I parked in some little town at the edge of Wyoming, hoping to get up early and capture the morning light on Mt. Rushmore. I’d been told that Crazy Horse was also great, so figured I would hit both before continuing on.
I woke up before the dawn and drove through the dawn to reach my destination. The sun rose as I neared the black hills:
I pulled into Crazy Horse right as they opened the gates. For some reason they didn’t charge me, which was great! But wait… perhaps there was a reason, because they weren’t actually open yet. I had scuttled in with the employees, and the park wouldn’t open for another hour. I took a quick picture from the parking lot (you aren’t allowed to walk to the monument) and drove away:
Then it was on to Mt. Rushmore. Again, I got there before they opened, but this is monument is a little easier to peruse on your own. As such I did the tourist thing and took some photos with the pretty morning light just as I had wanted:
From here I drove north up into Deadwood, the backdrop for a terribly entertaining HBO show that I caught a few episodes of. A town with a sordid past, everywhere are informational plaques regaling passers-by with information on this rough and tough establishment. There are gambling halls and casinos, bars aplenty, and everywhere there is another shop selling you an authentic Deadwood t-shirt.
I walked around the town for a while, paid my three dollars to park, took some photos, and then quickly got out of what is now just another tourist town with a claim to fame.
From there I took a quick jaunt thru Sturgis to get gas, then proceeded down to the Badlands National Park. I’m not really sure how I got there. I know it wasn’t through the usual route that tourists take, because I spent an hour on a dirt road before I saw a sign for the park. It warned ‘FEE AREA AHEAD’, but there was no pay station.
I wandered into a campground, nestled within beautiful grass-covered rolling hills, and it was free. I didn’t see what was so bad about these lands. The bison were wandering nearby, and it was the closest thing to a realization of my mental image of how this country was a few hundred years ago. Then I kept driving.
More signs that I was in the park, more promises to make me pay a fee, and then suddenly I see what is bad. Well, more different than bad. Rolling hills of a different type:
Harsh hills and valleys with odd colors and minerals. Some jagged, some soft. I even saw a mountain goat poke it’s head out for the barest of moments. It was gorgeous. And with this change of scenery came the blacktop asphalt that allows all the RVs to trumble along ahead and behind me. We slowed whenever anybody wanted to stop for a picture:
And then suddenly, I was out. Passing the entrance, and not a single person asked me for my money. Talk about a real treat! I continued east, avoiding the interstate as much as possible. And I have to say… after the badlands, South Dakota became kind of boring. Lots of farm land, but not a whole lot else as far as scenery. Every now and then there would be an abandoned car in a soy bean field:
And some of the details around me were gorgeous:
Overall though, I was just excited to get to Minnesota, where I would get to hang out with a good friend for the weekend.