Adventures in the Villa


South Dakota

2021-08-12 – The Oregon Trail caravan … Day 15 – Lander, WY

We had a big variety of tours and sights today. We started at the Eagle Bronze Foundry and Gallery…

We were given an extensive tour of the foundry, with all the steps and processes explained, from the artist’s concept in a small model, which is scanned into a special 6d computer model, to full size mockups, to sectioning the mockups to 30″ x 30″ sections, adding clay and wax, and casting the bronze at 2100 degrees… It is an amazingly complex process…

Examples of foam and latex molds…

The sand castings, with the wax melted out, ready to cast the bronze…

Completed castings being reassembling into the finished monument…

Coloring, adding patina, and finishing…

It was fascinating tour! It is an amazingly complex process…!

And then we moved on. We went to Sinks Canyon State Park. This is the site of the “vanishing river”…

The river flows through these rocks, into a shallow cave, and the water disappears… This is called “The Sink”…

We found that the water falls through cracks and fissures underground, until about two hours later it reappears in a pond about a quarter mile away…

As we walked we marveled at these shear rock canyon walls…

We found the pond (The Rise). It was peaceful and serene…

One other thing that flows underground and comes up in this pond are Rainbow Trout!

These trout are 16-24 inches long!

Since no fishing was allowed we drove back to downtown Lander. It is a typical small downtown, struggling to stay viable…

We had lunch at Middle Fork, a nice little restaurant downtown. It was barely not too hot to sit outside…

After lunch we drove a few miles north to the Sacajawea Cemetery…

Sacagawea (/ˌsækədʒəˈwiːə/ or /səˌkɑːɡəˈweɪə/; also spelled Sakakawea or Sacajawea; May c. 1788 – December 20, 1812 or April 9, 1884) was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who, at age 16, helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition in achieving their chartered mission objectives by exploring the Louisiana Territory. Sacagawea traveled with the expedition thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, helping to establish cultural contacts with Native American populations and contributing to the expedition’s knowledge of natural history in different regions.

Note that there is uncertainty as to when she died. She was either 24 or 95. Accordingly, there are two burial sites to be found… This one in Wyoming, and another in South Dakota. You pick…

We drove back to the VIlla. Lots of nice countryside here…

This evening we joined many other Airstreamers for Happy Hours while we watched the sunset…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-18 Westbound; Through Wyoming and into Montana…

Long travel day today…

2017-09-18 Map Wyoming

We left Crooked Creek RV Park at about 8:00 am, in the very, very cold… We traveled north through Hill City, then Deadwood; we turned west and crossed over into Wyoming.

The drive was easy, uneventful, and a little boring…

2017-09-18 Wyoming 1

2017-09-18 Wyoming 2

Then we turned towards the north and on the horizon we could see snow-capped mountains, off to the west:

2017-09-18 Wyoming 3

As we continued north, towards Montana, we saw more…

2017-09-18 Wyoming 4

2017-09-18 Wyoming 5

2017-09-18 Wyoming 7

The actual views were better than these photos show…

We crossed over into Montana:

2017-09-18 Map Montana

And we headed into Billings, MT.  We stopped of at Costco to stock up on Kirkland Vita Rain bottled water (fake Vitamin Water, with even fewer vitamins than real Vitamin Water…) We have been looking for these since New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – none of the Costcos we found carried it.  I have had to substitute real Vitamin Water, and it is a poor substitute…

So we happily checked into the RV park; again we were exhausted – it was a long day… almost 400 miles, almost double of our preferred pace.  But there was no reason to stop any sooner; tomorrow we move to Bozeman.

Happy hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…







2017-09-17 Westbound; Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles, Wildlife, and Pigtail Bridges…

Today is the day for Mt. Rushmore!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 03

We began the day with a temperature of 34 degrees at the campground.  However, the day warmed up nicely…

We set off to see Mt. Rushmore – the Presidential Memorial.  We got more than we bargained for!

We drove towards Mt. Rushmore via the Needles Highway.  We saw (and drove through) spectacular rock formations:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles

2017-09-17 Black Hills 06 Needles

And when I say “drove through”, I mean through tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 2

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 4

Tiny tunnels!  No Villas allowed on these roads!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 2

There were a few viewpoints along the way that offered distant views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 05

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 08

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture’s design and oversaw the project’s execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum, and Chief Carver Luigi del Bianco. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot tall sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).  The memorial park covers over 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet above sea level.

South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region.  Robinson’s initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups.  They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure.  Borglum decided the sculpture should have broad appeal and chose the four presidents because of their roles in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.

Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum’s death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over as leader of the construction project.  Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist.  Lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore has become an iconic symbol of the United States, and it has appeared in works of fiction, as well as being discussed or depicted in other popular works.  It attracts over two million visitors annually.  (I think they were all here today… see below…)

After Needles we found the Ironwood Highway.  It is famous for the Pigtail Bridges – wooden (logs) bridges that spiral the road upwards to meet a tunnel, then offer spectacular views after you drive through the tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 05

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 06

And then the payoff at the end of the tunnel:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 07

It is quite the dramatic scene!

