Day Trip

day-trip1It’s greening up big time in the badlands. Prairie flowers are in bloom, leaves are finally out on the few gnarled trees, and with warmer weather on the way a lot of other attractions in the South Dakota area are finally opening up.

I’ve been sitting patiently for over three weeks, waiting for our VIP cards to come in. The Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association has this program where employees working in the tourism industry get these discounts at area attractions, the idea being that then the employees will be able to talk to their customers about these attractions and get them interested in spending their money there too. I’ve been waiting to go to any other places until I got my card, so that I wouldn’t miss out on the deals included with it.

day-trip2Well last week we all got our cards, and on my first day off this week, Monday, I ran around like a madwoman, cleaning the inside and outside of the RV, getting laundry and other chores done, so that I could have all day Tuesday to drive out and make use of my card.

Monday night I got on the computer, and googled the places I could get discounts at, trying to figure out which would be the best places to hit the next day. I started making notes on various attractions, and spent a good hour on it. By the end, I was feeling some frustration. Would it be better to make Custer State Park a whole day affair since I couldn’t get a discount there, to get the most for my money? And some places were far enough away that even with the discount the extra money for gas wouldn’t make the trip worth it if I didn’t enjoy the attraction. I went to bed Monday night still not sure exactly where I wanted to go the next day.

day-trip3By Tuesday morning the answer was as clear as the blue sky dawning overhead. I have the whole summer to see everything I want to see, and there’s no point going to attractions I can get a discount at if it doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in. Why try to rigorously schedule the whole day and feel bad if I don’t make every appointment? So I loaded some snacks, my hiking shoes, my VIP card information, and of course my camera, and I left the park heading west without a clear destination in mind.

Before long I found myself turning south, down to the other end of the badlands that is encompassed in the Pine Ridge Reservation. At CPL, we sell a lot of Native American goods that are made at Pine Ridge. I figured I’d go peek at what that end of the badlands range looked like.

day-trip4The answer is about the same as the park end, although it doesn’t seem quite as drastic a drop off from upper to lower prairie. I found a few formations that had this dark red harder layer of rock on top of the lighter gray, that was pretty neat looking.

Then I decided to cut across west, toward the black hills which were a blue smudge on the horizon. I took highway 2, which looks like a pretty major road on my google maps phone app but is actually a dirt road. There was road construction along part of it and it was all torn up with little gravel and very loose dirt. Bertha slid around some but held her ground, it’s a very good thing there hasn’t been rainfall the past few days.

Along the drive I spied several old run down houses. I don’t think anyone lived in this one pictured, there wasn’t any evidence of a driveway or tire tracks anyhow. I look at these old buildings and wonder at the history behind them. Who lived here? Why’d they leave? Where are they now? They have such great character, it’s hard not to wonder about the stories behind those old walls.

day-trip5After what felt like forever, but I think was probably an hour and a half (all dirt road, remember), I blinked and suddenly found myself at a dirt intersection in a tiny town. Buffalo Gap doesn’t have a population sign posted anywhere, but I’d be surprised if there were 100 residents. I loved the ‘main’ street though, it was lined with these stately old trees, just starting to show their summer green. Just a few miles beyond that was highway 79 which runs North to Rapid City and skirts the eastern edge of the Black Hills region.


On a whim I turned South, and after a bit of meandering found myself in Hot Springs, SD. Hot Springs seems like an artsy town. It’s got a bustling little downtown with galleries and specialty stores, a nifty looking museum perched on a hill overlooking it (closed still for the season sadly), and through it runs a clear stream – water draining down out of the black hills I’d imagine. I took a picture of a gorgeous mural covering one side of a business facing the stream, sadly this is only about 2/3 of it – I couldn’t back up far enough to catch the whole thing from the side of the stream I was on. Hot Springs also happens to have a Wells Fargo, so I was able to deposit my first pay check before the direct deposit kicked in.


The pine carpeted rocky hills around Hot Springs were sure a different experience after being so long in the Badlands. By this time it was already getting later in the day and I needed to head to Rapid City to do some shopping before heading back home, but this little peak of the region makes me excited to see more of it! I only get one day off next week, but the week after I’ll have 2 again, and I think one of them will be spent at Custer.


Until next time, have a good weekend all.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Arlon on May 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Need to learn to make a panorama from more than one picture then you don’t have to worry about getting back far enough. Nice pictures anyway!

    • Becky on May 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      My phone camera doesn’t have that option, and I’m too lazy to manually piece them together, they never quite match up right anyhow. 😛

  2. dennis smith on May 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Remember the best road to travel is a dirt road. You will see more and meet neater people

    • Becky on May 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      I just worry about what all the bouncing does to my poor truck’s suspension, which seems a little iffy at times anyway. 😛 The views were great though!

  3. Laurie on May 19, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Hi Becky, I think you have the same VIP card as me. On it there is a Mt Rushmore tour and its totally free for us. You would have to leave early to get here but you would be using the tour bus gas to see alot of the sites in the Black hills. Another very cool one was Bear country USA . You get to see baby bears and they are cute. I think you can take 44 to rapid city but dont know how long it will take. Have fun!

    Two Meal, 9-Hour Southern Black Hills Tour
    and Cowboy Music Show

    Adults: $80.00 + tax; Children 5-12: $40.00 + tax
    4 and under lap children $6.00 (meals only, bus seats not included)

    7:30 AM – Check in at Fort Hays Old West Town.
    Enjoy the “All-You-Can-Eat” Cowboy Breakfast at our Chuckwagon.

