South Dakota

We spent last Christmas with Janet’s family in Indiana and had a great time.  We went to the children’s museum in Indianapolis and signed up for a dinosaur dig because the kids thought it would be a lot of fun.  The dino dig was near Faith, South Dakota and it was scheduled for mid July.  I have to be honest, the only reason I was going was because the kids wanted to go and Janet had never spent any time in the Dakotas (one of only three states she hasn’t stepped one of her giant feet in.)

The thought of traveling, in the middle of July, to a state I didn’t really want to visit, made me almost dread going.  I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but what’s there to do in South Dakota? We were planning on spending a whole week there.  We left Bend Saturday morning with the goal of seeing friends and visiting Portland and Vancouver.  Our flight was on Sunday afternoon and we flew to Billings, Montana.

Janet picked Billings because it was the cheapest alternative out there.  We decided against driving because that was too many miles on the Prius.  Billings had the cheapest flights and the cheapest car rental we could find.  It’s only about a 6 hour drive from Billings to Faith, South Dakota.

We spent Sunday night in Billings and left in the morning to head for Faith.  Along the way, we stopped at Custer’s Last Stand a fascinating place for history buffs.  At first Jessie wasn’t interested in stopping to walk around the grounds but we couldn’t drag her out of the museum once she got going.

I’m not sure what Jessie liked more, the feathers, or weapons, or beads in the Native clothing, but whatever it was, she loved the museum. The descriptions in the museum were a bit neutral for Janet and myself, no information on why this battle happened, but the park ranger guided tour was much more informative and we learned about atrocities on both sides.

The closer we got to Faith, the closer we got to an enormous black cloud in the sky.  It didn’t start raining until about 45 minutes outside of the city, but it sure did rain.  It stormed so hard we had to wait for the hail to stop before we made a run for the hotel’s front door.  It rained so hard it washed out our dino dig.

I was pretty disappointed we didn’t get a refund for the “Act of God” storm and when Jessie asked if we were going back next year I honestly told her I didn’t think we would.  I don’t see the point in spending a lot of money for something where, because of a typical summer storm, we got nothing to show for it.  Oh, wait, we did each get a lime green dino dig t-shirt.  And we spent a couple of hours in the museum at the Black Hills Institute looking at dinosaur replications.  That was kind of cool.

Janet’s sister had broken her hip 3 days before they left for the dino dig so she couldn’t get around very well with her walker.  So, we decided to go to Deadwood to see a Wild West town and we were very impressed.  We took a bus tour up to the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.  We then went up to Leads and took the kids on a mine tour and panned for a little gold.  It was so funny, it cost $7 to borrow the pan with the rocks and pre-measured gold (worth $4).  The kids carried the gold around like it was worth a fortune!

We spent Wednesday night in Spearfish and left in the morning for our final stop in South Dakota: Keystone.  We went to Mount Rushmore and it’s pretty impressive up there.  I finally found people with heads bigger than mine.  We took pictures, shopped in the gift shop (one of the more popular pastimes with us), and watched the making of Mount Rushmore: the movie.

It might not sound like we did much but everything takes more energy when you’re traveling with an 80+ Mom (Janet’s mom), a woman with a walker, 3 more adults, and 3 kids.  Not to mention the fact it was over 100 degrees every day we were in South Dakota.  I’m just glad the wild fires didn’t hit any of the towns where we stayed.

So, Friday we were pretty tired and mostly just laid around the hotel, walked around Keystone’s little boardwalk, and ate 3 or 4 meals.  We eat a lot, I know.  We all had a really good time, we all got along, and everyone survived.  Good times.

On Saturday Janet, Jessie and I drove back to Billings where we spent the night.  On the way, we stopped by a rock shop and Jessie informed us she wanted to be a mineralogist.  Granted she’s only 11; she might change her mind once or twice between now and then.  We also stopped by the Crazy Horse Memorial.  What an impressive sight.  I loved standing near the artist’s studio, looking at both the small scale version of Crazy Horse with the real monument in the background.  That will be impressive when it’s done.  It’s impressive now.

On Sunday we flew back to Portland where Jessie’s Dad picked her up to spend the week with him.  Janet then flew to California to work and I drove myself home to Bend.  I’ve spent the last few days catching up on emails, doing laundry, and basking in the glorious quiet of being alone with myself.  I have the best conversations with myself.  I’m glad no one is here.

I really didn’t expect much from South Dakota when I went; but I came home having just finished one of the more enjoyable vacations in recent memory.  Janet and I liked it so much we’re talking seriously about going back, just the three of us, to see more of South Dakota.  With our group’s mobility problems, we didn’t get to see as much as I would’ve liked and I barely crossed over 5000 steps each day.  We only stayed in the Black Hills and never even ventured over to the Badlands, a place I’ve always wanted to see.  I just never realized it was in South Dakota.

Jenn

Ps.  Seriously?!?  Not only did we trade away Ichiro, but we traded him to the Yankees?  I understand the reasoning behind the move, for both the Mariners and Ichiro, but to the Yankees?  I will never understand that.

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