Day 3 - Keystone, SD
|Sunday, November 20, 2016: Mileage: 932. Departure time: 7:15 AM.
|Yeah, got it. Wall Drug is coming up eventually.
|It turns out that they close the roads so regularly due to blizzard conditions that they have actual road closed arms that get lowered across the highway. It was this very phenomenon that aborted our last attempt to visit the Rushmore area 19 years earlier.
|The rest area overlooking the Missouri River has an amazing statue. It's visible from the freeway but it's not obvious what it is until you take the exit to the rest area. We were glad we did, because this sculpture, called "Dignity," is amazing. We added Tom to this photo for scale.
|Here were the bridges that were foretold in the previous day's rest area: the Missouri River Bridges of South Dakota, which are a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
|There's one visible in the distance on the river.
|There's another one visible after we took a pathway through the cold down to the path's end.
|We warmed up in the rest area building. The visitor's center was closed for the season and with good reason -- there are very few visitors this time of year.
|The third bridge was visible as we used it to cross Lake Francis Case, which is a part of the Missouri River.
|Here's an odd pair of sculptures - a dinosaur skeleton chasing a human skeleton.
|Here's an Old West town created just for the tourists who weren't currently around.
|Typical South Dakota scenery.
|We had this entire rest area to ourselves.
|We opted not to visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site but we did drive through the parking lot.
|In case you forgot as you exit the highway to visit the Badlands, Wall Drug is waiting for you at the end of your visit.
|We entered the Badlands National Park ...
|... and got our first good look at the Big Badlands Overlook.
|But first, a safety warning.
|With absolutely no one else around, we headed down the walkway to the overlook ...
|... and were rewarded with this view, ...
|... and this.
|It was Tom's first visit to the Badlands and he was well pleased.
|We took a short stroll on the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail.
|A great deal of the trail is wheelchair accessible, which was great to see. The trail continued up some steps in the distance, but we didn't go that far.
|Instead, we admired the views from where we were and headed on.
|We stopped in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and paid our park fee since the park entrance isn't staffed this time of year.
|We learned a little about some of the strange animals that used to roam this land many years ago. We also bought a souvenir pencil from the adorable pencil vending machine.
|We continued driving and started getting into some serious scenery.
|And some weird stuff too.
|At this overlook, Debbie headed out to get some photos.
|Tom was right behind her.
|Here's the view to our left ...
|... and to our right.
|Another overlook, ...
|... another view that is impossible to capture in photos.
|But we kept trying.
|We spotted a pair of mule deer on a prairie -- the first deer we had seen on the trip so far.
|The colors in this area were particularly pretty.
|We spotted a male deer and followed him to an overlook. He's at the bottom of this photo.
|He was good enough to pose for many photographs.
|Just up the road were a few more deer.
|As we were nearing the park exit, we ran across these bighorn sheep hanging out on the road. Two of their lesser-horned friends were nearby.
|Prairie dogs! We got our first good look at prairie dogs after a few brief sightings along the drive. So cute.
|The loop drops you off at the interstate where Wall is waiting for you. In case you forgot, here are four different billboards, all for Wall Drug.
|So of course we went there. Duh.
|It's a city block or more of stores and entertainment.
|We were hungry, ...
|... so we ordered the special of the day with Wall Drug souvenir cups.
|We had a lot of ground to cover and the Backyard attractions were closed, so we just took a look at some of the interesting stuff around. Like this ...
|... and this. He was the first bison we'd see on this trip, but far from the last.
|We needed some actual drug store items, like ibuprofin, so we bought them and were surprised to find that the prices were perfectly reasonable. Imagine buying drugs from Wall Drug! There's a first for everything. We also bought a souvenir shot glass for us and a license plate with our granddaughter's name on it for our wall o' plates in our garage.
|We had brought all of our Netflix DVDs along with us and had finished up two of them the night before, so we mailed them from the Wall post office.
|The last time we were in Wall, we barely made it to this very gas station with eight miles to empty. Nineteen years later, we had to buy gas here for old time's sake.
