Happy Monday, Everyone!
Coming to you live from a lovely Holiday Inn and Suites in Rapid City, SD. It was a really late night last night, so sending this off over coffee. As an aside, we have almost exclusively stayed in Holiday Inn/IHG brand hotels so far. They've treated us really well, so kudos to the brand. I think following us around on our trip would have provided them a hell of a marketing opportunity, but none of their social media folks seemed to have any interest. Ah well, their loss as the Big Trip continued in a good groove for another day!
Classic Midwest Americana today. We left Pierre early and jumped on good ol' I-90 West for several hours until we hit...Wall Drug! If you have been anywhere in South Dakota, you have either stopped there or seen 1000 billboards saying you should stop there. We spent a good long time checking the place out, having lunch, drinking free ice water and soaking in the kitsch.
From Wall we headed due south out of town and spent most of the afternoon in the Badlands. Quick note - JIM LOVES NATIONAL PARKS. Those magical two initials: N.P. To me they can generally do no wrong. The girls have had little exposure to our NP system, and this was a great way to start what will be many in the next few weeks. Awesome views, great hiking/scrambling/climbing (MK had the first 'injury' of the trip - a nice bloody knee after tripping over a rock. She's tough, tho.) and some good visitors center time for a little education. Fantastic stop.
In the car again, I-90 west again to Rapid City to check in and have some cheapo in-room dinner and then off to Mt. Rushmore. Are you kidding me on this day? Wall Drug, Badlands and Mt. Rushmore? We consciously put this stop at the end of the day. I had been to this monument several times but had never seen the evening flag lighting ceremony. Any expectations I had for the ceremony were completely blown away. The monument is a total must-see of course, but if you get the chance to be there late, do it! You are in an outdoor amphitheater with maybe 1000 people, the monument looking over you in the background. As the sun sets, a Ranger gives a wonderful 15-ish minute talk on the background of the monument. After that, they play a really nice historical movie that gives you all kinds of context to the building of the monument and how each of the the President's history fits into the theme of the whole place. They light the monument for the evening and then they invited all people who have served in the military on to the stage. About 100 folks came up, they were all individually introduced by name and branch (and to non-stop applause) and then all participated in a flag lowering ceremony. Stunning and patriotic in a very subdued and non-corny way. What a day - sorry for such a long post!
We are up early with a very long travel day in front of us, so thank you to South Dakota for a great few days. Westward and into the mountains we go! Smile and have a great Monday!