Monday, July 9, 2018

SD Trip Landing Page

Please use this page to navigate to all our posts about our SD trip!


Day One- Moville and Mitchell

Day Two -Mitchell to Rapid City to Keystone to Hill City

Day Three- Mount Rushmore

Day Four-Sylvan Lake & Wildlife Loop

Day Five-UTV rental in Keystone

Day Six-Wind Cave and Legion Lake


Day Seven- Bear Country, Badlands, Wall Drug

Day Eight- Sioux Falls 


Hotel in keystone

Hiking, swimming, picnic.

Hiking, swimming, canoeing. 

Great drive, or buffalo safaris.  

Sioux Falls 

Rapid City 


Alpine slide, Keystone 

We rented this car carrier which was helpful for our extra gear! The guy is awesome and will help you install when you pick up. 

Custer State Park Cabin #31 Large Sleeping Cabin, Duplex.
We had a large sleeping cabin that was a duplex (number #31). We loved how close these cabins were to the Park entrance, State Game Lodge, walking path, and Coolidge General Store. The other cabin dwellers in the area were very quiet and there was little to no traffic on the driveway going to the cabins. However, our cabin was a duplex which we knew going into the booking. What we did not anticipate was that there was clearly one picnic and fire pit area for both cabins. There was a table out back, but it was a hassle to get things from inside to the outside. Also, the walls inside the duplex were very thin and it was noticeable if there were loud neighbors. We had an odd situation where each night we had different neighbors, many just treating the cabin as a hotel room with no one eating or cooking outdoors. We were worried there would be issues with sharing the table and fire pit but there none due to those circumstances. 

The cabin had two queen beds and a pull-out sofa. There was a fairly large bathroom with a tub and a shower. For a kitchenette, we had a small dorm fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. There were plenty of towels and we had housekeeping every day to refresh the beds and towels. The air conditioning worked well and there were also good screens and windows that opened for fresh air. Storage was a bit of an issue but we utilized part of a dresser and a nightstand for our food, utensils, and kid entertainment. There was only one tv in the unit but we were able to move it back and forth between the bedroom and the living area (the outlet in the living room did not support two devices which we were trying to use for a chrome cast). There was also no seating options besides the couch or a table inside. We used the outdoor picnic table and two chairs/end table for relaxing and eating outdoors. 

Wifi situation
I thought I'd better take a minute and talk about the wifi situation on our trip. We had great wifi at the actual hotels we stayed at, Rushmore Express and Dakotah Lodge. For Custer State Park, we had zero wifi at our cabins. I had to hike to the lodge to get on wifi and while it was good, it was not strong enough to do video conferencing.  I also used the wifi at the Creekside Lodge and they had a very comfortable lobby (think hotel lobby) whereas the Game Lodge felt a bit more private and you could sit on the porch. The first few days I used their wifi I felt odd, but later in the trip, I saw several people camped out with their laptops or ipads. 

As for cell signal, we got a good data signal at some parts of our cabin but spotty at other parts. I'm not sure how that works, but I was able to get a good signal one afternoon studying for my test while Anna and Brynn rested/played. I'm not sure I would have wanted to spend hours away from them studying at the lodge so it worked out well. Your mileage will vary in the black hills but that was our experience and for what is worth we use Verizon as our carrier. 

Food ideas
I love making camping food when we are camping or cabin camping. It makes it seem more outdoorsy!

Here are some of the things we made:
-hamburger patty, carrot, potato, onion foil packets
-chili/chili dogs/hot dogs
-spaghetti o's
-eggs and bacon
-french toast on the grill
-cold cereal and fruit/yogurt
-pb & j, lunch meat and cheese with plenty of chips, cookies, fruit for easy picnic lunches on the go
-french press coffee every morning (my fav!)
-we ate a meal at the game lodge as well as a few lunches out 

Another tip which I was glad we did was pack reusable water bottles and coffee cups for everyone to use in the car, cabin, and on outings. I felt like it made for a lot less waste and cleanup. 

We cooked mostly on a coleman camping grill (on the picnic table) and a little butane burner we got at walmart. We packed some basic pans and utensils as the cabin had zero. We used paper plates and utensils. 

You guys know we love digging into media before we travel. Here is what I reccomend: 

Image result for m is for mount rushmore
I actually loved this book more than my kids! There are short verses for kids as well as longer passages that dive into the meaning of the illustrations. I learned a lot in this book that I noticed as we were traveling. A great, simple overview of the state's history! 

