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All Aboard the 1880s Train

This is another tourist attraction we did not do when we were in the area this summer. I am also happy about that, because it was unique and unseen. I am surprised that we did not drive the road that runs along the train tracks. I think Roy needs to take me back to Hill City to do the back road along side the train.

The tour was not my up before dawn tour, for this I was very thankful. I need to give a shout out to all of the volunteers who checked people in when they board the bus for a tour. The first night when I was unsure of myself Jan and John took me under their wing and made sure I had my walker (although I could have used a 4×4 walker or a scooter this week.) On this tour we had Joanne doing the check-in.

old time train

Once on the bus we headed to the Hill City depot for the 1880s Train, where we were greeted by our train yard tour guide for the behind the scenes pictures. (This is where a 4×4 walker would have come in handy). I decided to shoot in black and white for the most part because for me old trains cry out for B/W. I also tried to focus on small parts of the train, this way your mind has to imagine the missing parts or figure out what it is. The steam locomotive was getting ready to start the day so there was a bit of house keeping to be done. Basically the train had to blow off steam, this is done away from the other trains and humans. So off I go back onto the grass and the shade of a big pine tree to capture a blow.

working up
there she blows




Check out the video.

there she blows

Later on down the line they had to blow it again, did not get that on film.

deer
old cabin
xing
around the bend

the 1880s train does not have a bad seat, every window opened and we had a car almost all to ourselves. This was a round trip from Hill City to Keystone and back again. So we were able to ride up on one side for that scenery and on the return catch the other side. Right outside of Hill City there is a grade that shows us how well the chant ‘I think I can I think I can I know I can is applied. (I did not have to get out and push, so that was good). The fact I was able to lean out a window and get a picture of the engine as it came around a curve was cool.

engine 108
here comes the train

Arriving at the station in Keystone we had a fifteen minute layover I did not hustle to the depot our car was in the middle of the train. I used my fifteen minutes to take pictures of changing the engine to the other end of the train. The return trip was all down hill at least we had good brakes. I will let you know that on the way back I did not hang out the window as the rocks are quite close to the train.

So not so many pictures on the way home.

Overall this was a full day for me and and I had an easy night to relax and enjoy. This is one ride I would recommend taking if you are in Hill City or Keystone SD. Spending time in each little town is also highly suggested.

A PSA Announcement

No, not a public service announcement it’s a Photography Society of America Announcement. Sadly the PSA festival in Rapid City is over but there is always next year in Colorado Springs, CO. I do need to recap this week. We couldn’t have asked for better weather (ok a few clouds would have been nice.) It did rain on Saturday but this was all good.

gears

Not knowing what to expect I arrived a day earlier walker in tow. (glad I had this and glad for a wheelchair in Denver.) Monday morning was a day to pick up registration and head over to a good ole fashioned chuckwagon at Fort Hayes near Rapid City. If the name sounds familiar that is where Kevin Costner. … Lieutenant Dunbar received his orders. It is also home to a small set of shops. We were able to come early and walk around the ground and take pictures. I just felt like trying my hand at B/W because of all the old equipment it lends itself to being shot that way.

Elvis Baby

I thought the show might be a tad hokey this is why Roy and did not do it this summer, he did not want to have me sit through it twice. It WAS NOT hokey, nothing is hokey when Elvis is involved. Yes, I was swooned by Elvis. I became fifty shades of red. Having my walker and using it as my chair I was seated on a corner. Elvis got off stage and came to me, I was able to compose myself to at least play with his red scarf. That alone was worth the price of admission.

having fun

It was a good dinner we had smashed potatoes, beans served upside down (gave us just the burps), chicken or beef, and desert. After all the food was gone it was time to get down to the show. As you can tell the crowd was excited. Other then Elvis we had MC Hammer, Willie Nelson, and others. I was impressed by some great fiddle playing from Tommy in Georgia. Here’s a photo of part of the band.

the band

So the week started out with a good meal and some embarrassment but that is the point of going on an adventure.

I was insecure about travelling and not knowing anyone so I asked a friend if she knew anyone who was going she said she could think of one but they might be very busy. Well, on Monday I was rolling through the hotel had not met many people yet so I decide to explore. Ok I was getting curious who else was attending. I walk by an open room door and see that there was a kitchen inside. So what do I do. I ask how do you rate I don’t have a kitchen, and other banter. We get around to introducing each other I say I’m Darcy. The response back was your Darcy. My thought was I didn’t do it, wasn’t me. Turns out that was JR the person who was supposed to find me. I think it was great that it all came together over an open door, and a friend who could not come. I also met Lisa (JR’s wife) and John and Kimber (more on them later).

