Buffalo Bill Center of the West (Ponderosa RV Park, Cody WY)

We spent our Tuesday in the town of Cody checking out the sites.  It was windy again all day, so we left all the awnings in this time – even the pull-down’s over the rear windows.  The weather-guessers say it will be nice and sunny again Wednesday.  We’re looking forward to hot weather again.  We had to leave little “Coach” in the Coach again all day – at least it wasn’t for too long, like on Monday.

Here’s a summary of our visit to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West:


I queried my friend wikipedia® for the best description of this place;  “The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, is a complex of five museums and a research library featuring art and artifacts of the American West.  Founded in 1917 to preserve the legacy and vision of Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is the oldest and most comprehensive museum of the West.”  We spent most of the day here.



The Buffalo Bill section was really interesting and we were able to join a free guided-tour for some extra education.



Kaan standing on the huge tile-floor ‘map’ in the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody WY.
View of the huge tile-floor ‘map’ on the floor of the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody WY. (As viewed from the upper balcony)

They had really nice life-size dioramas throughout the museum.  Here’s some from the Plains Indian exhibit(s):




The Natural History portion of this place was really awesome.



Kaan really enjoyed the Natural History section of the museum because they even had some fossils and dinosaur exhibits mixed in with the full-size dioramas.


Here’s a few more pics of our grandson Kaan in front of some animal exhibits:  His mom really enjoys these pics – Kaan not so much 🙂




The Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world according to their literature and website.  And man, was it ever huge… our grandson Kaan got bored though, so we didn’t stay in that section as long as I would have liked.




This was a really nice museum, er, I mean center.  Or is it collection of museums?  It was worth the $47 entrance fee for 2 adults and 1 child after a small veteran discount ($2).  Another “must-see” to put on your list if you’re in the area.

After our tour of the museum we stopped back at the campground to check on little “Coach”.  We found a note on the door.  Remember the other Alpine that was in this park?  Well, the other Alpine driver (David) left a note on our door telling us they had stopped by while we were out.  So after walking the dog, we drove over to their Coach and talked for a couple minutes… they (David and Janet?) had already been to the downtown attractions we were going to next, so we told them we’d try to be back by 8 PM, maybe we could get together then.  Alas, we didn’t get to see them again, maybe next time.

We left the campground again and found a parking spot (5 minutes away) downtown and noticed we were near the local Elks Lodge.  We already knew that this lodge didn’t have RV parking because we had checked online several days ago.  We went inside to check it out and see if they had any menu items.  The bartender opened the door for us, checked my card, and asked me to sign the guest register.  There was a large crowd in one of the side rooms, I believe it was a party or service of some sort.  We hung out behind the crowded bar (none of the seats were open) and waited to order a couple drinks and ask about food.  There were lots of empty tables, but we figured like most lodges, that we had to order at the bar.  A couple people sitting at the bar at least talked to us, exchanged pleasantries, and asked where we were from, etc., but the bartender seemed to ignore us.  So we finally turned around and left after 10 minutes or so.  Not our finest experience at an Elks Lodge.  We would have thought the bartender could at least acknowledge our existence and say something to the effect that she’d be right with us, or we’re really busy – have a seat, or something at least…  Oh well, maybe it was just bad timing on our part.  Hmmm… so much for Lodge #1611.  I don’t think we’ll go back, even though it seemed like a pretty nice facility.


We walked on up the street to the Irma Hotel which was our next intended destination anyway.  Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel / Restaurant & Saloon was packed with tourists but we found a nice booth and had a good dinner, albeit an expensive one.


Buffalo Bill helped found Cody, Wyoming, in 1895. He also established his TE Ranch in the area. In 1902, he built an establishment which he called “just the sweetest hotel that ever was” and named it for his youngest daughter, Irma. It was built to appeal to visitors from around the world — as a staging point for sightseers headed for Yellowstone, big game hunters, summers tourists, and businessmen investigating the ranching, mining, and other business opportunities. Buffalo Bill maintained two suites and an office at the hotel for his personal use.  (ref. this website)


We even got to watch a gunfight show on the street outside after dinner.



After another quick stop at the local WalMart on the way back to the campground, we relaxed for the rest of the evening and watched some TV while Kaan played MineCraft on the X-Box, and I worked on this blog.

Since Tuesday was our last night at the Ponderosa Campground, we’ll move on over this morning (Wednesday) to one of the state parks that we checked-out on our Monday trip to Yellowstone.  Wish us luck…

If we can get settled at one of those state campgrounds, then we can go explore more of Yellowstone NP!



Visiting Yellowstone National Park – Day 1 (Ponderosa RV Park, Cody WY)

We tried to get an early start Monday for our drive into Yellowstone National Park.  But first we stopped by the Ponderosa RV Park office to pay ($46.44) for another night so we didn’t have to stress about finding another spot so soon.  So now we’re good here until Wednesday.  We’ll check on other spots between now and then that are more reasonably-priced (for us) and hopefully not too far away.  We anticipate doing at least a couple more trips into the park to see the sights.  I hope we can find something; while in the office, I overheard the clerk turn away at least three callers that were looking for an RV spot.

The forecast called for wind and possible showers today.  We left our little dog “Coach” in the Coach with both A/C’s set at 70°  We were told we’d have problems taking him on any of the trails or attractions in the park.  This bit of information turned out to be not-entirely true – we saw several people throughout the day carrying their dogs around at pull-offs, and even one inside the Old Faithful Inn … oh well, next time we’ll know.  At least we knew he was ok for the day.

