Wednesday, August 19, 2009

South Dakota – Missiles, Caverns and Repairs



We have had on going problems with the front jacks on our trailer. These are the big jacks that support, lower and raise the trailer when ever we hitch or unhitch from the truck. (See our posting of September 2008 titled “Prince George, British Columbia” about our gear problem last year.) We have tried every suggestion we have gotten from other RVers, but these solutions only work for a short time. Our jacks have been making awful noises and the amount of movement was becoming less and less. When we arrived in Interior, South Dakota we weren’t sure if we could raise the the trailer enough to get it off of the truck. We decided that something had to be done, as it was too stressful to hold our breathes each time we hitched or unhitched. I called the manufacturer and told them of our past and current problems. They recommended that we install a “heavy duty” dual motor system. Not a cheap solution, but ANYTHING to avoid this problem. We ordered the new jack kit and had it shipped to Green Star RV Repair 90 miles away in Rapid City, South Dakota.

After our last posting the weather turned HOT, we had thee consecutive days of 100 degree temperatures. One day a thunderstorm came in and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in 15 minutes. During these hot spell we stayed inside under the A\C and worked on indoor projects. Kathy did a bunch of sewing and I worked on some photography projects. After three days of waiting for our parts to travel cross country, we moved to Rapid City to be closer to the repair facility when they arrived. Unfortunately, they got out of Ohio late and didn’t arrive until Friday afternoon too late for the installation. So the installation was put off until Monday. We used our time in Rapid City to take care of groceries, laundry and shopping for new phones. It was the first time we had been in a Mall since we left San Jose. The heat wave broke with a rain day, but after that the weather was very nice in Rapid City.


With the nice weather and all of our errands and chores taken care of, we visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force base. I think after seeing the Pima Air Museum any other air museum pales by comparison. (See our posting of February 2008 titled “Tucson Update Part Two ” about our visit to the Pima Air Museum.) For most of its life Ellsworth has been a Strategic Air Command or SAC base. At one point it was the largest SAC base. The museum has various bombers.


A B-29 bomber used toward the end of WWII. The atomic bombs that ended WWII were dropped by B-29s.


This is a B-52 “Stratofortress”. This is the longest serving aircraft in Air Force history. It first flew in 1952 and some of today’s B-52 pilots are literally the grandchildren of the first B-52 pilots. Even more amazing is the Air Force currently doesn't plan to retire the B-52 fleet until 2040. Ninety years of service!


This is a B-1 bomber, initially built in the 1970s to replace the B-52 due to cost, only about 75 were every made. They are still in use by the Air Force today.

As you can see in the background of the picture above there are other planes used for various purposes in the museum collection.


As part of its Strategic Air Command role Ellsworth was responsible for 100s of Minuteman II missiles in the 1960s and 70s. These were nuclear tipped missiles hidden in underground silos across the Dakotas. Nebraska and parts of Colorado. As part of an arms agreement with the then Soviet Union and the creation of the Minuteman II missiles most of the Minuteman II missiles and silos were destroyed. Ellsworth Air Force base was a training center for the missile maintenance crews and they have the training silo and training missile as a South Dakota Air and Space Museum tour.




The took us 30 - 40 feet underground inside the training silo.


State of the art 1960s computer equipment.


The Black Hills apparently have many caverns, most of these are privately owned and operate tours. Some of these caverns were tourist attractions before Mt. Rushmore was carved. We picked the Black Hills Cavern because it was the first billboard we saw as we headed west from Mitchell, South Dakota.


They have been doing tours here since the 1930s.


Our 16 year old tour guide at the entrance to the cavern. As you can tell by his stance he is already wore out from the day.





We reach the bottom of the cave. Our guide wasn’t very good, but there were only three of us on the tour and the cavern was very interesting.

On our way back from the cavern we stopped at the Firehouse Microbrew on Main St. in Rapid City. The beer was okay but, the food was good.

On Monday after dropping off the trailer for repairs we had several hours to kill and of course there aren’t a lot of places that welcome dogs. So, we went to a near by park near Rapid Creek and walked the various paths. We came across this memorial about the Berlin Wall.


Actual pieces of the Berlin Wall. We both thought that the Berlin Wall would be much taller.


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The sign from checkpoint Charlie the crossing point from the American Sector into East Berlin.

The planes and crews from Ellsworth Ari Force base were very involved in the Berlin Airlift June 1948 to May 1949. Rapid City was given this memorial as a sign of appreciation from the Berliners.

If you are ever in South Dakota and need RV repair go to Green Star Camper Center in Rapid City! Even though the installation took them twice as long as they had expected they still only charged the estimated amount.

As always there are many more pictures in our slideshow


  1. As always, a wonderful tour as seen through your eyes and the lens of your cameras. Excellent job! I enjoyed the post!


  2. I was surprised at how the cavern looked looks "oozey".

  3. All was very interesting! Looks like quite the place to visit!

  4. I can tour the country thru you!!!!

  5. Gorgeous pictures and commentary....Kathy you were dwarfed by the missile!!!! Love the caverns. I'll never forgot our tour the Luray (spelling) Caverns in NC mtns. as a child. It was 95 outside and 45 inside. when we came out my Mom had lost her voice. We went to the dr. up there they told her it was due to the extreme temp change..??however, since neither Daddy nor I had the problem I expect she was getting sick anyway. Daddy said it was the best vacation ever...Mom could not tell him how to drive. HA!!
    Hugs HiC

  6. The planes are awesome...wish David could have been with you-he loves caverns and I'm claustrophobic.
    Super photos!