Monday, August 11, 2008

Adventure in the Black Hills

I've often joked that there must be gypsy blood in our family tree somewhere. All of my siblings and I tend to be restless and suffer from a degree of wanderlust when we've been in one place for too long. Generally this condition can be cured by a quick trip out of town in search of adventures.

I blame our parents for this malady. I have memories of being loaded up into the station wagon at least a couple of times a year as far back as I can remember and carted across hundreds of miles of highways and byway to arrive at out of the way places that none of my friends had ever heard of. While other kids went to Disney World and Myrtle Beach, we went to Bracketville (Texas) and Hannibal (Missouri). Not that I'm complaning. I mean it's kind of cool to be one of only 7 people in the world (yes, that's my family) who have ever intentionally vacationed in Campwood (Texas.)

So the truth is that even though our summer has been jam packed thus far, Gideon and I decided to get out of Dodge have our own little adventure. I should be honest that we did have an ulterior motive. We hadn't seen Travis since July 13th and both of us were really missing him. (And I have a pretty good hunch that he was missing us too.)

We had an inauspicious beginning. After purchasing a few last minute things at the store, we came out to find a flat tire.

Lucky for us, Cody was in town getting his hair cut, so he was our superhero of the day when we came and changed the tire for us. By the time we got it fixed and everything else taken care of, we were finally on the road by 5:00 Friday evening.

Part of the journey to Gillette, WY took us through the north western corner of Yellowstone National Park. I think perhaps I take it for granted because I live so close, but in all honesty it doesn't really seem that great to me. Mostly because when I look out the window, I see exactly the same landscape and scenery that I see at home (or up at our cabin.) Yes, Old Faithful is cool, and you can see wildlife in the park, but hey on one Sunday afternoon at my parents' house last winter we saw deer, elk and a moose from the comfort of the living room. So why do I need to journey to Yellowstone? (At least that's my logic.)

Still I can appreciate that many of you haven't had the privelege yet, so here are some pictures of Yellowstone taken at 60 mph. (The only wildlife I saw on this drive through were some wild peacocks, but I didn't manage to get a picture.)

We arrived in Moorcroft, WY at 2:30am Saturday. Travis had booked the only available motel room in town. (Seriously between all the construction work and the Sturgis Bike Rally this week rooms in the vicinity of Gillette were few and far between.)

Travis had to work until a half day on Saturday, but that afternoon we were able to take off and head east. On our way we passed the Wyodak power plant where Travis has been working. So I snapped a couple of shots from the freeway. (I'm getting good at this photography on the fly.)

After driving through horrendous thunderstorms we arrived safely in Keystone, SD. Guess what Keystone is the home of? Mt. Rushmore!

This is the view from the door of our hotel room in Keystone. Yes, on the top left of that cliff is George Washington. (You'll see him better in a minute.)

The munchkin shows daddy his feet.

The town of Keystone.

Driving up to the Monument is soooo cool because you can see it from miles away.

Okay let me just say this, Mt. Rushmore is AMAZING! TV, Movies, Pictures just don't do it justice. I've been a few places and seen a few things and it was honestly one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life. I took TONS of pictures because it seriously just took my breath away. I can't even describe to you how much more awesome it is in person. Everyone needs to make a point to go there sometime because it will blow your mind.

The Avenue has the flags of all 50 states.

Gideon and Daddy look on from the Grand Terrace

Mt. Rushmore has more than just the presidential faces, it also has some other interesting displays. Like this one where they have demonstrations of Native American Life. These are Lakota Teepees.

Lots of Caves and rock formations in the Black Hills. Lots.

Okay this view is cool because it's almost like President Lincoln is looking down right at you.

In that vein, Gideon has dinner with the President.

So there we were, just walking along the path and what? Wild Mountain Goats. Right up next to the path. Pretty cool.

