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Trip to South Dakota

October 6-10, 2021

by Jenny and Charlie Plesums


With the international travel virtually closed down, we are going to some of the domestic sites that we expected to save for when we get old. Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills (national forest) and the Badlands (national park) have been on out list.

Getting there October 6

Travel was easy - Leave Austin mid day, change in Dallas then direct to Rapid City arriving late afternoon. We picked up a car, did an on-line check in to hotel room 373, and drove to the hotel. When we went to our room, the last room was 372, no room 373. It turns out that there are two Hampton Inns a couple blocks apart, and room 373 was in the other hotel. We changed hotels, but the electronic key apparently got canceled in the process, but finally we got to our room, then went out to dinner.

Thursday October 7

First Things First... we of course had to start with Mount Rushmore

Even from the distance it is impressive. Note the small mountain of stone at the base (450,000 tons) that the artist (a team of 400+ workers and a lot of dynamite) had to chip away to make the busts over 14 years.

We did get a lot closer to the monument. Scientists put the lifespan at 2.4 million years (eroding at the rate of 1 inch per 10,000 years).

In fact there is a visitor center just below the images

and here is proof that at least Jenny was there.

As we were leaving you could see George Washington in profile - showing the vast amount of stone that had to be carved/blasted away. His nose is a foot longer than normal, to allow for extra erosion.

In addition to the Mount Rushmore Memorial (one of the Black Hills), in this area are the Badlands National Park (about a quarter million acres) and the Black Hills National Forest (about 5 times as large as the Park)

Yes, the highway becomes quite narrow occasionally

I believe these are aspen trees that were bright yellow.

Friday October 8

South Dakota had numerous underground missile launch sites that on the surface looked like farm land.

However the park was closed (apparently there were others open, but you have to look since they are intentionally well disguised.)

They had a remarkably good self tour via your cell phone.

This is the visitor center (not hidden) that we did not get to see. When we visited the air museum (tomorrow) they had directions to several other launch facilities that were open.

We spent a great deal of time just driving around the amazing scenery of the badlands.

We never did identify these deer-size animals grazing along the road

Saturday October 9

Just outside Ellsworth Air Force Base (a major base on constant alert during the cold war) is the South Dakota Air & Space Museum with over 25 planes on display, and a visitor center that was the pilot ready room during the cold war filled with more traditional exhibits.

After the air museum, we went to the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota school of Mines and Technology.

How would you like to encounter the Mastadon behind these tusks? For scale, that is Jenny in the picture background.

This is one of the largest dinosaurs that I have seen: 85 million years old, 27 feet long (full grown 48 feet long), a Mosasaur, with 130 vertebrae

Sunday October 10

As members of St. Theresa church in Austin, we had to attend St. Therese church in Rapid City

Return to Austin was uneventful - Rapid city direct to Dallas then Dallas direct to Austin, arriving home Sunday evening.

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