Day Five….One off of the Bucket List


Today we left Wall, South Dakota about 9 AM, and about an hour later, Susie got her first glimpse of Mount Rushmore! She first said “WOW!!” and then told me she got a rush! Of course, it could also be that we’d just climbed above 5000 feet for the first time, but I like to think it was all about Mount Rushmore!

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to see Mount Rushmore. It probably had a lot to do with the 400+ times we’ve watched North by Northwest, and the vision of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint dangling from Abe’s nose. I know they didn’t really shoot those scenes on the mountain, but there has always been something about the sight of Mount Rushmore in pictures that has thrilled me. Susie had read that some people found it underwhelming when they saw it in the flesh. I’m here to tell you that I am definitely not one of those and neither is she!! It was just so moving to see the carvings, to listen to the story of how it came to be via the audio tour, and to, at the age of 66, finally see something that I have wanted to see forever!!

As I mentioned, we got the audio tour for $5 each, and enjoyed the information it provided us immensely! We visited the various exhibit halls, watched the movie, and even made sure to stop in the cafeteria where one of the climactic scenes from North by Northwest was filmed! No, Mount Rushmore definitely did not disappoint!!

After spending over three hours there, we got back in the car and headed to the Crazy Horse Monument. Due to time constraints, we only did a drive by/photo op.


Then it was on to the second great part of our day, Custer State Park! We took the Wildlife Loop Road, didn’t see any Buffalo, but as you’ll see in the pictures, we did see other wildlife! Then it was on to Iron Mountain Road. This is the most incredible road we have ever been on….a close second was a road we took in Oahu climbing into the clouds to see the park that Chad and Mylie picnicked at in Elvis’ Blue Hawaii! Switchback after switchback, up and down at almost the same time, around and over bridges, followed by more switchbacks, only so you can have the most incredible views of Mount Rushmore! There are three tunnels on this road that perfectly frame Mount Rushmore as you drive through them. The tunnels were designed to frame the four faces on Mount Rushmore, and it was only AFTER the tunnels were built, that the road to connect them was designed! Now we know why the road looks like it does!!

imageWe are staying tonight in Keystone, South Dakota, which is Mount Rushmore’s home. It looks like a crazy Western Mountain Tourist Town!! Dinner tonight was at Ruby House Restaurant with drinks supplied by the Red Garter Saloon next door! Susie had Country Fried Steak, while for the second night in a row, I had Buffalo! A Buffalo Rib imageEye! Now we are back in the room, even though we should be on our way back to Mount Rushmore for the Nighttime Illumination program, but it is pouring out, 58 degrees, and heavy thunder storms are predicted for later! So, as I write this, we are here in an Econo Lodge, rather than celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the US Park Service…August 25, 1916 to August 25, 2016! Happy Birthday and good night!!

Our “Big Trip”

Our recent sojourn down to Florida was, if you will, just an appetizer to our retirement road trip; what we call “Our Big Trip.” We’ve been talking about this for years, and actually figuring dates out once the decision was made that I was going to retire at the end of this past January. The time line in our minds was to leave sometime mid August, and to return, at the very latest, in time for Thanksgiving. Our plan was to drive west, seeing some of the great sights this country has, and to check them off our bucket list. This would be a Bucket List trip for us.

imageWe started by collecting AAA Tour Books for most of the states. We also have added a couple of books with listing of things you absolutely must see across the United States. Some are wacky, like the World’s Largest Ball of String, but many are just not to be missed attractions. Susie has been going through the books taking notes, and the last two days we have both been working diligently on the tour books, and putting together a list of MUSTS for the trip. We also figured that places like Chicago or Detroit were close enough to the East Coast to be other shorter trips, and our intention is to concentrate on more of the Western United States. We figured to head west on a northern route, and return east on a more southern route, hopefully keeping summer weather with us for most of the journey. The first “must” we planned on hitting was Mount Rushmore, to satisfy Frank’s long desire to see it in person (too many viewings of North by Northwest).

imageWhile our plan is to basically wander in the general direction of the west coast, we understand that to stay in some places that are on the “Must List” of ours, we were going to need reservations. Three of those places are Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Monument Valley. We’ve read online that reservations at these 3 places need to be made months in advance, but figured that as we were 5-6 months out from our dates, we were still within the window of opportunity. Yesterday afternoon, we discovered that we didn’t have all the time in the world, and that our window of opportunity was about to slam shut! So our trip, that before yesterday was still kind of in the imaginary stage, just moved into the realm of reality! We discovered that there were very few availabilities left, and that if we wanted to stay on-site in these three places, we needed to act ASAP. Needing to make those reservations meant that we had to really look at the trip in earnest, decide what we really wanted to see, and forced us to actually come up with a timeline, while still leaving lots of open time to just check out neat looking things and places along the way.

Our “real” trip will commence with us leaving Long Island on Saturday August 21st. Our first reservations are for the nights of August 28th and 29th when we are booked at the Lake Hotel Sandpiper Lodge in Yellowstone Park. From there we have 2 open weeks, as our next booking is the nights of September 14th and 15th at the Yavapai Lodge in the Grand Canyon. Then, on Friday the 16th, we have one night booked at the View Hotel in Monument Valley. The only other defined part of our trip is the October 2nd to 16th two week period when we will be cruising on the Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas, and visiting with Kenny and Chris and their shipboard family. We still have lots of open space on our calendar to do the wandering part of this trip, and even if we have had enough, and just return home after the cruise, we will be gone 2 months! We always had a plan, but now we really have a plan and the trip is much more of a reality than it was just 24 hours ago!

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