Okay you can't see this as well as I had hoped, but through the trees is a wooden pathway with a lot of steps. This is the Presidential Trail. It's an easy hike so when you go to Mt. Rushmore, definitely do it because you get even better views of the monument. (Okay truthfully I think this is even more cool than it is because they filmed scenes from National Treasure 2 on these steps.)

Okay they have the sculptor's original model onsite. This is what Mt. Rushmore was supposed to have looked like. However, due to a change in the rock, the lower portion was never completed. So we just have the faces. But I thought this was pretty neat.

This is a model of the "Hall of Records" which is accessed up in the mountain behind the monument.

Gatzon Borglum, the sculptor who created this amazing masterpiece.

Guess what our hotel had?

The only swimming pool in the world where 4 former presidents can watch you from 2 miles away. (By the way I know you can't see it in the picture, but you actually can see the monument and the faces very well from this vantage point.)

Oh and the hot tub, too.

After a very refreshing swim and soak, daddy introduced the munchkin to another invaluable American institution:


They light up Mt. Rushmore every night at 9:30. I had wanted to go back up and sit in the ampitheatre for that, but both of my boys were asleep before 9:00. So I just sat outside the hotel room door and watched it. Even from two miles away it was still one of the most awe inspiring things I've ever seen. It was just amazing. Unfortunately the night time setting on my camera just isn't sensitive enough to capture something 2 miles away. So no pictures. Trust me though, Rushmore at night is as stunning as Rushmore in the day time.

I was amazed at the amount of activities and sites there are in the southwest of South Dakota. There are gold mine tours where you can pan for gold. Ghost towns, caves and caverns full of gemtones and all kinds of fun stuff. We didn't even get to see hardly anything but what we did see and do we really enjoyed.

Did I mention that it was bike week in Sturgis? Keystone is one of those towns that gets the overflow from Sturgis so there were bikes EVERYWHERE. It was pretty cool. We didn't actually go into Sturgis. Travis was there two weeks ago and said when there are no bikes there, there's no reason to go to Sturgis because there's nothing there and when there are bikes there, there's no reason to go because it's too crowded. I'm not a biker chick and really don't care either way so I was fine with his logic. Still I thought it was funny that even though he didn't go to bike week and doesn't own a bike, he still bought himself some Sturgis souvenirs.

As we headed away from Keystone and back toward Wyoming, George's profile seemed to be bidding us farewell along the way.

We didn't actually have time to stop at the Crazy Horse monument, but we took a few pictures from the side of the road and decided that we'll stop here for sure next time.

So it struck me as funny that in the middle of Black Hills country, where everything is Gold Mining and cowboys and indians caves and gemstones and presidents, we stumbled across a place many of you might be slightly familiar with. A place called "Bedrock."

We didn't stay long, but we did take the opportunity to join the natives for a local favorite: Bronto Burgers and fries.

Once back in Wyoming we said good bye to Daddy and Gideon and I took off for a long drive home through nothing. Oh, I meant, Wyoming.

We drove off into the sunset and arrived home safely at about 3:00am. So if it's now 5:23am and we just got home 2 1/2 hours ago after driving so far, why am I still awake and updating my blog? Because the caffiene and adrenaline rush I was on in order to make this trip, haven't quite worn off yet. So even though I'm exhausted, I can't sleep. And I figured I might was well do this as long as I'm up. I'm still a little wired so I think I'll go do something constructive. On second thought maybe not. Maybe I'll just sit right here in front of the computer and watch Michael Phelps Olympic highlights. Goodnight!

(Mom, when you come over this afternoon, I'm totally taking a nap. Gideon can spend quality time with Grandma.)


Ryan & Skye Lowry said...

Looks like y'all had a blast! I love your little family, it's so cute!

Kamie said...

What a fun trip! I have only seen Mt. Rushmore from an airplane. I would love to see it in person! Fun pictures!

Earl said...

The backyard wedding shots were BEAUTIFUL!!!! Someone has talent!!!