

After viewing the movie at the Visitor Center, we handed back to the RV to rest a bit and then catch a tour to the Canadian side this evening.

The evening tour took us with 15 other travelers through customs into Canada to tour many different sights. However, we thought we would be out of the bus more often than we were and thus were a little disappointed in the tour. The highlights of it were the Observation Deck from which you could see all three falls at the same time, the Whirlpool Rapids which are North America's largest area of standing waves and classified as deadly, and the Skylon Tower from which you could see the illuminated American and Bridal Veil Falls and gave us an awesome view of the Ontario skyline at night.
Whirlpool Rapids
Illuminated American Falls from Skylon Tower in Canada
Ontario from Skylon Tower

Thoroughly exhausted, we called it a night. Tomorrow is a day of relaxation before we start our travels once again,

Niagara Falls were bigger and much more impressive than I thought they would be and we were glad we added this to our itinerary.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


August 29th Wednesday through September 1st, Saturday

We left the Badlands National Park early on Wednesday as we were planning on driving a long distance this day as well as the following days so that we would be in New York by Saturday September 1st. Our journey took us on Route 90 through Minnesota, dropping down to Route 80 in Iowa. We stayed on Route 80 through, Illinois to miss the Chicago traffic and on into Indiana below Gary where we picked up Route 90 once again. From there we traveled through Ohio, over just a corner of Pennsylvania next to Lake Erie and into New York.

We averaged around 350 miles per day and welcomed our convenient KOAs along the way with their pools and electrical hook-ups so that we could use our air conditioning. The days continue to be very hot which we don't feel so much until we stop to take a break from driving and exit our air conditioned RV.

The countryside along the highways was beautiful. Rolling hills, miles and miles of corn crops... a lot of it was dried up due to the drought. In fact, one of the farmers we spoke to at a visitor center said that  the corn growers have contracts with the oil companies to supply them with a certain amount of corn for the ethane in the gasoline. The dried corn can still be used for that and they have to honor those contracts, but now the farmers won't have feed for their own animals and will have to buy it this winter.  The bean crop was fine as it needed to be dried out.

We also saw miles and  miles of wind farms on these farm lands. It seems that the landowners get a certain amount for allowing them to use their land and then another amount yearly. You would think that would help the farmers, but they say that the wind turbines do damage to the crops and the surrounding land with the force of the wind.

The traffic was never really heavy until we came to major cities which were few and far between and we made good time most days. It was a tiring drive just the same and we were glad when we arrived in New York for the long Labor Day weekend.


August 28th , Tuesday

The Badlands National Park was only about 100 miles from Rapid City so we took our time getting on the road. Of course, we had to stop at the famous "Wall Drug." The founder graduated from pharmacy school in 1929 and wanted to live in a small town with a catholic church. Since his father recently had died and left him $3000, he thought this would be the time for him to open up his pharmacy. They found Wall and decided that is where they would settle down and buy the pharmacy.   At first, they didn't have very many people stopping by in this prairie town, but he and his wife decided to give it five years to see if they could make it. They thought that when Mount Rushmore was completed that they would have more traffic through the town.  They were right. They put signs up on the highway offering free ice water and the tourists began rolling in. Today, the town of Wall situated on the edge of the Badlands, has accomodations for 2000 guests but still looks like an old fashioned western town (with parking lots, of course.) Wall Drug takes up 2/3rds of it with all of its souvenier shops and cafes and even a travelers chapel. It does still have the original soda fountain with its marble counter tops and is rather a charming section of this now expansive enterprise.

We continued on our journey and after a brief stop at the Badlands National Park Visitor Center, we arrived at the KOA in Interior which is just outside the Park.

We were originally going to stay here for 2 nights and once we got a better feel for the area, we decided we could tour it for the rest of the day and see pretty much what we wanted to. It was still hot..high 90s to low 100s and so we were not going to do much hiking here. A car tour would have to do.

The Badlands as part of the Great Plains was covered with a shallow sea albeit 75 million years ago. As a result, there are fossils from the sea creatures of yesteryear in the bottom grayish-black sedimentary layer rock which is called Pierre shale. The fossils found both in and just outside the park range from clams, crabs and snails to ancient fish and giant marine lizards as well as diving bird akin to the modern loon. Other types of fossils are from 23 to 35 million years ago and they were the land animals that inhabited the savannah and are similar to the small deer, goat, and wild cats that exist now.  We were not sure what to expect in the Badlands, but we were surprised to learn about these fossils here and to see the terrain that we did. The rock formations of peaks, gulllies and buttes were foreboding in their austerity. Some of them looked like huge sand dunes and others were more like mounds of soft earth.  There was a sense of calm as we drove the scenic loop and stopped at the overlooks. It really is other worldly here.  I think that the paleontologist Thaddeus Culbertson nailed it when he 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 concur.

