Visiting the BlackHills

Last week we took our show on the road to visit the BlackHills.  D’s high school tennis team traveled to the state tennis tournament, so we decided to make a weekend of it.  It is always a balance when we take a road trip to make sure we have enough different activities for P.  If we would have said, “We are going to watch tennis all weekend there would have been a mini-revolt in our house.”  It was with some planning and juggling that we had a great time watching tennis and doing some sightseeing in the area.

Our first stop traveling along I-90 was Al’s Oasis.  This place is nestled along the Missouri River. Al’s Oasis boasts it is the premier rest stop for travelers in the middle of South Dakota.   However, it is more than a rest stop.  There is the restaurant that prides itself on buffalo burgers and pie.  A gift shop has unique trinkets, clothing, and other gifts.  For those travelers, who are more on the go the grocery store has all the offerings needed for a quick stop.  We happened to leave our home at 4:50 AM.  Partly for the five-hour drive and partly to have some quiet miles, before P was wide awake to start in on his usual travel questions.

When we got back on I-90, P’s travel questions started.  What time is it at home now?  (We crossed from central time zone to mountain time zone.) How many miles until we get to our hotel?  When we go to the hotel, will I be able to swim?  If I swim, will I still have to go to tennis?  When will I see Mt. Rushmore?  Who put the presidents on Mt. Rushmore?  The questions went on and on until it was suggested to turn on a movie and relax for the duration of the Bee Movie.  After five hours in the car, a quick trip to Wal-Mart, two wrong turns we made it to the tennis tournament to see D and his team.  (Yea!)

When we needed a break (i.e., mostly P) from tennis, we traveled to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  It is a sight to see coming up the hill there standing proudly is Mt. Rushmore.  Cars pull off to the side of the highway to take a picture or just to take in the sight that symbolizes freedom and democracy. At first sight, P is squealing, “I see Abraham Lincoln who fought slavery.  I see George Washington who is on our money.”  From P’s comments, I was reminded that maybe we needed a bit more of a history lesson.  Traveling through the entry and the parking ramp, P is still pondering about the presidents, carving the mountain, and why didn’t they use dynamite to carve to the mountain.  We emerged from the elevator that took us to the top level, and we saw the avenue of the flags.  The fifty state flags plus the six district, commonwealth, and territory flags are located here.  This walkway is full of history and color and leads to the terrace to view Mt.  Rushmore.

P likes to rattle off facts like it’s nobody’s business.  He says it with enough authority that people believe him.  This day he rattles off facts about the carving of the mountain.  He says, “The workers used 947 pounds of dynamite to make Abraham Lincoln.”  Or he says, “The workers tried to put more hair on George Washington, but it fell off in the blast in September.”  I just shake my head wondering where this creativity and drive are when it comes to actual academic work that requires knowledge and facts.  The thing that I appreciate about the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is that it is well marked with extensive trails.  P asked us to take the Presidential Trail that is approximately 1/2 mile long.  It is easy to navigate, and it takes you along the base of the mountain.  Along the way, there are great views of each of the Presidents, and you can learn a little bit more about these men.  The path is laid into the terrain.  One of the views is peeking up at Washington through an opening in the rock.

Another stop we made was at the Cosmos Mystery Area.  It is billed as the strangest location in the Black Hills.  You tour the mystery house where the laws of nature go against everything you have learned.  My one criticism of the attraction is the stairs are uneven and steep so anyone with mobility issues might find it hard to navigate.   You go up the hill to enter the mystery house where the tour guide demonstrates water running uphill.  (What?)  The tour guide takes you through the rooms of the mystery house where you are encouraged to participate in the demonstrations and/or take pics.  Our tour guide warned us of the “cosmo effect” that could stay with us for up to two weeks.  P took that seriously and still today five days later he swears his balance is off because of the “cosmo effect.”

We saw a lot of tennis over the weekend as it is enjoyable to watch the kids play.  Our weekend was coming to an end and it was time to travel back home.  P had money to buy a souvenir.  He looked at Mt. Rushmore; however, there gift store was busy with field trip kids buying their souvenirs.  P was overwhelmed with the crowds inside the store.  He looked at the Cosmos but settled on a Spongebob popsicle instead.  So, here we were time to go home and he was panicked that he wouldn’t have a souvenir.  We promised that once we got on I-90, we would stop at Wall Drug.  Yes, that Wall Drug that advertises free ice water and five-cent coffee.  If you have traveled anywhere on I-90 across the country, I’m sure you have seen the billboards.  We were on a mission to find a trinket.  The thing with P is when he has his mind up, it is made up.  He knew that was going to buy a souvenir at Wall Drug.  But what?  We didn’t walk through the different stores once looking and taking in what they had for sale.  We had to walk the entire Wall Drug twice.  It is a city block that you wind your way through like a maze full of kitschy Americana displays.  Penny presses, totem poles, fortune tellers, cowboy and saloon girl statues to sit by and have your picture taken.  The fudge store and bakery fill the stores with terrific smells.  On our second trip through Wall Drug, P finally spied something that looked interesting:  one deck of Minecraft Uno cards.  The best thing about the Uno cards kept P entertained for the next three hours, so the travel questions were held to a minimum.

Where will your next road trip take you?

All my best to you,





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