To the Heartland!
Day 22: Long drive today. Destination: Sturgis, South Dakota. Any Harley fans out there? During the rally 750,000 Harleys and their riders show up to get down at this otherwise sleepy town in the middle of nowhere. We watched Wild Hogs last night to get in the mindset, very funny movie, you should see it. Halfway there we all stopped off at the Battlefield of Little Big Horn. It’s such a fascinating historical landmark and so important to visit, especially if you are on your way to the Black Hills. We sat in for the ranger talk and learned that during the time the US economy was entering the second worst depression in history. Gold was conveniently found, inconveniently, in the Sacred Black Hills. Treaties signed by the US government declared the Black Hills sacred ground for the American Indians and stated that basically aside from all the other land and resource thievery going on, the Black Hills would never be violated. But when push came to shove and the government realized the gold in the Black Hills alone could (and would) pull the country out of crisis, they had to find a way to save face and push and shove the Indians into breaking the treaty. Thus sparked the war, waged on, but won, by the Lakota Indians, led by Chief Sitting Bull. And thus sealed the fate of the Black Hills and the inevitable gold rush in 1876.
Little Bighorn, the scoop.
Through the Northeast corner of Wyoming,
the sky opened up with a huge double-rainbow!
Arriving in the Black Hills
Day 23: We’ve parked it under the mighty Crazy Horse Monument, but our first day was spent exploring the surrounding area. First we headed to Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down in this real Ol’ Western town. Mix a gold rush with saloons on every corner and lax gun control and what have you got? A recipe for murder and mayhem. Ah, the good old days.
Next we stopped off at the Old Boot Mine and toured the shafts. Mining – not a nice job – especially in the late 1800’s. We loved the tour and learned a ton. The guide lit a candle at one point and flipped off the lights to give us an idea of the darkness these men were working in for up to 10 hours a day. Donkeys that were used in mines all went blind after a few months of it and they weren’t even getting paid. Poor Donkeys.
We finished off the day with a visit to Mt. Rushmore. Mainly because you have to see Mt. Rushmore before you go to Crazy Horse, because well, Crazy Horse will blow your mind and Mt. Rushmore will seem like a waste of time if you see it after. Mt Rushmore is cool, it is amazing, it is interesting, but it is nothing next to Crazy Horse. The one thing they do really have going for them is the ice cream shop.
My Dad started dropping the word “ice cream” at breakfast…I thought he was losing his mind. And I have never seen him bolt so fast from the parking lot to the entrance of anything before. Obviously he’s been here before. Now, I am an ice cream fan myself, I love traveling with Dad, because he’ll always make a stop for the good stuff, but this behavior seemed a little excessive. Well, apparently, President Jefferson was a bird of a feather and an ice cream connoisseur as well. They are selling his world famous original recipe vanilla here! It’s not cheap, but oh man! Is it good!
The Old Boot Mine.
Mt. Ice cream !
Jefferson was a connoisseur!
Day 24: Bright and early and off to Crazy Horse! One of the reasons this particular blog is so late is that there is so much I want to say about the Crazy Horse Monument. You may have noticed we went WAY out of the way to come to South Dakota, well, this is the reason why. I am going to try and keep it short and sweet and let you do a little research yourself if you find it intriguing! http://crazyhorsememorial.org/
- Was conceived of by Korczak Ziolkowski, an orphan of Polish immigrants, and Chief Henry Standing Bear to honor the American Indians in their Sacred Black Hills.
- It is the Worlds largest sculpture (in progress).
- At 40 years old Korczak Ziolkowski began this project with his two hands a hammer and a chisel, and an army surplus tent. Completely on his own, he labored for years this way.
- This is the stuff big dreams are made of. I LOVE big dreamers!
- 10 children later, This became a family endeavor and still today, it is basically a Mom and Pop shop.
- Korczak died in 1982. His last words to his wife were, “You must work on the mountain-but go slowly so you do it right.”
- This non-profit humanitarian project will, when completed, host a University and The Indian Museum of North America.
- Here’s the real kicker. A firm believer in free enterprise the founders felt that the project should be funded by those interested and inspired by the monument. They have never accepted one red cent from the US government (YEAH! Go get ’em!) and they never will. Every dime you spend here goes back into the monument along with donations, everything from dynamite to museum artifacts are donated and fuel the progress.
- I could go on and on, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the awesomeness!
- Did I mention it is huge? Mt. Rushmore, all 4 heads, would fit inside Crazy Horse’s head. The face alone is 87 1/2 feet tall. The full sculpture is 563 feet high and 641 feet long. ALSO it will be sculpted in the round. WHAT?!
The Model and The Stone
How big is this thing?
Awesome natural dyes. Stuff for me.
Awesome Crazy Horse Harley. Stuff for Man.
Old Postal Carriage. Stuff for Dad.
Trivia: “Riding Shotgun” comes from the Ol’ Pony Express days. Get it?
After all that mind blowing history it’s off to Sylvan Lake!
