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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 44.0812, -103.231Day 8
Another early start to try and beat the crowds to Rushmore. I envisioned all those families at breakfast heading en mass to the wall of presidents.
We drove back into "downtown" Rapid City on I-90 and went south on US-16 to Keystone, then 16A to Mount Rushmore. It is REALLY impressive. I was afraid of being disappointed, of standing there saying, “Is that all there is?” But not so.
It is a work of art. It is so big, so commanding, and so very visible from so many places. The museum is informative and the movie is fascinating. Don't miss it. The displays are interactive, so when I pushed a button about safety, I heard one of the guys who helped build it say that no one died in the process of creating the monument, but at least three people had died since then of dust on the lungs. There is no admission fee but it costs $10 per car to park.
We headed back into Keystone, mailed the obligatory postcards and then wandered onto US-16A … the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Now THAT'S a scenic byway. Beautiful curved roads that wound their way through evergreen forests and through a
series of tunnels. At the end of at least two of the one-lane tunnels were amazing views of the four presidents. Norbeck did a fine job of creating this drive.
Custer State Park in the Black Hills honors General Custer, and contains French Creek, where Custer's expedition first discovered gold in 1874. (FYI, Little Big Horn is in Montana.) Its 71,000 acres boast several scenic drives, including the granite spires of Needles Highway and the 1300 bison along Wildlife Loop Road. The park is also home to pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros, although we saw only buffalo, antelope and prairie dog.
Suggest you head north here, and maybe take in the Museum of Woodworking. We did not. We went further south on Highway 87 to Wind Cave National Park. Having visited Meramec Caverns and Onondaga Caves in our home state (Missouri), we chose not to take the shortest cavern tour: 90 minutes. As a result, this was a long drive with little to see at the destination.
We returned north on US-385 north through Pringle to Custer City, where we “dined” on more fast food. And then did a drive-by of the
Crazy Horse Monument. We were told it is highly commercial and not worth a visit.
A last stop before dinner: Mistletoe Ranch Christmas Store in Hill City. A lovely two-story historic building with a veranda and lots of Christmas inventory. Quite fun for a Christmas fanatic.
We returned to the LaQuinta, maneuvered our way among the little people and headed back downtown for a lovely dinner at Enigma at the Radisson Hotel.
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