Fifth Wedding Anniversary Part II: Mount Rushmore and More

If you recall the Fifth Wedding Anniversary Trip Part I, Adlai and I traveled to South Dakota for five days to celebrate our anniversary. After a good night sleep on our inexpensive Target air mattress, we walked to the Mountain Grill for breakfast. I had an order of scrambled eggs and a biscuit with jelly. Adlai had an order of biscuits smothered in gravy—like-minded eaters we are not. The biscuit was dry and I wished I liked gravy, but I chewed and drank coffee and managed to finish the single biscuit sitting on my plate.

Mountain Grill at Mystery Mountain Resort

Time for breakfast!

We had a lot planned for the day, so we ate quickly and headed back to camp to get ready. When we were dressed for the day, we set out to go and see Mt. Rushmore. This was number one on my list of things to see in South Dakota. I am not sure why, but large, man-made monuments interest me. I suppose it is the sheer magnitude of constructing them. The patience the artist and craftsman possess to accomplish such a feat.

We packed the car with goodies for a picnic and left the campsite. The Mystery Mountain resort was about 15 miles away from Mt. Rushmore. We drove through the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore peeked out from behind trees. “Oh my God, I see it from here,” I cried! I felt like someone just gave me a million dollars. I was elated to see this sculpture. I felt like I was floating through time, was it real? Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? It played peek-a-boo with me for a few short minutes. I started snapping pictures knowing that I wasn’t going to get a decent shot until we were inside the park.

We pulled up to the entrance. It was like we were paying a toll to cross a stretch of highway. One car after another pulled up and paid and followed the road. It was $11/person to park and it was worth it. The parking garage was reminiscent of any parking structure in any major city.

We found a place to park. I wiggled out of my seat like an antsy kindergartner who needed to use the bathroom. The parking structure looked new and there were public bathrooms that were clean unlike some monuments that I have traveled to. It was a place I was proud to call an American tourist destination. As we walked up the promenade, we passed american flags and tourists doing what they do best. Click, click, click, cameras were going off on all sides of me. A few people stood with a camera up to their faces and scanned that big, beautiful panoramic view with their video cameras.

I joined in on the clicking as Adlai walked ahead. The addiction was back. Wall Drug hadn’t cured my habit. I skipped and caught up to Adlai. When we reached the end, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln greeted us with stoic faces.

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

Mt. Rushmore in all its glory!

We asked a few different tourists to take our picture with the sculpture in the background and then set out to walk the short loop in front of Mt. Rushmore. Along the way, there were signs with information about each president. The signs answered questions about which party each president belonged to, if they were formally educated, their career highlights and birth and death dates.

A vacation highlight, Mt. Rushmore.

We made it to Mt. Rushmore.

At the end of the walk there was a museum with information about how the monument was constructed and the different tools used. I learned that the Hall of Records was built behind Lincoln’s head and used as an archive for important documents relating to the Memorial.

We gawked a few more minutes and contemplated more pictures, but we had a busy schedule and decided to walk back to the car. Along the way a few Navy soldiers played a tune on their instruments and vendors sold $5 t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and bags.

We were back in the car minutes later and on the road again. Adlai was already hungry, so we stopped at Breezy Point picnic area close to Mt. Rushmore. He hauled the large cooler over to the picnic table and we took out our sandwich ingredients. We soon realized that we left the bread for our sandwiches and our paper plates at the campsite. Uh, Oh!

Breezy Point picnic area in South Dakota.

A picnic area on July 3rd, 2014.

I didn’t mind, we also bought beautiful leaf lettuce at the store the day before, so I was fine building a lettuce wrap instead of a traditional sandwich. My hungry husband, who eats like a teenage boy, didn’t share my enthusiasm.

Lunch time...lettuce wraps and chips.

Lunch time…lettuce wraps and chips.