For picnicking and kayaking 🙂
Day 25: It’s Man’s Birthday and we are heading to the Dinosaur Museum! This is dino-land people. They are digging them up right and left up here. It’s pretty cool to roam around an area and think that it was once like Jurassic Park with guys like “Stan” walking around. Stan is the second largest and most complete T-Rex fossil ever unearthed. He is awesome. The whole museum is awesome. Fossilized sea-turtles, piranhas, and crocodiles. The crocodiles were the most amazing. See the picture below? From left to right that is a crocodile found in Texas, a cayman from Morocco, and the tiny little one on the right – a modern crocodile. Can you imagine what a world it was then?
Hard not to ham it up here.
Two bites and WE’D be history.
Dad and Stan, shaking hands.
Sea turtle that would dwarf our VW Bug!
Left: Texas, Center: Morocco, Right: Modern Crocodile.
Oh, what a world!
The day ended with an awesome lightning show 🙂
Day 26: All about the Badlands. Badlands National Park, SD. Is in the REAL middle of nowhere. It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s dusty, and it’s totally worth the three hour drive from Crazy Horse. Man at this point had hit a wall being on the road. Shoot, we’d been driving A LOT, and suffice to say, he was NOT a happy camper. In fact we were all seriously doubting our decision to make this trek. Dad was panicked about running out of gas, and we were provided with some much needed comic relief when we decided to stop halfway there to fill ‘er up. Enter Scenic, SD. Pics below. The only stop between Crazy Horse and the Badlands. Obviously we didn’t fuel up. The only thing going anywhere in that town was a tumbleweed!
Luckily we made it to Wall (the weirdest and only town around the Badlands, built up around the drugstore, to serve as one of the finest examples of Americana kitsch I have ever had the honor of witnessing). We gassed up and entered…dunh dunh dunh….the Badlands. Man LOVED it. Ask him what his favorite part of the whole trip was. He’ll tell you himself! It’s like being on the moon, or under an ocean with no water. It’s weird. And it’s got it’s own special brand of beauty…see below.
The local saloon.
Way worse than San Quentin.
How to spend your days in Scenic, SD.
The prairie dog whisperer.
Man on the moon.
Day 27: Westward-Ho and back through Wyoming. First stop Devil’s Tower. Talk about weird, this geological feature rises up from the earth like nothing else for miles around. It’s believed to be part of an old volcano…I think. I am, to tell the truth, still confused as to how this got hear. I think I’ll stick with the legend: Several Native American children were playing in the forest when they were spotted by an enormous bear who began to chase them. They ran, and when they could run no further, they fell to their knees and prayed to the earth goddess to save them. The earth answered in kind, sending them skyward and out of harms way.
Unfortunately, we had to hustle across most of Wyoming in order to make it up to Yellowstone National Park. That’s the bummer about making reservations, but in the summer they are a must at such a famous National Park.
We did get the chance to camp at a beautiful little place along the river mid-way. Swimming, fishing, and a day of R&R was just what the Doctor ordered. Next stop, Jackson Hole, Wyoming!
The Legend of Devil’s Tower.
There were once over 5,000 languages spoken in North America. NOT dialects, completely unique native languages. Amazing!
From a distance.
Winding through Wyoming.
Our first wild moose sighting!
Wyoming whizzing by.
Ahh, home sweet home, for the night.
Day 28: We’re going to Jackson! Jackson Hole, Wyoming that is. The Grand Tetons were one of the highlights from my last cross-country road trip and I was eager to get back. There is just something about those peaks, I can’t get enough of them. In truth we did spend a few days here, mostly because we had to try one last time to get the A/C in the bug working. Tragically, to no avail.
But, I can’t think of a better place to get “stuck”. The town of Jackson is just darling, the people are friendly, there are some great spots for grub, and cute shops. So while Mom and I hit the shops, the boys prepped Man for a trip down the Snake River.
They got the fishing license, the boat license, the safety certificate, and blah blah blah. On and on, Man was going nuts. Sadly, gone are the days of just hopping on the water and catching your dinner. But finally Man launched with a smile a mile wide.
Now, during the safety talk the ranger told Man the trip to the town of Moose was three hours by river, and if he wanted he could stop halfway. We told him to give us a buzz, amazingly there was phone reception along the river, and let us know where we should pick him up. 4 HOURS later we get a call, “I think I just passed the halfway mark”. Oh Man! We asked if he was having fun, he said “of course” and he would just meet us at Moose. He also said “that guy doesn’t know what he is talking about, I’ve been paddling for 4 hours to get halfway!”. Uh Oh. Sure enough 5 hours later we spy him on Find My Friends (best app ever). Rounding the bend for Moose. Man climbed out of the river with dinner and a smile a mile and a half wide after paddling non-stop for 9 hours.
Che Bella 🙂
Still truckin’ 🙂
Jenny Lake, just beautiful!
Our last views on our way up to Yellowstone.
Before taming the wild Snake River.
The perfect closing to our fourth week on the road! Stay tuned for next week’s adventures!