South Dakota Musings

We’re still at Wolf Camp –we’re so happy to be in one place for a whole week! — and with the slowest internet connection in the world I’m trying to catch up.

A few days ago, when we were hiking around Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park (see above photo) we were chatting with a woman from Iowa.  When we told her how much we’d enjoyed her state — we were thinking of the bike trails and the ball game in Des Moines — she smiled and said, “Yes, Iowa is still safe.”

Later Terry asked me if I thought a Clinton voter would have said that.

But the bigger question is — safe from what?  Certainly not pollution.  Both lakes we visited at Saylorville Dam had issues with high bacteria counts and blue green algae.  Nuclear war?  If Trump gets into a showdown with North Korea, Iowa is not safe.  But let’s assume the lady was talking about crime. A quick google demonstrates that Iowan cities like cities most cities in the U.S. have murders and rapes and property theft.

And finally — If I were a person of color I wouldn’t feel particularly safe in a state that supports Representative Steve King who is quoted as saying that America shouldn’t have to apologize for slavery.

I guess it’s a matter of perception.

It is lovely having an endless supply of running water inside the trailer.  At most places we only have electricity (either from a hookup or from our solar panel) so we fill our tank when we enter a campground and ration out the water during our stay.  When we transition to a city water hookup I’m very conscious at first about wasting water.  After a few days it gets easier to give in to the temptation to just let it run.  I’m working on that.

We’ve passed through Sioux Falls several times in the past few years and we have our favorite Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurants. This time we found a new neighborhood and a place that features a mostly gluten free buffet of food I usually can’t eat — like meatballs and tabouli.

So backing up a bit — When we left Des Moines (where we camped at the Saylorville Dam) we went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota —

We passed this sign on the way to Sioux Falls — (full disclosure — we were going too fast to take a photo, but we googled it and found that someone else had posted it online)

There seemed to be less water at the falls this year.

I took this picture on the bike path in Sioux Falls, while we were resting in the shade. It goes in a loop for miles along the river, through one park after another.

Here I am, cheering on the Iowa Cubs against the Texas Round Rock Express. A verrrry long game but as usual, Terry kept up his running commentary and it kept me amused.  This picture is out of order because I thought it was me cheering on the Sioux Falls Canaries playing the Wichita Wingnuts.  Terry, however immediately realized that in Sioux Falls we sat on the first base side.

We left Sioux Falls on a Saturday morning, got to the Badlands in time for the sweltering heat and realized that if we were going to do any hiking it had to be at 5 A.M.  This is SO counter to our usual routine, but the first morning one of us got up at 4:30 A.M. and bullied the other one out of bed.  We got to the Castle trail without benefit of coffee or tea.

It’s 7 A.M. here in Wolf Camp — Internet was working pretty well, but now the sun has hit my picnic table so I guess I’m done for now.  Next time I’ll show you what else we saw in the Badlands.

With love, Ruthe


It was supposed to be an easy day

Advice to anyone who is not mechanically inclined.  Try your best to marry someone who is.   Under Terry’s high school yearbook picture  was written, “The difficult he does quickly, the impossible takes a little longer.”  I mention this because although we went through the same trailer orientation, he is the one who can open and close our awning in the dark in the middle of the night when the thunderstorms come, and he’s the one who just fixed our bathroom vent.

I’m writing from our picnic table at Wolf Camp RV Park, just outside Custer State Park in South Dakota, so named because they have wolves in a pen behind the office.  Periodically, they howl, which sets off the dogs.  A bit of local color.


Our morning and evening walks at Saylorville Dam (outside of Des Moines) were along the Des Moines River.

This is the spillway from the dam. Mesmerizing.

Terry and I made it to the butterfly garden on our last evening at Saylorville Dam near Des Moines, and we didn’t see a single butterfly, but we saw this sign.

An overview of the butterfly garden.

Anyway, since I last wrote we have camped at a dam near Des Moines, Iowa, in a fairgrounds in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 104 degree heat in the Badlands and now we’re on the edge of Custer State Park.  We’ve seen two minor league baseball games, hiked a bit, AND had one 15 mile bike ride which nearly killed me but also made me happy.  I love my bike, and I love Terry, who is patiently trying to get me to understand  gearing.

