Badlands RV Freedom tour – Copper Harbor, Days 28 – 35 of 40+

We drove from McLain State Park  to Copper Harbor on Sept 15. We set up camp in our beautiful pull-thru site in Fort Wilkins State Park (campsite #14 of this trip), with the best view of Lake Fanny Hooe. It was located in the newest section of the campground, with trees and plants separating each campsite. It was also the quietest, section until the end of our stay, when 4 campsites near us had multiple dogs. There were five Alaskan Malamutes on three of the sites, that howled through most of the day. There was an interesting mix of people, including a family of 8 that bathed together in Lake Fanny Hooe each morning. The park was 100% full, compared to 15%, around this time last year.

Copper Harbor did not feel crowded, but locals said it was their busiest fall season, ever. All hotels and campgrounds were full.  Restaurants were seating at 50% capacity and utilizing outdoor space, due to the pandemic. Most visitors were serious mountain bikers, as Copper Harbor has one of the best trail systems in the mid-west.  There were also a lot of people there for the 4X4 roads or to escape the crowds in the lower peninsula.

Our first full day, we rode our bikes to High Rock Bay. We decided to ride the road instead of taking the intermediate trail, Point Trail, since I’m not an experienced mountain biker. Sixteen miles round trip on a dirt road would be no problem, so we thought. The road was steep hills, rocks and mud.  There was no part of the road that was flat or smooth. It was one of the most difficult bike rides of my life. As we approached the  end I began to realized I was completely out of gas, arms burning from braking and carrying my bike around mud and over huge rocks, legs burning from climbing and working to stay on the bike, descending over rocks and gravel. All the while, there was constant traffic, logging trucks and 4X4 vehicles, many traveling to and from High Rock Bay, at scenic, remote Keweenaw Point. When we arrived, someone told us that Point Trail was easier and more fun than the road. We started the return trip on the road and some people stopped and asked if I wanted a ride.  Just what I was hoping for! Whew!!!

Most days we followed a similar routine. After breakfast I would drop Dave off at a difficult trailhead. He would bike down to the campground, then we would ride some easier trails together. Most afternoons we hiked. We hiked at Hunters Point, Estivant Pines Nature Preserve, and all around Fort Wilkins. We enjoyed some sunny afternoons on the patio at Brickside Brewery and had a fabulous dinner at the Harbor Haus, overlooking Lake Superior. I ate griddle-seared whitefish and Dave had flank steak. We both agreed we would return to Copper Harbor just to have dinner there. We watched sunsets from Hunter’s Point, the top of Brockway Mountain and the fishing pier on Lake Fanny Hooe.

One day was chilly and drizzly, so we drove to Eagle Harbor. We planned to stop by Jampot, a bakery run by monks. It was featured on  Under the Radar: Michigan and also recommended by a friend. When we arrived there was a long line of about 50 people, waiting to get in. Maybe next time…

The last couple of days in Copper Harbor were especially warm and sunny and the fall colors were near peak. We spent time on top of Brockway Mountain .  The brewery, usually open year-round, was now closed. We’re pretty sure they temporarily ran out of beer.  We were a little sad to leave and begin heading toward home, but we still had some fun stops ahead. Next stop – Marquette!

Fort Wilkins State Park
Lake Fannie Hooe, Fort Wilkins State Park
Brickside Brewery, Copper, Harbor
Fannie Hooe Creek, Fort Wilkins State Park
Sunset at Hunters Point
Hunters Point
Hard Rock Bay at Keweenaw Point
View of Lake Superior, dinner at Harbor Haus
Trailhead on Brockway Mountain

Trails at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
View from Brockway Mountain
View from Brockway Mountain
Sunset view from Brockway Mountain
Food truck – Awesome whitefish tacos
Copper Harbor Lighthouse view
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Fort Wilkins State Park
Fort Wilkins State Park
View of Copper Harbor
Estivant Pines
Estivant Pines – 500-year old trees
Lake Fanny Hooe, Fort Wilkins State Park

Badlands RV Freedom tour – Duluth and Houghton, Days 23 – 27 of 40+

I am writing this in Copper Harbor, Michigan on September 19. There is a delay in my posting because there is no internet access here through our Onstar WiFi service. There is also no cell service unless you drive to the scenic overlook on Brockway Mountain. Yes, people really still live like this. Fortunately, the restrooms and store at the campground have WiFi.

We departed Custer State Park on September 10, heading to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On the way, we stopped at the roadside park where we could see the Dignity statue and the Lewis and Clark bridge overlook on the Missouri River. Dave chose to have a long 6-hour drive. Note that only Dave drives. We both agree on this arrangement as his temperament would not ever peacefully allow for me to be the driver. We have discussed the possibility of him being sick or injured, so I may be doing some practice driving and hitching soon. (we’ll see….)

