I mean, NO. I don't actually expect that anyone at all will actually look at all of my pictures, but this was amazingly beautiful scenery, so i took a lot of pictures. And i want to put them online anyhow, just in case my computer gets stolen or something catastrophic happens, so that they're backed up, and SO. Pictures.
We met up with Beth on Monday morning and headed north toward South Dakota, through Wyoming. With the exception of Juanito (who didn't remember it), none of us had ever been to Wyoming before, and all of us (or at least the adults among us) were just blown away by the vastness and the beauty and the changing-ness of it. It was amazing. As we were driving along, there was suddenly a sign for "Oregon Trail ruts." I was immediately like, "WHAT?!! The Oregon Trail?! That's amazing!" And Juanito was all, "You could get dysentery, going there!" And Beth was all, "Um. What?" So we explained the whole Oregon Trail game, but i was all, "No. It'll take too long. Let's just skip it. It's fine." Beth and Juanito insisted we go, and i'm SO glad they did, because it DID take time, but it was also totally worth it. There are ruts! Big gouges in the earth, where the wagons all drove through the limestone! I kind of love history, and it was just really cool to be able to see that. Plus, the back roads that we then ended up having to take led us to towns like "Manville" and some little mostly-abandoned town with random stray dogs walking down the middle of the road. It was a whole experience.
On Tuesday, we went to the Black Hills. We started the day by stopping in a touristy place with all-you-can-eat pancakes for 99 cents. Apparently it's one of the spots where the made "Dancing With Wolves," so there were Kevin Costner cut-outs and awesomely cheesy things from the movie. They had a giant covered wagon and a smaller covered wagon and a stockade, but they also had some really interesting things, like a guy who really loved his job, who demonstrated how to make a rope. He let the kids choose colors to put in the rope, let them help make it, and taught us how to spin the rope. The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever. We got sucked into walking around the place for way longer than we'd expected, until finally i was like, "We have to go! We still have all of the Black Hills!!!"
We started at Mount Rushmore. As we got closer and closer, the kids got almost giddy with excitement, peering out the windows for their first glimpse. They all went a little crazy when they saw it. It was awesome. We walked down the "Presidential Path," which takes you almost right up under the monument, all along in front of it. We took approximately 13 million pictures. Because...Mount Rushmore! And eventually we left and headed toward the Iron Mountain Road, a road with ponytail turns and sharp curves and everything that makes Juanito happy. There were tiny little tunnels through the rocks, and giant rock formations, and we might have stopped another few million times to take pictures everywhere.
Eventually we accidentally took the wrong way into a separate area of Custer State Park, which turned out to be very fortuitous, because we'd been thinking of maybe doing that a separate day, but we never would have had time. We found buffalo way far away, and then prairie dogs close up, and then buffalo right by the road. There were antelope and turtles and just generally nature-type things everywhere.
We eventually made it back into the part of the Black Hills where we were meant to be, and just as we got to a spot where we wanted to stop and look at the Cathedral Spires, Katrina got a spectacularly bloody nose. And amazingly bloody nose. It bled and bled and bled. We used up all of the kleenexes in the car and all of the baby wipes and were down to the kleenex from Beth's and my purses, which we made her stuff up her nose, when it finally stopped. She was pouring blood for about 15 minutes. There were puddles of blood on the ground. It was super-gross. I was starting to wonder if i should be really worried. She was a champion and didn't complain at all. She cheerfully agreed that it was totally gross.
We eventually wound our way around to Needle Highway. We somehow missed Needle Rock, even though we stopped the car and were walking around RIGHT THERE. It apparently wasn't terribly obvious. The Needle Tunnel was really cool, though. Beth and Juanito and Zane all climbed around by the tunnel, with Zane encouraging Beth that she could do it. He was so proud of himself for helping her be brave enough to climb the terrifying rocks.
The sun was getting ready to set, so we headed to Sylvan Lake, where we climbed on some rocks out to the middle of the lake to watch the sunset. It was slightly terrifying. And then we drove home and all fell into bed.
Wednesday we headed north. Our first stop was Sturgis, which is apparently home to a giant motorcycle rally every year. We stopped at the World's Largest Biker Bar, which had a giant cowboy holding a beer, a huge mailbox, a random donkey wandering the parking lot, and a lot of other incredibly random stuff.
We went east just a bit to go to Bear Butte, which we really only wanted to go to for the name, which we all insisted on pronouncing "Bare Butt." When we got there, we realized that we needed to pay to go in, except that all we really wanted was to get a picture by the sign, which was just there, inside the park. There were signs saying, "Buffalo are dangerous. Stay in your vehicle," but we'd driven around all day the day before and had only seen a couple of buffalo even though we were totally looking. So we thought, "Meh. Let's just park here and WALK in to the sign, and then we're not breaking any rules!" We carefully, slowly stepped across the cattle grate. We cheerfully walked a bit, until Juanito was all, "Um? See that little hill over there? Is that a buffalo?" I was all, "Nah! It's like, huge! And super-close!" Juanito walked a bit closer. And then it lifted its head, and it was enormous and SO close. The kids all immediately turned and ran at full speed back to the safety of the car, flinging themselves across the cattle grate at top speed. Beth and i ran behind them, slightly less panicked.. Juanito casually strolled back to the car. We drove the 1/8 mile into the park, took the picture (while carefully watching the buffalo), and left. Zane refused to get out of the car for the picture.
And then we drove to Deadwood. I remembered Deadwood as a fun little old-west-type town, from when i went there when i was about 13. Either it's changed or my memory is just terrible. It was a totally touristy town, trying to look old west. We walked through the shops. We watched a fake gunfight in the street. We got ice cream at Dairy Queen. We went to the graveyard where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried. It was ... fine.
And the we headed home. We stopped in Lead, where the town is built up steep hills. We stopped at "The Boondocks," which appears to be an abandoned amusement park of sorts. We stopped and ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall my cousin recommended, which had delicious food. In the parking lot was a lady who made ice cream fresh with liquid nitrogen. She was super friendly and totally gave us delicious free ice cream because i guess she liked us.
And then we fell into bed, exhausted again.