Yesterday, Steph and I were privately complaining because we never saw the sun the whole day. However, Mr. Sun was out this morning, and by 10:00, when I was packing the van, it was hotter than it ever thought about getting yesterday. (By “hot”, I mean “sweat rolling down your back hot”.) Now, we are very grateful that we had the shade!
We began our trek toward Rapid City, which is only about 70 miles from the Badlands. We stopped in Wall and took a picture in front of the 80 foot Wall Drug dinosaur which is out by the Interstate, then Stephanie took the big kids back into Wall Drug for a few more souvenirs (we apparently did not purchase enough yesterday) and to let the kids play some type of Big Game Hunting Video Game, (Grandpa Ken would have been very proud to see Miles nail 21 of 25 quail on the Bonus Round!) while Marissa slept in the van with me.
Once we arrived in Rapid City, our first stop was Storybook Island. This is a children’s theme park operated by the Rapid City Rotary Club, and it is free of charge. It essentially runs on donations from visitors, local businesses and organizations, and proceeds from the Gift Shoppe. This stop was all about Marissa, and she loved it. This park has toys to play on, and includes every well-known storybook figure you can think of – Pooh, Dr. Seuss, 3 Little Pigs, 101 Dalmatians, etc. Marissa had a great time, and so did Mallory!
Our next stop was Reptile Gardens. Just like Wall Drug, this destination made the USA Today list of “Top 10 places in America to stop the car and take a look”! Can it get any better than this?! This stop was all about Miles. Reptile Gardens has one of the most complete collections in the world of snakes, reptiles, alligators and crocodiles. They have been around since the 1930s. We got to see the Worlds Most Venomous Snake – the Inland Taipan snake from Australia. The Reptile Gardens is the only place in the world outside Australia where you can see this snake. They also had Anacondas, Pythons, Boa Constrictors – it was like a Snake Hall of Fame.
We watched almost an hour long Alligator Show, where someone from Reptile Gardens talked to us about different varieties of alligators and crocs, and he wrapped up the session by showing us how to close the mouth of an alligator, should we ever find ourselves in a position to need to do that. All of the kids were pretty attentive – especially Miles – for this show. At the end of the show, the kids got to touch an alligator.
We also watched a Snake Show. At one point, the emcee wheeled out a glass box containing a Cobra – which kills more people every year than any other kind of snake. He asked the audience for a volunteer to stick their hand into the box with the snake. Miles raised his hand, and the emcee called on him. So, Miles jumps a wall, and gets up on stage with the emcee. The emcee tells Miles that the Cobra can strike very fast, so he instructs Miles that after he slowly reaches his hand into the box, he will want to pull it back out as quick as he can, once he sees the Cobra start to strike. He then asks Miles if he still wants to do it. Miles says, “Yes”. So, then the emcee talks some more about how dangerous the snake is, and is he sure he still wants to do it. Miles says, “Yes’. At this point, the emcee looks out in the crowd and asks for Miles’ parents, and asks us if we would like for him to stick his hand in the box! We say, “No”. So, Miles got a round of applause from the crowd and he came back out to the bleachers. In hindsight, we’re not real sure if the emcee expected Miles to come on stage, but as soon as he called on Miles, he was up there in 2 seconds! Anyway – Miles had a blast at Reptile Gardens, and we’re glad we went.
We ate dinner in Hill City at the Bumpin’ Buffalo. We again ate buffalo entrees, and they were better tonight. We got to sit on the upstairs deck at this place, while we had the Black Hills surrounding us. It was a very beautiful location. While we were eating, Mallory lost her tooth that has been loose for the last few weeks. She was super excited about it, and the ladies at the next table even commented to her about it. It was a bottom tooth, not a middle one, but to the side, so of course, it was common to see Mallory pushing her tongue through the hole the rest of the night.
It is only about 15 miles from Hill City to Custer, where we are staying at the Bavarian Inn. We got to our hotel about 10:00 and got checked in. Tomorrow is a marquee day for our trip, as it will include most of the day at Mt. Rushmore!