Traveling with your kids can be hard. Traveling with kids who are not your own can be hard. Traveling with kids in a car for many hours can be hard. Traveling with kids who are not your own in a car for many hours can be hard.
Somehow, though, so far, we’ve managed to pull this trip off.
So, Day 4:
There is SO much to do in this area that I didn't think we'd do anything twice. But since a storm and bad footwear choices cut our first trip to the Badlands short, we opted to go again, properly attired and ready for any weather.
This is when traveling with four children of a variety of ages and athletic abilities gets a little challenging. Three were ready to climb to the tallest peak, and one was less than thrilled at the prospect. So we took two cars, climbed together for awhile, and when one started to tire, I headed back with her.
I will never forget driving out of the Badlands and thinking, "I just left my two boys IN THE BADLANDS. WHAT AM I THINKING???" I knew they were in good hands, but I still worried. We went back to Wall to shop and I waited not so patiently for their call. About 2-1/2 hours later, they showed up and I said, "How was it?" Their response, "WE LIVED." Apparently they had gotten themselves into a pretty precarious situation... upon reaching the summit of one of the cliffs, they had some issues in finding their way down. The hills out there are dirt/clay like, but just beneath the crusty stuff is a layer of slippery mud. My son lost both soles of his shoes and most of the back of his shorts from sliding down the hills. But they were both completely exhilarated at their feat, and I was thrilled that they were safe and sound.
Now, we've been absolutely blessed with the weather here - during the day, at least. The days have been warm but not unbearable, nice breezes, beautiful fluffy white skies... the nights? That's a different story. We had just walked across the street to a restaurant when the winds picked up, the temperature dropped, and the rain and hail came. We were under a tornado warning with pretty much nowhere to go. Eventually, it passed, but upon returning to the hotel, the power went out. Thank goodness for the flashlights I had in the van, which I sent my oldest son out to get. The next morning, I went out to said van, and the side door was WIDE OPEN. Miraculously, nothing was stolen, and luckily, it was left open after the storms.
Day 4: Kids 1, Mom 1, God 2.
Day 5: Aside from the whole gaping van door thing, Day 5 was another amazing adventure. We trekked to Deadwood, home of gold mines and Wild Bill Hickok. We toured a gold mine and discovered some amazing facts about mining, like, the men worked 10 hour days only by candlelight. One worker held the chisel, the other hammered. The chisel was turned clockwise, and the other hammered again. At the end of the day, a young, inexperienced worker was sent in to fill the holes with powder and ignite them, then run like hell. According to our guide, no loss of life was ever documented, but I'm pretty sure it occurred. The workers had to provide their own candles, so they blew them out while they broke for lunch. The guide turned out the lights and it was the blackest black I had ever experienced. I honestly don't know how these men did it.
After the tour, the kids were taught the art of panning for gold. They got their pans, swirled the rocks, and patiently waited for the gold to sink to the bottom. The look on their faces when they saw the little flecks was priceless, and they loved the fact that they were so heavy they sunk immediately to the bottom of the little vials of water.
We left with their treasures and went on to Saloon No. 10, the very place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot while playing poker. Ever heard the term "dead man's hand"? That refers to the hand that Wild Bill was holding when he was shot from behind - otherwise known as "aces and eights". Apparently, he never sat with his back to the door, but that one night he had no choice, and reluctantly did. Bad move, Bill. Bad move.
The drive back to Rapid City was so beautiful - the landscape so different than that of Custer State Park or the Badlands. Very lush and green with miles and miles of pine trees that you swear were planted exactly the same space apart. The sun and clouds cast amazing shadows on the mountains, and the even the rolling hills splattered with the tree victims of recent forest fires was an awesome sight.
Our last stop for the day was Reptile Gardens, which may sound cheesy, but if reptiles are your thing, it's a great place to go. In about an hour and a half, we saw a guy wrestle an alligator, touched a giant tortoise, laughed at some fat prairie dogs and shuddered at the snakes and spiders. In my opinion, it was worth the admission fee, and a nice, easy ending to an incredible trip.
Day 5: Kids 1, Mom 1.
I think the kids have done a great job of being flexible when differing opinions were involve, patient when asked to be, and genuinely thrilled with most everything we did. I managed to also be flexible and keep not only my sense of humor, but my sense of wonder as well.