Tortoise Travels with Jim & Vickie, Summer, 2007 travel blog

Mt. Rushmore National Monument

Mountain goats reside at Mt. Rushmore too!

The Avenue of the Flags (each state in alphabetical order with their...

The Faces, Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Can't escape those Air Force Air & Space Museums!

Hard to believe Jim used to zoom around in the T-38!

Scale model of the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture

Crazy Horse progress so far (It will be four times larger than...

Narrow tunnel on the Needles Highway

Cathedral Spires in Custer State Park

Eye of the Needle rock formation at Custer State Park

Our journey from Spearfish to our Black Hills campsite wasn't that far away, but the area was absolutely awesome (however, we are in the Boonies!!). Our first evening in camp found us traveling to that time-tested tourist attraction, Mt. Rushmore. Neither of us had ever seen it before (except for Jim, from the air, and that doesn't count)! We arrived in the late afternoon to be there for the evening lighting ceremonies. We had a wonderful hour hiking around the base of the monument and then enjoyed coffee and ice cream at the dining room. While there, they had a terrific rain and hail storm. Good timing on our part, as we wouldn't have wanted to have been hiking when that occurred!

The ceremony was more moving than we had ever thought. A ranger gave a wonderful 10-minute speech about each of the four presidents represented on the mountain and then we viewed a 20-minute video about freedom. At the end, the ranger invited everyone who was active military, retired military or a veteran to come down to the stage. There was a tremendous amount of applause as all of the men and women who had served their country came forward. The ranger asked for a couple of volunteers to help lower the flag for the evening and Jim and another fellow were selected for the honor. There were other veterans who had volunteered to fold the flag and when that was done there again was a tremendous amount of applause for these people. It was a very moving experience and I can say unequivocally I was very proud of Jim and glad to see him and all the other current and retired and veteran military recognized and applauded. It's something that doesn't happen enough, I think. The presidential faces looked brilliant lit up with the night sky in the background. Makes you proud to be an American.

We found the Black Hills area to be very enchanting. We spent one day visiting the Crazy Horse mountain carving (which is a work in progress). The Crazy Horse Monument will be a complete Native American Cultural Center when finished. We also visited Custer State Park and it was an absolute beauty. We wish we could have spent more time there. We drove out of the park through the Needles Highway and let me tell you that had some very narrow roads! We had to pull the truck mirrors in for a couple of the tunnels!

Rapid City, SD was an interesting city. It is relatively small (68,000) and yet very with it, so to speak. We spent one day bicycling on the city's 13-mile bike path through town along Rapid Creek (which the city was named after). There were many city parks we cycled through and it was evident there was a lot of city pride. We managed a dinner out downtown at a place where Rachel Ray of the food network had dined. She was right on about the food—not sure about the $40 a day!! But, it was fun! We also visited Ellsworth, AFB in Rapid City at their Air and Space Museum. A trip down memory lane for us!! One special part of the museum contained a Minuteman II ICBM missile. These were located in deep underground silos around the midwest during the cold war (1960's). One was located near the town where we grew up and we both were interested in seeing the control room and launch facility. Jim drove by that silo daily and thank God it never was launched.

This is getting to be old, but again we hate to leave the area. Seems like everywhere we've been we wish we could have stayed longer. Tomorrow we leave for Interior, SD and the Badlands National Park. The weather promises to be hot and dry, but we've seen that before and handled it well. Until then.....J&V

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