We spent one night in Sioux Falls at a Good Sam RV park. The highlight was pulling in and two very cute dogs were sitting and watching us pull in, their postures and movements perfectly in unison. It was right off the freeway, next to a very dilapidated trailer park. No worries for us. We were home (home is where you park it!), with supplies for a nice dinner and relaxing night.

The next day was another 6-hour drive to Duluth. This was our 63rd night in the RV, this year. It was also our first KOA campground. It was very well-staffed, with a nice store. A highlight here was a cat being wheeled around in a pet stroller (could have been my dear Faye’s brother!). The people were friendly, but the cat was irritated when they stopped walking. We had a great fire there.

Duluth is a pretty cool town that seems like a blend of Houghton and Detroit. We were blown away by the volume of people there on a chilly, drizzly day, walking around in shorts. Were they giving away free $20 bills???? Obviously, some were college students, mostly packs of young girls walking around in leggings and other light clothing. We had some tacos on an outdoor patio, then spent at least 40 minutes driving to a closed microbrewery (on a weekend?) and then to find parking at another, with road construction everywhere. We had to leave because they had just reached 50% capacity. Finally we had a really good beer at Hoops Brewing, though they were $7 each (more than a Maui price). We had carry-out smokehouse sandwiches (salmon and pork) for dinner. They were good but very over-priced. We enjoyed Duluth, but the pandemic and road construction did put a damper on things.

The next day we had a 4-hour drive to McLain State Park in Hancock, Mi, our 13th campsite of the trip. We were there a year ago and loved it. Last year it was about 15% full and this year it was 95% full, including many school-aged kids. We were glad we reserved our site, anticipating the affect the pandemic is having on campgrounds. It was great to return to the beautiful park and Houghton, especially Keweenaw Brewing Company. There has been significant shoreline erosion, similar to other parks in the lower peninsula. There were many recently fallen trees. We noticed more fall colors this year – bonus!

Dignity Statue, Chamberlain, SD
Lewis and Clark bridge overlook, Missouri River, Chamberlain, SD
Cloquet/Duluth KOA Journey campground, MN
Duluth MN
Duluth MN
Duluth MN
Duluth MN
Duluth MN
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
McLain State Park, Hancock, MI
Keweenaw Brewing Company, Houghton, MI
View of Hacock from Houghton, MI
Houghton, MI

Badlands RV Freedom tour – Custer State Park, days 20 – 22 of 40+

We are at the Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park, our 10th campsite of the trip. Eleven months ago we reserved the last site available, that was large enough for our rig. It’s hard to believe we are finally here and leaving tomorrow.  The park is enormous and stunningly beautiful. There are endless possibilities for hiking and cycling in addition to sightseeing and wildlife viewing. It is on par with any national park. Had we known, we would have planned more time here.

We faired well during our first night of camping in subfreezing temperatures and snow. We kept our slide-outs in, to have less area to heat and avoid issues with ice in the seals. Our new heater, in combination with the rig’s built-in heater and our down comforter kept us warm.

The scenery on the way to Mt Rushmore was spectacular. We would have preferred 80 degrees and sun, but enjoyed the beauty of the snow. We arrived at Mt Rushmore to find that fog and clouds obscured any view of the carvings. People were leaving in disappointment, but we decided to have a coffee and wait. After about 40 minutes the clouds suddenly lifted and we could see. It pays to be patient! We also went to the Crazy Horse Memorial and the Native American Museum..

We returned to the campground via Needles Highway, a pretty harrowing drive. It’s very much like the road to Hana, with winding turns, steep drop-offs and stretches of one lane traffic.  The truck barely fit through some of the  tunnels. On the way, checked out all the lakes and areas around the lodges.

We checked out Hill City and the town of Custer, where we had dinner.  We had Scottish Ale and English Bitter at Mount Rushmore Brewing Company, and then the best Mexican food I’ve ever had at a restaurant called Maria’s. The corn tortillas were very fresh and hand-made.

On our last full day, we drove the wildlife loop. We saw wild burrows, big horn sheep, buffalo and a lot of deer. The highlight was being at the perfect location at the right time, for a buffalo round-up. We were able to hang out with the rangers (one was from Michigan), and watch from outside, while everyone else had to remain in their vehicles, lined up behind us. It was so cool! There is a staged, controlled buffalo round-up event later in the month, but this was the real thing. They round up the buffalo to sell some, in order to manage the size of the herd.

We really do not want to leave the park. We saw most of it, but would have liked to hike, ride our bikes and have dinner in one or two of the lodges. We will be coming back!

Game Lodge Campground, Custer State Park
Custer State Park
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Memorial
1880 train in Hill City
Custer State Park
Custer State Park
Needles Highway, Custer State Park
Needles Highway, Custer State Park
Custer State Park
Buffalo Roundup, Custer SP
Buffalo Roundup, Custer SP


Badlands RV Freedom tour – Deadwood, South Dakota, days 17 – 19 of 40+

We left the boondocking camping area in the Badlands, on Friday, September 4 for Deadwood, SD. We squeezed into our tight campsite at Whistler Gulch Campground, which was a mining site, long ago. We were excited to explore the area and to be able to do laundry, clean the RV and take longer showers. This was our 9th campsite of 16 and our 19th day into the trip.

