Monthly Archives: May 2017

Mt. Rushmore … or bust (May 2017)!

Our travel log on our Mount Rushmore RV adventure!

We travelled around 3850 miles on our trip. We spent about $3400 in the RV rental from Apollo RV. I estimated 3500 miles and we were over by 350 miles. Total as was around $1200 with an average of 7-10 mpg depending on road conditions and gas/gallon varied from $2.24 to $2.95 outside of California.

Campground fees were about $1170 and propane at $43.00. The car rental in Custer was $69.00/day and in the Grand Tetons was $225 for 3 days.

Our total, therefore, excluding food and nick-nacks, was just about $6100 for 20 days or about $305/day.

The weather did not always cooperate and we went from 95 degrees at the beginning in Laughlin and 100 degrees at the end in Las Vegas to 25 snowy degrees in Yellowstone. We had more days of windy, wet and cold than dry days. But, that can mid-May weather in the western mountain states.

( = andy who we met in Buffalo, repositioning a Winnebago to Alaska. He lives in Detroit)

Day 22
Thursday, May 25
Apollo RV rental return, 80 miles (CA)
Left about 8:30 am and arrived around 10:30. Returned RV with no problems, very efficient. It was a great trip.

The last tank fill-up was at 3829.3 miles in Bellflower!

Day 21
Wednesday, May 24
Home, 230 miles (CA)
Left LV at 8 am, arrived home about 1:30. No problem and little traffic. We made good time!

I-15 to I-210 to HW330 and home.

Day 20
Tuesday, May 23
Oasis RV Park, Las Vegas, 0 miles
Went shopping at the Dillard’s mall in Las Vegas. Nice not having to drive anywhere!

Day 19
Monday, May 22
Oasis RV Park, Las Vegas, 330 miles (NV)
Went into Capitol Reef NP and spent a few hours exploring the Scenic Drive and eastern portions of Highway 24 under a bright blue sky. Got to play radio for about 30 minutes at the Slickrock Divide turnout. We left the park about 11am and following the direct route (via Google Maps) arriving in Las Vegas right around 5:15 or so, pretty accurate (we had a time zone shift of 1 hour backward).

Went first to the South Point Casino and Hotel for dinner, then checked into Oasis, spot #22 around 8 pm.

We are tired but it was good trip into Vegas. Sandy drove for about an hour, mostly through the Virgin River Canyon, a tough and challenging drive.

Highway 24 from Torrey to Bicknell to Loa to Highway 62 intersection. Highway 62 south to Koosharem to Angle. Highway 62 west to Kingston. West on 62 to Highway 89 south to Circleville and Spry. Shortly thereafter, Highway 20 west to I-15. I-15 through St. George, Mesquite to Las Vegas.

Day 18
Sunday, May 21
Thousand Lakes RV Park, 200 miles (UT)
We headed to Capitol Reef and the National Park camp in Fruita. Knowing it fills up early (first come, first served), I booked a campground in Torrey as a backup.

Left about 9 am and arrived in Torrey about 1:30 pm, drove into Fruita and the campground was already filled, luckily we had the backup in the Thousand Lakes RV Park. The skies were rainy and cloudy and cold all day on the drive. The weather didn’t cooperate in the park either, no sun to enhance the red colors of the landscape. Looked around in Fruita, a beautiful area and picked up a homemade berry pie and ice cream in the visitors center.

Registered in camp, spot #27, about 4 pm with dinner cocktails, spaghetti and berry pie for dessert. We had our 2nd fire here, the only other place that would allow a fire.

Tomorrow is a re-planned big push to Las Vegas, this will give us Tuesday to not have to move at all, a day of rest!

I-15 leaving Ogden to Highway 50, Scipio to Salina. Highway 24 to Sigurd to Loa, Lyman, Bicknell to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park.

Day 17
Saturday, May 20
Century RV Park and Campground, 250 miles (UT)
We headed back up to Mormon Row for a few more pictures, the weather and lighting yesterday afternoon were not great. On the way, we filled up with propane and took about 5.5 gallons at the Exxon station in Jackson.

We decided to skip the planned 3rd day in Jackson to give us a little more time at the end of the trip. We turned the Jeep in early and lost our campsite and Jeep daily rental fees.

Downtown Jackson was hopping with the May Boy Scouts Antler Auction.

