Day 9 . Badlands, Wall Drug & Mt. Rushmore

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Road trip across America… daily reflections by Ema and Elle.

Day 9 . By Ema ~ I did indeed awake to a spectacular sight of the badlands mountains right next to the van with their layers so pink and cream, holding time written in the rocks. While I packed up our camp, Elle was on her way up the mountain next to where we had slept. We were feeling a bit desperate to get clean and drove to look for a shower, but there were none to be found, so from there we cleaned up the best we could and dressed to continue our journey.

The drive through the Badlands National spark was so beautiful. I obtained my long awaited National Parks Pass, and little Elle began her Junior Ranger program.

She collected a badge and a patch from completing a booklet provided by the National Park, and attended a little demonstration by a Park Ranger who shared with us how the natives utilized all the parts of the bison down to its hooves which became a door bell for the tipi. I wish I could be collecting all with her, but it is fun to see her experience this and really learn American history hands on while learning to appreciate this countries treasure of National Parks. It is such a great program to learn about each place we explore, and is a wonderful homeschooling tool for on the road.

I did get to start my National Parks Passport and collect my first stamp, so that was exciting and gives me a little memory book to collect from this sojourn across my country.

As we continued on through the park, we we blessed to see a small herd of longhorn sheep grazing the mountain side. We stopped to observe before carrying onward. We also saw lots of prairie dogs along the way.

We stopped for a little hike and took Victor, our Shore Buddies seagull along for the adventure.

We arrived in Wall for our free ice water and of course requested not to have their plastic cups and was grateful they had a paper alternative. We had not really had a meal out since we have been on the road, so we decided to go to the Wall Drug Cafe for some fish and chips. The art on the walls was a mix of Wild West eclectic fair and paintings. Elle wanted to explore a little longer but today was the day we were definitely going to Mount Rushmore.

I did happen to see a public pool as we were parting town and I pulled over as I knew she would be completely delighted for a chance to swim. She practiced her diving and even taught a young girl how to dive. It was very sweet to watch them get better and better. Thankfully the time came for the little girl to leave so I did not feel quite as bad having to pull her away.

Onward we went up into Keystone, South Dakota which is absolutely charming. Elle wanted to explore the town, but we were only minutes from our destination with sunset only a couple hours off, so we continued on up. The roads were winding and climbing higher than I have yet to do in this roaming home. We made our way up the mountain the faces of the great presidents, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, and Jefferson appeared through the trees. We arrived and were a bit disappointed that there was construction so we could not get too close.

We happened to cross paths with Roosevelt and stopped for a photo. He said to me, “lets be fancy”, so we joined arms and smiled for the camera.

We went to the information center for Elle to get her junior ranger booklet and went to find the answers. I loved that one of the activities among all the history lessons was to hug a tree. We hiked to the sculpting studio and found a much better view.

Once we had the booklet complete we headed back to the office to get all approved by the rangers. She had an official ceremony where she took an oath to help protect and preserve the beauty of our nations parks in her home state of Michigan and all through the land of America.

We got her a junior ranger hat so that she can begin attaching her badges as we find more parks and monuments along the way. Of course we collected the stamps for our passport books also! We were there for sunset and the time when they light Mount Rushmore for the night, so we made our way back up the mountain to join a rather large group of other travelers from around the world. The entire group of attendees sang the national anthem together before they lit the monument.

As Elle had been asking for ice cream since Wall, I had told her upon completing her Junior Ranger activities She could have ice cream, as one of the facts she learned was how Lincoln is also famous for inventing an ice cream recipe.

It was finally time for her ice cream and she was a happy lady. She feasted while we listened to the presentation at the lighting ceremony. The park ranger gave us advice for a camp ground near by called stolen horse lake, but unfortunately upon arriving it was full and closed. I had no reception, as we had driven quite a ways into the mountains, so I turned around and came back down the hill into Keystone. I searched for camping near by only to find them full or closed, so I decided maybe it was the night to find a hotel or motel, but once again all was full. It is a Friday night in a happening town, so I suppose I am not that surprised. I had decided to drive to Rapid city upon advice from two sources, but as I was leaving town saw a public restroom and parking without a no overnight signs. Elle was already out, so I found us a spot next to a creek, with a little stone round picnic table that I am sitting at now surrounded by the sounds of the town and the creek a she flows by. As I sit her writing I just felt someone walk towards me only to look up and find a deer with a full rack upon its head standing across the table from me. I was slightly startled and completely in awe all at the same moment. We sat staring into each other’s eyes before I softly said hi without realizing or meaning to speak. His ears went back a bit and he tilted his head before looking straight at me again. face to face, with our eyes fixed on one another, only three feet at most between us, we just stayed in that stillness, which felt a long moment. I felt myself a bit nervous and relaxed into trust and the pure beauty of the encounter. He then took a few steps so he was next to the bench where I sat and look at me a moment more than sort of hopped away before he continued to wander down the bank of the creek . It is time for me to join Elle and get some rest before we decided which direction we shall go next on our way. Meeting Roosevelt 

By Elle ~ Today we woke up in the bad lands which was so amazing, the layers in the earth. We got ready and I climbed them while sissy got ready. Then it was time for me to get ready and headed to the bathrooms. I was desperate or at least sissy was, so we took a wipe bath. I saw a baby bird in the nest with the mom coming around. It was cool, but now I had to get ready so we did and went to and emptied the trash. The drive through the  park was pretty. We got sissy park pass that she wanted really bad and got my jr. ranger book. We saw the Museum were they had some cool stuff. Once done with my book I got my badge which was also when I got my passport book of national parks and a crushed penny. We attended a lesson about how the Indians used every part of the bison, like the hooves were the door bell and the bladder was the water bottle, I think. Then we drove through the park and saw some animals such as big horn sheep, prairie dogs, and big birds. When we left the park and were at Wall Drug there was so much. We got sissy a new knife because she had lost hers. We went to the cafe and got fish and chips. I was amazed when I ended up with fries. Sissy explained they were chips its just another name for fries. It’s from Europe. We got ice and soon were on our way after I got my crushed penny, of course. On our way out of the town there was a public pool we stopped and I was working on diving and even taught a young girl to dive, but soon we had to go. After more driving we made it to Mt. Rushmore. I was working on my jr ranger book for most of the time. When I was done I did my oath and got ice cream, sissy’s treat. It was the most amazing ice cream. Then sissy got me a jr ranger hat. We were there for the lighting ceremony. After that we did some driving but I was out.

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