Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 7

Day 7 - Cody, Wyoming - 19th July 

For the first time on our road trip we had a chilled out morning, Mr C was not feeling well, so after breakfast the girls and I spent the morning in the outdoor pool, we had about 2 hours of fun playing in the pool, all to ourselves. We practiced our swimming, played sharks, which involved me being the shark, played dolphin - where the girls climb onto my back, held onto my costume straps and I take them under water like a dolphin, they love it. We had so much fun and at last 4 years of swimming lessons paid off as I was able to chill out on the lounger for a bit whilst the girls played in the pool under my supervision.

Ruby checking out the horses for her horse ride the next day

As we had had the morning in the pool, we headed into Cody for lunch, then onto the Buffalo Bill Historical Centre, but prior to the museum as we were parking, we noticed some horses ready for rides and we went to inquire and found out, that they were happy to take the girls out on a one hour trail ride on full sized horses, oh my, the girls were super excited, so we booked it for the following morning and headed off to the museum, the museum was fascinating learning all about Buffalo Bill, it wasn't great for the girls but they managed, and the museum is well worth a visit.

For our evening we planned to go to a dinner, show and rodeo, so after the museum we had time to change at the hotel before heading to The Cody Cattle Company for our chuckwagon dinner and show, the dinner was an all you can eat dinner, consisting of chicken, beef brisket, potatoes, baked beans, apple sauce, corn bread, Caesar salad, coleslaw, brownies, lemonade, coffee and water.

Enjoying a chuckwagon dinner

Once we had had dinner it was time for the foot stomping, hand slappin live Western show to start, and what a great show it was, these musicians are the most talented musicians I have ever seen on stage, it was amazing, the music was fabulous and the banter very funny. 

Ryan Martin heads up the band along with the most talented Wilson Family . Not only are Andrew and Deanna very talented musicians, Andrew is a 2nd time Washington State Champion fiddler player, Deanna not only sings, but plays the guitar, mandolin, upright bass and piano, and their 14 year old son is part of the band too playing the upright bass, he has also won the title of Junior Picking Champion in Hood River, OR 2011 for his mandolin playing. Not only that but their other 3 kids are also into music, playing many instruments. An amazing family.

The show finished, as promised, in plenty of time for us to walk over to the Rodeo, for a night of cowboy fun. The Rodeo was great fun, they provided a great show of bull riding, lassoing cattle, cowgirls competing and kids as young as 6 competing in a special kids race - it was great family fun.

Rodeo fun
Tilly in the Rodeo Arena
Bull Riding Rodeo

They even got all the kids out into the rodeo area for a game of catch the calf to win a prize, the kids 5 & under got a head start, and all they had to do was grab the ribbon attached to the calf to see what they had won, although both Ruby and Tilly got to run around the rodeo arena neither caught the calves, it was hilarious watching the kids though.

We had a fantastic night out for our last night in Cody as after the horse riding the next day we would be on our way to Jackson Hole, via Yellowstone Park for our next adventure.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 5 & 6

Day 5 - Keystone, Rapid City and Deadwood - 17th July

We were up very early as we had a steam train ride to be on at 8.45am, I love steam trains so wherever we go, if there is a steam train to go on I'm there, so when I saw the 1800 Train advertised in Keystone, I made Mr C go and book it there and then.

Our round trip took 2 hours 15 mins through the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota, we wound our way through the lovely countryside and hills between Keystone and Hill City...and back again. As well as the beautiful countryside, we also saw lots of wildflowers and deers too. 

The Black Hills are a special place, many cultures over the centuries have come to value the region for not only its visible wonders, natural resources, but also for characteristics nearly spiritual in nature. Time has not changed this admiration for the Black Hills.

1800 Train arriving into Keystone 
All Aboard The Choo Choo Train

After our lovely train ride, we found a cowboy girl hat for Ruby to complete her cowboy girl outfit, for some reason Tilly didn't want one, no big deal, so we headed back into Rapid City to check out a Dinosaur Park for Tilly, so armed with our lunch we headed up, to be greeted by an amazing view over Rapid City and a cute free dinosaur park, consisting of only 4 rather huge Dinosaurs, the kids had fun looking at them and playing on them.

Tilly loves dinosaurs so she was pleased when we told her she could choose a little something from the shop there, and she picked a little packet of small dinosaurs in a carry case - it didn't take her long to start playing with these in the car, whilst we then made our way to Deadwood for the afternoon.

