We got off to another early start as we left Omaha and traveled to South Dakota. We headed north until we hit Interstate 90 in Sioux Falls and then we turned left and headed west to Rapid City. After a quick breakfast at Cracker Barrel (our last time on this trip) we headed west to Rapid City. We were told that before we hit Mt. Rushmore we needed to stop at 2 places along Interstate 90. We needed to see the Corn Palace in Mitchell and we needed to see Wall Drugs in Wall. The Corn Palace in Mitchell is a multi-purpose building that the city of Mitchell uses and they decorate the outside of the building with light and dark colored corn cobs, and wheat grasses. This year’s theme was Travel destinations within the United States. The kids were excited to recognize several destinations we have already been to. They have been decorating this Palace since 1897. Each year they have a different theme and my thought was do you run out of ideas after hundred and twelve years?
We didn’t stay long because we still needed to cover the rest of South Dakota and we wanted to see Wall Drug. You can’t miss the billboards along the Interstate and Wall Drug is a South Dakota institution. It is basically a HUGE tourist trap selling all things western, kitschy, and anything with the name Wall Drugs on it. It was ridiculously crowded and Kim and I were disappointed at the hokeyiness of it. They have tons of activities for the kids to do (of course, it always cost money) but we really felt it was a waste of time. We sampled the free ice water (which has a story to it) but we decided to get out of Wall quickly and get to Mt. Rushmore. (Side Note: we found a great coffee place that sold locally grown coffee in one pot servings. We bought 5 servings and every single one has been outrageously good.)
Mt. Rushmore is located near Rapid City, South Dakota. The ENTIRE area around Mt. Rushmore is one BIG tourist trap. Western theme dinner shows, reptile exhibits, and bear petting zoos (think Lion Country Safari with bears). We hit Mt. Rushmore late in the day, the crowd was smaller, and no heat and it was easy to get in and out of the parking structure. It is impressive from the viewing platform and the Presidential trail that runs by the base of the mountain takes you as close as possible to the President’s faces. (Make sure you take the trail from the left side first because that side goes down stairs versus the other way which has to cover the trail going upstairs). Make sure you see the sculptor (Borglum was his last name) finished marble product in his studio. The envisioned final piece had Washington’s jacket, Lincoln’s collar and part of Jefferson’s jacket as part of the grand scheme. The faces were completed and the federal government had to stop funding the project because the United States had entered WWII.
The real hi-light of this part of the trip was our trip to Crazy Horse Memorial. Utterly spectacular and awe inspiring are the words to describe this memorial. The memorial is privately funding and it is years from being completed but it is a tribute to the Native American people in this area. The facility is large so plan on several hours to see everything. There is a large Native American collection of artifacts, pictures, paintings and sorts and take time to see the sculptor (Korchak was his first name) log cabin (he built it himself). He has his original marble statue of Crazy Horse and you can also purchase some granite rocks from the mountain to take home. (We currently have two pieces of granite in our car and Kim knows exactly where in the backyard to place them.)
We did spend some time at Wind Cave National park and the cave tour was okay. Our earlier trip to Dixie Caverns in Virginia was much, much better. But our hi-light was seeing a herd of buffalo longing on the grasslands outside the park entrance. First off, buffalo smell horrible and they are not the most attractive animal but they are impressive up close and to see the animal in its natural setting reminds me that we as a country can correct mistakes from the past.
Our next stop is Denver, Colorado to visit our good friends Mike and Christine Imbriano. They have two girls the same age as our girls so our girls are excited to get to play with friends their own age.
Oh yeah, one final thought. Fireworks are legal in South Dakota so we bought some and Mike and I can’t wait to fire them off in Colorado, to ring in 4th of July.