We finally got on the road by 8:15 or so and headed for the east entrance about 50 miles away…


I was able to use my disabled veteran Golden Access Pass to avoid the $30 entrance fee.


Our plan for the day was to enter through the east gate and turn south at Fishing Bridge to drive around the lower “loop” in a clockwise fashion and then return back to Cody.  (See map below)  We only made it as far as Old Faithful when the rain forced us to turn around and backtrack.  But it was still a great day 🙂  (map)


Follow along now for a summary of our days activity:

(Remember that if you see “green highlighted” text anywhere in my posts; these are embedded links to click-on for more info if you’d like) 🙂

Sylvan Pass was very scenic and the grades were manageable.  We could easily take the Urban Escape Vehicle on this route if we need to – or if we so desire, in the future.

BTW – I set up our Road Mate DVR on the dash of the Silverado to record our trip.   I wrote about purchasing this while we were in Gillette WY at the FCRV Campvention Rally.  I used it once before on our drive with my Dad & Stepmom in their Jeep when we drove through the Black Hills in South Dakota, but haven’t been able to download the video clips until recently.  I had to buy a card reader (at the BX in Ellsworth AFB) for the SD card because the device didn’t download thru its USB cable to my MacBook Pro Laptop.  Anyway – I hope to be able to share some of the 2-minute clips that it records sometime soon if my blog hosting service allows.  First, I have to edit the hundreds of files to see if there’s anything good to share.  So far, the video quality looks pretty good and we even got some amusing clips of us standing around in front of the truck when we got out at a couple scenic pull-offs to take pictures when I forgot to turn it off.  More on this RoadMate DVR and its video clips in a later post maybe.

We saw lots of evidence of fire damage along our route into the park from the eastern side.  Read more about the 1988 “Summer of Fire”  HERE.



We passed Sylvan Lake and then reached Yellowstone Lake, which were both beautiful.

We stopped at the Fishing Bridge RV Park to double-check availability. This is the first campground located inside the park from the east entrance. You may recall from my previous post that I called the reservations number and was told they didn’t have anything for a week. This was still the case – but the nice lady behind the desk was very helpful and shared a list of campgrounds outside the park. She recommended trying a couple of the small state parks that have hook-ups outside the east entrance. We promised ourselves that we’d check them out on the way back if it wasn’t too late, and that’s exactly what we did – we saw several open sites. Hopefully, we can score one of them on Wednesday.


We stopped at several pull-offs along our route for pictures and when we got to West Thumb, we parked, put on jackets and walked the boardwalk:














It was around 59° and getting windy by this time.  We could see clouds rolling in.


Our grandson Kaan posed with a ranger hat at the small ranger station/visitor center.


These really cool old buses are still running tourists around the park.  According to the National Park Service website; “A total of twenty-seven 1936 Model 706 buses were used in Yellowstone, and by 1939, a total of ninety-eight Model 706s of various years were in use (the largest number of National Park Buses operating anywhere).”


When we reached Old Faithful, a light rain had started.  We had driven about 115 miles to get here from our site in Cody.  We waited in the visitor center for the next eruption and caught a nice documentary in the theater.


‘Old Faithful’ in Yellowstone NP.

After about an hour wait, we got to see ‘Old Faithful’ erupt.  Stilla and Kaan watched from the visitor center while I braved the light rain and heavy crowd to walk a little closer for some pictures.





I took lots of pictures of the eruption and even some video, but if you want to see some really good pictures or video taken by professionals, just click HERE or HERE.

We were getting hungry by now and wanted to check out Old Faithful Inn.  We remembered it from our first trip here back in 1993.


According to this website; “Old Faithful Inn is the most requested lodging facility in the park. Built in 1903-1904 with local logs and stone, the Inn is considered the largest log structure in the world. The towering lobby features a massive stone fireplace and a hand-crafted clock made of copper, wood and wrought iron serving as focal points.”



We found some sandwiches at the Inn and I tried their Old Faithful Ale while we checked out the cool balconies at the Inn – hey, we’re only here once, right?



View from the upper (outside) balcony.



View from one of the inner balconies looking down on the lobby.



View of the inner balconies.


View of the dining room from balcony above.


By now, it was raining a little heavier and it was a bone-chilling 38° – believe it or not!

We took a few more pics on our way out of the massive ‘Old Faithful’ parking lot that was packed with visitors and started heading back to Cody.  It was now 3:30 PM and we had 115 miles to back-track.  It was too late in the day and too rainy now to stick with our original plan to do the whole loop.  It was shorter to just go back the way we came.



We stopped once more along Yellowstone Lake to check out the steam coming up from the geysers along the edge.

Kaan and Stilla alongside Yellowstone Lake. Geyser steam in background.


We’ll be back… we only scratched the surface of this beautiful national park today.

It got warmer as we got closer to Cody – around 50° if I remember right.  As I mentioned earlier, we stopped at a couple of the small state park campgrounds on the way back once we were outside the park, and the outlook for getting a spot looks good.  There were quite a few open sites and some even had full hook-ups.  We’ll try to score a new site on Wednesday at one of these campgrounds.

We also stopped at Pahaska Tepee on the way back to stretch our legs after the long drive.  This is supposed to be “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s old hunting lodge and hotel back in the day.



Kaan trying on another hat… we have a theme (for pictures) going on here I think.

