Friday, September 18, 2009

Prairie Dogs Have Plague

My apologies to all my regular readers (all two of you) for the lack of posts this year. The job is consistently crazy, and even on those nights when I'm home at a reasonable hour, my brain is usually too fried to come up with a decent post.

That being said, I have wanted to share with you our recent trip to Mt. Rushmore. It was one of those things on my must see list, and we were able to take a road trip this summer for a long weekend vacation (of course, our recent acquisition of this no doubt helped motivate Hubby for said road trip).

Mt. Rushmore is about an 8-hour drive from the Twin City area...8 hours of corn fields and prairie grass until just before you reach the Black Hills National Forest, where you suddenly find yourself in some of the prettiest scenery I've ever seen anywhere in the U.S.

We stayed at the Best Western Golden Spike Inn in Hill City, which is right in the Black Hills National Forest. Because we were going at what was rapidly approaching peak summer vacation travel time, we bid for our hotel through Priceline in the hope that we would get some sort of discount. We got a room for $115/night that was advertised everywhere else for $150, so initially I was satisfied. However, when we arrived at 9 PM after our 8-hour plus road trip and checked into our room we discovered that it was dirty. I can tolerate a lot as far as hotel rooms go, but dirty isn't one of them. Our room had two queen beds, and when we pulled the sheets back on the first, we found brown stains on the white sheets. We told ourselves it was chocolate, and turned to the other bed. Same brown stains there, except this time they were on the duvet. I am horrified at this point. I went back to the check-in desk to ask for either clean sheets or a new room.

And at this point, I must say that the staff at the Best Western Golden Spike Inn went above and beyond anything I expected to accomodate us. They moved us to a different room, which was really a luxury accomodation. It was a two bedroom apartment, with a full bath, vanity sink outside the bath, full living room and full kitchen, complete with refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave and dishes. It was the biggest hotel room I've ever been in. They told us at the time that this particular room would not be available our whole stay and that we would have to move the next morning, but we were fine with that. We had paid for a standard room, and certainly were fine with staying in a (clean) standard room, which is what we assumed we'd have the next morning.

But once again we were shocked (in a good way) at the level of customer service at the Best Western Golden Spike Inn. The next day we were placed in a suite, complete with jacuzzi tub and fireplace. This suite had a separate sitting area, two TV's, and a kitchenette. It was really one of the nicest hotel rooms I've ever been in. Even though the first room had some issues, I would still recommend and stay at this hotel again based on the customer service. I would even pay full price for one of those suites. Which is saying a lot--we try to never pay more than $100/night for a hotel room.

We were able to pack a lot into our extended weekend. Besides seeing Mt. Rushmore (which is amazing--if you haven't seen it, you really should try--pictures do not do it justice), we took several scenic drives and saw a lot of wildlife, took a tour of Jewel Cave, one of the largest caves in the U.S., "hiked" to an underground waterfall (it was a .6 mile walk), hiked around one of the lakes in Black Hills National Forest, went to a wild horse sanctuary to see wild horses, saw the Black Hills, and stopped at two Laura Ingalls Wilder museums. I grew up reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and being able to step into the house she lived in and see things that I read about and that she actually owned was a really cool experience for me. The wild horse sanctuary, in addition to having several herds of wild mustangs, also had one of the oldest post office boxes in the U.S. It was literally a small wooden shack built back in the days of the pony express. There were also ancient hieroglyphics that National Geographic has even featured in one of their shows.

It's definitely an area of the country I would recommend seeing. But I will stop talking now and show you the pictures, since they are more convincing than anything I could ever say. Enjoy!

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore through a tunnel. On one of the scenic drives we took, there were several tunnels carved out of rock that were only big enough for one car to go through at a time. This was one of them.

Inside Jewel Cave

Wild Mustang herd

Baby wild mustang


Old post office

Baby mountain goat--one of the many wildlife creatures we saw. We were really as close to them all as the pictures make it seem.


Prairie dog--I loved these little guys, even if there was a sign outside of the entrance to the Badlands National Park that they had plague.


Buffalo and baby

Badlands--it was much prettier here than I thought it would be.