We were on the road headed south through the Snake River Canyon on HI89 to Alpine, Afton, Bear Lake and Ogden by 11:00 am. We were not sure how far south we would go, but we decided to aim for being at Capitol Reef tomorrow afternoon.

Stopped at Bear Lake Quick N Tasty for a Raspberry shake and kept pressing on. The KOA in Brigham City and the Golden Spike RV parks had no room! The lady at the Golden Spike called ahead to Century since we were headed south and they held a spot for us. Actually, this camp for $35 was very nice, clean and a GREAT deal right off the I15 freeway. It was pretty quiet too and the weather was nice and warm. We arrived about 7pm, one of our later days of travelling.

We had hamburgers and corn for dinner on Rosie’s BBQ!

Highway 191 leaving Jackson to Highway 89 through the Snake River to Alpine. South on Highway 89 to Afton, Montpelier, Paris, Garden City, Logan and I-15/89 to Ogden.

Day 16
Friday, May 19
Fireside Resort, 0 miles (WY)
We rented a Jeep and toured the Grand Teton Valley. It was nice to park the RV and be a little more mobile.

Breakfast was at the Bunnery and dinner was at Merry Piglets, in downtown Jackson, right next to each other actually. Both were excellent!

Day 15
Thursday, May 18
Fireside Resort, ∼ 40 miles (WY)
Woke up to light snow at the Coulter Camp. The elevation here is 6800’.

After packing up, we headed to the Jackson Lake Lodge to check it out. Today at 11am was the opening day of the Lodge. Lunch at the Mural Room with the huge viewing windows, was quite nice. Everyone was very attentive as it was opening day. With connection, we were able to call the Fireside Resort and shift our reservations one day earlier.

After working our way down the highway and viewing the Tetons and grizzlies fording a river, we arrived at the resort. We checked in quickly, (changed from #61 to site #93 in the back) and part of our reservation was a Jeep for the 3 days we will be here. I took it to the KMart to get a cooler for tomorrow’s exploration, it will be nice, not to drive the RV around.

Dinner was spagheti, we stopped by the local Albertson’s for supplies in Jackson, a wine shop was next door. No alcohol in grocery stores in Wyoming.

Highway 191 to Jackson, WY.

Day 14
Wednesday, May 17
Coulter Bay Campground, ∼ 80 miles (WY)
Woke up about 5:30 and found snow falling, about an inch, but falling. After breakfast, went down to the store to discover that all the roads out of the park, south, west, east and north are closed. People checking out in the morning were re-checking in as they found the roads closed. Yoy could get to the Lake Lodge, but that was as far west (5 miles) as allowed.

We sat tight until the 1pm weather check, still snowing lightly. The tires on the RV are Michelin M/S rated. The road conditions phone, available outside of the checkin station, still showed all roads closed. The road to Old Faithful goes over 2 passes and those guests, who traveled far, are unable to see this wonder of the world! The prediction was another 1-3” of snow during the day and the same at night.

The update from the office staff was that the south entrance was open to EXITING vehicles ONLY, all other roads still closed. We decided that the roads were wet but not slushy and headed through the Lake Lodge, West Thumb and down the south entrance to the Jackson Valley and the Tetons. As a hedge, we didn’t turn in our checkin stub, just in case, we had to turn around and return.

Of the 4 planned nights in Yellowstone, we stayed only 2.

We made it without issue, the highway was great, and arrived at Coulter Bay Campground around 4pm, site #D-43. Full hookups for $63, (ouch) with very few amenities. It is the only open RV campground this early in the season.

We fueled up at the entrance to the camp and had tortilla casserole for dinner.

Highway 20 around Yellowstone Lake to Highway 191, south entrance to Coulter Bay.

Day 13
Tuesday, May 16
Fishing Bridge RV Campground, 0 miles (55 miles just touring about) (WY)
After breakfast, we decided to head to Old Faithful and the Upper, Midway and Lower Geyser Basins. Our first stop was the Lake Village and the Lake Hotel. It reminds us of the Hotel Del in San Diego, same style of architecture. We made a reservation for 5:00 pm dinner, figuring we’d be out the whole day.

Old Faithful didn’t disappoint, it went off at 12:27 or so, very impressive. It is cycling about every 90 minutes or so right now.

We made it to Midway to see Grand Prismatic Spring and the Fountain Paint Pot at the Lower Geyser Basin. Travel took us to Madison and we hoped to do the Firehole Canyon Drive, but it was closed to RVs.