When we got back to the Urban Escape Vehicle, we noticed it had rained and some really bad wind gusts must have come through… our larger pull-down window awning on the living room slide out was rolled up; the small american flag was ripped that we had hanging on one of our mirrors; and the chairs we left out were knocked over and wet.  But the important thing was that little “Coach” was OK, and boy! – was he ever happy to see us after being cooped up for almost 10 hours.

The weather-guessers are calling for more wind but sunshine today (Tuesday) as I write this post.  We’ll stay here today and check out the attractions in Cody.  We’ve heard that the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum is a “must-see”.

We Scored a Campground near Yellowstone NP in July! (Ponderosa RV Park, Cody WY)

We left the Shell Campground located in Shell, WY by 11 AM on Sunday and continued heading west on 14 towards Yellowstone NP.  As I mentioned in my last post – the campground had a very weak WiFi signal thru Verizon and absolutely no AT&T coverage for our iPhones.  I tried to do some research online to find possible RV spots in or near Yellowstone.  This is the height of the tourist season here and therefore very difficult to score sites that can accommodate a 38½ ft Coach without advance reservations.

I was able to get quite a few tips from folks on the RVillage.com® website for possible places to stay, in or near Cody, WY which is about 50 miles from the east entrance to the park.  And I was also able to get some phone numbers for campgrounds near the west entrance to Yellowstone from our good friends Orman & Suzie Claxton, who are currently in a park there.  (Thanks Orman!)  However, all these tips were no good to us without cell phone coverage.

We stopped at a rest area near Greybull, WY when we finally had an AT&T signal and made a bunch of phone calls… absolutely no sites were available inside the park according to the number I called from the park website.  Apparently most of the campgrounds within Yellowstone are operated by a single entity; Xanterra Parks & Resorts.  I then tried some of the numbers for RV Parks in Cody and also a few numbers for parks on the west side of Yellowstone… everyone said they were full.  A couple of the numbers I dialed just went to voicemail.  So, we decided to just drive on to Cody and try our luck in person.

About 70 miles later, we pulled into Cody, WY.  I passed up a couple of the parks that I had called earlier and drove almost to the west side of town when we saw the Ponderosa Campground.  We pulled in and stopped behind another rig in the registration lane.


Stilla and I went into the office and “Whad’Ya Know” – they had a spot!  We reserved two nights with an option to extend if we let them know as soon as possible and if they don’t get more reservations.  We were told to go park and come back to settle the bill, which was $92.88 for two nights – ouch 🙁

We apparently just beat the rush too – campers were blocking the street behind us in the registration lane…


But we had to wait for the rig in front of us to move before we could clear the lane and go to our new site…


Little “Coach” watched us through the Coach window as we checked into the park.

We finally pulled in near our site and disconnected the Silverado from the Coach.  I walked back to the office to pay the bill.  And guess what!?!  Another Alpine Coach pulled into the campground!  I spoke briefly to the driver and gave him our site number, so we could maybe get-together later.


And here’s our spot… who says you can’t find a campground near Yellowstone without a reservation? 🙂  As a matter-of-fact, later on as we drove around town, we noticed a bunch of rigs parked at the local Walmart.  Hmmm… maybe we’ll have to keep that in mind if we can’t get an extension here…

Our site at Ponderosa Campground, Cody WY.


We were originally assigned to the spot to the left of where we’re now parked, but as you can see, in the pic (below), the trees at the front of the site surrounded the satellite dish!  So getting a signal was impossible.  I went back to the office and asked to change to the next spot over at the end of the row.  They were very accommodating and simply switched the reservation with someone who was still due-in but hadn’t yet arrived.


After we got settled into our site, we walked through the park and stopped to talk to the Alpine driver I saw earlier.  They were already set up on the opposite side of the park and were inside their Coach.  I knocked on the door and we introduced ourselves.  His name is David (we didn’t meet his wife yet) and they are with the NoWACA group which stands for NorthWest Alpine Coach Association.  We talked for a short time and I left an open invitation for them to stop by our Coach later for refreshments and more conversation.

Then we drove around town to check out the area and find someplace to get dinner.  We ended up at La Comida.   They had some pretty good fish tacos.



We got back to the park pretty late.  A 5th Wheel Trailer backed into the spot next to us (our original site);  a couple from Utah with 5 kids.  I used the last remaining daylight to clean the bugs off the front of the Coach since it was finally cooling down from a high today of ~90°

We didn’t see the folks in the other Alpine again… hopefully, we’ll be able to get together sometime over the next couple/few days before we move on.

On Monday, we plan on getting an early start for visiting Yellowstone NP.  We’ll leave our little dog “Coach” in the Coach with the A/C on since we’ve got 50 Amp hook-ups.  We’ve been told dogs aren’t allowed in many places within the park and it would be cruel to leave him in the Silverado while we visit ‘Old Faithful’, etc.,

Check back in to see how our day turns out… I’m sure we’ll have some awesome pics of what is known as the world’s first national park per wikipedia®.  We (Stilla and I) last visited Yellowstone in the very early 1990’s and look forward to seeing it again and sharing the experience with our grandson.





Travel Day & a new Verizon Jetpack (Shell RV Park & CG, Shell WY)

We left Deer Park RV Park & Campground in Buffalo, WY by 11 AM on Saturday and traveled northwest along I-90 until we got to Sheridan, WY.

We stopped at the Super Walmart in Sheridan because we needed to stock up again on a few grocery items.  We left the generator running so the A/C would keep the Coach cool while I went in for a quick shopping spree.

