South Dakota road trip

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August 11, 2012 by Jena

This year we decided to take a family road trip.  It was such a success, we’ve decided we are going to make that our annual vacation plan.  A different road trip each summer, until the boys won’t do it any longer….which I hope is a long way off.

We left on Saturday and our first stop was the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota – Darwin, MN.  The boys love the Weird Al song that Barry has played for them numerous times and they were insistent on getting to see it.  So, 5 away from Darwin we all sang along to the song and then there we were to see it in all it’s glory for ourselves!  We went through the little museum and bought a couple shirts to show we’d been there and then we were back in the car.

Our next stop was Sioux Falls, SD.  We had hotel reservations for two nights so we could do a little exploring there as well.  We saw the Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove did some fishing at Family park and explored Falls Park.  It was HOT, but we still enjoyed ourselves.

On Tuesday we were on the road again…..first stop was in Mitchell, SD to see the Corn Palace.  It’s not much, but it was a good place to get out, stretch our legs, use the bathrooms and check it off on our list of places to see in the US of A.  Then it was in the car for several more hours until we reached the famous Wall Drug.  It was 105 degrees by that time, so the free ice water was a welcome perk!  There was so much to see at the drugstore, it was almost overwhelming…and the boys not being good shoppers, we grabbed a few souvenirs, a couple ice cream cones and we were back on our way to Rapid City.

We had booked a vacation rental online for a small 2 bedroom apartment just outside of Rapid City for the next few days.  It was a great little place that allowed us to have some extra space, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen.  It made it very enjoyable for all of us to rest during the day or come home to in the evening.  We also ate a little healthier and saved some good money on the cost of meals and snacks we could enjoy there instead of always eating out.

Our first adventure in Rapid City was Mt. Rushmore.  The boys were so excited to see the “big faces” as Owen called them.  We walked around and had an ice cream and then headed off for Custer State Park.  We had a little packed lunch that we ate in the park and then took the wilderness route along the south end of Custer State Park.  We saw buffalo, deer, wild burros, prairie dogs….the boys loved it!  We even brought along food to feed to the burros.  We had been reading a children’s book about South Dakota and had read about feeding them, so it was good we were prepared.  We followed the loop up to Needle’s highway and saw some amazing views.  We all got a bit squeamish at points along the drive where the roads were narrow, high above a drop off and little to no guard rails to protect us!  We made a stop along the way at Sylvan lake to stretch a bit and try some fishing.  We went back to the apartment for some dinner and then ended the evening with a trip to Rapid City’s dinosaur park.

The next day we visited Bear Country.  A drive-thru wildlife park, where the animals roam pretty freely.  We got out to walk through their “babyland” where we could see the baby bears and some other animals they had.  We swung through the gift shop and picked up a sling shot for Graham and a “little ranger” pistol for Owen.  It was probably their favorite finds of the week.  Owen’s had a belt and holster that he didn’t take off the rest of the week….he even slept with it on!  Unfortunately, Owen dropped his in the lake when we got home……and was so sad.  Dad is working on getting him a new one from our friends at Amazon.com.   After Bear Country we were on to Reptile Gardens which is just next door.  I didn’t have high hopes for this place, but it was one of my favorites.  We were able to see a bird show, a snake show and an alligator show and in between we were able to walk around and see all the animals.

Friday it was time to head back home, the Sturgis rally was starting on Monday and we wanted to avoid all the motorcycle traffic….although Barry and I agreed that we saw more motorcycles this week than we had ever seen in our lives combined.  We trekked back through the badlands and stopped several times to check out the scenic views and snap some pictures.  We had reservations in Sioux Falls again for the night and got in a little swimming at the hotel pool.  The next day we drove south to Hudson, SD before heading home to try and find the gravesites of Barry’s great grandparents.  They grew up there and are buried just outside of the small town.  We found it fairly quickly and then had promised one more fishing stop to one fishing obsessed boy.  We found a nice little wildlife preserve and fished a bit.  Nixon jumped in the water and had a swim….but almost didn’t make it back.

Here are some pics from the trip.  Click on them to see a larger image and to go through the slideshow.

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