We made our lettuce wraps and were soon greeted by squirrels and chipmunks. We tossed them a few chips. They weren’t shy, they grabbed a chip and nibbled away. Soon, we had a few birds joining us too. They grabbed a snack and hopped away to feed their young ones.

A squirrel joined us for lunch.

A squirrel joined us for lunch.

After lunch, we were packing up the cooler and tossing our trash in the garbage cans. I didn’t see the open can of tomato juice sitting on the newspaper that also served as a plate and I dumped the half-full can of tomato juice all over the table and the bench. I think some even splattered on Adlai’s leg. He tried to be a good sport about it…

He brought over the large container of non-potable water we got from the campsite. He rinsed off the tomato juice as best as he could. We loaded up the car and headed for Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was a little disappointing. I say that only because, we paid $11/person to get in and if we wanted to get up close to the monument we had to pay and additional amount to see it. We watched the movie about the man who started Crazy Horse and then walked around the gift shop. Since we weren’t going to see the monument up close and personal we left soon after.

Vacation to see Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse is supposedly the largest monument in the world, however, it’s not finished.

Back on the road, we took the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park in hopes that we would see buffalo, prairie dogs and antelope. We paid $7 to get inside the park and began our journey.

We hadn’t been driving long when we saw an antelope standing about five or six feet away from the road. I started taking pictures and realized the poor creature was not doing well. He looked emaciated and sick. “Drive on,” I said. “I don’t want to look at the poor thing.”

And we did. The road curved and twisted and we were driving slow. We kept the windows open so if we happened on some wild life, I could snap a picture out the passenger window instead of the bug splattered windshield. The sun was baking us, especially my right arm that was resting on the door frame.

We drove and drove for what seemed like 100 miles and finally, in the distance we could see cars pulling off the road and buffalo were walking away from the road. Once again, like a small child, I screamed, “Oh My God! There are buffalo! Hurry up, they’re leaving.” By the time we reached the buffalo they had disappeared over the hillside. I figured that was going to be my only encounter with the beautiful beasts.

A couple minutes later, we reached a large, open prairie and there were hundreds of prairie dogs scurrying from dirt mound to dirt mound. We even captured a prairie dog husband and wife duo, ok, maybe boyfriend and girlfriend. They looked so happy together, petting each other.

Prairie Dogs in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

A loving couple!

We watched the little varmints for several minutes and continued driving. We had been in the car for a long time and I was getting impatient and needed to get out do something physical. I became grouchy with the cars that were driving to slow. I wanted to get out of the jeep and run along side it as we made our way through the park.

Just when I couldn’t take it any longer, we came down a long hill and in the distance we could see a herd of buffalo basking in the sun. “Oh My God, the buffalo! Stop,” I cried! And we did. I snapped a few pictures and we got back on the road.

Buffalo in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

Look at these beautiful beasts!

We turned and twisted our way through Needles Highway and managed not the scrape the sides of the jeep as we honked our way through some of the narrowest tunnels I have ever seen. We stopped the jeep many times to get out and snap pictures.

Tunnels on Needles Highway!

The tunnels were a tight squeeze!

The Black Hills were amazing, the name given to the land formations was perfect. The granite hills were pointed and straight. It was a place where you felt at one with nature. Mother Nature had done a beautiful job creating this landscape and I was thankful to be able to enjoy it!

The Black Hills 2014.

We loved driving through the Black Hills.

Needles Highway in Custer State Park.

The Black Hills were one of Mother Nature’s finest!

Needles Highway, Custer State Park, South Dakota.

A beautiful day in the Black Hills.

Several stops and pictures later, we drove back to the campsite for a little R&R and dinner. Tonight was veggie burgers, more corn on the cob and extra large marshmallow S’mores!

S'mores

Mmmm, S’mores!

Adlai and I talked about how fortunate we were to be able to experience such a beautiful place and even questioned what the job outlook was in the area. South Dakota, close to the Black Hills anyway, was a beautiful place and we didn’t want this experience to end.

 

 

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