Jul 18 2011
As you may recall, our family is participating in Twizzlers’ Landmark Summer, and today was the first day of our vacation in the shiny red Twizzlers van.
Our kids have been so excited about riding in this van that it didn’t take them long to say goodbye to family in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where we had enjoyed the weekend, and to get settled into our vehicle for the week.
We had seen that famous South Dakota landmark, Mount Rushmore, on Saturday, so we bypassed it today and instead took the beautiful Needles Highway through Custer State Park. The twists and turns of the route didn’t bother our gang a bit as they remarked about the scenery, the tunnels, and the wildlife and flora we saw along the way. Having to wait for buffalo to cross the road and spotting wild burros and pronghorns along the Wildlife Loop added to the fun. This was by no means a quick trip; from the cabin near Hill City through this area took more than two and a half hours. If you don’t have the time to make the drive, there are faster routes, but if you want to see some of the best natural things the Black Hills have to offer, this is the way to go.
Exiting Custer State Park on the south end takes you directly into Wind Cave National Park, so that was our next stop. We stopped to take the shortest tour, “Garden of Eden,” at one hour in length, and have the kids earn Junior Ranger badges. I highly recommend the Junior Ranger programs in our National Park Service sites as a way for kids to learn more in-depth information about the parks and historic sites they’re visiting. Workbook activities vary in difficulty according to the child’s age, and after completing the program, they earn a badge from that particular park. Collecting badges has become a favorite activity on our family vacations.
By the time we were done at Wind Cave, we made a quick lunch stop in Hot Springs, and headed down the road to Nebraska, where it hovered around 100 degrees for the entire afternoon. We made a short stop at Carhenge, one of those roadside attractions that’s hard to pass by without stopping, and then went over to Gering to see Scotts Bluff National Monument. What a treat to turn onto “Old Oregon Trail” and learn about the pioneers that crossed this way so many years ago. Especially in the heat of the day, we could be grateful for our modern conveniences instead of traveling the trail in covered wagons. At Scotts Bluff, the kids earned their second Junior Ranger badges of the day, and then we drove up to the top of the monument to see the view from this natural vantage point. I especially like visiting these lesser-known and less-busy park sites, as we can enjoy and learn about them without fighting crowds.
After Scotts Bluff, it was time to eat supper and head to our hotel. Tomorrow we’re off to our primary destination, Pikes Peak, but we’ve got plenty of fun and interesting things planned throughout the week. Stay tuned!
If you’d like to keep up with us as we go, try following this link to see my #twizzlers #roadtrip posts on twitter. (You don’t have to be a twitter user to follow this.)
Our Pikes Peak roadtrip is being sponsored by the Twizzlers company, but the choice of where to go and what to see is up to us. In true roadtrip fashion, we’re going to see as much as we can along the way as we drive the Twizzlers van.