Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spruce Lake RV Resort - July 7-July 18, 2014

Resort Rating:  2 stars on a scale of 5

Location:  This park was very close to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was perfect for our stay in Estes Park, CO.  It was very close to restaurants, grocery stores, and the scenic drives and attractions we were interested in seeing in this area of the country.

Lot size:  Fortunately, we got a corner site, but it was not very large. Most motor coaches of our size (and larger) were "squeezed in" to their sites and neighbors were very close. And the hook ups were almost on our neighbor's lot. We spent very little time outside at our site here because the park was very crowded (as most are in the summer in Estes Park).

Amenities: This park had a swimming pool (very small and usually packed with kids) and a hot tub (we never used it). Also, we did our laundry in town instead of using the park facilities. There was a lovely pond for fishing and playground for the kids. This is definitely a family park! Wi-fi and cable were available here. The best part about this park, though, was the lovely pet walk along the Big Thompson River. Sadie really loved it!
Cost:  $500.

Management:  When I made the reservations at this park, I had a very difficult time reaching anyone; always had to leave a phonemail message for a call back. When we arrived they escorted us to our site (mainly because the sites were so small that everyone needed help backing into them). This park did not allow any mail delivery (this is the first time we have encountered this), so any mail delivery had to go to "General Delivery" at the US Post Office. When we had an issue after they filled our propane tank, they were of no assistance whatsoever.

Comments:  When we visit Estes Park in the future, we will stay at a different park.


Mountaindale Cabins & RV Resort - June 18-July 7, 2014

Resort Review: 4.5 stars on a scale of 5.

Location:  This location worked out very well for us as we travelled both north and south of this park to see the many attractions in the Colorado Springs area. The very best part about this place is the surrounding forests and the amazing wildlife visits that occurred every day! The deer around this area treated this park as if it were home. We saw them in our campsite and in those of others near us. They were amazing.

There were bears in the area, but we never saw anything but their scat. There were absolutely beautiful views from the path above our site. We walked up there almost every night to enjoy the sunset.

Lot size:  We had a beautiful, large, pull-through site on the upper terrace of the park. It was fabulous! There was plenty of room for our tow dolly and car. Each site had a picnic table and fire ring as well.

Amenities:  The only ding on this park was wi-fi was spotty and AT&T service non-existent. Also, there was not cable TV available at our site (but is available at some sites and will be to all soon). No swimming pool, but we didn't miss it. There was a hot tub, but we never went in it.

Cost:  $645.00

Management:  They were great, very accommodating, friendly and helpful. Phones were available at the lodge for folks to use anytime (due to the poor cellular service in the area).

Comments: We loved this park and would definitely stay here when we visit Colorado Springs again.


Capulin Camp & RV Resort - June 10-June 18, 2014

Resort Review:  3 stars on a scale of 5

Location:  The primary reason we made reservations to stay at this small park was the the proximity of the Capulin Volcano National Monument. Actually, we could see the volcano from our front window. This tiny town (population 66) has only one store, so it is a pretty remote location. We did our grocery shopping, etc., in Raton, NM, that was 30 miles away. The park is also very close to the highway, but this was not an issue for us. Also, the countryside was actually quite beautiful near the park.

Lot Size: Small, but because the park was not very crowded, it was not an issue. We did have some shade from a large tree.  We had campers on one side (as you can see in the photo), but none on the other side.

Amenities: The laundry facilities (3 washers and 2 dryers) are the only amenities that we used while staying here for a week. This park has the basics.

Cost:  $162.  This is the secondary reason we stayed here. The price was very reasonable.

Management:  The family that runs this place are great. They are very helpful, friendly, and accommodating. They are also very religious and there are biblical quotes posted around the park, but this was not an issue for us.

Comments:  This park served as a great home base for all of the sightseeing we did in the northeastern part of New Mexico and was a great stopping off point between Texas and Colorado. I doubt that we will return to this park as we saw pretty much all of the attractions in the area. Capulin Volcano is a sight to behold! We were very happy with our stay here and felt it was good value for the money.


