The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. -Proverbs 1:7

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.-Proverbs 4:7

Monday, July 28, 2014

Road Trip 2014: Day 6

Keystone, SD -> Ogallala, NE

We are on the other side of the loop towards home.  Today was our last day of major sight seeing.  We won't be home for another week, but the back end of this trip will be much slower paced.

Here's a crazy thing:  We (Alicia, actually) were driving around in the Black Hills this morning and we stopped at an overlook.  Imagine my surprise when I turned around and there was George.  I guess I didn't realize where we were.
Custer, SD


 We took the optional bus tour down to the base of the mountain.  I'm so glad we did.  Our tour guide was awesome and we got to see Crazy Horse from much closer.

 All the time I was growing up, my dad would talk about when he visited Crazy Horse as a kid.  With no end in sight for project completion, I hope my kids bring their kids to see the progress of a generation.  This place is going to be really awesome when it's finished.  Look it up.  It will be far more than just the monument I thought it would be.

Next up...we wanted to see buffalo.  We did not go into the cave (because, as I have mentioned, we have been in many caves and they all kind of look the same after awhile).  I wanted to take the Needles Highway, but was told we'd have a better chance of seeing buffalo if we took an alternate route.  There has been so much picking and choosing on this trip.  You just can't see everything.  It's not possible.

Such a complicated plant...

Just when we were getting weary we'd never see an buffalo...  We first saw a single cow from afar and then this pair and then a large herd from afar next to a wallow.    Mission complete.

Hot Springs, SD
This is one of the prettiest towns I have ever been in.  Alicia and I were marveling over the sandstone architecture.  We would have stayed there longer, but Jac is not into that sort of thing.  He put up with a little driving around and constant stopping for pictures, but then it was time to move on.  I need to go back.

 Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, SD
If you are ever in the area, you have to visit this place.  It is so interesting from a science perspective.  Basically, over a very long period of time, a sink hole developed in the shale and eventually collapsed and filled with water.  Over more time, mammoths fell in, drowned and sank to the bottom.  They have found 61 mammoths in there so far.  The state of their preservation is amazing.  We were able to talk to the scientists who were very informative.  They also have some really great education programs available to teachers everywhere.  I was looking at them last year, but will have more teaching freedom next year.  I'm looking forward to figuring out how to incorporate some of this in one of my classes next year.

The look of disappointment when I refused to buy this hat.  I might have promised I'd make him one.

 Finally.  New state for Jac...Alicia has been here before.
 Random roadside attraction.  I'm all about random roadside attractions.  I should mention this is out in the middle of nowhere.  "Carhenge"  I have no idea what this is about and there wasn't any real information about "why".  There was a girl managing the counter at the souvenir shop, but she didn't seem very informed on anything.  Jac walked around and looked at the whole exhibit.  Alicia and I looked at half of it from a distance.  There was more than I'm showing you here.

There is a reason I have never seen Chimney Rock even though I've been out west a million times.  It is in the middle of freakin' nowhere.  For real.  There is nothing around this for miles and miles.  For perspective, after we left Hot Springs, I don't think we went through more than 3 towns between there and this.  It's about a 3 hour drive.  I'm glad we saw it.  I told them "Look at it well.  It is not likely you will ever be in this neck of the woods again in your lifetimes."  This is one of those things people have to be intentional about seeing.  After seeing it, we drove 100 miles through nothing but fields and whatnot to get to a town.

Chimney Rock
 In this neck of the woods, there are historical markers seemingly every 1000 feet.  It's not possible to stop and look at all of them unless you aren't trying to get somewhere.

Some of them are a must stop.  How could we not take a little drive on the Oregon Trail?

This last picture is the marker for the halfway point to Zion on the Mormon Trail.  I'm not Mormon, but that religion has always fascinated me.  Specifically the fact they were able to talk so many people into walking across the United States pushing handcarts.  I just can't wrap my mind around that.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Road Trip: Day 5

Keystone, SD -> Sturgis, SD ->, Devil's Tower, SD -> Keystone, SD

 If you know Jac, you know he believes the hotel is the destination of every road trip. 

