Getting to South Dakota

There is only so much I can say about a four day drive out to South Dakota plus four days of working from Custer. It is not the stuff blogs are made of.

Night one was a Cracker Barrel in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Reasonably safe, although a bit loud. I have to say Cracker Barrel really needs to work on their to-go game via their app. I will probably do dine in next stay. Still, a safe place to sleep plus huge breakfast for less than $15 is a win.

An hour down the road I stopped at Kickapoo State Park to work for the morning. I found a nice little picnic area and set up office with my Jackery and hot spot. It was lovely working in the sun and Blue got a long lead to explore a field – where she found and immediately devoured an old greenie lost by a previous dog. Her version of road food is definitely gross.

The trip across Illinois was unremarkable except a little gas tank roulette where I coasted into Iowa on fumes for gas that was about 60 cents cheaper per gallon. I am carrying a couple gallons in a spare tank, so I did have a plan B.

I stopped at the World’s Largest Rest Area for food court dinner, but it was kind of the Wish version of a Buc-cee’s – kind of run down and dated. It was just a quick stop and I got in a few more hours. I found that Casey, Iowa had a city park with campsites for $10 and that seemed like a no-brainer. Signs from the highway made the park easy to find, and I kind of guessed at the location of the sites by the location of the electric posts. I would guess there are four sites – two back-ins and two places to pull off the gravel road. The pull-off sites were right under street lights so I opted to back into a spot in the trees. It wasn’t super level, but good enough for one night. I was pleased to find the 20amp post worked and was sufficient to kick on the AC. It was kind of a sticky night and wouldn’t have been pleasant without at least taking the worst of the heat out of the air.

It was unclear how to pay for the site initially. After I was settled in, I noticed a sign to pay at the bathhouse. I walked Blue over there to find a notice that the park is currently closed for tree removal. I was far too tired to pack back up and leave at that point so decided to risk staying the night. I was not super obvious if police happened by, so I turned off all the lights and prepared to head out fairly early in the morning.

It was a good decision and I slept well. Blue got a quick walk around town and then we were back on the road. I was a little bit ahead of schedule so decided to make a detour to Sioux Falls. I found a Blue Beacon there and asked them to wash the worst of the Iowa Bug Massacre from the front the trailer. An hour further west on I-90 and I was once again covered in bug debris, but I like to think it made a bit of difference.

I had more time to kill before the check in time at my Harvest Host so I stopped at the Cabelas in Mitchell. One of the things they never tell you about traveling with dogs is how much time you spend walking in gross areas, waiting for your dog to poop. And most gas stations, rest areas, and parking lots are absolutely filthy. If you have a dog that delights in eating discarded wing bones it adds another element of disgust. Generally speaking, I have found the parking lots at Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops to be nice and clean, so I opted to let Blue do a long smell walk around the store.

I had hoped to briefly stop at the Corn Palace. If you have never been, this is a large exhibition building elaborately decorated with South Dakota agricultural products – a must see in the world;s largest ball of twine sense. As I approached, I realized it was also time for the corn festival and the surrounding blocks were filled with rides and food vendors. The RV parking lot was filled with carnival workers’ trailers. I did not feel like finding onstreet parking for the rig and I was able to check into my Harvest Host, so I gave up on the Corn Palace for now.

Blue Stem Acres was actually my first ever Harvest Host stay. I have been a member for almost a year, but the program is not ideal for the way I usually travel. I tend to either do long days or stay someplace for several nights. I booked this on a whim and am so glad I did. When I arrived, I was greeted by Angie with a price list of extras she offers. I opted for electricity as it was still a little warm out and they parked me along side the barn. They gave me a little guidance and then allowed me space to get set up. When I was settled, I wandered into the garage where Angie had a table of baked goods available for purchase. I could have gone crazy with one of each because it all looked delicious, but I settled for some pumpkin bread. We chatted a while until the other couple showed up. Turns out they were from Lebanon, Ohio! I took the opportunity to head back to the trailer for dinner.

The true host of the farm was Nala, the Burmese Mountain Dog. After a long day in the truck, Blue wanted nothing more than for Nala to chase her, but Nala thought that was pretty stupid. So the two dogs decided they would not be friends. The casual truce lasted until I started reheating pizza. I get the impression Nala has learned that campers may share their dinners and I found her waiting patiently outside my door as soon as I started messing with anything in the kitchen.

The evening was lovely and I had my first “I’m on vacation” moment as I watched the swallows swoop for bugs in the field. The wind blew steadily, cooling the late August evening and thwarting the worst of the thick flies. Blue supervised the cows in the pen behind us. Reds and oranges and pinks faded to deep indigo as the sun set across the plain. I am sure the night stars would have been spectacular if I had the energy to stay up.

I wasn’t in a tremendous rush to get out the next morning, so took a few minutes to organize the trailer and take Blue for a walk before heading out. The drive to Custer wasn’t super long, but it was my fourth day in a row of driving. I was very glad to arrive, get set up, and settle in to stream the latest House of the Dragon episode before heading to bed.

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