Oasis RV Resort - June 2-June 9, 2014

Resort Review: 4 stars on a scale of 5

Location: The park was right off of I-40 and very convenient for visiting the sites we wanted to see around Amarillo. The major problem we had with this site was the high winds (weather, of course, is not within the purview of the management of the resort!) However, if we are in Amarillo again, we will look for a more protected location. Our motor-coach awning over the large slide out was ripped one night due to wind gusts. Others in the part experienced extensive damage to their slide outs. The bath houses and laundry facilities provided shelter for the storm/tornado warnings.

Lot size: There was lots of space between us and neighbors. There was plenty of room for our tow dolly and car at our site. Here's a photo of our lot. 

Amenities: The pool here was beautiful and usually pretty much deserted. Very nice bath house facilities as well. The hot tub was the nicest we have seen thus far in our travels...a real delight. Laundry facilities were quite limited (not many machines and very close quarters), however. 

Cost:  $180 for the week.

Management:  Cordial and helpful, particularly with dinner arrangements at the Big Texan for John's birthday. They order pizza (delivered) daily for those in the park interested in purchasing one. Plenty of brochures in the office for information on surrounding attractions. 

Comments: The terrible winds with lack of shelter anywhere in the park for the motor coach is the primary reason for the score. Otherwise, a great place about a mile from the famous Cadillac Ranch outdoor sculpture.

Admiralty RV Resort - May 1-May 31, 2014

*Note: I have not kept up on our RV resort reviews, therefore, the next few posts will be devoted to this topic to bring us up to date.

Resort Review: 4 stars on scale of 5

Location: Great location for home base for the month we stayed in San Antonio. It was convenient to all major highways, stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc.

Lot size: Not large enough for our liking. In fact, we paid for 1.5 lots to enable us to park both our tow dolly and car easily at the site. Also, not too many sites have any shade. And those that do have birds that poop all over your vehicles. Now, I love birds, but these guys were noisy and very messy!

Amenities: This is the category where this park shines. There is an large (25-meter) swimming pool with very nice deck area that I enjoyed very much (swimming laps for exercise). Also, the laundry facilities at this place are the best we have seen thus far in our travels; large, clean, plenty of machines, quarter rolls available at office. Very nice clubhouse facilities and porch where a Memorial Day cookout was held. Also, horseshoe pits, basketball court (not in very good condition), and small dog park area.

Cost: $795 (in part due to larger lot).

Management: Very nice staff. We were escorted to our lot and they were very easy to work with on receiving mail or Amazon packages. The resort is very well maintained.

Comments: The only reason this park does not rate a 5 is the lot size. Otherwise a very nice place to stay for a month or so.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sturgis, SD - 7/29/14

The town of Sturgis, population 7,000, is home to the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  The Rally began in 1938 and was originally held for motorcycle stunts and races. It has evolved into an annual meeting for motorcycle enthusiasts and is the largest rally in the world. It has been held every year since, except during World War II when there was gas rationing.

The first rally was held by the "Jackpine Gypsies" motorcycle club who still own and operate the tracks, hill climb, and field areas where the rally is centered. Clarence "Pappy" Hoel had purchased an Indian Motorcycle shop in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies shortly thereafter. He is considered the "father" of the rally.

Fun facts about Sturgis:
  • The taxable sales in the city of Sturgis alone brought in $12M in 2013. It is estimated that the rally brings in approximately $800M to the Black Hills region annually.
  • Rally goers are a mix of white-collar and blue-collar motorcyclists and are generally welcomed by the local communities.
  • About 50% of the attendees have their bikes shipped to the Sturgis area and ride only the last few miles to the event.
  • 71 couples were issued marriage licenses during the 2013 rally.
  • The 2014 rally will be held August 4-10.
Having heard of this famous event for many years, we decided that a quick stop in Sturgis was in order as many bikers have already arrived in the area for the event.  

Bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors and shops selling rally garb are everywhere. 

When we arrived (4 days before the official start of the rally), there were hundreds of vendors setting up shop in anticipation of the influx of bikers. Some were already open for business.

We purchased a couple of patches for John's leather vest and one for my motorcycle jacket.

Stopped in at this place for some drinks and a bite to eat.

Nothing like a good old biker bar for drinking in the afternoon...

All roads lead to Sturgis!
There's our town...