The last time we saw this guy was also nineteen years ago, in blizzard conditions, just before the freeway was shut down and we were forced to go south for Spring Break 1997. This overlook was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
|Here's the tiny town of Wall. Other than Wall Drug and the tourist shops across the street from it, there's not much to it.
|More South Dakota scenery.
|This blurry photo depicts four signs that implore the reader to slow down and not die. It didn't take long to realize that each one of these signs represented a fatality.
|What's this? An Air and Space Museum? Why, yes, we can fit another stop into our day, especially since we had gained an hour when we crossed into Mountain Time.
|And that's how we found ourselves ...
|... here, at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum.
|Before going in, we had to get a better look at those airplanes out front.
|Here's an airplane.
|Here are some deer who were a little apprehensive about those humans walking among their airplanes.
|Here's a big rocket ...
|... and here's a big airplane.
|Inside, there were even more airplanes, but let's get real ...
|... we were here to see the space stuff, ...
|... like this, ...
|... and this, ...
|... and this, ...
|... and even this.
|Here's a B-1B cockpit display.
|Overhead was a weather balloon and a helicopter.
|We visited the gift shop, where Debbie loaded up on astronaut ice cream, plus we got a t-shirt for Tom, a microkite of a bomber, and some toy runway track for our grandchildren to use with our toy airplane collection. We resisted buying these incredibly adorable bomber jackets, but it was difficult.
|Back outside, we took a look at some of the planes on the other side of the museum, like this one ...
|... and this one.
|Next, we drove to downtown Rapid City, passing a bald eagle in the sky along the way.
|We parked and set out to see the president statues on every street corner.
|Here is James Monroe.
|Here is John Quincy Adams.
|Here's a nicely decorated utility box.
|The graffiti in this alley stretched the whole block and was both attractive and sanctioned.
|Here are Thomas Jefferson, ...
|... James Madison, ...
|... and Gerald Ford with his dog.
|This is a pretty building.
|But back to the presidents. Here are Bill Clinton, ...
|... Jimmy Carter, ...
|... and Andrew Johnson.
|Andrew was wearing a handmade scarf with a note that said, "If you are in NEED of this item, it is yours."
|He was also holding a torn piece of paper titled, "New Military Map."
|This is the Alex Johnson Hotel.
|Say hello to George Washington.
|This corner had a cool sculpture titled, "We Are All Related."
|Across the intersection was an open air ice rink.
|We got in our car to leave, and took a few more photos on our way out of town, including Martin Van Buren, ...
|... John Kennedy and his son, ...
|... William Howard Taft, ...
|... and John Tyler.
|A half hour later, we were entering Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
|We emerged from the parking garage and headed toward the entrance, ...
|... then glimpsed the mountain ...
|... and the Avenue of Flags, ...
|... arrived at the viewing pavilion, ...
|... looked up, ...
|... zoomed in, ...
|... and then zoomed in even further. There were only a dozen or so people out there with us.
|We spent a little bit of time indoors looking at the displays, including these scale models of portions of the sculpture.
|Then we bid farewell to the gentlemen on the mountain, ...
|... and headed to the ghost town that is Keystone, South Dakota, in the off season.
|A few souvenir shops were open, and even fewer restaurants.
|Fortunately, we already knew that the restaurant next to our hotel was open during the off-season, so we checked into our room and headed over for dinner. We ordered an Alaskan White Ale and Knuckle Head Red Ale (made locally in Sturgis), plus a club sandwich and burger. By the time we left, the restaurant was completely full.
|The sun had gone down while we ate, so we headed back up to Mount Rushmore to see it at night. It was only two miles away, but the road was very steep so it took a toll on our brand new minivan. It was worth it, though, for this beautiful scene.
|The monument looks surreal when it is all lit up.
|It was very quiet on the viewing pavilion and the stars were out, so it was absolutely magical. Only a handful of other people came and went, so we lingered as long as we could.
|At 6:00 PM, we had the entire viewing deck to ourselves.
Back at the Holiday Inn Express, we warmed up with tea and hot chocolate, and watched a movie until bedtime.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy