We spent a full day exploring the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. We started at Mt. Rushmore, first thing in the morning, largely so the boy could see it. The Black Hills area is generally the Gatlinburg of the West: crowded, tacky, and full of tourist traps. Mt. Rushmore doubly so. And it’s a shame, because the area is so pretty.
We continued to Wind Cave, which was a new national park for all of us. We took a quick tour underground, and the boy loved it. He ranks the geysers of Yellowstone and Wind Cave as a tie for his favorite experience of the trip. We drove through a bit of Custer State Park on our way out, and saw more buffalo and a herd of pronghorn antelope grazing by the side of the road.
I dropped the men off at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, right outside Ellsworth Air Force Base, and loaded up on groceries at the nearest Target.
Then we headed to Badlands National Park, and during some road construction on the interstate, we took a rock to the windshield and had our first bad thing happen on the trip: a cracked windshield. We sat and watched it crack across the passenger side and I completely panicked. I’d never had a cracked windshield before, and despite my husband’s protestations that it was purely cosmetic damage and not anything to worry about, I had visions of the windshield popping out at high speed. I had to call our insurance guy, the local dealership, an auto glass specialist, and my dad before I could be convinced that we were in no immediate danger.
We cleared the Badlands and since it was crowded, we had a picnic dinner at the city park in Wall, SD, before browsing the infamous Wall Drug and returning to Rapid City for the night.