Good morning! I’m writing this post from our beautiful campsite on South Dakota’s Sheridan Lake. It’s early (not yet 7 am), and we’ve already been awake for way too long. Why can’t anyone in my family seem to sleep past 5:30 when we’re camping? Especially when we were up so late last night!
Anyway, we woke up in Mitchell yesterday morning and got out of town quickly after doing some grocery shopping at County Wide, which boasted a really nice selection of goods and wine. The weather forecast called for temperatures over 100 degrees in Mitchell, and we were eager to get on the road. Luckily, we drove out of the worst of the heat and by the time we stopped at Wall Drug it was in the 80s and breezy.
The boys thought Wall Drug was the highlight of the trip so far. Of course, the gazillions of billboards built up their anticipation sky high and they weren’t disappointed. They spent a lot of time looking at pocket knives, and the lady behind the counter was very patient about answering their questions. They each spent some of their money on small knives and carving around the campsite will be a big occupation for them.
We all loved the change in landscape from the endless flat fields to the hilly country. Seeing the Badlands was just amazing. They suddenly loom up out of the landscape without much warning, looking sort of alien after hours and hours of monotonous green fields. From there we saw the Black Hills in the distance, and were soon driving into the piney woods.
The air here is fresh and clear, pine-scented and refreshing. After setting up camp, the boys quickly made friends with some neighbors from Louisiana and ran around, happy to be out of the car. We fit in a quick bike ride before having an early dinner, and then we headed out to enjoy the evening of the 4th at Mount Rushmore.
What a hoot that was! It was crowded, of course, and people watching was part of the fun. There were tons of flag shirts along with an unbelievable variety of sparkly, starry, patriotic-themed headbands, and I heard many different accents (American and otherwise) throughout the evening. We decided to wait for the evening lighting ceremony and that was by turns annoying, hilarious, and touching. We took our seats around 8:15, nearly an hour before the scheduled start to the show. Some of us are better than others at waiting, so the time passed kind of slowly. Finally, the ranger emerged onto the amphitheater stage to start the program. Alas…her microphone wasn’t working! She scurried backstage to get things working and we all waited. And waited. She nipped out to apologize (yelling at the top of her lungs to the assembled crowd), then went backstage again. After a while, they started the video that precedes the lighting of the monument, but there was no sound and the curtains in front of the screen had only parted a few feet. We could see portions of the video and some of the closed-captioning, so it was a bit surreal. We laughed ourselves silly reading the bits of words that we could see. They finally got their sound issues straightened out and the ceremony began. The lights come up slowly, so the monument seems to glow in the darkness. Then the ranger called down all service members and Peace Corps members from the audience. This was a touching sight, as a huge number of people came on stage and accepted our thanks for their service.
We made it back to camp after 10:30 and the boys crashed quickly. We all woke up to an owl hooting sometime in the middle of the night, and were all up for the day woefully early. It’s cool and cloudy, with a chance of thunderstorms today, and we’re looking forward to minimal driving. We’ll probably go for a hike later, and Armin’s setting off to bike on some hilly, twisty, beautiful roads. I need to put on my running shoes at some point today. I haven’t gone running since Saturday and I’m wondering if I’ll feel refreshingly speedy after the time off, or if I’ll feel like my legs are made of sandbags.