It was a little sad waking up on the morning of our last day. While one more day would follow, we knew it would just be a long drive on the interstate. So from Wyoming to Nebraska to South Dakota, we decided to make the best of it.
Near where we stayed was Fort Laramie, Wyoming. It had been a stop on the Oregon Trail, but it was also not open at sunrise like it was supposed to be.
So, with a lot to do, we moved on through Scottsbluff, Nebraska to Chimney Rock, one of the most well known landmarks along the Oregon Trail. Through the many diaries and histories of the OT that I’ve read, Chimney Rock is almost always mentioned. It was wonderful to finally get a chance to see it.
When you’re traveling in the West, it best to remember to fill up whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes, you get the opportunity to do so in strange little places with old pumps that still claim the gasoline they distribute contains lead.
A bit farther north, I got to see Carhenge for the forth time. For Smartz, it’s her second. It will not be our last, I’m sure.
For those who don’t know or couldn’t guess, Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge made entirely of old cars.
There are also other car-related sculptures on the ground as well. Including a monument to the Four Seasons.
Interstates are never fun. Ever. And there’s something almost magical about long stretches of lonely two lanes.
This one led to Fort Robinson in northern Nebraska, where, in the 1880s, the all-black Cavalry Regiments (known as the Buffalo Soldiers) were garrisoned. The grounds are nice, but mostly it’s used for family reunions and conferences – there’s little historical interpretation.
There is, however, several miles of old Route 20 that was some of the best bits of old road I’ve ever been on.
It’s odd how quickly (mostly) flat Nebraska turns into rocky and hilly South Dakota. It’s also surprising how quickly tourist towns like Custer jam up traffic that seemingly came out of nowhere. I guess we really don’t like crowds, because we immediately began talking about how we needed to avoid touristy areas on weekends for our next trip.
If you’re in the Black Hills, you really do need to drop by the Crazy Horse Monument – a work in progress.
Eventually, it’ll look like this.
The museums are quite extensive and focus much more than I thought they would upon Korczak Ziolkowski, the fellow who designed and started carving the monument.
We brought home with us a small piece of Crazy Horse Mountain, blasted away during the construction. They offer these bits for free (though a donation is encouraged).
Getting from Crazy Horse to Mt. Rushmore is easy, but I wanted to take the Needles Highway, a twisted stretch of road carved onto the sides of the mountains. Unfortunately, Custer State Park charges $15 to enter it and I only have a few bucks in cash. Their credit card machine was down. I was pretty bummed, but we continued on…
to Mt. Rushmore!
Another place you should try to this on a weekday. This time around there were hundreds of Seventh Day Adventist Scouts (known as The Pathfinders), meeting for an annual something or other.
Like the Crazy Horse Monument, Mt. Rushmore featured a lot of the sculptor’s other work, including his original design for the faces. I personally like this better. There was also an earlier one that didn’t feature Teddy Roosevelt.
Our stay for our last night was Rapid City, South Dakota – home of the Dinosaur Park!
The sun was bad for most of our shots, but it’s a great place to see some old, 1930s concrete dinos!
We tried our best to recreate one of our favorite photos. I got the camera angle almost perfect, but positioned us too close to the T-Rex. Next time!
Rapid City is a cowboy town.
It’s not a place where you should ever order Indian Food. We tried, but it was horrible. It featured overcooked frozen vegetables and way too many onions used as filler. It was nice that they marked things as “vegan,” but it was easily the worst Indian food I’ve ever had. What a disappointing way to end the day.
But I did get to have my picture taken with The Gipper, Ronald Reagan! Rapid City features statues of every single US president. Huzzah!