Mount Rushmore is spectacular and I would come again to see this monument honoring our country. The size and detail are amazing in the daytime and beautiful at night. After dark we saw a short movie about the monument, heard stories from a park ranger, and watched the lowering of the American flag by ex-servicemen from the audience. This monument is cared for by the National park Service and includes a visitors’ center, gift shops, and museum where we watched a movie telling the story of how it all came about. The artist, Gutzon Borglum, was a first generation American of Danish decent. He began the project in 1925 and it was completed by his son Lincoln shortly after his father’s death in 1941.
We also enjoyed going to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is a family owned monument and the ongoing work of Korczak Ziolkowski and his family. There are American Indian artifacts and items on display as well as a gift shop and a restaurant. Ziolkowski and his wife have passed on but his children continue the sculpting. We were lucky enough to be there for not only one of the nightly lazar light shows but also one the two nighttime dynamite blasts that are done each year. Although it was extremely crowed we found indoor seating that allowed a great view of the light show and blasting. We’ve never seen anything like the blasting, as over 100 charges were set off in rapid succession, each one with a “boom” and fiery flash of light.
Both of these monuments are worth a visit and both should be visited in the early evening so they can be seen in both daylight and under lighting.
After a short move we arrived in Wall, S.D. We decided to have lunch at the famous Wall Drug that is advertised on hundreds of billboards along the highways across South Dakota. Even on the state highways between Pierre and Wall I saw about 40 signs for Wall Drug. The store is huge, taking up a city block. Even on a weekday afternoon it was full of people. We had their famous hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, their much advertised free ice water. For dessert we had apple pie and a cup of the 5 cent coffee. Again it was excellent! I had seen how large the sandwich was so we split the meal and were satisfied. There is a wide variety of shops with every kind of tourist item you can think of. It is very family oriented place with a play area and free water park for kids along with an animated dinosaur that opens its mouth and roars every 12 minutes.
The Badlands National Park is a very different experience. We have an America the Beautiful Pass for those of us over 62 so we avoided paying the $20 entry fee. We arrived midmorning and it was already getting warm. There is a wide variety of wildlife here. We saw some Bighorn sheep, several prairie dog towns, an antelope, and a few birds. Although the loop road was busy we had no difficulty finding parking at the overlooks. We stopped at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, had our picnic lunch in a covered shelter, watched the movie, refilled our water bottle, made a few purchases, and headed on out.
On our way home from the Badlands National Park we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National historic Site. There is a variety of hands on displays showing the significance of these sites in the Cold War and the arms race. The memorabilia is a reminder of those who served and the effect of the Cold War on the civilian population. There are actually three sites in the area, but we only stopped at the visitor center.
As you can tell, we enjoyed our time in Wall and especially, Badlands National Park.
We spent a fun afternoon at the Ingalls Homestead (“Little House on the Prairie”) at DeSmet, SD. We started at the visitor’s center where we bought our ticket and looked at all the goodies in the gift shop. We also watched short introductory movie. From there it was out to explore the property.
The first building we toured looks like a one room school but inside has a coved wagon you can get into plus many displays about the travels of the Ingalls family bringing them to this place. From there we saw a dugout similar to the one they lived in on the banks of Plum Creek in MN. Near it is an original claim shanty similar to one they lived in that was moved from Spirt Lake. After living on the land for five years Charles had to file a governmental document called “proving-up papers” which describe the improvements he had made to the land. Apparently, he more than met the required standards. We saw the barn, water pump, and a reconstruction of Ma’s Little House. At the barn there is a calf and kittens to pet. The pump works and, for Scott, using it was a return to his childhood. At the house the docent told us several stories that took place in their home, reminding us of stories from the books. The visiting children were invited to help wash and hang clothes, beat the rug, and shake cinders out of the cook stove. There is a lush vegetable garden, herb garden, and wildflower display. The original Flindt’s garage building has been moved to the site and is now used to demonstrate and allow hands on rope making, corn shelling, corncob doll making, and hay twisting; all things that were done by the Ingalls family. We enjoyed riding the coved wagon across the fields to see a country schoolhouse like the one Laura and her sisters attended. The “teacher” told about a typical school day. She had everyone participating in her presentation, including having the children read from early readers. She talked about the lunch pails and lunches the children might have brought. We found the Ingalls Homestead to be a very fun and active place and well worth the visit.
