Thursday, June 23, 2011

South Dakota Trip

A few weeks before the Memorial Day weekend we had a couple of travel plans laid out in front of us. The one that we finalized was to visit Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devil’s Tower, Needles and Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park… not in the above sequence though.
We had a delayed start than what we had planned but having three drivers in the group of six meant that we always had active drivers ready –Mahesh, Debu and me. At 7 PM on Friday we finally took off from our place, me behind the wheel. The prediction for the evening was rain and due to our delayed start we didn’t have a lot of traffic to share the road with. The route was as good as it can be. We had to get onto I-90 which took us via Mankato, a quiet city with a lovely downtown. Later in the evening Mahesh took over from me. The Interstate was completely dark except for the headlights of our car and sitting just behind our driver I had a very feeble glimpse of the Milky Way. That was on our do-do list… view the Milky Way from the Badlands NP; we had no idea the cloud gods would not grant us the view.
Mahesh did most of the driving with SP Balasubramaniam giving him company and had we not stopped at the next Rest Area, Debu would have not raised the alarm of the near empty fuel tank. Well, we still had enough to carry us on for another 50 mi or so but we didn’t have to wait that long. By 4 AM in the morning we were in the parking lot of the Motel, finally at Rapid City, SD.
Our first destination was Mt. Rushmore which took us via a few loops before we were able to reach the site. If you’re using a GPS, ensure to enter the place as Mt. Rushmore, Keystone, you’d save atleast 20 minutes if not more. We were instructed by a resident [on not being able to find Mt. Rushmore] –throw away your I-phones and start reading the signs on the road. Anyways, we were able to see the four heads on stone from a bend in the road before reaching the Visitor’s Center.

Mt. Rushmore (as everyone might know) is a stone sculpture of the faces of the four ex Presidents of US -George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln from left to right. An idea from a New York lawyer by the name of Rushmore to promote tourism in the state of South Dakota was the trigger to create this National Memorial. The walk to the photograph point from the gate was laden with the flags of all the states. We however did not miss the chance to add our faces with the four Presidents in the photographs. That being a Memorial weekend had a lot of visitors like us. There was a museum which held the history of the monument.
Fact: The presidents were selected on the basis of what each symbolized. George Washington for the struggle for independence, Thomas Jefferson for the idea of government by the people, Theodore Roosevelt for the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs and Abraham Lincoln for his ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states.
The last site on Saturday was the Crazy Horse Memorial which is under construction.
Having covered these places it was time to head back to the hotel at Rapid City. The next day had a prediction of rain and nothing could have been more annoying than that. We however were on a tight leash and the next site was –Devil’s Tower further west into Wyoming.
Our next and final destination was the Badlands National Park… from Hulett, Wyoming to Wall, South Dakota. The route was a treat to the eye… we drove through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland all alone I-90 and on either sides of the road all that you see is miles and miles of plain grassland.
And that was an end to our South Dakota trip. We did miss a lot of interesting places because of our schedule... probably some other time.

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