Heading home, Week One

Well, we pulled out of Seattle exactly one week from today to make our way home to NC.  As you can well imagine, it was difficult to say goodbye to our son and his family but, what a gift it has been to have had this time! We have traveled through 5 states all on I-90 and added another 1,455 miles to the odometer.  We have seen farmlands, mountains, valleys, plains, Black Hills and Badlands.  We have had cold weather and warm, rain and sun, and another story altogether, wind!  We have seen exits off the interstate highway that were just dirt roads and highway conditions that change with the state. The first collection of pictures are those that I have already posted to Facebook along the way – snapped from the window of the RV as we drove past.  I include them here with my comments to document the week in its entirety.  So, for my Facebook friends please scroll down to the highlights of our week which include Paradise Valley in Montana and the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota.

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Well, there is ONE thing that I won’t miss in Seattle.

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Views over Snoqualmie Pass this morning on our way east. Pretty!

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Traversing the Columbia River gorge. Awesome!

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Agriculture is king on the east side of the mountains

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Spokane greeted us with sunny skies and pretty clouds! (A little chilly, though!)

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Views of Idaho from I90 as we passed through this morning on our way to Missoula, MT. Gorgeous!

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Hints of fall amongst all the fir trees in Montana!

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A river does run through it…

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Gray morning in Montana. Beautiful, nevertheless! Hoping rain holds off so we can do our scenic drive through Paradise Valley outside Livingston this afternoon.

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In looking over our route I missed the fact that we would be encountering any grades today. This one was a doozy, but we made it! And look at the views!!

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Our drive to Sheridan, WY – pretty much as far as the eye can see.

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The bottom picture is what most of today’s drive has looked like. And then, every once in a while, you have a pop of color. What a landscape!

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One side of the road and the other. The vastness of the Great Plains is astonishing. So excited to be heading to Rapid City today in this beauty. Can you not imagine the plain filled with buffalo and the Sioux on the ridges looking over the land? I sure can.

Highlights of the Week

Paradise Valley

Our stop in Livingston, MT on day 3 allowed us to take an afternoon drive through Paradise Valley.  Situated between the Absaroka Range on the east and the Gallatin Range to the west, the views in this valley provide ample proof for its name. The Yellowstone River runs its length and adds to the perfect mountain setting.  As you can see in my pictures we were staying just one step ahead of the weather, but the leaden skies and low clouds only added to the drama of this spectacular place.

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Looking toward the Absaroka Range
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The banks of the Yellowstone River
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Sadie testing its waters
yellowstone-river-with-absaroka-range-backdrop
Bend in the river as it winds through valley
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The splendor of autumn

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livingston
The town of Livingston, MT

Rapid City, Black Hills and Badlands

On Friday we arrived in Rapid City, SD for our planned 3 night stay.  After setting up camp and a few hours of relaxing, we headed downtown for some shopping and dinner.  We found Rapid City to be vibrant and thoroughly enjoyed strolling its streets.  We also discovered its City of Presidents project.  Began in 2000, this project places life-size bronze statues of each of our presidents throughout the downtown area.  We had the pleasure of running into John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George H. Bush.

On the recommendation of Caryn, who traveled through this area last year, our dinner destination was Firehouse Brewing Co.  A nice evening to dine al fresco, we ate well and returned to our RV’s very satisfied!

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Downtown views of Rapid City

Saturday was spent driving through the Black Hills region outside of Rapid City.  After the must-see-if-you-are-in-this-area stop at Mt. Rushmore, we headed toward the Needles Highway to begin our transit through Custer State Park.  Towering rock formations, winding roads with multiple switchbacks, narrow one lane tunnels and amazing vistas would describe this route best.  Definitely a must see if you are in this area but be forewarned, allow plenty of time for navigating this beautiful yet nail biting road and by NO means try it in anything bigger than a car!

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Long range view of Black Hills

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Peek-a-boo view through trees
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The Needles
one-lane-tunnel
A tight squeeze for anything bigger than our Kia!
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Want to take a canoe ride on Sylvan Lake?
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Sylvan Lake

Before I continue with the Badlands, I must interrupt this narrative with a few sentences about the weather on Saturday night and Sunday.  As hinted about in the first paragraph of this blog, wind was a huge issue during our stay here.  A cold front passing through late on Saturday initiated High Wind Advisories over much of the area.  With a forecast of sustained winds at 25-35 mph with gusts up to 50 we went to bed Saturday wondering how we would fair in the RV. Between the hours of 12:30 – 2:30 we found out.  Startled awake by the sound of the wind and the rocking of the RV we knew this must be the front pushing through.  Needless to say, the remainder of the night was spent in a fitful sleep.  The day dawned crystal clear and still very windy, but no damage had been sustained to anyone’s rig in the campground that night!

Now for the Badlands.  It is hard to put into words how striking this place is.  Otherworldly in appearance and inhospitable looking, these buttes are formed by fossilized soils that are actually very fragile.  The scenic loop drive allows for many opportunities to pull over and enjoy a walk amongst them and despite the wind, we took advantage of most every one of them.  Hopefully, we can pass this way again – I’d love to see it against the dawn or the setting sun – maybe next year!

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A good dog in a Badland
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Parched earth
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Look at those colors!
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As far as the eye can see!
windy
Did I mention the wind?
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Coyote in prairie dog town!
prairie-dog
They are kind of cute and there were 100’s of them!
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The road out of the Badlands leads you to the famous Wall Drug.  Art found cowboy boots!  Yeehaw!
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