We've had a fun time on our vacation so far. On Monday we drove the entire width of SD, to get to the Black Hills. The day started out cold and rainy, but on the way, we stopped in a few places. First, we saw the Corn Palace. We enjoyed the corn mosaics there but unfortunately it was still cold and rainy when we were there.
We pressed on, to 1880 town, which was the most interesting site we saw that day. It's a collection of buildings and artifacts from the era and the area. Vinny really enjoyed running around the town and looking at things.
Our final stop before Rapid City, where we spent the night, was Wall Drug. The Wall Drug billboards are amusing and entertaining as you cross the countryside, but Wall Drug itself is somewhat disappointing. We had dinner there and paid more than $30 for worse food than you could get at McDonald's for $15. My advice, should you ever find yourself driving across SD on I-90, is to skip Wall Drug and go see other more interesting things.
We stayed at a hotel with an attached waterpark in Rapid City, which Vinny really enjoyed. It seems like any hotel worth its salt in South Dakota has an attached waterpark, presumably because there's nothing else to do in South Dakota. ;)
On Tuesday, we went to the North and West areas of the Black Hills, stopping at Sturgis (home of the famous motorcycle rally), Devil's Tower, and Deadwood, where we saw the cemetery that is the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Then we went camping that night at Big Bear Butte State Park. Vinny had been really excited about the prospect of roasting marshmallows by the fire and sleeping in a tent. We got to the campground about 30 minutes before sunset, and set up the tent and built a fire. We were the only folks camping at the campground, and it was extremely cold -- lows in the 30s F. We could hear coyotes howling all night, and Jeff thinks he heard something get eaten by a predator. We didn't get much sleep because it was so cold and we had to keep moving Vinny back into the sleeping bag.
We woke up before dawn and we just packed up and left. We had a breakfast at Denny's before going to see Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was spectacular and really interesting to see. But we were feeling tired and dirty so we checked into a hotel in the early afternoon, and took showers and went swimming for probably nearly 3 hours with our swim-obsessed son.
It's kind of an odd contradiction, but Vinny both loves swimming and is terrified of the water. But he's getting less afraid of the water the more time he spends in it. By the end of yesterday he was able to "swim" a couple of feet between me and Jeff, and feel okay with the fact that his face was in the water (although head dunking is another matter entirely). We will have to sign him up for swim lessons or something, because he seriously loves the water so much.
Today we're going to head south to the Badlands and maybe even onward to Western Nebraska, which is also beautiful (rolling hills, not exactly what you think of when you think Nebraska). Ultimately we have to make our way to Lexington, Nebraska, for my grandmother's memorial service on Saturday. I'll try to keep you updated as the trip progresses!