Wood Family Goes West: Day 3

Hey, Y’all! We are still in South Dakota today. We ate dinner last night at the Sylvan Lake Lodge Restaurant; Edwin, Mont, and I had buffalo and Kevin had elk. (Lillie chose chicken fingers and Morgan went for the mini corn dogs.) Service was rushed; we were one of the last before quittin’ time.

There was a wedding party there, too. Four very loud, drunk women were eating at the table behind us. (Think of three fifty-plus-year-olds doing downward dog in the middle of the restaurant in wedding attire.) I laughed at the irony that I had been in a car for two days straight with four kids who got on my nerves WAY less then these ladies. We couldn’t even hear one another! (Spoiler: We saw them today in Deadwood at lunch! They were much calmer today.)

Our cabin was a short drive from the lodge. It has two bedrooms with queen beds, a sofa bed, and two bathrooms. Edwin and Mont were less-than thrilled about sharing a bed; they compromised with me by putting cushions from the couch down the middle of the bed to create the illusion of separate spaces. Boys, I did the best I could, but there are a lot of people in this family to accommodate you each having your own bed every night. I knew that this would be an issue and they WERE warned.

First up TODAY: Mount Rushmore! The place that we were staying inside of Custer State Park is a very short drive from Mount Rushmore National Park. (Another stamp for me, yay!) We walked the short Presidential Trail around the base of the monument. The trail is short–only 0.6 mile, but there are 422 steps. If you go one way, most of the steps are down; if you go the other way, they are mostly up.

I’m glad that we chose the downhill way. I said, “Morgan, will you PLEASE try to alternate your feet? Right. Left. Right. Left.” while the bigger kids bounded on ahead. He has fallen in love with many rocks, flowers, and pine cones and has become quite the collector this trip.

The drizzle started to fall about the time we left Mount Rushmore. We decided to drive to Deadwood and Sturgis. Lunch in Deadwood was at Jacobs Brewhouse & Grocer. It was a cool, little joint. They opened two months ago and our server told us that the Food Network was there yesterday. They had walls of guitars signed by musicians. Next to our table were guitars signed by Paul McCartney, ZZ Top, The Beach Boys, Alabama, and Styx. Edwin loved it! The food was great, too. Edwin, Mont, and I all had the pretzel brisket sandwiches with beer cheese dip. Maybe we will see it featured on Food Network?

We basically did a drive-by of Sturgis. Kevin and Mont went into the Harley Davidson Shop in Sturgis so Kevin could get a t-shirt. The guy working in there said that they had a half a million motorcyclists last year during Bike Week! This year’s Bike Week is a week from Friday. It’s the 80th anniversary, but they are unsure what to expect with COVID-19 this year. (Like everything else, right?)

Our pass around the Custer State Park loop had some amazing scenery, but I was disappointed at the lack of wildlife that we saw. When we went through Custer 14 years ago when Edwin was a baby, buffalo came up to our car. This time we saw two herds, but they were way off in the distance. The animals that we DID see in the park are the same ones that we can see at home–donkeys, turkeys, and deer. There were donkeys in the 1930s that were used for tours. At some point, they were released and roam freely around the park. They are called the “begging burros” as they will come up to to tourists looking for treats.

Spontaneously, Kevin turned down a dirt road on our way back to the cabin. We wound our way up to the top of Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower (elevation 6,024 ft). The views were spectacular. Climbing a few steps to the top of the tower, there was a pair of those binoculars that you activate with a quarter. You could look miles away and see Mount Rushmore.

Mont started asking for food again. (This boy MUST be growing.) We had picked up sandwiches at a Subway to take back for dinner. There really isn’t any food (other than the lodge) within 25 minutes of where we are staying. We ate dinner and I CRASHED at 8:00 PM. Kevin built a fire in the fire pit for the kids, but I just COULDN’T. Somehow everyone got to bed without my additional assistance.



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