Day 35 – lazy day
We might have booked a bit too long in Sundance…but we also padded rest time into our trip (along with short/easy driving days). We started the day with a Dutch Baby, which is like an enormously fluffy pancake/crepe. Thank you, Acre Homestead, for teaching me what these are!
Day 36 – Sundance WY to Hot Springs SD
The drive over was easy and uneventful, but setting up was a nightmare.
- The host called, and then texted when we didn’t call her back. Um, it’s a travel day and we are in a signal wasteland. Also, she didn’t ask us to call her back. We didn’t have any questions for her. ew.
- The road to get in is filled with potholes and dips.
- Our site was super sloped. Even with auto-leveling jacks and leveling blocks, our front tires were still up in the air. I (L) fear we are going to ruin a jack like this. The host is doing all these cutsey little projects around the property (new owners and all) but she’s not fixing this critical one. The heat put me in some pretty intense pain. I spiraled in frustration and anger, and I was barely covered up to and from the showers that night because I just didn’t give a fuck.
- The host insisted on “stopping by” to bring us “brochures of stuff to do in the area.” It didn’t feel friendly to me. We told her we were good, but then E had to put on pants to open the door for her. Based on where we are, she was probably making sure we were white.
- There was country “music” emanating from the outdoor speakers of the building that holds the laundry and showers. It wasn’t terribly loud, but we could hear it with all the windows closed, especially at night when we’d like to sleep. It’s awful. I texted her (the next afternoon) to ask if can be turned down or off and said that no one is sitting outside listening to it. After nearly two hours with no answer, I texted again and eventually got a reply that she’d take care of it. She turned it down, but then I think it was louder again the next morning.
- It was too hot and smoky to sit outside, and we didn’t have an immediate neighbor, but the picnic table is about a foot from the next sewer hookup. And you can’t move it into their precious grass adorned with cheap red/white/blue yard art from Family Dollar Tree.
- The fire rings are out in the road to protect the ~8×15′ patch of grass. And the next guy (two spots over) has wood in his fire ring about 2 feet from his permanent propane tank…during wildfire season.
Day 37 – Wind Cave NP, Custer State Park, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse
We wanted to do the whole experience at Wind Cave National Park, but the elevator was down until the end of September, so we just drove through. We saw quite a few critters.
Next on our drive was the Custer State Park. We didn’t pay the hefty fee for the park itself, so we just drove through on the national park road (a US highway, IIRC). It’s very pretty. Should we ever be in this area again (unlikely), we’ll have to try to spend time at those two.
Mt Rushmore was both grander and worse than I expected. The National Park Service severely white washes the building of this eyesore. The buildings and amphitheater, and enormous gift shop filled with junk made in China, and 58 flags and book store, and ice cream shop, and ooooof. It’s a huge waste of money by the National Park Service, especially when you can’t find even a mention of how we desecrated a sacred mountain to put the faces of four old white dudes up there. I’d have liked to see it without paying, but the profile is all you can see if you don’t pay to get in.
Crazy Horse is way better, but it has some growing pains to work through. It’s taking forever to build. It’s $30 for two to get in, but then $5pp extra for bus. The bus gets you as close as you can normally get, and the driver was a great story teller, but just put that in the gate charge. The museum spaces are enormous, the layout and “path” through the space is confusing, the informative film is mediocre, at least one staff member was very rude to me, and the laser light show was truly awful (at least they aren’t doing that any more after this month.)
The monument is going to be amazing. It’s still managed by the descendants of the (late) original sculptor. The museum areas had tons of really nice pieces and displays with a lot of art. The gift shops were full of (typical junk and) indigenous artists’ work. The whole place is partnered with The Indian University of North America® and keeps a strong educational aspect to their mission. The model of the grounds all planned out was wonderful. They even have a program for donors ($125 minimum) where you can gear up and go up on top of the monument. These are very hard to plan for because there can’t be a work crew (five days a week) or any lightening.
