The road from Mount Rushmore to Wall, South Dakota was a slow one, at least until we got to the highway littered with advertising of Wall Drug. It was treacherous again with the deer at dusk, and we were exhausted from the fun of the day – and eager to rest. I was driving at this point, and had been all day (Sabbath). We avoided Rapid City in favor of the truck beltway around the city. It was extremely dark so we couldn’t see our approach in to the Badlands. All we saw were signs every 2 miles or so for Wall Drug. The highway was blanketed with their advertising – later we would find out why. We got to our hotel for the next two nights around 9PM – The Frontier Cabins. Luckily on the way, at about 7:55PM, Elana called the hotel to make sure that someone was going to be there to check us in. They said that it was lucky that we called, because they were closing down the front-desk at 8PM. They gave us our cabin number, left the door open, and told us to check-in in the morning. Good thing we called! Lesson learned from….
Now that we got the craziness of Crazy Horse out of the way, it was time to get in to Custer State Park and do some wandering. Luckily, Custer State Park was only about 15 minutes from Crazy Horse – so at least felt redeemed that we didn’t go out of our way much to stop at Crazy Horse. We entered on Route 16 coming in on the Northwest side of the park. We stopped at the ranger station, paid our fee, and asked what there was to do. The ranger gave us some sarcasm back “To do? What do you mean, to do? There’s hiking, you can rent a boat on the lake, you can take the wildlife drive loop around the park…but I’m not sure what you mean by “to do.” Um…thanks. She didn’t answer our question at least. Incidentally, there’s a section on the Custer State Park website that says “Things to do” – so we definitely weren’t the problem. More helpful that the ranger was the map: Since we had no real agenda for the day, we decided to take the wildlife loop around (hoping that we’d see, you know, some wildlife) and make some random stops along….
Now, on to mountain stuff now that we had our Hill City experience complete with parrots! On our way to Custer State Park, we stopped by Crazy Horse. We both thought it was going to be way more awesome than it actually was. Not only is it still under construction (so there isn’t much to actually see), but it’s a tourist trap! There’s a mini-Disneyland built around the monument to spend your time without actually going to see the monument. There’s several museums, a video screening room, gift shops, souvenir shops, snack shops, a restaurant, a Native American dance display, a bus ride to the base of the monument (which costs extra, mind you), a mini-statue in its finished state, and an homage to the sculptor’s family. On top of that you get the pleasure of paying $11 EACH (not per vehicle) to gain entry and waste your time. Crazy Horse has been under construction for over 50 years (and still has another Century *at least* to go). 2 generations of the original sculptor’s family (Korczak Ziolkowsk, now deceased) have now been devoted to building the monument (kind of sad, really). We learned about each of his 10 sons and daughters in excruciating detail….
After dinner at Deadwood, we drove to Hill city through treacherous deer country. When we got to the Super 8 in Hill City, the doors were locked and we had to tail some other guests in. The front-desk area was closed and locked off, and no hotel manager was anywhere in sight. We used the phone to call the hotel number, but all it did was ring the front desk that we were standing next to. The other guests told us that the manager said she was leaving at 8PM for the night. We were livid! not only did the reservation say “check-in until midnight”, but the manager didn’t even bother to call us (or the other guest that showed up a bit later) to let us know what the procedure should be. Total lack of customer service. There wasn’t even an emergency number we could call to reach SOMEONE – ANYONE! So we call the Super 8 corporate line and Booking.com to see if they could locate the manager and/or re-book us. We struck out on all fronts. Super 8 frustratingly just continued to dial the main hotel number – so we heard the phone going off at the….
After we stopped at Devil’s Tower, and took our leisurely time walking around and taking it all in, we had to pick up the pace if we wanted to be at our hotel (and have dinner in Deadwood) by 11PM. The goal was to stop for dinner at Deadwood, SD, and then continue on to Hill City, SD, where we would be packing it in for the night. Here was our route: Notice that there’s a major Red Herring on the map – and that’s Sundance, South Dakota. Decidedly (and disappointingly) NOT the site of the Sundance Film Festival. Apparently that is Park City, Utah – but I naively thought it was here because of the name. As such we kind of went out of our way to check out Sundance, and of course nothing was there. Luckily it was only about a 10 minute detour from the main highway. Notice that there’s another cool thing on this map – Sturgis. This is the city known for the motorcycle ride and rally that takes place annually. We did not visit it though, as neither of us are in to motorcycle culture (more on that later). We rolled in to Deadwood around….