Wednesday – August 13, 2014
Well with a packed car we headed “for the hills” a little before 9 AM. The trip thru town was a typical slow drive in heavy traffic. We are taking the “scenic” route thru Mankato, MN along Highway 169 south toward our first stop, Bricelyn, MN. The GPS took us on an excursion thru some interesting back roads and construction sites that made the trip interesting to say the least. We finally popped out at I-90 near County 253 which is right where we were supposed to be but I would have done it differently. Headed south on 253 thru Bricelyn and on to the Anderson farm which was my first planned stop. We took pictures and reminisced about the good old days. You know, many things have changed but other than the crops were still in the field and it was very green unlike the times we headed down for pheasant hunting in the late fall, it looked the same. I remembered Lamar and Edna’s place a light green but Mary remembered white which is what it was so I suppose my memory was either inaccurate or older than when I took Mary and the kids down for a visit over 30 years ago. The last time I was in the area was for Lamar’s Funeral and that was at their church. I never made it to their home afterward so it’s been a long while. We headed back north to I-90 and turned west for the trip to the Black Hills.
We arrived at our first day’s destination and settled in to our hotel. The Quality Inn is an older but clean place near the Corn Palace. We freshened up and jumped back in the car to check the layout of the land. We wanted to know where the famous (still don’t know why) Corn Palace was along with checking out a possible restaurant we wanted to try for dinner. We found the Corn Palace only to find the streets closed and the “CP” under construction so it wasn’t ready for us. We stopped at a cantina next door (Scoreboard Bar and Grille) and had a glass of wine outside on their front deck. Sunny and beautiful. We took some pictures, paid our tab after talking to the very friendly and informative waitress then headed over to the restaurant we wanted to check out. Chef Louie’s was between the CP and our hotel so it was perfect. We parked and walked in the back door to a world I haven’t seen for decades. Remember Gannon’s? How about Gallivan’s? How about any older Italian steakhouse like Mancini’s or the many others that used to be around. This was a blast from the past and it lived up to my expectations. A friendly waitress, a great bottle of wine and a prime rib to die for. We enjoyed the great food and drink then waddled back to the hotel for some much needed rest. Good night…
Thursday – August 14, 2014
Up a little late but nothing to worry about, we showered and headed downstairs for a quick breakfast, packed up the car and headed back to the CP to look inside. Underwhelming… We spent a few minutes checking the trinkets for sale out then headed back to the hotel to check out. It was cloudy and raining on and off as we saddled up and headed west. Nice actually as the rain cleaned off the windshield and kept the heat of the day from settling in too early. The rain lasted for about the first hour or so. Once the sky cleared the temps rose rapidly as well as the humidity. Beautiful but HOT! We made it to Wall, SD and the famous Wall Drug. Wow, what a tourist magnet (trap). Lots of bodies and plenty of sunshine and heat. We walked thru a bunch of shops including the original Wall Drug browsing for trinkets but didn’t buy much. We found a hole in the wall biker bar and walked in for a beer and lunch. The air conditioning felt nice, the waitress a friendly but tough looking and the food was good. We headed back out into the heat, jumped in the hot car and continued west.
Our destination was Custer, SD for the night so we continued west until we hit civilization which turned out to be Rapid City although the city must not be too proud of that fact as there were no signs that I saw coming into town. Weird… We headed south off of I-90 on to Highway 16 as I remember. The hills became more pronounced and the scenery got more beautiful by the mile. We passed our actual intended destination which was what I wanted to do just to see the landscape as well as get a little away from the high priced hotels nearby the Mt. Rushmore area.
We finally arrived in Custer, a quiet little town that felt a little yuppy to me but the hotel was OK (least favorite of the three we stayed at) and on the main street so it was easy to get around. We checked in, cleaned up and relaxed a bit until it was time to have dinner. We checked the local eateries and decided on a little place on main street at the other end of town. I think the name was Sage Creek Grille. It turned out to be a neat place. Rustic and busy with some great before/after pictures of the Badlands area. We each ordered separate meals but split so I ate half of mine while Mary ate half of hers then we switched off. I had a tuna on salad dish and Mary had a spicy pasta dish so I was able to have my salad before dinner so to speak. We finished and walked around the area to do a little shopping and to walk off the meal and long drive. Very relaxing evening. Mary purchased a gift for Beth and a few trinkets for us. We walked down the block as it was getting dark and noticed a huge sign at the top of a hill behind town with the letters CUSTER spelled out among the evergreens. I was too far away and it was too dark to get a picture so I decided this would be a stop in the morning. We headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest. Good Night!