As we were leaving the parking lot, I noticed a Verizon store.  I mentioned earlier that our Verizon Jetpack stopped taking a charge.  Sometimes, if I wiggled the connector just right, it would start charging again, but it was becoming annoying.  So we maneuvered the Coach with the truck hooked up into a nearby parking area (not an easy task sometimes) and I went into the store to see if they could troubleshoot the problem and maybe get a new charger cable or battery.

Our old Verizon Jetpack.

Half an hour later – I came back out of the Verizon store with a new Jetpack.  It seems that I was eligible for an upgrade at a cost of $50 with a $50 mail-in rebate.  That sounds good right?  But, in the fine print is an additional $40 activation fee that will be added to my next bill.

For those of you not familiar with the Verizon Jetpack; it provides us with a wifi hotspot so we can connect our laptop, iPads, or iPhones to the internet.  We also have AT&T on the iPhones with hotspot capability, but often-times it’s best to have a couple options for connectivity, i.e., AT&T and Verizon to get the best coverage while on the road.  We originally were on a plan with a reseller, named Millenicom, for about $90 a month but Verizon bought them out so we’ve been on a Verizon 20GB plan for around $100 a month since early this year.  With the new Jetpack, it looks like I get to continue with the same plan but I incurred a new 2yr contract obligation.

New Verizon Jetpack 5510L

We continued on I-90 until we reached the town of Ranchester where we got on the Bighorn Scenic Hwy 14 to head towards Yellowstone NP.  What a beautiful pass!  It was quite a long, steep grade going up –  but the Coach did fine.  The engine water temperature reached 210 a couple times, but I manually punched in a lower gear on the Allison shift panel to keep the RPMs up.  I also pulled off into a couple of the scenic turnouts to idle a bit while it cooled down.  The engine normally runs around 195-200 according to my ScanGauge-D Vehicle Monitor.  The engine brake performed awesome coming back down the pass into scenic Shell Canyon and past Shell Falls.  I don’t think I want to go back on this same route due to the long, steep grades.


And here we are, at Shell Campground in Shell, Wy.  We traveled 115 miles for the day.  And we’re located almost exactly 120 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone NP according to the camp host.  This campground is $36.75 per night with full hook-ups but only 30 Amp power.  The internet is very slow and there’s no cell phone signal here 🙁  But it’s a nice campground with a very nice host that gave us quite a few tips on traveling in and around Yellowstone.

Shell RV Park & Campground office, Shell, WY.
Our spot with 30 Amp at Shell CG.




Authors Note:  I couldn’t upload any more pics today due to the slow internet.. I’ll edit this post tomorrow and add some pics once we get coverage again.  Stay tuned…

Updated with pics on 26 July @ 3:30 PM.



Wind Cave NP & More New Alpine Friends! (Deer Park CG, Buffalo WY)

It’s good to get away from it all! – big cities and jobs, etc., but not so much with regard to internet and cell phone coverage… and I sure hate getting behind with the blog posts 🙁

We’ve been in Wind Cave National Park at the Elk Mountain Campground for the past few days.  (Click the links for more info)  And now we decided to take our grandson Kaan to see Yellowstone NP.  We’re currently enroute…

Let me try to bring you up to date with the limited connectivity we have here now, at Deer Park RV Park in Buffalo, WY.  Our Verizon Jetpack doesn’t seem to want to take a charge anymore, so I’m relying on the park wifi and/or our iPhone hotspot…

The last inkling of life we saw on the Jetpack… no bars and no battery. It won’t charge anymore 🙁

When we left Ellsworth AFB FamCamp on Wednesday the 22nd, we didn’t expect to go off the grid, but that’s what happens at some of these national parks.  And that’s where we ended up over the last few days – Wind Cave National Park.  We headed south on 79 to Hot Springs and then came back up north on 385.  My GPS (RandMcNally) said that the park had a campground and would accommodate big rigs.

We passed the Visitor Center and cave entrance on the way to the campground:


The Elk Mountain Campground turned out to be absolutely beautiful.  Sites are water only – no electric or sewer.  They cost $18 per day, payable with a fee envelope and firewood is by donation.  We paid $9 per night with my disabled veteran NP access pass.


Here’s our site at Elk Mountain CG:

Elk Mountain CG in Wind Cave NP, South Dakota.
View to the east at Elk Mountain CG in Wind Cave NP, South Dakota.
View to the west at Elk Mountain CG in Wind Cave NP, South Dakota.


Grandson Kaan checking out the woods for wildlife.
Grandson Kaan getting sprayed down for mosquitos and bugs.
Relaxing on our lawn at Elk Mountain CG.

I should mention that we had to weave our way through the buffalo to get here:



In summary:  We went on two of the cave tours and attended two of the evening ranger-talks held at the Campground amphitheater.   Kaan and I really enjoyed the cave tours (Stilla stayed behind to watch little dog “Coach”), and the ranger-led nighttime wildlife walk was pretty cool as well.

Grandson Kaan on one of the Wind Cave tours.
Wind cave tour.

We took the ‘Natural Entrance’ tour and then the ‘Fairgrounds’ tour.  Our favorite was the ‘Fairgrounds’ tour.

Boxwork on the ceiling of Wind Cave.
Walking along one of the many narrow passageways in Wind Cave.


Click HERE to learn more about Wind Cave from my friend wikipedia™ and click HERE to see more images. courtesy of google™.

