Devil’s Tower Early AM Hike – With Whiny Kid

The Devil’s Tower hikes in the early am are really awesome. As long as your 6 year old isn’t whiny. Also avoids 94 degree August afternoon weather….

Slightly Crumpled Map from Visitor Center

We are staying at the Devil’s Tower KOA. It conveniently located RIGHT outside the gates to the National park.

Blue dot is us parked in KOA.

So we took our RV up to top of Devil’s Tower park at about 8am and there were really only climbers getting ready in main parking lot. There were very few people around for our hikes. Lower section was similarly empty.

Unfortunately, the visitor center up top was closed (Covid – Ranger shows up outside at 9am) so we couldn’t get National Park Sticker, but we did get cancellation stamp for kid.

Stamp – but no sticker.

We started on the 1.3 mile tower trail and the 6 year old incessantly whined about wanting to climb the boulders and the tower. Incessantly.

View at about halfway point.

Honestly, I just wanted a nice walk on the trail.

And enjoy the views (which were really awesome) in peace and quiet. Doesn’t everyone (but 6 year old) want a quiet walk?

Finally, my husband just went bouldering with the kid just get him to stop whining at us. Ugh.

We have now promised kid climbing lessons when we get home.

Honestly, we need to get back into shape too. But oh the whining this morning….Staying on the path/trail apparently was THE worst thing we have ever asked him to do….

Of course the deer and her fawns didn’t seem to be very interested or impressed by our presence or kid nattering.

After doing the Tower Trail hike we headed down to do Prairie Dog Town. The Valley View Trail was only .6 miles. It wasn’t that cool of a hike. But I did enjoy the sculpture,

reading the Native American legend about white buffalo calf woman, and the views….

Thor Delano RV FB 2020 – So The Awning Just $&@! Broke….

How many things can break on a brand new RV on our first trip you ask? Add yet another thing to the list.

Now I know why guides tell you to buy used RVs.

So we headed from Keystone, SD to Devil’s Tower, WY. Lovely trip.

View from KOA

It was maybe an hour and 45 minutes? We stopped for groceries and gas at a Safeway in Rapid City, SD – so I can’t give exact time – let’s just say it wasn’t long.

So we are at Devil’s Tower, WY KOA. Its nice here. Open and pretty.

Nice view of Tower from KOA.
KOA has cabins, camping, and teepees too.

When we arrived it was early in the day and mostly empty. It’s Thursday. We are supposed to leave on Sunday for Thermopolis, WY.

Then, the awning broke immediately after we extended it.

I swear to you I feel like the house on this RV is held together with rubber bands and bubblegum.

We’ll let you know just how many things ultimately break on this NEW RV, but we only have another 14 days or so on the road to go – and it’s not looking good.

I already had scheduled service/repairs for this thing for September 4th – two weeks ago. So that should tell you something about it.

Broke list – so far re short list of fixes we are at:

1. Sunroof shade;

2. Dinette seat/bed area that wouldn’t lay flat and wrecked facing on table;

3. Ineffective/weak bathroom mirror magnet/closure;

Notice our cheap adhesive magnet addition to the right.

4. A bunch of the cheap ass drawer locks are broke; and now…

I have no idea what is broke with these cheap things. Notice unfinished/rough plywood for drawers

5. The Outdoor Awning.

A bolt and the end cap came off and wires were loose. Ok. It got stuck extended out. If we can’t get this awning thing fixed we won’t be going anywhere….

We tried zip tying wires and cap (Good Sam guy also recommended – more on that below).

Zip-tied end cap on. Bolt came out. Other pieces may have gone flying?

Zip tied wires up – still wouldn’t work.

Undid zip ties. Tried to retract – no good. So then we read Thor manual. We checked fuses. We looked online. There was no awning manual included with our RV manuals. Also, more on that in a minute.

We called the Thor “Elite” service (they are on East Coast time – and Thor was closed for the day – they couldn’t tell what type of awning we had).

The Elite guy (Tom- very helpful BTW) and I couldn’t find the brand of awning on google. The brand isn’t visible on the awning itself. He (Tom at Elite) said be getting back to me tomorrow (Friday) (fingers crossed) after he called Thor.

We called Good Sam early Thursday afternoon. They said they’d get back to us. They didn’t. We decided to try again in Friday am. We then went to bed frustrated.

But wait, there’s more….

Ok, it’s now Friday morning. And last night SUCKED. Wind and a storm came in at about 2:30am. There was lightening and rain. And remember the AWNING is STUCK in the OPEN position. We don’t want that thing to tear off or blow into neighboring RV.

We don’t have an awning manual.

We can’t find anything on youtube.

We get the motor end cap off – but can’t figure out how to get the thing to retract. This just sucks.

