Where’s Dart (2018-2)?

Where’s Dart (2018-2)? This is the view from our campsite.

By Regis

Another Where’s Dart can only mean one thing, the Jeep is fixed.  As we were packing up to leave, several songs were going through my mind: from the 70’s Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak”;  from the 80’s Sammy Haggar’s “Can’t Drive 55”; and of course Willie’s “On the Road Again”.

I have to give a lot of credit to Liberty Jeep in Rapid City, South Dakota.  I drove up late Tuesday afternoon.  They took a look at it and had a part ordered the same day.  From there, things went downhill.  The part and Linda’s order from Amazon spent an additional 24 hours in Commerce City, Colorado.  It should have been in town Friday but didn’t get to Rapid City until Saturday.  UPS doesn’t deliver on Saturday, so we had to hope it got delivered Monday.   When Linda got her Prime package just before noon we were hopeful.  The part was delivered to the Jeep dealer by the afternoon.  They started working on the Jeep late Monday and finished late Tuesday.

Linda spent lots of time rejiggering the travel plans as the delays piled up.

When It Rains, It Pours

Dart playing endless ball while we are stuck in the RV waiting for a part in rainy and cold weather.

When it rains it pours both literally and figuratively.

We’ve been experiencing a lot of rain since we entered South Dakota.  I always considered South Dakota a somewhat dry state, so I am a bit surprised.  It rained 2 inches in an hour last night and that was just the beginning.  There was hail.  There were rivers running through the campground.  The fire pit was almost full of water.  The next morning, I saw worms the size of small snakes.

Fortunately, after all the rain in our earlier stops in South Dakota, we went to Cabelas and I bought two types of waterproof foot gear.  I bought Muck Boots and a waterproof pair of hiking boots.  After getting soaking feet in our previous rain encounters, I was ready to do something about it.  Within two days of buying my Muck Boots, they came in handy.  What a muddy mess!!!!

My favorite new foot purchase. It sure came in handy with our astonishing rainfall in South Dakota.

So, it has rained a lot literally.  Now figuratively, we’ve had our share of problems recently.  From a recent post, you know that the Jeep is at the dealer waiting for a part.  The part was supposed to come in Friday.  Didn’t happen.  I also placed an Amazon Prime order to arrive in the campground guaranteed on Friday.  I paid extra for that even though I’m a Prime member.  Didn’t happen.  In both cases, the tracking information shows the items still sitting in Commerce City, Colorado.

Anyway, that means we are still here.  We woke up to lots of fog.  We decided renting a car and exploring didn’t make any sense since you CAN’T SEE ANYTHING.

During the explosive rain yesterday, the refrigerator stopped working.  Regis spent all morning fixing it.  It’s working now but he is not ready to claim a victory since he bypassed a circuit.  The circuit bypassed is a high temperature sensor to prevent overheating and fire.  I hope we don’t burn up tonight!  At the very least, we won’t be cold.

While we were here, Regis broke a key while opening one of the RV compartments.  We still had the rental car, so I went and had keys made.  Regis spent yesterday morning taking the lock apart to remove the broken key.

I decided that it was a good day to do laundry today.  It’s dreary and we don’t have a car.  When I put my load of wash in the dryer and put my money in, the dryer made horrible noises and the drum didn’t turn.  Argh!  (No worries because the campground gave me my money back.)

Our remote temperature sensor went on the fritz. It says it 69 outside, NO way it’s like 44!

The RV is full of mud.  Three people and one dog in a small environment, mud, mud, mud.   It is way too muddy to walk Dart much so he is stuck with playing lots of ball in the RV.

When we picked up some stuff at Walmart the other day (when we had a rental car) in order to organize the RV, we decided to do grocery shopping later after we got our car.  Now, we have no car and we’re still here.  But, we have potatoes, onions, nuts, and lots of sparkling water.  No fancy meals for the next few days.

Amazon did reimburse me the money I paid to get expedited delivery, but I still don’t have the product.  Let’s see if it shows up by Monday.


Needles Highway

Mount Rushmore viewed through a tunnel on the way to Custer State Park.

When we went to Custer State Park from Rapid City, South Dakota, we saw some great scenery.  We started off with a plan to bypass Mount Rushmore and enter Custer State Park and catch Mount Rushmore on the way back.  But, as we were driving on the road to the park, we caught several views of Mount Rushmore including one through a tunnel.

On our final leg on our loop through Custer State Park, we drove on the Needles Highway.  We highly recommend you drive this route if you are in this area.  This is an amazing stretch of road with narrow tunnels and high granite pinnacles.  This is a must see.

One of the tunnels on the Needles Highway in South Dakota.
One of the tunnels on the Needles Highway in South Dakota.
Flowers in Custer State Park.


After we left Custer State Park, we drove by the Crazy Horse monument that is being built.  This monument is still under construction and is planned to rival the Mount Rushmore monument of the presidents.  The plans look awesome.  When it is finished it will be amazing.  It is being built entirely on private funding so it is a slow process.

Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota. It is still under construction. He will be sitting on a horse. The final plans look awesome.


Our Photography Gear

Views of the clouds in the evening the first night in our campsite in Rapid City, South Dakota. It really looked like this.

We were asked about the photography gear that we use, so this post is devoted to a discussion about our gear and some remarks regarding how we approach many of our photographs.

First, this is our primary gear:

  • 2 Canon 80D bodies (these can do video)
  • Lens:  Canon EF 100-400 IS II USM (telephoto)
  • Lens:  Canon EFS 18-200
  • Lens:  Canon EFS 10-18mm (wide angle)
  • Extender:  EF 1.4 III (used with telephoto)
  • Gitzo Tripod with a ball mount (This is an amazing high-quality carbon fiber tripod)
  • MeFoto Tripod with a ball mount (This is a carbon fiber tripod but does not approach the quality of the Gitzo but it’s a great second/backup tripod)
  • Remote shutter release
  • Neutral Density Filters (but just got them and haven’t used them much)
  • Canon Powershot SD1000 (can do video)
  • Winbook Wide-Angle Action Cam SV5EN (We got this as a Christmas gift exchange and it has been a great video camera to mount on the kayak.  It can be used underwater and we got some nice underwater shots last year. Check out our YouTube page at landrtravels for some videos (here is a link to one of them click here.)
  • Canon VIXIA HF R500 video camera (We don’t use this as much but it is a great little video camera)
  • 2 cell phones (Samsung S6 and HTC 10)

We have various filters, backup lenses, and what not that I won’t detail.  We don’t use them much.

Okay, I rattled off a list of equipment.  Now, I’ll talk a bit about how we use it and sometimes a little history about how we got here.

First, I had a great Canon 50D and wanted a second body so I didn’t have to keep swapping lenses between a telephoto and a landscape lens.  The closest I could get at the time was a Canon 80D.  I fell in love with the 80D and never used the 50D after that.  So, I had to go out and get a second 80D.  At least that way, both cameras operate the same way which reduces the amount of thinking I have to do when I am changing settings.  I keep the telephoto lens on one camera for wildlife shots and either the wide angle or 18-200mm lens on the other camera for landscape shots.

Regis has become my driver so I can jump out and take the photos while driving.  I have the two camera bodies with me and I’m ready to swap landscape lenses when necessary (which happens more than I would like.  And, Regis says we are NOT getting a third body.).  I also have the binoculars with me in the front seat so it is very crowded!  We keep the tripods in the back.

The Canon 80D takes great video but it doesn’t work well when you hand hold the camera.  I need the tripod to steady the camera enough for good video.  I took some video of the baby bison yesterday and the hand held video is horrible.  I pulled out the tripod and set up on the side of the road hoping Regis would let me know if a bison was headed my way and took much better video (we will post on our YouTube channel  landrtravels later.  Here is a link to one of our earlier videos.  Click here).

I have started to take more HDR pictures because I love the outcome.  We usually take them for sunset shots but I used HDR yesterday to take some day shots at a tunnel on our route. That post should be out on 5/18.  It made a big difference.  But, you really need to use a tripod for HDR so you won’t be taking pictures of animals that way.

Regis usually mounts the Winbook video camera on the kayak when we go out.  He’ll stick the video camera underwater if the water is clear and there is something interesting happening.  He once lost it in water high in tannins so you couldn’t see.  He bumped into the grasses and the camera fell in the water.  It was shallow water and Regis could reach the bottom with his hand.  I WOULD NOT help him.  I WILL NOT stick my hand in water that I can’t see what’s going on.  Regis groped his way around and eventually retrieved the camera.

When I’m hiking, I usually carry one camera with a telephoto lens because I am mainly interested in wildlife shots.  It can be heavy and I am seeking a good solution for carrying more lenses to offer other options without it being too much of a burden.  I’m hoping to visit the camera store in Seattle to see what they have.

I am more than happy to explain how we took particular photos and what settings I used on the camera.  Don’t hesitate to ask if you want to know.  I can post with each picture if it is of interest.

I take all my pictures using the RAW format.  So, they all have to go through post processing.  I use Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop to do that.  I don’t usually do much post processing, but it is important nevertheless.  It gives me the opportunity to correct the photo to match what I saw.  Cameras can’t always catch the full dynamic range of the scene.  You need to correct this in software like Lightroom (there are other options).  That’s also why we need to take HDR photos.  HDR photos allow you to take multiple photos of the same shot using difference exposures.  This allows you to capture the highlights and the shadows and merge into one picture.  Then, you put those photos together to get the view of what you really saw.  Someday, cameras may be so good you won’t need to do this.  For now, HDR is a great way to capture the highlights and shadows.

Note:  I’m typing this blog while in the middle of a thunderstorm in Rapid City, South Dakota.  The lighting is amazing.  Dart is not happy about it but Regis and I find it fascinating.  I suppose as long as we survive, it is cool. Oh, and there is lots of hail.

Baby Bison

Baby bison in Custer State Park.

