*If you haven’t read about part one, pop on over here and read part 1 of our four-state road trip here. *
We left off part one of our road trip letting you know we were entering into the great state of South Dakota and asked you what you thought was on our agenda for this leg of the trip. I think the first picture pretty much gives it away. 😉 As we started winding through the Black Hills of South Dakota trying to find our lodge, it started to rain pretty heavily. But even though it rained most of the way to our destination we fell in love with the sights around us. The Black Hills of South Dakota are beautiful. The rolling hills, tall pine trees and glimpses of lakes and streams upon our windy path along with low clouds and fog was a nice sight considering much of Wyoming is flat with fields of green for as far as the eye can see.
The closer we got to our destination, it dawned on me to look up the weather. The rain did not seem like it would stop anytime soon. Sure enough, the weather radar indicated that the rain wasn’t about to let up for several hours. This kind of put a halt on our plans of seeing Mount Rushmore. We found our lodge and checked in hungry and tired. Scott had mentioned that there wasn’t anything to eat for miles, but we had a hotel handbook we looked at and trying to stay budget friendly we decided to pay for a pizza delivery to the hotel. Later after a PayPal fiasco paying for the pizza, we discovered on our emailed receipt that the pizza would have absolutely no cheese on it. We called them back to add cheese. Apparently, cheese is an extra topping. Who knew? So we got that fixed before the delivery.
When the pizza was delivered, we finally had our first real meal that day. Scott looked for a break in the rain and discovered that much of the rain would stop around 7 pm. So we decided to still give Mount Rushmore a try. Interestingly enough, when Scott was outside getting some fresh air, there was a little mountain formation in the distance that he swore was a face. He said it looked like Washington. I wanted to go out and see it, and I too saw what Scott saw, a profile of Washington in the side of the mountain through the misty clouds. We were only about 2 miles from Mount Rushmore, but I had no idea it was visible from our lodge! There was a family using the hot tub right outside our lodge entrance and we asked them if that was Mount Rushmore and they confirmed that it was! We were blown away that we could see it from where we were staying! We can finally say we saw Mount Rushmore and now we can tick it off our bucket list! There are plenty of attractions to see and things to do here. Making a list of things to do in Keystone South Dakota before you visit could make each day a lot easier to plan. Hopefully, it’ll all be worth it.
After filling our bellies with pizza, we hopped back in the car and headed over to Mount Rushmore. Which reminds me, we almost contemplated leasing a car for this trip. Some friends of ours like to go on road trips often, but don’t have a particularly big car so they frequently lease one from somewhere like this Wichita Chevrolet dealer. It’s all about making the trip work for you and your family’s needs! Also just for anyone wanting to visit, while Mount Rushmore is a national monument that is covered with a National park pass, you still have to pay $10 for parking! They take card or cash, but it was a bit disappointing. The good news is that the parking pass lasts a year just like your national park pass does, so we were able to get in over two days with the same parking pass.
The kids had a second opportunity to receive Junior Ranger badges. The rain hadn’t completely stopped. It was misting a bit, having realized this, I’m glad we brought along plastic ponchos to keep us a little dryer. You see when we were packing for this road trip, I didn’t even think to bring jackets. I mean its summertime, and the thought of rain never occurred to me. It should have, but I was more interested in packing light. I wish I would have just had us bring raincoats just in case because we did get quite cold and it shortened our stay at Mount Rushmore a little. We did look up the weather for the next day and saw that it would be nice and clear for a better look at our four presidents.
So we decide to go back to the lodge, grab some hot chocolate from the lodge’s lobby and sit in the hot tub for a bit. This time when we saw this little mountain, we knew exactly what we were looking at.
I would never have imagined a year ago when we decided to move to Colorado, that I would be sitting in a hot tub a year later staring at the profile of George Washington carved into a mountainside. It just goes to show that anything can change.
The next morning, we woke up to clear skies. It was a perfect morning to view Mount Rushmore. We went to eat breakfast in the lodge’s main eating or event room. It was beautiful. It had tall picture windows which allowed beautiful views of the Black Hills. We dined on waffles, fresh fruit, yogurt, bagels, and coffee. They also had omelets that looked really good, but I decided to opt out of a second day of eggs.
After seeing Mount Rushmore on a clear day, we had two choices. We could go up one of the trails for a different perspective, or check out the museum, I love collecting interesting facts and information, so checking out the museum was a no-brainer. We learned all there was to learn about the making of our sculpted presidents into the side of Mount Rushmore. It took 14 years from start to finish to carve the presidents. They made several replicas in a studio and learned how to blast rock with precision. After a few years of discussion and much trial and error with replicas, in October of 1927, the first carvings began. Originally Thomas Jefferson was supposed to be carved to the left of Washington. They actually began it and if you look closely at the above picture you can see where some carvings began but were abandoned. Sculptors quickly realized the rock quality on that side was not as good and they abandoned the carving of Jefferson on that side and started him on the right side of Washington.
We learned a lot about the pay of the workers, the sculptor himself, why they chose Mount Rushmore and more about the Westward Expansion that has captured Jaydon’s interest this year. He may just become a little historian. After viewing the museum, we decided to hit the road and see if we could catch a glimpse of the Badlands. We headed south also with the intention of going down into Nebraska so that we could get another picture of us in front of a state sign. Only it didn’t happen the way we had hoped.
On our way down to the Badlands we passed some of the least populated lands in the U.S. or at least it seemed that way. At one point we couldn’t see any buildings or paved roads in any direction…just rolling green hills. Every now and then we’d see a heard of cows, a red barn, some crops growing but mostly nothing for miles. Then suddenly the paved road we were on, highway 41 heading south into Nebraska turned into a dirt road. We actually ended up passing into Nebraska on this dirt road and there wasn’t even a highway sign indicating we had entered Nebraska….just nothing but dispersed farmlands.
We drove down this road for 20 miles without cell phone coverage hoping and praying we wouldn’t get a popped tire from sharp rocks on the road. We were really worried we wouldn’t make it to civilization and that we’d have to remember where we last saw a house or barn and walk for help. We were literally counting down the miles and using google maps to find the next paved crossroad. When we finally saw truckers in sight, we breathed a huge sigh of relief. Scott said driving on paved road after that felt like driving on air.
We never did find a Nebraska state sign, but we made it to the nearest Walmart for a collector’s license plate and then on to our next tourist destination. Chimney Rock, a supposed 30 minutes away.
Now Chimney rock never would have been on our radar, if we hadn’t of heard all about it from our 9-year-old son studying the Westward Expansion in history this year. Apparently, Chimney rock was a marker for immigrants traveling the Oregon Trail. It helped keep them on the right track as they trecked West.
Leaving Nebraska we counted field after field of either corn or cows. The state of Nebraska is one of the top four states that produce the most corn in America and we sure saw a whole bunch of it for miles upon miles. Thankfully Chimney Rock was only 3 and a half hours away from home, so as soon as we saw that landmark, we were on the road to home.
I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the dusky horizon of the rocky mountains slowly creep into view about an hour from home. We had traveled 953 miles in three days! And we did it without the kids really complaining much. At six and nine they are so much better on road trips than they’ve ever been before. I just know vacations and road trips like this will just get easier as time goes on. What trips have you been on this year?
This is part 2 of our three-day road trip to four different states: (If you haven’t watched part 1 yet, the video is below this one)
If you haven’t watched the first video, watch in order, here’s part 1:
So tell me about your summer so far!
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