Emilee Speaks: My first South Dakota experience - not what I envisioned!

Monday, May 22, 2017

My first South Dakota experience - not what I envisioned!

[Badlands National Park]

Last summer my in-laws took us all on a family road trip to South Dakota.  I have such beautiful pictures from this trip and in my effort to bring Emilee Speaks back around to a lifestyle blog, we're going to revisit this trip today.

On June 1st, 8 adults loaded up into a 12 passenger van and we took off for South Dakota.  We had about a 9hr drive ahead of us.  I love a good road trip!  We listened to music, visited with each other, read, slept...  While I love road trips, I'm a very anxious passenger.  I drive 100% of the time in our day to day life, so not having that control is hard on me.  

My in-laws are superb travel hosts.  They thought of everything.  We had every snack and refreshment you could hope to have for the drive.  I don't eat while traveling, but I definitely enjoyed many Diet Pepsi's!  I feel like now would be a great time to include the disclaimer: I have a terrible memory.  My friends even jokingly call me Dory.  It's bad.  So I'm doing my best to recount this trip from almost a year ago!


[My son at Badlands National Park]

Before we even arrived to our hotel, we stopped off at Badlands National Park.  The badlands were beautiful.  We walked all around and even climbed a bit.  Felt great after being in the car for so long.  They had a great visitor center where we stopped first for bathroom breaks and souvenirs.  If you're unsure of what the badlands are, here's a snippit from wikipedia:
Badlands National Park (Lakota: Makȟóšiča[3]) is a national park in southwestern South Dakota that protects 242,756 acres (379.306 sq mi; 98,240 ha)[1] of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. The park is managed by the National Park Service.

[My son at Crazy Horse]

Day 2 we really went for it: Custer State Park, Crazy Horse, and Mount Rushmore.  Custer was so much fun.  We saw so many animals and they would come right up to you.  You should search "Buffalo Custer State Park" on YouTube.  There's so many videos of buffalo charging vehicles, it's crazy. 

Crazy Horse was an interesting experience.  They have a neat little museum with a theater that tells all about the history of Crazy Horse.  Then we loaded up in this bus tour that drove us down close to the memorial.  They let us collect rocks if we wanted that had fallen from being chiseled from the mountain.  It was a BEAUTIFUL day as you can see from the photo.

[Mount Rushmore]

We're getting to the end of this post and I bet you're wondering where the title comes into play.  "Not what I envisioned".  I waited until Mount Rushmore to explain this to you.  My father in law is a Superintendent and history buff.  I'm not a history buff.  I'm the girl that can't keep her eyes open after 5mins in a history class.  When my in-laws announced where we'd be going for our vacation, it honestly couldn't have been more perfect.  I was excited!  I love going anywhere I haven't been and knew I'd see some pretty gorgeous famous landmarks of the United States.  However, I wasn't prepared for it to take my breath away.  I was not expecting to get emotional the first time my eyes caught a glimpse of Mount Rushmore far off through the trees.  There's this road that goes through a tunnel, and when you come out on the other side, you get your first magnificent look at Mount Rushmore...

[Mount Rushmore through the windshield exiting the tunnel]

We spent a lot of time at Mount Rushmore.  In fact we went twice.  We went back at night for the illumination ceremony.  Patriotism was strong.  It was thick in the air.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry several times.  The illumination ceremony was so moving and powerful.  I searched for some YouTube videos of this ceremony, and while you get an idea of the experience, it's no where near the same.  If you find yourself in South Dakota please take the time to go to the illumination ceremony.

[Devils Tower]

Day 3: Devil's Tower, Sturgis, & Deadwood.  Devil's Tower is breathtaking.  Everyone went off on the trail but I stayed back.  I was a little exhausted from the day before.  I sat and visited with a veteran who couldn't join his family on the trail.  I wouldn't trade my visit with this wonderful man for the world.  I was grateful that I had chose to stay back.  Once his family came back, I found a nice spot in the shade under a tree and watched 3 men climb the impressive rock.  

This morning I came across a list of blog post ideas.  One of the prompts was "talk about places you've visited that impacted your life".  I immediately thought of this trip last year to South Dakota.  I knew I had to write about it today while I was traveling down memory lane.

I am eternally grateful to my in-laws for this experience.  South Dakota definitely wouldn't have been a place a would have chosen for myself.  So had it not been for them, I would've missed out.  I'm blessed to have them in my life.  I'm also very fortunate to be a part of this family that truly enjoys just being together. 


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