Mr C wanted to visit Deadwood, as he's been really getting into the history around the Wild West etc plus he's been watching the TV series here called Deadwood. We had a lovely walk around the town, and saw where Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed, it was interesting, the town is saturated in history and looks a lot different now to when it did back then at the height of it's popularity, now it is full of saloons and casinos with the odd gift shop and ice cream parlour - it was an afternoon well spent.

Deadwood High Street

All in all we'd had another great day out followed by a swim in the pool and a pizza dinner.

Day 6 - Rapid City, SD - Cody, Wyoming - 18th July

We had a long drive ahead of us today, about 382 miles in total, so after breakfast we hit the road, and it wasn't long before we left South Dakota behind and we were in Wyoming on our way to Cody our next stop for 2 nights.

As we entered Wyoming we stopped at their Tourist Information/Rest Area and it was the best Visitors Centre we had been in throughout our whole trip, it was utterly wonderful and interactive too, so we picked up lots of brochures for Cody and Yellowstone Park and then found out we could take a scenic route to Cody via Devils Tower so we did.

Entering Wyoming our 3rd State
The Spectacular Devils Tower

It didn't take long to get to Devils Tower and it was well worth the detour and going off the beaten track to see it - that's the great thing about road trips, you can detour off as and when you like. We stopped for lunch in Gillette - (the best a man can get ha ha) nothing fancy, just a stop at a supermarket for homemade sandwiches, back on the road our next stop was this lovely little town called Buffalo it was so quaint, we made this our ice cream stop and we had the most delicious ice cream there.

The next bit of our journey to Cody was absolutely beautiful, it was stunning the vastness of the Bighorn National Park was out of this world, no photo would have done it justice, but I wish I had taken more photos, not one really showed the beauty or vastness of the place, but it will be forever implanted in my mind.

It was such a lovely drive and it was wasn't long before we got to Cody where our hotel was just lovely. Cody is a lovely Cowboy town, we ate out at a full on steakhouse, I had a great fillet (the smallest steak on the menu at 10oz which was still too big and Mr C had the buffalo steak, 16 ozs of pure buffalo, I had a taste and it was lovely, I would have loved a buffalo steak too but there was no way I could eat that much meat. it was a great meal in Cowboy town.

Horse Rides, Chuckwagon dinner & show and a Wild West Rodeo to come.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 4

The Spectacular Mt Rushmore

Day 4 - Mt Rushmore, Keystone & Custer State Park - 16th July

We were up early and on our way to Mt Rushmore, it was a good drive out to Keystone, the little town at the base of where Mt Rushmore is. We decided we'd stop at Keystone once we had been to see Mt Rushmore, so onto Mt Rushmore we went.

On the drive up to Mt Rushmore, you can see it from a distance, which just gets you excited to see it closer, and the entrance fee was free, but the parking fee was $11, not bad considering it was valid for one year.

There was a lovely walk up to the monument, called The Avenue of Flags which connects the concession building to the Grandview Terrace. The walkway is lined with the official flags of the 56 U.S. states, territories and districts, arranged in alphabetical order.

Then once you are passed the states flags, there it is upon you, this awesome monument, 4 Presidents heads carved out of the rock by Gutzon Borglum and as said by Gutzon "The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. "

And a really bizarre interesting fact too, is that President Jefferson (the principle author of the Declaration of Independence) was the author of the first Ice Cream recipe in America and to this day they are still making ice cream at Mt Rushmore using this recipe and of course I had to sample some history by having one.

Jefferson's Ice Cream

After our ice cream and it was rather delicious too, we walked around The Presidents Trail, which took us down and around Mt Rushmore, it was a lovely short walk, with fantastic views of the monument

Looking up to Mt Rushmore
Exploring a Tee Pee

The walk/trail around and under Mt Rushmore was great, we got to explore some tee-pees and learn about the rocks that are found nearby and just enjoy the walk.

Near the end of our walk - nearly a full circle

The walk was quite short and under each President it gave some information and history about each one, which was great to read. There was also a small visitors centre, that showed the equipment they used to carve the heads into the rock - it was all quite fascinating really.

The next face on Mt Rushmore....
Family Photo at Mt Rushmore

All in all we must have spent a good 2 hours there, there is lots to do and see - it was such an interesting place and well worth see.

As we were there a little longer than planned we decided to go into Keystone for lunch, it is a lovely quaint town and we found a saloon/restaurant called Ruby House, so of course we dined there for lunch.

After our lunch we decided to do the wildlife loop through Custer State Park, there was the possibility we'd see wild Buffalo/Bison, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, wild burros (mules) and much more, so we were really pleased to see a herd of wild buffalo roaming around.

