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Day 25, Tuesday June 13, 2017:
Keystone, South Dakota -> Custer State Park -> Hermosa -> Badlands National Park -> Rapid City -> Hot Springs, South Dakota

Good morning Keystone South Dakota for the second day! It was another light breakfast in our room before packing out and heading down the road.

The more we investigated the more interesting Custer State Park seemed so we headed down to drive the Needles Highway in the park. Hills, ledges, towering granite needles, tunnels through granite walls, views, vistas and the occasional turnout, what's not to love? I can't wait to edit the GoPro video we got of the whole thing. The safari had been so much sun and the terrain so lush and grassy we decided to wrap it up with a drive around the park Wildlife Loop. Some of this was familiar but plenty was new and we got to see many more of the familiar buffalo, prong horns and for our first time the wild goats.

The day's drive was not planned to be a long one and we were still shy of noontime. We weren't that far from Badlands National Park and decide to check it out. At Route 36 &79 in Hermosa we found Lintz Bros. " Soon to be Famous" Pizza. We had buffalo chicken and cinnamon bread bites with icing. The bread bites were soft fragrant, sweet and tasty, they came in a ludicrous portion that didn't get finished. The pizza was really good! It was said to be pricy and it was but as they say, it was, "pizza with personality". The décor was high bay sports bar with a surprising amount of Celtics paraphernalia. Franchising is available and the place did seem evolved and polished enough to be a prototype.

We were cruising south in the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation when we began to have views from the ridge of the badlands including Red Shirt Table Overlook, massive valleys of sculpted layered stone and towering spires, this was worth going out of our way for! Badlands is a geologic term with badlands formations found elsewhere in the world. Signs directed us to the part entrance and so we followed. We pulled up to the atypical national park White River Visitor Center that from the gravel lot looked like a double wide mobile home. So, we went in to get the lowdown and use the facilities. We learned that we had found the south end of the park that had been annexed as was largely undeveloped. Traditionally this had been land of the Lakota Tribe, latter it has been used by the Air Force for bombing practice. It has been under National Park Service control since 1968. Before we left, a native American ranger offered to show us some plants he had just been out picking. We went out to a picnic table and he explained 8 or 10 plants used for medicine, seasoning, food or dried for decoration.

The nice gravel road continued for 25 miles through the section of the park seen by only 2% of the parks visitors! As it turns out most of this road is actually outside of the park boundary but it was a nice drive anyway. It took us through the nearly ghost town of Scenic. This was largely northbound before reaching the paved northern unit of the park. Here the views were still grander and the turnouts made them more accessible. Gone was the solitude of the lower unit. As the sun began to drop in the sky we were rewarded with warmer light on the sea of reddish stone formations. We also spotted some goats climbing stone that didn't look climbable. The land is an interesting mix of stone and grassland. The colorful stone mounds are streaked in reddish golden and gray tones and reminded me of the painted desert. They are surrounded by lush green grasses. In the pioneer days equipment would be hoisted up to harvest hay from the tops of the mounds! I think it was nearly 7:00 when we exited the park.

We were a little over 2 hours from the night's hotel in Hot Springs and getting hungry. We headed off on a route that would make the PM travel a giant figure 8, the morning also meandered curiously. Route 44 took us to Rapid City. Along the way we encountered another construction stop where we waited for a pilot vehicle to lead the way. This was a long wait. When we got going and had driven a spell we got to the work area. One man was squirting tar to fill road cracks and another had what looked like a roll of toilet paper on a pole. He'd stab the material in to the wet filler and roll it out along the crack to cover it.

Some areas were very grassy with cattle and we were in round bale country. It was dusk as we got to Rapid City. Do we eat nice or do something simple to keep going? Simple was the choice and we had been hearing Taco John commercials for days and there one stood. I liked my tacos and the Potato Olés® were a delightful take on Crispy Crowns. I almost went for seconds.

The dusk became night as we cruised south on SD 79. It was about an hour drive but the road rolled along and the traffic was light. It was windy as we pulled into the USA Stay Hotel and Suites in Hot Springs. When we opened the car, plastic bags were flying out the door in the wind! The long video kept the laptop busy downloading the sights of the day.

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Created May 14, 2017