South Dakota
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We left Chuck’s place, in Colorado Springs, last Friday. Our First stop……South Dakota! We checked in late our first night into the Horsethief Campground, a nice campground, but not too level of a sight ;-) Our first full day in South Dakota we spent exploring the areas and getting the lay of the land. We first stopped in at Custer State Park which has some beautiful rock towers and contains the Needles Highway. Along the drive we also came across a few of these……

Bison in Custer State Park
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Bison in Custer State Park

This is a good distance!
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This is a good distance!

Here are some more shots of driving through the park.

Cathy checking out Cathedral Spires
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Cathy checking out Cathedral Spires

Another pic of Cathedral Spires
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Another pic of Cathedral Spires

 

One of the few tunnels you have to drive through in the park
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One of the few tunnels you have to drive through in the park

The Needles Eye....you can climb this but it is really runout and has an X rating.....pass!!!
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The Needles Eye….you can climb this but it is really runout and has an X rating…..pass!!!

At one end of the Needles Highway is Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake
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Sylvan Lake

A great place to check out and you can climb there as well. We did some scouting and started to get a plan for the next few days, but I am getting ahead of myself! We left Sylvan Lake and drove down the road to see one of the biggest attractions in the area….Mt. Rushmore. We ended up seeing the presidents a few times, twice during the day…..and once at night trying to escape a hail storm….just an FYI for other campers out there, the Rushmore parking garage clearance is 7’10”…..luckily our groovy mobile comes in at 7’4”! Here are some pics of the sculptures.

Cathy with Mt. Rushmore in the bckground
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Cathy with Mt. Rushmore in the background

The four big guys!
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The four big guys!

At Night
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At night

The next few days we decided to get in some climbing in the Needles and near Mt. Rushmore. The rock is really different here, and you climb a lot on these little crystal features. The other thing you notice is the spacing on your protection…….it is very sporty here, so a sound lead head is a must! Here are some pics from our days climbing.

Cathy and I at the top of Classic Crack....awesome route!
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Cathy and I at the top of Classic Crack….awesome route!

Hanging out in the South Seas area behind Mt. Rushmore
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Hanging out in the South Seas area behind Mt. Rushmore

On Tuesday we decided to take a day off from climbing and tackled Harney Peak. At 7,200ft this is the tallest peak East of the Rockies and West of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. It’s about a 6 mile return and a very beautiful hike. Here are some pics from the hike.

Beautiful scenery on the way up!
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Beautiful scenery on the way up!

Cathy at the summit with the fire watch tower in the background
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Cathy at the summit with the fire watch tower in the background

Another view from the summit
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Another view from the summit

Enjoying the view while having some lunch!
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Enjoying the view while having some lunch!

To finish off the day we headed over to Crazy Horse Mountain. This was really interesting, since it is privately owned and publicly funded. One guy started sculpting the mountain in 1948, and after he passed away in 1982, his family has carried on the project. A lot of determination and they still have a ways to go!

As you can see the face is finished, but still a lot of work to do!
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As you can see the face is finished, but still a lot of work to do!

This is what it will look like when it is done
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This is what it will look like when it is done

Our Final morning in the Mt. Rushmore area we decided to tick off a few more of the classic climbs in the area. Cathy did awesome on the climbs and here are a couple of shots from her cleaning up the routes.

Cathy on the classic route, The Gossmer
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Cathy on the classic route,  Gossumer

At the top of Little Pointy Devil
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At the top of Little Pointy Devils

We then headed off to the Badlands National Park. We both agreed, that as we were driving through we felt like we weren’t in the USA, but more like back in Australia. The environment is very harsh and has a real rugged beauty to it.  They say the soil in the Badlands is like no other soil on Earth.  The whole area grew out of an ancient sea 65 million years ago and has formed into the now Pierre Shale rock formations which looks and feels like clay.  Unclimbable!  We drove the Badlands Loop Road and captured some of these pics.

Our first view of the Badlands
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Our first view of the Badlands

More of the Badlands
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More of the Badlands

Enjoying a day in the Badlands!
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Enjoying a day in the Badlands!

Another beautiful view
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Another beautiful view

The groovy mobile in the Badlands
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The groovy mobile cruising through the Badlands

We ended up free camping in the park at Sage Creek. This was our campsite….

Roughing it!
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Roughing it!

This morning we made our way further West and have ended up in Spearfish, South Dakota, our last stop in the state. We got in a little climbing at Spearfish Canyon. The amount of potential climbing here is mind blowing!

All smiles after an awesome route!
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All smiles after an awesome route!

View of only a small portion of the canyon
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View of only a small portion of the Canyon

We are off to Wyoming to meet friends tomorrow. Looking forward to catching up with everyone……life on the road is awesome!

- Jamie

Colorado Springs
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We arrived in Colorado Springs on July 15th and spent a few days with Chuck to prepare ourselves for the rest of the journey. Chuck took great care of us at his pad and cooked us up some awesome kabobs on the grill.

DCIM100GOPRO

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Our first priority though would be to clean up some odds and ends with the truck. A couple adjustments with the “screen door” and the platform. After all the tweeks we think she’s ready to go, our first night sleeping in it will be Friday night when we arrive in South Dakota so we will see how it feels!

Our screen door!
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Our screen door!