Our trip back to the Lake Lodge was pretty quick and we made in just in time for dinner. Sandy ordered the Alaskan Salmon and I had the Bison Tenderloin. It tasted just like beef, nothing to distinguish it.

I played radio and made 20 contacts for KFF-0070, Yellowstone NP on 40 and 20 meters. I was on for about 1:15 minutes stating at 02:00 (8pm local?) and ending at 03:11 UTC on 5/17/17. Tough conditions. As I was putting the gear away, snow was starting to lightly fall.

Day 12
Monday, May 15
Fishing Bridge RV Campground in Yellowstone NP, 250 miles (WY)

We dumped again in Buffalo at the camp, the gages showing 2/3 black and everything was cleared out, maybe we were on a slant on the pad yesterday.

From Buffalo, we took I-80, and 16 west via the east entrance to Yellowstone. We stopped in Cody for propane, gas and groceries at the Albertson’s. Lunch was at Mojo, a sandwich shop that had a great turkey/swiss panini and a nice hearty tortilla soup. We were leaving Cody right at 1:00 pm. Travel via Highway 14 was beautifully scenic with lots of snow melt flooding the Shoshone River. We crossed 2 mountain passes, one at 9666’ in the Bighorn National Forest and one at Sylvan Pass at 8530’ in Yellowstone NP. As we dropped into the Yellowstone Basin, the clouds were starting to give very light snow showers, pretty cool. We saw bison and pronghorn as we dropped into the valley. Most portions of the lake are still lightly frozen over and snow berms up by the passes were pretty impressive, some places 10’ high.

We checked in about 3:00 pm and settled into spot D116. Fishing Bridge Campground is only for hard sided RVs because of the grizzly/black bear activity around the area.

We walked over to the general store, the path from camp to the store is still snowed over, so we took the street. A cute place with pretty much everything you need.

The elevation here is 7700’, Lake Yellowstone level.

Dinner was the leftovers from Buffalo, Pie Zanos.

Highway 16 to Worland from Buffalo, Highway 20 to Greybull, Highway 14 to Cody. Highway 14 to east entrance to Yellowstone and Fishing Bridge Campground.

Day 11
Sunday, May 14 (Mother’s Day)
Deer Park Campground, Buffalo, 150 miles (WY)
We dumped at Deadwood, but still had about 1/3 left in the black tanks according to the gages. After having breakfast in camp, we took off for Buffalo.

We took the scenic Spearfish Canyon drive out of the Black Hills from Deadwood and Lead, very scenic, but other areas are just as spectacular.

A slight detour to Devil’s Tower in WY was pretty cool for photo ops and it helped to break up the drive.

Lunch was at Subway in Moorcroft, WY.

We drove throught the Indian Camp RV park and Deer Park camprounds first in Buffalo. I was tired of the KOA stuff (see Deadwood) and didn’t relish another night in one. We drove into town, picked up dinner at a place that Sandy found on TripAdvisor, then proceeded to camp.

Dinner was Pie Zano’s in Buffalo. Excellent take out, we had antipasto, bread and chicken alfredo. Cannolis for dessert, pistachio and chocolate chip, they were yummy.

Upon arrival around 4:00 pm, we met out neighbors, who are taking the same exact RV on a one-way re-positioning trip to Alaska for Great Alaskan Holidays. They offer mid-May departures from the Iowa Winnebago factory to Alaska. We will check this out for next year! Randy, our neighbor is at

Highway 85 from Deadwood to ALT14 to Lead to Spearfish Canyon. ALT14 to I-90 west to Sundance, WY. Highway 14 to Highway 24 to Devil’s Tower. Highway 14 to I-90 to Buffalo, WY.

Day 10
Saturday, May 13
Deadwood KOA, 50 miles (SD)
We left Palmer and headed up to the Mt. Rushmore National Park. It took just about 10 minutes and we found a nice place to park the RV. The views of the monument are spectacular. We did everything in about 2 hours and decided to head over to Keystone, just beyond the monument to explore. It was pretty small, so we decided to head to Hill City and Deadwood, Sandy read up that is would be a fun place to check out the small town gambling.

Change of plans, we would have to backtrack to Palmer if we headed to Deadwood. On our way, we decide to just stay in Deadwood to save some time for tomorrow.