I was glad I got to see this place, but there is no way I want to be here next week!


Deadwood, SD - 7/29/14

Deadwood was named for a gulch full of dead trees by miners who came to the area during the Black Hills gold rush. They staked their claims and the town was born in 1876. In short order, Deadwood was a lawless boomtown where bars, brothels, and gaming halls were the primary businesses in town. There are re-enactments of Wild West shootouts on Main Street and the replaying of the most famous event in Deadwood's history, the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok and trial of his shooter, Jack McCall. Jack was hanged two years later for the murder.

The population in 2010 was 1,200, but it thrives on the tourist trade. About 14 miles from Sturgis, the place is packed with bikers before, during, and after the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The 74th Annual Rally starts next week (first week in August), so we saw lots of bikers in town when we visited on 7/30.

Main Street.

Casinos, saloons/bars, restaurants and shops line the streets. There are 22 casinos in this small town! Other sights that you may want to check out in Deadwood include:
  • Days of '76 Western Museum
  • Historic Adams House Museum 
  • Deadwood's Adams Museum
  • The Shooting of Wild Bill Hickok (Saloon #10)
Several folks we met here in South Dakota had advised us to visit, Mt. Moriah Cemetery, if we visited Deadwood. It was established in 1877-78 and is known as the "Boot Hill of the Black Hills." There are approximately 3,400 people buried in the cemetery. In 1949, Mt. Moriah was officially closed to burials. Today only pedestrian traffic is permitted in the cemetery (as well as tour buses). We took a walking tour using the map provided at the entrance gate.

The symbols on the gateway represent the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Freemasonry, and the Star of David.

The two most famous graves are those of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Current monument on his grave.

Replica of original marker.
Calamity Jane.

Bill's on the left and Jane's is on the right in photo below.

Henry Weston Smith was Deadwood's first minister who truly lived his faith and was well-loved by the entire community. In 1876 while travelling to a nearby mining camp, he was murdered (presumably by Indians). His death enraged the community and for a time a bounty was placed on the suspected murders.

Gravesite of Dora Dufran, a madam in Deadwood that opened brothels in nearby towns of Lead, Rapid City, and Bell Fourche. One of her claims to fame was befriending Calamity Jane whom she occasionally employed as a maid. She and her parrot are buried next to her husband, Joseph.

Note the rocks on this grave (and they were on many others as well). They are placed there as remembrances to the deceased. The placement of stones on graves has been practiced for thousands of years (although I must confess I have never heard of it!)

Civil War section; note that the headstones are government-issue military ones.

Many sad stories are told by the plots in this cemetery (or any other for that matter). The row of graves in the rear of this plot are all children who died in their infancy or early childhood (a set of twins and 5 more). How did the parents bear it?

There is an overlook by the flag that is flown in the cemetery. This flag flies 24-hours a day to honor veterans, a practice approved by Congress during World War I.

View of Deadwood from flagpole.

There are many other individual graves that may be of interest to you. The names and histories are provided in the Walking Tour Guide.

Admission to the cemetery is $1/adult. It's a pleasant walk up a hill and we enjoyed wondering around the quiet grounds.


Spearfish Canyon/National Scenic Byway - 7/29/14

Spearfish Canyon is a state and national forest scenic byway that runs for about 20 miles on highway 14A from Cheyenne Crossing to the town of Spearfish, SD. The unique scenery and natural beauty of the canyon walls and Spearfish Creek are just beautiful.

En route to the scenic byway from Custer, we travelled on Highway 385 North to reach Highway 14A. We stopped at Pactola Lake and Reservoir.  It is one of the recreational areas (camping, boating, fishing, swimming) operated by the Black Hills National Forest. It is the largest reservoir in SD and supplies water to the the Rapid City region.

View of the Reservoir.
Visitor Center exhibits.

We saw several of these wild turkeys (bottom right) during our drive.

Mountain lion.

Views along the scenic highways - Spearfish Creek.


Canyon walls.

Bridal Veil Falls.

Although it was overcast and there was some rain, it was a beautiful drive, nonetheless. Upon reaching, the town of Spearfish we visited the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery and then drove onto Deadwood and finally Sturgis (see posts on these places, if interested).