We're well over the 2000 mile marker (somewhere around 2500 miles, I think) and approaching (soon) the middle of the trip. Today felt like the kind of adventure we love. Here's how it went down:
12AM text message arrives (thanks, Carrie—I did appreciate it) but silly me hadn’t turned off my phone. I shall remember that in future ;-)
1AM thunderstorm from hell arrives. Ground shakes, lightning impossible to ignore through closed eyelids, thunder deafening, heavens open. It’s a gully washer for over 2 hours. No sleep is getting had. We watch the flashlights in the nearby tents—at least we were in a vehicle, although it didn’t feel all that safe in this storm. The fellow at the coffee shop said his rain gauge measured 1.25”, but that he’d heard on the news that 30 miles up the road had 8”. Like I said—a real gully washer.
4AM The rain starts again. This time, not much thunder, just the percussion of the rain on the metal roof. Ah, soothing. Sleep is attained.
7AM (late for us, as we usually arise between 5 and 6AM): Time to get up. We did a quick breaking of camp and got on the road at 7:45 to head south to Wind Caves National Park while it was (a) still nice and cool and (b) before the crowd time. This strategy has served us well at Crater Lake, Yellowstone, so why not here?
8:45 AM Arrive at the park and get tix for 9:30 tour, which lasts 1.5 hours and covers 450 steps. Use the opportunity to have breakfast in our portable home. And what a breakfast—a piece of “bumbleberry pie” which we learned is the tutti-frutti of pies: strawberry, rhubarb, raspberry, cherry, and apple—all the fruits they have on hand. YUM. Our neighbor Carol asked for more food pics, so here’s the pie and the place that produced the masterpiece.
We feel like we found our own Roadfood spot. Fantastic crust, great texture for the filling, and it holds up over time ;-) Good thing we did the more strenuous cave walk afterwards.
No photos of the cave from our camera, but here's the National Park System's web site. This is the 7th oldest national park and the 3rd largest cave, with a unique rock formation (box work) that is found almost solely here (only 5% found elsewhere in the world). I sort of wished I had had my tripod so I could photograph without flash. I know that all the folks around us with their flash cameras are going to wonder why they took 100 photos of faded out rocks…. The really cool part of the tour was in the cave room called “The Fairgrounds.” Turns out a 16-year-old boy was the original discoverer (and tour leader) for the cave in the late 1880s. He kept a journal in his late teens (and died of typhoid at age 20), but was a remarkable young man.
Our guide related lots of stories about this boy to us and then turned off all the electric lights in the cave while she held a candle bucket. Then she blew out the candle. Total and complete darkness. Really wild.
Then it was on to the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. Saw lots of prairie dog towns, pronghorns, deer, a herd of burros (very cute beggars), and scattered bison. And then it hit: a huge herd (the largest in the U.S.) of bison clogged the road. Lisa took video that needs some editing (I didn’t realize she was filming and so the audio isn’t always G rated—we got a bit excited trying to keep Mr. Nick in check as our car was surrounded on all 4 sides by big, hairy, smelly, and noisy bison.) Here are just a few photos and yes—they were that close.
We’ll figure out how to edit and post the video; it’s really neat.
Then we were off to the Needles Highway, which National Geographic Traveler and our campground host said not to miss. We had to look up our RV’s dimensions first, as there are several very narrow tunnels. Had to suck in our breath a few times. But just spectacular rock formations and about 6000’ (yes, in South Dakota).
Now, how much more fun can girls take? We were so sleepy by this point in the afternoon that we almost just went back to the campground, but we were passing Crazy Horse Memorial and so many people (thanks, Randy and Barb!) said not to miss it, so we went in. Amazing. The power of a person’s dream was so present. To think that this one man and now 7 of his 10 children and thousands more people are working to make this gigantic 3D sculpture over the course of 100? (who knows?) years. Just amazing. Here's the web site, which is better than any photo of mine.
And now we are back at the campground, having supped on grilled buffalo sausages (sort of like having to have fish after you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we had to have buffalo for dinner). Time to hike down to the office to grab some wifi Internet access and check email. Been off the Net for 2 days ;-)
Here’s hoping we don’t have a repeat thunderstorm tonight!