We picked the Deadwood KOA and notified the Palmer Gulch KOA, that we were checking out a day early (we ended up staying in Palmer Gulch 2 of 3 planned nights). The Palmer folks were nice enough to refund the 3rd night for us.

At Deadwood, we were at the B27 site. This KOA was very narrow and the spots very tight. Even though, the camp is not full, the checkin folks try to keep campers together. It was just an ok site.

Deadwood is a cute little town that allows small scale gambling within city limits. There was trolly shuttle into town for $1/each and we hopped on the next one. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane made this place famous. At the trolley dropoff, wee grabbed a city bus tour with Alkalai Ike, pretty corny but entertaining.

The Legend’s Steakhouse in the Franklin Hotel was dinner. It is the number 1 dining place and was ok. It is the only game in town and does get very crowded. We stood in line for a 5pm seating. We took a cab back to the campsite.

Highway 244 to Keystone. Highway 16A and 16 and Highway 385/85 to Hill City and Deadwood.

Day 9
Friday, May 12
Wind Cave National Park (Palmer Gulch Day 2), 0 miles
Today we rented a car and headed over to Wind Cave NP. It would be easier to just leave the RV parked. We had to do our first laundry, so we headed to Custer on the way. The Purple Pie Palace was lunch after a stroll through the town. The french dip, to go, was quite tasty and the laundromat across the street was clean and efficient and friendly.

At the Wind Cave picnic area, we had our lunch, then proceeded to the cave tour. The box formations in the cave were pretty cool.

We headed back to Palmer via the Needles Highway for some spectacular views. You couldn’t drive these roads with an RV due to narrow, low tunnels and pretty tight twisty roads. We turned the car in. Since the RV was staying in place, Sandy made her chicken enchilda casserole crock-pot recipe in the morning. We thought it would be done too early, she had set it to cook for 6 hours, but it ended up at 8 hours with no problem. It was delicious!

This was our first fire on the trip with the camp firepit. Wood bundles were $6/bundle, ouch, advertised outside of the camp for $3 or 2 for $5. We managed to get the cable working and Sandy was watching her 2 Hallmark channels!

Day 8
Thursday, May 11
Palmer Gulch Day 1, 35 miles (SD)
From Custer Cabins, Sandy discovered a Black Hills Aerial Adventures heliport on the way to Crazy Horse Memorial. We took the “deluxe” air tour of the Black Hills. After the last few days of weather, it was a beautiful day to go flying in the morning. The views were spectacular. Friday, was the first official opening day of the heliport operation.

The Crazy Horse Memorial was pretty amazing, lots of work done with no federal dollars spent. Lunch was Buffalo Stew and salad bar in their restaurant.

We opted to backtrack a little and do the Wildlife Loop Road tour before checking in to Palmer. It was an amazing loop with bison, pronghorn and praire dogs.

We checked into Palmer Gulch, site #148 late afternoon. Nice, level and the camp is HUGE, a big operation! We headed to the Ponderosa restaurant for dinner, country fried steak (huge portion) and caesar salad for dinner.

Highway 385/16 to Highway 244 to Palmer Gulch and Mt. Rushmore.

Day 7
Wednesday, May 10
Custer Mountain Cabins and Campground, 250 miles (SD)
We left AB Camping RV Park in WY, headed to South Dakota. It was cold and rainy as we headed out. The weather was not cooperating.

A quick stop at FE Warren AFB for photo ops with the missiles in front of the guard shack, good memories of careers long ago.

A rainy and windy 250 miles or so was ahead. Instead of staying at Windcave as planned, we opted to stay at Custer Cabins in Custer to have full hookups. The weather was helping our decisions. After the weather we were having, we were not anxious to rough it too much.

As we climbed into the Black Hills, the weather cleared for us. Custer Cabins had slow internet. Our first BBQ steaks with Rosie’s provided. Nice location, spot #16, very empty camp.

I-25 from Cheyenne to Highway 85 north to Lusk. Highway 18 north to Edgemont. Highway 89 to Pringle. Highway 385 to Custer via Highway 16A.

Day 6
Tuesday, May 9
AB Camping and RV Park, 200 miles (WY)
From the Pueblo KOA, we had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel down the road. Sandy went shopping at the Dillard’s, while I went to the Target for a few more supplies before we took off.