There’s a lot to see in the Twin Cities and we enjoyed our sightseeing. Honestly, there’s still more to see.
We enjoyed our visit to Historic Fort Snelling which was built in 1820 at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. It was established to protect the U.S. Fur trade. In doing so the Fort formalized the U.S. government’s presence and American expansion into Native American Dakota land. Later, from the Civil War through WWII, it was used for training of troops. Inside the gate is the parade ground surrounded by the buildings necessary the Fort to be successful. The oldest structure is the round tower which was used for defense. The munitions building has 6 foot walls and wood floors with pegs to guard against unintended sparks. We saw a long building where rooms were set aside for enlisted men and their families as well as rooms that housed single enlisted men. There is a Sutter’s store that was owned and run by a civilian. He sold items not provided by the post commissary to the solders, their families and local people. There were many people dressed in period clothing. Some women demonstrated how they did laundry outside by hand and how they cooked over an open fire in a hearth. Jackie’s favorite stop on the tour was the home of the Commander Snelling that has been restored and furnished with period furnishings. We also saw an area set up as the post Doctors quarters, and hospital. We finished our tour learning the history of the Dakota people and the effects of the Fort on them.
We had a fun evening at the zoo. We started with the special Australian exhibit of Kangaroos and emu. This is a temporary exhibit and the animals will be here until the fall when they will be returned to their home at a private park outside of San Antonio, Texas. The section on Minnesota animals was interesting. We saw a beaver pushing a small log over the dam and another swim out and back into their lodge. A moose walked right in front us before moving into the woods. The aviary was fun to walk through. We especially liked the exotic birds like the Hornbill and the Crowned Pigeon. Of course we had to see the reptiles including a huge python and a komodo dragon. I would recommend this zoo as a fun destination for everyone.
Another adventure included driving into the city and taking the Metro train. Our first stop on the light rail was Minnihaha Falls. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave this Minneapolis waterfall national fame in the Song of Hiawatha, written in 1853. It is a short walk from the light rail stop and well worth the time and effort to see. The view from the bottom of the falls is great but entails a lot of steps, so be prepared. We caught the next train on into town and got off at Nicolette Mall. Sadly that area is under construction so we had lunch looked around some and headed back out. It was a fun and easy way to see parts of the city.
The Mall of America lived up to its reviews. We were here a few years ago but this time we covered all the floors. I had read about the new Crayola store. We made that our first stop. There is every color of crayon and marker available there. One entire wall from floor to ceiling was filled with crayons and markers. A person could choose a box or basket and fill it with your choice of crayon or marker and pay for them at check-out. There are toys, jewelry, stuffed animals coloring books for all ages, as well as clothing. A really fun place to see. As we walked we found stores offering everything you have seen in any mall. Along with the stores the mall offers an Indoor amusement park with rollercoasters and other rides. We saw a water ride, a mini golf course and the aquarium. After walking all four floors and doing a little shopping we headed home.
Beyond all the sightseeing, we enjoyed the cooler summer weather, especially during the later part of our stay.
I’ve enjoyed our third stay in southwestern Ohio. We drove a short 40 minutes to visit nearby Clifton which was settled in 1802. The Historic Clifton Mill is one of the few working water powered grist mills in the U.S. It contains a gift shop and restaurant. Not far from there we visited Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. We hiked one of the trails down by the river to the falls. We really liked the area and hope to go back another time.
A fun local event was the Corwin, Ohio Tractor show. We got to town around 11:30 for the tractor parade and saw people putting their chairs under a tree so we joined them and found that it was a family of several generations that live in the area and came to see their friends and neighbors on their tractors. We saw a lot of old tractors that have been refurbished and look like they did when they were new. I saw one that I had never seen before and found out it was a cultivator tractor built in 1948 for use on truck farms. The engine was behind the driver so they could see the furrows in front of them. Following the parade there was a meal of pulled pork, coleslaw, green beans with new potatoes, desserts and drinks. The tractors were parked all around so we could get a closer look. A fun way to spend a sunny Saturday morning.
Being as close to the Museum of the Air Force in Dayton as we were Scott couldn’t resist making another visit. A new section has been added since our last visit so we made a bee line to it. We focused on just that hanger and one other rather than trying to see the entire place – an exhausting effort! We especially enjoyed seeing the Presidential planes as well as many experimental, one-of-a-kind planes. We did an earlier review of the Museum here.