Thursday, August 31, 2006

'Twas the Night Before...

If all goes according to plan, Lord willin' and the crik don't rise and all that, we will be home tomorrow night. I am ready.

Today was a great day; don't get me wrong, but I'm ready to be back at home. My back is tired of a different bed every night. Oh, I don't even want to go down this road. If I start listing off all my physical complaints right now, I will come off sounding like a little old lady and this post will go on for too long. Suffice it to say that my body is done with this trip.

We didn't get very far on the map today, for those of you following along. In fact, we didn't even make it out of South Dakota. We are staying tonight in Spearfish, oddly quiet now that the Sturgis Harley festival is over. We started the day by viewing the outside of the capitol building in Pierre, an odd city in the very center of the state that appears very suddenly on the prairie and is gone again as soon as you exit the city limits. There is nothing for many miles in any direction.

From Pierre, we drove secondary highways through a national grassland. The endless prairie was stunning. It was so empty, and so vast. Andy and I both found it to be a somewhat moving experience to drive across it. We imagined buffalo in place of the occasional herd of cattle, and tried to block out the power lines and rare cluster of trees around a farm and see the prairie for what it was. Really amazing.

Eventually, we arrived at Badlands National Park and drove through, getting out occasionally to take short hikes. At one point, Elli took a tumble on the sharp, rugged rocks and cut up one leg a little. I knew there was a reason I've been carrying a hefty first aid kit in my backpack all month. Some antiseptic cream, gauze and tape, and we were back in business. The park was amazing--not beautiful, mind you--but amazing. It was so desolate, so imposing, so impossible to survive. Badlands is an entirely appropriate name. At one point, walking out on a boardwalk path, we angered a rattle snake who was hiding underneath. The snake had no interest in coming out from under the boardwalk, but it was oddly fun to stomp on the boards and listen to him hiss and rattle under our feet.

After the Badlands, we drove on to Mt. Rushmore and admired the presidents carved in the hillside. There is a really nice walking trail that takes visitors much closer to the monument than the basic observation deck and allows you to see the faces from many different angles. There were also a really educational video and a great ranger talk describing the seventeen year process of carving. Believe it or not, a full 90% of the carving was done with very precise dynamite blasting. Very cool to see, and not at all crowded, as we are now off peak tourist season.

Driving on through the Black Hills, we stopped in at a world-renowned dinosaur museum that had been recommended to us by a paleontologist at the children's museum back in Indianapolis. The guy in Indy had taken Tano back behind the scenes into the actual lab and had let him carefully touch bones that no other kid will get to touch, once they are put on display somewhere. Anyway, when he saw Tano's interest and heard where all we would be going on this trip, he told us that we MUST visit the museum in the Black Hills, mention his name (the two paleontology labs work very closely together), and say that Tano was to be taken behind the scenes to see a new T-Rex that they are working on there. So we did go and ask and they did take the boy downstairs into the storage rooms and the lab. He got to see more things than he could wrap his brain around. Very exciting.

We continued our drive through the Black Hills, deciding that we like that area very much, and wound our way back up to I-90, but not before driving through downtown Deadwood, Wild Bill Hickock's old stomping grounds. That tiny little town, nestled into a hillside, is packed with historic buildings up and down its narrow streets, most of them turned into casinos, hotels and nice restaurants. That place was hoppin', I tell you. You wouldn't have known that tourist season was on the wane there. I wonder what it looked like a few weeks before, during Sturgis Bike Week. It must have been the modern day equivalent of the wild west town of Wild Bill and his buddies' days.

Tonight we sleep in Spearfish, so we will be poised and ready to go to Devil's Tower National Monument first thing in the morning and hopefully see it in pretty morning light. Then we will step on the gas and high tail it home.

Did I mention that I am ready?



Anonymous said...

Dear "Corps of Discovery II"
As stated before, we're delighted with all your wonderful experiences but we're especially happy for Tano and Elli ("Laura")to delight in those things that REALLY interest and excite them. What great memories they will have for a lifetime! When their teachers ask, "OK, class, tell us what you did this summer," they'll get an earfull!
Now the "fun" begins.........BRING ON THE WORK CREW!!" Love, PA & MA C.

alison said...

Did the crik rise?

Totally bummed I have been off the blog and missed the daily update. Great adventures. Glad I got to travel with you.

You're a great mom.

CML_Shearings said...

How I have enjoyed your travel diary! Tell Elli that when Esther was her age, we too stopped at the Ingalls' homesteads. All the interesting crafts & rides were not a part of the experience back then. What fun & history you all are packing into the end of your summer!!! I'm looking forward to your arrival back home. Would you like to attend a free demonstration at the Good Food Store with me on the evening of September 11th, Sherry? That's a Monday evening. The demo. is on cooking jam, making freezer jam & low-sugar/no sugar canning methods.

Eagle-eye Di said...

Enjoyed hearing more of your soon ending journeys.We have traveled to several of the same places.I don't think I would have messed around with the rattle snake.That was not the best thing to do.Thank goodness he didn't get any of you.

Mister Ed T said...

After all that, I'd be ready fro my own bed too.