I call Good Sam (again) – this time they manage our call/request. We end up having a mobile repair guy get here at about 4am. He does something to wires, says to zip tie end cap again and deal with it when we get back from trip.

Husband trying to get end cap on. Friday morning after a Good Sam guy got it retracted.

Awning is broke for the remainder of trip. But at least we can drive this thing. And we of course have to pay for mobile repair service trip.

This morning’s pictures –

Need to figure out how to get cap back on.
We need to figure out how to zip tie this back up.

Elite guy (Tom) called back first thing this Friday am. He had been hard at work and talked to Thor and got awning manufacturer information.

The awning is made by Carefree of Colorado. “Specially” for Thor. Model Latitude – OEN. Dual Pitch. Carefree’s tel is 303-469-3324. I’m feeling real “special” right now….I probably need another cup of coffee.

Elite guy also got awning manuals and wiring information to me.


This guy was awesome. He e-mailed me the PDFs. We’ll review tonight (because I’m working on low sleep today…).

But our awning is still broke and now I need to order parts from Carefree so they can be waiting for our service stop.

The RV house side thing sometimes kinda sucks. I oscillate between this is fun and WTF broke now? Perhaps on a Saturday with some sleep I’ll be more chipper.

But damn. I’ll try to regain some perspective tomorrow – after more sleep.

Not Prepared to Hike the Badlands….

So our 6 year old wanted to hike the badlands in the middle of the day?

As we drove through in our RV he was genuinely upset that we didn’t have the proper gear with us in order to go “adventure” hiking.

I did not expect this.

It was crazy hot.

You probably need/should wear:

1. Sun hats with a brim & upf. You can check out this review –

2. long sleeve sun clothes – something like this.

3. Over ankle hiking boots;

4. Sunglasses;

5. At least 2 quarts of water per person;

6. There is a ton of loose rock/shifting gravel so I would consider a walking stick;

7. Small survival/first aid kit; and

8. Maybe a kerchief.

But that’s just me. we saw people heading out with no water or gear?

And we saw some people returning lobster red… yeah. No thank you.

I mean , you even have to sign a book saying you are heading into the back country. And they warn you about having the right gear and water. (They also warm about rattlesnakes – shudder).

Anyways, we were not prepared (or in shape) for this one.

Maybe next year….

Helicopter Tour of Mt. Rushmore – Keystone, SD

Worth the money.

It is about a 15 minute walk from Rushmore View RV Park to Black Hills Aerial Adventures.

We paid for the Mt. Rushmore Tour ($109/person) and about 15 minutes long. I had taken this helicopter tour (not sure if it was same company?) when I was a kid 35ish years ago?

Helicopter View of Mt. Rushmore

Glad my kid could take it too.

Kid riding in front seat of copter.

Rushmore View RV Park – Keystone, SD. Truth in Advert.

We are staying at Rushmore View, which is an interesting/quirky tiny RV stop. We are here for four days. The RV office people were absolutely lovely. But it is a SMALL RV park – in fact they say right on their website – “Built in the days when RV’ing was car-camping and compact motorhomes, most sites are short and close together.” No fooling. There was truth in that advertisement.

We are the 5th RV down on the row to the right.
We are WAY close to left side neighbor.

Totally reasonable distance to right side neighbor….

Elderly dog keeping an eye out for that deer….

But…we kind of like it. Walking distance (less than a block) to a laundromat (totally empty of people in am in August). A little convenience store – and this cute little creek thing runs right behind us….

Spot #16 – fits 24’ RVs. Nice and wide – and not too close to #17.
Spot #17 – Probably could fit a 30’? Deer not included….

I was ticked because originally we booked a pull through spot here that I immediately hated (#27). ‘Cause nothing ever goes as planned….

RV Spot Map. Started at green spot and moved across the way.

Once they changed it – I’m perfectly content. Go figure.

Anyways, we like Keystone, SD. You can pretty much walk everywhere in town tourist trap wise.

The boys panned for gold at Big Thunder Gold Mine while I worked at this little,!funky, rinky-dink RV spot.

And it’s minutes to Mount Rushmore from here.

Not the view from RV Park. But there is a view….

Temperature Tools for Inside RV

Also called listen to your mother….

So mom told me that power outs at RV places are typical. She was right. This is our third real RV camp stop …and we lost power.

We had bought a Temp Stick. This sucker is easy to use and alerts your phone via app if temp in RV gets too hot (we set ours at 80).

Pricey…but good insurance.

Yes, we have auto generator start for certain temps, etc., but we also leave elderly dog in RV with air on while we go goof off for an hour or two. And nobody needs a tech malfunction in this scenario.

While we didn’t need it this time…I’m glad I got this as backup so I don’t inadvertently as mom said “cook my dog” in the heat. Vomit. Shudder. And now you know where I get my Snark from….