First, to give an update on the Jeep situation.  A part is required which the dealer does not have.  We have to wait until the part arrives, hopefully in a couple days.  We rented a car from the campground.  It was very convenient but expensive.  If the part doesn’t arrive by Friday, we’ll switch over to Enterprise to get a car for the week-end.  They deliver!!

The campground staff told me that Custer State Park had baby bison, so that’s why we rented a car immediately and set off to see them.  And we did.  There is other stuff to talk about the drive we took, but I’ll save that for the next post.  I’ll keep this post to animal pictures.

Bison in Custer State Park.
Baby bison in Custer State Park.
Sleepy baby bison in Custer State Park.
Baby bison in Custer State Park.
Baby bison. The baby was trying to feed and mom kept kicking it.
Female bison.

We saw lots of Pronghorn’s today and haven’t posted any pictures of them so here’s a male and a female.


Male Pronghorn.
Female Pronghorn.

Jeep Issues

Badlands National Park looking southeast at sunset.

Yesterday morning, we went through our usual routine to get back on the road.  We made sure everything was locked and secure in the motor home and hooked the Jeep up to the motor home for towing.  Once you do that, it’s my job to make sure the transfer case in the Jeep is put into neutral.  Once you do that, you check to make sure it happened correctly.  For the very first time, I checked and it didn’t happen.  Hmmm.  I was sure I did it correctly.  I tried again.  Didn’t work.  I tried a third time.  Didn’t work.

At this point, I gave up and let Regis take over.  He couldn’t get it to work either.  That means, we couldn’t tow the Jeep.  Our next destination was Deadwood, South Dakota which is north of Rapid City.  But, Rapid City was our best opportunity to find a place to fix the Jeep.  I drove the car and Regis drove the motor home and we stopped in Rapid City.  The Jeep is currently at the dealer and we are waiting for the diagnosis.  We have hatched a couple plans depending on the result.  If we don’t have the Jeep for a few days, we will look into renting a car so we can explore while we are here.  I’ve had time to review some brochures on the area and now want to stay to explore.  This little delay modifies our travel plans between here and Portland.  We have some flexibility in our plans, so once we get feedback from the dealer, we’ll make more specific plans.

On our last evening in the Badlands, we went to the Park to view the sunset over the Black Hills.  You can see the Black Hills from the Park.  The weather was a little nippy but not too cold so it was lovely.  The view was amazing.  The Bighorn Sheep were grazing on the hill behind where we set up to view the sunset.  As the sun went down, it sent shafts of light onto the Badlands.  Oh my gosh, I could do this every night.  It was incredible.

In my last post, I mentioned that the Prairie Dogs can carry the plague.  I feel its important to say that Prairie Dogs are necessary to the health of the ecosystem.  They are a keystone species.  Many animals depend on Prairie Dog populations.  As an example, Burrowing Owls burrow in Prairie Dog holes.  I want to make sure that I didn’t leave a bad impression regarding Prairie Dogs.

Sunset at Badlands National Park.
Bighorn Sheep after sunset at Badlands National Park.
Prairie dogs sitting on their front porch catching the golden rays during sunset at Badlands National Park.

Meadowlarks and Other Critters

Meadowlark in Badlands National Park.

I love Meadowlarks.  I love how they sing and how so much volume can come out of a small bird.  They are everywhere out here.  Regis got a video to share so you can hear the song.

I’ve been stalking the wildlife and playing the paparazzi with them.  The Red-Winged Blackbirds fill our campground with their voices.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird.
Male Red-Winged Blackbird
Male Red-Winged Blackbird.

One of our goals today was to see if we could locate any baby sheep.  We found them.  There were 5 baby sheep with one female high up on top of the ridge.  That was probably the safest place for them.  The female appeared to be in charge of the nursery this morning.

Female Bighorn Sheep and 5 young in Badlands National Park.

They are probably trying to keep those little ones safe from the coyotes, like these below.

Coyotes in Badlands National Park.

We saw lots of bison and they are very scraggly.  They are shedding their winter coats and they are covered with lots of dried mud.

Bison in Badlands National Park. It looks a little rough with the shedding and the mud from the recent rains.

We read that we should keep an eye out for Burrowing Owls in the Prairie Dog colonies.  We found some!

Burrowing Owls in Badlands National Park. Notice the head of the second owl popping up out of the burrow beneath the standing owl.
Prairie Dog gathering grasses in Badlands National Park.

We noticed that a lot of prairie dogs we have seen look like they have some kind of disease.  I was doing some research online and can’t find any recent articles, but there was an article from 2009 documenting Silvatic plague in the prairie dogs in the Badlands in the Sage Creek Wilderness area.  Park personnel told us to be sure to keep the dog away from the prairie dog colonies because the prairie dogs carry Bubonic plague. The same bacterium in Silvatic plague is responsible for Bubonic plague in humans.  If you follow Park Service guidance, you are not in danger of getting infected.  Keeping pets away from the colonies is important.   The closest Dart got to the colonies was sitting in the car while we drove by or stopped to take pictures from the car.