Thursday, July 31, 2014

Winding Roads, Wildlife, Dinosaurs and Stories- DAY THREE

See? I'm back! More adventures were to be had on day three. Probably our most ambitious day as far as being a tourist in South Dakota, for sure.

This was going to be the day we did the Buffalo Jeep Safari tour and the Cowboy Dinner. Other than that, we had kind of planned on seeing whatever we could fit in until 3:30, which is when we had to be at the State Game Lodge. So on the recommendations of basically everyone, we set out to do all three of the scenic byways.

First up was Needles Highway. I'll be honest, I let Matt drive because we were told right at the entrance of Custer State Park that it's kind of difficult if you've never driven switchbacks. I hadn't so I let Matt take over because he's drive out in Nevada and the mountainous terrain there, so I figured we'd be good. And thank god because later on I was so grateful to not be driving.

There were quite a few tunnels on this byway and another one we did later on, which were kind of terrifying but cool. This one was the least scary.
But what we didn't expect were a TON of areas to pull over and explore. So we did some climbing on rocks and just taking in the gorgeous landscape.

I even climbed up on a rock. AND got down without assistance and without falling. WIN.
 Can you spot Matt in this picture?
 The kids thought climbing rocks was easily the coolest thing in the whole world.
Lots of this kind of stuff.
So after driving for awhile, we decided to stop and have lunch. Which, this place was kind of cool but terrible service. And kind of terrible food. I'm SURE I asked for a beef hamburger and I'm SURE I got buffalo. I didn't take more than three bites and called it good. For as much  money as you spend, it's not a lot of food and what you do get isn't that great. Then I found out this is the place that prepares the meal for the cowboy dinner we were scheduled to go on.
 So while the kids were pretending to be weird statues, Matt was calling to cancel our cowboy dinner reservation. Initially, Jackson was upset until I promised I'd buy him a cowboy hat (because we were supposed to get on on the dinner ride) and then he was fine. But we still wanted to see buffalo, I knew we couldn't leave without seeing them, so we switched our Jeep Safari tour to 1:00. That gave us an hour to get there and the woman on the phone assured us we were 30 minutes away. Easy. So we got in the car and hauled ass figuring getting there early meant everyone could pee before we embark on our tour.

The fastest way to get there was to continue on the byways but this time we got onto the Wildlife Loop. Which isn't nearly as hilly but equally beautiful.
I wanted to put this guy in the back. Matt said absolutely not. See? This little guy even looks sad about it.

So we're trucking right along and bam- road block. I'm talking maybe 30-40 cars in the road and we see a visitor center building and black dots on the road. As we approach, Jackson just about lost his shit in the backseat.
I wish I had thought to take video of him, but he was screaming, "MOM!!! We have to stop! They are all over!" And sure enough,
buffalo were everywhere. Honestly, there had to have been hundreds. Some were as big as I thought and a few were as big as my Ford Escape, I kid you not.
I did take video of the noises they made (not included here, sorry), but I should have recorded Jackson telling us they knew he was here and they were talking to him.  Honestly, he's such an odd little kid but I absolutely love it. He really WAS thrilled. This was probably the best day ever for him.
Couple of things. 1. Buffalo are huge. I felt really scared for the three people on motorcycles in front of us because the one that was as big as my car came up to them a few times. I would have peed my pants. 2. There was a Range Rover with Florida plates who drove in the grass to get around buffalo and some of our cars to take a picture of the largest one. I really wanted to ram into them because a woman was practically hanging out the sunroof taking pictures. 3. Then a guy got out of his car, walked along side us and tried to pet a baby buffalo, like an idiot. That got a little dicey and we all rolled our windows up because as Matt said, if shit was going to go down, he's not getting in our car.
But we sat for quite awhile watching them. Mostly because they were blocking the road. Coincidentally, we missed the buffalo tour and we saw them drive by us. SO, we saved our money and saw the exact same buffalo.
And this guy tried REALLY hard to get into my window. No thanks. If you were a goat, most definitely.
After our exciting times on the Wildlife Loop, the buffalo started moving and we continued on our way. Now that we weren't doing the dinner or the safari tour, the rest of our day was wide open. So we decided to continue to the third byway, Iron Mountain Road. Which, I'm going to tell you right now, if you are prone to car sickness? Avoid it. I am not prone to that and I got car sick.
But it was so worth it because it had maybe the best views ever.The tunnels were far scarier. There are signs telling you to honk as you go because oncoming cars cannot see you and they are only one lane roads. One of the last tunnels had no signage, but there was a woman taking pictures and she was screaming at us to  honk because nobody can see you. Not only is it really long, but there was a bit of an incline and that alone says "head on collision" all over it. Thankfully, we never met any cars in them, but that one was particularly terrible because right as you get out of the tunnel, it's almost an immediate U-turn to the left otherwise down the mountain you go. But at the end, I could tell Matt's nerves were shot. It's a really difficult road to drive. The little town you come out in, I think it was Keystone, had stores along a boardwalk, so we stopped. We each got a shirt that had the Iron Mountain Road logo and on the back it says:

-17 miles
-314 curves
-14 switchbacks
-3 pigtails
-3 tunnels
-4 Presidents
-2 splits

It says 4 Presidents because out a couple of the tunnels, you get an amazing view of Mount Rushmore. Totally worth the ride despite the fact I thought I was going to lose my lunch.

After that, we decided we still had time to kill, so we went north to Rapid City.
And went to Dinosaur Park. Which, not going to lie, was kind of stupid. So we only stayed for a few minutes. Then, we went to Storybook Island.
Which turned out to be really great. THIS is the kind of park every city should have. It was free, really clean and well maintained, and the friendliest people working there.
All of the play areas are straight out of children's books so the kids had a fun time going through all of them.
After killing an hour there, we let the kids pick where to go for dinner. Sadly, Jackson found a Chuck E. Cheese. Admittedly, neither Matt nor I had ever been, so we agreed. $55 later, and those kids had enough pizza and game tokens to make them squeal with glee. Maybe the best part about this is that I schooled my family on Skee Ball and nobody got near my 31,000 score. Best ever? No. But it was far better than anything any of them were doing! HA! After that, we decided enough was enough for one day and headed back to our camping cabin. Finished off the last of the smore's ingredients and got ready for bed.

We made a last minute decision to cancel our hotel for the next night in Mitchell and instead, we'd do several things on the way home but just drive straight through. I'll let you imagine how that went. I'll post about that tomorrow.

BUT, you'll be happy to know that on night two in a camping cabin, I did not pee my pants. No sir. This big girl made her husband walk with her to the bathroom, with a flashlight, around 3 a.m. He sees better in the dark than I do apparently.

1 comment:

Julie H said...

That looks like fun! Everyone always says they hate Chuck E Cheese but I always liked it lol.