Friday 18 July

Trip Start Apr 13, 2008
Trip End Oct 27, 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Sunday, July 27, 2008

Friday 18th July
As we drove back towards Custer we noticed white patches on the side of the road. At first we couldn't work out what it was but then we realised it was actually snow!  We are quite high up here and it did get quite cold over night, but we didn't realise how cold it had been!
We headed for Bear Country USA which we had PROMISED Holly we would visit, seeing as she is completely animal and cuddly toy MAD. Steve wasn't that keen as it was quite expensive and we were worried it might be a bit rubbishy.  However we were proved wrong and we all had a great time.  It was a bit like a safari park for the first bit. We had to drive round the park with all the windows wound up while all the animals roamed around us. We saw Elk, Buffalo, mountain goats, Mountain lions, and the best bit was the bear area.  We literally had dozens of black bears walking all around us, so close you could have touched them if you got out!  They were gorgeous and very entertaining to watch. I do feel sorry that they are in captivity but it was the only way we were going to get to see a bear in North America - which is probably a good thing as I don't want to meet one in the forest thank you very much.
We then parked and walked around the baby bear enclosure.  They had everyone in fits of laughter as they were so playful and naughty! Steve took loads of video of them so we will be able to show friends and family some of this footage in UK and when we get back to NZ.
We also saw 2 Grizzly bears.  They were amazing animals and were perfectly relaxed in front of us all gawping at them. They certainly do not look that vicious and could easily give you the impression that they are harmless. That of course could not be further that the truth.
It was hard to leave them but eventually we headed off as we wanted to go to the Air and Space Museum at Grand Rapids Air force Base. This is back east along the I90 near Rapid City and is free to visit.
We saw a mock up off the Minuteman missiles launch control centre that we had tried to see the other day but had missed out, so we were pleased that at least we saw this. We saw an assortment of different aircraft which I 'm afraid I can't really remember the names of.... Sorry Daddy... but I know one of them was a B52 Bomber.  Anyway it was interesting.
We drove west to Sturgis where we found a camp ground near the road.  We went to investigate prices and eventually stopped at a site occupied by an enormous RV and a couple sitting outside. We asked them if they knew the price of the sites as we couldn't find anyone to ask. We ended up talking to them and they wanted to talk some more and have a drink with us so they said "please stay here, we will pay for your accommodation". Can you believe it? Steve and I had said we would not stay if it was going to cost $30 as we just wouldn't pay that sort of money on principle - especially if the toilets and showers were rubbishy, which they were. Of course we were not going to let them pay for us but in the end they told us that they belong to a special club that gets them half price camp sites and so if they paid for our nights site it would only cost $15. So we gave them $15 cash. That was very generous of them. We sat and had drinks and nibbles with them.  Their names are Chet and Joy - Hi you guys if you are following the Blog now!  Chet is an ex air force Pilot flying the biggest aircraft in the world, and he and Joy have been living in their RV for 5 years after selling their home.  We had a long chat with these lovely people and then we had to get dinner ready and off to bed.

Guess what? We had another nightmare storm, with hail that was bigger that we have experienced. We didn't realise it until a couple of days later but it damaged 2 of our 3 hatches. One hole was perfectly round where it just smashed through the plastic.  There were about 3 holes in all so we may have to replace these at some point. We think it may be wise not to replace them just yet as we may get more damage from storms to come.
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