Westworld, specifically Kiksuya Season 2, Episode 8
Image result for westworld hbo kiksuya
We love the series Westworld on HBO and watching the Kiksuya episode really made me want to watch Dances with Wolves because of the beautiful way they portrayed Native Americans. They spoke the Lakota language the whole episode and it was really beautiful. Watching this and Dances with Wolves back to back is a great way to see the similaries. 

sImage result for dances with wolves
Image result for dances with wolves
Image result for dances with wolves
Image result for dances with wolves
Not only is Dances with Wolves one of my all time favorite movies, it is a great showcase of the staet of South Dakota. So many times we were driving and it looked just the movie. We had to break up the viewing into two parts and Michael really liked it. We also saw a great documentary on the movie but I can't remember where I saw it or what it was called. It talked a lot about the process of filming and being on location in South Dakota. It might be worth a dig, too!

Image result for national treasure book of secrets sylvan lake
Image result for national treasure book of secrets sylvan lake
You can't visit South Dakota without watching the underrated National Treasure Book of Secrets where Nicholas Cage has to find the secret book inside Mount Rushmore. They also visit Sylvan Lake but it is grossly misportrayed in the film. This is the second in the series you might have to watch the first one if you are not familiar with the story. It is pretty good, too. 

Day 8: Zoo and headed home!

We all enjoyed our great night of rest at the Dakotah Lodge in Sioux Falls and got up for their awesome breakfast. I think the hotel was a renovated older hotel and they had a nice courtyard for breakfast seating which is something I thought was a little out the ordinary but very nice. 

The hotel had a really fun pool with a kids zero depth area and a big waterslide. Luckily they came and turned the waterslide on while we were swimming so Michael, Scott, and I all got several rides in. I think Michael went 10 times! 

After a quick shower and pack up cutting it close to check out time, we headed to the zoo. 

We really enjoyed our time at this beautiful, low key, and definitely not crowded zoo. My favorite were the two grizzly bear cubs. They had some neat stories about how they got to have the bears: one pair of siblings were removed from their mother from Yellowstone after she was teaching them to break into cabins and steal food (yikes!), and the other pair of siblings were found in Alaska clinging to life by their dead mother. They got to ride on an airplane to come all the way to Sioux Falls!



I was a little bit over it at this point, hence the lack of photos. The big hits for the kids were the sandbox, playground, train ride, and carousel. We also saw a special type of ancient cat that looked like a housecat-sized mountain lion and a Komodo dragon. 



We were so ready to hit the road afterward that we just did drive through for lunch and everyone slept all the way back to Des Moines! 

Check out my landing page for all the days and links! 

Friday, July 6, 2018

South Dakota Day 7: Bear Country, Badlands, Wall Drug

Day 7 started out as usual: me heading to my morning class. This was an especially nerve wracking day as my final test was going to be released at 10:00 and I'd only have two hours to complete it before having to resubmit it to the system. There was a wrench in the plan as they could not print my document at the lodge but I made do anyway. 

Scott and the kids were in charge of getting the car loaded so we could head out right at 10:00. 

Our first stop was to Bear Country, U.S.A. in Rapid City. This is an easy and fun stop and it only took us about an hour to complete. 


This bear was living his best life! 



The kids had fun exploring the walk around area while I nervously submitted my paper but the cell signal provided and it all went without a hitch. We also had a really nice lunch in Rapid City, wood fired pizza and sandwiches. 

Our next stop was to the badlands. 




Girls (and mom) were not in the greatest mood and this was a very short stop. I would like to have hiked a bit more but it was warm and we were tired so we just got back into the car. 

A bit later we made our final stop at Wall Drug. We were here about an hour or so, just looking around a bit. 


The kids loved the backyard area, especially the fountains. I have some good video of Brynn getting totally soaked! The runner up for fun things was the dinosaur and the kids shop right next to the dinosaur (where we browsed for an entire 12 minutes to wait for the beast to go off again). 



We ended our trip with an ice cream/donut break (no coffee for me, I didn't even have a nickel on me...sad) and a refill for our kids Dramamine. Wall Drug IS still a drug store, you know. :) 


After this we began our long journey eas across the prairie. It takes a really long time to get from Wall to Sioux Falls, ugh. We stopped at a rest stop outside Chamberlin to have a picnic supper but by that point I was getting tired of hauling out all the food to have no one eat it. I really had a great time on the trip but I was getting worn out by this point. At least it was a quick and relatively painless stop so we could hit the road again. I started calling hotels in Sioux Falls to get a place for the night and we were having terrible luck. Everywhere was full. I randomly saw an opening on expedia and called the hotel right away and we got a room at the Dakotah Lodge. When we were checking in at 10:30 pm they told us they save those rooms for "Mr. Lucky" and release them at 7pm every night. We were indeed lucky and thankful! It was a nice hotel and perfect for us. 

Tomorrow will be our last day in Sioux Falls and heading home! 

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