Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Transcontinental Trek 2011 Day 3: Rapid City, SD to Bozeman, MT

Our wake up call rang with a blaring sound at 6:15am. It is a bright and sunny day - 59F. Amazing! The weather forecast last night was for severe storms all day. We stayed at a very nice Super 8 just of I-90 last night- $45/night. We had another king-size bedroom. In fact we stayed in exactly the same room as last night (room 101), but this hotel is much cleaner and better maintained. There was a SNAFU with our hotel reservations and Bob is at a different Super 8 about 3 miles away. This actually worked out well, because his hotel is on Mt Rushmore Drive, and we have to go that way to get to Mt Rushmore today.

Got Bob at 7:45am (Mountain Time) and headed out. According to the Mount Rushmore & Badlands guide to the National Parks, it is best to see Mt Rushmore in the morning light.

 It seems weird to see the Black Hills Forest in the middle of this seemingly endless prairie. But, here it is, tall Ponderosa Pines stretching high toward the sky. Like Colorado, the Black Hills has experienced a pine beetle infestation. Park staff has been working very hard to thin the forest to a more sustainable condition and to protect scenic old growth trees.
Coming around the bend at Keystone, I can see the Monument over the tree tops. Wow! It glows in the sunlight! As we enter the monument area we’re stunned at how HUGE the visitor’s center is. Not at all like what I remember from the 1970’s.

Now there is a gigantic parking garage, and multiple buildings with a Visitor’s Center, a Gift Shop, a CafĂ©, an Ice Cream Shop, Restrooms, and the Avenue of Flags. It is quite impressive - very windy too. We got here at the right time of day. There are only a few cars in the parking lot – which could probably hold 500 vehicles including RVs and busses. We need our windbreakers, even though it is in the 60’sF.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the completion of the Mount Rushmore carving. Beginning in 1927, over 400 workers helped sculptor Gutzon Borglum carve the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln into the southeastern exposure of Mount Rushmore.

It was the dream of Doane Robinson, the superintendent of the South Dakota State Historical Society to create a massive mountain memorial carved from stone so large it would put South Dakota on the map. He enlisted the help of Senator Peter Norbeck and sculptor Borglum and together they chose the four great presidential figures for the carving to symbolize the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty.

Each face is 60 feet tall and each eye is 11 feet wide. Washington’s nose is 21 feet long – all other noses are 20 feet long. Hmmm… is he a relative to the Russells???

We saw a chipmonk, white-winged race of Dark-eyed Junco along the Avenue of Flags, as well as Red Crossbills and White-throated Swifts. Pine Siskins were flying around the entrance to the monument, too.

Across from the Ice Cream Shop were a couple of Marmots sunning themselves on a rock.
We stopped in the Visitor’s Center and I got my National Parks Passport book.

Every time you visit a National Park, you can get your Passport book stamped with the date and each Park’s unique stamp and sticker. I am so excited! It’s all Kiwi Donovan’s fault. She turned me on to the Passport program last summer when she was on a trek to visit every National Park and Monument in the country. Now, I have my own Passport book to fill with stamps!
Dave spotted a Mountain Goat on the hillside, as we were leaving the viewing area and getting into the car. How cool!

We stopped down in Keystone and picked up some postcard stamps and headed back to Rapid City. Yesterday, we smelled something burning and we thought it was something electrical under the hood of the truck. Today, the cigarette lighters have stopped working. We’ve been using both of them to power our laptops, charge phones, etc. We called Andy at Spring Street – thank goodness they’re open at 7:30am – I was so relieved to hear Gretchen’s voice! Andy suggested we check the fuse, and sure enough it was blown. We stopped in the Ford dealership in Rapid City to replace the fuse and see if we need to have the wiring checked. We changed the fuse, but still no power in the front cigar plug. The backseat plug works, though. No mechanic available to look at the truck until tomorrow. We decided to just use the back plug and keep going toward Bozeman.

Noon – entered Wyoming. Dave spotted a Brewers Blackbird on the fence of Welcoming Center. What a nice Center! There is a huge petrified tree stump outside the door and a big dinosaur inside. It has begun to sprinkle. We saw our first mountain with snow on it to the north as we left.

We reached Sheridan, WY at 3pm in a steady downpour and strong winds – 41F. We’ve gone 1600 miles so far on our transcontinental Trek. By 3:40pm, we were entering Montana – still raining and windy and a little cooler – 38F. The rain finally ended around 6pm and by 7:30pm we were in Bozeman.

Steve and Elise had Bison steaks ready to go on the grill when we arrived at their home. Two Sandhill Cranes walked across their driveway as we pulled in. I walked out to the barn with Elise and met her horse Goldie. Goldie is a very pretty yellow horse (I’m sure there is a correct term for her color and breed), and I loved inhaling the scents of the barn. By the time we got back to the house after feeding Goldie, Steve announced that the steaks were done and we sat down to dinner with great wine, great food and great friends. Dave has missed being with Steve so much.

By 9:30pm we were heading to the Days Inn and before 10pm, Dave was sound asleep. He has slept better on this trip than he has in months. Maybe we should change our professions to over the road trucking!


Nette said...

Hey Jill and Dave! Sounds and looks like a great trip so far - would have loved all those warblers! Enjoy Canada; have a safe and happy trip. Miss you already though! Annette

mrsbirder said...

Hi Annette! Great to see that you are reading the blog! I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Sister Marty said...

Hey Jill, Dave and Bob, wow what a great trip. I am commenting after day three which I have been waiting to hear about...Mt. Rushmore seems really cool and I think Rita and I are going to plan that trip next year...We want to do that birding festival there Prairies and Potholes I think it is called. Well the Birding festival went well today, a little rain as always, but enjoyed seeing everyone. Missed you there Jill. Sarah did a great job. Well take care and I have to read Day 4 now of your trip...

mrsbirder said...

So glad to hear that the festival went well! I've been thinking about it all day! It feels weird to be here and not there. The bird festival at the Badlands/Mt Rushmore sounds fantastic! I want to go too!

Anonymous said...

Kai Ora from KIWI, I love your stories, read them often. See U have "stamp bug" (smile ).
I've been very busy in Guam,Saipan, American Samoa & Hawaii, volunteered, got all "stamps" & great birds. Then went to New Zealand to visit Mum.
Jan 9th off to Puerto Rico/US Virgin Islands, to visit all 6 NP sites, volunteer & birds. Then I will have completed visiting every offshore NP site & Alaska, great fun. Still leaves many sites in the lower 48. Mele Kalikimaka & good birding, see U in the field !! said...

I was recently in St John. search of 'Kiwi' led me to your site.
Birding and traveling the NPs sounds so intriguing.
Love your photos.