Our road trip across the country on the way to our daughter’s wedding has begun! We’re taking the slow roads, avoiding the interstates, stopping to walk through the little towns we pass through if they catch our eye. For the next few weeks, we will be footloose and fancy free. And then we will be parents of the bride. So, please welcome my husband, Jim, to the blog. Jim is the photographer in the family, and he will be taking pictures and giving updates on the trip from his perspective.
All the President’s Faces…Well, Four of Them, At Least
Day 8 – July 22, 2012
On the way to Rushmore! Today we would complete a childhood dream. But first many, many hours of driving. Glancing at Mavis (the gps) I saw a rt that would take us off the interstate (perpendicular to the interstate, then parallel) then rejoin. A horrible thing about the gps is that it has no scale. The perpendicular part was about 12 miles but the parallel part a lot longer. The road was being worked on and was closed to us for about 15 minutes as a grader or something came the other way. The nice flag man came to each car, explained what was happening and had us read a laminated card that rocks, etc could damage our car or break a window and it was just too bad for us if it did.
The geography was a bit different than the interstate but not much, speeds were high. My plan had been to get of the interstate and explore the Bad Lands then up to the tourist stop of Wall Drugs. Instead the rt I chose took us to I-80 (Lincoln Highway) about a mile before Wall. Wall Drugs is in Wall and has good directions. We probably spent about an hour walking around and enjoying the sites. At one point I walked too close to the periphery of an area that was shooting jets of water up, It blasted right into my right elbow. Luckily I protected the camera and deflected 90% of the blast onto Kelly.
Well marked to enter the Bad Lands. As a National Park it was $15. Well worth it. Hard to describe the desolate beauty of the landscape. Stopped at nearly every opportunity and walked a bit, avoiding rattle snakes, didn’t see any.
At the first stop Kelly was near the edge and I positioned the camera on a bench to take our picture. Except I didn’t walk over to her, I ran at her as if to take her over the edge. The look on her face was priceless! People nearby laughed.
The drive took us down and into the Bad Lands. It was an overload of sights. Hard to imagine the people who explored, travelled through or lived here without the benefits of air condition and a cooler full of water.
I saw on the park map that they had a Minute Man station and a launch area you could tour but it seemed too far as Rushmore beckoned with many more miles to travel.
As we left the park sharp eyed Kelly noticed a small sign for Minute Man something. I turned around before getting on the interstate as she read the map. It was practically located in a gas station. When we entered the trailer they were showing a movie about the control launch facility along with some SD’s complaining that when the missile sites were returned to the public (“return to the prairie”) provisions were put so that no one could dig more than a few feet and you could never build on the site.
A small placard on a table gave directions to visit an actual missile site a few miles down the interstate. The drive took us on a gravel road on a ranch to a barbed wired fenced in area, (not very large maybe 20 yards square?). They kept the warning about no entry and use of lethal force next to a sign that said if no one was there just open the gate yourself and be sure to shut it again.
The silo is in a half opened state and covered with plexiglass. I managed a few pictures.
We got to Rushmore about 5 or 6 pm and drove right to the park. It was great to see those famous profiles at last. The park fee was $11, which gives us access for a year. Since we never did eat lunch I bough a buffalo burgher that was pretty good.
We decided to hike the Presidential trail to get a better, closer view. About half way up a park ranger came down and said she had bad news. There was a fire in the area and their was a chance it could come into this area so the trail was closed.
The altitude, heat and our general exhaustion had made the hike a bit tiring so it was disappointing to just get to the good part when we were forced to leave. While the trails were closed the rest of the park was open but we shortly left in search of food and sleep.
Both were very hard to come by. The town of Keystone had an abundance of hotels offering rooms for under $50 but they did not seem available, plus the King and Queen were not about to sleep in a double bed. Parking at the hotels we considered were ridiculous as the spaces were so small. We did find a nice Holiday Inn that was booked. Leaving our car at the Holiday Inn we went looking for food. After walking the length, and back of the board walk we decided on the “Tackle Box pub and grub”. A nice hostess seated us at a table next to the outside eating area. The posters made me ready for a cold hard cider drink. Unfortunately the only thing that ever came to our table were flies. We eventually left, still hungry and thirsty. While Kelly investigated something I got the IPad and found another hotel whose earlier sign intrigued me; something about if you think the Ritz Carleton is better you get your room free. Turned out to be more expensive than $50 (about $110) but pretty nice (Rushmore Inn). We did not rent a suite so did not get to compare to the Ritz.
Still hungry we went search for food again; it was between a DQ and a Subway and neither won. Saw a place called the Grizzly Creek restaurant. It was crowded with a wait but the bar was open so we got two seats. The bartender was from Croatia on a work/visit program as he completed his degree in marketing. He was fascinated as we told him about our driving cross country. Kelly and I both had a bit to drink and we ended up with one of the largest bills for food so far (over $70 with tip).
Now fed, we could sleep so we could figure out tomorrow’s destination.