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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Tatanka-A Symbol of the Prairies

~Monday, June 6, 2022~

Day 722

We had to take care of a few things at the campground before getting on with our day, one being delivery issues with Chewy. Coordinating deliveries over the course of our trip has been challenging with today being one of them. Originally when I placed our dog food order, they assured me that we would receive it on time. But my email confirmation said otherwise. Now, we wouldn’t receive it until after we’re gone, prompting us to cancel the order. But low and behold, 2 packages showed up later in the day. What the heck? Being my honest self, I called Chewy back to let them know that the delivery came through, (at least 2 of the 3 items), and that they could continue with the charges. But here’s the strange thing. They said once the refund is processed, there’s nothing they can do to reverse it. “Enjoy the FREE order,” they said. What?? I’m sure I’m not their first cancellation. So how do these companies make any money with that kind of response? Sounds like they need to rework their system, don’t you think? Now all we’re waiting on is the flea/tick medicine set to arrive early tomorrow morning just before we’re about to leave. Talk about cutting it close.

Trying to stay on top of our lodging for next winter (early 2023), we had noted on our calendar months ago, to book a week at a particular resort in the Florida Keys (many won’t allow bookings more than 6 months in advance). After exhausting our efforts in trying to get a site at one of the state parks, we found an RV resort that wasn’t too outrageously priced. State parks are usually the first campsites to get booked because of their primo beach locations and friendly price point ($30-$40/night). Anything else is at least over $100/night, especially during the high demand winter months. Thank goodness we marked our calendars to call TODAY. Only 1 site left for the 6 nights we were hoping for. “We’ll take it!!!”, we excitedly said. It may not be a “water" site, but an “interior plus” site isn’t all that bad. And it’s a $100/night cheaper than the last place we stayed in The Keys. The reality is starting to set in that Florida could be our last state before pushing our way into North Carolina to begin our serious search for a home. At least that is the plan for now. It will have been nearly 3 years on the road if we find a home next spring/early summer. I will certainly be embracing the home base mentality. Jeff is excited about the idea too, but could maybe stay on the road a little longer. And who knows…..maybe after Alaska we’ll decide to settle in America’s Icebox! (kidding).

The weather forecast included afternoon thunderstorms, but by day’s end, turned out to be a dud. But it was just as well since we had some “try agains” in Custer State Park. Of the 4 lodges in the park, one that looked particularly interesting was the Game Lodge. Our first impression was that it appeared much bigger as we drove past it the other day. Quite the contrary. The lodge,

completed in August of 1921, became a brief “home” to 2 American Presidents….Calvin Coolidge and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The original intent for the lodge was to create a meeting place in the State Game Preserve. Native lumber and rocks from the area were used in its construction, only to burn down 72 days later. But rebuild they did, reopening their doors that following summer, to a structure we still see today.

Another thing we missed the other day was the recommended film at the Custer State Park Visitor Center. So back we went to the 100-seat theater and we’re sure glad we did. Who better to narrate such a beautiful film as Dances With Wolves director, Kevin Costner. “The Spirit of Tatanka” film highlights the resurgence of the bison, and the Black Hills region….a symbol of the Old West. Incredible aerial footage added dramatic views of the mountain sculptures, open prairies and the majesty of The Needles. Well worth the return trip.

Next was the Bison Center, where we were turned away the other day due to water leak issues. With things back up and running, we were so happy to see this brand new facility. Now in their third week of opening, the park’s goal was to establish a landmark destination and it appears they’ve made it that.

Thanks to a $4 million grant, the beautiful building houses interactive displays and engaging exhibits to understand the North American bison’s rich history and the park’s role in ensuring preservation for this magnificent animal.

I’ve always been fascinated by these amazing creatures of the plains.

We came to learn a lot about the breeding season (or rut as it’s called), which takes place from late July to early August, when bulls compete with each other to mate with cows. A bull takes advantage of every aspect of his behavior and appearance, growing a thick crown of hair, a long beard and “pantaloons” of wool on their front legs to seem as dominant and imitating as possible; all of this for competing with other bulls in their pursuit of the perfect mate.

Another highlight of the Bison Center was the continued efforts the park is making to maintain a healthy balance between the bison population and the grazing land. And they’ve been doing this since the 1920’s. To achieve this, they hold the Buffalo Roundup and Auction annually, to maintain the herd at a level the range can support. Horseback riders, volunteers, invited guests and staff, followed by trucks and other vehicles help funnel the bison through a system of internal fences, driving them into corrals right next to the Bison Center. Once herded, they’re given health checks and vaccinations. A select few are auctioned off to maintain the balance. Gosh, this would sure be quite a thing to see. Believe me, it’s already been added to the bucket list.

Stopping for a few dinner ingredients at the store, the clerk asked me at checkout, “How’s your day going?” I said, “Well, I can’t complain, but I’m sad we didn’t get to see just one more thing before leaving Custer.” When I told her it was the Crazy Horse Memorial, she only added more salt to the wound by telling me how incredible it is. Ugh!! 😩Seeing my disappointment, she quickly encouraged me by saying, “You just can’t do everything. Plus it gives you a reason to come back.” She’s right. We had already packed in so much, I should be satisfied. It’s just hard when you don’t know the next time you’ll be back.

While I got dinner going, Jeff decided to get a head start on packing up and checking the usual before our early day tomorrow…….oil, radiator fluid, tire pressure, etc. He discovered the right front truck tire’s pressure was about 10 psi too low. With that much of a difference from the other tires, that usually indicates a slow leak (we should know since we’ve had 3 tire fixes on the trip. I know, not bad for all the miles we’re putting on). He added more air and would recheck it in the morning. After dinner, just one more task….Sadie’s bath. She’s such a trooper getting used to the small quarters in our shower. What was once an occasion to hide, she now goes in voluntarily when I say the word “bath”. Besides, I think she always feels better after receiving her “spa” treatment.

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