South Dakota… it’s the end of the line. It’s the beginning. In May of 2014 I set out on my See-the-USA-in-an-RV trip with the goal of seeing America’s nature and getting to the 34 states I’d not yet been to. State 48 was Kansas, 49, Nebraska, and yesterday when I awoke it was for the first time in South Dakota. I can now say that I have spent at least one night in every state of the USA. I’ve realized that goal, silly or not as it may be. It’s done.
As such it is also the beginning. The beginning of everything that is to come after attaining that goal. There is still more RVing in my future, at least enough to make the trip from South Dakota home to Berkeley, CA. There’s more RVing to do here in SD even before I begin that leg of my journey. I post this while in Badland’s National Park. Mt. Rushmore is another SD destination I plan to take in before meandering to CA.
So, where to from SD? Well, if the weather isn’t looking as if it will be getting too cold I may head west through Montana and turn south for another pass through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks followed by a few places I wanted to see but didn’t get to on my way through Utah early on in my trip. I left that state because in late June of 2014 it was just getting too darn hot. I didn’t get to Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Moab or Arches. I think the weather in late mid to late October may be just about right for a visit to eastern and southeastern Utah where these are located. From there I could be home in as little as four or five days if I was to hurry.
While in Kansas a few days ago I drove Kansas 177, a scenic drive through the Flint Hills which somebody recommended to me. Although it has it’s visual charm and areas of history, driving this route is not something I would urge people to do unless they have a particular interest in the area for one reason or another. The visuals were pleasant but nothing spectacular. Although I’ve seen some lovely images of the area on Google Images I didn’t come across much I felt like photographing. I did stop in Cottonwood Falls to visit the old Chase County Courthouse which was built in 1872-73 if I recall correctly.
I stayed at Neosho Park, an Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) campground at Council Grove Lake. Council Grove marks the northern terminus of the 48 mile long Scenic Drive along KS 177. Neosho Park is a tiny campground I cannot recommend except perhaps for smaller rigs as the parking aprons are on the short side, and are not level, except perhaps #5 (as I recall). There is only a pit toilet and to shower one must travel two campgrounds up the road the the ACE Santa Fe campground. There are about 6 or 7 ACE campgrounds around the lake, some offering more amenities than others, some with level, paved sites, some not. Neosho was reasonable enough, just $6.50 a night including electricity with my Senior Pass.
From Council Grove, KS I pointed my rig to Topeka where I got some new shoes for Charlene (new tires for my RV) and later that day found myself in Omaha, NE, marking my first night in that state, #49 on my list. I visited a trendy little area that was packed with restaurant goers on Saturday night, and Omaha is where I witnessed the last of the tetrad of full lunar eclipses to be seen until 2033.
Lexington, NE was my next stop, a layover on my way to South Dakota. From what little I saw of it the town appears to be a stopover for truckers traveling I-80: I shared space in the Walmart parking lot with dozens of semi-trucks. I saw a few fast food chain store locations alongside I-80 near the Lexington off ramp, a few gas stations, and a farmer’s field of corn. If there is more to the town didn’t see it. To be fair, I didn’t look for it as this was just a stopover for me.
A few hours after I fired up the engine of my RV and pointed her north from Lexington, NE, I crossed the state border into #50 where I set up shop for the night in the parking lot of the Rosebud Casino. The drive north through Nebraska took me through long stretches of farmland, cattle ranches and empty rolling hills–miles and miles of road with no structures or services. The state has a population under 2,000,000 and a population density of 24.3 people per square mile. Surprisingly, perhaps, there are 13 states with fewer people. The cities of Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York have populations greater than the state of Nebraska.
About 120 miles from the Rosebud Casino I found myself in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I’d been to the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park in North Dakota earlier on in my trip. So far I’ve driven part of the Badlands Loop Drive. Cool, wet weather is keeping me homebound today and likely tomorrow, then I may explore some more or roll along in the general direction of Mt. Rushmore and Rapid City where I have an appointment for an oil change in a few days.
Next? I’ll let you know when I figure it out, so stay tuned.