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.

old cabin
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.


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

$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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Animals Out In Front

of our dashcam. This year we have really been able to catch the animals running out in front of us. I have enjoyed being able to go back and get second and third glances of animals, or things I thought were animals. It is a plus when they hang out in front of the car because I can share these with you. I grew up in the Midwest so I have a little experience with deer running out in front of the car. I will say it is usually at night from a flat corn field. I will preface the video with I am glad Roy is the driver, because I would have thrown my hands up and screamed because I thought it was close. (it wasn’t that close)

Jumped Right Out There

During our stay at Custer we were also treated to a jokester who was this turkey kept wanting to weave back and forth. I think he was a wild turkey who was drinking his own brand. (remember my story lol). This guy trotted in front of us and then would not let us pass first one side of the road and then the other side of the road. This was a road less traveled in Custer State Park. I think it occurred when we were looking for you guessed it buffalo.

Turkey Trot
Double Cross

Also during one of our many dirt road adventures we came around a corner and saw a mom and baby pronghorn running like the wind. I never did see what was chasing them or what spooked them I do know I caught it on dashcam.


This buffalo I want to share with you did not cross in front of the car he did get close though. We were just driving up the road minding our own business, ok we were out just for an after dinner drive. I see this large black spot getting closer and closer I realize buffalo, (side note here why are the backsides so narrow?) so we slow down and watch. Roy also makes a U-turn so I can get a better picture with my cellphone, because I forgot my camera. I also wanted to show the right way to not be blocked by anything in the car when taking a picture, the kid in the sun roof has the right idea.

Living Large

The dash cam is still delivering and I will be sharing more of these adventures in the next few blogs, plus you can always find them under the 2021 videos tab.

When You are Glad Roy

Doesn’t have a camera close by. Yes it is true I do goofy stuff. So I admit it. This trip has been filled with some of those times here are a few. I want a picture of the full moon rising over Mount Rushmore. Metal rails make good horses. Roy is definitely not a princess. Rocks are animals in hiding. Knowing I don’t have everything but me thinking I do.

  • Roy is not a Princess now please remember this is my story. I was running out of logical places to put things on this trip, so where do you store something flat under the mattress. This was a good place because I wasn’t going to be making the bed until we got to where we were going anyway. Well Roy has a three legged seat cane he uses sometimes, I know he needs it so under the mattress it went. I forgot about it and he wanted to use it, I then proceeded to basically tear the trailer and car apart looking for it, because I knew it was here. This is where Roy Not being a Princess comes in,,, Only a Princess could feel a pea under so many mattresses, why couldn’t Roy feel the cane. If he only had a camera to see me racking my brain.
  • Rocks are animals in hiding. The camera that would have been needed here would be for my face the look of I’m sure it was. I am amazed at how many things rocks especially look like animals. This does though mainly happen when I’m almost asleep so my defense is not paying attention.
  • For some reason I insisted that the full moon could rise over Mount Rushmore, (it can if I make up a picture) I just could not get it into my head the direction relation. Camera was needed here because of the light bulb that went on when I grasped it.
  • Knowing I don’t have everything and thinking I do. I do not know why but this caught him laughing hysterically. I have to say he did though plant the seed in my brain. It was during one of the night shoots, I was almost done and he asks “Am I going to leave my tripod there?” I say no . So I put everything away get in the car buckle up and say let’s go. He then replies so you really are going to leave the tripod there. I say no and promptly retrieve it. I say it was power of suggestion I was going to leave it so I tried.

The one that is the main reason I am glad no camera is me attempting to ride a metal rail. I was just being me. I do not know what came over me except my inner child. I had just finished shooting some long horn sheep after gracefully get out of the car for this one. (good day for balance) I successfully got some pictures, then I attempt to step over a guard rail not so gravefully. I get one leg over and mind goes blank on what to do next. So I improvise; I start riding it like a pony and getting into it. That was until this women asks if I was stuck. My answer nope just riding my horse. She proceeded to lose it in laughter. At least my being sorta stuck made her day. I did eventually did get the courage and skill to get my leg over. Roy and a stranger got a good laugh out of it. I do so enjoy making Roy smile all the while being able to say ‘It wasn’t me.’ No photographic proof I can deny it then.