Roadtrip to South Dakota

Endless highways, strangely shaped mountains, from sunshine to snow, few gas stations, cowboys and Native Americans, and something on the middle of the road.
I am driving for two days through South-Dakota to visit my dad who is staying in Minneapolis. Discovering many things that are not touristic yet, but oh so amazing!

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My dad and I at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount rushmore

I get into the car at Minneapolis airport to drive to probably the most well known place of South Dakota: Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Vast landscapes are ahead of me while I leave them behind as well. It seems infinite. Each gas stop is a full tank, because with the miles that I have to drive this tank will do just fine until I reach the next gas station. The American voices on the radio make me happy. A man and a woman are chatting and introducing songs while they gossip about the singers. What a lovely ride. Great music, happiness, no pressure, seeing my dad again after some months, a lot of space, and especially no stress on the road. God bless America.

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Mountain goats at Mt. Rushmore

I have been driving for about 11 hours, including stops, and now I arrived. All the way to the middle of nowhere and it seems that I have found Mount Rushmore. A long road to the top of the mountain brings me to the statues of the presidents heads. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln greet you with a subtle smile as soon as you enter the memorial. I thought I would find more tourists here, but there a just a few. Nice and peaceful, as a memorial should be. Behind the mountain with the presidents there is a path, which I really want to discover. I find some mountain goats grazing the grass of the mountain and making noise with the bells around their necks. The view from this path is amazing because you can see the Black Hills in the distance.

Check! I have now officially seen Mount Rushmore. Something that has been on my bucket list since I was a child. I had this computer game which made you discover the world and it had a singing and moving picture of Mount Rushmore when you clicked on America. Now, after many years, I can finally put the game away and see the real thing!

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Crazy Horse Memorial in the back

Crazy horse

You might have heard of Crazy Horse on the National Geographic channel or Discovery, but otherwise you probably do not know its existence. Well, I did not know it either. Until I almost hit the thing with my car. It is huge! Nearby Mt. Rushmore are the Black Hills, another mountain area where mountain carving is being performed for the respect of a great Indian. This Indian is pointing forward, sitting on top of its horse.

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That is Crazy Horse. A real Indian and a great and patriotic hero. They say that Crazy Horse will be world’s largest mountain carving, but they do not know yet when it will be finished. Anyway, it is definitely worth a visit!

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Black Hills

Flying squirrels, prairie dogs, mountain lions, bison’s, and more animals can be found in the Black Hills. That is great I think! You can walk and drive through the park, but there is enough space for wild animals, and therefor of course as well enough space for a forester fortunately. It is fantastic park for a short visit to take some photos or just to enjoy the nature. A calm place where I can enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

After leaving the Black Hills I have to drive through some difficult roads as it is getting darker and there are no lights outside. The headlights of my car show me everything I can possible see at this hour, and it seems as if there is something on the road. The air that is getting breathed out marks white against the light of my car and it has to be some kind of huge animal standing there. As I approach it a bit I see the shape of a bison. It is just standing there. I decide to grab my camera and film it, since I do not want to scare the beast and make it run against my car. Though, someone on the other side of the road wants to pass with a bit more hurry, the bison does not get aggressive and just walks back into the forest. Amazing experience.

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Bear country

A huge billboard pulls my atention: Bear Country U.S.A. Drive Through Wildlife Park.
Oooeeee… I think. A park with animals where I can drive though. Fantastic! The mirrors of my car are literally getting cleaned by the tongues of the mountains goats who await the tourists. I start looking for animals I have not seen yet and in the distance I think I see a group of bison’s again. But there is something else as well, something white. As I get closer I discover that it is a white bison, but that does not mean that it has to be an albino. It is quite special to see a white bison, but did you know it will probably put brown calves into this world? A bit further ahead there is a Grizzly bear walking on the road. He passes my car and yawns. It looks like all the bears are yawning now, it might be nappy time for them.

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One is sleeping in a tree, while another one is laying on the ground. Now I really am in Baloo the bear country, the song is already in my head.

♩♬♪♫The bees are buzzin’ in the tree
To make some honey just for me♩♬♫♪

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Spearfish canyon

One moment you are driving with the sun in your face and then you are finding yourself surrounded with a lot of snow all out of a sudden. Luckily the car has four-season tyres, not that the other places where tropical whatsoever, but it was not that cold before! I find it funny that the sign next to the road says ‘Fire Danger: LOW today’. The ski and snowboard parks are everywhere and I think I have just landed in true Winter Wonderland. So cool! From one place to another, so different, in such a short time and distance. As soon as my astonishment passes and my stomach starts to get an opinion I decide to find a restaurant. And what do you know, I see this really typical restaurant, kinda hunters hut. You know, with stuffed animals and guns on the walls. It really fits the beautiful landscape, though I must say I will be glad when I enter an area again which is a bit less cold.

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1880 town

After driving again for a while the sun and the highway appear again out of the blue and I leave Spearfish Canyon. Big neon letters show the name ‘1880 town’ as a see some kind of ghost town in the distance. Interesting, let us have a look!
As soon as I park my car I notice this magical atmosphere in the air, which makes it seem like I am walking through a movie. The village is from the days of the cowboys and the Indians, with saloons and wagons, the real wild west. Everything fits. Could it have been a movie set? When I enter one of the buildings I notice this big poster of Dances with Wolves. And yes, the big white Indian tipi until the freight wagons, it is all there.

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Presidents nowadays

While I want to continue my ride to a next surprise which my TomTom had already discovered I see three statues by the road. It seems the last presidents got a statue of their own close by Mt. Rushmore. There is not a lot of explanation present, but it is clear that these are the current generations of presidents in a park. Obama is not there yet, but I am sure he will get a park for himself as well.

I even pass a park named ‘Sitting Bull’, one of the better known Indian names. Unfortunately the park is closed, otherwise I would have loved to enter! Kind a funny, that there are so many little parks, museums and attractions for really anything in South Dakota. I think it is clear that you will not find any boring roads and that there is still plenty left to discover.

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.
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