On our last day at the campground we drove into the nearby town of Hot Springs to enjoy a lunch and visit the famous Mammoth Site.  Unfortunately, my iPhone battery was low, so we relied on Stilla’s iPhone for pictures and I couldn’t get her phone to download the images 🙂  Maybe I can get it to work later and will update you with a few pics, because this was a really cool site where that are still actively digging.  Meanwhile, click HERE for some really good images from google™.

Kaan and Stilla at the Hot Springs, SD visitor center.

Friday, we packed up and departed Wind Cave NP on 385 north.  We decided to drive over to Yellowstone NP because our grandson Kaan might not get another chance for years, and we haven’t been there since the early ’90s.  We drove by Custer SD where we finally had cell phone connectivity again and I updated our status on Facebook so friends and family would know we’re still alive.  Then we headed northeast on 16 to get back on I-90 near Gillette, WY where we were earlier this month.


We finally landed at Deer Park Campground in Buffalo, WY after a 200 mile driving day.  We definitely noticed it’s getting harder to find reasonably priced (for us) campgrounds the closer we get to Yellowstone.  This place was $43 per night with full hook-ups.  But having full hook-ups is nice so we can do some loads of laundry.

And now for the highlight – as we were pulling into Deer Park Campground we noticed another Alpine!


As some of you blog-readers already know, this is a rare occurrence since Western RV only manufactured ~1,700 of them over a 10 year period (’99 thru 2009) before they went bankrupt.

Meet Ken & Caren Dortch:


Here’s a front-view of their nice 2006 Limited:


It’s always nice to meet fellow Alpiners!  They are always the nicest people as are most RV’ers.  Ken and Caren are from California and have just started full-timing.  We spent a large part of our evening getting to know them after we got set up.  We exchanged contact information and shared Alpine stories.  I hope I was able to convince them to join the Alpine Coach Association (ACA) and the Alpine SoCal group.

Deer Park RV Park & Campground office building.
Our spot at Deer Park RV Park & Campground in Buffalo, WY.

I owe Ken a few adult beverages, thanks Ken!  They are heading to Yellowstone NP as well… you never know, we might see them again soon 🙂

(L to R) Caren, Ken, Stilla, myself and little “Coach” in front of our Coach at Deer Park RV Park & Campground in Buffalo, WY.

Check back in to see where we end up… as of this morning (Saturday) even we don’t know.  We just hope it’s somewhere near one of the entrances to Yellowstone NP so we can do day trips in the Silverado.

AFB Tour – Minuteman II Missile Silo & New Alpine Friends (Ellsworth AFB FamCamp, Box Elder SD)

It was overcast all day Tuesday which is a nice break from the recent heat.  Although, we could do without these annoying wind gusts.

We decided to stay yet another day here at the Ellsworth AFB FamCamp overflow lot for a couple reasons; #1) we still haven’t decided where to go next in the short time we have left before we need to take our grandson back to COS for the beginning of the school year; and #2) I received a message from Carol & Noel Peck who are fellow Alpine Coach owners and blog readers.  (It’s good to know someone out there reads the blog)  🙂  They just arrived in Rapid City with relatives (grandkids included) and suggested we get together if possible.  Now, we couldn’t say no to that… so I responded to Carol and we set up a tentative 4PM “Happy Hour” get-together at their campground.  But, more on that later…

With some time to kill today before our 4PM date; we jumped in the Silverado to go to the FamCamp office and pay $10 for another night.  But first, we closed up the slides on the Coach to prevent the slide-out awnings from getting ripped up by the annoying wind gusts.  I also ran the satellite dish down to prevent any wind damage.

Then we went back outside the main gate to the South Dakota Air & Space Museum again.  You may recall from my last post (click HERE), that we already visited the museum and the outside static displays yesterday, but it was too late in the day to take the bus tour.  Well, now we had the opportunity…


The tour cost us $21 but we figured it would be worth it to get a narrated tour of the base and to go inside a Minuteman II Missile Silo.

Information sign on the Ellsworth AFB Bus Tour and Minuteman II Silo visit.

We just missed the bus for the 1PM tour and had to wait ~45 minutes for the 2PM tour, so we walked through the museum again and examined some of the displays more closely.  Our grandson Kaan tried on one of the children’s bomber jackets in the gift shop; looks good on him, right?  Send money mom…

Kaan tried on a jacket in the gift store while we were waiting for the tour.

Our tour bus…


Our tour guide for the hour-long bus tour…


According to my good friend Wikipedia: “The host unit at Ellsworth is the 28th Bomb Wing (28 BW) assigned to the Air Combat Command’s Twelfth Air Force. The 28 BW is one of only two B-1B Lancer strategic bomber wings in the United States Air Force, the other being the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas.”  (Click HERE for more info)

With the air conditioner running at the back of the mini-bus, it was difficult to hear the nice elderly gentleman that was our guide for the tour.  And honestly, we were a little disappointed with the AFB portion of the tour… our guide simply pointed out the obvious, i.e., admin building, water tower, sewer treatment facility, bowling alley, BX, etc., etc.,  I guess we were expecting to see the bomber hangars at a closer distance, maintenance facilities, ammo bunkers, and so on… but it wasn’t to be.  I suppose this tour is designed more for the average civilian that maybe hasn’t even seen a military base before. 

Kaan and Stilla on the Ellsworth AFB and Minuteman II missile silo tour-bus.

When we got to the Minuteman II silo, we found out that it’s a training facility and was never operational.  But it was still cool to see…  Click HERE for a youtube video tour of this actual silo and HERE for more history on the missiles at Ellsworth AFB.

Our tour guide explains how the silo was accessed.
Support vehicle (security) for the Minuteman II missile.
Support vehicle (transporter erector) for the Minuteman II missile.

Our tour-guide explained the operation of the silo door.


We went down a stairwell to access the silo.  A “real” silo would not have these stairs, just a small access tube with a ladder.


Stilla in the stairwell to the silo.
Inside the Minuteman II silo.

And here’s the Minuteman II missile sitting in it’s silo…

Minuteman II missile at the Ellsworth AFB training facility.
Minuteman II missile at the Ellsworth AFB training facility.

We could view the missile through the cut-outs in the silo wall.


This is the access tube that would be used at an actual Minuteman II missile silo.  Luckily for us, we had a stairwell at this training facility.


Minuteman II missile at the Ellsworth AFB training facility.
Access lift for maintenance inside the silo. Notice the rollers against the side walls.

Back up top, we briefly toured the support trailer parked above the silo that was used to arm the missile.

Support trailer for arming the missile. Access port is underneath.
Inside the support trailer for arming the missile. Access port is in the middle of the floor.

When we got back to the museum entrance at the end of our tour, our tour-guide mentioned that this B-25 of “Doolittle Raiders” fame was General Eisenhower’s personal transport plane.  I must not have read the sign the first time we went through the aircraft display(s) and didn’t know this bit of trivia when I posted previously.  I thought it was historically significant and interesting, so here you are:



By now, it was time to go visit our fellow Alpine Coach friends Noel & Carol Peck.  They have a membership at Hart Ranch located just south of Rapid City off of 79.


We arrived at the Hart Ranch Resort and stopped at the entrance shack to get a pass.  The resort is “members only” and they have to keep out the riff-raff, like us 🙂


What a nice resort/campground!  They have everything here… even a gas station!   We quickly found Noel & Carol’s Alpine Coach…

Noel & Carol Peck’s Alpine Coach at Hart Ranch.
Noel’s nice-looking Heritage Softail. He also has an Ultra-Classic parked here.

We get to meet the nicest people at the nicest places… here’s Noel, Carol, myself, and Stilla inside their Coach.


It was great meeting Noel and Carol!  They are also Alpine SoCal members but we haven’t had the opportunity to meet them at any of the Alpine Coach-related rallies we’ve been to in recent years, although we have mutual friends.  We visited for a while over adult beverages and got acquainted.  They plan to stay here during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  Noel’s son is parked next to them here at the resort and even has a hot rod (sorry no pic) that they can enjoy touring around in… must be nice 🙂

We enjoyed our quality time with them before we had to head back.  Carol even shared a couple of nice destinations that we noted for future reference.


It was great meeting you, Noel & Carol… hope to see you again soon at the next rally or down the road!  Stay in touch 🙂

We drove back to the Coach at Ellsworth AFB and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

We’re still not sure where we’ll end up tomorrow… check back to see.

New License Plates; South Dakota Air & Space Museum (Ellsworth AFB FamCamp, Box Elder SD)

Monday –  my new favorite day of the week since retirement; was another good day in our new hometown of Box Elder, SD 🙂  But, man – is it ever hot here… it’s only ~80 degrees here but it feels like what would be 95 to 100 degrees in Colorado.

I decided to go ahead and register the Silverado and the Harley with SD plates today.  The Silverado isn’t due for renewal until November, but that’s right around the corner when you think about it… and it will cost $30 for each registration that Americas Mailbox does on my behalf when I’m out of the state.  The Harley isn’t due for renewal until May, but I figured it was a minimal cost to register here and therefore nothing would be gained by waiting… as a matter of fact, it would just cost me an additional $30 if I waited.  I’ll still leave the Urban Escape Vehicle with CO plates for now since it’s not due until May of next year.  Besides, the Coach has the disabled veteran plates that are free in CO.  I wrote about this and changing domicile in a previous post (click HERE).

So I gathered up my paperwork for both the Silverado and Harley, and headed into town.  First, we stopped by Americas Mailbox to tell them of my change in plans, and the ever-so-helpful representative ‘Carla’ went over the paperwork I would need and gave us directions to the Rapid City administration building.


We found the License Plate section in the administration building without any problem.  I saw blank forms hanging in the entryway for title registration and personalized plates.  I grabbed them to start filling out.  There was a line of people (probably 10) in front of us, but it went quickly – and before I even had time to fill out the “new vehicle/title registration” forms – we were called to the desk.  The clerk said; “don’t worry about the forms, just give me your titles and SD license”.  She typed the pertinent information into her computer, and printed out the same form ready for my signature.  I asked about personalized plates, and she even typed that information into the computer and printed out another copy for signature.

Voila!  Not even 30 minutes in the building and I was done!  Colorado could sure use some tips from these folks in South Dakota!  I’ve never had a more pleasant experience or shorter wait-time in my life.  I paid less than $130 for the Silverado and less than $50 for the Harley AND that’s with personalized plates!  I received a paper temporary permit to put in the windshield until my new plates are mailed.  I can just leave the current CO plates on the vehicles until then.  Oh, and the title fee was only $5 for each vehicle… “Take that – Colorado”.

And BTW – Our new personalized plates will be ‘UEV 1’ for the Silverado and ‘UEV 2’ for the Harley.  And if you don’t already get it – ‘UEV’ stands for ‘Urban Escape Vehicle’ 🙂  I hope to get ‘URBNSKP’ on the plates for the Coach when the time comes in April or May of next year.

