Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Journey to the Black Hills

Hello to you all from the sunny and gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota! We're having a lovely time, TODAY in and around Custer State Park. Let me catch you up to speed. Please sit back with a nice cup of coffee or glass of ice tea and let us begin. Now sit right back and I'll tell a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

Instead of leaving Monday as originally planned, we left on Sunday right after church. We thought it would be nice to break the nine hour day into two days instead of just one long day of driving. Well, first we had to go home, change clothes and pack up the truck with everything we had ready to go. Then get Zoey from Mandy's and then to storage to hitch up the camper. About 15 miles up I-29 I couldn't find my project bag with my socks in it. Now, you all know that's a disaster. All we could think was that it fell out of the truck at the storage place when we were hitching up. So we turned around and went back. All while pulling a 30 foot trailer! We got there and nope, it wasn't on the ground anywhere. I went to climb back into the truck and guess what was wedged somehow between the seat and the door. Yep. The Bag. Only 45 minutes and 30 miles or so wasted. Oh well. Dennis didn’t say a word. He is the absolute BEST husband. It was even his idea to turn around and go back. I just said to forget it.

So on we journeyed. As we continued up I-29 toward Sioux City, the water kept getting higher all around us. Yep. The Mighty Missouri River is flooding big time. As we went through Sioux City we saw lots of things underwater including a whole bunch of campers at a campground, with water up to the air conditioners on their roofs! The interstate had water almost to the road on both sides too! Onward we persevered. I started to feel like an explorer and adventurer when I saw trucks full of sand between Sioux City and Sioux Falls S.D., a stretch of about 70 miles or so. They were taking it to fill sandbags to put on the river dikes. Mandy called and apparently the interstate was being completely closed right behind us as the water had gone over the roadway.

We did make it to our campground in Mitchell, SD and had a nice dinner of leftover pizza from the night before. Congratulating ourselves on the fact that we outran the flood, (that is now threatening Omaha and points further south), but I digress.

We left our campground around 8:00 Monday morning to continue on our approximately 4 hours left to our campsite in Custer.  We thought we would be there by 1:00 easily, giving us lots of time to set up, explore a bit and relax. Well.....

that's what we thought. About here, in the middle of nowhere South Dakota, about 40 miles from the nearest big/small town of Wall...

This happened. (See Photo below.) A flat tire you ask? Nope. A blowout on the truck that scared me half to death. Have you ever had a BLOWOUT happen while you're pulling a 30 foot trailer? It's nothing like getting a plain old flat tire, let me assure you. Dennis handled it like a champ. He got us off the main lanes of the interstate and turned the truck off and turned to me. The first thing he said was, "Good thing we got AAA". We have never, ever had AAA before. In all of our travels we never did. A flat tire? He changed it. Anything that came up? He handled it. About two months ago we got some junk mail from AAA asking us to join. Dennis said maybe we should think about this if we're planning to camp and travel more. So we did. Best $35 we ever spent.

Remember, we were in the middle of nowhere. He called AAA, where a very nice lady said we would get a text soon, (very soon, while he was still talking to her.) Dispatch had it and would call. He hung up and within a few seconds the next call came from dispatch. She said it had been sent to a tow truck driver, asked a few questions about the truck and said he would call. Yep. He was calling before Dennis hung up with her. The driver said he was about 50 miles away, (big surprise, remember, we were in the middle of nowhere), but that he would be there ASAP. He asked if the truck had dual back wheels. If we were safe or if he should send police to guard us with their lights. We said no to both and sat back to wait. Forty-five minutes later he was there. He was the nicest young man. He refused a bottle of water or diet pepsi. Did I mention it was HOT out? We couldn't run the truck while we waited because we had planned to get diesel in the next town and we didn't want to use it up.

He had the tire changed in about 45 minutes to an hour. Of course it was driver side tire with all of the traffic whizzing by. I couldn't believe how many people didn't get over into the left lane while he was lying on the ground. Even if it had been a flat, there was no way Dennis could have changed it. It took both of them to get the spare out from under the truck and the blown tire into our backseat. They're heavy! Plus, he had a super heavy duty jack that just pumped the truck up and Zoey and I sat inside the truck for the entire time.

