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We had barely drip-dried from tubing down the Niobrara before we were back on the road again. Valentine, Nebraska is so close to South Dakota (a new state for us! Yay!) that we decided to go do a little sightseeing on our way. It seemed like almost the instant we crossed the state line, the landscape changed. Chunks of layered rock peeked out from the dry grasslands, sagebrush started popping up along the roadside, and we saw a dust devil twirling through a large tilled field.
We intended on driving through the Badlands National Parks on the way to our destination for the night but we were thwarted by…roadwork. Boo! But really, would it be summer without roadwork every other mile?
When we arrived at the north side of the park, we cashed in on Claire’s fourth-grade national parks pass. That thing was rad–saved us a wad of cash at every national park we visited during our trip. Since driving back through the park would take us the opposite direction we wanted to go, we parked at the first lot and got out to stretch our legs.
The scenery was gorgeous, though Evelyn and I felt the same way about walking very far out on the rockfaces. Slow, skiddish, not our idea of fun. Everyone else? I yelled at more than one kid to stop running around because I was sure they were going to tumble off the edge. Gladly, no one did.
When we were done ooo-ing and -aww-ing at all the beautiful landscape and rock formations, we hopped back in the car, went EIGHTY down the interstate (because South Dakota and Wyoming don’t mess around with travel), ate at Wall Drug while social distancing…because hardly anyone was there), then went straight to…
Mount Rushmore! I’d gone when I was younger with my grandparents and yes, I asked why it was so small. Since then, they’d made some stellar improvements and it was like we were practically looking up their noses. We could have gotten even closer but you guessed it…construction.  I think my favorite part of the night was when Kate asked if the heads were naturally there. Uh…I don’t think so. 😂
We tried bypassing the main walkway’s construction by following the presidential path–a set of several dozen stairs over a mile and a half up to see the four presidents but we were thwarted by…you guessed it: construction.
That didn’t stop us from having a little fun. We explored a quiet spot of the park, crawled on a few of the boulders and the kids decided to pose. Who knows? Four future presidents? 😂
We decided not to stay for the evening light show. It was starting to get crowded and we didn’t want to fight through the parking lot when it was done. We left for our hotel and got everyone situated for the night. The room was plenty big and there were enough beds for everyone to sleep comfortably, though the kids were all tired enough and used to traveling that they were asleep the second their heads hit the pillow.
In the morning, Jack ran to the store to get some road trip supplies while the rest of us ate our hotel-provided sack lunches in the room. Since we didn’t have to be to our next destination until later in the day, we decided to take advantage of the hotel’s large indoor pool with waterslide. But while we waited for Jack to get back, I may have let the kids jump on the beds. 😋 It’s part of the fun of hotel stays!
We stayed about an hour, enjoying the swimming pool all to ourselves and going down the slide as fast as everyone could run up and go back down. I may have even let them go together, face forward…anyway they wanted because I was the lifeguard.
When we were waterlogged and had to check out, we went back to the room, changed and packed up while watching Curious George (Henry was particularly happy. He’d been missing television a little bit since leaving on our road trip). Then, we packed up the suitcases, cleaned up the clutter in our car, got everyone’s waters refilled, and went in search of our next adventure in Wyoming. Our stop in South Dakota was amazing and some day, I hope we can return and explore a little more. For now, we’re crossing another state off our list with gratitude and fond memories.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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