Afterwards, we stopped by Cabela’s which is right next to I-90 at the same exit (61) as Americas Mailbox.  Cabela’s is always fun to browse, especially if you don’t spend too much money there.  They don’t allow dogs in this store, but they offered a kennel for little “Coach” behind the customer service desk… that was nice of them.  It was too hot to leave him in the Silverado.  We often have to take turns visiting places, while one of us stays outside with little Coach.

Cabela’s in Rapid City
Giant buffalo and grandson Kaan in front of the Cabela’s in Rapid City.
Our Grandson Kaan in front of the wildlife display at Cabela’s in Rapid City.

After looking through Cabela’s we stopped at an RV service & sales place (I-90 RV & Auto Supercenter) across from Americas Mailbox to ask if they could repair the dash A/C on the Coach.  It stopped working a while ago and we’ve just been dealing with it by turning on the generator and roof A/C when it gets too hot while traveling.  I was hoping to be told something like; “Sure, bring the Coach by tomorrow on your way through and we’ll take care of you”, but they didn’t have any openings for service until Friday.  So we moved on.

And then we visited Camping World (sorry no pics).  I forgot how far it was past Rapid City going north.  It’s actually in Summerset, SD.  Anyway, we found a few small items to buy, which we always seem to do at a Camping World.  I also got some tips from their service center on places in the area that might be able to repair our dash A/C.  I was told they don’t service air conditioners here.

After supporting the local Camping World, we headed back to Ellsworth AFB and visited the South Dakota Air & Space Museum located just outside the main gate:





This is a pretty cool museum that is free to visit.  They also offer tours on small air-conditioned buses that take you through the AFB but they don’t allow dogs.  Cost is $8 per person and $5 for children.  Maybe we can come back later for the bus tour if we leave little “Coach” in the Coach with the A/C on.

Here’s some pictures of the planes and other static displays outside the museum:










Stilla and I took turns walking through the museum building while one of us stayed with little “Coach” outside:















And here’s a few more pics outside the museum:








This is a really nice museum and you can’t beat the cost (free)… it’s always cool to see aircraft and I think Kaan was impressed by the huge jets.

We might be moving on soon, still not sure… I received a message last night from a fellow Alpine Coach owner that just arrived in the area, who suggested we get together.  Maybe we can do just that…

Stay tuned…

Visiting Deadwood (Ellsworth AFB FamCamp, Box Elder SD)

On Saturday we moved from Americas Mailbox campground to Ellsworth Air Force Base FamCamp.  We traveled a whopping 3 miles (east on I-90) after topping off the diesel tank at Flying J which is right next to Americas Mailbox on exit 61.  As I mentioned in my last post – the campground loops at the FamCamp were full but they have room at their “overflow” lot for $10.  The “overflow” lot is located separate from the FamCamp.  It’s a few miles at the back of the base and has 30 Amp electric but no water or sewer.  That works for us, especially at that price.

Main gate at Ellsworth AFB, Box Elder SD.
Bomber next to the main gate at Ellsworth AFB. It’s in the Air & Space Museum next door.
Water tower on Ellsworth AFB, Box Elder, SD.

Here we are parked in a row with the other rigs at the “overflow” lot on the back side of Ellsworth AFB.


We hung around the Air Force Base (AFB) on Saturday and visited the Post Exchange (PX), or Base Exchange (BX) as it’s called on an AFB.

On Sunday, we jumped into the Silverado and headed north on I-90…

Box Elder water tower (our new “hometown”).

we turned west at Sturgis on 14A until we reached the town of Deadwood, SD some 50 miles later…


Click HERE and HERE for more info on the historic town of Deadwood.

We spent the whole day just wandering around town checking things out on this lazy Sunday.

Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Stilla, Kaan, and little Coach on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Site of Saloon where Wild Bill was shot on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.

We enjoyed dinner in a courtyard with live entertainment.


Stilla and Coach at a inner courtyard bar/grill on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Trolley on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Stilla, Kaan, and little Coach enjoying ice cream cones on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.

We also visited a miniature railroad set up in the basement of one of the shops.  Kaan really enjoyed watching the train go around.

Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.

Click HERE for more info on this miniature railroad.

Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.
Miniature Railroad in a basement on Main Street in Deadwood, SD.

If you’re ever in Deadwood, be sure to check out this attraction.  You have to appreciate all the work that goes into these… and best of all it’s practically free.  Donations are accepted and it costs $1 to make the train start moving.

Deadwood was nice, and we only left $40 at the slot machines 🙂  Unfortunately, we missed the daily gunfight that takes place on the main street because it was Sunday – the only day of the week they don’t do the show.

We left Deadwood and took the scenic route towards Lead.  Then we took 385 through the Black Hills to get to 44, and then through downtown Rapid City until we got back on I-90 for the remaining 5 mile drive to Ellsworth AFB again.  About 75 miles for the return trip, (125 miles for the day).

That’s all for now…



Friday – Post 2 of 2: Sturgis Visit (Americas Mailbox, Box Elder SD)

Authors note: It was a busy Friday – I split this post up into two separate entries due to lots of pictures and unrelated subject matter. This is Post 2 of 2:

After Storybook Island, (see previous post), we jumped back into the Silverado which still has the Harley loaded in the bed and the bikes on the hitch rack; and we headed north on I-90 to visit Sturgis.