So off we went, after giving him our unending gratitude and multiple thank you's. We did get fuel in the next town. Oh, I forgot to tell you that he told us where the nearest tire dealer was because he felt we probably needed to get it replaced very soon and get the spare off. Just as we were leaving the highway in Rapid City, SD., the truck started shimmeying and shaking again. We crept the remainder of the 4.8 miles to the tire place, praying the entire time.  Oh my goodness.

The guys there were amazing. They had all of our information in their system because we had just bought tires for the CRV a few months ago at their store in Omaha. A nice young man came out to look at the blown tire with Dennis and couldn't believe we didn't crash. There was virtually nothing left on the rim. THEN, he looked at the front tires with Dennis. We couldn't believe it. They were both ready to blow with big blobs of rubber coming out the sides. Again, he couldn't believe we made it there with those tires. So, to end the story, we ended up purchasing four VERY, VERY expensive new truck tires.  Very frustrating because the ones that blew? Only had 10,000 to 15,000 miles on them. Apparently the extreme heat is causing this to happen quite often. The tires had separated inside and just literally blew apart.

They got all four new tires balanced and remounted and on the truck in about 15 minutes. No joke. I couldn't believe it. Again, while Zoey and I sat in the truck with the camper still attached.  As we continued down a different highway toward Mt. Rushmore, neither of us could believe how nice the ride was. It was so smooth. We had been bouncing on those blown up tires for two days and had just gotten used to it.

Here's the tire as we sat on the interstate waiting for AAA to arrive. I HIGHLY recommend them. From Dennis's call to them, to the dispatcher calling and then the driver calling couldn't have been more than three or four minutes! We are so grateful we got it and we'll never let it lapse. It was a great experience, well except for the actual flat tire. :-)

This is how we ended the day. All set up at Fort Welikit in Custer, SD. We've been here several times over the past couple of years and it's become our favorite campground anywhere. Close to everything and very quiet. Although it IS the place where Dennis broke his hand last year. :-) I got a different spot this time to try to make sure he didn't repeat the experience.  Oh, instead of the leisurely dinner I planned to make, grilling pork chops, a salad and potatoes. We ate the last of the leftover pizza and had the pork chops tonight.

This is the back of our campsite. Even with all of the jolting around, nothing was broken in the trailer and all of the drawers and doors were still closed. Unbelievable. 

Today we drove through Custer State Park and relived some memories of when the kids were small and we camped at Bluebell Campground every year. 

This is Stockade Lake.

Isn't it gorgeous? We adore the Black Hills more than anywhere else in the world that we've been. Since Dennis has traveled the entire world with his work, that's saying something.

Tonight, in the late evening we drove the Wildlife Loop Road. The best times are early morning and evening because the animals are much more active and boy were they. We saw bison, deer, antelope, prairie dogs, wild burros, mountain goats and something else I can't remember.

Literally hundreds of these big guys.

So close I could touch them if I stuck my hands out the window. Which I did not.

Oh so many baby buffalo with their mama's. They were so cute running after their mama's. It was like they were saying "Wait for me, my legs don't work too well yet." We saw a couple of the babies trip over their own legs and tumble over and over. So cute.

Zoey was very interested in all of the animals and watched everyone of them without making a sound. I think she was a bit intimidated by the size and sheer numbers of the bison.

This antelope was right next to the truck too. 

The wild burro's...

who like to be fed by the strangers coming to gawk at them.

The scenery goes from mountainous with trees to prairie around the corner.

I thought this cloud was beautiful. Most afternoons it rains for a few minutes in the Hills.

Just as we were leaving the Wildlife Loop we saw this Mama antelope with FIVE babies. They can't all be hers can they?

We also saw a Mama deer with her fawn and several other deer near our campground, but I wasn't fast enough with the camera.

Sorry about writing a book tonight, but I didn't know what to leave out. As I said, we can't say enough good things about AAA. If you've been on the fence about using them, don't be. Just do it!

