Four heads are better than one...

Trip Start Aug 31, 2013
Trip End Sep 22, 2013

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Where I stayed
Town House Motel Rapid City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Crazy Horse Memorial
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Mount Rushmore National Memorial Keystone
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 1

I had a really awful night of sleep due to my back hurting all night, no doubt caused by the soft double bed we had to share. Since we went to bed early, we were awake early and ended up leaving for South Dakota at 5.45am. Since reception still wasn't open, I needed the security guard to let me in to return the key. 

This had been one part of the holiday I wasn't looking forward to - driving 9.5 hours across two different states. Surprisingly it wasn't as unpleasant as it sounds. After leaving, we headed towards the East entrance of Yellowstone, driving in the pitch dark. It was easier said than done - often when rounding a corner you came across a whole herd of elk on the road. As cute as it was, the thought of hitting one was somewhat terrifying.

After driving through Buffalo Bill State Park, we decided to stop in Cody, Wyoming for breakfast. It was quite a nice little town with real cowboys and pickup trucks as far as the eye could see. We decided to eat at everyone's favourite restaurant, the Irma hotel for breakfast. Whoa there! I frantically scoured the buffet for any signs of yoghurt, fresh fruit or Coco Pops, and returned to my table with a plate overflowing with fourteen different types of meat and corn hash. I probably would have enjoyed it more if there weren't also fourteen different animals taxidermied on the parlour walls!

After leaving Cody, we continued through the Bighorn National Forest which had a real eerie isolation to it, as we crossed the Bighorn mountain range to Buffalo, Wyoming. It seemed like a decent place for a take away lunch so we bought some petrol and two sandwiches and continued on our way. We heard an interesting competition on the radio - apparently first prize was $10,000 worth of guns.

When we finally arrived at Rapid City, we were surprised how much bigger the town was from what we'd expected. It was easy to see why it was called the "City of Presidents" as there was a statue for one on each street corner. When we pulled into our motel, the owner said "Are you from Australia"? I asked how he knew and he said "you pulled into the left entrance instead of the right one everyone else uses".

Fortunately our modest, but comfortable motel had the air conditioning running because the town is hot! After relaxing from our drive, we bundled up a map and went to explore. The town is very pleasant with a nice downtown area and restaurant district. We settled on Murphy's, a local Irish pub for dinner. Our quiet night was changed when a local lady came up and questioned our sexual orientation with "Are you gay or are you just Australians? I can't tell the difference". Either way we joined her for a few drinks. Before we knew it, we were chatting with half the locals of the pub. Clearly the people of this town are rapid too!

Tomorrow we get to see another historic USA landmark - when I was a kid I made a list of five US landmarks I always wanted to see and (finally!) I'm now seeing number five.

Day 2

After a really awesome sleep (thanks to an anti inflammatory), Ted and I were ready for the day ahead. As soon as we opened the door, we noticed that Rapid City had provided yet another warm day ahead for us. This hotel provides breakfast but it was really just a collection of different breads and cereals, combined with your tea and coffee for the day. Before heading off, we decided to check the details for our flight to Chicago tomorrow. We had originally planned to connect through Denver, and were surprised to see there was a direct flight, which will make the journey so much quicker. It is however at 6am, but we aren't complaining (too much).

After sun screening ourselves, we headed off to Mount Rushmore, first stopping at Safeway to stock up on food, water and the like. We even joined the Safeway rewards program to get our $2.23 discount on groceries. When we were driving to Mount Rushmore, we saw a sign for Bear World which I suggested visiting afterwards. Ted told me he "didn't like seeing bears captivated like that" (I'm guessing he meant captive). When we approached the monument, we weren't expecting to be overawed when we saw the four faces but once we rounded the corner and saw them, we were really captivated (just like the bears, I suppose).

I had heard the monument was not as large as expected, but I wasn't disappointed - it almost looked cartoonish it was so amazing. I think we took about a million photos, and that was just for the parking station. We then walked along the Presidents Trail, which was a boardwalk enabling you to take more photos of the faces from all the different angles. There was also a building which detailed the history of the construction, as well as a guided tour, auditorium and (of course), the attached gift shop.

We had noticed that the Crazy Horse monument was not much further from Mount Rushmore, so we decided to visit it as well. To be honest, I wasn't that motivated but it still sounded interesting. It was actually a lot better than expected. For starters, it was great to see a monument that paid homage to the Native Americans as well. Also, the construction is funded entirely by visiting tourists and not by the government (explaining why it is taking so long to build). There was also a display of Native American artwork, artefacts and jewellery. Whilst I was overawed by Mount Rushmore, I was more touched by the Crazy Horse monument.

Before returning to Rapid City, we had lunch at the Ruby Restaurant in nearby Keystone. Keystone is one of those Roger Rabbit looking towns that I think sprang up due to tourism (mainly because its only 2kms from Mount Rushmore). The meal was nice, and I even learnt what "ala mode" means. Upon returning to Rapid City, we bypassed seeing the Thimble Cottage and rested at our hotel. Since we have an early flight tomorrow, we needed to repack and get ready for an early departure, but first had dinner at a nearby Nepalese restaurant. Our time in South Dakota has been better than expected, so we enjoyed some beers and free entertainment at the wonderful outdoor Irish pub Murphy's before heading back.
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greekcypriot on

It is the first time I see photos of this place from this angle. Thanks for sharing and I found the virtual tour interesting.

Leanne on

I had no idea there was a back to the monument - classic, love it!

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