But first- we got sidetracked when we saw all the activity at Black Hills HD located next to the highway in Rapid City.  They have a giant tent set up in front of the dealership, traffic cones set up all over the parking lot and attendants in orange vests directing traffic.  So we exited I-90 to check it out.

Black Hills Harley Davidson dealership, Rapid City SD.

Check out the (seemingly) never-ending rows of motorcycles for sale:

Black Hills Harley Davidson dealership, Rapid City SD.
Black Hills Harley Davidson dealership, Rapid City SD.

I bought a Sturgis 2015 cap and a Rally T-shirt inside the dealership.   They are expecting a madhouse once bike week begins in another 15 days or so.  I think we’ll depart the area soon to avoid the traffic and high camping costs.

Then we drove the remaining 30 miles to arrive in Sturgis, SD.  Home of the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (Click HERE or on the highlighted name for a link with more info about the rally.

Here’s some pics we took in and around downtown Sturgis:

Entering Sturgis, SD.
Downtown Sturgis, SD.
Downtown Sturgis, SD.
City park where the “Rats-Hole” bike show and the Budweiser horses used to be during our previous visits to Sturgis during Bike Week.
Familiar sign (to us) near downtown Sturgis, SD. I used to have a ’57 Chevy.
Huge saloon with deck near downtown Sturgis, SD.
Huge saloon deck with upper and lower decks near downtown Sturgis, SD.
Yet another huge saloon near downtown Sturgis, SD.

Downtown streets will be closed to cars and filled with stop-and-go motorcycle traffic and bike parking only during bike week in a couple more weeks.

Downtown Sturgis, SD.
Downtown Sturgis, SD.

This must be what the ‘calm before the storm’ looks like.

Downtown Sturgis, SD.
Children’s electric motorcycle in a store window, downtown Sturgis, SD. Why didn’t they have these when I was a kid?
Many ‘bike week’ vendors are already open for business in downtown Sturgis, SD.
Sturgis Harley dealership near downtown Sturgis, SD. We went inside and checked it out of course…
Downtown Sturgis, SD.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum near downtown Sturgis, SD. Unfortunately closed while we were there today.

We posed for pictures in front of the giant picture pasted on the side of a building in downtown Sturgis:


Posing in front of giant billboard-size poster in downtown Sturgis, SD.


Now we can say “we were there” for the historic 75th anniversary of the motorcycle rally.  We actually attended the rally several times during 1996 thru 1999 and again in 2006.

Downtown Sturgis, SD.
Downtown Sturgis, SD.

We headed east out of town and stopped at the Full Throttle Saloon.  You may have seen this place on the reality television series that first aired in 2009.  Click HERE for more info.  During the week of the Sturgis Rally, the saloon averages 20,000 guests per night.

The Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
The Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Stilla inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Stilla inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.
Inside the Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.

Stilla let me buy a Full Throttle Saloon T-Shirt before we left 🙂

The Full Throttle Saloon, just outside Sturgis SD.

We then drove a little further east of downtown to check out the world-famous Buffalo Chip.  We stayed here each time we visited the rally in years past (1996 thru ’99 and again in 2006).  This was back when it was still affordable… I remember paying $10 or $20 back in the ’90s to camp here… even with big-name bands like Ted Nugent playing for the evening’s entertainment.  It has become so commercialized over the years, that it’s no longer any fun (for us) or affordable.

The Buffalo Chip just outside Sturgis SD.


Buffalo Chip campground.
Buffalo Chip campground.

I had the pin striping and the ‘Buffalo Chip’ logo (below) painted on my rear fender back in 1996 at the Buffalo Chip campground.


I also still have their sticker on my windshield… it’s held up pretty well over the years.  Wonder if they would give us a discount to stay at the campground since I’ve been advertising for all those years?


Anyway, it was a fun trip down memory lane to see Sturgis and the Buffalo Chip campground again.

We had an early dinner at Taco John’s in Sturgis and then drove back to Rapid City.  When we got close to our Coach parked at Americas Mailbox, we decided to drive the few extra miles along I-90 to Ellsworth Air Force Base to check out the FamCamp.  The campground loops were full but they have room at their “overflow” lot for $10.  The “overflow” lot has 30 Amp electric but no water or sewer.  That works for us, especially at that price, so we moved over here on Saturday, but I’ll leave that for my next post.  Stay tuned…





Friday – Post 1 of 2: Drivers Licenses & Storybook Island (Americas Mailbox, Box Elder SD)

Authors note: It was a busy Friday – I split this post up into two separate entries due to lots of pictures and unrelated subject matter.  This is Post 1 of 2:

Our first stop on Friday was the SD Drivers License Bureau in Rapid City.


We are now officially South Dakota residents!  It was quick-in and quick-out… with no line to speak of.  The hardest part was filling out the form.  We showed two forms of ID, looked in the eye exam machine, and took new pictures.  We were even able to get our motorcycle endorsements with no fuss.

Then we drove over to the nearby Elks Lodge to check out the RV sites.  They have nice sites for $25 located right next to the golf course, but they didn’t have any openings until Sunday.  We decided to wait and check out the FamCamp on nearby Ellsworth AFB later for availability and rates.



So then we checked our iPhone apps for nearby attractions and found Storybook Island which is a free (donations accepted) children’s theme park that our grandson Kaan would really enjoy.  Stilla took lots of pictures – so for her, and our daughter Jennifer’s benefit… here are a bunch of grandson pics (below):




IMG_0284 IMG_0286




























Friday’s Post 2 of 2 coming shortly… check back for pictures of our trip up to Sturgis and the surrounding area…