These are all things we could do at home — but we don’t.

We hadn’t planned to come to Custer because from the name I thought it was all about battlefields and the glorification of Native American genocide. I did not realize that it’s an unfortunate name for a stunning park.  By the time I found this out, the only place open was the primitive campground, and I’m sorry to say that we are bourgeois enough in the heat to want air conditioning.  So we booked a site for 5 days in an RV park that sounded just great — right on a creek — full hookups — great bike trail running right through.  It was an easy peasy drive from the Badlands — thus the title — easy day — only when we got there it turned out that the RV sites were about 10 feet from a busy road.  The creek was pathetic. Tripadvisor had raved about the clean showers, but one look at this place and we were willing to stay smelly.

Way back in the day, when we were tent campers, we’d look at the people in the RVs and guffaw — Ha Ha — they think they’re camping.

How times change.

After the 104 degree days in the Badlands we were looking forward to a place with showers and full hookups and internet and the ability to do mundane tasks like defrost the refrigerator.   But we couldn’t bring ourselves to stay at that place.  So we ended up in the primitive campground at Custer after all.

We stayed there two nights and then moved to Wolf Camp, where we’ll be for the next week.  I’m going to cut this short because internet is SLOW. I’ll fill you in on Sioux Falls and the Badlands in the next post.

With Love, and Shabbat Shalom to those who so indulge.

Tetons or Bust! On the way to the solar eclipse.

PanoramaTerry and I often recall the time that we and our (then) four children pulled into DeSmet, South Dakota, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and parked our 31 foot Airstream in the small town square.  Our trailer was smelling kind of sour because someone had spilled milk on the carpet.  Even though it was 90 degrees we had to forego air conditioning, because the electrical hookups weren’t convenient to the playground.  And for our added amusement, the four year old had developed a leg condition that prevented her from walking when there was something she preferred not to do.

Camped next to us was a fit looking retired couple. Their five children were all grown up.  They leisurely sipped their afternoon cocktails with big smiles on their faces.

27 years later,


we are that retired couple.

Terry relaxing on the Mississippi

Notice the smile on Terry’s face.  This picture was taken on the Mississippi River, just a few days before his formal retirement from Rutgers.

Breakfast last day Maumee

We left Maumee Bay Ohio, on a Sunday and knew that the dump station would have a long line of cars ahead of us unless we got there early,  so we fell out of bed and were done dumping by 7 A.M. and pulled into this picnic area where Terry ground his coffee beans and I made breakfast.

That last time we we were headed to Yellowstone where we stayed for a month and — really — it was a wonderful trip.  This time we are going to the Grand Tetons, where we will meet up with our (now) five grown children and significant others and, God Willing, see a solar eclipse on my Birthday — August 21.

We’re traveling slow — two hundred mile days — three hundred when the speed limit is 80 — and resting up for at least a day before we move on.  We’ve got bikes — and used them with joy on the paved FLAT bike paths in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois where we spent our first ten days or so.

Terry holding bike

That’s Lake Erie behind Terry. He’s in Maumee Bay. Ohio. So am I.

Getting past Chicago is the challenge of every cross country trip we take. This time we left Indiana at 6 A.M. EST and got into the Chicago area by 6 A.M. Central Time and, while the roads were the same potholed mess they’ve always been, at least we missed the traffic.  Our reward was to arrive at Illinewik Forest Preserve on the Illinois/Iowa border and snag a campsite with a ringside view of the Mississippi.

We’ve been acutely aware that we’re staying in a bunch of Red States.  In Geneva State Park in Ohio, we were approached by a Trumper who started off by saying that he thought I sounded like Emmylou Harris on the guitar.  So naturally I forgave him his politics, but it was strange.  He talked about people not speaking English when he’d lived in Edison NJ and said people could be anything they wanted to be and said people didn’t care about each other anymore  and then he talked about corporations that took advantage and we kept our mouths shut.

