This past weekend we packed up our camping trailer and headed down to South Dakota. The purpose of the trip was to see Mount Rushmore (or Mountain Rushmore according to Ollie), but we found SO many fun things to do along the way. We will definitely have to visit again and stay longer. We left Thursday evening around 5:15pm. We had a campsite reserved in Pierre, SD (the capitol) which is about 4 hours away. We stopped a few times along the way and rolled into camp around 9:40. We went right to bed because we wanted to head out pretty early the next morning. It was nice because almost all the campgrounds we stayed at had playgrounds for the kids. They played for a bit the next morning and we headed out around 9:30. We visited the South Dakota state capital on our way out of town.
The boys liked checking out the ducks. There use to be what was called the "eternal flame" in Pierre, but it wasn't very eternal because it burned out a few years ago. That was why we stopped, oh well.
Pierre to Rapid City (near Rushmore) is about 3 1/2 hours. It took us most of the day because we took a few scenic routes and made a few stops. Our first stop was the Badlands National Park. We stopped there and made lunch in the camper and toured the visitors center. We purchased a little National Parks passport that you have stamped at every park you visit. I think it will make visiting National parks more fun for the kids, I hope :)
Grandma and the boys inside a teepee at the Badlands visitors center.
We also took the scenic route through the badlands. It was pretty cool, but there was construction so it added quite a bit of time to our drive and we probably wouldn't have done it had we known.
For literally hundreds of miles we saw billboards for Wall Drug in Wall, SD. It was insane how many billboards they have. So we HAD to stop and check it out. There was a lot to do there, and there were tons of people. We got ice cream, walked around a bit and got back on the road.
Max and Grandma.
Ollie being a goofball.
I think Max looks so mischievous in this picture.
He throughly enjoyed his ice cream cone.
I had big plans for us on Friday but we didn't get to our campsite until about 5pm, so we decided to call it a night. We made raviolis with vodka pasta sauce (Jason's favorite). It is so nice to have a little kitchen in the camper and it really cuts down on eating out costs (not to mention the extra calories of eating out for every meal). We put the kids down and enjoyed a quiet evening of reading.
The next morning we headed to Mount Rushmore to beat the crowds and the heat. It was really cool. You can do a little .6 mile "hike", so we did that which took us to the sculptors studio. We got our NP passport stamped, bought our Christmas ornament (we try to buy one in every place we visit) and headed out.
Cute little guy.
Close up of "the guys" (as Ollie calls them).
After Mt. Rushmore we drove through Custer State Park. We stopped along the way (it was a pretty long scenic drive) and hiked around the "Eye of the Needle". The boys loved crawling all over the rocks.
We had to drive through lots of little tunnels.
Along the drive we stopped and had lunch at Legion Lake. It was beautiful. The boys enjoyed watching people fish and watching the paddle boats.
From there we went to the Reptile Gardens. They had hundreds of cool snakes, lizards, birds, turtles and alligators. We watched the snake show, bird show and then the alligator wrestling show.
Look at how huge this boa constrictor is!
After the snake show, they got to pet one of the snakes. Ollie was really scared at first but we convinced him to do it and after that he didn't want to stop. Max had no fear :)
It was pretty hot on Saturday so after the reptile gardens we went back to our campground and went swimming. It was a busy, but fun day.
Sunday we attended the church services offered by the campground and headed out. We had a long day of driving ahead of us so we wanted to get on the road. We pretty much drove most of Sunday with a stop here and there for lunch and what not. When we got about 20 miles from our campground in Mobridge, SD we noticed some serious storm clouds and lightning not far off. When it looked like it was getting really close we decided to pull over and wait it out. That was a smart move because it really came down and the wind was so strong. The place we stopped was a little drive in with no indoor seating (we didn't have a lot of options). They were nice enough to let us come in to stay dry. It was a really cool storm with lots of thunder and lightning. When the rain lightened up we finished our trip.
We really loved the last campground we stayed at and we plan on going back next summer for a longer stay. It was right on the Missouri river so we walked down and let Ollie (Max was in bed) throw rocks in the water. While we were down there it started pouring on us again. By the time Jan, Ollie and I got back we were soaked. It cleared up again and we went for another walk a little later.
Monday we spent a few hours wandering around and playing in the water. We headed home and made it back later in the afternoon.
Throwing rocks could entertain my boys for hours.
Ollie was cooking with mud :)
My boys watching a train go by.
It was a really fun trip. There is so much more we would like to do in the Rapid City area, next time we will definitely plan on staying a few more days to make all the driving worth it.
We are gearing up to head to Lake Powell next week and then home to CA. I can't believe the summer is almost over.
As an aside, we have really enjoyed watching the olympics this summer. It brings back lots of memories of four years ago during the olympics. I can't believe so much time has gone by, and I really can't believe my baby is four years old! More on that later.