I also managed to catch a glimpse of the horrifying I-35W collapse... I didn't get too close to the wreckage, but i snapped this shot from the Stone Arch Bridge just north of the collapse:
Friday night (8-10-07) i got to bed nice and early, as i was planning on leaving at about 5am. I was awoken around 3am to what seemed like the paparazzi outside my window... A midwest thunderstorm had rolled in. I got out of bed to take a look, and just as i did that, the whole hotel lost power. Without an alarm clock to wake me up on time, i decided it was best to just pack up and go right then... After 7 flights of stairs in the dark, i managed to find my way out of the hotel, hop in the car and go.
It was a good 45 minutes of thunderstorming as i drove south on I-35, by the time it stopped storming, i was well south of the city, although it was still dark out. I could look east and see the storm still raging on, in the light created by the lightning, i could see what looked to be a funnel cloud, not touching the ground, but it was about halfway down from the cloud cover-- a very frightening sight!
It was just past sunrise by the time i reached Blue Earth, MN -- which is the midpoint of Interstate 90. They have a rather large (60 feet tall) statue of the "jolly green giant" there, which i stopped and took some photos of... For a reference, you can see me standing between his legs....
I kept heading west on I-90, When the GPS says, "in 511 miles, exit right", it's both disappointing, and really fun/exciting at the same time... I love just being able to drive for a full day, taking in the sights... I entered South Dakota about 45 minutes after the jolly green giant:
The thing i love about driving out west is that the roads are so boring, people feel the need to put up cool things to stop and and see.... Here is a sampling of the things i saw:
A sculpture garden:
The "Corn Palace" in Mitchell, SD... Here is a description from Wikipedia so you aren't completely confused:
"The original Mitchell Corn Palace (known as "The Corn Belt Exposition") was built in 1892 to showcase the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. It was a wooden castle structure on Mitchell's Main Street. In 1904–1905, the city of Mitchell mounted a challenge to the city of Pierre in an unsuccessful attempt to replace it as the state capital of South Dakota. As part of this effort, the Corn Palace was rebuilt in 1905. In 1921 the Corn Palace was rebuilt once again, with a design by the architectural firm Rapp and Rapp of Chicago. Moorish domes and minarets were added in 1937, giving the Palace the distinct appearance that it has today." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_Palace
I passed over the Missouri River, the same river that Lewis and Clark went through on their trip out west:
I was attacked by a rather large Buffalo:
(That was at a rest stop called "al's oasis" just west of the Missouri River-- they had 2 life-size statues, and this one huge one-- I obviously took my photo with the huge one!!)
Just east of Exit 170 on I-90 in South Dakota, you'll see a random statue of a child walking a T-rex-- There's no easy way to get to it via road, I just slowed down on the highway and snapped a few shots:
A lot of times people get so involved with getting somewhere that they forget there's some incredible sights along the way. I hopped off the "beaten path" for a while to take some photos, i like how this one came out:
I stopped at the Minuteman National Historic sight, which was unfortunately closed so i couldn't go in, but i was able to see from the road a few of the now closed missile silos:
I entered Badlands national park...
(obviously the lady who took this photo for me didn't understand the concept of "i want hte whole sign in the photo"!!
The scenery in badlands was truly incredible... not someplace that i would want to get stranded for sure-- it was hotter than any place i've ever been (except for the "valley of fire state park" in Nevada-- that place was significantly hotter)
The roads through the badlands were a great combination of man and nature-- the roads winded through the formations seeming like they were naturally there...
This particular weekend just happened to be the weekend of the 67th annual Sturgis, SD motorcycle rally... The roads were absolutely packed with bikes:
I ended up taking the Sage Creek Rd to Scenic, SD -- bypassing part of the "park loop road" that went back up to I-90. This proved to be a good decision even though the ranger i talked to told me it was a boring ride... Here are a few shots of the roads winding through the prarie (don't tell enterprise i went on dirt roads!!!) :)
From there i went straight up to Sturgis, which was about 120 miles or so away... Sturgis during any part of the year is apparently a sleepy South Dakota town, about 7000 residents, not too much ruckus.. a few local bars but nothing too huge. During the rally week, the population explodes, bikers everywhere. There are so many people that people start charging for "camp sites" and "bike parking" in their front yards:
The number of motorcycles there was amazing:
The event draws some really intresting people:
Viking on a bike:
Not even sure what to call this dude:
The town is very rural, so anywhere outside the main area people had just set up camp.. This guy seemed prepared for the weekend, parked his bike up by the treeline, and was obviously in the city partying!