Friday – August 15, 2014 – Russ’ 62nd Birthday… Happy Birthday Russ
Up relatively late but no matter, the routine to get to breakfast didn’t change or take too long. We ate then packed up and headed out to our destination, Mt. Rushmore. After about a half hour ride we passed the Crazy Horse monument we’d passed on the way to Custer. This time we stopped for a few pictures. The monument didn’t look much different than the last time Mary was here but after a bit she noticed some differences. The hotel manager had mentioned they were blasting pretty much every day but it was a very slow process and would take years. Apparently this is a private venture that relies on donations so the monument make progress slowly as funds allow.
We headed onward toward the Mt. Rushmore site and drove thru the gates around 9 AM, paid the gate fee ($11.00) and found a parking spot. With Mary’s bum knee we didn’t walk too far, just down the main walkway where all of the state flags fly toward the monument. Very impressive. We took a bunch of pictures, did a little walk around and some shopping before heading back to the car to head home. The whole trip (4 days) goal took us an hour or so to complete. It was worth it as the monument was very impressive and the time away made it a nice change of pace.
After our tour” we headed back to Rapid City and stopped in town to visit a winery (Firehouse Winery) but they didn’t open for an hour (11:00 AM MDT) so we walked around the touristy part of town sightseeing as we went until they opened. Promptly at 11:00 am we walked in to the winery for a tasting. Pretty good selection of wines they blend locally but get their grades from California. Their master blender lived in California but showed up at the winery at least twice a month to insure things were doing well.
I-90 is a LONG way across South Dakota so we buckled under and headed east. At first we thought about stopping in Chamberlain but felt good enough after a gas stop in Wall that we decided to make it to Sioux Falls. Mary bought a sandwich at the gas station so we “survived” on the supplies in the car as we made our way east. Mary also reconnoitered the hotels and restaurants in Sioux Falls to give us a place to stay and have dinner. She called the hotel we decided on and booked a room. We made it to Sioux Falls around 5:30 PM, checked in and unpacked. While we were checking in we inquired about restaurants nearby and the restaurant we were thinking about trying was the one that they recommended so off we went to Grille 26 for dinner. Turns out the hotel and restaurant we decided on in Sioux Falls were the best of the bunch. Grille 26 was a fun place, had great food and service and very enjoyable. The hotel was the newest and nicest of the bunch and although the pool was under construction they had a great courtyard with a gas fireplace where we had a great time meeting and talking with two other couples who had some interesting stories to share. Turns out they were wine drinkers also and one of the gals had the same birthday as me. Much fun. We hit the hay later than usual after a great evening and slept very well…
Saturday – August 16, 2014
We woke up at our normal time, hit the shower and packed for the final time. It’s time to head home… We had breakfast as usual then packed up the car and headed east again. We decided to take the scenic route back (same as on the way west) so we diverted northeast at Worthington on State Highway 60 which, for the most part, was a four lane highway all the way to Mankato with a short (25 mile) section either 2 lane or under construction making it a four lane so the drive was enjoyable. We drove thru clouds and a few drops but nothing that slowed us down. As we approached Mankato we decided to stop at a Culvers for the first time this trip. I had a Cement Mixer and Mary had a burger and a malt. Mary’s malt was so rich and thick that she couldn’t finish it. I tried to “help” but it was too much for me also…
We left Culver’s and continued northeast until we hit “civilization.” What a joy. Traffic jams, construction and just plain nasty, distracted and “in a rush” drivers. What a relief to be home… We drove thru Minneapolis on I-35W until we diverted on to Highway 36 for the final trek to the house. The car was hot and bothered but performed admirably as usual. It needs gas and a wash along with a little TLC but seemed to take the trip in stride. The only time the Acadia complained was when I got cheap gas in Wall, SD and used “85” gasoline where most of the gas I typically buy is rated at 87 or above. I think it didn’t like the hills… No matter, we made it just fine.