We went to Sturgis.  The rally isn't until next weekend, but things are amping up now.  There are Harley people everywhere we go.  And vendors selling Sturgis stuff.  Outside of Sturgis, even.  I did not get a picture (because I was driving), but we saw the funniest thing.  It was an old lady riding a tricked out, Harley wheelchair/scooter thing down the side of the road.  Who even knew Harley made those?
 We did not go to Deadwood.  It was on the agenda, but the people at the rest area told us the town was shut down for a parade and some kind of celebration and that we'd never get in there today.  No matter, I guess.  All these towns out here kind of look the same to me.  There are a couple of versions: economically depressed/falling down, all touristy with a semi-fake cowboys/Indians/pioneer theme going on or just genuine "minding our own business being a town in the west".  I'm guessing Deadwood is probably of the second variety.

 We have been pondering signs like this since the back woods of Minnesota.  So many towns advertise their double digit populations.  We wonder if these towns have a few signs with similar numbers at the ready for whenever a birth or death occurs.  What was interesting about this particular town is that there were more than 15 buildings.
A store in some other town (right next to Devil's Tower).  
 There came a point I realized I had stopped pulling off at all the pull-offs to photograph the scenery.  It's all beautiful.  I'd be taking pictures all day.

 Devil's Tower
 This is a picture of a park ranger talking about snakes and prairie dogs.  We only showed up on the backend of whatever she had to say, but I ascertained she is a fan of snakes.  All snakes.  And then she spent a little time on bubonic plague and fleas on rodents (prairie dogs) and that is why you should never touch a prairie dog.  Ahem...a day late on that message.  She didn't really seem to be a fan of prairie dogs.  How can anyone like snakes, but not prairie dogs?  I find that suspicious.
 Hiking!  We took the short trail.  Because it was hot and because we had other things to see today and because Devil's Tower is 2 hours away from our hotel and that other stuff we wanted to see today.  And because I'm out of shape and the 1.5 mile hike sounded like it would be enough.  Turns out, I could have gone longer.  And, we didn't see everything today we had planned on seeing.  (Which means we are off schedule...but who cares?)

 Jac climbing on the boulders at the bottom of the tower.  He was planning on sitting on that rock two rocks up from where he is in this picture.  But, he got close to there and saw a rattlesnake.  I was watching him and noted he was being really careful when he suddenly stopped.  He didn't exactly react in a scared way, but I could see that he clearly saw something he didn't like.  He backed down out of there and rejoined us on the path.

Of course, snakes live in there  It's interesting they come out of hiding during the day, though.  There are tons of people hiking around there and climbing all over everything.  It seems like snakes would shy away from all of that.  Guess not.  They are probably used to all those people.  I never thought of them being like other animals in that regard.
 Wouldn't you know we came upon another prairie dog town?  I was worried we wouldn't see any after I had told Alicia we would.  She was excited most about seeing the prairie dogs and I was wishing I hadn't said anything about it.  I needn't have worried she'd be disappointed.  There seems to be another town of them on the map of our itinerary tomorrow.
 Caves.  They have become a family joke.  We can't go anywhere without going into a cave. We've been to so many caves we can't even remember how many we've been in.  There are many cave options here.  The kids wanted to go in this old gold mine.  Which means I can probably check off the "Go into a cave." box on our list.

 Obligatory gold panning.  Each kid found a few flakes of gold.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Road Trip 2014: Day 4

Mitchell, SD -> Key Stone, SD

South Dakota is so interesting geographically.  The land goes from being flat as a pancake, to some intriguing humps on the other side of the Missouri River to flat again.  And then, suddenly, the Bad Lands appear.  If you've never seen this, you must.  It is surely the most fascinating place in the U.S.  After you leave there, it's flat again.  Until the Black Hills where the road becomes sharply steep.  How can all of this exist within only a couple hundred miles?

We saw a lot.  The highlights:  Two prairie dog towns, hiking in the Bad Lands, Wall Drug (not exactly a highlight...Alicia was all "This is kind of weird.  It's just a huge souvenir shop.") and Mt. Rushmore. 

It goes without saying all of us slept like rocks.