Wow, its has been awhile since I have made some time to write an official blog, I have been keeping a journal so that I can remember each day and adventure, but we have been pretty busy and I haven’t made the time to focus on a blog to publish, now’s the time. We have been spending the last few days driving since we left Bozeman, we are making our way to Montreal by the 14th of October so we can visit with Andrew’s parents and good friends before they head out on a cruise. We spent 4 days in Bozeman with my brother Danny, it was awesome to see him and also to have a real kitchen, laundry and shower to use. While in Bozeman we got our fix for our craving for sushi – which sounds weird, but my brother works at one of the best sushi restaurants I have been too, Dave’s Sushi, I also may be biased, because he also rolls the sushi, so he makes it really yummy especially for us. We also visited the Museum of the Rockies, which is an amazing museum with one of the largest collections of Triceratops fossils in the country and tons of other dinosaur fossils and models. I couldn’t help thinking of my daughters attending Montana State University and studying paleontology. We also took a beautiful hike to Lava Lake, 3 miles up to the lake, surrounded by mountains. Hiking with Uncle Danny, the girls were super troopers on the 6 mile hike. We finished the night up with a home cooked meal at Dan’s house with his friends. The few days in Bozeman brought us back to our college/early 20’s days – staying up late, sleeping in and playing video games for hours. It was fun to relax and have some family time.
After Bozeman, we plotted out our route to Montreal, Danny suggested that we take the Beartooth Highway to head East. We took his advice and went through Yellowstone National Park – got to see tons of Bison and the amazing park that we visited last summer and then got on the highway. I must say I was super grateful my husband was driving this route. This was one of the most beautifully, scary highways I have ever driven on (actually the road to Hana in Maui was scarier – but in the camper, Beartooth was equally as frightening). Tight turns, huge overlooks and an elevation gain to over 10,000 feet. Not to mention, during this drive I had started coming down with a cold, so my ears and head felt like they were about to explode. Once I got over my anxiety and pain in my head, the drive was truly amazing. The views were breathtaking and again, I was grateful to be in the passengers seat.
After the drive on the Beartooth Highway we made our way to Billings and spent the night in a clean and quiet RV/Campground – we missed the super moon because it was bit cloudy, but we did get one last look at the finals stages the eclipse before we all went to bed. After Billings we made our way to Rapid City, SD. At this point in the trip we had been on the road for a little over a month and we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel room. Rapid City is centrally located between the Black Hills, Badlands and Mt. Rushmore in western South Dakota. We lucked out at the hotel as well, apparently the Comfort Suites we chose was a popular one and the only room available for us was a Family suite – which means it had 2 queen beds, a king bed and a sitting room – we weren’t sure what to do with all the room, but we were excited to figure it out! Our first day in South Dakota we explored Badlands National Park, we hiked around the various trails and checked out the beautiful overlooks. As described by our OhRanger.com pamphlet- “The wind and rain erosion have created an eerie moonscape of deep gorges and jagged sawtooth ridges with rocky layers painted in subtle hues of sand, rose, gold and green.” This area was truly amazing, we understood why it was called Badlands, when imagining early settlers traveling across this treacherous land, it is no wonder they called it the Badlands (we also read it on one of the informational signs). After our day at the park we headed back to Rapid City with a quick stop at the famous Wall Drug. Anyone driving on I90 towards Badlands or Wall can’t miss the multiple signs and billboards for 5 cent coffee and free donuts at Wall Drug and all the other crazy Americana exhibits it has to offer. Wall Drug is basically the biggest souvenir shop, restaurant, museum and drug store, that also includes a Traveler’s Chapel.
It was a fun shop to see, but also a little bit overwhelming with stimulation. We made it back to our luxurious hotel and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the restaurant across the parking lot, Dakotah Steakhouse, apparently rated one of the best steakhouses in South Dakota, and we agreed. I was still battling a cold, so the chicken dumpling soup was just what I needed. Plus some delicious steaks and yummy sides, we were happy to splurge a little. The next day the sun was shining, we checked out of our hotel (after our free breakfast) and made our way to one of the highlights of the trip, Mt. Rushmore National Monument. The monument and the history behind the creation of the sculpture is amazing. The amount of money, time and man power it took to create this sculpture was fascinating. After an hour or so hiking around and taking tons of photos, we decided to head out. Even thought we didn’t get to hike into George’s nose, it was still very cool.
Our next stop was Wind Caves National Park. We took a little over an hour tour that took us 209 feet underground. We took a guided tour of the ½ mile cave system called Natural Entrance. These caves, and Jewel Caves which is a bit further west from Wind Caves, have about 250 miles of explored passageways underground. On the tour we saw a variety of rare crystal formations including gypsum, box work and snowy calcite crystals. What I found most outstanding is that all these passageways are all natural, the volunteers that explore the caves are not able to change or manipulate any of the holes or caves they find, if they can’t fit through the slots, the can’t go any further. And even without any manmade passageways they have still found so many miles of passages. After the caves we camped at a campground in the Wind Caves park. Since it is October, a lot of parks and camping areas are closing up for the season, but we were still able to find a beautiful site over looking the rolling hills with a wide open sky, perfect for Andrew and Siena to take awesome star photos after dark. As we headed out of town we stopped by Crazy Horse Monument, which is still under construction after 67 years. This monument is all privately funded and family run. As a tribute to the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse it will be the biggest sculpture in the world, for size comparison Mt. Rushmore could fit in the head of Crazy Horse. I hope it gets finished, I'd love to see the completed project.
I have always been interested in seeing Mt. Rushmore, but never really felt like South Dakota was somewhere I wanted to spend my vacation time. After our short visit here, I am so happy we made the time to see it. There is some truly amazing land in this part of the country and it is definitely worth the visit. And now we are traveling on, we have spent 2 nights in Minnesota. First night after a super long drive we made our way to Blue Mounds State Park. Sadly, we got in too late to really enjoy the park and the next day we headed further east to Great River Bluffs State Park. We got in earlier to this camp ground and had time to explore the cool trails that overlook the Mississippi River. Today, as I type we are in Wisconsin, making our way to another state park called Wells State Park which is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. We decided we have enough time to spend a couple nights there and we are looking forward to taking a day off of from driving and enjoy some sunshine and beach time. So, if you have read this far, now you know where we’ve been. We have been busy and moving fast, but definetly enjoying the sites.