We'll stay here a few more days and then head to our son's in Montana. We're staying at a KOA there and we cannot wait to see our grandkids. It's been a year and that's way to long for this Grandma.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and I'll hopefully be back with much better stories to tell soon. Love to you all.

Blessings and hugs,


  1. We were just watching the destruction from the flooding in SD on The Weather Channel this morning. Unbelievable. Houses just flattened by the water. So sad.
    AAA has saved my life more than once. I wouldn't be without it.

  2. Obviously, a Guardian Angel was watching over you on the interstate! Prayers for safe travel.

  3. Check out the Purple Pie Palace in downtown Custer. Great lunch place and the pies are wonderful. Vonda

  4. As I read your account of the harrowing trip that you had I could hardly absorb all the troubles you had...just one thing after another. I'm so thankful that you made it safely. Now I hope there's been enough excitement. Rest and relax.

  5. Wow-a blowout in a car going only 45mph is harrowing enough-I can't imagine! so grateful to God for your safety! Enjoy the beauty all around you--thanks for sharing it with us!

  6. That blown tire is so scary!

    You live in a very beautiful country!

    May the rest of your trip be a little less eventful than the start.

  7. Wow your stories are always soooo amazing. I'm so glad that everything ended up turning out all right. whew. Praying that your continued trip will go just ducky and all will be well. Bless you both.

  8. My goodness, so glad you had help on this trip. Love all the photos.

  9. Gad you are both safe and that the camper is fine. What a scary experience!!! The Black Hills truly are beautiful. Enjoy the balance of your trip.

  10. I was wondering if you guys left Omaha or not with all the flooding in Iowa...so much water. I had a tire blow once...scared me because it was like a gunshot! Glad you are both ok and have new tires for the rest of the trip:)

  11. Oh my gosh. First, I have to say, I thought we had set a record for money spent in the last month, but I bet the unexpected purchase of those tires was a budget buster, too. But gosh. HOW BLESSED that nothing worse happened. I cannot imagine the sound and experience of that tire blowing! There was a reason you got that AAA mailing and I am so happy that you had such a great experience all the way around. And that you are finally safe at the campground. What an experience.

  12. Wow, I'm glad you and Dennis are doing ok after the tire incident and going through an area that was flooding ๐Ÿ˜ณ . I'm glad you had help with AAA and new tires. We've had AAA for years and used it a few times. The view of animals thst saw were beautiful and your dog didn't get too upset to bark. When I got off I-5 Thursday morning and waited to turn left onto a road to go to Turner, there were 2 deers that went across the bridge. A bit before 9 a.m. Good to see then ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ˜€. Enjoy the rest of your trip and God bless you both and keep you safe. See you in a few weeks, Becky
    P/S. The scripture verses you shared matched what I heard at a class ar the NW Christian Convention ✝️ on Thursday. ❤️

  13. Luckily everything worked out in the end!!
    The place is amazing!
    Such beautiful flora and fauna and an amazing lake!!
    Have a great time in such a heavenly place!!

  14. Wow! I'm so glad that you and Dennis weren't hurt with that tire blowout. You both stay so calm and don't let things like that upset you. Have a wonderful time visiting with your son and his family.

  15. So glad to read you, Dennis and Zoey are safe and sound. That was quite an adventure! I hope your weekend is quiet.

  16. Oh what beautiful pictures except for the blown out tire. How fortunate that you didn't have an accident! Whew! I got AAA a few years ago and just a few weeks ago I came out to a flat tire in my driveway and they came out within 45 minutes and my s pare was flat so he over inflated mine with the leak and said I could make it to the tire place and I did. He was very nice and I was very glad I had signed up for it! So glad you got to your campsite safe and sound! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Safe travels from here on in! Hugs ~ Sam

  17. My goodness, what a story indeed! I am so thankful that "all's well that ended well" as Pa Ingall would say :) The Lord was watching out for you - just getting across the interstate with the flooding too! I know you are having a marvelous time in Montana, and you are probably in Washington by now. Hoping that you are able to enjoy yourself, even with the heat! Blessings to you dear friend!