Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Americana Extravaganza - Day One (Badlands, Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore)

My friends and I decided we would all fly out to Rapid City, South Dakota on Thursday night and fly back on Monday morning. Because we were all coming from various locations (San Francisco, St. Louis, Chicago and Yosemite-ish), we figured it was just going to be easier to meet at the airport.

Easier said than done. I think Purvi's flight from San Francisco was the only one that was remotely on time (landing around 9:30 PM). The girls flying in from Chicago ended up being delayed and arrived only around midnight / 1 AM. And my flight from St. Louis was straight up cancelled. I think there were some weather issues going on but still - what kind of start to the trip WAS this?

Oh well, some of us aren't seasoned travelers for naught. I mean, traveling can be a nightmare but a snafu here and there really isn't the end of the world - it actually just adds to the adventure, no? (Okay, I may be stretching the optimism / positivity a bit here.)

In any event, after approximately four hours of sleep on Thursday night (at this hotel that the airline put me up at), I was back up and at 'em at the Houston airport (I had had to connect from St. Louis through Houston to get me to Rapid City)... ready and waiting to fly through Dallas to connect to Rapid City. (Who knew I would be getting such a tour of the grand state of Texas through all this?)

Ah well - nothing a nice cup of (iced!!) coffee can't cure

After the craziness of Thursday night, Friday's flight(s) were fairly uneventful. My friends were ready and waiting to pick me up in the rental car (and by rental car, I mean the beast of a Suburban that Purvi had been able to swing with Hertz) at the airport so that we could head straight for our first planned adventure - the Badlands.

Oh, let me back up quickly to explain who all was on this trip. It was basically the Maine crew minus one plus two - yeah, I'm sure that made no sense. To spell it out... this trip was comprised of myself, Rina, Purvi and Trang (we all went to Maine together), Joyce (another friend from Chicago who is just crazy and added some real razzle dazzle to the group, let's be honest here) and Mark (another friend from Chicago who decided to make South Dakota a pit stop after a two-week backpacking adventure in the wilderness). 

Our trip started off as a bit of a reunion - some of us hadn't seen each other for AGES! So you can only imagine what ensued... lots of this...

And this...

Aaaand... finally, we got it just right...

(Poor Mark - I think he questioned joining us on the trip from this moment onwards.)

In any event, we continued along our merry way, hiking through the Badlands. I think "hiking" is a loosely used term in this situation - more... a gentle walk along pebbly ground, one would say. 

I mean, don't get me wrong. There WAS room for confusion at various points in time... 

But thankfully, Trang took the initiative to sign us up at various points along the trail in case of emergency situations... 

Can never be too prepared, I guess... ;) 

Overall, though, the Badlands turned out to be pretty picturesque:

I would argue that it's not necessarily worthy of a solid 3.5 hours of hiking gently strolling through pebbly terrain, but to each their own.

After the Badlands, we drove back to Rapid City with a stop at Wall Drug - this ridiculously touristy place, filled with all KINDS of tschotchky items. I couldn't BELIEVE how HUGE this place was - it was like a little playground, if you will.

Once we'd gotten our fill of Wall Drug, we piled back into that beast of a Suburban and headed straight for... where else? Mt. Rushmore.

I was so, so, so excited for Mt. Rushmore. I mean, it's an historical American LANDMARK!! I love history! I love America! How could one NOT be excited for this 20th century masterpiece?? We got to Mt. Rushmore close to dusk, as we were strongly encouraged to visit Mt. Rushmore for its spectacular night light show (or something like that). Check it out in all its daytime glory...

It gets even better at night!!

Okay, to be perfectly honest - Mt. Rushmore was nice to visit and all, but it's definitely just one of those "check things off a list" kind of things. I have no desire / need to visit Mt. Rushmore again... I mean, it's cool and all but... well, it's a lot SMALLER than I was expecting it to be. God, Mt. Rushmore is to South Dakota what the Panama Canal is to Panama... kind of a giant buzzkill.

Sooo, in a nutshell, that was Day One of this Americana extravaganza. You ready for Day Two?

*Special thanks to Purvi and Mark for allowing me to straight up steal borrow their pictures from this trip.

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