Wrapping the Summer Adventures

Enthusiasm for blogging tends to wane at the end of an extended trip. I’m trying to treat it as preparation for going back to school (!) later this month, which will require me to come home after a full day and read and write.

We left Minneapolis Wednesday morning, but not until we’d checked out one more recommendation from our friend Emilie, Bryant Lake Bowl. We went with the simple breakfast special (eggs, potatoes, bread), and it was quick, tasty, and relatively cheap. It looks like it would be fun in the evenings too. Options for pretty much all eaters are available.

We had a looong drive across Minnesota and South Dakota to our next stop in Wall. The scenery consisted of corn, and soybeans, and cows. Wall is remarkable only for the super-kitschy Wall Drug. We did buy some bargain books there, and the fish and chips (cod, no malt vinegar to be found) was pretty good.

We arose early Thursday and helped ourselves to the quite good hotel breakfast at our Best Western lodgings. We then headed south to Badlands National Park. The woman at the Wall Drug bookstore had recommended a drive on the unpaved Sage Creek Rim Road. We took her advice and were rewarded with Bighorn Sheep sightings.

The rest of the drive through the Badlands was uneventful. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has some nice exhibits and real-time fossil processing, so it’s worth a stop.

We drove the southern route from Interior through Scenic to Rapid City. There, we stopped for lunch at (kōl). The ginger-miso wings, burrata caprese, fig salad, and roasted potatoes were all winners. The tomato soup needs refinement (maybe sugar, definitely salt).

Walking back to the van, we stopped at BakeWorks to get some bread for lunches. They seemed apologetic about charging $3 for 4 large pretzel rolls, but we were happy to support their mission of helping people work–and the rolls were delicious.

Next up was Mount Rushmore. I had been there, but Maureen had not. Sadly, the Presidential Trail, which I had hoped we could hike, was more than half closed. We also tried to attend a ranger talk about the 1860 presidential election, but could not find the ranger. Sigh. At least we got some nice photos and enjoyed the exhibits about the monument’s construction.

After forgoing the $5.75 ice cream, we headed for Custer State Park. The drive, through forests and tunnels, was spectacular. And we saw many motorcycles. Did I mention that this was the day before the official start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Apparently over 500,000 bikers descend on the region every year. Having just completed an event with 10-20,000 cyclists, I can’t even imagine this volume of riders.

We checked into our Creekside Lodge room at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park and had a short time to rest before taking dinner in the Game Lodge Restaurant. Dinner was quite good. Maureen especially enjoyed her New York Strip. The Walleye was a little rich for me, but I enjoyed the bread, salad, and reasonably-priced cocktail.

After dinner, we went for a drive on the Wildlife Loop Road. We saw a deer, a pronghorn, and a bird we couldn’t identify, but had almost given up hope of seeing any bison when we came around a bend and encountered stopped traffic. And there they were.

We waited a while and ran down the camera battery, and finally turned around as the vehicles in front of us did not attempt to move through the herd. We saw two more groups of bison on the return trip!

On our final vacation day (driving home does not count), we decided to–wait for it–go for a bike ride. We had heard of the George S. Mickelson Trail when one of our friends hiked a chunk of it for her 50th birthday. Although skinny tire road bikes are not recommended, those were the bikes we had, so we decided to go for it. We drove to Custer, then up to the Mountain Trailhead.

We paid our $4/person daily permit fee (bring correct change) and set off. We rode uphill for about a mile, then gingerly downhill for about four miles. It leveled out at that point, so we rode another half mile before turning around. I actually enjoyed the return uphill ride immensely, so much so that we rode downhill another mile in the opposite direction so that I could climb back up.

The Mountain Trailhead was just a mile from the entrance to the Crazy Horse Memorial, so we made that our next stop. It was interesting. Much of the focus of the movie and facility seemed to be on the designer and his family. You can’t hike there, and can only get close to the carving-in-progress on a $4 bus tour or an after-hours trip to the top (minimum $125). There are decent views from the patio.

There are many rooms of art and artifacts, much of which I couldn’t take in, despite the sugar assistance of the Magnum ice cream bars we bought at the snack shop. I did like the display of beads in jars, perhaps because they remind me of chemicals.

We capped the afternoon with a picnic back in Custer State Park and another lap around the Wildlife Loop. We had hoped to take in a 4 p.m. ranger talk at the Visitor Center, but it was cancelled for some unclear reason (yep, 0 for 2 on ranger talks). We watched the excellent IMAX film instead.

So ends an excellent adventure. Until next time…

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