We figure our job is to listen and stay out of trouble.  So I didn’t start a conversation with anyone in our campground on the Mississippi about this sign on the Ladies Room Door.

Sign on the Ladies Room Door

This sign appeared on the door of the Ladies Bathroom at Illiniwick Forest Preserve. I guess it would be dangerous to take 7 shower because you’d have to leave your gun unattended. Makes sense

A 65 mile bike path went right past our campsite.

Town Hall Hampton Bike Ride

Town Hall Hampton Illinois

Detail of momument at town hall hampton

Inscription on Monument

Barge on the Mississippi

Barge on the Mississippi



We chose this campground because we wanted to be close to LeClaire Iowa.  They have a great Mexican Restaurant we’ve visited on three previous trips and a distillery and a brewery and a store that sells bamboo clothing. It was really hard to leave, but we had to move on.

I’m posting this from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (see header pic) — to be continued the next time I have internet.

With love,






Crackdown on undocumented people begins


This post is a departure from my usual travel blogs, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile so I’m trying it out.  If you do read this short post I’d be  interested in hearing what you have to say.  It’s not enough to be in favor or opposed to the immigration roundup — it’s important to understand how we’ve come to this point — I believe that history matters, and the majority of people don’t have a clue that when it comes to immigration, the sins of the parents are being visited upon us — the children.

(link to the New York Times article on Trump’s immigration crackdown.)

Do you ever ask yourself why people are willing to leave home and family  and make the dangerous trip here from Mexico and South and Central America?  Sometimes parents have to leave children behind with grandparents and they aren’t reunited for years.  Then they come here and need to hide while trying to make money to live on and send home.  There are powerful factors motivating them or they couldn’t muster the courage.

They do it because their countries are impoverished and/or in chaos and WE — the govt and the C.I.A. and the armed forces and the business people and yes — we — the consumers of the U.S.A. —  have contributed mightily to their poverty.

A tiny bit of history: In 1935 General Smedley D. Butler wrote

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service . . . [in] the Marine Corps. . . . during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for capitalism. . . Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank to collect revenues in. . . I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right for American fruit companies in 1903.” (from “Open Veins of Latin America” p. 108)


Thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree? More to add?

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Buffalo-mts-flock We left the Tetons On July 15 and headed to Bozeman, Montana where we met up with our son Jake and attended his friend’s (also named Jake) wedding.  Bozeman was mostly about visiting family and catching up on internet and laundry, although we did take the time to go to Norris Hot Spring.

Followers of this blog from last year might remember a more sunburned Terry last summer. Anyway, Norris was a great day -- lots of unchlorinated hot mineral water.

Norris was a great day

The drive from Bozeman to Norris is beautiful and then we get to a dry dusty parking lot and walk into the pool, surrounded by flowers and hills and statues of Buddha plus organic lunch offerings.

The drive from Bozeman to Norris is beautiful and then we get to a dry dusty parking lot and walk into the pool, surrounded by flowers and hills and statues of Buddha plus organic lunch offerings.

After five days we headed east and north to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  Along the way we stopped at Pompey’s Pillar National Monument — where William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) camped out. Even though we had several hours to go, I told Terry that it was important that the journey be part of the adventure and that we needed to stop. He agreed.

This was one of those nerve wracking side of the road stops on the highway, but it meant a lot to Terry

This was one of those nerve wracking side of the road stops on the highway, but it meant a lot to Terry.

This flower spoke to me as I snapped Terry in front of the Terry, Montana sign

This flower spoke to me as I snapped Terry in front of the Terry, Montana sign

William Clark stood on this rock, carved his name into it and wrote in his diary that the mosquitoes were horrible -- kept him up all night. We saw nary a one. It was probably too hot for them.

William Clark stood on this rock, carved his name into it and wrote in his diary that the mosquitoes were horrible — kept him up all night. We saw nary a one. It was probably too hot for them.  It was definitely too hot for me.

We made it -- and saw what William Clark saw.

We made it — and saw what William Clark saw.

