Working Hard and Playing Hard in South Dakota

Our beautiful parking spot courtesy of Jim and Brenda.

We had received a very generous offer to stay at Jim and Brenda’s place near the Black Hills of South Dakota and we made it there on time and without incident—so much to be grateful for!  The first week Roger and I just kept saying we were surprised at how beautiful it is here.  Rolling hills, pine forests, and striking rock formations jutting up out of green pastures.  Jim and Brenda took us on a driving tour through Custer State Park; we saw Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument but no wildlife.

Jim feeding mule deer from the corn scoop 30 ft from their rig!

That was strange because there is wildlife everywhere here!  Most days mule deer and white tail deer come within steps of us while we enjoy happy hour next to the rig and don’t get me started on how many prairie dogs are in these parts!  Anyway, we stopped for lunch at Desperado’s in Hill City and I was thrilled to find that they had gluten free bread pudding!  And my sandwich was so delicious it earned a spot on my Gluten Free on the Road page.

Crazy Horse Monument
I was really that close–this is not zoomed in!

Roger headed out for San Jose, CA to work and Jim, Brenda, and I went on a very special hike.  Twice a year, the American Volkssport Association hosts a Volksmarch (10K walk) from the visitor center, through forest lands up onto the Crazy Horse Monument.  Brenda and I had both been having knee pain recently so we were a little nervous about hiking for that long and that steep.  But all went well; we made it as far as we were allowed to go and stood on the outstretched arm of Crazy Horse!  What gorgeous views from up there!

We ran into Jim and Barb (Jim and Brenda’s neighbors) on the hike.  They made it in a lot better time than we did.

“…and then it’s nothing but work, work, work, all the time.” – Westley (as the Dread Pirate Roberts)

Don’t think it was all fun and games on the prairie, there was plenty of work going on here too; while Roger was in California I sealed some small cracks in our roof with lap sealant, changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, spark plugs and replaced the carburetor on our generator–huge sigh of relief when it fired right up afterward! Thank you, Jim for your assistance and moral support.  I also helped Jim and Brenda put up fence posts, make adjustments to their front gate, and herd a wayward dogie back onto the neighbor’s land; a dogie—rhymes with hoagie—is a neglected or motherless calf for you city slickers.

And then we played some more.  We rode our side by sides on forest roads and trails between their property and Jewel Cave.

Here’s an awful picture of me, Roger, Brenda, and Jim in Jewel Cave.
Natalie, our wine tasting server at Prairie Berry winery in Hill City. What a sweet and funny wine-barista she was! We love her!

When Roger got a few days off we toured Jewel Cave and The Badlands National Park where I met “Digger.”  Well, I didn’t actually meet him, I bought him.  Digger is the cutest, softest stuffed prairie dog you can imagine.  I got the giggles standing in the gift shop thinking of the naughty shenanigans I could pull with Digger.  You see, Jim and Brenda’s neighbors, Jim and Barb Nelson, have declared all-out war on the black tailed pests.  This, I understand involves arrows, scopes, poison gas and—at least in Barb’s case—firearms.  Jim is clear about which side of the battle he is on but I suspect Brenda has a more tender heart and while she carries out her assassin duties, she secretly–or not so secretly–wishes they would just go away on their own.  Releasing sterilized p-dogs into the wild  is more to her liking but getting the little buggers to hold still long enough to neuter them is just not that easy!

Day 1: Digger Appears

So I found an abandoned p-dog mound on their property and placed Digger on it and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, Jim and Brenda left for the store and …drove right past.  Well, that didn’t work.

Day 2: Digger gets brave and moves closer.

The next day I moved Digger to a mound closer to the driveway and watched and waited.  When they arrived home they once again drove right past.  This was going to be harder than I thought! To be fair, this time it was twilight and they had been over at the Nelson’s at Happy Hour…correction, Happy Hours, as in several happy hours.  I’m just sayin’.

Day 3: Digger moves in close enough to hitchhike!

So the next day I put Digger just a few feet from the driveway and this time not only did Jim drive RIGHT BY him, but as Brenda and I rode Vizzini past she turned her head to look at me at the critical moment!!  Aaargh!  I was dying laughing inside as I said, “What was that?” and looked toward Digger.  “What?” she asked. Nevermind; the moment had passed.  “These two don’t stand a chance against the real thing” I thought, giggling to myself.

The next day Jim and Brenda were driving down to Denver in the morning to pick up their daughter, Gayle and grandson, Marcus (whom you met in our Grand Teton post) for a visit.  This is it, I thought.  Today is the day!  I found a patch of very red dirt at the bend in their driveway and stood Digger up as tall and as obvious as I could.  I watched and waited.

Day 4: Finally, Digger gets noticed!

At last, I saw Jim hit the brakes and just sit there.  I later found out Brenda had yelled some very bad words that rhyme with ‘not the buck?!’ Then Jim could see that Digger was not real and laughter, more swearing and suspicions about who the culprit could be ensued.  I encouraged further shenanigans by suggesting they could play the same prank on the Nelsons but it was agreed that if Barb was the first to see Digger, she would probably blow his head off before realizing he was one of the good guys, a sterile prairie dogs released into the wild.

On rainy days it is easy to believe the founding fathers are weeping for the current state of our democracy.


Mount Rushmore is a must see when in this part of the country.  What a delight to go there with Jim, Brenda, Gayle, and Marcus!



It was a beautiful day to visit Devils Tower. We hiked around it so we were able to view it from all sides. Wonderful!

We were very sad to leave South Dakota but we had a date with Glacier National Park and it was time to move on.  We did stop on the way out of South Dakota to check off one more item on my bucket list:  Devil’s Tower. It was even better than I had expected.