You know, there is just something really nice about getting up early and having coffee before everyone wakes up. It’s quiet, the birds are chirping, chipmunks are horny…it’s all good! I got Dylan up and we got moving fairly quickly. We wanted to see both Rushmore and the Jewel Cave – PLUS – we had to do some grocery shopping so we didn’t want to screw around too long in the morning. Kudos, BTW, to Custer St. Pk. For their fantastic showers!!! Push a button and they are on at the perfect temperature! Fantastic!!
Though I have a National Park Annual Pass, they still find ways to bleed you of some money. $10 to park at Rushmore. I should comment first on the drive up to the mountain. The road was one of the curviest roads I’ve ever driven…..similar to Scarlett Johanssen in a lot of ways!! J (I’ve been gone a LOONG time!) Anyways, as we passed her right thigh…I’m digressing big time here….the road started doing these corkscrews where you would spiral in a circle and end up going under the road you were just on. Very cool. As the road climbed back up, there was a point where we crested a hill and there before us were the 4 presidents!!! I had Dylan take a picture as I tried not to drive off the cliff. The road continued to work its way closer and closer to the mountain…going through 1-way tunnels and winding down more corkscrews. I think the only road I’ve driven that was as curvy was the north shore of Maui. (Remember that, Sandra, when we rode a Harley the whole way around and ended up at Little Makenna Beach?)
Mt. Rushmore was pretty cool. It didn’t really take my breath away like the Grand Canyon did but it was definitely worth the trip. I think what’s more amazing is learning about the men who first came up with the idea of creating the monument and the workers who spent years hanging by a thread during the creation. One can only wonder about the stress these guys dealt with. Imagine if you accidentally exploded Washington’s nose clean off his face! I’ll bet his paycheck would have been docked for that one!! So…we came, we saw, we took pics, we walked around a bit…..Ok, time to go. I mean, really, how many times can you look up and say, “wow”?
We decided to take a few minutes to drive into Keystone which is the town right at the base of the mountain. Filled up with gas, ate some DQ soft serve, updated the blog, made reservations for Yellowstone, checked some voice mails and called my lovely bride. All good! Off to Jewel Cave National Monument!! We were very excited about this because neither one of us had ever been in a cave before and this sounded really cool. We arrive at Jewel Cave and we start looking for parking. Ummm….there wasn’t any. Not a good feeling about this. We went around a second time and finally found a spot. Hopped out and went up to the ranger booth to buy some tickets. Yeah, you know where this is going, don’t you? Sold out!!! SHIT!! We just drove 20 miles to get there and they were completely sold out for the day. They did have one bullshit little “introduction tour” at 6pm but there was no way I was just going to sit there for 4 hours. We tried begging our way in but, obviously, they were used to that. While there, we asked about another cave monument close by. Wind Cave sounded good so off we went!
Remember the “balance” thing I’ve been talking about? Well, we drove to Wind Cave, parking lot was full, finally found a spot, went in to sign up….and…..YAY!!!....we got the tour we wanted!! Not only that, our ranger dude had been at Wind Cave for 25 years (he was only about 25yo so we all wondered about that), his father had been at Wind Cave for 45 years and his mother for 30 some years. Ok, it all makes sense now. His father met his mother while working there and Ranger Sam was conceived….maybe right in the cave. He didn’t elaborate but he did elaborate on everything else and he had stories about the cave and the early explorers that were really amazing. So, for all the negative that we dealt with at Jewel Cave, it balanced out with all the positive at Wind Cave. I couldn’t imagine anyone giving a better tour!! The tour went 200’ down into the cave and was a ½ mile journey through the dark, cold (53 degrees) depths of the earth. The cave was amazing and Ranger Sam’s stories during the tour just made it so much better.
Got back to the site, made spaghetti with leftover bbq’ed steak in it, had a couple beers, went for a bike ride to the lake, had a couple more beers, sat by the fire that Dylan had skillfully made, got really cold and went to bed.
A very good day!!!