Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Family Vacation: Days 3 and 4

He packs coolers and reads maps. I hope he's enjoying himself...
I think that a nice theme for the two of these days should be something along the lines of "wrong direction." I know of a hit band that claims to know One Direction, but we just could not seem to find it in our few brief endeavors, whether by foot or bike. After arriving in Sioux Falls yesterday afternoon we found a bike rental shop and rented some Specialized bikes for a few hours and rode the paths through town and through the middle of nowhere. We had hoped to ride to the falls, which would have been about a 10-mile loop, but we ended up doing about 12 in the opposite direction. A little bit of construction threw us off and we ended up enjoying a nice long bike ride anyways, and then driving to the rushing falls to see what they're really all about. And that was all thanks to a nice lady JR stopped along the way who very kindly advised us to take our bikes back and drive, due to the high-nineties heat and our lack of water. That was the best advice she could've given us and I'm so glad we listened! We ended up making our way through town and to Falls Park hoping to see lots of rushing water, yet having no idea what to expect. We should've figured by the way all of the farmland looks around here that Wisconsin isn't the only state that's experienced a drought this summer, but alas, South Dakota has it perhaps even a little worse than us and the river barely made it over the rocks. It was still cool to see where Sioux Falls gets its namesake though.

THE Sioux Falls. Try not to squint looking for them.
Today we ended up hiking just a little further than we had originally intended to, but it did provide a wonderful opportunity to be in the park about two hours longer and 1) watch the sunset and 2) see over 50 bison grazing in the prairies. The extra two hours of hiking certainly weren't what dad bargained for, and it's mainly because we didn't have a map to look at. Whoopsie. Luckily we got to experience the entire Castle Trail, which is the longest in the park, and had a car with ice cold water and Gatorade in the cooler waiting for us. If only the Israelites would have had that same assurance a few thousand years ago...
A storm not far in the distance. So glad to be where we were!
We made it all the way from Sioux Falls to Rapid City,  just pulling into the Country Inn & Suites hotel around 10:00 pm, surrounded by motorcycles and the riders. The big Sturgis bike rally conveniently started yesterday and goes through this week, the week we happen to be random travelers in the area. I'm pretty excited about it and seeing all of the bikes, actually. Ever since seeing the movie Wild Hogs I've kind of had a secret desire to see a huge line of bikes and play motorcycle dominoes. Not that I ever would on purpose, but it's not the type of accident I would put past me... and if it were ever to happen I suspect this week would be the time. I saw the first long line of bikes parked outside the place we had lunch at today inside the Badlands National Park, and had my first encounter with a biker when one of them so kindly opened the door for mom and I as we were walking into the hotel tonight with our luggage. I'm a fan.
Dad and I on the baddest of lands.
I should give a brief mention of two of the places we stopped, both of which came highly recommended by friends and billboards along I-90. First, we obviously had to make a stop at the world famous Corn Palace. I had never heard anything about what's inside of it, so that was definitely a question I needed answered. The outside is exotic and I think they change the design every year or every couple of years, pretty sweet! I'll be honest and admit I was hoping for something a little more rugged when we walked inside, but instead there were concession stands with popcorn (which we obviously bought) and a gymnasium-turned-gift shop with ample crowd seating. It wasn't what I expected, per se, but I don't know why there would be livestock running around for lots of tourists to see, which was what I was hoping for.
Self explanatory.

Second, Wall Drug, while perhaps a wonderful stop for some travelers, is not so much my cup of tea. We didn't stop and look around, but also had no desire to do so. We drove down main street looking for a place to quick grab some chow before driving through the park again and scouting out some wildlife and were just a bit unimpressed. We more than likely will not go back on our way back through on Friday, but I suppose one never knows. Plus, as Annette constantly reminds us, "Stop planning! We're on vacation!" Ha, I love it. And I love being able to do this, and the fact that even after "sleeping in" I'll be awake by 7:30 at the latest. I love vacationing with the 'rents. It's wonderful--and I mean that!

Trying to get the sunset in the back. Instead, we got people taking pictures of it.
Lastly, I'd like to elaborate on a few highlights of Badlands National Park today. We got out and went for an afternoon hike and the setting was absolutely glorious. Due to a storm in the distance the skies were just a little overcast when we set out, so the hike wasn't blazing hot. The landscape was totally different from anything we'd see back home and I could tell dad thought it was pretty neat. We ended up going about 5-6 miles out of the way, but it was totally worth it. We saw a snake, some amazing rock formations (which might not sound all that neat but trust me, if you've seen them you know they are!) and made it back to the car without anyone getting hurt. Coming back through the park at night and seeing bighorn sheep, prairie dogs (which for some reason really excite both dad and I, I'm not quite sure why...), antelope, mule deer and (drum roll please....) all those bison! At first I thought dad was kind of a nerd for bringing the binoculars but after being able to see those buggers close up while still being far away I'm sure glad he did! Also, as I mentioned, the sunset was SO beautiful! Seeing the way the colors reflected off the rocks one could really see the sedimentation and different lines in the formations was just amazing. I remember being completely fascinated by Geology when I took a course in college and now I can start to see why geologists love their job so much!

And now it's way past my bedtime, but I'm in Mountain time now so we gained an hour. Whoopie!

"The earth stands in awe at the sight of your wonders. The lands of sunrise and sunset you fill with your joy." -Psalm 65

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