Callie – the awesome elderly dog.

Boondocks we love! Coffee Cup Fuel Stop – Hartford, SD.

I need to get this Blog organized. Truly. But I’m going to start posting about boondock stops we love. We had pulled into Love’s Truck Stop…and pulled right the hell back out because it was FULL of the Sturgis/Covid Rat (aka Soon to be Donor Bikes) Crowd.

Don’t post here re anti-motorcycle stuff. My husband, father, and I have all owned motorcycles (including Harleys).

Harley and bikes we lost to Hurricane Sandy. Very Sucky.
In happier times (pre-Hurricane).

That being said – Sturgis this year was DUMB. Seriously Darwin at his finest. DUMB. Anyways, we are dodging that Covid rat crowd as we travel through SD. We even wore two masks in Wall Drug – because those idiots were THICK in there and maskless. Dumb.

Anyways, we ended up staying/boondocking at a BP lot called Coffee Cup Fuel Stop in Hartford, SD that was wonderful. Truly.

Decent coffee and snacks.
There was even a safe space to put out bump out AND walk the elderly dog safely.

Loved it.

Visiting Friends for a wild time. Best water balloons and disposable straws ever.

So we made a “friend stop” in Illinois. First, it pays to have awesome friends. Gratitude. Second, this post should be sub-titled “excellent product discoveries via other more experienced moms…”.

So we were introduced to some truly awesome, easy to load, water balloons. They load about 40 – 60 or so at once off of a hose and self-tie. SELF-TIE! These suckers rock. Ordered some that are waiting for us when we get home.

Load AND tie off of a hose?!

We also learned about non- paper, but marine biodegradable in 50 days straws. This stuff rules – and no icky mouth feel. Love ‘em.

Decomposes in water or landfill – doesn’t feel like paper or melt in your drink.

We had a really great time visiting. We were really sad to have to leave so soon. We are hoping we can hang longer (maybe meet in Wis Dells?) next year!.

RV – Random things we have made, bought, or modified.

The Grand[parent] Tour – Part 3.

We have now been living out of RV for about/over two weeks. Some stuff is still broken. But some things GParents were able to help us make, fix/modify.

We needed interior step cover so elderly dog didn’t fall to her doom while we are driving.

Stairwell on RV house side.

We had been using beanbag chair – that was too big. GParents suggested we make a step. This was a three day build because of stain, polyurethane, glue drying issues. The whole family worked on this one. Looks easy – but….

We had adhesive weatherstripping on sides to prevent minor rattling… that came off. Then the glue didn’t hold. Hope the staples work out….
The Grandad (aka Boppa) with step cover.

It worked PERFECTLY. Looks good. And does not rattle – a nice snug fit.

Step cover next to stairs.
Step cover in place.

Also, we had Callie’s stitches removed while we were here.

Eye stitches out.

Head stitches are out.

Things that haven’t worked out:

First sewer hose.

Length was too short to be easy to use.

First water hose – same problem. Too short.

Needed longer hose.

Banging curtain on sides of house needed weatherstripping:

Added adhesive weatherstripping – hope it stays stuck….

Bought chocks. Not sure if necessary, but….

Boppa made wood pads for jacks:

Jacks have a 9” diameter – pads are 16” sq. And 3/4” plywood.

Mirror magnet didn’t work – new magnet.

Needed additional magnet for when those heavy paper cups tip over? Not even kidding.

The dangerous paper cups push this sucker open when we drive. Hope extra magnets help.

Needed temp curtain (thank you Grandma Kathy) until we can figure out how to purchase permanent one. Why this wasn’t included with a new RV purchase?

Curtain (modified fitted sheet)

And the damn Dinette/bed. It does not lay flat. Cannot be pushed down or cusions changed to go flat. We have tried.

Notice random gap and bump in center.

Sleeping on it was impossible for the kid. Pushing it down wrecked edges of table (this is some cheap POS).

Pushed table down as far as it would go and it wrecked the edges.

So GParents gave us cushion mattress to go over top of table. And we are sticking beanbag in space to fill gap.

No idea who thought this design up. Design and construction for this just sucks.

One helluva Grand Cupcake- Triple Chocolate Nutella.

So we are supposed to be dieting. We are also visiting the grandparents in new RV-Thor Delano FB. So. Yeah. That dieting thing is working out just about as well as you’d expect.

And then Grandma Marianne dropped this bombshell of a cupcake on us during our visit. Triple Chocolate Nutella Cupcakes. Incredible. They should be illegal.

Triple Chocolate Nutella Cupcakes

Here is the recipe for these chocolate monsters:

Licking the beaters with Grandma Marianne.

Of course Grandma Irene had just purchased a new kitchen towel for us for our RV….