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Our early morning wake up call paid off and we got a campsite at Center Lake Campground at Custer State Park for the next 3 days. We were especially excited because one of the campground’s amenities was hot showers. We took our time packing up and then headed in that direction. The road out of the forest got a little hairy at times but that is part of the fun. Our adventures have certainly improved Francis’s off-road driving skills. I just make sure my seat belt is on and close my eyes when it gets too scary.

When we made it to the campground, we headed straight for the showers which were right next to the little lakeside beach. Feeling very refreshed, we made our way to our campsite and got to work setting up the big tent so we could camp in comfort for the next few days. Set up and take down is more time consuming than the half dome tent we use more often but the extra space, screen room, and built in awning are nice for a longer stay.

We relaxed for a while then drove into the nearby town of Custer to get some steaks for a 4th of July barbecue. Francis had some work emails that needed immediate attention so we looked for a coffee shop in town to spend a little time. We were fortunate to find Calamity Jane Coffee & Winery. Fantastic, friendly service, a wide selection of coffee drinks, smoothies and of course wine, as well as souvenirs and t-shirts.  We only sampled the very good coffee but other customers seemed to be enjoying the wine. Making the experience even more enjoyable was the blind guitar/ harmonica, Steve, playing folk singer out front. He and his lovely wife, Melissa, stopped by our table to chat which was really nice.

We met a couple and their teenage son from Winston Salem, North Carolina who were just wrapping up a 3-week trip visiting 13 different national parks. They were walking by and spotted Francis’s NC State t-shirt so they came into the coffee shop just to say hello.  We compared notes about favorite parks and talked about how seeing so many so close together can actually get overwhelming. It reminded me of when we visited the Grand Canyon in March of 2016 and I did not even get out of the car. It was really cold and windy, and we had done so many parks in a row I was satisfied with my view from the window. We will have to go back some time so I can really do it justice!

Between work and socializing, time flew by and it was time to pack up and head back to camp for the night.