Friday, April 15, 2011

The Dakotas are not as Crappy as Everyone Says.

Our epic cross country adventure starts here

When we left Bozeman, packing up the camper was an adventure as I had to accomplish it in a blizzard. Dana and I had not yet caught up to the technology in the 21st century and had cell phones with no internet. I know, right? Well, needless to say it was not as easy as it is now with smart phones to get the weather. Truly, my meteorology skills had declined since college.

In order to see more states that we had yet to see, we drove east to North Dakota. We had the ultimate goal of driving east to North Dakota, just to say we did it, then drive south to South Dakota and see Mt. Rushmore. The drive was a bit too long to do in one day so we made arrangements to stay in a convenient place in North Dakota. Convenient was about it. This campground, located in Belfield, ND, which had full hookups and level sites was in the middle of a tree farm. We were the only people there and the campground was not manned. Honor-code payment. It was kind of creepy but fortunately the Trappers Kettle Restaurant was close by. A unique dining experience, to say the least.

Along the way to our campground, whose name has slipped my mind and that I can't find anywhere on the internet, we passed through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Both Dana & I had never even heard of this NP but it was a gem. Very scenic and not crowded at all. Plenty more buffalo and even turkeys and a wild horse. If you ever are driving east to west or vice-versa on I-94 across ND, stop in. You won't regret it.

After our brief, but pleasant, experience in Teddy's Land we drove south on Hwy 85 to Rapid City, SD. Not the most scenic drive I have ever driven but we did get to see snow. This snow was no different than the snow we had seen every day for over a week. We planned to stay two nights in Rapid City and camped up at the Happy Holiday Resort. Nice RV park but the sites were a little close to each other for my comfort but much like many of the parks we stayed at on the trip, it wasn't very crowded.

The next day we had a full day planned. First stop was Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. Let me first say that from all of the pictures I had seen, this mountain looked enormous. You all who have been there are probably laughing right now because enormous, it is not. We got there pretty early since we had some other sites to see that day. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Cold, but nice. We spent about a half hour outside looking at the mountain and making fun of some "Chair Force" Cadets in their workout warmups. While the carving is impressive there wasn't really all that much to do. We proceeded inside the large gift shop and spent another half hour looking around. When we walk back outside to leave, we could no longer see Mt. Rushmore due to the whiteout that had decided to visit. Not knowing when the snowstorm would pass, we decided to take our chances and get back on the road. After all, we had other places to visit. Also, I may have failed to mention this before, while we are out sight seeing or eating dinner, the dogs are in the back of the truck. Don't freak out, the truck has a canopy cover on it, so while they are protected from the elements, they do tend to get antsy after being in it for a while.

Our exit from Mt. Rushmore was definitely memorable. Not a memory I want to re-live ever again, either. The snow had let up a bit but Old Man Winter had done his damage to the roads. As we descended down the highway leading up to Mt. Rushmore at a very slow speed, we came up on an RV, the big, half a mil, kind of RVs, and while she was also descending down the road, she was doing it without her wheels turning and at a 45 degree angle. I had no intentions of hitting my brakes for fear of sliding, also, so we decided to pass. Everything worked out but as tough as the F-150 is, she is probably no match for the tour bus-sized RV. The snow had also closed the road we had planned to take to the next stop so we ended up driving all over western South Dakota, down roads that I wasn't sure we were going to make it down, just to go 20 miles as the crow flies.

Our next stop was Wind Cave National Park. This was another NP we were not familiar with but it was a cave, and caves are cool, right? Unlike most of the NPs we had visited, this one was not self-guided. I suppose they didn't want people spelunking amidst the Park's vast cave system alone. We ended up on a tour with a high school group who, along with every other person on the tour, knew more than the tour guide. She seemed to think I was a genius since I knew that the common name for iron oxide was rust.* Pretty much the only thing she could tell us about the cave involved the words "boxwork" and "popcorn". So needless to say the tour guide wasn't great, but the caves were awesome. Another stop you should make if you are visiting Mt. Rushmore.

After our long and quite adventureous day the last the thing I wanted to do was cook. Dana had the same feeling. So we ventured into Sioux Falls and, what do you know, we found a brewpub, Firehouse Brewing Co.. The dinner wasn't great but a nice selection of microbrews on tap.

Other than the movie, Fargo, and one of my friends, Matt, I knew nothing really of the Dakotas. In fact, I still mix up the capitals. This trip, so far, had been full of surprises, and both North and South Dakota surprised Dana and me. Could there be more to come?  

*I would like to clarify this point. I was the one who said iron oxide was rust. However, Chris repeated it more loudly and got all the credit. Just like a man... - DanaK ;-)

 Read more about our journey through the Dakotas here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...