Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Summer Vacation--Part 1: South Dakota

Mount Rushmore from viewing platform
This is a little teaser of the our vacation. I'm usually crappy at getting my photos from vacation up in the timely fashion. Before I get tied down with the craziness of my life, I've decided to at least get one leg of the vacation done. Not even back a week and I have something up on my blog. Now that's a record.

This year's summer vacation was out west to Colorado and South Dakota. To start the festivities, WG had a fashion show of his outfits for the the trip.

Lone Ranger
as the Lone Ranger
as General Custer
Yes, he did bring all the accessories including the mask, badge, and gun belt. The only thing that didn't make it was the big Custer hat. He replaced it with a smaller version. I posted these pictures on FB and cause a little bit of commotion amongst my friends. I guess people didn't know what a nut he is.

Our morning began at 3am because the flight was @ laguardia airport/LGA [this what happens when you are trying to go cheap]. We never fly out LGA because it's such a pain to get to and now I'm for sure I'll never fly out of it again. So confusing, bad signage and more confusing terminals. Ended up having to check our bags at the gate [free, yea!] which made it actually easier.

Arrived in Denver around 11ish [whoa, the rental car section is really far from the airport] and off we got to driving north to South Dakota and Custer State Park where our cabin was. Google Maps App as our guide [I actually printed out the instruction just in case we didn't have any connection where we were driving, like Almost Canada].

We stop off for lunch in a town called Wellington and actually had a nice meal. Red Chili and Salad for me, French Dip for WG. Was a little worried at first, we were the only people at restaurant. But as soon as it hit 12:00. People started to come in. Glad we stopped as it was much better than fast food.

Six hours later, we made it to our cabins. We decided that we tired and ate dinner at the lodge:
skillet con queso for appetizers
ribeye for me
Fireside Buffalo Skillet Tips for WG
and a bottle of Custer State Park Merlot. Everything was okay. I could have done without the appetizer. A bit to heavy for me, way too much crackers and bread. The wine started out tasty after resting a bit but by the end of the meal it was a little sour. But overall, it was a perfect end to a very long day that started at 3am est. It was something that we never usually do anymore because we are so busy and never eat at the same time. Here's a pic of WG in the dining room to set the scene of our dinner.
I thought I got him with the big buffalo head above the fireplace

This was our one and only full day in South Dakota and trying to pack a lot in including driving to place to place [things are too close together in these parts]. Off to see the presidents. REROUTING. A last minute direction change. we decide to go to Jewel Cave National Monument because it looks closer [now in hind site, I think they were about equal in distance]. Knowing nothing about the caves, we stood in line to get tickets for a tour and found out the earliest tour was @ 11:45 [it was 9:15, I know good planning]. Trying to make a quick decision [people behind waiting on our indecision] we picked the historical lantern tour for 2:45. It's an 1 hour and 45 min walk into the cave with kerosene lanterns. Here's a link to the historical lantern tour:

Now we are really on our way to see the presidents. On our drive north, we pass the Crazy Horse Memorial. You can see it from the road. It's not finish, still being worked on. Here's a article about from NPR:

Mount Rushmore. Wow! What a set up! I guess it is for all the people who come and visit. Just not what I expected. There's these ticket booths [kind of like toll booths, yes I drive too much on NJ roads] that lines of cars drive up to. You pay your fee to park in a multi-level parking structure. It went very smoothly and quick so I'm not complain but it is not the usually National Park experience [guess if I did a little reading up on the MRNM before the trip, it wouldn't have been a surprise. It always comes back to the planning]. 

With all the years of working on history books and seeing image of MR, it is quite beautiful in person. The setting is great with the trees and hills that surround it. There's a trail that rambles below the presidents and gets a closer view of them and a sculptors studio.

Here we are trying to be the fifth head on the mountain. Too many people to get it just right. [yes, I could have photoshopped it to make it look better but I'm on vacation, too lazy and I think you get the point]


We decided to go to Custer City for lunch before Jewel Cave. Custer City was the midway from MRMM and Jewel Cave, a perfect stopping point. It was kind of resort-y, all the chain hotels were here and lots of goofy tourist stores. We end up eating at Dairy Queen. The lunch rush followed us there. Even though there was a rush, we still have about 45 minutes to kill time. So we end up going to the historical court house museum. Here's the link to it: For a small local museum, it tons of interesting stuff and worth the $6.00 entrance fee. Here's WG at the Custer section of the museum.
WG hanging General Custer
Back to Jewel Cave we go for our tour. I didn't get any pictures. It was hard to carry a hot kerosene lantern, take a picture without burning myself or blinding the others on the tour with the flash and trying not fall off one of the steep stairs. 

I did have one up on most of the people on the tour except the kids, my height. For most of the tour, I could stand straight up. I told a very tall man on our tour, "the two benefits of being short is I can stand up straight in tight caves and I can fit in airplane seat comfortably but ask me to get a plate from the top shelf, now that's another story."

And of course, [because of the great planning ahead] I was not wearing the proper clothing, it's around 45ยบ down in the cave. But lucky, I live up to my name and I was comfortable until the very end when we were going up. Lots of waiting for people to negotiate the steep steps up.

The last thing we did that day, was to try and find Sylvan Lake and Needles Highway. Well, we drove right pass Sylvan Lake because I thought there was another entrance than the one we just passed. [stupid planning] But we did get to Needles Highway and stopped to see the rock formations. Then back to the cabin to relax and have dinner. 

Oh yeah! I forgot tell you that we stopped in Custer City to pick up our dinner. Here's a picture of our dinner on the picnic table at the cabin.

Perfect weather for our dinner outside

For all of our picture from Mount Rushmore. Here's the link to the set in flickr:

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