We drove on to the memorial itself.  Then we waited for over an hour, in a mile long traffic jamb of cars trying to get into the parking structure.  (PS to the National Park Service:  You need to get this figured out!  I would hate to be here in the summer when the park is busy!)

We opted not to park; we did have some fine views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 04

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 02

When we finally were able to drive around the traffic jam we saw something that I had not known about:  Washington’s profile:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15

This was not intentional on the part of the sculptor; he originally had Jefferson placed here, but after they had done some preliminary rough blasting, they found that the rock was not suitable; they blasted off the preliminary work, and this remained.

Just for fun:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15a

Also, if you look closely, you can see some people climbing on the monument***:

2017-09-17 North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(28)

After seeing the monument we took a break and met my cousin and his wife (Chuck and Joan Canaan) for lunch; they live here in Rapid City, SD:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 99 Canaan

Then, back to the Black Hills we went.  This time to see its counterpoint, the Crazy Horse Memorial:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 41 Crazy Horse

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in South Dakota. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski.  It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center.  The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.  The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.  In fact, it appears that nothing has been done in years.  If it is ever completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture.  I say, If…

At the base of the mountain is a huge complex containing western native american art, memorabilia, and trinkets, basically a giant gift shop.  The sculptor died in 1982, and his wife died in 2014.  Their 10 children have taken over the foundation.

Friends had told us this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.  We thought the whole thing was a giant waste of time.  It appears to me that if they had spent half as much effort on completing the memorial as they did on building a giant gift shop for selling trinkets, they would have made more progress.  At this point it appears that it will never be finished…

So, after our disappointment at the Crazy Horse Memorial, we headed into Custer State Park, and drove the Wildlife Loop.  We saw beautiful outcroppings and wildlife…


2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 02


2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 04 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 09 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 08 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 07 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 06 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 05 Bison

Wild Donkeys:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 02 Donkey

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 01 Donkey

They were very friendly:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 03 Donkey

And rock outcroppings:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03a

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 01

We finally returned to the Villa, exhausted.  Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…































*** The monument was famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959 movie North by Northwest.














2017-09-16 Westbound; The Badlands of South Dakota…

We left the Ingalls homestead at about 8:00 am.  It was raining, and cold.  And windy. Really cold. About 45 degrees with a wind chill factor making it feel like, oh, I don’t know – maybe , like 5?

We drove slowly through town and stopped at the De Smet Cemetary.  We found the family plot where most of the Ingalls family are buried:

2017-09-16 SD 00 Ingalls Cemetery

And we are back on the road.  And it is still raining.  Harder and harder.  It rained for about two hours until the sky finally began to lighten.

The countryside was beautiful:

2017-09-16 SD 01 Clouds

2017-09-16 SD 02 Clouds

We stopped to take in the threatening black clouds over the Wide Missouri River:

2017-09-16 SD 15 Missouri River

2017-09-16 SD 13 Missouri River

2017-09-16 SD 12 Missouri River

2017-09-16 SD 11 Missouri River

2017-09-16 SD 14 Missouri River

The drive was uneventful, along two lane back roads.  When you visit places such as De Smet you spend a lot of time on two lane back roads.  We eventually merged with the interstate and continued west towards the South Dakota Badlands.  We took the “Badlands Loop”, a 35 mile long road through Badlands National Park:

2017-09-16 SD 38 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 37 Badlands

We took time to take a selfie:

2017-09-16 SD 33 Badlands Selfie

These formations are the remains of an ancient salt water sea.  These rocks are sedimentary sandstone that have been eroding for a long, long time… The formations are striking…

2017-09-16 SD 29 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 27 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 26 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 23 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 22 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 36 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 30 Badlands

2017-09-16 SD 34 Badlands

We were able to see some funny looking animals; turns out they are female pronghorn antelope:


2017-09-16 SD 50a Badlands

And a Bison:

2017-09-16 SD 51 Badlands

We stopped for a late lunch at Wall Drugs, in Wall, SD.  Really excellent buffalo hot dogs! Then we walked around the tourist attraction that is Wall Drugs.  I took a moment to ride the Jackalope:

2017-09-16 SD 61 Wall Drug Jackalope

Wall Drugs is even a bigger waste of time than The House on the Rock…

So we move on.  We arrive at Crooked Creek RV Park, in Hill City, near Mt. Rushmore. We were given a nice pull-through site, with good power to run the furnace (it will approach freezing overnight…) and we able to get satellite TV and internet access.  It is Saturday, and there is College football!

Texas lost!  CAL beat Ole Miss!  LSU lost!  A good night all around.