I stuck around in Sturgis long enough to grab a few nighttime shots of the area:
I ended up talking to some bikers for quite some time, and they invited me up to the Steppenwolf Concert going on at this place called "the boneyard" -- i took the bait, and ended up going up to the concert for a bit... I didn't stay too long as i was incredibly tired after the long day... But i did hear the classic "magic carpet ride" -- missed "born to be wild" unfortunately
I had a hotel booked in Hill City, SD -- about 55 miles from Sturgis in the hills west of Mt Rushmore. I drove there that evening and proceeded to fall asleep for the night-- it had been a long day!
I woke up about 7:30am on Sunday August 12, 2007, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out to Mt Rushmore.. I was rather disapointed when i arrived, as the mountain was clouded in. I spent some time in the gift shop, grabbed my souvenir shot glass, and watched the visitor center movie... by the time i left the movie, the skys and cleared and i was left with an incredible view:
They had a "hall of flags", depicting each one of the states in the USA... it provided a pretty cool looking shot:
I then set my sights on touring Custer State Park, but to get there i had to go over the "pigtail" bridges-- More or less they wanted to build a road over this mountain, but it was too steep for a road, instead of normal switchbacks, they opted for these amazing wooden bridges, where you loop under and up... A bit hard to describe, so here is a photo:
At the top of the mountain, was was treated with a pretty cool view of Mt Rushmore:
I drove south on Rt 87 through the praries of Custer state park, eventually entering Wind Cave National park.
This park was filled with Buffalo-- they were everywhere!
I opted not to do the cave tour, as i had just missed a tour, and the next one was a few hours off... I then set my sights on Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming... But i had to make a slight detour to view the Crazy Horse Monument-- A carving in the Black Hills that is currently under construction, and has been for years. I was planning on going to the visitor center and seeing it up close, but i wasn't going to pay an entry fee to see an unfinished statue-- I took a photo from the distance...
I went north on Route 385, through Hill City, up to I-90 in Spearfish, SD.. This was a cool road as it was just winding though some old townships.. A very pleasant way to drive 65 miles...
I then entered Wyoming-- (Shhh, don't tell enterprise I left SD!!)
I approached Devils Tower National Monument and was stunned at the way it stood out from the landscape around it. The whole area is just rolling hills, this "volcanic neck" sticks out like a Nissan Sentra in Sturgis, SD during bike week... (i had rented a Nissan Sentra.. i felt like i was the only person with a 4-wheeled vehicle there):
This is a photo of what the surrounding area looked like:
And this is what it looked like with Devils Tower in there:
Here is me in front of the tower:
And a few other shots of the monolith:
I left Devil's Tower, and drove back to Mount Rushmore, I found out that morning that they do a ceromony every night in the ampitheater in front of the mountain... Not something i wanted to miss while I was in town...
On the way back i stopped to take a few photos of some Black Hills Scenery at sunset:
After arriving at Mount Rushmore, I was treated to a great program where "Ranger Summer" described the event surrounding the writings of the Star Spangled Banner. She then went into detail about the lyrics of our National Anthem, and how the music was not original. The song we all know, was originally a poem titled "the Defense of Fort McHenry", and was set to the tune of the popular British drinking song "The Anacreontic Song"... known widely by it's first line, "To Anacreon in Heaven"... It was a very informative session, they then showed a great movie about the building of Mt Rushmore. By this time it was pitch dark out, and the perseid meteor shower was in full session, although most of the crowd had no idea there was an awesome display of a shooting star every few seconds above their heads.... Midway though the movie, they slowly started lighting the mountain with flood lights-- it was a very cool moment as the mountain came into full view!
I took a few photos of the mountain at night... in this one you can see the Big Dipper just above their heads:
On the way out i had to stop and take a night photo of the flags and rushmore:
I got back to my hotel in Hill City 11pm mountain time... woke up at 3:30am and started the drive back to Minneapolis to catch my 5pm flight... I drove straight through until i reached the boarder of Minnesota, at which point i realized I had about an hour of extra time... So i drove to Iowa, because i had never been there before...
"is this heaven??? -- no, it's iowa"
After i stopped by Iowa, i drove back up to Minneapolis and got on my flight, which I was pleasantly upgraded to first class on one of my legs... It was so nice after my long day.... to quote myself, "yes, i would love another beer please"... Until my next trip, Thanks for reading!
Total Miles Driven: 1773.2
Total Hours with Car: 56
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