I was already regretting our rash decision to climb this rock at high noon, but Terry could not be deterred

I was already regretting our rash decision to climb at high noon, but Terry could not be deterred

The stop was nearly a fatal error because it delayed our arrival at Theodore Roosevelt NP by about an hour, and we almost didn’t get a campsite.  This would have been a real bummer, since it was five miles into the campground from the entrance, on a twisty pot holed road, and we really didn’t want to have to turn around.  We managed to squeeze into the tiniest site in the campground and collapsed.

I love the shape of this mound

I love the shape of this mound

Next morning we went looking for a different site, and I was so intent on finding one with a view that I didn’t stop to think that, when it is 95 degrees and no electricity for air conditioning, shade is more important than the visuals.  I will definitely remember that in the future.

Anyway, for now I’ll gloss over how hot it was and how we suffered, and concentrate on what was the most important part of our stay — Buffalo!

Buffalo wallow

Buffalo wallow

Buffalo were everywhere -- alone and in herds.

Buffalo were everywhere — alone and in herds.

We needed to pass through Yellowstone both on our way to and from the Tetons and each time we were ecstatic to see a buffalo (interchangeably called bison).  in Theodore Roosevelt we saw herds of bison as well as individual bison.

Bear Jam

Bear Jam near Signal Mountain Campground in the Tetons. We literally could not get through the road.  Having just seen Lewis the day before we did not join the bear jam.

A word here about spotting wildlife.  In Yellowstone and in the Tetons there were traffic jams when wildlife were spotted.  It was pretty amazing that when we saw Lewis the Bear in the Tetons there was no one else around.  And in Theodore Roosevelt there were other people watching the bison with us, but no traffic jams.Blogyellowfloweridentify

Spotting that bear so close to the place where I’d just been swimming made me a little nervous about hiking, especially on little used trails.  It drove Terry crazy, but I would sing when we hiked.  Other people carried bells and even played rock music.  We never carried bear spray but many people did.  We were skeptical as to whether we’d be able to use it effectively if (God forbid) we needed it.  But I just read about some hikers in Yellowstone who did use it last year and lived to tell the tale.  They sprayed and then played dead.

Anyway, besides bison we saw some wonderful scenery, but we needed to break our habit of hiking at noon — our second day in the park we actually left for our morning hike at 6 A.M.Grasses-front-mounds

Sunrise Walk

Sunset Walk

Cone Flowers -- We saw them in the Tetons when they were just beginning to flower

Cone Flowers — We saw some in the Tetons when they were just beginning to flower.  These were at their peak.  I think.

Sunset Walk

Sunset Walk

Our sunset walk ended at this point -- just before we turned around Terry saw a herd of wild horses in the distance. I was thrilled to see them and it also justified the binoculars I'd schlepped. They were too far away to take photos.

Our sunset walk the second day ended here — before we turned around Terry spotted a herd of wild horses in the distance. I was thrilled to see them, and it also justified the binoculars I’d schlepped. They were too far away to take photos.

Just before we left for our sunrise walk, I walked to the campsite across the road and snapped this photo. Next time we'll make reservations and camp at this spot -- it had shade AND a view.

Before we left for our sunrise walk, I walked to the campsite across the road and snapped this photo. Next time we’ll make reservations and camp at this spot — it had shade AND a view.

We came home through Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and down through Toledo to the Finger Lakes.  I’ll post more about that and I’ll also add some of Terry’s pictures AND his bison video at a later date.


With love,





The Grand Tetons — Jenny Lake hikes


Blog-Dam-water-glassTerry and I are blessed with the gift of time.  To spend two weeks in the Tetons meant that we could leisurely learn about the park. It also meant that we could recuperate from long days of hiking and sightseeing.  And I do mean recuperate.

No one is giving us awards for physical fitness. When we’re home we try to walk regularly (with the emphasis on “try”) but we don’t set any speed records, and we certainly don’t do any endurance training.

So that — plus the altitude change — plus we usually start hiking at the hottest part of the day — is probably why we were ready to collapse after climbing to Inspiration Point on Jenny Lake. Continue reading