    8:50 AM – Board coach at Fort Hays Chuckwagon Dances with Wolves film set.
    Your all-day, driver-narrated tour begins with stops at:

    Mount Rushmore – We’ll spend at least an hour visiting Mount Rushmore. There is plenty of time to see all the park has to offer including the sculptor’s studio and the Lincoln Borglum Museum.

    Iron Mountain Road – We’ll wind over the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway as it takes you over Iron Mountain through scenic tunnels and pigtail bridges. Bring your camera for potential Kodak moments!

    Custer State Park – Keep your camera ready and your eyes on the lookout for wildlife like buffalo, burros, antelope, elk, and rocky mountain bighorn sheep. We’ll stop when it’s safe.

    State Game Lodge – Our lunch stop is the presidential summer White House for former president Calvin Coolidge. Here you can purchase a buffet or lunch from a menu. Try the buffalo soup!

    Needles Highway – We continue through Custer State Park up Needles Highway passing through scenic tunnels and by scenic overlooks. Keep your camera handy; there are great pictures here!

    Sylvan Lake – Stop for pictures at the spectacular man-made lake located at the bottom of Harney Peak.

    Crazy Horse Mountain and Memorial – Staying for at least 1 hour, we’ll visit the largest mountain carving in the world. You can visit the memorial and museums and learn about the sculptor Korzak Ziolkowski in his home studio museum.

    5:30 PM – Return to Fort Hays Dances with Wolves Film Set

    6:30 PM – 8:15 PM – Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Cowboy Music Show – Supper Bell rings, calling everyone to the feed line where the cowboys serve up your Chuckwagon supper on a tin plate and serve your drinks in a tin cup!

    After Supper, the Fort Hays Wranglers take the stage for over an hour of music and comedy that will have your toe tappin’, foot stompin’, and your belly shakin’ with good times. Bring your camera and capture some great memories.

    • Becky on May 19, 2013 at 11:13 am

      That certainly does look like an all inclusive trip Laurie. The paperwork for what all we get discounts for is in my truck right now, but I’ll go peek at it and see if the Rushmore thing is on there.

  4. Pleinguy on May 18, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    This is the kind of exploring I hope to do when I’m finally on the road full-timing. You never know what you’ll find. But, that’s part of the excitement of it. Thanks for the report.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Down by the RiverMy Profile

    • Becky on May 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

      You’re welcome Plein. You’re getting pretty close now, not too much longer!

  5. Mark Bryza on May 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Oops … Should have said Delaware “North”, not “South” in my previous comment! Don’t know how that happened! 🙂 Mark

  6. Mark Bryza on May 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Becky,

    You might want to consider the Wells Fargo app for your iPhone, which enables you to deposit paper checks by taking a picture. My wife Susan and I will be working for Delaware South in Yellowstone for four months, so we will also be receiving an initial paper paycheck that needs to be deposited. Susan and I love your website and are following your adventures in the Badlands this summer. The two of us (and our two dogs) will be spending our summer at Fishing Bridge residing in our Airstream. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us (and the rest of the world)!! 🙂


    • Becky on May 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Hello Mark, welcome to IO and glad to have you here!

      Yes, that check depositing part of the iPhone app is new and if it works like it should then I probably will end up getting it. I was interviewed for and offered a position at Yellowstone with Delaware North too, I ended up taking this gig instead but I hope you have fun there. Safe travels and happy trails!

  7. William on May 18, 2013 at 11:37 am

    This is how I like to travel around on my motorcycle, just follow the road and see where it leads. Though the dirt road would not have been fun for me :-).

    I remember a little of Hot Springs SD. We stopped there on our trip to the Bad Lands when I was a teenager, 30 some years ago. It reminds me of Berkeley springs here in West Virginia.
    William recently posted..My ToadMy Profile

    • Becky on May 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I think if I’d known that the dirt road wasn’t going to be in good shape for one section and that it’d be so long I probably would have taken another way. Ahh well, I saw some pretty neat things along it, like those old houses. A couple herds of horses too, but I couldn’t get close enough for a good picture of them.

  8. sandy on May 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

    love that you thought through and took the trip your heart led you to. great photos and great inspiration as we start our full timing adventure 1/3/14.

    • Becky on May 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Less than 8 months to go then Sandy, congrats! I’m glad that my writing and pictures are inspiring you.

  9. Kevin on May 18, 2013 at 9:40 am

    It sounds like you are having a marvelous time, good for you. Small towns can have some great small stores and museums to explore and you get to meet the people of the area.

    • Becky on May 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Yeah, was a fun little trip – long soft dirt road notwithstanding. I think I’ll have to wait until Memorial Day weekend for everything to be open out here, but then the crowds will be a lot heavier too. It’s give and take.

  10. John on May 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

    The “nifty” little museum in Hot Springs is pretty neat. Unfortunately a tour bus rolled in when we were there and we got included in this annoying bunch during the guided tour. We eventually dogged them and went off on our own. But it is a good display of all the bones still in place within the rock. There is a fee to enter if you are watching your dollars. I like the old shack photo.
    John recently posted..Cadillac Ranch part 2My Profile

    • Becky on May 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      That sounds like fun John, except the annoying tour group. Seeing fossils and bones in the place how they were discovered is pretty neat. 🙂

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