First stop in town was Saloon#10, which displays the chair that Wild Bill Hickok was believed to be shot in.  We were glad it was a Friday afternoon, so the holiday weekend crowds had not arrived, yet.  We had a beer at Saloon #10, and watched the reenactment of a shoot-out in the street, but did not return due to the crowds of unmasked people during the following days. It was a cool place and we hope to go back one day. We found a restaurant/bar across the street, where we could enjoy a beverage and views of town from a rooftop patio.

The second day we drove through Spearfish Canyon and did a couple of short hikes to see some waterfalls. We proceeded to Sturgis, which was hosting the annual Mustang Rally. It was nice to see an event, yet not the enormous crowds of the motorcycle rally. The demographic was mostly midwestern Mustang owners. It was a typical mellow, car-show group of people, very spread out through town. I will mention that we saw some Corvettes and Camaros in the area, also. It was 107 degrees in the shade.

We stopped at Walmart to buy a combination fan/heater to use the fan right away and the heater soon.

On our third day we spent some time at Mt. Moriah Cemetery. It was a nice, hilly morning walk through very old red pines. We saw Wild Bill Hickok’s and Calamity Jane’s grave sites, as well as other historical figures. It was educational and we had a great view of the town from there.  Later we drove back to Spearfish Canyon to enjoy happy hour at The Boar’s Nest Roadhouse. It was as if the “American Pickers” redecorated The Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis, and moved it to a beautiful Creekside location in the canyon. We enjoyed our last, hot (85 degrees), sunny afternoon there, knowing that in just over 24 hours it would be 30 degrees and snowing.

A note on traveling during the pandemic:  Previously on our trip, we felt the effect of the pandemic in Lacrosse, which normally would have been a busy, lively town, with filled restaurants and bars. Instead, extremely empty and quiet. In South Dakota we would learn that masks were not required and some businesses required employees and/or customers to wear them and others did not. In Deadwood, some tourists wore masks, but most employees and other people did not.   We read the stories about the outbreaks from the Sturgis bike rally. It appears that most cases were out-of-state people taking the virus home after the rally. The major outbreak area in South Dakota is on a college campus on the other side of the state. Regardless, we are being smart and careful, but not paranoid.

Campsite at Whistler Gulch Campground
Whistler Gulch Campground
Saloon #10 in Deadwood, SD
Deadwood, SD
Spearfish Canyon
Deadwood, SD
Mustang Rally in Sturgis, SD
The Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
One of many murals in Lead, SD
View of Deadwood from Mt. Moriah Cemetery
Boar’s Nest Roadhouse
Boar’s Nest Roadhouse




Badlands RV Freedom tour – Boondocking near Badlands National Park, South Dakota, days 14 – 16 of 40+

We spent the last three days in the Badlands boondocking off grid. We’ve been camping off grid on our property, so it’s no problem for us. We were glad we scouted the area before taking the RV there. It was a beautiful location. I was a bit nervous, as I am afraid of heights, but realized it wasn’t dangerous.

We took a day trip to Rapid City, where we had a great dinner at Firehouse Brewing Company. It’s a nice historic town with shops and restaurants. It’s definitely worth visiting. We also found a Safeway grocery store in town. We were able to stock up on food and pick up some Maui Safeway favorites.

We were happy to have 3 days there, to just relax and soak in the atmosphere. I loved it so much, that it was a little difficult to leave, but we were heading to Deadwood and more adventures.

Driving up to our boondocking site

Best campsite ever!
View out our door and window

Dave exploring the area

Our neighbors’ campfire
Full moon rising over the Badlands
Our excellent version of cowboy coffee, using a french coffee press. Tastes better than coffee from the coffee maker, just a bit more clean-up time.
Dave’s chuckwagon breakfast – turkey bacon and cheddar. Mine was turkey bacon, egg whites and feta (one slice of bread). Pretty tasty!
Day trip to Rapid City
Patio at Firehouse Brewing Company
Firehouse brewing Company
Wall, SD is quite the tourist trap. We took a quick walk through the famous Wall Drugs
We moved a short distance to this flatter, wider site for the next two nights. We had to position the RV and truck to minimize the impact of 40+ mph winds.. It was a little nerve-racking but no problem.

Cooking broiled salmon.
Exploring more of Badlands National Park
Buffalo grazing. Traffic in the park is held up regularly as people stop to photograph the wildlife.
Bighorn sheep


Minuteman Delta-09 Missle Site, Wall SD. This was a very informative exhibite of a n decomissioned nuclear missle site. . We learned more details about the Cold War. Scary to know so many missiles were hidden in plain sight.
Minuteman Delta-09 Missle Site, Wall SD
Dave flying “Sharky”. We purchased the kite in Maui many years ago and haven’t flown it since the Sea Ray.