We’re in the midst of a very American road trip west this week … we just left Keystone, South Dakota and the Black Hills area, where we visited Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and Deadwood. Today we’re traveling through part of Wyoming and Montana, with Little Bighorn National Monument, Pompey’s Pillar, and eventually Billings, Montana as our night’s eventual destination. Tomorrow we’re off to Yellowstone!
While in Keystone we stayed at this charming little Battle Creek Lodge. The rooms were small but clean and quite well-appointed with plenty of towels, comfortable beds, and a decent complimentary breakfast with the likes of French toast, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, cereal, rolls, toast, and bagels included. And the folks running the motel were friendly and very helpful. The room rate was quite a bit less than the Holiday Inn Express across the street but we didn’t miss any additional amenities. We didn’t need a pool, as we were exploring the area all day anyway.
If you visit Mount Rushmore – and we highly recommend that you include this on your bucket list – definitely take in the evening lighting ceremony. It was a beautiful way to see this monument. Plus, the park ranger called up current and former military servicemen and women – as well as family members of those no longer with us – and we were able to honor these folks with a standing ovation. It was very moving, as we looked onto the stage with the monument lit up in the night sky.
A particular favorite of Joe’s was the wildlife driving loop in Custer State Park, where we saw pronghorns, prairie dogs, buffalo, and burros. And after that drive, we headed to Needles Highway, which is quite stunning. We stopped at Sylvan Lake, marveled at the how pristine and lovely this area was, and climbed a few large rock formations by the lake.
Our side trip to Deadwood started off a little shaky, mainly because we were all starving for lunch, it was about 2 pm, and we stopped at the first place that looked remotely family friendly. Turned out, it was a hotel + bar + antique store, which seemed odd at first but we soon realized that’s the way Deadwood rolls … it seems like most places are a combination of things (i.e. hotel + restaurant + casino). The food was okay – not anything special by any means – but our server was nice and worked out hard to take care of us and the price was right so we can’t complain. After lunch, we walked downtown Deadwood, watched a shootout re-creation with Wild Bill Hickok, and then visited the local cemetery, where Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.
It wouldn’t be a family vacation for Teacher Man without a visit to a historic cemetery, believe me. 😉
Now we have nothing but the open road ahead of us in Wyoming and we’re looking forward to learning more about the history of Little Bighorn Battlefield this afternoon. After that stop, we’ll take in Pompey’s Pillar, just east of Billings, where Lewis and Clark stopped at along their exploratory travels.
I’ll be back with updates later this week!