This was my first time attending and I met so many friendly and amazing people. Wonderful how a common interest can bring people together from all over. I did the train, a sunrise in the Badlands, and Mount Rushmore. Each of these adventures is owed a story, here is a taste of the photos I took.

I Spent WHAT?

getting ready to fly
breakfast

$45 in a candy store, yes you read that right. I was buying fudge for a friend though, that is my story. This place has everything from lemon drops to a bunch of black licorice. The Sweet Palace is in the town Phillipsburg, MT the town itself is the cutest town I’ve been in since I was a kid. This was another early start day for us as we wanted to drive from Drummond to Anaconda MT as this was a suggested day drive in one of the books. At this time I am still holding out hope for animals Custer State Park spoiled me. On the way to Anaconda I see something sitting on the fence post it turned out to be a red-tailed hawk having breakfast. So I got a treat and was able to take the time to photograph it. He finally flew away and we headed to Phillipsburg.

smile
cell
911 cross

Well it was suggested I stop at the Palace so that was on the schedule. I first started out at the Police Museum. Inside was old time dispatch equipment, a cell taken from a jail that used to be a brig on a navel ship. Recycling at its best. Original court transcripts, cameras used in crime scene investigations. A cross that was made from 911 metal was an object that touched me.

the outside

After playing tacky tourist we were ready for second breakfast because we saw a sign that said homemade pasties. Of course we had to try. A pastie is like a small calzone filled with sausage and egg and covered in gravy. It is always good to eat where locals eat.

small town

With full bellys I decided to go shopping I’m glad I brought both my walker and my cooling vest I have used both this trip. Start at one end of town and walk down one side of the street and back up the other side of the street. The town’s shopping district was only 4 blocks. The stores featured local artists and made in the USA. I was able to pick up some interesting trinkets. I also checked out some t-shirt shops but picked up no t-shirts (I know shocking). On to the candy shop but not so fast, I had to stop in a sapphire shop called the Sapphire Gallery. This is where you can look for sapphires in gravel. We will see how successful we are at are October rally, I bought 3 bags of gravel. I spent a total of 4 hours in this town just exploring. I think I might have been in the candy store for at least an hour.

just a hole
close as he got
evil eyes
bucky

After getting a sugar rush we set off on a ghost town adventure. The first and only stop was the remnants of Kirkville. Here we found old buildings and some newer buildings not sure if there is any current mining going on. I did get a treat it involved a badger, the only badger I ever encountered was the University of Wisconsin football mascot. He was just hanging out in a rock enclave.

old and new

We encounter some old buildings that were worth a few landscape pictures.

old barn
old building

After exploring we went back into town and I decided to do the local museum, well worth the $5 admission. I got bold and even went down in the basement to explore some of the old relics on display.

We spent so much time exploring this area that we had to make another trip to the prison and auto museum the next day which was enjoyable in itself. I was able to get Roy’s scooter out that is a story on it own.

Wild Horses …….

beautiful
branded

not so much. I was holding out hope that maybe just maybe my Montana friend Stephanie was mistaken. She said that the ranchers are allowed to let their horse graze on state land. She also said that there are only two rogue herds and we were nowhere close. I was holding out hope though. Well, I finally was able to go through my pictures and the first dead give away was the horse trailer way in the back of one of the pictures. The second give away was the brand on the rump of the horses. That is what I get for having a lens that can see a gnat on the end of a hair. All in all I am glad they were not wild they sort of stayed put when I was fumbling with my camera.

snack time
the end

That trip found us headed to Lincoln Montana on a day where there was not much smoke in the air of course this occurred on one of our last days in Montana, but we got at least a day of clear skies. Starting out in the morning by finding a geocache which had a special coin in it from a special lady.

TSUN
TSUN

More on her in another post. We then headed over the Continental Divide where you found out we were divided and I don’t know where the record button is. We did see a few young elk before we got into the mountain and that was all for large wild animals. You can also say I walked a part of the Continental Divide trail when I got out to take a picture of the sign. My story and sticking to it.

divide
cloudy day

There was also this random cloud I thought I would share.

cool art

A total surprise that popped up out of the wild is called Sculpture in the Wild.

This is right before Lincoln Montana. I did not walk the whole area but was able to get two pictures of the close in sculptures. I did see a cute chipmunk that I tried to capture playing on a log, I did get him just sitting there though.

nature

It is interesting how the artists were able to capture nature in man made structures. Lincoln was a town where you blink twice you will miss it.

