Well, first of all, I must thank Josh for holding down the fort for me while I was gone. It appears he did a fantastic job. JB and I were literally laughing out loud as we read your story. You never disappoint.
Secondly, in response to the question posed by Josh and the answer from one of the commenters, Mount Rushmore is in South Dakota.
That being said, I am now going to share some photos and video (Yes -- video ... thanks for the tutorial Calvin) from our trip to South Dakota. This may be one of my longest blogs ever but don't worry, most of what you are going to see are photos not me "talking".
We left for South Dakota around 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning. As I mentioned, I have seven states left to visit, so I was very excited to knock one of these off my list. Here is me on the highway with my new state!
I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised by South Dakota. It is a beautiful state. We really enjoyed the drive to Mt. Rushmore because the SD landscape is landscape we had never seen before.
All in all, it is about an eight and a half hour drive from Rochester to Keystone, SD. However, we took a 90 minute side loop through the Badlands. These lands are appropriately named for how badly they would have served for raising crops or animals in the early beginnings of America. Here are some pictures of this amazing landscape.
As we left the Badlands, I saw this beautiful prairie and told JB that I would love to run through it (picture the introduction to Little House on the Prairie). JB immediately said that I probably wouldn't want to run through the prairie due to the rattle snakes. A few minutes later we saw a boardwalk leading out the prairie, and John's thoughts were confirmed by this delightful sign which only reiterated that I should stick to the boardwalk instead of just running through the grass. It also reiterated the fact that JB is quite often, right.
Before I left, Kelsey made me a list of places that we should be sure to visit. This was one of them -- Wall Drug. In fact, as you drive to Mt. Rushmore you see all kinds of signs advertising this Drug Store which made its place on the map during the Great Depression by offering free glasses of water. However, it is now one big tourist trap so we stopped to "say we'd been there" and to take a picture to prove it for Kelsey and then went on our way without even getting our glass of free water. Not a place I'd go out of my way to visit just as Kelsey promised.
We finally arrived in Keystone, SD around 5:30, checked into our hotel, Roosevelt Inn, and then immediately headed to Mount Rushmore, about 4 miles from our hotel. What an amazing site! Pictures can't do it justice, but here are some pictures to share just the same.
As you enter the area, each state is represented in a stone pillar with the year they entered the union. Here is a photo with me next to Florida/Kentucky/Minnesota ... my "flaky" inspiration.
Later that evening, after a quick bite to eat, we returned to the outdoor amphitheater where they had a lighting ceremony as the sun set as well as a video with the history of this great sculpture. What was even more fun was that they asked all current military and veterans to come to the front while the boy scouts retired the flag. Family was invited as well, but I declined as JB went down onto the stage. It was so neat to listen to the audience cheer for them and yell "thank you's".
The next morning, we drove along a scenic road and were able to take more beautiful pictures of Mount Rushmore.
We then moved to Custer State Park. This was a gorgeous State Park with all kinds of animals.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting Custer State Park's "Begging burros". These donkeys were brought to this area during the gold rush and left behind. While not native to the area, they now allow about 30 burros to continue living in the park, auctioning off the excess numbers each year to lucky individuals (I would love one!) Here are some photos and VIDEOs of these donkeys who are not even close to shy. We stopped our car for a second and were flogged!
Another great park of this park was that it contains the largest wild heard of buffalo/bison in the world. We were lucky enough to pass the herd very early in our trip. Here are some photos of the bison which JB was gutsy enough to get out and "visit" with.
Another animal we saw a TON of was the Pronghorn antelope. These animals were all over the park! John joked that I could show the entire song of "Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roamed, where the deer and the antelope played ..."
Animals in this park had no fear of humans as indicated by this groundhog who made JB drive around him ... twice!
The Needles Highway greeted us on the way out of the park. These rocks were gorgeous and, again, pictures just can't show what we saw. You MUST see them for yourself.
Can you find JB in the first picture below and me in the picture below that? This just shows you how big these rocks are.
Lots of tunnels requiring one car at a time. You have to honk first!
The highlight of the trip is a rock called "Needle's Eye" which has a hole right through it thus the "eye of the needle".
We also took a ride on the "1880 Train" which drove us one hour to Hill City and one hour back. In Hill City we ate at a fabulous German restaurant where we had some great German dishes!
Below you see the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps:
While the scenery on the train was excellent as you can see above, one of my favorite parts was meeting Leonard. Leonard is a local retired man who comes out to meet the train EVERY time it passes -- six times a day! He stands on a stand with his conductor's hat on and waves and bows and blows kisses. I enjoyed meeting him on the trip there AND back. What a guy!
Okay, so JB and I typically avoid anything that even resembles a tourist trap, however, I read about this ski lift that takes you to the top of a hill where you can see Mt. Rushmore and then take an alpine slide back down. Here is a picture of JB and me on the ride up.
Here was the view from the top of the hill which included the fifth face on Mt. Rushmore as well as a beautiful view of Keystone, population 250!
Now JB was not overly excited about taking the alpine slide down. I had done this before and thought it was great fun. He had never done it and told me that he was not going to race and wanted to just ride down slowly and relaxed-like. Keeping this in mind, you can see why I was very surprised when we started at the same time and I was quickly left behind! JB left me in his dust. I tried to catch up but was not nearly daring enough. Once at the bottom, John apologized and told me that I was right -- those slides were great fun!
Our next stop was Crazy Horse. If you don't know much about Crazy Horse (like us), I will quickly summarize by telling you that the Indian leaders wanted their own memorial for their heroes, just like the heroes featured on Mt. Rushmore. So, Crazy Horse was started by Korczak Ziolkowski, his wife, and ten children. Korczak has since died, but the job continues. To give you an idea how big Crazy Horse will one day be, the four heads on Mt. Rushmore can FIT into Crazy Horse's head. Here is the finished statue (in model form) with the actual statue in the background.
Here is Crazy Horse, probably over fifty years away from completion.
After viewing Crazy Horse, we decided to return to our hotel through Custer State Park. At one point, JB decided to climb to the top of one of the hills. Here he is, blown up so you can see him. You can also watch a video of him coming down the very large hill!
We also ran into the donkeys again! I was very excited. I love these guys.
We returned to our hotel, exhausted, and left this morning around 8:30 our time for home. On the way we stopped at the Missouri river in South Dakota, something we saw on the way and had wanted to see. Here are a few photos from that stop including more snake warnings!
We had a fantastic trip and are glad to be home. Tomorrow, I will include a very special announcement on my blog so make sure you tune in for some extremely exciting news!