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Published: September 3rd 2006
Day 26 - August 30, 2006
Wednesday, August 30
This morning was nice and breezy. We haven’t had really cold weather since leaving Yellowstone (where lows are routinely in the low to mid-thirties). Scott and Austin played basketball, then we ate KOA pancakes (only $2 for all-you-can-eat). Then we played mini-golf, checked out the KOA store, and readied the RV for travel. We left around 11 am and headed for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. These sites were manned by two Air Force officers 24/7. These sites promised “Worldwide delivery in 30 minutes or less”. Even more impressive than the SR-71 Blackbird.
Badlands National Park is probably one of the most desolate, barren places on the earth. Even sand-dune-filled deserts have more life than this place. It was hot and windy. We didn’t even see lizards. There were LOTS of signs warning about rattlesnakes. (We didn’t see any.)
Drought is a real problem through parts of WY and SD. In fact, they warned people on local news to slow down on highways to avoid hitting wildlife, who are coming in droves to feed on plants next to the roadway.
The rock in Badlands is very soft,
and crumbles easily. You are not supposed to climb on it. The soil is as hard as non-Badlands rock or concrete. If you fall down from heat exhaustion, you might get a concussion from your head hitting the ground. Lots of fossils are found here.
We drove to Keystone, SD to get to Mount Rushmore National Park. We were driving along the main thoroughfare, when we saw this guy in the middle of the street. I thought he was directing traffic until he raised a gun in the air and fired it. We must have interrupted a gunfight in progress (they also do this in Cody, WY at 6 pm every day in front of Buffalo Bills). We left him to the other tourists.
Mount Rushmore is really BIG. At 465 feet, it is larger than the great pyramids of Egypt and dwarves the Statue of Liberty. You can see it from a distance, IF you are at the right angle. The only fee is the parking fee, which even national park pass holders must pay. ($8)
“I feel like an ant. They (the presidents) are so BIG. It was so cool!” - Austin’s comments on Mount
We walked around the monument, visited the sculptor’s workshop, and the monument exhibit hall. The weather was very pleasant. The elevation is around 5,017 (Austin remembers this).
There are many interesting stories associated with Mount Rushmore. They even had their own baseball team. The first year, they didn’t even have uniforms and had a pretty abysmal record. Before the second season began, Lincoln Borghum (the son of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum,, who finished his father’s work) decided they would have a “real” team. He bought some uniforms, recruited some “ringers”, and gave them jobs on the project. They had a great season. The going rate for these laborers was $.32 per hour (a great wage in those days).
We went to nearby Hill City and ate at Desperado’s. This is a terrific place to eat, probably the best food we’ve had while traveling. The steak, buffalo burger, (which I tried for the first time) and shrimp scampi were all highly toasted. The building, known as The Mercantile, that houses Desperado’s has been in Hill City since 1885. Some of the original log wall is still standing. Some other original boards have been deployed near the front
of the restaurant. The building was first used as a hotel and saloon. Then it was a newspaper headquarters, and had other assorted uses after that. A fur-trading store, a car-repair shop, and a fly-fishing shop. It has been terrifically re-decorated with cowboy-hat lights, beaded cowhide, pine tables, and South Dakota stone. This restaurant just opened for business in May of this year by Tom Schaub and his wife. If you go, you must try the sweet potato fries and bread pudding (with whiskey sauce). The boys were directed to the kitchen to help with the dishes, but they declined the gracious offer with good humor. We offered to hire them out. (Someone’s gotta pay for this trip.) The real shocker for the night was when I ordered rhubarb pie. (I eat almost any kind of pie, but have never tried rhubarb.) But when our waiter Travis said “rhubarb pie”, for some reason I ordered it. (It is clear that the easiest way to brainwash is to deprive the subject of sleep. Then you say it and they do it. Obviously, it worked on me.) I have never seen Scott so shocked. (It was worth the risk of rhubarb pie
just to see his face.) We left the restaurant just before nine and discovered that the town had shut down. Everything was closed and the streets were deserted. It was like a ghost town.
We went to the Rafter J Bar Ranch to spend the night. It is fairly spread out, we and our neighbors could actually snore without disturbing each other. The bathrooms are really nice, having been recently renovated. We have found that the more remote, less-used campgrounds tend to be nicer and more peaceful.
Name for the day: “Bumpin’ Buffalo Bar & Grill”. (We didn’t try this place.)
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