Day 26 – Badlands to Rapid City – not such a rapid pace of life after all!

As mentioned in my previous post Interior is a tiny and remote town and therefore very quiet, so it was nice to wake up to birds singing – even though it was at bloody 4am! We’ve changed time zones again and are now in the Mountain Time Zone – we’ve also covered Central and Eastern so far. It got light really early and it looked like good weather so we got going early and were on the road at 7:30am. It was a beautiful morning with bright sunshine so we took some more pictures of the Badlands and then carried on to Rapid City, though we didn’t bother checking in as it was still too early.
We rather went straight to Mount Rushmore National Memorial after driving through some of the Black Hills National Forest. The drive there is so much of a contrast from the flat prairies in the preceding days (except for Badlands of course!) with expanses of pine trees and mountains to drive through that it comes as a shock to the system. All the way up to Mount Rushmore you are bombarded with what I can only describe as tat – hundreds of billboards for all sorts of activities and parks and nonsense that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to actually do, but then I’m not generally interesting in anything that commercialised. You see so many images of Mount Rushmore that in the end it is kind of not that amazing, but it is still worth seeing in the ‘flesh’. Though going to the monument is free you have to pay $11 for parking, so not quite free? We probably spent about an hour there and did the presidential walk, though half of it was closed for renovations. Everywhere we go things are often still closed as it seems the summer season hasn’t quite started in the colder parts of the country.
We then drove part of the Iron Mountain Road which is famous for being scenic and having pigtail bridges and one-lane tunnels framing the faces of the presidents. It was quite an interesting drive and we were joined by some motorcyclists or bikers. We have seen LOADS of bikers out on their Harley’s, especially on weekends, and mostly without safety helmets on but rather bandanas, and in many cases beards (unless they’re female)! It appears to be very popular in the last few states we’ve been in so will be interesting to see if it is the same going West and South. We passed through Custer State Park and came across a massive herd of bison who all had calves and who all insisted on walking in the road and not moving for anyone. I was VERY excited about the bison as I really wanted to see some, but after the first 10 minutes of waiting for them to get out of the road the excitement waned somewhat! Bison are huge and I’m glad I saw them!
Once through Custer we entered the Wind Cave National Park (the drive to the actual cave is absolutely stunning) and did an hour long tour of the Wind Cave, famous for its boxwork, which is very rare and not something I’ve ever seen before. The cave was good but we probably should have opted for a more extensive tour and it wasn’t a patch on Kango Caves! By this time it was getting late-ish and we were hungry and tired, but still decided to go and have a look at Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is billed as the World’s largest mountain carving in progress, but to be honest the $22 entrance fee probably would have been better spent on some beer! It is impressive but not something where you’ll spend a lot of time, unless you are particularly interested in Native American history – or maybe we were just tired and suffering from sensory overload by this point!
We made our way to Rapid City, checked into the motel and went exploring. The town is the 2nd largest city in South Dakota, but even so it is quite small with a fairly limited ‘high street’ and places to eat and drink, at least in the city centre. Rapid City has statues of all the American presidents on street corners and we spotted quite a few as we walked along, though we didn’t have the strength to go hunting down all of them! We found a bar/restaurant called Firehouse Brewing and I had a Bison burger while Brian made do with a beef burger. Both were very nice and we had some good beers with it as well. From there we went to the Wobbly Bobby British Pub, mostly because of the name of course, and had another couple of drinks. It was Saturday night and the bar was starting to fill up, but all I could think about was getting some sleep after my 4am wake-up, so we went back to the hotel and I passed out! This has been our longest driving day so far – not necessarily distance wise but the amount of hours spent driving.
Best/worst experience of the day: I woke up in the middle of the night to people shouting and screaming and having a massive argument outside again. At breakfast the next morning one woman came in and asked the receptionist to call her a taxi, when she asked where to, the woman’s reply was ‘the nearest liquor store’! This was at 8am on a Sunday morning! Oh, the classy places we stay in!

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