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Day 10 (9.11.07) - Mt Rushmore to Badlands (Photo's Added)

Bison, Pigtails and tunnels

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Starting Mileage: 111585, Mt Rushmore SD
Ending Mileage: 111700, Badlands NP SD
Weather: Sunny 70 F

<<We'll probably stay in an RV park tomorrow, 9/14, so will upload more pic's then. I had dial up internet last night In Pierre, S.D. and typed up a beautiful entry for Day 10 - then accidentially deleted it before it posted! Ugh - decided to go to bed after that...>>

We got a late start from the RV park since we decided to catch up on our laundry while we were there. Yes - chores still have to be done even on the road! Mom & I alternate doing the dishes, but do those daily. I empty the RV holding tanks whenever we stay someplace with a dump station (usually two or three times a week - this is a bit often, but I have very small tanks). I also try to vacuum when possible (we have to be plugged in). Laundry is about once a week. We will probably also do shopping about once a week, but so far it's been easier just to stop when we happen to pass a store so stopping is convenient (if we have something we need).

Anyway, we finally drove up to Mt. Rushmore, which is through a lot of interesting looking tourist attractions (which we did not stop at). Lots of people seem to go to S.D. for a couple of weeks and spend their vacation just there! I am beginning to think we could spend our whole 8 month trip in just one state (first it was WA, then ID, then MT, then WY, now SD)! There is too much interesting stuff to see in this country!

The last town before Mt. Rushmore is Keystone, S.D., then the road climbs about 1,200 feet in 3 or 4 miles - a very steep grade for a heavy (if small) RV. Mt. Rushmore is a National Monument, but the parking is run by a concession service so costs $8.00 even if you have a Golden Age Passport (as Mom does). Of course, I had let my cash run low and the parking does not accept credit cards (the gift shops do). After scrounging madly, we finally scrapped together $8.00 in cash and got in. The parking attendent was directing us to the RV area when I mentioned Mom had difficulty walking - then he sent us straight up to the top of the parking area instead - we got a spot only about 50 feet from the gate (if that).

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This was such a big tourist draw, I figured I could have other people take our picture an avoid having to carry the tripod. After noticing a fellow taking pictures, I asked if he would mind taking one of Mom & I, and I would of course be willing to take one of him at the entrance. He didn't speak English! However, we were able to communicate with hand gestures and minimal phrases, it turned out he was from France and was there with his family. He did kindly take a shot of us (and when we bumped into him again later, of us by the sculptures statue), but absolutely didn't want his picture taken!

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(My cousin Robert has asked us to post more pictures of ourselves, hope we don't break the camera's or your monitors!)

It was still a bit of a walk up to the viewing area, so Mom used her walker and got quite a stroll in. She had been to Mt. Rushmore before and couldn't believe the changes. The mountain is the same of course, but they have added quite an entry way, new museum's and gift shops and a hall for each of the state flags. Mom is continuing to enjoy taking pictures of flowers, me of scenery:

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Mt Rushmore itself is interesting, but I think even more interesting with all the additional background information in the Museum and all around. I was quite impressed with it all, while this was one of my 'must see's' for the trip, I expected we'd look at the sculptures then head on out. We ended up staying a couple of hours (and spending way too much in the gift shops - but not as much as at Devils Tower I think). (BTW - or By The Way, the presidents heads are each 60 feet high!)

After Mt Rushmore, Mom noticed on the map that there was a Bison herd at Custer State Park (SP) only a short distance away. I'm glad we didn't realize what a narrow, winding road it was over Iron Mountain or we wouldn't have tried it, but it was very beautiful. Because it was a state park, the road builders didn't want to blow up too much to build the road, so instead they built 'Pigtails', or circular wooden twists in the road to raise the level up for the three - one way - tunnels. This was quite a trip:

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If you look through the tunnel carefully, you can even see Mt. Rushmore!

When we got across Iron Mountain, we did see a herd of Bison as well as some donkeys and the ever present prong horn antelope (& deer I think).

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Because of the time, we decided to skiddadle up towards Rapid City then take State Hwy 44 to the Badlands National Park. In a way, this was probably a mistake, Hwy 44 is a bad road (but at least is paved). We again saw some wild turkeys along this stretch. When we got to a town called 'Scenic', we saw a sign pointing Left to go to the Badlands Loop Road, so we took it (even though the mileage was given as 25). This meant 25 miles along a Country Road - that was dirt and gravel and frequently washboard affect. In a heavy RV, this meant I often had to drive 5 mph, sometimes getting up to the rip roaring 20 mph.

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However, the trip may have been worth it even if it was the back way into the park (maybe I just like going the 'off the beaten path' routes). We went through the Badlands a little at the beginning, then back through prairie and large farms. Mom was really surprised to see as much prairie and farmland as we did, she had expected that most of South Dakota (SD) would be like the heart of the Badlands we saw later. We saw vast fields of sunflower crops (and many more later in other parts of SD). We also saw birds, deer and antelope along this road, but VERY RARELY any other cars or trucks. We didn't see ANY other RV's until we got back to the paved road 25 miles later (and the next day).

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A little over 1/2 way in, we again saw Bison right along the road - but these fellows didn't stay in a herd, just hung out a few hundred feet apart munching. We came to a sign saying "Sage Creek Campground 1.2 miles" and decided to take the spur and stay there. This is considered a "Primative" campground by the National Park Service. It had wind breaks (see pictures) and tables, pit toilets, but no other facilities. Along the edges of the campground were posts saying beyond the posts was a Wilderness Area. It turns out that the campground is on the edge of the largest protected wilderness area in the United States.

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Beyond being a lovely place (very much a Prairie), we met some interesting people. At one end of the campground were a bunch of horse trailers and folks around campfires. I went over to investigate and found out that the people and trailers were all separate groups - not outfitters or local ranchers - but people on vacation just like us, but with there horses! The group I met was from Wisconsin, they had room in front of the horse trailer for living space and they just traveled with thier horses to ride once they got to their destination. The campground had hitching posts and this space was designated just for these kinds of campers!

I also met a family set up next to us with a car and a small Scamp trailer. It turns out they are from Maine and were also circumnavigating just like us but in the opposite direction! The three kids each had laptops and were working on their travel blog.

So we settled down to a good nights sleep out on the prairie, with a beautiful sunset and not a car or siren sound to be heard anywhere. However, as the night wore on the wind picked up and howled - so we learned a little more about prairie weather.

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Posted by jl98584 19:27 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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