I don’t usually review staycations from therestlessroad, as I typically veer towards the exotic – and Ojai is only a modicum of fascinating. However, it’s been far too long since I’ve written – not since Elana and I took that car trip from Denver to Mount Rushmore in September 2014. It’s 2015, and I thought writing about my weekend adventure in the rolling hills North West of Los Angeles would be a good way to ring in the New Year. As always, I hope your New Year (and mine too) is filled with adventure and exotic, restless roads unfolding ever before your weary yet impetuous feet. My New Year’s Eve was spontaneously awesome. After stopping at a family friends house for a lovely dinner, I met my friends to spend the night on a catamaran in the Channel Islands Harbor. Greetings from the yacht!….
After Mount Rushmore, we made a long push out of Custer State Park and into Scottsbluff, Nebraska through the Oglala Grasslands. Nebraska is one of the most boring states I have ever seen. Flat, rolling farmlands. That’s it. No signs. No side roads. No towns. Just emptiness, dotted with an occasional farmhouse, grain silo, or fence to keep the cattle in. I was bound and determined to make the best time possible through this very boring stretch of land, but unfortunately got stuck behind a gang o 10 bikers and their mini-van ride-along caboose. They refused to go above the speed limit (55 mph) and were clearly on an afternoon joyride. There was no way to pass them since their caravan stretched for a very long distance. Of course they had no thought to pull over and let me go by. This went on for 2 tedious hours. Elana and I had a discussion about trying to overtake them at high-speed along a stretch of straightaway, but we decided against it for fear of engaging the notorious biker wrath….
We decided to hit-up Mount Rushmore again by day on our drive back to Denver. Even though we got some great shots 2 nights prior at sunset, we didn’t get an up close view of the Presidents and it was only a 30 minutes detour or so past Rapid City to get back into Custer State Park and re-tread our path out of the Badlands back in to the mountains. To remind you, here’s what we did at Sunset on Saturday night for Mount Rushmore. We found a perfect vista lookout point off the road coming from Custer State Park, which put us about the same elevation as Mount Rushmore. We recommend this approach because it makes a spectacular first-time epiphany viewing moment….
Before visiting Mount Rushmore, we decided to check out Bear Country USA in Rapid City. Its a 250 acre animal park where you can see bears, buffalo, wolves, reindeer, elk, mountain goats, and more. We were prepared for it to be a huge tourist trap – and it didn’t disappoint. It was a whopping $16 per person and there was a long line of cars waiting to drive in. We decided to give it a whirl anyways, since both of us were eager to build up our collection of animal photography….
Upon waking up by accident at 6AM, I realized that the alarm didn’t go off (which I was certain I set the night before) and it was almost sunrise over the Badlands National Park. Sunrise was at 630AM, so we had a very short time to get dressed and dash to the park entrance, which luckily was only a 15 minute drive from our cabin. Elana was driving today, and did an awesome job getting us there fast, deer at dawn be damned. We entered at the entrance nearest our lodging (on the West side). Oddly enough there’s no data on Google Maps for the park (which was fine since we were entirely unplugged for the 4 days anyways), but there was a National Park brochure we picked up that had this map on it. The Badlands formed a loop with the highway being the top of the loop. For this morning, we would come in from the West, exit from the East and then take the highway back West to Wall….