It rained a considerable amount overnight but when we stepped out of our tent this morning, you would not know it by the ground. Expecting to find mud, the dirt around our campsite was dry. Looks like all that rain managed to do was to settle the dust.
We loaded up the van and participated in the KOA’s all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast for $3.00 a head. They were delicious and definitely beat us trying to make our own hot breakfast this morning when we’re trying to get on the road.
The roads and the maps of South Dakota that are south of the Badlands National Park leave something to be desired. We had a state map and Miles’ phone that has a Garmin GPS built in, and we were still scratching our heads at times.
We ended up on BIA 39, which is a highway for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Miles’ GPS kept wanting us to turn onto roads called “Big Foot Trail” and “No Flesh Road”. We absolutely had the road to ourselves. I would guess that while driving 40-something miles on these roads through the Indian Reservation, we might have met 10 cars.
The town of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, has the reputation of being one of the poorest areas of the country. Much to our surprise, the town had cleaned itself up quite a bit from our travels through it six years ago. There were several new buildings, places to eat, and a sidewalk that went the length of town.
The Nebraska / South Dakota state line is just south of Pine Ridge. As soon as we crossed into Nebraska, we saw dozens of Native Americans sitting and standing on the side of the road, waiting for the liquor store in the town of White Clay to open. We figured the reservation did not allow alcohol, prompting those that need a morning drink to walk to the next town.
Our first scheduled stop of the day was Carhenge, outside of Alliance, Nebraska. Fortunately, we spotted a Rest Area as we came into Alliance so we could refresh ourselves first.
We did make it to Carhenge and found that it was the 25th Anniversary. They have added a small gift shop on the premises since our last visit here.
Once we had enough folk art and biting flies, we drove on into Alliance and had lunch at a Taco John’s. We saw quite a few of these throughout our trip and figured we’d find out what “The Fresh Taste of West-Mex” was all about.
From what we can tell, this chain likes potatoes. Every burrito seemed to include potatoes in it, plus we ordered potatoes on the side. The inside was very small, yet they still managed to cram 10 employees in the kitchen.
While I was filling up a couple of cups with Pepsi for Stephanie and I, I set my full cup on the counter and began to fill one for Steph. At that time, another customer who was standing nearby grabbed my pepsi and took a drink through the straw. Both me and her boyfriend told her at the same time, “that’s not your Pepsi”. Oops! She daintily pulled the straw out of the cup and threw the straw away.
We got our lunch to go and hit the road. We would be spending the next four hours driving along scenic Highway 2 across Nebraska through the Sandhills. This is the largest area of grass stabilized sand dunes in the western hemisphere, covering more than 19,000 square miles.
Let me say that I thought it was scenic. The rest of the family could really have cared less.
We stopped about a half hour from Alliance to switch drivers. We could have parked in the middle of the highway, given the lack of traffic.
The train runs alongside the highway the entire length from Alliance to Grand Island, Nebraska. Trains full of coal heading east and empty coal cars heading west. We are pretty sure some of this coal came from the coal mine we saw in Gillette, Wyoming.
Besides sandhills and trains, we saw plenty of operating windmills. Not the energy-producing wind farms we had seen plenty of during this trip, but the smaller ones that pump water for livestock.
At a fill-up in Hyannis, Nebraska, we saw signs that said “Welcome to Windmill Country”. This town had a windmill in the middle of one of their streets.
Most all of these windmills were made by Aermotor and often you could read the faded letters on the rear fin of the windmill. After our last visit through here, I became infatuated with the Aermotor windmills and learned that for a brief time they were manufactured in our hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Today they continue to be proudly made in the USA in San Angelo, Texas.
We lost an hour today, moving from Mountain time to Central time. Even with that time change, we pulled into the Grand Island KOA campgrounds at 5:30. It should come as no surprise that the campground was carved out of a cornfield. Corn on all sides!
We had a reservation for a tent site with electric, but as luck would have it, a large group of young Mexicans who had an affinity for loud music and cold cerveza checked into the adjoining tent sites right before us. We asked the owner what they could do for us, and she was kind enough to upgrade us to their own pop-up camper at no extra charge. They took care of us!
I had hit it off with the KOA owner, Sue Bates. It turned out that she had a brother who has the same name as me, plus she has a cousin who used to be a minister at the church we attend in Tulsa. Likewise, I gave her a hard time about us checking into the Bates Motel.
We took a swim in their large pool. Every KOA we have been to on this trip has had a pool, and this was the nicest pool we had been in.
For dinner, we drove back into Grand Island and ate at Texas T-Bone. This place had peanuts on the table and extremely large salads. Stephanie and I split a steak and it was fantastic.
When we arrived back at the KOA, we all went to bed for the last time on this trip.