Happy Hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…


2017-09-15 Westbound; De Smet, South Dakota…

We have a leisurely morning of hot showers and grocery shopping…  We drove about two hours to De Smet, SD.

2017-09-15 Map South Dakota

We pulled into the Ingalls Homestead RV Park.  This is adjacent to the Visitors Center. This is the actual homestead where the Ingalls family lived for several years, about a mile from the town of De Smet.  They have several displays and buildings, from the authentic to the replication.  They also offer covered wagon rides across the prairie.  We weren’t interested in the ride, but it was really cool to see a covered wagon pass by on the horizon:

2017-09-15 LIW 03 Homestead Covered Wagon

They had a real dugout/sod house to view:

2017-09-15 LIW 05 Homestead Dugout

2017-09-15 LIW 06 Homestead Dugout

And here is a replica of the claim shanty Pa built here on the homestead claim:

2017-09-15 LIW 07 Homestead Claim Shanty

It was fun to stand here on the prairie and see what the Ingalls family saw 135 years ago:


2017-09-15 LIW 02a Homestead Prairie

We asked at the visitors center how far it was into town to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there.  We were told that it is less than a mile; she knew, she said, because the Ingalls girls walked to town to go to school every day.  Well, if three little girls could walk to town, certainly we could, too.

It was 1.6 miles to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society…

The first stop was the Surveyors House:

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Surveyors House

This was the Ingalls family’s first home in De Smet, even before De Smet was started. The Surveyor’s house was built  for the advance crew for the railroad; it was probably built somewhere east of here and dragged along from place to place as the railroad proceeded westward.  Pa Ingalls was asked to stay for the winter after all the railroad crews left to safeguard the railroad equipment, so the Ingalls family moved in.  To them, this was a mansion!  They lived here their first winter in South Dakota, with the house serving as an unofficial hotel/boarding house for settlers coming through on their way west.  The family was living here when Pa walked the 40 miles to Brookings to file his homestead claim.  As soon as he could, Pa built a single room of his claim shanty (see above) and the family moved to the homestead that spring.  At the time, the house was located By the Shores of Silver Lake.  When the Railroad was done with the house, it was bought by a family here and moved to town.  It was later bought by the LIW Memorial Society and moved to this location.

Also on this site is a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old:

2017-09-15 LIW 14 De Smet Brewster

2017-09-15 LIW 15 De Smet Brewster

Our guide said this replica is probably bigger than the original…

The best thing here is the original schoolhouse, the first school built here in De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet School

This is the actual location of the school that the Ingalls girls walked to from the Homestead…

The interior:

2017-09-15 LIW 13 De Smet School

The school had been used as a home for many years before it was acquired by the LIW Memorial Society and restored.  The original blackboards are here… These desks are not original, but the school did have store-bought desks, not the home made desks you saw above in the Brewster School.

After seeing these buildings here we went over through downtown De Smet; Pa built a store here in town as an investment; the family lived in the store during The Long Winter, in 1880-1881.  The store is no longer there, but we were able to see the location, here in “downtown” De Smet:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Main Street

We then arrived at the Ingalls house, just around the corner:

2017-09-15 LIW 12 De Smet Ingalls House

The family only lived on the homestead for about seven years; Pa built this house, room by room, and the family lived out their lives here. (Laura never lived here; she had married Almanzo by the time the house was built…)  Carrie and Grace lived here until they married and moved a short distance away.  (Grace lived in Huron, Carrie lived in Keystone…)  Mary, Ma, and Pa lived here for the rest of their lives.  Pa wasn’t much of farmer, and he made his living as a carpenter, Justice of the Peace, and just about any other odd job he could get… They also took in boarders to help pay the bills.  All of the family had had constant health problems, probably due to malnutrition throughout their lives.  Only Laura lived into her 90s.  (Laura died in 1957 in Mansfield, Mo.)

So after this great time seeing the history of this family we walked back to the Villa, hoping to beat the predicted rain; we made it with no problems.  We met our neighbors, who had just pulled in, with tent trailers.  One was from Hull, Iowa, a town full of Dutch people.  This guy had even been an adjunct professor at Dordt College!

Lynda went to walk around the homestead, and she climbed the observation tower to see the views:

2017-09-15 LIW 01 Homestead

2017-09-15 LIW 22 Homestead Villa

There were awesome clouds:

2017-09-15 LIW 10 Homestead Clouds

2017-09-15 LIW 09 Homestead Clouds

Our neighbors had set up their chairs and prepared a campfire.  They invited us to join them… But we politely declined, as we already had begun dinner, and there was football to watch… And then it began to rain. And rain hard.

Our neighbors re-grouped inside their trailers and we settled in for Happy Hours and dinner.  Later that evening we looked out at and saw more beautiful cloud formations, accented with flashes of lightning.  No thunder, just flashes of lightning. Amazing. We had never seen such a thing…

2017-09-15 LIW 11 Homestead Clouds

And an enjoyable time was had by all…







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