Day 38 – breakfast? nope!, Mammoth
Breakfast from Hell
We wanted to go out for breakfast. That was a big mistake. There are only two places and one is in a motel, so we opted for the “Internet Cafe” that doubles as a pretty bad used furniture/book store.
We were aggressively offered coffee before we could sit down (a total pet peeve of mine; just let me sit down, first) and then told they have Pepsi, not Coke, so we ordered water. The handwritten menu was hard to understand because the owner/manager/whatever changes writing and math styles back and forth.
I settled on biscuits and gravy, and E got the smaller portion of that with scrambled eggs and a sausage patty. I knew when I saw it coming that it would be bad. It was the very worst B&G I have ever had.
This was worse than a place in Austin…
…where the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar had a bartender–who had never made Bloody Marys–and that you were expected to tip. They clearly had never even been to a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
The gravy on the brunch buffet was brown. Like turkey gravy, but for biscuits and gravy.
When we complained, we were told that some people prefer the brown gravy at breakfast (in what part of the country?). Then, for the Bloody Mary fiasco, he deferred to “the law” from TABC.
I explained to him how BYO works within the law and even said, “like everywhere else does it.”
The owners were two guys with zero restaurant experience and boy-howdy could you tell. I gave that place three months, but I think they lasted six. And yet, this was worse than that.
The gravy had this “icky brown color” (like Vivian Kensington’s hair or) like that of a turkey gravy. The “sausage” was not pork or beef. It was a really fine flavorless texture similar to soy burgers from elementary school, but without the taste of soy. E found it similar to SPAM®, but I like that, so we’re still off. He said the (handmade) “sausage” patty was the same stuff. I scraped it all off, added a ton of salt & pepper, and powered through the canned-or-frozen biscuits. We paid cash because she illegally tacks a fee on for credit card purchases and to protect our names from her. Oh, and while we waited for our food, we got to read this nice little gem written to anyone not from South Dakota. There is a reason this town is a shithole.
The Mammoth Site
Wow! This might be the only good thing this town has going for it. We expected–based on the size of the town–for this to be a tourist trap, but reading the reviews, we saw it was legit. And it is great!
A giant sinkhole formed and filled with water. The edges were slippery, but fertile. The mammoths would try to eat the grasses at the edge (some of the only food they could find in winter) and would slip into the warm water and then were unable to climb out. So far, they have uncovered 61 mammoths and an extra tusk. You can even get trained to help them.
Day 39 – Hot Springs SD to Gering NE, Carhenge
Our drive was terribly windy. And at least one jerk tried to pass us without room, forcing the oncoming truck onto the shoulder, and narrowly missing us. Then, once in front of us, he wasn’t even going that fast. Asshole.
Our lunch break was at Carhenge. A guy from the area worked in England, so when he returned, he built a “Stonehenge” out of cars. It seems silly, and we’d never go out of our way for something like this, but we had to go right by it anyway. Turns out, it’s more impressive than we expected. There are several large metal sculptures. It’s also free, which is nice.
Most of the drive was very smelly. Near Gering, we were behind a beets truck. I do not know how people live near stuff like this. It was awful.
Our campground turned out to be quite nice, which was a welcome change from the previous shithole. We got an email telling us our spot number. Then we rolled in and set up. And no one bothered us!
We tried to see the Scotts Bluff National Monument, but they close at like 4:30. We could NOT figure out why it would close with that much daylight left. They even have double gates and a guard. It was so strange. We got a couple of pics from the highway.
For dinner, E wanted to go watch the first NFL football game of the year. We ended up at this super-weird, trumpit-owned (which we learned after we ordered drinks) steak house sports bar casino arcade with line dancing lessons. My food was mediocre. Our service was slightly above average. The place was awful for a game because of the terrible acoustics. We left before half-time.
Day 40 – Gering NE to Denver CO
Our drive was windy, *surprise*.
Once we got home, we quickly unpacked the essentials, cleaned up, and headed to the building party. We had a lot of fun meeting new friends, and the band was really good, too.
…and oh how amazing it is to be back in a full signal area!!!