The finished product
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The finished product

Chuck had to work every day so Jamie and I ventured around Denver exploring the different areas and taking in what will be our future home. One day we enjoyed a very good lunch at the Ivywild School. The school shut down a few years ago and it was recently taken over by 2 guys who each own a brewery and a restaurant. They partnered up and bought the building. It’s now in the process of being converted to what is called “Ivywild”, hosting a brewery, deli, charcuterie, coffee shop, bakery, food market, meeting and event space and terrace seating. A great concept and awesome food!

Chuck and Jamie at Ivywild School
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Chuck and Jamie at Ivywild School

The converted space in one of the hallways of the school
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The converted space in one of the hallways of the school

We spent another day climbing at Clear Creek Canyon at the Cat Slab which was a cool area but the crag was baking in the sun so we did a few routes and then headed out. I’m starting to lead climb so Jamie started teaching me to lead on a 5.4 sport route which went very well!

Hiking into Cat Slab crag at Clear Creek Canyon
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Hiking into Cat Slab crag at Clear Creek Canyon

Setting up for our first climb of the day
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Setting up for our first climb of the day

Nice view looking down at Clear Creek
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Nice view looking down at Clear Creek

On rock!
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On the rock!

We couldn’t leave the Springs without attempting The Incline. It’s a converted cable car that once took tourists up the side of the Rocky Mountain but closed in 1990.  It is now a 1 mile uphill workout with a change in elevation of 2000′. It would be like going up the stairs of the Empire State Building……TWICE! It’s a perfectly straight line up the hill at an average grade of 40% with maybe a thousand steps. Not a hike for the weary! It’s definitely a must do when visiting the Springs though. Chuck’s hiked the Incline over 20 times and recommended we do it. Jamie and I tackled it the morning before we planned to leave. It was a ball buster but we got to the top. Jamie pretty effortlessly and for myself, a bit more effort was needed to accomplish it. It was a great challenge and loads of people were there attempting it. Some made it all the way, others had to quit at the bail out point mid way up which joins with the Barr Trail to get you down, about 3 miles to hike down. Now we can highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

Base of the incline, this sign warns of the dangers ahead!
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Base of the incline, this sign warns of the dangers ahead!

Looking down toward Manitou Springs from the top of the Incline
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Looking down toward Colorado Springs from the top of the Incline

Jamie makes it up in less than 40 minutes, he's a beast!
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Jamie makes it up in 39 minutes, he’s a beast!

A lot more effort required from Cathy!
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A lot more effort required from Cathy!

In the afternoon Chuck took us target shooting up on the Rampart Range for our last evening together, we shot targets and clay pigeons and maybe an occasional bottle filled with water ; )  We spent a couple hours shooting then cleaned up all our scraps and headed to the Colorado Mountain Brewery. Great food!! This won’t be our last meal with Chuck as he’s meeting up with us next week in Wyoming!

Shooting clay pigeon targets with Chuck
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Shooting clay pigeon targets with Chuck

We spent the bulk of Friday driving north through Wyoming to South Dakota.

IMG_2665

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We’ll spend the next few days at Mt Rushmore and Custer National Park.

 

- Cathy

 

Start of Phase III
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We finally made it, as of July 14 we are officially back on the road and heading West. Our few months back on the East coast have been a blast catching up with family and friends, but it is time to move on and finish our trip! We spent a good part of the past few months trying to figure out how we were going to travel around out West and what type of camping we were going to do. We shot for the moon and tried to get into having a truck camper on our small Tacoma. Well….that only lasted 5 days, as we discovered it was a little too heavy for our truck, and we took a major hit in gas mileage. After only 5 days we officially became truck camper flippers!

We ended up going with a truck cap, and after a few hiccups from the dealership the cap was installed last Friday.

Truck Cap Installed
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Truck Cap Finally Installed……Looking good!

Prior to the cap installation my step-dad, Captain K, and I built out the bed of the Tacoma. We built a really nice platform to put a mattress on as well as compartments for clothes, water, spare battery, and a big drawer to keep our cooking stuff in. Now, when it comes to carpentry I know a little……I would say not enough to make something look good….but enough to make it functional (and hopefully not cut my fingers off!) Thanks to Captain K we were able to make something that is very functional and looks good! Here are a couple of pics of the birth of our platform bed.

The start of the bed and trying to figure out how it will all go together
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The start of the bed and trying to figure out how it will all go together

This looks like a good place for this
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This looks like a good place for this

Building the drawer
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Building the drawer

Access underneath
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Access underneath

New shelf inside
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New shelf inside

Over the past couple of weeks, the truck has also grown a few additional parts. The battery in the back is now powering a new portable fridge, and we have fans to keep us cool at night. I also mounted a solar panel to the roof bars to help keep our battery fully charged. All in all it has been a great project with a big learning curve!

Figuring out the wiring of the solar panel and battery
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Figuring out the wiring of the solar panel and battery

Installing more parts
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Installing more parts

New Dometic fridge....purring like a kitten!
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New Dometic fridge….purring like a kitten!

Our expedition vehicle loaded up and ready to go
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Our expedition vehicle loaded up and ready to go

As I am writing this we are half way through Kentucky. Our hope is to be in Colorado in a day or two. We are going to drop a few things off with our friend Chuck. From their we are going to make our way to the Badlands of South Dakota and then off to Wyoming. We are both excited to get back on the road, but I think I would be lying if I said we didn’t feel a little rushed now. Only a few more months remain on this journey, so we are trying to get as much in as we can before heading back to reality…….simple statements are the best…….life is short, make the most of it!!

We are out of here!
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We are out of here!

More to come!

- Jamie