Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Vacation 2016 Day 12

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Sept 2

Today's plans were:

Friday drive 3.5 hours to Ramada Rapid City 1902 N Lacrosse Street (2 rooms), see mt rushmore and wind cave, stay 9-2. 

Head East on I-90 thru Gillette, then.. 90 on to Rapid City thru Sturgis, and sightsee from there, or south on 16 at Moorecroft to Mt Rushmore, etc first, and to bed at night?

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

US 16A, SD 36, 89, 87. Pretty much all around Custer and Keystone
This byway will lead you on a delightful adventure as it winds its way around spiraling "pig-tail" shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mt. Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle's Eye and Cathedral Spires rock formations
Crazy Horse is $28 per carload
Mt Rushmore is $11 to park. open 5am to 11pm. lighted after 8:30
Jewel Cave, on 16 w of Custer: This 20-minute program is a brief introduction to Jewel Cave's natural and cultural histories within one large cave room. This easy cave visit enters and exits by elevator. The Discovery Talk is limited to 20 people. We recommend this talk for families with young children, and visitors with limited time or health concerns.

South Dakota, here we come!

We decided to go south and sightsee, then end up at the hotel in Rapid City.

First stop was the Jewel Cave, which was free for our particular circumstances to do the 20 minute talk/single room tour. We had to get tickets for the next tour after our arrival, so we had 30 minutes+ to spare. There is a trail or two on the property, so I suggested the boys take the short trail (10 minute walk). I went with them to the first fork in the road, which was not where I expected it based on the sign, which should have been a warning... We didn't go back to the car for the walkie-talkies... 25 minutes later we started getting worried. I asked the rangers if they had anyone down the trail they could radio and ask if the boys were there, and he said there wasn't, but we shouldn't worry as the trail was very well marked, and if they ever lost sight of the building they would know they'd taken a wrong turn (well, maybe if the sign had mentioned that). After walking nearly the entire loop and calling out without response, Bob decided I should go on the tour with the girls and he would wait for the boys to show up.

The tour was not terribly exciting. We went down an elevator and into an airlock room where the guide tried to explain barometric pressure. Then into the cave itself, where we learned some interesting facts/trivia about how many miles of cave have been explored, how it was discovered, etc. They have only ever found one natural entrance, and every year teams spend a week at a time inside the cave, charting new tunnels. Once the tour was over we went back up and out, where the boys had only just returned. They had gone on the long trek, and had no idea until they saw a sign about the canyon. No one was hurt or dehydrated or anything, so we got back on the road.

We attempted the "Scenic Byway" (a k a Needles Highway), and stopped at one point to examine Fools Gold. We knew beforehand that the road passed through a state park, and there was a "nominal" fee for driving through, but as we approached the gate, a sign notified us that their credit card machine was down - cash only. As we got closer, the fees were posted, and it was $20 per car! I just looked it up to make sure of the number, and the only place to see it on the park website is to download a pdf guide. Anyway, we didn't happen to have that much cash on hand, so did a u-turn and went another route.
Eye of a needle?

Next stop, Crazy Horse memorial. That thing is HUGE. We went into the museum and watched the film and looked at the artifacts. It was very interesting, and I hope they are able to keep the dream alive and get the college and hospital built. I hope I will always remain sympathetic to the American Indians/Natives/First Nations without idealizing them.
Those are cranes up there!

Then on to Mt Rushmore. That was pretty nice. I thought the buildings and shops were tastefully constructed, and allowed the focus to remain on the monument. Having got a tip from the cave tour guide, we went into the ice cream shop and got a scoop of Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream to share ($8 for one bowl!!!). It was SUPER yummy, and I tried to replicate it a week later, but without much success (the recipe is available online; I just must have not cooked it enough). We took some pictures and read some signs. It's not designed to be fun and exciting, but rather thought-provoking and inspiring.
A nice Air Force photographer offered his assistance.

I don't remember where we ate that day, lunch or supper. It was after dark when we rolled into Rapid City, which was nicer than I expected. We spotted our hotel, but went past it to a nearby Sam's Club. I can't remember now why we were set on that store - out of diapers, maybe? - but we popped in for a few minutes to get whatever it was. Then back to Ramada. I wasn't expecting much from the place, as it was chosen based on price and ability to get us down the road in the morning. When I was reading over my receipt before signing (I know, nobody does that any more), I noticed a warning against pets. Oh, yes! They are remodeling, and are now a pet-free hotel. But they would have let me stay anyway, since I'd booked so long ago. :) Anyway, the lobby was kind of a mess, and the lady informed me that breakfast was a little scanty/improvised and suggested a place across the street (offered a coupon? not sure), and gave me our keys. We found our rooms, where everything was brand spanking new. It wasn't a quality job, as some fixtures didn't quite match, and the lighting was poor, but beds and baths were both in great condition. I thought all the people that we interacted with in Rapid City were very friendly.

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