Coal Country

At 550 miles, it’s too far a reach to get from West Yellowstone Montana to Rapid City South Dakota in one drive, so we overnighted in Ranchester Wyoming, a suburb of Sheridan. This is Coal Country, as the many trains pulling hundreds of coal cars will attest. Our small RV park for the night, the Lazy R, is basically someone’s large back yard with about 20 sites cut into it. It really imparts the feel of staying in a very small town just like you lived in the neighborhood. We took a walk after getting set up, through the neighborhood, and found a delightful little gang of girls selling lemonade for $1 a cup. In my day it was more like $0.10, but my day is long gone. These little capitalists were entertaining, one of them waving a large cardboard sign and shouting her head off “Lemonade, L E M O N A D E ! !” so loud we could hear her a block away. No cars or people around, mind you (except for the guy driving the lawn tractor down the main drag), but they were doing the best they could, so we happily paid them 5 bucks for 2 cups. I did notice their money jar was crammed with bills, either “tip bait” put there by Mom, or they had successfully fleeced the entire population of Ranchester at their going rate.

Beside the train whistles (and I’m being polite here, a diesel engine horn isn’t the quaint steam whistle of years gone by), we also were serenaded (again) by propane heaters in the night, whooshing and throbbing like a 747 jet engine as they rhythmically turn on and off several times an hour. Al Gore should up his game and include a message about electric heat in RVs. It would improve our life considerably. But the drive and the very fresh cold air induced sleep, in spite of it all.

As we penetrate the heart of the country southeastwardly, the change in weather, scenery and pace of life is mirrored in the politics on display. Houses and businesses displaying American flags are everywhere. “Biden did that” stickers are stuck on lots of gas station pumps. The local minimart had a placard on the front door declaring “Coal Guns Freedom”. A sign along the road reminded us that President Reagan once allowed “We don’t have inflation because WE are living too well, we have inflation because GOVERNMENT is living too well.” A bumper sticker on a truck advised “Have you noticed that there have been no news stories about people who have lost their businesses or livelihoods?” I think that the vast interior reaches of this country are like this, unseen and unheard by the coastal denizens because our media complex doesn’t find them interesting or noteworthy. They only really get to be heard every 2 or 4 years, and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

Lest you all think that living in this tiny box on wheels is a sacrifice, be assured we are doing just fine! Wendy, the irrepressible baker, made some Snickerdoodles, and we killed a houseplant, just like in a real house!

RV living is by nature a little cramped, and your toes, shins, elbows, and knuckles need some time to learn the limits on movement in it. The payoff: cleaning the bathroom in 3 minutes without taking a step (same with the kitchen). Our relatives in Florida, Glen and Donna (Daniel’s other grandparents), purport to have one-upped us on the tiny living space and volunteered to meet us in Nashville.

I hope it’s parked in a Half Off spot!

The drive from Sheridan to Rapid City was planned as an express route, but Wendy has found she can occupy her time as co-pilot by researching things we are passing near on our route. She found 2 “bonus” side-trips on this leg. The first was about a 40-mile detour, paralleling our planned route (nicely done Wendy!) to Devils Tower in Wyoming. I had never been, and she insisted that I just HAD to see it. She was right. It has stunning views from every angle and distance. In the right-hand picture, there are 2 climbers at the bottom of one of the vertical grooves. HINT: in a future blog post, I’ll reveal where!

The Native American story is that the tower was created by the Great Spirit to save 7 sisters from a bear that was chasing them, raising it from the earth beneath their feet. The bear, still pursuing them, created the “scratches” on the walls as shown in this authentic depiction. I know I’m a storyteller, and occasionally take a little poetic license, but this one tops my best. Vindication.

The story says 7 sisters were atop the tower, but those don’t look anything like my sister. And where did this big guy get his tail? Monkeypox? Warning: Story may have been heavily influenced by King Kong and peyote.

While Devils Tower is famously known for the starkness of its being, lesser known is that it is also home to the National Prairie Dog Monument. This small, 2-acre field has seemingly thousands of prairie dogs, who I suspect have all been trained to pose for photos. Here’s a wide shot of the field, and a close up of the same spot. Point a camera and they all snap to and freeze in perfect Prairie Dog Poses!

Bonus side-trip #2. I’m a car guy. When traveling to Rapid City South Dakota on Interstate 90, one comes temptingly close to Sturgis, the center of the universe for bikers since the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 81 years ago. That first event drew less than a dozen bikes and riders. Last year was the 81st Anniversary, and it drew about 525,000 participants for the actual week of the rally in August, and another million seasonal visitors. I love cars and motorbikes, but not as much as I love ice cream. We went to Sturgis. To Emma’s Ice Cream Emporium on Main Street. Where we parked the truck and trailer parallel in a row of “head in only” parking spots, taking up ½ a city block of parking, and got our ice cream. Then we hightailed it out of town before the sheriff got wind of it.

An Ice Cream parlor and a Beer parlor. A little cool in the front. Much more fun in the rear!

And Lacey has another friend, meet Blaze. Blaze was gifted to us by a tenant at Peoples Storage, and his magnetic feet make it easy for him to “hang around” the rig. He has secret stash compartments all over him.

If Lacey gets any more friends, she will need a rig of her own. Hey, wait, just a few paragraphs ago is the perfect one!

As a note to our replacement managers, Debbie & Tommy, here’s what we back up to at Rapid City South RV Park. We just can’t escape!

Ladies and Gents, Tippy.

About W&W Mudd

Re-retired again, Wendy and Warren publish as they adventure into the far reaches of their New World.
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2 Responses to Coal Country

  1. Elaine says:

    Ain’t road trips such a kick! I love the research of areas and the side trips – we have one very interesting and in so many places, a beautiful country. Glad you are enjoying the ride as they say!

    • Wendy Mudd says:

      So interesting and beautiful. It’s a shame everyone doesn’t get to experience our country on the backroads…you can see, hear and learn so much!

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