Day 38: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park and “Press Start” in Rapid City, SD
Thursday, July 8th, 2021
Not every morning will be rainbows and cotton candy, and for some reason, the last two nights I have had a really hard time sleeping. Getting used to different beds, couches, and cots are tricky to get comfy right away, but what beats it all is the combination lock I swear I am opening with each new shower I use LOL. Today I woke up at 4:30, my back killing me, so I finished up last night’s blog post, and tried to piece together what I wanted to do with my day. Weather seemed sketchy tomorrow, so I felt this sudden urgency to get as much done today, with the weekend seeming ok for other things as well. And honestly, I could use the day off, but it may just be a half day, I do get really anxious to go somewhere when there is so much adventure to be had just outside my door, so we shall see. As far as today…it was a NATURE day followed up by video games…so let’s get into it.
The top thing most come out to see in the Keystone, SD area is Mount Rushmore. Since I still hadn’t gotten there yet, I just made it my first thing today. I was up already, showered and ready to go well before 7 a.m., so I just drove over and hoped they had opened it already. Luckily, they had, and it was such a beautiful drive on the way up to it. Just a heads up, literally, you can see most National Monuments from the roads- including this one. So if you don’t want to pay the $10 to park, just pull over and take pics from a distance. There was no other admission for this, and it takes about 30 minutes in total to park your car, walk up to it as close as you can get (which isn’t much), walk through the gift shop, back to your car, and there ya go. It’s cool but it’s underwhelming. It’s one of those “I did it, check it off the list” and done. Walter was meh about it, he felt there should be Muppet up there….I completely agreed.
If you keep on keeping down the same road and this area, you will come across Crazy Horse Monument. Easy to find, it was $15 admission, this is NOT a National Park just so you know, and an additional $4 for a bus ride that takes you closer to the base of the Monument. I used the restroom, grabbed cash at the ATM (A side note- MANY are requesting CASH for payment in these smaller towns, attractions, and so on- so be aware of this) and got in line for the next bus. You purchase the ticket outside the Welcome Center, and as I waited, I listened to a mom and son chatting behind me. Without hesitation, I bought their bus tickets too. They were so shocked, that they did it for the family behind them. IT WAS GREAT!! A shout out to Mary Love and her son, they were very nice to meet AND they met Walter and got a pic with him. The bus tour was excellent, sit on the left side to get the best pics, and it lasted about an hour. It was a beautiful place, the Memorial took my breath away the first time I saw it. HIGHLY recommend it.
Next on the roster was Custer State Park. Just about 10 miles from Crazy Horse, you can do all three like I did EASILY in a day. I recommend it because they are all so close to each other, so it’s easy to just knock them off one by one. Custer was $20 to use the Park, for a 1-7 day “license” for your visit. I entered the Stockade Lake area side, stopping by the Lake for a nice moment of peace and tranquility- it was beautiful. Then I drove up a ways and came across Mt. Coolidge Firetower and Lookout. It was a dirt road that went up, and up, and up. Back and forth, I thought, huh, I am going to hit Heaven soon. Either by falling off this freaking Mountain or touching it at the top- it was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. I got to the top and I wanted to have a “Rocky” moment, cheering and crying that I actually did it. The elevation at that point is 6,023 feet…the view, spectacular. Check it out if you are in the Park…so worth it.
The way down was WAYYYYY scarier, but I did it and found a cute Restaurant down the road called “Legion Lake Lodge.” Settled on this beautiful lake, the rocks amazing, and I dined on a turkey sandwich and fresh fruit by the large picture window. It wasn’t too expensive, and it was a nice break from the driving and touring all day.
On the way back to the Hotel, I drove through the town of Custer, very cute, but I had done so many towns of recent that I just stopped off at their Dollar General and drove back to my hotel for a nap. After feeling a bit better a couple of hours later, I headed out to check Rapid City, where my hotel is located. They have a an Arcade Bar called “Press Start” which I marinated in the land of Dig Dug, Ms. Pac Man, Tetris, Tapper, Frogger, and so on. I then walked around downtown, enjoyed some live music and then beat the rain as I headed back to my hotel. As I climbed the hill to my home this week, a rainbow appeared over the town…it. was. amazing. So maybe my day didn’t start out with rainbows, but it ended with one.
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