After a week in the mountains it was time for us to move on. It is amazing how much of Montana we have now driven. Montana is the fourth largest state in the USA after Alaska, Texas and California. Our route took us back through Browning which is the town on the Blackfeet Tribe Indian Reservation. It is possible to know you are entering a reservation before it is signposted or checked on the map. Sadly the standard of the homes deteriorate, more often than not there are quantities of old cars surrounded by long grass, and very little sign of anyone about. However, some 8000 people live in Browning. After crossing from East to West in Northern Montana we now commenced our journey south eastward again as we made our way to South Dakota so we could visit Badlands National Park which we had missed by changing our itinerary earlier. We had left the cold of the mountains behind and it was now averaging 100 degrees F each day. What a change! One of the difficulties of staying in National Park campgrounds and freedom camping is that personal washing piles up and when our telephone provider does not provide data service we struggle with internet coverage and from time to time telephone service. A visit to McDonalds always helps with Internet and we found an excellent laundromat - great, a supply of clean clothes again! Why do we freedom camp? We have set our van up so that we can freedom camp comfortably with good batteries, plenty of water, gas and waste capacity. The cost of camping grounds are quite hefty - the majority range between $US45 and $US70 plus State tax. Convert this to either New Zealand or Australian dollars and you will understand that by freedom camping we can certainly help manage our daily spending. An interesting point for those who caravan - here in he USA the fridge is run on gas as we travel. The new fridges are automatic and convert from gas to electric as soon as power is connected. This helps with the warm weather as the fridge is constantly turned on. Most of Montana is prairie land where a lot of winter feeds and grain are now grown. We overnighted in Great Falls, then further south east in Billings before leaving Montana, crossing the edge of Wyoming and then reaching Rapid City in South Dakota travelling a distance of nearly 700 miles. From here we only had less than 100 miles to drive to Wall which is adjacent to the entrance to Badlands National Park which was our destination. Wall is a tourist haven in itself. We booked into the camping ground and took a wander around the Main Street. Wall was put on the map back in 1936 when a family owned drug store, on the point of closure, came upon the idea of offering free iced water to travellers on the nearby highway travelling the hot and dry prairie lands. Within days 5000 customers a day stopped for the iced water and bought other items as well changing the future for the business and in turn the small town it serviced. Today 80 years later the business is still in the same family (called Wall Drug) and many thousands of visitors visit each day. The free iced water and coffee for 5 cents is still available along with numerous other offerings. The cafe/dining room alone seats 530 in one sitting. Our photo of Wall Drug was taken late at night as during the day the streets are crowded with people and vehicles. This area of South Dakota and Wyoming, the neighbouring state, is the home of the cowboy and the Wild West. Everywhere there are shops selling cowboy clothing etc. It is easy to tell a local as all the guys have jeans and a long sleeved check shirt (remember it is hot) along with cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. We came to this part of South Dakota to visit Badlands National Park. We were told that to see the park at it's best, and to avoid the very hot conditions, to visit at sunrise and sunset. So we set the alarm for 4 am and drove the eight miles into the park. The park is amazing - as you drive into the park there is no indication that there is anything but prairie land. However stop at the first scenic lookout and before you are valleys with buttes, sheer walls, spikes and spires and the light and shadows changes the colours. The park is not large - the road through is about 24 miles - and all the way you have the changing views. It is pretty amazing and we are so pleased we have visited. Because we saw the park at sunrise we decided we may as well see it at sunset too. There were far more people at the various viewing areas than in the morning. We had expected more colour to be shadowed but that was not the case. Evening did bring out a few more wild animals like the pronghorn, the bighorn sheep and the prairie dogs. The park is not huge and there are only a couple of major trails, both about six miles long, so we chose not to do those. The ability to walk twelve miles return is no longer in my capability particularly in 100 degrees heat. Fortunately there is plenty to see from the lookouts and shorter trails. The name Badlands comes from the Native Americans who considered the area "bad land". We did attend a ranger education session on homesteading. We had seen lots of ruins of small homes as we travelled. At this session we learned that from 1862 through until the mid 1970's individuals could apply for and receive a grant of 160 acres on the basis that they farm the land for five years, build a home of at least 10 foot by 12 foot, be 21 years of age, the head of the household, and not be an enemy of the US government. It was an attempt to bring people to settle in the mid west. Many of these families arrived with high hopes of making a home