Saturday, September 8, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 10

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world - the world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”   ~Mark Jenkins

After our breakfast at America's Best Value Inn in Wall, South Dakota, we were on the road again at 7:50. We gassed up for $3.799 a gallon and headed south on Highway 240 then on Hwy 44 on the scenic route through Badlands National Park. As we approached the park entrance a yellow sign warned us to be cautious of the prairie dogs because they have the plague. They are cute but we were certainly convinced to avoid a firsthand encounter. You'll notice that the park entrance sign has bright, shiny things on top. Those are sharp little metal needles to keep the birds from landing on the top of the sign and pooping on it.

As we got into the park it reminded us of parts of the Painted Desert in Arizona but the colors were more muted – less reds and more grays. The layers were still very distinct, however. At one point where there was a castle-like formation atop one group, Linda counted at least 47 shades of gray with interspersed layers of the same pink over and over. The area was formed from deposition at the bottom of a sea during millions of years, subsequent erosion and some volcanic activity thrown in for good measure. Where there are colors it represents that there were living creatures and plants at one time. We soon came to areas with yellows, also greens. The greens seemed to be from vegetation. In one area there were green flat places among the formations, not valleys but on a level as high as many of the uneven surfaces. Look for them in the photo gallery.

For a ten minute video trip through the Badlands National Park, including some prairie dog footage and a big horn sheep, just view the video below. We really like the music we picked for this video. The first selection is "A Ride Through the Black Hills" by David Anthony. How appropriate is that? The second is "Cloudland" by Patrick O'Hearn. Hope you like them as well.

The Badlands were named from a Lakota name meaning bad lands (mako sica). Early French fur trappers called the area “les mauvaises terres a traverser” which also means bad lands. With rattlesnakes, rocky soil, great winds (Linda had to hold onto her hat) and uneven questionable water supplies, it is easy to see why Indians called them bad. They do have an appealing beauty but not the kind that would have made it easy to put food on the table for the Indians. The peaks, gullies, buttes and wide prairies of the Badlands were challenging to cross until the nice paved roads of today's National Park.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visitor center and our scenic drive through the park. There are many vistas where it is easy to pull over and enjoy the formations. Around one bend we came to a beautiful lake called Horsethief Lake. It was created in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) project when a dam was built on Pine Creek. The CCC was a work relief program created by Franklin Roosevelt. It sent young, unemployed men to work on conservation projects. For their hard work, they received $1.00 a day.

After leaving this very interesting park we were still on Hwy 44 until we got onto Hwy 16 west and headed for the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is the world's largest emerging mountain sculpture (641 feet long and 563 feet high). Summer of 2012 was focused on developing Crazy Horse's outstretched hand that rests in the horse's mane along the skyline. The rough shaping of the colossal horse's head is nearing completion. The Crazy Horse Memorial is now in its 65th year. It honors the leader of the Battle of Little Bighorn. It's near the geographic center of the U.S. and is considered sacred by many tribes of native Americans. If it took 65 years to get it finished this much, these two old buzzards won't get to see the finished product. Lots of informative photos included in today's gallery.

We left Crazy Horse and headed on Highway 16 to go the 17 miles to Mount Rushmore. That's where reality collided with fact. When John first spotted the Mount Rushmore carving and pointed it out to Linda she was surprised at its size. In photos and in her imagination she had always expected it to seem larger than it looked just then. Another fact that soon collided with both of the buzzards was the realization that there was no way to get to the park's entrance and the visitor center but through a gate leading to a parking area, run by a concessioner, that cost $11 (not a part of admission to the park). Oh, well, the buzzards coughed it up. There are also severe limitations on dogs on the paths and byways so John and Fannie stayed in Wilma while Linda went into the Visitor Center to get the Buzzard's passport stamped and get a park pin. There is a display of flags from every state on the walkway towards the viewing area. Even though Linda has seen many photos of workers standing next to George's nostrils, the carving somehow still didn't seem as large as she had expected it to appear. Thankfully you have all also seen hundreds of photos of Mount Rushmore and won't be disappointed that FDR is just a bit in the shadows in the photos Linda made. On a scale of 1 to 10, Mt. Rushmore rates about a 2 as being a "citizen friendly" national park. $11 to park, in John's mind, is absurd. He strongly recommends most any other of our national parks as being less crowded and more accessible.  Heck, we've all seen Mt. Rushmore images a zillion times. Guess what....they are pretty accurate!

