Monday, July 4, 2011

Day Ten: As the sign said, "Happy Birthday America! You're Old!"

It's pretty neat being able to spend the 4th of July here at Mount Rushmore, or at least in the shadow of it. We spent the day in the Keystone/Custer area of South Dakota. We were planning to go on a "Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold" jewelry making tour, but it was closed for the holiday, so we went to the Crazy Horse mountain instead. We decided to forgo the $20 entry fee and see it from the road. With Dawn's big camera lens, we had no problem seeing everything. I remember back in like 5th grade being introduced to the mountain in a Time for Kids or Weekly Reader or something like that. Well, it looks exactly the same as it did back then. We were with about 35-40 other cars in the information center. We couldn't figure out why some people had set out lawn chairs facing the mountain. Apparently they were doing some blasting at 11:00. Well, 11 came and went. At about 11:20 a huge boom went off and a cloud of smoke. That was the extent of their blasting. Just one. Within 5 minutes, the entire park was cleared out- the ones who paid and the cheapskates like us. (Let's just say that after today's blasting, it still looks the same!)
After that, it was off to Custer State Park. We decided that our $15 was better spent here. And it was!! It is a huge park with all kinds of things to see. They had some AMAZING views all over the park. From really neat tree lines to cloud formations, to huge rocks and some of the windiest roads I have ever driven. We also saw all kinds of animals! Our parents told us to stop by so we could see the buffalo. I think the "Buffalo Burger and Brawt" cookout scared them all away. The park is home to over 1500 buffalo and we saw 1. Only 1. And we would probably have missed it if someone else hadn't stopped to look since it was all alone on the side of the road grazing. We did see a lot of burros (donkeys) in the middle of a road. They came right up to the cars and let people pet them. They were cute but their eyes looked glazed over like they were high. Maybe people should have followed the signs that said "Do not feed the animals. They may get sick from human food." Go figure. Then we saw some prairie dogs. Not like yesterday though. These were smarter ones. They kind of hid from people. They did pop up every once in a while, though. There were pronghorns, too. They are animals that look exactly like antelope but aren't. Didn't see any mountain lions, which is good since they are nocturnal! I guess we could spot them back at home since they have now made Fairfield County a "summer home." (I think they finally realized that there is not much to do here for fun so they headed east.) Or mountain goats. They climb the really steep rocks of the Needles Highway. I couldn't look out most of the time because I really didn't feel like going off the cliffs. Dawn got some great pictures of the Cathedral Spires and Needle Eye. We almost crashed into a big ol' truck from Texas that didn't want to move out of the way. Some crazy guys were rock climbing. You'd never catch me doing that from that high up. I had hard enough time doing the Wall at camp!
After all that time in the park, we decided to head back to the campground for our Fourth of July picnic. Oh boy. That was an interesting experience. At least the hot dogs were cooked through. If we get hungry later on, we still have some more... I knew I should have paid attention in Scout Skills. I could've made muffins or baked apples. Something slightly better than the hot dogs. Hopefully we will master our tiny little grill and be able to make some of that stuff later on! If our next attempt at hot dogs is anything like this one, we will have to end up asking our camping neighbor if we could borrow his propane grill and sit on the hammock that he has set up. Some of these campers are pretty intense! We've seen some with satellite dishes! Mt. Rushmore may not have fireworks this year, but there are some in Rapid City so we will watch those tonight (as long as the thunderstorms stay away.)
I think I'm still on Eastern time. It's only 6:45 here but it feels like 8:45. It's off to Deadwood, SD, and Devils' Tower and Yellowstone in Wyoming tomorrow! Hopefully we'll be able to update this, as long as no bears get us while we are camping! Better hide the extra hot dogs... breakfast anyone?

States Visited: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin (9/50)
Provinces Visited: Ontario (1/10)
License Plates Seen: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming (48/50)
Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan (7/10)

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