We drove through what we think was the town of Interior, population 94 and is 1.3 square miles. We found an old school built in 1939 and still used today in some capacity. It's quite large so we think it is a regional school and perhaps has all classes in it.  It has air conditioners sticking out of the sides of the building so you know there is no central air. With the temperatures still so high I'm not sure how they will handle the start of the school year in this outdated building. We didn't find much else in the nearby vicinity except for a very old and falling down gas station/store and an old jail which we are sure is currently out of service. Maybe we shouldn't be so sure!

Monday, September 3, 2012


August 22nd,  Wednesday

We left Tuolomne Meadows Campground through many deep puddles from the hard rain we had last night. The day was clearing and we moved on through the Tioga Pass. We had heard from other campers that this Pass would be one we would never forget as the road would be steep and windy.  It was steep and windy but not half as bad as some we had been on this summer so we were fine with the trip down to Lake Tahoe. Along the way we saw some really pretty mountain and canyon scenery as well as a helicopter delivering supplies to workman in the hills.

Lake in Tioga Pass

Helicopter with load below hanging from cable

Helicopter in valley

We arrived in Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe around noontime. Tim unhooked the car and we headed18 miles back over the  mountain to Carson City to have the Honda Fit serviced and do grocery shopping. The laundry was done once we returned to the RV site. Not an exciting day, but a functional one.

August 23rd, Thursday

South Lake Tahoe was only a short drive, so we decided to tour the area this morning before we started out. It really is  a nice little town with some casinos and nice little  shops nestled along the lake shore. A gondola leaves from the town to the top of the mountain similar to the chair lift that we rode in Park City, Utah.
Lake Tahoe

We stopped back in Carson City for the RV to be serviced before we started our trip back across the country to the East Coast. The only appointment we could get was at 1pm which was a little late for our usual early departure, but it only took an hour before we were able to move on. Our stop tonight was a Walmart shopping center in Elko, Utah. Not our favorite place to rest, but it was convenient and we were not alone. There were probably 5 or 6 other RVs all around us. There were  no campgrounds in the near vicinity and as they say, "any port in a storm."

August 24th and August 25th, Friday and Saturday

We did nothing but travel these two day and I mean all day! We drove through Utah's dry almost desert like terrain into Wyoming with its grasslands, cattle and empty spaces.  We stayed at KOAs which were close to the highways and just stops along the way, but they did have pools which were very refreshing in the 98 to 104 degree heat and electricity for our air conditioning... very nice.

August 26th and 27th, Sunday and Monday

Our goal was to reach the Rapid City, South Dakota area on Sunday so that we could spend Monday exploring the Black Hills and the Mount Rushmore area. We learned that the Black Hills were not named for its geographical makeup, but for an Indian named Black Elk who was a Lakota holy man. The elevations here are from 4050 to 7, 242 feet and include some of the highest elevations in the Rocky Mountains. The mountain range varies from rolling hills to rugged granite formations.

The ancestral inhabitants of South Dakota were nomadic tribes that migrated with herds of bison and roamed the grasslands of the Great Plains. Among these tribes were the Arikara (or Ree) followed by the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Crow. The Sioux (or Lakota) migrated here from Minnesota circa 1700 and chased the other tribes further north. They then used the land they took over to exist with their bison herds. This area is now known as South Dakota.

The Sioux were very powerful in the 18th century and had 3 major tribes, the Yankton, the Santee and the Teton. They had no written language, but their storytellers kept their history and heritage alive. They recorded their stores on drawings on animal hides and called "winter counts."  Each drawing was done in a spiral fashion and represented one year so that a single hide could represent up to a half century of their history.

In 1803, the Louisianna Purchase which encompassed 828,000 square miles, was completed. President Thomas Jefferson paid Napoleon of France 3 cents an acre for the land. This purchase included most of what is now known as South Dakota.

The history of this region is too rich to be fully listed here but included the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Homestead Act of 1862, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the Sioux, the Gold Rush in 1874, and many battles with the indians-Wounded Knee, death of Sitting Bull and Custer's Last Stand.

We arrived on the 26th in the late afternoon and spent the next day doing as we had planned touring the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Our KOA manager advised us to take Route 16 to Mount Rushmore so we could drive through Hill City, known as "The Heart of the Black Hills," and see the Crazy Horse Monument on the way. Friends of mine had lived in Hill City and I had visited them there 35 years ago. My how it has changed! I think I found the gas station that they owned from which they sold feed and grain. It used to be  a two pump station and it was never very busy. Now it is a convenience store with 4 pumps and is very busy. The population at that time was 500. Today, they claim to be an art and culture center for the area and the population has blossomed all the way to 948 as of the 2010 Census. While the population hasn't changed all that much, but the addition of all the touristy shops and activities was quite a change. In 1990, the most complete skeleton of a tyrannasaurus rex was found here and after many arguments between the federal government, the local institutes and the land owner, it was sold for over 8 million dollars by the court determined legal owner, the landowner, to a museum that I believe was located in Chicago. The area really is very scenic with lots to do with its hiking trails, lakes and proximity to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Monument.