and providing an income for their family however sadly many failed and walked away from their homes. It is not surprising that they failed when you see the type of land that many were allocated. These homes are now the ruins we see. Some families did prosper (often dependent on whether there was access to a good supply of water) and these families are the ancestors of many current day farmers and ranchers. South Dakota has very diverse landscape from the plains and prairies to rocky mountains. After leaving Wall we made our way initially to the Wild West town of Keystone then to Mt Rushmore. It is here that there is a very well known national monument where the sculptor Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to create a sculpture for all Americans. Between 1927 and 1941, and with the help of over 400 workers, he carved the faces of four United States presidents into the mountain (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt). Mt Rushmore is visited by more than three million visitors a year so it was no guessing that we were not there alone. Having seen this rock sculpture most tourists then visit the Crazy Horse Memorial which is only about twenty miles away. This yet to be completed rock sculpture was the dream of an American of Polish descent who was asked by a local Indian Chief to carve a mountain and recognise the red man's great hero. The work was commenced in 1948 and Chief Crazy Horse on his horse with his finger pointing was chosen. Sadly the sculptor has since passed away but his family are working to complete the carving. After sixty years the face of Crazy Horse is completed but the balance is quite difficult to imagine. The statue model of the final carving is apparently 1/34th of the final size. The Black Hills in South Dakota provide wide recreational opportunities particularly all terrain vehicle riding and in the winter snow mobiles. There are numerous lakes and camping areas. We spent a day up in Spearfish Canyon walking the trails to the various waterfalls. The canyon is compared by some to the Grand Canyon but we didn't think that it was anywhere near as great. Again all terrain vehicles and motor bikes were very popular. Interestingly atv's and 4 wheelers can be driven by anyone 14 years old and above and used on all roads other than highways. Helmets are not required but a licence is! We have even seen a lady arrive at the supermarket on her four wheeler and seen them in fast food drive in lines is very common. We chatted to one young guy of 21 who had had an accident driving his all terrain vehicle when he was just sixteen and had become paralysed from the upper chest down. He wanted to continue his sport so had a vehicle adapted for his use with hand controls which he was able to drive whilst sitting in his motorised wheelchair. He and his family were out enjoying a week-end in the hills. Next place to visit was Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming which is a national treasure with significant spiritual connections to the local Native American tribes. The tower is visible from quite a distance as all around it is prairie land and the rock tower rises 1267 feet. It is a large grey flat topped volcanic formation. The area is now a National Park. It is possible to climb the sheer rock with tremendous difficulty. The use of wedging rock climbing aids into the rock is prohibited. Visitors are allowed to scramble over the lower rocks but climbers need to register with a ranger for safety purposes. Apparently some 5000 people have climbed the rock and there have been five fatalities. We clearly were not starters nor did we scramble over the large rocks at the base! So we finished our week in the city of Gillette in north east Wyoming. Gillette is advertised as the "Energy Centre of the World" and there were numerous power stations, coal mines, natural gas facilities, oil pumping wells and perhaps others we couldn't identify. The city appeared quite prosperous with good quality homes etc and hopefully the prosperity will continue as we understand some of the mines are facing closure. We visited an overlook into a coal mine - the trucks seemed much smaller than the ones we had seen in the mines in Australia. While there we had a chance to chat to a rancher and his wife from South Dakota and it was interesting to hear just how they ran their ranches over here. He operates their 15,000 acre ranch on their own with occasional help from the neighbours. One of the really interesting parts of this was the fact the in New Zealand farmers talk about units per acre, but in his part of the world they run 30 acres per cow or unit. They had 800 black Angus bulls on their property. They had raised their four children with the youngest now 18. The children attended the local country school which was about 20 miles each way, and with no school bus involved list of travelling time and cost for Mum's taxi. The youngest boy will commence as a senior when school returns and will drive himself the 60 miles each way each day. Imagine the cost of this and how tiring that is going to be for their son. We also learned that a rancher has animals on his land and a farmer grows grains, hay etc. Now we know the difference. It was great to chat with them and learn so much about their way of life. So three states in one week and over the next week we continue driving westward to Yellowstone National Park. We understand that the hot weather is here to stay for a while. Most days around 100 degrees F with quite a bit of humidity and dropping to around 70 degrees overnight. Winter has gone and we are back in summer again.