Custer State Park, South Dakota

Tuesday, Aug 8th 2000

We arrived here yesterday afternoon and were grateful for having made reservations. We are sharing the park with some of the 300,000 "bikers" who are here for the Sturgis 2000 Motorcycle Rally. They roar up and down the park road like a swarm of angry insects. They come in all sizes and shapes, both young and old and many are dressed in the standard biker color of black. The rally has been taking place for the past 60 years and is a huge money maker for the local communities. You put up with the crowds and noise or you leave and go elsewhere. We choose to stay and enjoy the park.

We got up this morning early and took the Wildlife Loop drive. We first ran into four wild turkeys enjoying an early morning jaunt. We stopped and looked with cameras flashing and then went on down the road. We enjoyed just looking at the prairie and the hillsides dotted with trees - mostly Ponderosa pines. We soon came to the main attraction, the buffalo or bison, roaming everywhere and anywhere. Mommas, babies and the massive bulls. We are the visitors here and this land belongs to them - roadway and all. We watched them from the car and enjoyed seeing these massive specimens, shaggy coats and all. After lots of pictures we headed on down the road to the Visitors Center.

There we learned about the terrible ice and snow storm they had here in April. The devastation to many of the trees was obvious - branches and trunks snapped off and some of the trees uprooted. It had been a mild winter and the ground was dry, otherwise the destruction could have been worse with many more trees uprooted. We stopped to watch the herd of resident burros and then headed for a hike on the Prairie Trail. Unfortunately, Jim took a fall and we decided to fix his wounds and head for one of the Lodges for a hearty breakfast. Food makes you forget lots of things!

Our trip so far has been great. We've gotten an early start most mornings and are on the road by 6:30am. The mornings have been cool which makes the driving easier. We've been listening to Frank McCourt read his latest book "Tis". It really is wonderful to hear his Irish brogue and listen to his humor. Much better than curling up and reading it. By afternoon when it starts heating up, we're usually at our campground and settled in for the night.

We've been sharing the highways for a number of days with the motorcyclists who are coming from far and wide for the rally. We stopped and spent the night with Pam and Jeff in Omaha and they are doing well. Also saw Phyllis who joined us for dinner. We've passed through the flat cornfields of the Midwest where it looks as if they have had plenty of rain as the corn is "as high as an elephant's eye" - ten feet or so tall!

Once we crossed the Missouri River (the 2nd time), you felt as if you were indeed in the west. Our stop here was a much needed break after all of the driving. This park is another one of our favorites with its prairie meadows and pine forests. The views and wildflowers are spectacular. We are camped at the Game Lodge Campground and there is a small creek flowing across the road from us. In the evening you can hear it gurgling. Better stop this for now as we need to get ready to head out to the Needles Highway and Mt. Rushmore. I hear the angry insects still roaring up and down the highway but........ More to come later.