We did see two sandhill cranes on our way to Helmville, Montana.

rare sight

Why did we go there just to say we went there. It has some weathered buildings so I was able to practice more of landscape and composition.

weather beaten

Back on the road we pulled over one more time to catch what we thought were pelicans, no pictures though because they were sitting right in the sun. I did get a few pictures of geese that were also in the pull out.

overlook

One of the high points of this drive was to get a picture from the overlook above Helena I am glad the smoke cleared out. This drive was a great way to end our time in Montana.

In Search of

peek a boo
Look close

animals, birds and maybe a unicorn. Yes unicorns do exist, I have photographic prove but more on that later. After getting directions from a friend (thank you Stephanie) with the hope of seeing animals we were off early in the am headed toward Recreation Road north of Helena. The road runs along the Missouri River and I-15 and a train track. We saw one deer and a very cute squirrel even though he would not give me a good position to photograph I’m ok with it. I went to change my position and he was gone. Today was mainly focused on birds because we were near the water the whole way. The first group of birds we came across were white pelicans very plump white pelicans. They have plenty of food here. I took some time zooming in and out on this line of pelicans who were just hanging out.

just hanging out

We did pass a bar and quite a few fishing spots, it was in one of these I was able to get a few pictures of an osprey who was hunting down dinner. I am also learning how to make sure my camera settings match what I am trying to shoot. Sometimes I’m finding out you have to be ready for anything. Later in the day I was not prepared to shoot the golden eagle who appeared on scene when I was getting ready to shoot some rafters. So yes the golden eagle is still on my bucket list. One day I know it will happen. I am jumping way ahead so back to the osprey.

incoming
skimming the air

This pull out had 2 pelicans just hanging out so I thought you can’t have too many pelican photos. I was pleasantly surprised to see this osprey soaring and diving. I actually had to take the time to focus and realize what I was seeing. In my opinion the osprey always seems to have this determined look on their faces when they fly and hunt. It is also real calming for me to watch how graceful these birds are.

just watching

He finally flew down river and I was able to turn my direction back to the two pelicans.

on the move soon

They were just standing on two rocks chilling. In fact if you look closely you can see the osprey in front of the two pelicans. They were hanging around although starting to get upset with what was coming up the river.

noisy boat
more nerves

It just happened to be a boat with two fishermen in it. The boat did slow down so as not to totally scare them away.

here they come

bye bye

So after my subjects flew the coop we headed down the road to the Hardy bridge which is near the end of Recreation road. I did get out and take a few landscape pictures of the bridge just for practice.

Hardy Bridge

So after the bridge we turned around and head back home the same way we came. Why do we do this, because you never know what you will see. You might just see a unicorn. We pass an area where there are a bunch of rafts getting ready to launch down the river and there it was the unicorn. We had an advantage of no schedule so we could do a u-turn and park, wait and take pictures. This is exactly what I did. I set my camera for not involving fast action so I would be ready for pictures. The kicker to this one is this is when I saw the golden eagle and a bald eagle. I snapped away just hoping I might of caught one. (I just wasn’t fast enough to change settings).

I am sharing the pictures and letting them tell the story. The second group with the unicorn asked if I was with them I said no just stumbled on the craziness. Speaking of the craziness the water fight between two boats was hilarious.

My goal for this week before we leave is to bring a chair find a spot and hope to catch a golden eagle playing on the river. I did have fun capturing the unicorn though.

Augusta and Veggies

Not Georgia but the veggies are fresh. We decided to take a Sunday drive on Saturday. The travel magazine said visit a town with a western flair on your way stop and buy some chickens and vegetables from the Hutterite Colony, we stopped there on the way home. More on that later.

The drive over was uneventful as far as animals which is ok. We did see a prong horn and about a zillion cows, no big birds. I did however find out where dinosaur eggs come from, Egg Mountain Montana. In 1977 this is where two people who owned a rock shop found some juvenile dino bones. The funny thing with this drive is we stumbled upon the historical marker that mentions the eggs. This is all part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. So many old bones hanging around to keep Roy company. The drive over actually had us driving on a high plateau I really felt I was on top of the world on the way home we were in the valley. Pulling into Augusta we drive through town and my first thought was cute small town.

