Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sept 29-Oct 1st Black Hills and Badlands SD

Wall Drugs

The road to Wall from Kadoka is rolling grassland, a lot of hay and some cattle. And billboards, thousands of them, advertising all the museums, stores, hotels, 24-hour TOE service (I don't know if that's a joke or someone can't spell) and Wall Drug. Especially Wall Drug, there must be thousands of signs for them, from 300 miles in every direction. They really do not want anyone to miss them, and they sell everything from food to housewares, cowboy stuff, jewellery, clothing, native art, books, dinosaur stuff and souvenirs. They even have a traveller's chapel. But very few over the counter drugs! They have been in business since the 1800s. When we got there it was a disappointment, as they were more like a mini mall of lots of different little stores, and except for the native pottery, most of the stuff was made offshore. There were some pretty wooden boxes made in Canada.

White Tail Deer

A drive to the Badlands was next.What an awesome place that even pictures can't describe! Beautiful rock formations wherever one looks. Right about here the "A"s alternator packed it in. A decision was made to return to Wall and try to find someone to repair it. No rebuilders in town, but one shop did recharge the battery to enable us to get to Rapid City for repairs.
On Friday morning we found a battery and starter/alternator repair shop. Got there at eight, removed the alternator, gave it to them and it was repaired and back in the car by 9:15, at the horrendous price of $39.95. What great luck!

By the time we were packed up and had breakfast it was 11 o'clock, and within an hour we were in Keystone, checked in to a great hotel with a view of Mt Rushmore. So we had the rest of the day to explore. We had a look at Cosmos, which is a cabin built on a hillside at weird angles that make you feel very strange. It is an amazing feat of engineering and angles!  Next was the Presidents. We've all seen so many pictures I'm not putting any on the blog. But to be there and see it in person is awesome, moving, inspiring. We also learned a lot about the four men whose faces are up there and the builders who put them there. 
Eye of the Needle

Next we took the drive around the mountain, part of that being Needles Highway. Now here I am running out of superlatives! Twisty! incredible! impossible!  road through some of the strangest rock formations we have ever seen!!! They are literally needles of rock, some even with eyes. At one point the highway passes through a narrow opening in the rocks and then widens out to a circular area where a few cars can stop. Here you are completely suurounded by tall spires. with a few windows to the view, and some nooks just asking to be explored. Then the road tunnels out through the rock. This place is called Eye of the Needle.

We then returned to Keystone via the Iron Mountain Road, completing the circle around Mount Rushmore. This road is so twisty it needs 3 Pigtail bridges to make the turns. On one of them the road passes out of a tunnel, then over the bridge and around and down under the road. These roads are all built for the sheer pleasure of driving them and seeing the spectacular views!
Pigtail Bridge
In the evening we were lucky enough to catch the last lowering of the flag show at Mount Rushmore. There was a very informative movie and then the mountaind was lit up. They called all the current and past veterans down from the audience to participate and the crowd went wild with applause and gratitude. It was very moving!!

Sat Oct 1st - We thought a 20 minute stop at Crazy Horse would be enough, but we ended up spending a lot of time there-it was so interesting. It was designed and started by a sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski, in 1947. He made it his life's work untill he died in 1982, when his wife and 7 of his 10 children continued the monumental task. Korczak would not accept government funding or involvement, and the project has continued solely on public donations. There is so much information on this site, it would be worth your time to look it up on the internet. The plan is to establish a university there for native studies, as well as a bunch of other stuff. It is so big the Rushmore monument would fit on Cheif Crazy Horse's forehead. It is 580 feet high. 
Battling Stallions - Korczek sculpture

Marie Antoinette-He has no head

We drove around the back of Mount Rushmore again along a different road to see Jewel Cave, but that didn't work out, so we headed South through Wind Cave Park to Hot Springs. At this point Richard and Linde decided to go back to the hotel and Steve and I wanted to see the Mammoth Site at Hot Spring. We were tired but so glad we took the time to go. It is a sink hole about 100 feet in diameter that filled with water and trapped hundreds of animals. They did a core sample to 68 feet and found bones in all of it. At this point they have only dug to 27 feet. The decision was made to leave the bones in situ rather than preserve and remove them as they do at other sites. A building was built over the whole site so it is all indoors and protected from the elements. As they go deeper they will remove some of the bones, but some skeletons are so valuable because they are all attached and complete, that they will not move them. I'm not sure how they intend to dig under them, though. We were amazed to learn that there was a Mammoth larger than the Woolly Mammoth, called the Columbian Mammoth. A modern elephant could walk under it's chin. All the skeletons are males, which is because the males travelled alone and would not know the danger of this area, as the herds of females would.
Another very nasty creature found here is the Short Faced Bear. If you met one of these in the woods there is absolutely no way you would survive!! Standing on it's hind legs it could reach a second story window.

Prong Horn

We took the Wildlife loop through Custer State Park to get back to the hotel. Richard and Linde took the same route earlier and saw the same variety and numbers of animals that we did. At one point two male Prong Horns were chasing each other, and crossed the road not 5 feet in front of the car. Their panting and rolling eyes were clearly visable and thrilling. Unfortunately, no time to get the video running!
Wild Turkey

He was so close we could smell him

Coming out of Hot Springs we reached the 16000 miles driven on this trip!!

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