The internet at our hotel yesterday crashed, so I was unable to compose anything yesterday evening. However, we left our hotel early in the morning and first went to a place called Bear Country USA that is something like a drive thru zoo. Justin and I share a fascination with animals, and so we were unable to pass up an opportunity to get an up close look at wolves, bears, cougars, etc. Although as it turned out our favorite part was at the very end where you exit your car to walk through "baby land." They had four little bear cubs there that were fluffy and adorable, and watching them play with each other made you forget for a moment or two that they're going to grow up to be horrible and mean. See how fluffy they are:
After that we went to Mount Rushmore, and to my excitement discovered that because this is the off-season for tourists, their were only a few of us wandering around. However, we also discovered after only a few minutes there why nobody else wants to visit this time of year. It was FREEZING cold. The good news is that it got cold enough that Justin finally caved and agreed to let me buy him a coat. Too bad for him that had to wait until the end of the day.
We spent the whole rest of the day driving around through the Black Hills to various scenic overlooks. One overlook spot we'd planned on seeing had a closed road, so we decided to walk a few miles in and check it out. We encountered a group of very lazy government workers who were supposedly working to eradicate bark beetles, but appeared to us to be out loafing around on the trail hoping that the bark beetles would just disappear on their own. We were a little hesitant to launch off the trail in front of them at first, but they didn't look motivated enough to care, or do anything about it even if they did so we cut through the forest to the top of the mountain. Here I am in the Black Hills:
Initially the coat seemed like the more daunting task, but it's South Dakota, so there was a huge selection of coats at the Kohls here and we were in and out pretty fast. Food though...food became an issue. For some reason we could not find a restaurant that even looked kind of promising. After driving around for an hour or so, with me getting progressively more and more cranky the more hungry I got Justin finally caved and called his mom to do an internet search and locate us a restaurant that serves buffalo burgers. Our burgers were delicious, but impossible to eat. Justin's was probably the size of his head, and although I'm confident my husband is man enough to have crammed it all down in one sitting, and for a while I thought he might do it, but turns out he's also smart enough to finish before his meal becomes his nemesis. Our big regret from day two was that we didn't have enough time to do and see everything we wanted to in South Dakota.
This morning we got up early, and had to wrestle the massive amount of luggage we had with us back out to the car. For some reason things that fit in the car before we left now have to be wedged back in with a great deal of precision, or it's a total no go. It's like the car shrunk over night. After fighting with our luggage, and of course checking in one more time to confirm that Justin's wedding ring was never recovered we left Rapid City and made our way east towards Badlands National Park. The park was really interesting, and I truthfully had never seen anything quite like it, but it was also one of the coldest experiences we've had thus far. Every time we pulled over and ventured out of the car I immediately had regrets. The wind is crazy strong, and freezing cold, and after the first two or three overlook spots I felt kind of over it. Not a lot of diversity in the terrain. It's like staring at the slides in a viewmaster. They're super cool the first time you see them, and then they just keep rotating around over and over and over again. That's the Badlands experience, but still worth the drive through. The rest of the drive was just a blur of flat places, with little rolling hills, and my husband's ramblings about all the great things that are still to come on this trip. At long last we were saved by the billboard alongside of the freeway advertising the world's only Corn Palace. Naturally we had no idea what that was, or why anyone would want to see it, but we knew pretty much right away that we were going to need to make a visit.
Not sorry that we did, it's a building in Mitchell, SD that has the entire exterior decorated in corn and corn husks. They put up new corn murals around the outside every fall. You can see in this picture that this years renovation is still in progress:
We finished up our evening stopping in Sioux Falls, SD to see the falls that were sort of anti-climatic. They're in the middle of an industrial part of town, so not the most picturesque of places, but you're allowed to climb around on them, which kind of made up for it some. Now we are in Omaha, Nebraska for the evening. Justin located a back door to the hotel near our room, so that we were able to drag in our massive amount of luggage, including the toaster oven, without having to bring it all through the lobby and endure the judgement of the night desk person. Tomorrow we're visiting some church history sites and then moving on to our first stop in Justin's mission.