Augusta is a town of about 500 people everyone knows everyone reminded me of Ely, NV. I had to use the rest room so what better place then a gas station. Turns out this was a combo old gas station/coffee shop/gift store. I was able to strike up a conversation with the young lady working there. I asked her what it was like living in a small town, she chuckled. They have a school that goes from k-12 and there are only 100 children attending it. She had 8 people in her graduating class. Now that is small. She also said that sometimes you run out of things to do. I told her that happens anywhere. I left after more locals started coming in and she needed to get to work. So I went exploring in the town stopped in an antique store and found a necklace made of an old spoon (this is going to make a great gift). A stop in the store next door put me in touch with an Army Linguist reason that meant something to me was when I was going to join the Army right out of high school that was what I was going to be. It was interesting to hear what might have been. I just am glad I got to serve in the Army sometime in my life. I find out that he wasn’t born and raised in Augusta so I asked why come here he said his wife was born and raised. You could tell how happy he was to have this store which was new and to live in a small town. He now works for the VA and turned me on to something I need to check out when I get home. We talked about why he did not re-enlist he was going to be deployed again and he wanted to be more at home understandable. The interesting thing is he is now in the National Guard as an officer in a chemical unit he chose that MOS because they have never deployed in recent history. Call it Kismet his unit of 13 people are deploying in September. We chuckled at the chance of that. One of his bright side comments was at least I will have my job waiting for me. It is amazing how friendly and down to earth people in this town are.

Lunch time we had a choice of 4 restaurants all bars/casinos so how do you make a choice you ask a local. On a side note; casinos are side rooms off a liquor store bar or restaurant. Each casino can have up to 20 machines and the maximum single payouts are $800. We settled on the Buckhorn which had to be a good place because the first thing I notice is they had a dart machine. The second thing I noticed was the smiling waitress. Roy noticed the gizzards and burrito on the menu. Sadly they were out of both so he settled for a burger. He did say that the burger was very good and hand pressed. I think he was ok without the gizzards. It was relaxing to be able to sit back and feel at home. The western feel to the town was also present at the Buckhorn because I think everyone had cowboy hats and boots on except for the on in rubber boots.

Heading home we took the low road and were able to barely make out the plateau we had driven on to get to Augusta. Yes we are fighting the smoke from wildfires. The sucky part of the smoke is it limits my photo ops because you can’t photograph what you can’t see. We head back towards Helena and stop at the Hutterite Colony to buy those veggies we saw on the way up. If you want to read an overview of Hutterite click here. I was expecting something similar to a road side fruit stand totally not the case. It is just that a colony you drive in and see that they have their own concrete plant, a hog processing plant, the chicken area and a green house. The reason we noticed all that is to get to the fresh veggies they take you around the whole complex. They did not have many veggies for sale some cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and onions. I bought two onions and headed out. The onions were definitely fresh and homegrown and very good. It was interesting to see how the women were dressed and how shy they were dealing with me. I was surprised by the lack of veggies wrong season I guess to grab more veggies. I am glad I was able to get a glimpse into this colony.

When we got back to Helena we were back in the smoke bowl. It seems every year we are battling smoke or fire at sometime to put a crimp in our plans. I am ok with that because you just adjust and change plans. I do like these short side trips we have been taking hopefully we can do a few ghost towns before we leave. We do have a train/trolley ride that takes us around the capitol/historic Helena.

Hey Bear

Yes, that is what you say when you come up on a bear in Alaska. No, I am not in Alaska. I was, however at Bear Country USA in Rapid City, SD. This is a drive thru wild animal park that has lions, buffalos, and bears. No tigers maybe one day I will get to Africa. I do have to say I was impressed with the amount of wide open spaces were provided for the animals in a near urban environment. After entering the gate and reading the rules, one rule was; pull to the side when taking pictures so cars can go around you. That rule was not observed by many, that was ok because it gave me more opportunity to take mountain lion pictures. I am getting ahead of myself though. Another rule was to leave your windows up at all time. On the flier you get upon entering it states ‘Stay in your cage the animals roam free here.’ There are no fences, so it is possible that you could have a visitor in your window. That might not be fun, although someone would get awesome pictures (just kidding).

no cares
Nice

The first animals right inside the gate is rocky mountain elk it was amazing the size of some of the bucks racks. The photos do not tell the whole story. This is where we encountered our first of many traffic snarls. This one was animal crossing the road. They are bigger so yes they have the right to go anywhere. We see a few reindeer hanging out by the cattle guard that separate the sections.

Around a curve we come upon two artic wolves lounging on a rock. It was a tad warm for wearing a fur coat so I understand not wanting to move. The next two animals were in hiding dall sheep and timber wolves. One of the wolves were on the passenger side of the car but I could not get a good picture.

The big horn sheep did not disappoint me with a baby who was nursing.

balance
mother’s milk

The nursing seems to be a repeating theme this year. I am ok with this because it is special to see the interaction between mother and baby. I was also entertained by one of the kids trying to balance on a stump just using three legs.

