Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back “Home” at Hart Ranch

As full-time RVers, we have to claim a home address even though we travel from place to place and live in our motorhome. For readers who aren’t RVers, this is called a legal “domicile.” I established my domicile in South Dakota while traveling solo about 6 years ago when I bought a membership in Hart Ranch Resort in Rapid City, SD. At first I used the resort as my mail forwarding service also, but I later switched that to Pak ‘N Mail in Rapid City. Voter registration in SD requires a street address, not a personal mail box (PMB) or post office box, so Hart Ranch still serves as my physical address.

When Don was traveling solo, he used the Escapees mail forwarding service in Livingston, TX. After we got married he switched to my SD addresses. Vehicle insurance, registration, driver license fees, inheritance tax and personal income tax are some of the monetary reasons for full-time RVers to choose either SD or TX (or a few other states with similar fees). When I chose SD, it was a little less expensive here than TX, and I enjoyed coming here in the summertime, whereas most areas of Texas are pretty hot in the summer.

So, there’s always a feeling of “coming home” when I return to Hart Ranch, even though our true home is the one on wheels.DSCN2203  Hart Ranch is a beautiful 5-star resort, where we could stay all summer, or even all year if we wanted to be here for winter sports, as the resort keeps a portion open even during the cold months. But, no thanks, we prefer to be somewhere warm in the winter.

The sites are large and lawns are beautifully manicured. There’s an Olympic size pool with water aerobics, three hot tubs, mini golf, pickle ball and tennis courts, sand volleyball court, fire ring, restaurant (with delivery service to your RV) and snack bar, game rooms and puzzles, comfortable seating in the lodge with magazines and daily newspaper, live entertainment in the pavilion every weekend during the summer, junior camper programs, a resident massage therapist, movie night, potluck dinners, craft and rummage sales, church services and inspirational singing on Sundays, jam sessions, quilters and crafters groups, etc. Anyone who comes to Hart Ranch and is bored just isn’t paying attention!

Plus, this is the heart of the famed Black Hills with attractions such as Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Custer State Park, multiple caves open for tours, lakes and scenic mountain roads, a wild horse sanctuary, the historic towns of Lead (pronounced ‘leed’) and Deadwood, Kevin Costner’s Tatanka – Story of the Bison, Sturgis – home of the famed motorcycle rally every August, and many more nearby places to explore. After coming here for 6 years, I still haven’t seen everything there is to see!

When we left Chamberlain Friday morning, we got an early start and we would gain an hour by going from Central to Mountain time zone. So we took the time for a couple of stops along the way.

The first stop was at South Dakota's Original 1880 Town, about 20 miles west of Murdo, SD. The entrance, gift shop and part of the huge collection of memorabilia are in this 14-sided barn, built in 1919.DSCN2132

The tour begins and ends through the barn. Exiting the tour through the back door takes visitors through the gift shop, naturally!DSCN2160

The barn was moved to its present location from 45 miles away, near Draper, SD. The move cost thousands of dollars and took 3 days. Other portions of the town came from a movie set used for filming that was abandoned when winter arrived in the early 1970’s. The collection of more than 30 buildings is historically correct for an early South Dakota town.

Included are the Fire Station,DSCN2162

the Blacksmith and Emporium (general store),DSCN2187

the Bank,DSCN2166

the Hotel,DSCN2169

the Saloon,DSCN2177

with stage and operational player piano,DSCN2178

and a bar with brass rail,DSCN2179

the Church,DSCN2182

the Train Station,DSCN2183

the Feed Store,DSCN2185

several Pioneer Homes,DSCN2192

and many more! We took a break at the end, and a friendly stranger snapped our picture on this interesting porch swing.DSCN2193

The other stop wasn’t nearly as much fun, but we can say we did it. Wall Drug Store is a popular tourist stop, and both of us have stopped there before. But we didn’t realize how much they charge for a relatively simple lunch. I had a hamburger, Don had a hot dog and onion rings, we each had a small drink, and the total was $19.00! There was no table service; we stood in line to place our order, waited to hear our number called and went back to pick up our food, and had to hunt for napkins and condiments. And it didn’t taste all that good, either. Next time we’ll go to Burger King or Taco Bell!

We walked through the backyard of the complex, and Don talked me into climbing onto the giant jackalope for a photo. I had to wait my turn until all the children in the area did the same thing, with Grandmas taking their pictures.DSCN2199

Wall Drug’s history is interesting, beginning with this statement: “It was December 1931. Dorothy and I had just bought the only drugstore in a town called Wall on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands. We'd been open a few days, and business had been bad.” Dorothy came up with the notion of offering free ice water to travelers, and it was the brilliant idea that turned the business around. Now, it’s a thriving tourist spot with many shops all linked by doorways and halls, that attracts many visitors every day. DSCN2201 Based on our lunch, and a few things we saw in some of the shops, everything seems overpriced. I guess everybody should go to Wall Drug at least once, but I’m not sure I’d recommend a return visit.


  1. The old town looks like fun! You can have Wall Drug. They are living on a reputation and a memory, but now it is just a faint memory and the reputation is no longer deserved. Loved Hart Ranch -- that's where we met a very nice lady named Sharon!

  2. I look forward to following your adventures! Come visit

  3. I missed the 1880's town. I guess I need to make another trip to South Dakota. I started RVing in 2007 and have made two trips to South Dakota. Really, I'd like to see you and Don.


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