Monday, August 3, 2015

Our Crazy Cross Country Trip South Dakota and onto California

We last saw our fair travelers in a corn field during some very severe weather.   

We did make it out of that corn field and back onto I-90, but we were still half a day behind where I wanted to be.  The original plan had been to see Mount Rushmore that afternoon, but it was unlikely we would make it there before dark, so the new plan was to see it first thing in the morning. We had our nice picnic lunch at Sioux Falls, where I had hoped to stay the night previous.  Sioux Falls is pretty, but a little smelly (I'm not sure why).

At this point the kids were starting to feel the trip.  My friend Moe suggested that I threaten to throw candy out the window as they whined.  I tried it, but then they started to threaten to throw each other's things out the window.

We quickly got back on the road, hoping to make up a little ground.  As we made our way through South Dakota and into the Badlands, I started my daily hunt for a hotel room.  Trouble is, we didn't realize the Sturgis Motor Cycle Rally was taking place.  Not one room was available on We stopped at the Visitor's center by the Missouri River (really cool spot if you ever find yourself driving on I-90 in South Dakota) and their very helpful staff explained our predicament.  They armed us with several Penny Savers that had local numbers.

I started calling around and finally found a place with a room available. It was double the cost of anywhere else we had stayed, and had worst Continental Breakfast of any that were offered.  We did however meet some awesome bikers, one of whom encouraged the kids to try his bike out.


We headed off for Mount Rushmore.  First we needed gas, and also coffee.  We stopped at a gas station on the way up the mountain.  Leo pumped while I got coffee.  I came out to see my husband, in a polo shirt, pumping gas into our white minivan, surrounded on all sides by dozens of bikers.  I wish I had taken a picture of that! (Imagine the guy from the picture below, next to the minivan pictured above with about 100 extra bikes and beleathered bikers surrounding him)

We did make it to Mount Rushmore that day.  It is a sight to behold, though a bit smaller than I had imagined (Leo says it was way bigger than he imagined).  We got what is perhaps my favorite picture from our vacation.

 After Mount Rushmore, we went onto see Crazy Horse. The thing about Crazy Horse, it costs 3 times as much as it does to see Mount Rushmore.  It is also unfinished. So we pulled up, saw it from the base, then turned right around and headed out.  We had time to make up anyhow.  That was not to happen however.  We opted to cut down some back roads to meet up with I-80 rather than head back north to reach I-90.  This was not the best plan.  GPS via cell phone is apparently not a thing in Wyoming. Back Roads in Wyoming are not the best labeled, so good luck even if you thought ahead and got those paper maps from AAA. There are barely any towns or even intersections to guide you. We just kept driving, heading South and or East, and hoped to eventually hit I-25.

We made it to Cheyenne for dinner, and having not had lunch (we should have paid through the teeth to eat at Mount Rushmore) we were starving.  We found yet another good Mexican Restaurant and ate ourselves silly.  We got back on the road, headed West on I-80.  We made it to Rock Springs and found an affordable and nicely appointed hotel this time (My Review Here), complete with working Wifi (Working Wifi is less common than you would imagine!) even if they did take away their breakfast at 9am on the dot.

Since we now had more than our phones and paper maps, and we were now a full day behind, we decided to reevaluate our route.  The original plan had been to visit a friend in Reno, then head to San Francisco and make our way down the Pacific Coast Highway. We decided to nix the trip to Reno (sorry Jasen!) and head instead to Las Vegas, which we could easily make the next day if we made minimal stops.  

We woke up to the most amazing vista.  We didn't get to see it the night before, as we had arrived after dark.  Armed with our new plan, we hit the road, and headed towards Salt Lake.  We caught the I-15.  Utah is pretty, and I wish we could have enjoyed more of it, but we booked through pretty fast, with promises of pools to the kids once we got to Vegas.  There were some lingering questions of why there was a great big Y and B on the mountain sides.   As we Reached Nevada, I was amazed at the scenery.  It is quite picturesque, different than any place else I've ever seen.

We did make it to Vegas in good time and before dark.  We decided to stay at Circus Circus, despite Mariella's fear of clowns, with hopes that it was one of the more family friendly resorts. The thing about Vegas in August, it is HOT.  We were at the point in our trip where my practical plan of one suitcase per night rather than per person had reached its end.  My husband had been quite spoiled by this one suitcase scenario, and fought me as I told him to take more than one into the hotel.  He wanted to unpack and repack into one suitcase in the 105 degree parking garage rather than take a couple of suitcases in and reorganize in the air conditioned comfort of a hotel room. Sometimes I wonder about him. We did make it to the pool, which was most welcome.  We swam until they kicked us out of the pool, then headed out in search of food.  The kids about fell asleep at the dinner table, and all 3 were passed out as we drove back up the strip, unable to appreciate all the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas.


I awoke on the 7th day to find my toothbrush, MY TOOTHBRUSH, uncovered and left in a pool of water on the side of the sink.  My loving husband then proceeded to call me a princess because I insisted on getting a new one.  It is clear that the trip was starting to wear on us both.  We did however get to visit the spot where we got married, just in a nick of time to remind us of our origin story.  We were up and out of the hotel by 8am (the crack of dawn by Vegas standards) and we headed to the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel where it all began.

We then found some breakfast, and tried to do a little sight seeing, and souvenir shopping.  Mariella picked out a little snow globe with the Statue of Liberty (the New York, New York Casino's replica) in it, as she has quite the obsession with our lady in green (her brother would later destroy this beloved object and it would be replaced for double the amount plus shipping). The heat hit us and we hit the road.  One tip I will give you, if you ever drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, is to stop at the border. Stop even if you don't feel like you need to because there is little to be found on the road until you get to the suburbs of LA.  We encountered what may be perhaps the worst gas station bathroom I have ever seen somewhere between Baker and Barstow.  We got to LA in time for dinner on the 7th day.  And then we rested.  But not really.  Because vacation.

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