Sunday, July 22, 2007

Back from vacation

Hi all,

Haven't posted in a while as I've been on vacation in South Dakota with the wife and kids. While the drive out there really isn't all that interesting (I mean it is really, really boring), once you get to the Badlands and Black Hills, it is completely worth it.

The Badlands was awesome. I haven't been out here since I was 2, so it truly was like seeing it for the first time. Just breathtaking scenery and awe-inspiring. You feel like you are on a different planet. My kids really loved climbing around the rocks and getting "lost". We also saw a rattlesnake there, which was cool.

Definately the cutest thing we saw all trip were the prairie dogs. The kids absolutely loved them and wanted us to stop and pull over everytime we passed by one of the prairie dog towns. These towns were huge! Some of them were the size of about 10-12 football fields big. To think that these tunnels are all interconnected and that the prairie dogs know them all is amazing.

Next up was the infamous Wall Drug. You've seen the signs on the road "1365 miles to Wall Drug" out in the middle of Arizona, Texas, WV or wherever. I know I've seen bumper stickers for it on cars in Nashville. Well, it certainly was an interesting stop. We got the free ice water and the insanely good donuts. We didn't stay too long as, well, it's a store and restaurant when you get down to it. A really big and fairly interesting one.

We then spent a couple of days tenting in Custer State Park. That place is outstanding. The kids got to pan for gold, go swimming in really clear lakes (we're talking almost Boundry Waters clear), and we all went to what was my favorite part of the trip: Mount Rushmore.

I've always been impressed with this monument and the story behind it. The sculptor who started it, Gutzon Borglum had 9 different versions of the monument in mind and constantly changed his vision as the work unfolded depending on how the rock in the mountain was. He never saw it finished as he died just prior to the completion.

I took this picture moments before a hail storm hitting us here. Yep, we get there and 10 minutes later a hail storm hits with hail coming down about 1/2 inch in diameter. It was really cool and the kids absolutely loved it. They kept running out in it (along with several other kids there) to get the larger hailstones. Needless to say, we had to buy some souvenier t-shirts for them to wear.

The park is full of animals, while we were there the park had approximately 950 elk, 950 big horned sheep, 1000 prongers and 1000 buffalo. The buffalo were what the kids were most looking forward to on the trip. One evening we drove on the Wildlife Trail Loop and encountered a herd of about 150 buffalo next to and in the road, they were majestic. Buffalo of all different ages were about and the one in the picture was one of the biggest ones. He came right next to our van and I could have reached out and petted him he was so close. But, given that I don't believe in possibly provoking a 1 1/2 ton animal, I kept the window closed as he came by.

One night we drove up to a fire watch outpost on a 6000 foot hill (or would that make it a mountain?). The gravel road going up was just wide enough for 2 cars to pass by each other, and the top had just breathtaking views. It seemed as though you could see for over 100 miles. We got there just prior to sunset and the views just got better.

Later on in the trip, Adam got to dig at the Mammoth site in Hot Springs which was a very cool place. The building for the site surrounds the entire dig, so there's no slaving under the hot sun. Sweet!

We also visited the Mitchell Corn Palace which frankly was disappointing. The inside is just a meeting hall and a gym. Pfft, a bit overrated if you ask me.

Overall it was a fantastic trip and one that we likely will do again with the kids someday.


Russ said...

I've done that drive and tour, once as a kid, once when I was in law school. You echoed many of the same experiences I had - including the Corn Palace reaction. For some reason, I remember it being a lot more of an attraction when I was a kid, but when I went as an adult, you're right, it was just like an auditorium inside. I wonder if the locals have let it slide.

Anonymous said...

Lucy and I made that trip in August 2004. I had seen Mt. Rushmore when I was nine and this time I marveled at how it wasn't really finished. They just ran out of money and stopped.


Jeramey said...

Glad to see you're back.

The cold war with China is still going on, as I'm sure you're well aware.

Wall Drug is surreal with its advertising.

The Dakotas are a great time, whenever you get where you're going. When you're in-between they're almost unbearable.