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The last few days have seen us to some incredible different places. The Badlands were unlike anything else, (see previous post) Mount Rushmore was an incredible feat of workmanship, and Jewel Caves were a surprising addition.
June 14 – Wall Drug & Rapid City
We awoke super early this morning and sadly there was no sun in sight; an enormous cloud hovered over the cliff and impeded our panels from powering us up. Our batteries were abnormally low and, oddly, we had to start up the RV to charge the batteries enough to finish raising the bed. We had some fruit for breakfast before taking a little bike ride along the path which followed the edge of the cliff. As we packed up the rig the sun came out beating back the clouds which seemed to be frozen in the sky. We had decided to treat ourselves for breakfast and head into the town of Wall to check out the infamous Wall Drug, a former drug store turned tourist attraction whose billboards had been slapping us in the face for hundreds of miles. We headed into the cafe and were more than a little let down by the options on the menu. We ended up splitting a veggie burger, pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns and of course two cups of their 5 cent coffee. We have definitely had better breakfasts for less and better coffee but for more. Their homemade donuts were their redemption though our threshold of impression wasn’t terribly high at that point. We wandered the Wall Drug back lot which boasted a T-Rex, a Jackalope and a host of other kitschy tourist attractions.
We stopped at a local shop to fill up our propane tank and top off our diesel before setting out on the highway toward Rapid City. Today was supposed to be the hottest day yet with highs of 37deg C/ melting pot F. We had planned on heading to Mount Rushmore today but with the heat we were very concerned about Monty and decided to put that off till tomorrow to spend some time in the AC at an RV park. We stopped at Walmart for groceries and cat food, while running the generator with AC cranked to make sure Monty stayed cool. Turns out Izzy didn’t really like the heat either as she struggled up some of the steep hills we had to climb to get to our RV park. We ultimately reached our destination of Rushmore Shadows RV park quite early in the afternoon so we set up quickly, had some lunch and hauled our laundry and swimmers to the club house and pool for a productive and relaxing afternoon. For dinner we treated ourselves to grilled portobello mushroom sandwiches, home made of course, and sat out on the picnic table enjoying every bite. The cat had been out exploring on his own while we worked on our computers organizing photos and making some videos but as darkness set in he was still nowhere to be seen. We circled the park calling him but to no avail before hearing the crows call out from the street outside the park. We cut through the yards and continued to call finding a few other felines but not the orange fur ball we’d scoured the last hour for. Finally, deciding he had enough for the night, we discovered him crawling back under the fence where we’d assumed he was. With the search party called off, we crawled up to bed and slept soundly till sunrise.
June 15 – Mount Rushmore & Jewel Cave
Changing up our morning routine we carved up some slices of baguette and slapped together a couple rockin’ eggwhiches topped with peppers, tomato, hummus and spinach. We had to do a little hunting for the cat again while we drank our coffee but the creature of habit was up to his old tricks again slipping under the fence and out of our reach. After calling him and enticing him back, we left Rushmore Shadows in our shadow and crawled up the extremely steep hills to reach Mount Rushmore itself. It was a blue sky, sunny day and not too hot, perfect for traipsing around Mount Rushmore. We took a ton of photos as we walked along the path peering up at the iconic landmark.
After a few hundred shots our trigger fingers were limp as we went in search of the Rushmore sticker and stamp. It took some detective work to locate their whereabouts but once discovered they were quickly in our grasp. Concerned for the hills along the long road ahead we got some information on the best route to take to our next stop Jewel Caves National Monument. The ranger had told us it was a flat drive to get there but we seem have a different definition of “flat”. Along the way we passed the Crazy Horse Monument which is still under construction so we decided against stopping and continued to cruise. We reached Jewel Cave in one piece and made some lunch in the parking lot. We soon discovered that they only did guided tours of the cave which weren’t expensive but unfortunately the next one wasn’t for another 2 hours. After purchasing two of the few remaining tickets, we killed some time collecting our Jewel Cave stamp and sticker and reorganizing our pockets and clothing to fit the stringent regulations the cave masters allow. The tour was started off with the longest elevator ride in South Dakota plunging us 300ft below the surface. The tour was about a ½ mile long, consisting of 723 stairs, and multiple different rock formations. Photos were difficult to capture in the low light but we made do with the camera and action cam.
After the tour we headed back to the RV and set out to our spot for the night, an un-glamorous rest area right off Interstate 90. The drive was quite pretty as we headed along highway 16. Some dark and foreboding clouds were off in the distance and we could see some flashes of lightening that made us mildly nervous. It rained on us for some of the drive, at one point in the distance to the north-east we could see a larger formation coming out of the earth, we assume was Devils Tower. The rest area left something to be desired being quite noisy from the the highway as well as from the semi’s parked next to us, but the rain had let up so it wasn’t all bad. According to the sign there was no overnight parking allowed, but we had no other plans so we proceeded with our nights stay at risk.