Leaving early Monday morning we left Dallas heading northwards through Oklahoma and on through Kansas. We then headed East toward, Colorado. The roads were far quieter than what we had experienced the previous week and we made excellent time. The scenery was mainly vast areas of farm land with small towns between. Having covered 700 miles (1,120 km) for the day we pulled into a camping ground just east of the Colorado border for the night.
Day two we decided to take some back roads to get off the main interstate on our journey north through Nebraska to South Dakota. We had changed our plans slightly and were heading to Mount Rushmore before Yellowstone National Park. We were rewarded on our chosen route with continuous scenery of vast farmland. With fields far as the eye can see, practically no animals in sight, the biggest irrigators and the coolest John Deere machinery Cam has ever seen - this was nothing like home! Many farms were making hundreds of hay bales on the flats in preparation for a cold and snow-covered winter.
We pulled into Wind Cave National Park for the night, which is located in western South Dakota. After pitching our tent in the Park’s campground we then attended a tour of the Wind Cave. This cave is the fourth longest cave in the world covering 132 miles of passages with more being discovered on a regular basis. It is famous for its’ elaborate calcite boxwork formations and the wind that is produced at the Cave’s entrance.
After dinner that evening as the sun was setting we took a short drive up the road for a bit of wild life spotting. We quickly stumbled across a herd of Bison (Buffalo) grazing the road side so we pulled up and watched these magnificent beasts feast and play. They were happy to ignore us so we stayed put in our car and felt very privileged to get such a close-up view.
That evening we also attended a wildlife seminar by the Park Ranger; learning about the history of the Park and its’ wildlife.
Rising early the next morning we set off north driving the scenic route through Custer State Park. This drive provided us with more excellent views of vast plains with grazing bison, steep pine covered mountain ridges and stony bridges. During our drive we saw prairie dogs and white-tailed deer, and also came across a traffic jam involving a herd of approximately 50 bison that had decided to chill out in the middle of the road.
Unfortunately our car did not handle the stopping and starting, and began to overheat. With the needle fast encroaching into the red we began a u-turn in the road but decided this wasn’t a good idea when two male bison had locked heads in front of our car (it is currently mating season). Thank goodness they decided to clear in the nick of time and we were able to speed off to cool our engine. Phew.
Our next stop was the Crazy Horse Memorial. Neither Cam nor myself had heard of this monument prior to our visit to the States, but it is the largest monument in the world and has been a work in progress since 1948. Work originally begun by sculpture Korczak Ziolkowski, where he began to blast out the image of the Sioux leader (Crazy Horse) astride his horse pointing into the distance. The chiselling, sculpting and blasting of granite continues today by Ziolkowski’s family who purposefully receive no assistance from the government, it is uncertain when it will be completed. We were able to see what the monument will look like by a replica placed in the visitors centre. It will be absolutely astounding once complete, but something even our grandchildren may not likely see completed.
We then visited the very famous Mt Rushmore. This definitely did not seem as impressive after seeing Crazy Horse, (the area of Mt Rushmore can fit inside the head of Crazy Horse) but all the same it was fantastic to get right under the nostrils of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
From here we hit the road again heading west to get some miles under our belt for our journey to Yellowstone the next morning. Late that evening we pulled into a rather average campground located next to a construction site in the small town of Gillette, although it did have showers. We hit the hay early in anticipation of more wildlife spotting at Yellowstone National Park the next day.