Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Westward Expansion - Days 6 - 9

After two days of rain and snow, today dawned crisp and beautiful with crystal blue skies and cold but tolerable temperatures.  We were so glad, as this was our last chance to see Mount Rushmore!  But before we get to that, let's backtrack a little and fill you in on the prior couple of days.

We left Independence, MO and ended up spending the night in Sioux Falls, which is where we left off our travel journal.  We piled into the van on an extremely cold and rainy morning bound for Rapid City, but determined to stop wherever we wanted to and take our time.  As it turned out, there was but a little to stop and see, but we were glad we did!

First stop was Mitchell, SD and the World Famous One and Only Corn Palace!  We expected this to be a drive by, stick our cameras out the window sort of tourist stop. It was raining when we pulled into the empty parking lot, and the kids had no idea what it was!  We got out as the rain turned to drizzle, and ran to the front of the building to take a few quick photos:

This may have started out being a kitschy sort of tourist stop, but we ended up quite fascinated by the Corn Palace! The artwork was really amazing to view up close.  We read that it takes over $100,000 every year to change the corny art to a new theme.  Many folks have seen the exterior of the building and may have thought that was all there was to it, but we went inside and found a gymnasium with more corn art!  It was actually kind of awesome:

All of that is corn!  Pretty impressive, huh?

While looking at photos of all the versions of the Corn Palace through the years, Kenny spotted something that was explained below:

Further into South Dakota we stopped at the infamous Wall Drug, a craaaaazy mix of tourist trap, western iconic art, souvenir stand with fresh donuts, cheapo coffee, and plenty of stuffed animal heads mounted on the walls.  It is hard to describe, and I didn't take pictures, but everyone should visit Wall Drug at least once in their life, if only to satisfy their curiosity after seeing tons of highway billboards.

Yesterday, our snowed out day had us doing little but driving around to see the town a little, and visiting the Landstrom's Black Hills Gold Factory to try and take a tour that we missed, but we did see a very interesting video about the history of Landstrom's and how they create their jewelry.  We also met a designer who pointed out to us some pieces that were designs of hers.  Again, surprisingly more interesting than we thought it would be.

Today was the day for Mount Rushmore, and off we went!  We were not disappointed, and the snow that had fallen actually made the scene far more beautiful.  We all commented as we drove up the mountain how nice it was to feel like we were in familiar territory, and it is easy to see we have five kids who all find the area we live in to be the most stunning of all of what they have seen so far of the United States.  Matt and Josh, in particular, really have missed the mountains, and though Angela loves road trips to see new things even she said she prefers our part of the country.  Olesya and Kenny both expressed a dismay at big city life, and have vowed never to live in one.  We'll see if that comes true for them, as Montrose is pretty small to satisfy young adults.  For now though, they have a great appreciation for "home".

Our first clear shot of the Mountain

It turned out to be a great time to visit...almost no other tourists, beautiful snowy backdrop, all in all an awesome experience!

Angela with the Presidents in the palm of her hand :-)

We asked Kenny to take our picture...and then asked "Did you get Mount Rushmore in it?"...uh...no.

Super clear photos from my camera even though we were quite far in the distance.

Olesya diligently taking photos for future use.

Inside the visitor's center, Kenny and Josh are looking at displays, and Josh is using his Mt. Rushmore Walking Tour app on his iPad.

From Mount Rushmore, where everyone admitted it was a lot cooler than they had expected, we moved on to Wind Cave, another National Park with over 140 miles of discovered caves.  We took a tour which was incredible:

Here is a map of the various known parts of the cave, shown to us by Matt, our Park Ranger and Guide

We were on our way to the only known natural entrance to the cave, a tiny 1 foot or so opening!

Matt is surprised by how small the opening is.

Above is an example of  "boxwork" formations, and 95% of the world's known boxwork formations are in Wind Cave.

The ceilings ofthe cave rivaled the Cathedral Basilica we saw a few days ago!  Man made or God made, it is all incredible.

We came home and let the kids swim, when later in the evening I discovered I had two really awful bug bites that were swelling out of control.  Josh and the girls played Drs. with me while Matthew, Kenny and Dominick stripped my bed, lifted up the box springs, and tore apart the room looking for the spider culprit.  Josh was hilarious taking photos of it, measuring the swelling spots, and looking up spider bites on his iPad to try and determine exactly what it was that bit me.  It was bad enough I almost went to the ER, but am going to delay and see how it gets overnight.  The swelling seems to have stopped with some Benadryl and ice, and I know I won't get bit again tonight after the men tearing apart everything and finding nothing.  We'll see how it looks in the morning, and I am hoping we are not looking at the inside of a doctor's office or the ER tomorrow.  It's always something, isn't it?  The LaJoy Travel Curse strikes again!

We leave tomorrow for Cody, WY and have a 6 hour car drive ahead of us.  We don't mind at all, as Jorge as been quite comfortable for these long hauls, and everyone is happy.  Until tomorrow...



Anonymous said...

Wow! Those have got to be the best travel photos of Mt. Rushmore I have seen. Ours have always turned out ...eeh. Glad you have having a good time and discovering those little things along the way.
Teresa F.

Writer200 said...

Try a baking soda paste for the bites. Or maybe witch hazel. Both help with the swelling & itching of the bites.

I've loved seeing your posts about the grandeur & funkiness of the West.

Lindsay said...

Enjoy the next stage of your journey. Looking forward to reading about where Jorge next takes you!