Just your average traffic jam in Custer Park 
Some Buffalo were HUGE

 We were really lucky to see a few herds of buffalo on the move, with their calves too, and it wasn't long before we came across some wild Burro's too (mules we commonly know them as) and these were not shy either.

 I kept my distance as I am not at all keen on horses/burros, but the girls we're delighted they could get up close to them and pet them, the girls followed them around for ages, it was had to drag them away.

Continuing on we also saw a Pronghorn, which is an antelope type of animal, but not classed as an antelope. we weren't lucky enough to see any Elk but we thought we did well with the wild animal spotting.

After doing the loop, at a spur of the moment (cos road trips are like that) we decided to go and see Crazy Horse also in the Custer State Park - know many of you may not have heard about Crazy Horse I certainly hadn't, but it is truly an amazing story and an amazing feat of one man.

That one man is sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, he and Lakota Chief Henry Standing bear officially started Crazy Horse Memorial June 3rd, 1948. The Memorials mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of north American Indians.

Crazy Horse Memorial will be the World's largest mountain sculpture. It has taken over 60 years just for the face of crazy horse to be sculptured, and to begin with just one man, Korczak, worked alone on this, all without any government funding, to this day Korczak (now deceased) and his family have twice turned down a $10 million grant from the US government, stating if they took the money they were sure the memorial would never been finished. Instead, work is completed as and when the money is there, they receive lots of hardware donations (such as dymanite) as well collecting an entrance fee to see the work in progress, and they generate money from the gift shop, museum and restaurant they have onsite, as well as online donations, so it all helps with the continuation of the Memorial.

More help came for Korczak working on his memorial when he had his family and still today, most of his family work on and look after this very special monument - read more about it here as it is a truly inspirational story and you can read how the memorial came about and why Crazy Horse and the location was chosen.

It won't be finished in my lifetime but I would like to one day come back and visit it to see the progress.

Crazy Horse - you can just make out the face profile

So after seeing that rather spectacular monument in progress, we made our way back to Keystone and we took the girls on an Alpine slide to finish off the day and they loved it. It was great fun.

We had had such an interesting and great day out, one of the best so far.

1880 train, Deadwood and a Dinosaur Park all to come in Day 5 of our road trip

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wild West Road Trip - Day 3

Day 3 - Sioux Falls - Rapid City - July 15th

We had another long drive ahead of us today, it's a long way from Chicago to get to the true Wild West of America and Rapid City was to be our next stop for 3 days as this is where the famous Mt Rushmore is, along with Custer State Park and Deadwood.

It wasn't long on the road, when we saw a sign to Mitchell, home of the World's only Corn Palace so we had to stop and take a look, and it was truly bizarre, as the Corn Palace is still in use, serving as a mutli-use center for the community and region. It hosts stage shows, sports events and much more.

What makes it unique is the exterior decorations (made entirely of corn, grown specially for the palace) are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. Inside there are murals too made entirely of corn.

After our brief stop to see the Corn Palace, we carried on the highway to Rapid City, but on the way we discovered a fantastic 1880 town, so we popped in for a look and it was a great 2 hours spent, seeing how an 1880 town was, how small the houses where in them days, and how live revolved around the community and the saloons. We took a short horse and wagon ride, where our lovely rider allowed the girls to sit up front with him and they even each got to take the reigns of the horses and drive the wagon, it was the highlight of their day/world.

After this impromptu stop, we carried on our journey to Rapid City, along the way and before we got to the Badlands, we stopped to see and feed some Prairie dogs, that were ever so cute.

It wasn't long before we were driving through the Badlands - an absolutely wonderful place, it reminded me a lot of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia in certain parts, it was very spectacular, an amazing place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

From there we stopped at this amazing little town called Wall, it became famous because of a couple who back in 1936 needed to find a way to get people to come to Wall and spend money at their drug store (pharmacy) named Wall Drug, they had bought in 1931 and were trying to make a go of it. So they decided to offer free iced water to all the passing highway traffic and it worked and today they still offer free iced water and the town is booming with visitors.

The famous Wall Drug

We even helped their economy by having dinner there, and buying the girls some cowboygirl boots

Mr C on this very bizarre rabbit with antlers 

Leaving Wall and driving onto our next stop was beautiful, it was dusk and the scenery was so pretty, it didn't take the girls long to fall asleep, after our few impromptu stops we were later getting into Rapid City than anticipated, but it was great we got to see the things we did along the way.

And Rapid City was our destination for the next 3 nights,  our gateway to explore Mt Rushmore and much more.