8:00 a.m. The alarm went off.
8:10 a.m. The alarm went off for the second time, so I got up and dressed. I had seen what looked like a water park in the hotel when we checked in, so I decided to check the price. At the lobby, I was told we get four passes free with each hotel room. I loaded a tray high at the breakfast bar and headed back up to the room.
8:23 I roused the kiddos with the words, “Who wants to go to a water park?” and sleeping heads popped up and looked at me groggily. I reaffirmed that they could go to a water park if they ate breakfast and got on their suits.
9:02 The Hunni with four kiddos in suits headed out of the room to the water park. After the door had closed and a sudden peaceful quiet fell over the room, I looked longingly at the bed. “Oh how I would love to curl back up in bed!! Well, maybe I can if I get everybody packed up and ready to go.” But by the time I had packed all the suitcases and reorganized the car, the kiddos were stepping through the hotel room door, dripping wet, and bubbling over with happiness. “Thanks LORD for the unexpected gift!”, I silently prayed.
11:30 We pulled out of the hotel, and re-looked at the map and The Schedule. “OH NO!!” I said, “I thought today was an eight hour day, but it is a twelve hour day!!! How did I get that wrong?”
11:34 We pulled into a Dairy Queen. Breakfast seemed like a long time ago to the kiddos who had been to the water park. While at the gas station, I spied a Starbucks–it may have felt like noon to the kiddos, but I still felt like I was in a morning fog.
11:49 It was just a few minute before noon, and we were just starting our drive–a twelve-hour drive. Thankfully, the scenery and the Starbucks lifted the tiredness.
12:06 We pulled off of I 90 onto State Route 14. This route isn’t listed as “scenic”, so I wanted to go up to the next exit. However, The Hunni said, “Let’s give it a try,” and I am SO glad that we did. Take exit 154 off I 90 up to Carlile, and you will see some of the most gorgeous scenery in the entire U.S.
12:22 p.m. Of all the things that happened on our trip, this was the most awe-inspiring. We saw majestic sites. We ate at a fabulous restaurant. But this. . .this was probably a once in a lifetime experience. As we were driving down State Route 14, we saw an eagle overhead. The eagle was worrying a bird, so we drew the kiddos attention to the scene. And as we watched the eagle he all of a sudden swooped down to even with our mini van’s driver’s window. His wings were “spread-eagle”, with his right wing just over the top of our roof. He turned and looked into the driver’s side window and just looked at us. He was probably less than two feet away. He just looked in and we stared back. We just looked at each other for about 7 seconds, when he turned and flew back up. I had been grabbing for my camera in my purse when I first saw the eagle worrying the bird, but during that magical moment, everyone froze. I don’t actually know how The Hunni kept the car on the road, as we were all staring!
It was a Golden Eagle, not a Bald Eagle, and he was majestic and HUGE!!!! I didn’t get my camera pulled out until it was all over, but then we pulled over to the side of the road for a photo.
12:37 We arrive at Devil’s Tower National Monument. I remember my parents taking us to see Devil’s Tower, but I don’t remember getting out of the car. Maybe we did.
My memory was only from a distance, but I am so glad we entered the park and hiked around. Incidentally, if you get a season pass to all the National Parks, it is very cost-effective if you are driving across the country. There is only one catch. Mt. Rushmore won’t accept your National Park Pass as they have “free” admission–they just charge you $11 for parking.
Our first stop within the park was to see the prairie dogs.
He also loved the bark they made in warning, and ran around barking back.
Looking out over the valley was beautiful, but. . .
. . .if you turned your back to the prairie dogs and looked up. . .
BEHOLD!!! Because the clouds were moving quickly through the sky towards us, it created the optical illusion that the tower was moving–more like falling–tipping forward.
We drove up to the visitor’s parking lot and headed for the telescope as we had seen tiny, ant-like dots crawling all over Devil’s Tower.
A closer look through the telephoto lens revealed. . .
. . .that the ants were rock climbers. There were rock climbers everywhere.
And check out the climber’s positions! Could you do that?
This photo gives you an idea of how HUGE the rock columns are. So IMPRESSIVE!
I was surprised that there were no signs about not climbing on the rocks. It was wonderful to have that freedom, even if it resulted in a skinned knee for Scout.
This photo was taken just before the skinned knee.
I just couldn’t stop taking photos of this Magnificent Rock Tower.
Scout was nursing a skinned elbow as well. I wasn’t exactly in “hiking” apparel, but after driving in jeans for two days, somehow a maxi-skirt of soft cotton sounded wonderful.
This is the valley behind where we were seated for our family photo. The camera just doesn’t capture it, as both The Hunni and I thought it was the most beautiful valley we had ever seen–red rocks, green pastures, blue skies, white clouds, deep green pines, and that wonderful pine scent everywhere.
And since we were feeling very “western”, we stopped by the Trading Post for a cold draw and another knife (LBG’s purchase).
Here is a Western Photo of our family. We look the part in our flip-flops and tennis shoes. 🙂
If you were to ask our kiddos about their favorite part of the trip, my guess is that they would say the Sarsaparilla Root Beer–kids are funny that way.
As much as we wanted to stay, we still had a looooooong drive ahead of us. We drove out the northern curve of State Route 14 toward Sundance. The drive continued to impress us.
We had promised the kiddos that we would stop by the Badlands on our way back home, so we skipped Rapid City and kept driving.
4:00 Another scenic potty stop.