Our next stop was the Crazy Horse monument.  This also has a fascinating history.  Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear contacted the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, and asked him to sculpt Crazy Horse on this mountain. He chose Korczak because his "Study of an Immortal" won first prize by popular vote at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Korczak was also one of the many workers on Mount Rushmore.  Chief Henry told Korczak, " My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes , also."  And so it came to pass that Korczak arrived in the Black Hills and started work on the mountain in 1948. He had $174 left to his name and battled financial hardship throughout his work on the mountain.  Twice he turned down federal funds as he believed in free enterprise. The sculpting is still going on to this day and they rely on donations and sales in their shops for funds. When completed (many years from now), it will be the world's largest mountain carving and at its 563 feet high and 641 feet long it will dwarf, the Washington Memorial, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore. Korczak has since died, but 7 of 10 children lead the charge on completing this monument.
Crazy Horse in progress

Model of Crazy Horse to be conpleted on the mountain

We drove through Custer State Park where there are still herds of bison on the roadside, through tunnels in the rock with one lane passages, and around 360 degree curves to arrive at Mount Rushmore in the afternoon.

Bison on the roadside
Tunnel through rock
360 degree road- car will round this curve and drive over bridge in background

This too has changed greatly since I was there 35 years ago.. my I do sound old!  They have renovated the parking area and the Visitor Center and havebuilt an amphitheater to accomodate 5000 people for their nightly light show.

The brochures tell us that the original idea of carving a memorial in the mountain was the idea of Doane Robinson in 1923. He thought that it should be of Western figures such as Chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark or Sioux warriors marching along South Dakota's skyline. But when Gutzon Borglum became involved in 1924 in the project, he thought that the carving should be of four presidential figures to create an "eternal  reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and devolopment of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty."  He chose Mount Harney and sought approval and funding. Finally, in 1927, President Coolidge dedicated the site. After Borglum's death, the project was finished in October 1941 by Borglum's son, Lincoln.

The Presidents chosen for this honor are:
 George Washington "the father of our country" and is remembered "for helping the nation achieve its independence from England for ensuring that Americans have a representative  from of government."

Theodore Roosevelt for "his vision of America's role in the world community.....for realizing Columbus' dream of completing the Panama Canal....for connecting the Atlantic and Pacific.. and for his energy and charisma... the epitome of the American Spirit."

Thomas Jefferson for "drafting the Declaration of the nation a plan for sovereignty and freedom...for his unprecedented purchase of the vast Louisiana Terriory ... for his reputation as a visionary and philospher."

Abraham Lincoln for "self educating himself in law.. for overseeing one of the most pivotal periods in American history, the Civil War. Through steadfast devotion to the nation he successfully preserved the Union."

It is an inspiring monument to the American spirit and devotion to freedom... that has not changed in 35 years!
Mount Rushmore

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


August 15th, Wednesday

We traveled from Fresno to Yosemite over Route 41 but when the road restrictions changed so that  vehicles of our overall length (50 feet) could not continue on it, we switched to Route  49 which the  locals warned us was the steepest, curviest road of which they knew.  The only saving grace was that it was newly paved and had fairly wide lanes. We have chugged up many hills and through many passes, but the locals were right! Very steep-so we had a slow ride up that one to Route 132 and finally onto Route 120 into the West Entrance of Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park was established in 1890 at the urging of John Muir. It is visited by over 3 million people annually and is one of the  most popular parks in the Nation. With its domes, spires, rivers, falls, valleys and meadows you can understand why that is so. It is huge.. the size of Rhode Island so it takes a while to get anywhere you want to go within the park.

We had reserved our site on line in Hodgdon Meadow and couldn't tell from the website how sloped it would be. We had a terrible time trying to level it and never really could. But we thought it would be alright since the refrigerator was still working correctly. You see if you do not have the RV at a certain degree of being level, the refrigerator would shut down. That was our  main concern. 
RV leveld at best we can on a 12 degree incline 
After doing the best that we could, Tim checked with the Registration Desk and was told that there were no other sites available. We decided to check another campground within the Park.

