All packed and waiting to go to the airport in a couple of hours. This has been such an awesome trip. Rain and cold was in the forecast for the entire time, and except for a couple of tiny showers during drive time, the weather was perfect. To top it all off, last night when we returned to the hotel after an amazing dinner (more on that later), we were treated to a magnificent thunderstorm, with rolling thunder bouncing off the granite hills and lightening fireworks filling the sky. Some of them were so bright you could see George Washington’s sculpture during flashes. Rained for a long time and this morning I woke to a brilliant, warmer weather. Makes me want to stay longer.
I spent this week with a fun couple from the San Fran area. We spent a lot of downtime looking for the perfect ice cream and lattes. Found two great ice cream spots, one in Hill City called Cream, and one in Custer. I did not get the name of the place, but Seth was extremely excited. He is in banking and this place was in an old bank complete with a vault and the ice cream was homemade. Donna‘s latte fix was easier to accomplish, especially since the hotel here has a barista in the breakfast area.
Anyway, yesterday we started out in Wind Cave Park, where an about 175 years ago, these two friends came upon a hole in the ground about 10” across. When they went to investigate, the one guys hat flew off his head. They were so excited, they brought other friends to see this hole, but the next time, the hat got sucked into the hole. Rumor is they never found it. But geologists call this a breathing cave, because whether the air blows out or sucks in depends of the differences in pressure from outside and in. At the time, gold had been discovered in the Black Hills and a mining company wanted to drill. They had to dynamite a much bigger hold to get in, but then found no gold. They left this family to basically guard it, and the son started to explore. In one square mile , he discovered 8 - 10 miles of caves on his own. Caves kept spreading out underground. The family decided to make money out of it, so they gave tours. Unfortunately, there were no underground lights, so the tours were done by candlelight, and the boy would rather explore further than stay with the group. Story from his diary says that one day he left a group to go further, their candles went out and he could not find them. The next day , while guiding another tour, he found them in the dark. He unfortunately died at the age of 21 from typhus. Further explorations up to this day have found tunnels to the extent that there have been 167 miles mapped out and more to come. Even NASA has gotten involved. Microbes have been found in the depths of cave pools that seem to be important to space exploration and medicine.
In the afternoon we took a two hour Jeep safari through Custer State Park. Ended up seeing bison, antelope, turkeys and lots of prairie dogs. They are so cute. Heads popping in and out of holes. Scientists are learning that they have a language of their own using voice and tails to tell the entire community what is going on. Scientists claim that the guard actually tells the others what to look for while scanning for trouble.
We had our final dinner at a lovely restaurant in Rapid City called Minerva. Slightly more upscale than we were used to, but the food was wonderful, and the crème brûlée a real show stopper.
The tour guide is about to take the other couple to the airport, so I will sign off from South Dakota.
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