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Weekend Warrior: Driving across South Dakota

Dear Travel Diary,

We crossed state lines into South Dakota late Saturday morning, and drove through historic Deadwood. Known as the final resting place of the legendary Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (in Mount Moriah Cemetery), Deadwood has become quite commercialized. Still in existence are the gaming halls, saloons and casinos once frequented by famous gun slingers, but they've all adapted to the modern era. It was kind of sad, in a way.

Deadwood was born out of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, and the region's rich mining history is alive and well. Once we left Deadwood city limits, we drove through Lead, SD. There we stopped at an enormous open pit mine, where over 41 million ounces of gold was pulled to the surface. The mine was so deep that we couldn't see the bottom from the safety of the observation deck.

Even now, gold seekers continue to try their luck. We stopped to take pictures of a roadside waterfall and found two men panning for gold in the shallow creek.

We continued our travels to our next stop, Mount Rushmore.

The last time I was here, I was 10 years old and preparing to start 5th grade. The changes were vast and apparent, and I texted my mother about it when we were back in the car. Still, sharing this monument with my children and re-experiencing it through their perspective - it felt like life had come full circle.

The states of our nation were represented as we approached the monument.

A 250-stair climb was added, known as The President's Trail. We climbed, and breathless, we observed the artisan skill directly below the carved faces of our Founding Fathers. It was there we realized cracks were beginning to form in the monument, thus a renewed push for conservation. I was glad we were able to take the kids when we did, because who knows what could happen to this landmark in the future.

The Crazy Horse Monument was nearby, so we ventured over. My family also visited over 20 years ago, and I was a little sad to see there had been very little progress made. Crazy Horse receives no state or federal funding, so the project relies heavily on admission fees to advance its construction. The site had a museum of Native American history dedicated, and it was there we shared with the kids' that they shared this heritage.

We left as the Crazy Horse site was closing for the day, and made our way to Rapid City, where we booked a room for the night. The adventure continued however, because wild life had begun to feed. We were able to get within feet of a herd of elk and a few bison! The bison especially were equal parts cool and terrifying.

Trust me, it was a relief to return to the Interstate as night fell.

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