Paula and Dale at Glacier Point

Happily, Paula and Dale, our friends from South Carolina, arrived in the afternoon to spend two days with us. They were early enough that we had time to drive through the Bridal Veil Creek Campground to check out other sites to no avail. From there we drove to Glacier Point which has an elevation of 7,214 feet and is one of their favorite places that they had visited a few years ago when they were touring the Western National Parks.  From this vantage point, one has a view that encompasses the valley 3,214 feet below and includes El Capitain, Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls along with the High Sierras. Spectacular!  Even with the smoke from a far away forest fire drifting over the ridge, the views were glorious.  We took our time driving back to camp with many photo op stops along the way.
Half Dome

Nevada Falls (upper) and Vernal Falls (lower)

August 16th, Thursday

The following day we went to explore Tuolomne Meadows in the northern section of the Park and yet another campground. There were no openings in this campgroud until the 21st so we took it for our last night in the park as that is on our route out of the park through Tioga Pass.  Millions of years ago, Tuolmne Meadows was covered with a 2000 foot deep sea of ice. Today, in early spring it is full of wild flowers and there is an abundance of hiking trails from the area that lead to all other areas of the park. There are hikers everywhere with their backpacks, hiking sticks, tents and supplies. Unfortunately, the flowers are past but the tranquil green meadows remain and the visitors to the park took full advantage of its trails.

We drove on past the Meadows to the Dog Lake and Lembert Dome area where we had our picnic lunch and decided to climb the Lembert Dome. This was a steep climb of 850 foot gain over 1.4 miles but we made it before the rains, thunder and lightening started. Tim climbed up a little higher than the rest of us,  but we all had wonderful views of the entire Tuolomne Meadows area, the surrounding domes, and the valleys below.

The rains started and the lightening held off while we donned our rain ponchos and made a bee line down the hills. We were also pelted with dime size hail stones.  Thankfully, it cleared quickly.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the tranquil setting of  Tenaya Lake which is an alpine lake nestled at the foot of the high sierras. There is a restoration project going on at the lake to increase parking, picnic areas and hiking trails around the lake for the enjoyment of the many park visitors.

We also stopped to see rock climbers on the domes near Olmstead Point. It is amazing to watch them move down those rocks so effortlessly belaying each other as they went. A very busy day ending with a wonderful evening with good friends.

August 17th- Friday

Unfortunately, our refrigerator stopped working and since there were no campsites at Hodgdon Meadow that were open, Tim left early to check out sites at Crane Flat and White Wolf campgrounds to no avail once again. Paula and Dale left after breakfast to continue their tour of the southwest. It was great to have had them with us for a couple of days.

When Tim returned with no level sites to be had, he made another attempt at Hodgdon Meadows and they agreed to give us a site that had been empty this entire time but that had been reserved for the "emergency" crews. We moved over hoping that the refrigerator would reset. No luck. We had to take the RV down to Modesto which was a two hour ride down and then two hours back.  The RV service department took approximately 10 minutes to reset the refrigerator but we had lost a day in Yosemite.The good news is that they showed Tim  how to reset it in the future in case it happens again.

August 18th- Saturday

Today we toured Yosemite Valley along with thousands of other people!  The views were wonderful in the valley with the peaks and domes all around and the river flowing through it. We visited the Ansel Adams gallery, had lunch and made plans to come back into the valley on Monday when the crowds were less.

August 19th-Sunday

Tenaya Lake
Sunday was our day of rest.  We took the canoe and went to that tranquil alpine lake..Tenaya. We canoed, had lunch, sat and read and just enjoyed the peace and serenity of the day. We caught sight of this black bear cub crossing the road on the way to the lake. He scurried down into the bush and kept on going.
Black Bear Cub


August 20th- Monday

Today was our day to hike to Vernal Falls. We were pleased when we arrived in the valley early and it was not crowded at all. We parked in Curry Village, boarded the shuttle bus to Vernal Falls trailhead and we were off.  Once we reached the Vernal Falls footbridge, you could see the Falls cascading over the rocks. This was a stopping point for many folks, but we decided to continue on the Mist Trail up to the Falls itself. The total elevation gain was 1000 feet over 1.2 miles up, a steep climb once again, but it was well worth the trip. The Falls were wonderful. We were happy that we went early as when the day wore on, it became extremely crowded on the trail. Once again, we stopped several places along the road back to the RV. It's hard not to when all around you is such beauty.

Vernal Falls

Tim on Mist Trail to Vernal Falls

Kate and Tim at Vernal Falls

El Capitan

August 21st- Tuesday

Today we drove the RV the 2 hours it takes to the Tuolomne Meadows Campground. We set up and leveled the RV and vegged for the day. I think our travels are catching up with us as we were both very tired today.

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful parks we have seen and it is also the most crowded. I have to say, though, that we were very disappointed in the campgrounds and the folks that staffed them. We have not had those issues in any of the other parks that we have visited this year. Also, on a sad note, there were two children swept away at the Vernal Falls Footbridge at the beginning of this week. They were able to extract the 10 year old, but his 6 year old brother has not been found as yet. The highest cause of death in the National Parks is drowning. It is hard for us to understand why any parent/guardian would allow his/her child to wade into a roaring river with the swiftness of the current and the ferociousness of the rocks so evident. Very sad indeed.