Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To the Badlands!

May 21

Morning comes with sunrise over the big-rig on the east end of the gas station parking lot we spent the night in.  Hubs is completely beat and it takes a cup of coffee to revive him.  

We see our second Airstream of the trip gassing up at the station across the road.

This drive is only a few hours and we soon find ourselves in Wall, SD.  Our destination is the famous Wall Drug, founded in the early 1900's and built into a block-long empire of kitsch based on promises of free ice water.   There is an ample RV parking lot behind the opposite buildings so we can leave the pugs in the trailer and walk.  Having been here before, we skip the touristy part of Wall Drug and head straight for the Hot Beef Sandwich served in their cafeteria.  After obligatory pictures with the giant Jackalope, we fill two jugs with free ice water and drive towards Badlands National Park.

At the entrance booth, we buy an annual National Park pass while the dogs make rabid threats from their crate at the park booth attendant.  Hubs is near the boiling point with their misbehavior and we are both contemplating feeding them to the first bison we come across.  

Finally…FINALLY!!  We have reached the Badlands! 

The Sage Creek campground is about 12 miles down a dirt road and is free (after park entrance costs) for up to 14 days.  With no water or electric, almost everybody that comes is either tent camping or car camping.  

It takes two tries to get Sputnik level and even then we still slope slightly down hill, but the views are breathtaking.  


Um…there is a bison just a few yards from our Airstream.  

It is now scratching itself on the horse hitching post and horse corral.  

Delicious Campers...Mmmm
There are about ten of them scattered on the south side of the campground and over the course of the afternoon they migrate slowly northward.  More campers are showing up by the hour until the campground is full.  It is unusual for these grounds to be so populated on a Wednesday evening, but Memorial Day is on Monday and the campers are sure to be out in force in this nice weather after such a brutal winter.  

A young couple park their car a little ways down from us, but after having a bison amble just a few feet from their site, the girl gets scared and they move to the other end of the campground.  

Watching the campers and bison is better than TV!  One girl is walking a cat on a leash.  A couple of people try to get too close to the bison for pictures.  One bison doesn't take kindly to it and lopes menacingly toward them.

These are one ton hairy cows with bad tempers, and I would rather stay alive and use a longer lens, thanks.

By this time the buffalo have made it over to the North end of camp and are surrounding the tent of the couple that moved to get away from them!

The bison are molting their winter coats and will rub and roll against anything to get the itchy fur off.  Clumps of thick brown hair are scattered here and there.  

One bison lays down and rolls, then looks like it is trying to get up.  I pull out the binoculars and realize it is scratching its bum on the ground.  

Dinner is a simple fare of black beans and rice, and as sunset streams over the hill and through our bedroom window, we leave the dogs in the Airstream and go exploring.

Dodging bison pies bigger than dinner plates (and much thicker), we wend our way back down the hill before it gets too dark to see them.

We invite the couple van camping next to us over for a glass of wine.  Kevin and Zoe are French Canadians from Montreal on a six month tour of the US.  For you Francophiles, here is their blog

Zoe is on a roller-derby team in her home town and they both speak English beautifully, which is unusual for their area.  We hear about just how bad winter can get up north and that their province has a designated lease-termination day of July 1st, so everybody moves on the same day!  The streets are filled with moving boxes and it sounds like the last day of College but on a massive scale.  Moving trucks must be rented months in advance and poor Kevin has spent many birthdays either moving or helping friends move. 

 We feel an instant friendship with Zoe and Kevin and talk long into the evening until their single-candle mobile campfire burns out.   

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