Pretty Kitty

People who know me, know I have a few animals I still need to capture, (preferably in the wild). One being the polar bear the other is the mountain lion. After seeing the mountain lion behind a couple of electric fences I am ok with not seeing this one in the wild.

As we were driving by the enclosure one of the big cats were cranky and you could hear her displeasure quite clearly. Most of the lions were hanging out sleeping in concrete culvert I am thinking wow pretty kitty. I see the head and paws of the lion in the corner and my thought is yes this is close enough. I still want to see a polar bear in the wild.

I’m getting out
drip dry

Onward slowly to the bears because we have a bear walking down the road next to cars, he got off the road before he made it to our car. The path wound around a few man made culverts and tree structures that the bears seemed to enjoy. One that got some use was the ‘lake’ I was able to catch a bear getting out of the water.

too late
Don’t look

On the way out of the bear area we had our own flasher bear. I think he was trying to hide behind a blade of grass. We finished up the trip by me dodging the rain drops to pick up some special things for my friends back home. This is well worth the trip if you are ever in Rapid City. It is not your normal zoo.

Not My Kind of Excitement

Imagine sitting in your trailer listening to the jets over head and the lawn mowers mowing outside then you here smack, thud. Well, Roy and I did not have to imagine it. This is exactly what happened to us. We are staying at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota and this week the big boys are playing so maybe I might catch one or two on camera. Last night all we saw were the afterburn from the engines as they took off. (That is a story for another day.) Back to the excitement at hand.

I will say I do not remember ever seeing safety glass shatter and spider web like this, so it did its job. This is one time I am glad I overslept, we were to be headed up to Deadwood and wanted an early start. I just could not get moving so I got Roy up saying sorry I just couldn’t get going. So, I’m in my pjs drinking coffee and figuring out when we want to go or if we want to go, when the rock struck the window on the slide side of the trailer where we have two windows. Guess what, decision made home we stayed.

cracked

The funny in a weird way thing is not more than a minute before this happened, I was getting warm and decided to turn on the air, so all the windows had to be closed. If the window was open the whole thing could have ended up on the ground in a million pieces, or it could have come through the screen. I spring into oh my do I need to get dressed before I run out there, put on shoes, or just go. I decided to just go. I can’t run so I am waddling trying not to fall down, I have to catch him and get his attention. After a few hand gestures on my part he turned off the mower and took out his earplugs. His comment to me was I couldn’t have done it I am over here, but I will call my manager. I grabbed my phone and snapped a few pictures and waited.

chips do fall

The manager came and was very apologetic, which was nice. There was no question what happened and that they would get a glass place to fix it while we were here. That sounded great, until you checked all the boxes. She comes back and says they could replace it except due to ‘COVID’ they can’t get the glass so it would be about 3 weeks, they will make it right. So we thought if we could get Lance (trailer manufacturer) to overnight the glass would that work. Yes, someone could install it. We call Lance come to find out you can not just replace the glass you have to do both windows frame and all. Only problem they have none in stock and it is a 3 to 6 week wait. So that would not work either.

The result of all this is we now have a window that has sticky stuff over it to keep all the pieces together and an appointment to get it replaced in September. I do have to say this is one time I am glad my body said you are not getting up. If everything went as planned we would have been gone and wondered what had happened. In the end no one was hurt and all is well.

Taped in place
Inside looking out

Raindrops and Rainbows

I learned a lesson never leave the trailer without a camera. We are spending our last night in Wall SD on the edge of the Badlands NP so we headed to dinner in Quinn. Quinn is the next town over and the sign states population 44, there is a steak house and bar – 2 Bit Saloon and Steakhouse (yes I did get a t-shirt). This place made Roy and I feel so at home the first time, we came back for a dinner a couple of nights later. That is when the rain came.

I have to say this summer we have encountered more rain then any of our other trips. It is enjoyable to listen to the thunder and watch the lightening although hearing hail is not a nice sound. This did happen one of the nights we were in Wall. Tonight though the cell that passed over Wall and Quinn had no hail only thunder and lightening and lots of rain. So after dinner we decided to take a drive to the Badlands and see erosion in progress. Wind and water has been working their magic on these mountains for eons.

The Shelf and RVs

So the sun came out on our way out of the park and we got lucky with a double rainbow. I am so glad I had my cell phone and can share the rainbow and cloudburst pictures. There is also a picture showing RVs camping on the wall that overlooks the Badlands. This is a boondocking site and it is on the side of the cliff, amazing views for sure and extremely popular.

So enjoy the pictures and I promise to bring a camera with me everywhere.