Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Touring South Datoka Day One - Rushmore, Needles, Custer State Park, Wind Cave

With Holly running a marathon in every state we get to go to some places we'd probably never plan to visit on our own. South Dakota was one of those places. Yeah we'd get there eventually to see Mount Rushmore but it really was not on the radar until we turn into full-time retired-persons nomading around the country. The Crazy Horse Marathon gave us a chance to almost break-even on the National Park Annual Pass we bought in Jackson, WY. We honestly had no idea there were so many attractions in this small section of the country.

A few weeks before our trip we caught an episode of Ozzy and Jack's World Detour focused on South Dakota. This History Channel show follows Ozzy Osborne and his son Jack on short road trips around the world. It has its bits of Ozzy charm, but overall this is a true travel/history program. We did not know about the missile silo or truly appreciate what The Badlands were until watching this show. We posted the trailer at the end of this post.

We landed early enough in Rapid City, SD to make it to the town of Keystone for lunch. Our race weekend partners, Stan and Pam, were all ready in town while Michael and his wife Tara would arrive late in the evening. Keystone is a one-street town near the base of Mount Rushmore. The sign says it has 800+ residents but they must all leave during the fall. Most of the area's businesses seem to only operate in tourist season (May - Sep).

As luck would have it our friends Tom and Sue (whom we met through travel to Jamaica) were in the area so the six of us met up for lunch at Ruby House Restaurant. The decor and "saloon" theme screams tourist trap with all its western art, old photos, swinging saloon doors, etc. The food was actually pretty good and the bar had a decent beer and signature cocktail menu.

Our first of many stops of the day was Mount Rushmore. The former tenants of our rental car left their parking pass in the glove box - saving us $11. Overall we thought it was smaller than we pictured it would be, but still very cool. We had a beautiful blue-sky day so we took our time walking the trails and checking out all the different angles. A person from Dave's office (sits 10 ft from Dave) was doing the same thing - small world.

After our mountain tour we decided to drive through Custer State Park toward the Wind Cave (a National Park). We were fiscally lucky again in the fact that we also had a Custer park pass in our car - a $20 value. Our drive would take us by the pretty Sylvan Lake and through The Needles. This route is very popular for its unique rock formations, winding mountain roads, and tiny tunnels that barely allow for one vehicle. Once we were through The Needles we were in the nature preserve of the park. We saw many deer, prairie dogs (a first for us outside a zoo) and a few buffalo.

Here is a short film driving through the narrow tunnel.

We reached Wind Cave about a half hour before closing. That meant we could not physically go into the cave, which is the 7th longest in the world. We spent some time looking around the museum and walked the path near the entrance. There was a sign letting us know that many Native American cultures considered this location the birthplace of humanity.

After a long drive back to Keystone we were pretty hungry. We decided on pizza for dinner because the "Open" sign was on when we drove by. When we walked over we found out that someone left the light on by accident and they closed up for the season. Our two choices were to go to the restaurant near the hotel (a BBQ place) or go back to Ruby House since we were right there. We chose Ruby House since we were familiar with the beer choices. We all enjoyed our meals, including the filet mignon Dave ordered for $18 with salad and sides. After dinner we lingered for only one more drink in the saloon. We had a long day planned for the next morning: The Badlands, Minuteman Missile Base, and Wall Drug.

Ozzy and Jack's World Detour trailer


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