Mt. Rushmore on the 4th

Trip Start Jun 26, 2008
Trip End Jul 11, 2008

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Interior KOA

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Friday, July 4, 2008

We got up at 5:45a.m in Douglas, Wyoming to a pretty sunrise and I fixed eggs and bacon for breakfast, a la John Templeton, my mom's dad, who made his eggs in bacon grease. I didn't have anywhere to put the hot grease from the bacon I just cooked, so it was perfect. Just like with the dinner the evening before, it wasn't too bad for an RV meal. Bret and I reviewed our route to Mt. Rushmore - Harmond saw it on his map of the U.S. and really wanted to go, and Bret had never been, so we headed out at 7:30a.m. We definitely took the road less traveled - a scenic two-lane road through rural Wyoming with stunning vistas, seeing farther in the rolling green grasslands than in Nebraska and far fewer people, really none at all. We saw many antelope and some prairie dogs, as well as enjoyed the many trains we saw (one at least 120 coal-cars long that we counted with the kids). As with yesterday, the kids didn't ask to watch t.v. and we all enjoyed talking about what we were seeing along the way.

Two hours into Wyoming, we arrived at a rest stop just before the South Dakota border at a junction with a normal looking tiled rest stop with outhouse seats! The waste was being "composted in the building underneath the rest stop" and thus, no flushing involved. Boy it stunk, but I guess I was happy that we were not hurting the earth? I did think briefly, "I guess I should have just gone in the RV; it doesn't stink THAT bad." I wanted to make it through Hot Springs, but I think it would have added at least an hour to an already long morning. So, we opted to skip Hot Springs and go up 85 into the Black Hills (where the landscape changed once again from open, rolling green grasslands to large hills with Ponderosa Pines) we came to Custer, South Dakota then Mt. Rushmore. Just past Custer, we could see the Crazy Horse memorial in the distance, and opted for listening to a brief description of it on an a.m. radio station while passing rather than stopping.

As we approached the entrance to Mount Rushmore (and Warner still saying for the 85th time, "When are we going to be there?" and answering for the 5th time in the last five minutes, "We're here!", we were arriving with massive crowds on the fourth of July. I have to admit that being at the "monument to democracy" on July 4th was a very cool feeling, especially since we didn't know we'd be there that day. We could see the monument right outside our big RV windows. I added, while driving, "we are so lucky to be seeing this monument out such big windows!" Bret said, "I know mommy, we're all staring at it right now and appreciating every moment." Warner added, "What are we looking at?" There was a ranger who helped designate a traffic lane for me at the entrance (thank God; not sure how I would have done it otherwise with 5 lanes of merging cars, and I managed to squeak on through the entrance booth in my RV and there was actually park staff in a golf cart to take me to an RV parking space. Yahoo!

The monument grounds were MUCH newer and more expansive than I remember when my parents took me when I was a kid. Back then, I remembered thinking, "this is it?" and feeling like it was very far away. Today, the monument is very visible from the entrance and also very visible from many places through a one-mile President's trail that takes you around the grounds and closer to the monument. There was music from a Native American band, and the park café was probably the nicest National Park restaurant that I've ever been in "much nicer than Mt. Ranier" I informed my children (who were eating buffalo burgers, but Bret didn't tell them). Warner also had in front of him a feast that he didn't finish of corn, mashed potatoes and gravy. The kids who had decided they want to go there to see a volcano next year ("and to Hawaii too mom!). We had fun discussing in the RV on the way to Mt. Rushmore where our next trip would be.

The President's Trail was fun, and we loved looking at the rock formations and veins of quartz running through the rock. On the trail, we climbed a big outcrop toward in the middle of the walk, and ambitious mom managed to cut here thumb on the way down, where blood proceeded to pool into my hand until I could get to a restroom to get a tissue. We saw many people coloring in their Junior Ranger books, which my kids didn't want to do, and we left the monument at 1:00p.m., finally heading East toward home (in 8 days!) and toward our destination for the evening, Interior, South Dakota, via Badlands National Park. Badlands National Park was about another two hours from Mt. Rushmore. Originally, I thought we'd take another scenic road the whole way, and opted for the Interstate until the scenic Pinnacle Drive, 240, into the park. Harmond played with his lego ship for awhile and put on an Indian headdress and played the drums I picked up in Oklahoma, and Warner cut pictures out for his travel journal that he then instructed me to paste with a glue stick in his notebook. Within 30 minutes, they were both asleep with their pillows in the RV, stretched out lying down awkwardly in seatbelts, but pretty comfortable, and I sat with Bret up front. "We haven't seen another car in the last 30 minutes" Bret said as we drove along interstate 90 east. "I wonder where everyone is," I said. "Probably in the park by now," said Bret. The signs for Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota entertained us for awhile and then we began planning our Wisconsin and Illinois leg of the trip, where we would be on Warner's birthday.

We finally got to the park entrance and the first overlook was Pinnacle, which was absolutely stunning. It reminded me of the awe I felt when seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. We woke up the kids and made our way down the path to signs to beware of Rattlesnakes. I drove through the park, Bret had driven from Mt. Rushmore and was tired of the rig. I smiled the whole two-hours through the drive. It was spectacular. Driving, I felt like I missed a bit, but did stop off at many overlooks to take pictures. The GPS, toward the end of the journey, did enourage me to take a dirt road in the park - glad I ignored that one, and we arrived at the campground at 4:00p.m. outside of Interior, South Dakota - population of 67.

Bret figured out dinner and cleaned up the RV while I took the kids to the pool. He and I were both exhausted. Bret bought some firewood and hotdogs (we brought baked beans but somehow missed the can opener) and had a grand time roasting hot dogs and smores over a fire and hung out and played with the kids (they even said "Cheers!" with us when I offered a toast, which they never do, which must have meant that they were happy to be with us; we even brought out Warner's ring toss, which he selected as his toy for the trip prior to leaving. We used it as a ring toss for awhile, then the kids used the foam pieces as weapons and Bret and I lounged in our camping chairs and watched them wrestle. "I guess they did have a nap today." I said, trying to make sense out of the wrestling that was happening in front of me. "Did you ever do that as a kid?" I asked Bret. "Who would I have done that with?" Bret asked, being an only child "But, did you ever want to?" "They look like little bear cubs," he said. Before anyone got too hurt - Bret even tried a diversion of throw the rings on daddy - we started a movie in the RV. Harmond was begging to sleep with us, which made Bret go into the other "room" and sleep on another bed, and Harmond balled up at my feet, which was EXTREMELY uncomfortable until he started complaining about his tummy and threw up around midnight. So, I haven't quite slept yet, and I need to for the long day ahead.
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