4:09 We realized that we were never going to make it to Tomah, Wisconsin. We had two states in our way, so we canceled our hotel reservation. Since then, I have learned a trick. If you have missed your cut-off time for canceling your room, just call and reschedule–for a day later. Then call and cancel that reservation. Since you are going through a central switch board or the internet, it isn’t a problem, and it can save you over $100 dollars. Just a tip.
4:20 We exited at I 90 onto exit 110. This is the famous Wall Drug exit. If you aren’t familiar with Wall Drug, then you have never driven across South Dakota as it is advertised every 200 feet. We pulled off at this exit in order to get something to eat. Lately, we had been driving through National Parks on empty stomachs, and we didn’t want that to happen again. So even though we had eaten lunch in Rapid City, we found a Dairy Queen and stopped–scenery is more beautiful with a full stomach.
As we were leaving Dairy Queen, The Hunni noticed this building. He said, “Looks like Jim’s Sandwich and Alignment Shop.” (Which is a quote from the Bar-J-Wranglers) And yep! here in Nowhereville, South Dakota, you can order your latte while your oil is being changed. Beat that Seattle!!!!
5:03 We entered The Badlands.
This time the sky was a brilliant blue, and there was evidence that it had recently rained.
I love this place! It is so wild and untamed!
The sky was as gorgeous as the Badland hills–they complemented each other.
We pulled over at every look-out. Since we were going through the park the reverse of last time, these were all the scenic look-outs we had to skip on our first time through.
The first wild animal we saw was a wild turkey.
Then we saw several different herds of deer–Mule Deer I think.
The late afternoon sun cast a golden hue on the prairie grass.
I love this place–I know we have covered that, but it is sooooo open and wild. I was hoping that the dots on the horizon were buffalo as a herd of 800 reside in the park, but I think they are actually cattle. LBG commented, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were Indians?” The funny thing is that at our next stop there was a Native American and his family. Besides us, they were the only ones there. “Well, LBG, you got your Indian,” I thought. But he would have prefered moccasins to tennis shoes, and a mustang to their mini-van.
Were Back!!! So this time we took our family photo with our backs to the camera.
What a trip we have had–unplanned, a whirlwind of emotions, scenery, and time zones.
Here is the same place we stopped on our way out. And it was just as much fun.
There was another war.
And I believe this guy won. And everyone had fun.
I stayed in or near the van as Little Man had fallen asleep. See his “milk chin”? Not his “chin with milk on it”, but the second chin that all those bottles of milk have produced. I love it.
I took a self-portrait. This is the back window of our mini-van.
If you ever get a chance to visit The Badlands, GO. They are a great kept secret.
Our second lunch served us well because as we drove across South Dakota, there didn’t seem to be any place to stop for supper. I remembered a fabulous diner from our trip out 6 years earlier, and we tried to guess which exit it was on–as we couldn’t remember the name. We guessed the correct exit, but it had closed about 15 minutes earlier (9:00). We drove into town, but we only saw about six bars. We hit the road again.
Mitchell was the largest town around (remember the Corn Palace), so we pulled off at the exit thinking that perhaps Perkins would be opened still. It wasn’t. This place looked just like a gas station restaurant, but at least it looked opened, so we pulled in.
I expected the worst–like a five-hour old hotdog, but the place looked GREAT!
In fact, the place looked AWESOME! A real life diner with old signs. “Ted would certainly have liked this place,” we all said.
We had to visit the Ladies room, and the bathrooms were immaculte. WOW!!
Despite the fact, that it was 10:00, the place was hopp’n. The locals seemed to like this place. That was a good sign.
Our waitress was as friendly as she was cute. WHAT A FIND!! The restaurant is called Marlins and is a small South Dakota chain.
“Next time you’re in Mitchell, South Dakota, be sure to stop by Marlin’s Family Restaurant at the intersection of I-90 and S. Burr Street, right next door to the famous I-90 Truck Plaza. People say that we have the best breakfast, lunch and dinner in the area. We believe that our one-of-a-kind desserts are also the best around, but we certainly don’t want to brag! Whether you’re in Mitchell for vacation, business, fun, or simply need a break from cruising down I-90, you’ll be glad you stopped at Marlin’s for good food and good people. We’ll see you soon!”
Drinks were served in Mason Jars, and the food was diner-delicious. Of all the places we stopped for meals, this one was THE BEST! We give it an “A” for Amazing. And if you are like us and eat supper at 10:00 at night, don’t worry, they are opened 24 hours.
Sioux Falls was another hour and a half down the road, but that was where our hotel reservation was for the night. We arrived around 11:30. I took the first load of kiddos up to the room while The Hunni brought in the suitcases. I took off Little Man’s diaper– planning on getting him ready for bed. Then I realized that we hadn’t brought the diapers up yet. About that time, Eloise said to me, “I have a bump on my head.” I reached over to give her head a rub, and then my stomach flipped. I grabbed her and pulled her closer and dug into her scalp. Attached there was a tick. Ugh! Ugh! and one more Ugh! I love Nature, but had forgotten about this side of nature. I cleaned her scalp up with soap and water. Now during this time Little Man was without a diaper. He found a corner and did his daily job, then stepped on it as he backed out. OH NOT RIGHT NOW!! I AM TOO TIRED!
We got him clean, the floor clean, and finally everyone in bed for the night.
Tomorrow would be the last day. I was ready to go home.