Monday, July 23, 2012

Days 57 to 58 - Devil's Tower, Crazy Horse, Rain, Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and Car Trouble

In Jewel Cave
Day 57 (July 21) - When we got to Devil's Tower last night we discovered we had another converted RV as our "Park Model" cabin.  This one, however, didn't have a bed in the loft.  So, Erin had to blow up an air mattress to put on the floor.  We also decided that we should do laundry while we are here because everyone was running out of clothes (especially Moritz who packed light).  We discovered that there were two laundry rooms with three washers/dryers at each of them.  So, we left Daniel and Moritz at one of them with one set of clothes and David and I sat at the other one (where I finally finished the first Yellowstone post!).  Erin was left at the "cabin" to take a shower.  Unfortunately, no one turned on the hot water for her, so she had a cold shower by herself.  But, at least we got everything washed and repacked!
Devil's Tower at Night

Devil's Tower (as seen from our campsite)

The next morning we woke up to view Devil's Tower which was literally on our doorstep.  We drove up to the base of the tower and saw people climbing up its sheer cliffs.  Apparently it is a popular climbing destination for people who want to climb the sheer basalt cliffs.

After we viewed Devil's Tower we drove the backroads of Wyoming over the South Dakota border into the Black Hills.  We first stopped by Jewel Cave to see if we could take a tour, but they were sold out for the day.  So, we bought tickets for the following afternoon's tour.

Crazy Horse Monument "in progress"
Next we drove to the Crazy Horse Monument and paid to go into the Indian Cultural Center.  We didn't really mean to pay to go in, but once you are in the lane, you can't really turn around.  So, Daniel and the kids went in and watched the movie about Crazy Horse.  I worked in the car for a bit and then walked around a bit, took a few pictures, and returned to the car because I couldn't find David.

Crazy Horse with Plaster Model in Foreground

"German" Restaurant and Hotel
Then we drove to our campsite at Mt. Rushmore KOA.  This campsite was interesting because it was combined with Palmer Gulch Resort which had a lodge and fancier cabins.  Our campsite was at the top of a hill between another campsite and a really fancy cabin with a bunch of people.  We set up the tent right before it started raining.  At first we thought it was going to be a passing thunderstorm like we had had at Colorado Springs.  So, we thought we would go to eat dinner why the storm was going by.  As we started driving toward Custer, we got very heavy rain and some huge hail (the weather alert said there was quarter-sized hail in the area).  We picked a "German" restaurant at the Bavarian Inn.  It was decorated like a German restaurant and had a few German dishes, but it also had a lot of non-German dishes.  We were excited to find some German food and to get out of the rain.  Of course they were busy (everyone comes in when it rains!), so we had to sit at two separate tables.  The whole while we ate it stormed with a lot of lightening and thunder.  Then, at the end of the meal, right after we had been served dessert, the owner came around and said that her credit card machine's modem had been hit by lightening and had been fried.  So, we had to pay in cash.  Boy were the patrons unhappy!  Most of us had planned on paying with a card and several didn't even have enough cash to cover their meal.  She wasn't very understanding about this -- she kept saying that we should have enough money to cover our meals.  Then the people said they did -- on the credit card.  Luckily we were able to use our "emergency" cash in our wallet to pay for our meal.

Tent before storms
KOA roads after first round of storms

KOA roads after first round of storms
By the time we left the storm had let up and we thought it was over.  When we got back to the KOA, we went into the office and asked if there was a covered area somewhere we could play games since our picnic table was wet and the tent was fairly wet (but it hadn't leaked)!  The lady said that we could use the pancake tent where they served breakfast.  It was this big white tent that fit five rows of plastic picnic tables.  As we drove to it, we could see where there had been a flash flood through the camp and about 6 inches of gravel had washed down from the hillside onto the lower paved road.  We sat in the very middle of the tent and started a game of Tripoli with matches as our tokens (I had found the box of wooden matches buried in the back, so we each could have 50 matches to play with -- yes, we did tell our kids to play with matches!!!).  As we started our game, it started to rain and storm again.  It continued to have torrential downpours, bright lightening that was very close, and huge thunderclaps for the next two hours.  David called it a gully-washer!  At about 11:00 it had slowed down a bit and Moritz really had to go to the bathroom, so we left the tent.  We thought the road up to the bathroom may not be passable because when we went by it after the first storm went through there were a bunch of KOA people trying to repair the road at that time because there was a 6 inch deep trench down the side of the road.  So, we aimed to just drive up to our campsite and walk down to the bathroom.  We made it up there by staying in a low gear and just keeping going over the large rocks and trenches in the road.  When we walked down to the bathroom, the sight was even worse than before -- there was a foot deep trench down the middle of the road and the gravel at the bottom of the hill was over a foot deep.  The KOA people were out in force trying to deal with flooding, washouts, and all of these other problems.  After washing up we headed up to our tent just as it started raining again.  There were a few puddles in the tent,
During the Hailstorm
but it stayed mostly dry (which was pretty amazing given how much water was coming down.  After we got in the tent it rained off and on most of the night, but stopped by the morning.  Of course by 7 am they were out with the road grader trying to make the roads passable again.

Mt Rushmore

We finally got up and went to shower before lunch and found that the showers really varied.  Daniel's and mine were fine, but everyone else had almost no water pressure.  After that we ate lunch and then went to Mt. Rushmore and took pictures and read the story of the making of the granite sculpture.
Didn't they do a good job mimicing the facial expressions?

Calcite Crystals on wall of Jewel Cave

At 2:30 we headed to Jewel Cave for our 4:00 tour.  We went down into the cave (the 2nd longest cave in the world) and saw the calcite crystals.  The walls were covered with them!  They had all of the usual cave formations in abundance, but also had tons of crystals, up to 6 inches thick on the walls.  It was really pretty!

place where crystals fell off of wall - looks a bit like the USA, minus WA and OR
After this we decided to go to dinner at a restaurant in Custer City.  As I was getting my jacket out of the trunk, it suddenly locked and wouldn't unlock (when it was open).  So, we couldn't get the door closed on the car.  So, we had to try to figure out what to do since the rear hatch wouldn't shut.  I managed to get a bungee cord around the door and have it anchored inside the door.  After much deliberation we decided that we would get up at 5:30 am and go to the Dodge dealer in Rapid City and try to get it fixed.

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