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.

Wild Horses …….


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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.

There are Always a Few

People who cross your path out of the blue. That is what has happened again this trip, in fact just the morning we were leaving Custer State Park we had an encounter. Originally we had planned to drag our black and gray tanks which were full up to Rapid City and dump them there as we had full hook-ups. Well we have had a few plans that have changed or been rearranged this trip, all part of going with the flow. We decided to go to the dumpsite in the park which turned out to be a good thing.

It gives me hope that people can still be friendly and happy even after the year we have all had. Long story short we get to the hardly used dumpsite and a R-Pod pulled in behind us they were honest that they were newbies. So after they got turned around to use the second dumpsite, Roy was able to lend a hand to help them out. This is of course after we find out he is rich oh wait his name was Rich. You know how easily we get confused. It was nice to be able to share some information with people who were searching for answers.

I already gave a shout out to Micah I mean Rust and his piece of mica. They sent me a video of ladybugs swarming on a rock and on Rust. I would have screamed like a girl, his giggles were contagious.

We also encountered Nancy a waitress who works at Blue Bell Lodge she seemed so happy and relaxed the first night she waited on us. It was funny we made an instant connection, her attitude was what clicked for us. We did not eat there every night but when we did she was the bomb! The night before we left she came over to visit with us and I was able to share some of my pictures with her. We talked about how peaceful and how much this place feels like a bubble. It sure did I can’t believe we got to experience that feeling for almost a month.

The funniest one for me though was an example of small world I hobbled up from our campsite to take pictures I needed to get out of the road because a truck was coming, so I popped into a campsite to be out of the way. It happened to be their campsite. So what would a chatty Cathy do. Yup chat. First thing I always ask is where are you from. They say Wisconsin. I say where they say Stevens Point. I say Fond du Lac. They inform me that they know Fond du Lac well, in fact that is where their last three trucks came from. Lenz auto as a matter of fact, small world I went to school with Donna Lenz. (school memories came flooding back). We chatted for a little while and never did know each others name. Just a strange connection.

Being back in civilization is a small shock to the system. I do think I will be able to catch up on pictures and add some of the videos I’ve taken this past month.

I am enjoying meeting people as much as I am taking pictures this summer