We drove through darkly building clouds in Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins and arrived in WY after a rainy and wet drive. Our spot was S-26, in the back forty.

TripAdvisor recommended the ChopHouse in Cheyenne. A quick stop at the Walmart for a water filter and off to strolling through the local quilting store and dinner. Dinner was not too bad, the ChopHouse is a chain in WY and MT, I think.

I put out the ‘welcome’ mat upon setting up camp to clean off our feet before entering the RV. We left to find it missing! I left the broom and ‘welcome’ mat to re-orient ourselves when we returned. I walked around camp after we returned and found that my next-door neighbor decided to help himself to it. I knocked on the door, took it and walked off!

The camp has nothing to write home about except the internet here was nice and fast, but we were close to the access point. Again, $ in mid-forties.

I-25 through Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins to Cheyenne, WY.

Day 5
Monday May 8
Pueblo KOA, 300 miles (CO)

The water heater went out, we noticed it in the morning at Santa Fe Skies. Therefore, we had showers in the shower house today at Santa Fe Skies.

We called the Apollo RV road-side assistance number and they were working on a repair in Pueblo for us. Luckily for us, Action R’N’v Mobile RV Repair Service (278 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87508) was just a couple miles down the road in Santa Fe. We showed up at 10 am and he swapped out the water heater “brain” and all was well after $380 or so. We were done by 11am. We notified the road-side assistance folks.

We dumped at the commercial station in the camp in the morning before leaving for the repair.

Lunch was in Las Vegas, NM at Charlie’s Bakery. Amazing New Mexico chili adovada carnitas with posole. Sandy had a chicken enchilada.

Driving north on I25, the skies gradually darkened and we got rain and more wind. Progress was slow but we made Pueblo just in time for an amazing sunset. We spotted a Cracker Barrel and Sandy knew that there was a Dillard’s in Pueblo, tomorrow’s adventures!

Our campsite was B02, again a so-so camp. I am getting tired of KOAs. They are portrayed much better than they look. And, they all seem to run in the $45 range.

The weather further north that evening, in Denver, had golf-ball sized hair, so we lucked out being on the southern edge of the front! Sharon, Sandy’s cousin got rained out for a Rockies game 2 years in a row, there was a picture of the field in white.

I-25 east and north to Las Vegas, NM. I-25 to Pueblo.

Day 4
Sunday, May 7
Santa Fe Skies RV Park, 320 miles (NM)
We headed east from Homolovi to the Petrfied Forest National Park. We did the loop from south to north, starting at Holbrook. The Jim Grey rock shop in Holbrook is loaded with stuff. The NP is amazing, the northern painted desert lookouts were panoramic! However, we spent too much time in the park and were late in resuming, I think we were on the road about 1pm, late!

We continued through Albuquerque (joining I25 north) to Santa Fe, again the wind. The campground was just ok, we were down in the D loop, a strangely laid-out campsite.

Spaghetti dinner. We had water and electricity, again $ cost in the mid-forties.

I-40 to Petrified National Park. I-40 to Albuquerque. North on I-25 to Santa Fe.

Day 3
Saturday, May 6
Homolovi State Park, 250 miles (AZ)
We climbed out of Laughlin, through Kingman headed east on I40. Today’s drive was about 250 miles and we arrived at Homolovi in the afternoon. It was a windy drive, very tiring to battle the vehicle.

After finding and paying for our site (#35, only $25), we headed into Winslow to “stand on the corner” (Eagles song) and check out the sites. A quick drink and cheese platter snack at the La Posada Hotel in town and back to the campsite.

Homolovi is very clean and nicely laid out, lots of space. I would stay here again for sure. There are indian ruins around the site that can be investigated if you are interested in that sort of stuff.

Highway 68 to Kingman. I-40 to Homolovi State Park.

Day 2
Friday, May 5
Riverside Resort Campground, 220 miles (AZ)
We decided to just head for the Riverside ($21) to get our bearings with the RV. We stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond and Target for supplies. We really hit the road about 11:30 am. At BBB, we picked up a queen size 3” Temperpedic mattress topper and it made all the difference in the world for sleeping!

Luch was at Panera in Barstow.

The site was fine and the electrical hookup was easy-peasy. We arrived around 3pm for Cinco De Mayo.

Highway 330, I-210, I-40 to River Road.

Day 1
Thursday, May 4
Pick up RV from Apollo RV in Bellflower.