Monday, September 21, 2009

Our adventure begins

Our first family vacation officially began, to me, at 6 a.m. Thursday, when we pulled into the parking lot outside of our hotel just a handful of miles from Mt. Rushmore. It took 12 hours of driving (thanks Ray!) to do it – but once we were on the road, we really didn’t want to stop at a hotel for one night just to drive some more.

The hotel – Palmer Gulch Lodge – didn’t have staff on hand until 7 a.m., so we had an hour before we could even ask for a super-early check-in. So, of course, we drove the few miles to Mt. Rushmore. That didn’t even open until 8 a.m., but we were able to check out the profile view and climb around on some rocks. Lola was thrilled to be out of the car! And while she didn’t really notice the carvings, she was impressed with the mountains.

We didn’t really stay long at all as we were all pretty hungry and Ray was exhausted. But we stayed long enough to snap a few pictures. (A nice woman from Alaska, I believe, stopped and snapped the first family photo.)

So then we went back to the lodge and asked, ever so nicely, if it would be at all possible to check in early – a whole seven hours early. And they were super accommodating. Our room was already waiting for us, so they had no problem with us coming so early. And, we were invited to take part in the continental breakfast, which was much appreciated. Lola and I walked around the grounds of the KOA (where the lodge was located) while Ray took a much-needed nap.

We went back out about 11 a.m., once everyone took a little rest. We didn’t really have any plans, so we just went wherever we felt like it. That was nice, to not have a schedule, to not have set destinations.

We drove along Needles Highway and through Custer State Park, where we saw lots of different animals. We stopped often to get some air and to walk around, taking some pictures. I must say, though, while Ray loved the tunnels, I myself could have gone without.

Lola, especially, was impressed with the burros! She kept pointing at them and laughing when they approached the car (and I broke the rules and fed one of them a handful of baby snacks – which was cool until s/he stuck her/his entire head in the car and I got a little freaked out).

We ended the day by grabbing dinner at the on-site restaurant near the hotel. It was good, I think, but Ray and I quickly learned that we had spent too much time in the car Thursday: Lola wanted nothing to do with sitting at the table. She wanted to run. And let us know by screaming. So, we took turns eating while the other parent took her outside to run around.

We pledged to do better on Friday.

-- Bethany :)

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