So the buzzards can mark Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse off their bucket list. But first John will have to put them on his. All in all, Linda was more excited about both of the carvings than John. She has dreamed of seeing Mount Rushmore since she was a child. Maybe that's why she expected it to seem larger than it looked to her today. She was not at all disappointed with Crazy Horse. She knew it was unfinished and the visitor center has great displays showing what will be carved where and a scaled-down replica of the finished carving. AND she got to pick out a sparkly granite rock that is part of the material blasted away during the ongoing project. OK, she actually got two rocks, since John had stayed in Wilma with Fannie while she went to the visitor center and she just knew he would want a rock too. (John comment: "Yeah, dude, Crazy Horse rocks!")

It was interesting to observe the many touristy businesses that have been developed in the area around these two attractions, and the signs they've come up with to attract paying customers. There is a reptile garden, Old McDonald's Farm (a petting zoo), Putz 'n Glow (black light miniature golf), Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns, Bear Country USA. And two different Mystery Spots. There has been no sign of vineyards, but yet we saw at least three wineries seemingly aimed at tourists: Prairie Berry Winery has Red Ass wine (made from rhubarb), Naked Winery has Buck Naked wine and there is a Stone Face Winery.
Today's photo gallery has 49 images, mostly of the Badlands National Park, but some of the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore. We will add a video to this post at a future date and let you know. We shot some video in the Badlands and just have to process it and put it together. To view the photo gallery, click here.

We checked into our room at LaQuinta in Rapid City, South Dakota at 3:30 and spent some time pulling photos and video off the cameras and listening to the wild children next door run back and forth screaming up and down the hall. Fannie Mae is not a fan and neither are we. Our hope is that they will calm down and sleep tonight so we can as well. We called the motel desk before leaving for dinner and now that we are back the noise is mostly confined to their room. Well, actually they are fairly confined but their noise travels through the wall quite readily. We notified the desk again, and at 9:30pm it's a bit quiter.

We had a nice dinner at a local restaurant, the Millstone. We both had their soup and salad bar, which included desserts as well.

We then went to a Wall*Mart so John could get a jacket for our visit to Yellowstone. Linda is in highlighter heaven because she got a new set to use on the atlas where she charts our road trip progress.

Referencing today's quote we are glad to report that neither of us has collided with the earth and are mostly experiencing kindness from others and are enjoying offering kindness to others as well. This can have amusing results. At a convenience store Linda was in line for the women's restroom when a mom with a diaper and a baby got behind her. Both the men's and the women's restrooms became available at the same time so Linda just told the mom she could use the women's and Linda would use the men's. When Linda came out of the men's there were 2 guys in line and no line for the women's. Some explanation seemed necessary but since she couldn't think of one, Linda just ducked her head and headed for the exit. She thought of one today. She could have said “Howdy guys, I'm in drag and they told me not to use the women's room”. Oh, well, next time. Then today was true karma. John went in to get a soft drink (called pop around here) and use the facility at a convenience store. He was gone for the longest time. While she was waiting Linda saw lots of motorcycle guys hanging around. Then when it was her turn to go inside she had to laugh at the long line of guys for the men's room and NO line at all for the women's. Yea, karma! There is no black and white! Sometimes there can actually be a line at the men's room and no line for the women's room.

Happy trails!


  1. HAPPY TRAILS!!!!!! finally figured out how to comment least for the moment!!!now it's bedtime....have a wonderful lazy Sunday!!! todays pictures were cool!! Yea, I agree, John, $11 is a lot to pay to park....!
    And interesting, Linda, I always thought they would be bigger too! Thanks for the fun bedtime stories!!! with pictures!! HUGS!

  2. Jackalopes! Aren't they the cutest things?!