Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Journey of 2,919 Miles, Give or Take, Leg 4--South Dakota

So much driving.
It's weird how the countryside morphs as the miles slip away. We crossed the Rocky Mountains and landed in the rolling hills of South Dakota.
I had never been here before, and I think it's a beautiful place.

Destination was our goal for the whole trip--Mount Rushmore.

We had learned when traveling with Heidi's family that it's best to arrive at cool places first thing in the morning. Good parking, no crowds, room for kids to roam and not disturb others.

We were among the first through the gates to see the presidents that day. One of the first things out of the kids' mouths was, "Wow. It's so small." When you round the corner in your car, it does seem small, but the closer you get to the monument, the more amazing this giant sculpture becomes.
Both boys had studied the mountain, and Hyrum hauled his scale drawing across six states in order to compare it to the original.

More viewing scopes. Sixty-second view for 25 cents.
After portraying Gutzon Borglum for the school's wax museum, Micah requested that we see the real thing this summer. The smile says it all.
I don't know how many people actually notice this view of the mountain, but since we were relatively alone that day, I captured the kids in the ampitheater with the mountain reflected in the window.
Can you title this photo? It's called,"Micah with Mica." Get it?
It was so nice to let the kids run and explore and not intrude on other vistors' experience while they did it.
Next stop--the Crazy Horse Monument. It's still under construction, and it seems like not much has been done.
That is, until you watch the movie about it. I can't believe how much of the mountain has been removed. This privately funded project may never be finished in my lifetime, but when it's done, it will be unbelievable.

Did you notice Hyrum and Micah in this picture?

We spent the afternoon at the hotel's water park, and the kids had a blast. I didn't think they'd be too impressed with an indoor water park (because we live in ARIZONA, duh!), but we had a great time. Even I got on my suit and did a few of the slides between my people watching stints.

The kids at a park in Rapid City--I love them.
We set out early again the next day, and true to our previous experiences, we were the first to arrive at the Black Hills Maze, and we didn't have anyone else in the maze with us. It was awesome.

The kids were stoked to try this.
Their personalities and individual problem-solving skills were evident as I watched them try to reach the four flags by themselves. Micah was convinced that he was going to be the first one to solve the maze, but he ran haphazardly inside, caught in a loop that prevented him from finishing. Evie and I partnered up, but her little legs tired out before we found the third flag.

The sleeper was Rum. He had listened closely to the manager's suggestion that the best way to find your way through the maze was to use the raised walkways to evaluate where to go next.
He had all four flags before Micah had two. Instead of making his way out of the maze alone, Hyrum helped Micah find the rest of his stamps and they made their way out together.
When we started, the manager prepared us for 45 minutes to an hour that it normally takes to navigate the maze. Micah and Hyrum ran through the gate in 26 minutes. Hyrum had it solved in less than 15. Not as historically significant as Rushmore, but that maze is something they will remember.

The maze didn't take us nearly as long as we had thought, but next stop on our itinerary was
The biggest and best advertised tourist trap in South Dakota--Wall Drug.
It was fun, and I'm glad we spent half a day here.

Micah had some poses he needed to use up--can anyone explain sixth grade boys to me?

Well. We had seen Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We had finished the maze in near-record time, and we had perused every shop in Wall, SD.

And it was 2 pm. Now what?

Proving that advertising really works, we drove back toward Mount Rushmore and did a little spelunking in Rushmore Cave.
This was the perfect experience for my kiddos. About an hour tour, not too difficult but still not easy. I don't know if they have been in big caves before. It was fantastic.
Can you guess the name of this rock formation?

And as a special bonus, we played this game/watched this movie/shot bank robbers. You strapped yourself in like a roller coaster, wore 3D glasses and grabbed a gun. When the movie started, the seats lurched back and forth, and speakers by your head surrounded you in the experience. Water would splash as you went over rapids, and the goal was to shoot as many robbers as possible. It only lasted about five minutes, but even this video-game-hating mom enjoyed it.
Two days in western South Dakota. Fantastic memories.

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