From the cornfields and old farms of Iowa we shot northwest into South Dakota. It took us a couple days but we made it to Custer. From our base there we explored the area.
First was Mount Rushmore, a classic road trip destination for every family, right? And how I wish the story behind it was easy and uncomplicated. What do we tell the kids? There wasn’t much debate.
Don’t worry, our “Howard Zinn Tour” didn’t ruin the experience for the kids – they came away with a fuller, more rounded understanding of this place. The only thing that strained the experience was the extensive renovation and the COVID restrictions.
Next was the Crazy Horse Memorial. This place has quite an interesting story behind it.
At 563 feet high and 641 feet long, the Crazy Horse Memorial is massive. And while Crazy Horse never allowed himself to be photographed, his likeness is a representation pieced together from eyewitnesses. The fierce expression on his face has everything to do with the direction he’s facing: East.
The kids walked away with a deeper appreciation of Native American culture – more so than any book they’ve read or documentary we’ve watched.
It was the experience of being in those sacred Black Hills and being told the stories and participating in songs and dances with a Lakota couple that really made the story of this place come alive.
Then we spent a day in Badlands National Park. Half the day was spent driving there and back, the rest of the day was spent driving around in the park itself. But there was some wildlife roaming around: buffalo, big horn sheep, and everyone’s favorite – prairie dogs.
We spent several days in Custer State Park. We hiked several short trails and spent one relaxing day at Sylvan Lake.
After dealing with the heat and beastly humidity of Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa, we were stoked to deal with the cooler, drier climate in South Dakota – and all the western destinations en route. After a week in western South Dakota, it was time to push on to Wyoming.