Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pulling a trailer on Needles Highway...big mistake!


Do you want to know why I say this, or how I know it should not be done? Yes, we were the dumb ones on Needles Highway in the Black Hills of South Dakota last week, pulling a trailer.

We arrived in South Dakota on July 18th. It is a beautiful drive as we wound our way up the mountains. We passed through Hot Springs and then up to Wind Cave State Park. We searched for buffalo, just hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of them on a distant hill. We did, and it was very distant. Little did we know that in a couple days we would be surrounded by them. We parked at American Presidents campground. It is a great place to stay. We liked our site, I think it was 21. We had a beautiful view of the mountains from our table in the camper. I enjoyed a few mornings in a lawn chair with coffee, reading my bible, with the Black Hills as my backdrop. There was a ranch right there also, so we were able to enjoy the view of the horses all day. The campground has free mini golf, and a pool, which was too cold, and a hot tub. We hiked quite a bit around the campground. The rocks here were amazing! Shiny stones everywhere on the ground! We could pick up quartz everywhere! We found many beautiful stones right next to our camper.
We loved going to Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park. I'll talk you later about those places, and the buffalo, and almost running out of gas, and gold panning, and 4 wheeling in the Bad Lands, and THE PLAGUE! YES, THE PLAGUE! But for now, let me finish my story about NEEDLES HIGHWAY.

There is an amazing road that leads to Mt. Rushmore from Custer. There are two sections of it. We decided to drive around by Crazy Horse. We didn't actually go in the museum/monument. We saw it from the road. There is a parking lot you can park in and look at it. We continued on to Mt. Rushmore. What a wonderful experience! It only cost $10 for our whole vehicle for a year! We hiked the President's trail that brought us closer to the monument. The history is amazing on how and why this was built. There was a great visitor's center underneath, by the ampitheater. After a wonderful afternoon there, we left and headed on the Needles Highway home. We found a little place to stop and have a picnic. The road was built by an architect specifically for beauty and to compliment Mt. Rushmore. There are piggy tail bridges built along this road. They are unique bridges built in the shape of a pig's tail. There was not enough room for switchbacks inbetween the tunnels, so the architect designed these bridges. They are pretty fun and interesting. The tunnels are carved out of the rock. They are very small and only one car can go through at a time. We didn't have any problem getting our van through. You are supposed to honk before you pull through one, incase someone is on the other side coming the opposite direction.
About a week later, we decided to go through the second part of Needles Highway and go to Sylvan Lake up higher in the mountains. We didn't look at the map, just went by memory. We drove on Custer State Park and went north on Needles Highway. There were no signs saying how small the tunnels were. Oh, by the way, we were hauling our 8' wide flat bed trailer with 4 atvs and 3 kayaks. It was easier to leave the atvs on and haul them with the kayaks, than to take them off. So, here we are, heading up a mountain, with very few places to turn around with a trailer behind us full of toys. We came to the first tunnel, and made it through ok. We noticed it seemed to be smaller than the ones from the other day. We stopped further up the hill so Shae could take a phone call. I told him I thought we should go ahead and turn around. The road was very narrow and made me a little nervous with our load and all. No, he said, we can do it. So, up we go, higher and higher. Now, the road is even smaller, the ledges on the side steeper, and I feel like our van and trailer is getting bigger and bigger! There was nowhere to turn around, and I think all of us were feeling a little nervous now! We came to the second and last tunnel and saw the sign. It read, "8' 4" wide" Yikes! Our trailer is 8' wide! That leaves us 2 inches on each side of the trailer! I said, "Shae, don't do it. We will get stuck right in the middle. We'll get wedged in and someone will have to yank us out!" Well, bad news, there is no where to turn around! We had to go through the tunnel! We all got extremely serious and held our breath as Shae started to drive through a very long and skinny tunnel. I was afraid to even look behind me at the trailer and see just how close it was. Shae inched his way through, knowing we could hit the side at any time. We kept going, and going, and going, and going, until finally, we made it! Yippee! Well, it wasn't quite over. Since we had the trailer on the back, we need to pull totally out of the tunnel before we start to turn to the right. Not gonna happen. There was a whole line of cars waiting to go through the tunnel. They were waiting right at our exit to the tunnel. Shae pulled forward oh so carefully and barely, I don't think I really want to know how barely, he turned to the right, just missing that ladies van. He leaned out our window and said to her, "Boy, that was close!"
Well, you might say we had a happy ending. I'm not quite sure I would agree. We finished the drive to the stunning lake to find a huge storm awaiting us. We couldn't even walk by the lake because the rain started right after we arrived. We hung out in the gift shop, until we realized the bad weather was there to stay. So, we jumped back in the van and saw the sign for Custer, 7 miles! We had just driven at least 16 miles through tiny tunnels, mountain passes, steep ledges, and many cars to find out we could have driven on an easy road only seven miles.
It was one of those times we just had to make the decision to laugh and not cry. It was a crazy adventure, one we will not forget. So, the moral of the story? Don't pull a trailer on Needles Highway!
This is not the van and trailer on the tight tunnel. This is us coming through the first tunnel. We were too in shock to actually get out and take pictures of us going through the really tiny tunnel!

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