Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Summer of 2023 - Part 1

In the past few months I have put my blogging on hold, but I am going to try to get back into it for a little while. I like goals, and I just realized that I am less than one hundred blogs away from reaching one thousand and  have over seven hundred fifty thousand views. I think I can come up with few more before I quit for good

The summer started out in the usual way. After the snow melted my pond and marsh were filled with water and critters.

In May the migrating ducks started to return and the turtles and frogs emerged providing food for the herons and Sandhill cranes. All was well until the drought began. The summer of 2023 was the driest in my memory. I only mowed my yard three times from May to this day in September.  Summers in Wisconsin are usually spent mowing, trimming and planting but without rain nothing grew very much. At the end of May my daughter decided it would be fun to take me on a vacation. She has a job where she will work several days in a row including the weekend and then she will have almost a week off.

One of things on my wish list was to visit South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore. My husband and I traveled to many areas of the United States but somehow we missed this part of the country. I was on our wish list. So this year as soon as school was out, my daughter, my grandson Jack and I took off on a little road trip. We planned a basic route, but we left room to be spontaneous. We left on a Monday morning. My daughter worked until 11:30 and then we left heading for LaCrosse Wisconsin and on to Austin, Minnesota. What is in Austin? The Spam Museum of course. It was great. My grandson had never eaten Spam, and I couldn't remember the last time I had it. Who knew what a rich history Spam has and how many varieties there actually are.

Since we got a late start, we stopped in the early evening. We stayed in an unremarkable motel and ate uninteresting food but looked forward to the next day. The next stop was Mitchell, South Dakota and the Corn Palace. I had seen pictures of my husband as a little boy visiting this place, but I had never seen it. I guess it's been in existence in this building since 1921. I had no idea.

As we continued on our journey,  we arrived at the Badlands. It is so much more vast than I imagined. We stayed there for an entire day. We explored and walked trails. It was amazing.

There were some interesting views, swallow nests, beware of rattlesnakes signs and different plants than we are used to in Wisconsin. 

We stayed at a motel with a view of the park. It could have been a gorgeous place in this setting but it was long past its prime, I hope someone buys it and either builds a new one or restores it. I think right now it's clientele is a little sketchy. Let's put it this way, I slept with one eye open. I understand the population of this area is very sparse and the park is probably not busy in the winter so it probably isn't feasible to build a nicer place. We couldn't find a place to eat and ended up at my first biker bar. Fortunately it was before the place woke up. The sign pulling into the parking area made me a bit nervous, but it was fine.

The next morning we did find a breakfast place in the park gift shop. We backtracked through the park and went to a place that was closed the day before. It was a National Historical Site for the Minuteman Missile. It was a great reminder of that time in history. Everyone in school during those years remembers families building bomb shelters and the students doing drills by hiding under our desks. Nothing would have protected us in a nuclear attack, but I was oblivious to its seriousness.

After this interesting presentation we headed to Keystone, South Dakota where we were staying for the next two nights. On the way was the famous Wall Drug. A trip to South Dakota wouldn't be complete without free coffee and fresh donuts from Wall Drug. The coffee was hardly drinkable but that was beside the point. It was the experience of the place and an experience it was. It teetered on being too overwhelming for us. We didn't stay long.

The next two nights we stayed at the Powder House Lodge in Keystone which was only four miles from Mt. Rushmore. It was so nice and convenient. 

Since we were staying very near Mt. Rushmore, we went there as soon as it opened in the morning. People were saying it was underwhelming, but I didn't think so. I thought it was amazing.

This was a busy day. After Mt. Rushmore we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial.

The Crazy Horse statue was first started in 1948 and the model made in 1946.  The progress is very slow, but the museum was interesting. A replica of the finished statue was displayed. We enjoyed seeing some authentic dancers and memorabilia. 

After Crazy Horse we were supposed to have a tour of Wind Cave National Park. It was cancelled so we decided to see a Mammoth excavation site. Hot Springs, South Dakota has an active dig site with mammoth remains,  A video upon entering explains how it happened. There are many stages of uncovering the bones. It is very a meticulous process. 

From here we headed to Custer State Park. Everyone told us that was a place where we will see animals. I had my camera ready. We drove and drove and drove. We saw nothing except a couple deer like I can see out of my window and a dog tied to a pole. There were no buffalo blocking the road and running beside the car. There were no donkeys or anything else. As we got back to the highway, my grandson said he saw some buffalo off in a woods sleeping under some trees. It isn't what we expected. 

Another thing we didn't expect was our next adventure. Someone told us to be sure to drive the Needles Eye highway.

It was beautiful for me but my poor daughter was white knuckling it the whole trip. There were no guard rails and very narrow roads. I am glad I experienced this, but I will probably never see it again.

It was a busy day, but a wonderful day.  We had packed a lot in just one day. As we headed back to Keystone, we enjoyed the Black Hills with its beautiful scenery. After a short rest, we headed downtown. We found a place to eat pizza outside. A cowboy was drumming up business for a show taking place later. We walked around a bit. This is where we saw the massive chainsaw art. I have trouble cutting down a few branches. These people are cutting with huge chainsaws all day long. They are truly artists.

The following morning we headed home. We had planned to stop about half way home and we did. We got a motel room and went to eat. When we entered the room it was smelly and awful. Since we were refreshed and fed, we got our money back and continued home with a few breaks.

One of our breaks was to see the Dignity Of Earth & Sky statue. It is a 50 foot stainless steel statue to honor the Lakota and Dakota people. It represents courage, perseverance and wisdom. It overlooks the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota.

At the rest stop which showcased the Dignity sculpture, we visited an amazing Louis and Clark museum. It told the story of Louis and Clark. It had replicas of boats and items used. Imagining the size of these things doesn't compare to seeing the actual size. 

We missed the Jolly Green Giant for some reason. On the way down the on ramps were under construction but we didn't see it on the way home either. It was a very long trip from Keystone, SD to Princeton/Berlin, WI. We got home very late, but it was nice to be home. We had only been gone five days but we saw a lot of sights and it didn't seem rushed. It was one of the best and most relaxed trips I had ever been on.

My summer of 2023 will be continued in Part 2.