In the time I have, the best I can do is a quick recap of the last two days. Yesterday we:
- Visited a real ghost town and had fun walking around and taking photos.
- Visited and explored Custer State Park. Saw exactly zero bison even after driving the route where you are “guaranteed” to see them.
- Had a delicious lunch of German food in a nearby town
- Went back to the park to drive the Needles Eye route
- Stopped to visit Sylvan Lake and Mercy and Walter hiked around it.
- Saw the Crazy Horse memorial from the road
- Visited Mount Rushmore
- Ate fabulous Indian food in Rapid City
- Took Mercy shopping at Walmart
- Arrived back at the ranch exhausted after 14 hours on the go, and after an incredible moonlit drive through the countryside.
Today was more laid back. Mercy had to work today, so Walter and I were on our own this morning. We drove to the Badlands National Park and spent some time learning about it in the visitor center before heading out to drive through the park. It was so stunning. So much rock. So much color. So much light. And today, so much heat. It was 105 degrees out there today! I was glad we could see and photograph most of it from the car, although we did get out to walk several times. We saw hundreds of prairie dogs. They are smaller than I imagined them. Despite seeing warning signs for bison in several places, we saw exactly zero bison. Everyone was surprised. Apparently they’re all over the place for everyone but us!
We were late getting back to the ranch for lunch, and then Mercy took us to the dam to show us where they go canoeing before driving us to the town of Wall to visit the famous drug store there. A tiny part of it is still a drugstore, though it doesn’t have much selection. It’s now a huge indoor tourist mall that takes up most of a city block. They average 20,000 visitors a day in the summer, and I think they were all there by the time we arrived!
There were a dizzying array of shops, from western clothing to tourist souvenirs, all kinds of food, rocks, jewelry, toys, camping gear, etc. There was even a lovely little chapel where weary travelers can stop to pray. Mercy insisted on buying a couple of the famous donuts and we tried the famous ice cream (good, but to Texan palates not as good as Blue Bell!). The famous free ice water was available in abundance and was very, very cold. Perfect for such a hot day. We saw the T-rex and heard him roar.
We also saw something else—a bison at last! True, he was dead and stuffed, but that just made it easier for us to pose for a photo with him.
I did not leave the store empty-handed. I found some things I needed and a few things I wanted too. It was a relief to get out of the crowded store and climb in the car for the long hot drive back to the ranch.
Mercy and her co-worker made us a fabulous supper and then Mercy and Walter went horseback riding at the invitation of a neighboring rancher. I wish I could have joined them, but I did not bring suitable clothing and am not of an ideal size, to be honest. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself. At least I got to see the sublimely beautiful full moon rise over the fringe of the badlands here on the ranch. Tomorrow: the first phase of the long drive home.
Yes, we have been taking photos. I won’t have the means to transfer them to my computer until I return home.