Wednesday, July 22, 2009

South Dakota Badlands and Mt. Rushmore

Pictures L to R: Dave and Henry in Cornhusk; Henry waiting for breakfast; Highway in South Dakota; Wildflowers along the highway, SD; Henry and his new friend; Badlands National Park (2 pics); Mt. Rushmore; Baby and Mt. Rushmore.
21 July 2009 Spencer, NE to Interior, SD (Near Badlands National Park) 253 miles

OK. Before I start on today, I need to backtrack to last night. Dave and I were sitting reading when the thunder began rolling in the distance. However, when we started smelling the rain we decided to move our “camp” under the small cabana. We got the tent moved and tied down to the table legs, just in case the wind came up. We did have a pretty good rain, along with a lightening show to the north of us. During the night the wind picked up and it rained on and off…it was a good thing we were tied down. The temperature dropped down a little bit as well.

We’re starting our blue-sky day count again. Today is day one! It has been beautiful all day long. We made it to Cornhusk, NE today and I got pictures of Dave and Henry near the signpost.

Shortly after Cornhusk, we crossed the border into South Dakota near Fairfax. This is beautiful country through rolling farm and ranch land. We saw a number of pheasants along the highway—just walking—or sitting on bales of hay. We stopped to stretch our legs a couple of times, and went shopping at the local thrift store in Burke—for jackets. My little windbreaker didn’t keep me warm enough last night. After Burke, we stopped again in Winner and had lunch because we were not sure what we would find ahead of us, as much of our route would be traveling through Indian Reservation land. Rolling hills, cattle, grazing land, bison, alfalfa, hay, and corn were our sights for most of the day. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any fuel stations…By the time we made it to Martin, SD, Baby was running on fumes…when we got gas, she took 10.6 gallons! Pretty good for a 10-gallon tank!

We were also surprised to find that the nearest camping was 30 miles south in Nebraska—no showers or toilets, or 54 miles north near the Badlands National Park. We opted for heading north, because at least they had toilets. However, this made for a long driving day…253 miles. At least none of it was in stop and go traffic.

We did resort to playing the Alphabet game…however it took two days to get through to Z, due to the lack of signs in this part of the country. I also entertained Dave with some songs…Oh Susana…Down In the Valley…I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad…you get the idea; he did join in.

We’ve crossed another time zone today into Mountain Time, so we are now only an hour’s difference from our family and friends in California.

22 July 2009 Interior, SD to Newcastle, WY 165 Miles

Last night after we closed down the computer we went for a walk around the campground. Just as we were getting back to our site, David noticed a huge green caterpillar—I can’t even imagine what kind of moth or butterfly this turns into! Henry immediately wanted to play with it, and they were soon best friends.

For whatever reason, we woke up early today (5:15)…it may be that we are moving back into our own time zone, and our bodies are still on the California clock. It was so quiet, we had first dibs on the showers and decided to eat a quick breakfast and get on the road…hoping to get to Mt. Rushmore before many of the other tourist we were sure were heading up there today. Besides, it takes us twice as long to get there…we’re figuring about three hours.

So under blue skies again (Day 2) we headed west. Our route would take us along the southern end of the main part of the Badlands National Park. What we were seeing was breathtaking…especially with the sun still somewhat low in the sky, and it was not the “main” event! I coerced a promise out of Dave that we would return someday to do the main areas of the Badlands, and not just drive through them.

On the advice of other travelers, we skirted around Rapid City, SD and headed toward Mt. Rushmore. The scenery almost immediately changed from grassland to pine covered mountains. The drive up to the National Monument was beautiful; it even smelled good! However we were surprised at all the tacky tourist traps along the way…Rushmore Waterslide, petting zoos, Bear Country USA--Driving Adventure, Reptile Gardens, Play Park Maze, Flying T Chuckwagon Supper and Show, Fred Flintstones Amusement Park, the Cosmo Mystery Spot, the Presidential Wax Museum, miniature golf, …and more. Just about any thing you could think of to separate you from your money. They just kept coming…up until about 3 miles from the park turn off.

We turned the corner, and there it was…Mt. Rushmore! What an amazing feat! Majestic…Awe-inspiring…Amazing…Mind-boggling! After paying our $10 parking fee we made our way to the top viewing area for some great pictures, and then went downstairs to the interpretive center see the movie of how Mt. Rushmore was created by Gutzom Borglum, his son Lincoln, and the crew of workmen. This monument is well worth the drive from wherever you live!

After leaving Mt. Rushmore, we headed down toward Custer. Along the way we saw the work in progress of Crazy Horse, which is being completed by Borglum’s son, Lincoln.

We made our way out from Custer, just enjoying the scenery along the way. Our plan was to camp in Newcastle, WY, but the lone campground they offer is not something neither Dave nor I felt comfortable with. We stopped by the local forest service office, as well as the BLM office to see if there was any other camping nearby. There isn’t…So instead, we found Pines Motel, in Newcastle, WY, a small, family owned and operated motel tucked up in the hills surrounding the town. It is very secluded and quiet, with very comfortable rooms and reasonable prices. It just seems a shame to hotel it when it is not raining.


  1. Wow! What a great trip. I only learned of it yesterday through Brian Butko's mention of your Lincoln Highway segment. I've now caught up with you and hope to stay current as you finish the drive. The trip would be marvelous in any vehicle but the Model A is frosting on the dream.

  2. Hi Guys:
    Does this mean Henry has a traveling companion now??

    Can't believe the "cold" spell as well as all the rain and storms you've hit. We've been in the 100s for 6 days; down to 90 today.
    J and M