Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

The Ingalls Family and Black Hills Miscellany

on December 15, 2012

Our goal was to get to Rapid City, SD, where we would stay, relax, and visit with some friends from once-upon-a-time.  We drove straight there, with no stops.

However, there were places to stop, especially if you are travelling with children, so this blog is going to be about places we missed.  If, by chance, we are ever back in this area again, we might even stop at a couple of the places… like… The Wind Cave.

THE WIND CAVE 
is about 2.5 hours from Alliance NE North, or 45 mins South of Crazy Horse.  It is a sacred place for the Lakota Sioux, and has been known to them for centuries! It was found again by Jesse and Tom Bingham in 1881, when they heard the air whistling out of the cave. Apparently, the wind coming out of the cave blew Tom’s hat off his head, and later, the wind switched directions and sucked his hat into the cave. Flowstone

Wind Cave is one of the longest caves in the world (more than 100 miles/161 kms long) and the first cave to be designated a national park (in 1903, by Theodore Roosevelt, of course). The Limestone Cave is the 5th largest in the world,  and made up of a variety of cave formations, including

The Cave is still being explored, but you can take guided tours, even in the winter!  There are a variety of tour options, with different levels of strenuity (strenuousness?) – depending on length, stairs, accessibility.  Check their website for options and costs!

The National Park website says the best times to visit are early mornings or weekends, and that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest…which…is weird, I think. I wonder why that is?

Mammoth On the way to the Wind Cave (from Alliance NE), you will pass the MAMMOTH SITE, at Hot Springs.  We actually did stop there (thanks to the sign on the road and the guise of “Big Ball of String” touring), and historically, scientifically, and paleontologically, I think THIS would be fascinating. But we were tired, and we wanted to get to Crazy Horse, etc., and visiting here was a last-minute idea… so when we got there, and it was a museum with guided tours, we just went in the front door into the lobby and into the gift shop, but not into the museum.

The Mammoth Site is the largest site in the world, and is still an active paleontological dig site (which you can tour).  According to the website, they have found (to date) 60 mammoth remains (57 Columbian and 3 woolly)!

This mammoth grave yard was discovered by accident in 1974, when an earth-mover unburied a set of bones, trying to excavate for a housing development.

Since then, as mentioned, 60 mammoths have been uncovered, but also (the website confirms) a “giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish, and numerous invertebrates.”

You can take a 30 minute guided tour year round, but they suggest you budget at least an hour, so you can also visit the dig site area on your own (rules about staying on the sidewalk).

30 minutes NORTH of the Wind Cave, take a sharp left at Flintstone Bedrock City onto Hwy US 16), and continue another 20 minutes West to JEWEL CAVES NATIONAL  MONUMENT, which is the second longest cave in the word, about 160 miles (257 km) of mapped passageways.drapery

Roosevelt made these caves a National Monument in 1908. It’s open year round, and also has a variety of tours, including a spelunking tour!

THIS Cave’s formations include:

For more information on visiting the Jewel Caves, visit the National Park’s website.  Even more information can be found at  http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/home/thingstodo/parksmonuments/nationalparks/jewelcavenationalmonument

Back the way we came, to FLINTSTONE’S BEDROCK CITY!

FlintstonesApparently, there is more than one “Bedrock City”, but this particular one happens to be the oldest (opened in 1966).  And, afterall, The Flintstones were a “modern stone age family”.   The “modern” Flintstones production was originally broadcast from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966… seems to be too coincidental, to be anything but true! Therefore, I’d surmise that THIS particular Bedrock City is the real Bedrock City! 😀

While visiting Fred & Barney (who are there for meet-and-greets during the summertime), you can eat Brontoburgers & Dino Dogs at The Flintstones™ Bedrock City Drive-in/Cafeteria, ride in the Flintstone’s Flintmobile, take the Iron Horse Train on a tour, and visit the little town of Bedrock City – see Fred & Wilma’s house, Barney & Betty’s house, the Jail House, the Hair Salon, and other sites around town!

I had hoped that the Camping Cabins were the Flintstone style house, but they are nice cedar cabins – sleeping cabins (has beds & mattresses, but you bring your own bedding; has heat & electricity but no water).  There’s also tenting areas and RV parking, with full hook-up.

For more information on rates, reservations and dates opened, please refer to
 http://www.flintstonesbedrockcity.com/.

15 minutes north of Bedrock City is the Crazy Horse Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 8, 2012) and then another 1/2 hour northeast is Mount Rushmore National Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 11, 2012).

Just 10 minutes further is KEYSTONE. Keystone is a perfect little Western Town, and all I could remember from the first time through, was Ice Cream… wooden sidewalks.  It was REALLY busy at the time, full of children, bikers (Sturgis is nearby – will discuss in an upcoming blog), and motorhomes.

It turns out that Keystone is more than just ice cream and wooden sidewalks! It’s brimming with history! Brimming!Keystone

For one thing – did you know that Carrie Ingalls lived there as an adult? (OK, well…I didn’t know who Carrie was right off the bat, either, but! it turns out she is the younger sister of Mary & Laura – who are, of course, the “Little House on the Prairie” girls… and in case you thought that was fiction, the story is actually based on Laura’s childhood memories – an autobiographical memoir, presented as fiction.)

Carrie was born in August, 1870, in Montgomery County, Kansas, and in 1879, the whole family moved to South Dakota.  She moved to Keystone and had a career in the newspaper business, working at The Keystone Recorder and The Hill City Star.  In 1912, she married David N. Swanzey, who had two children, Mary and Harold. (David was a widower).

To bring my blogs full-circle: when Charles Rushmore (mentioned in my Dec. 11th blog) was on the expedition to choose a mountain to carve, and asked what the name of “that” mountain was, in my blog, I said “to be shmoozy, they told him that since the mountain didn’t have a name, they’d call it Mount Rushmore“… One of the men in that expedition was David Swanzey… and later, his son, Harold, would be one of the carvers of the Mountain.

Carrie died June 2, 1946, of complications from diabetes, in Keystone. She was 75.

By wonderful coincidence and surprise! Little House on the Prairie is on TV right now! An episode called “Remember Me” (1975).  Look at that! We do remember! Awwwww.

I had more to say about the Keystone area, but I now I have to watch Little House on the Prairie.  If you want to know more – there’s also a cave called Rushmore Cave, a Reptile Garden, and some waterslides, near Rapid City!  There’s more, too – just those are the things I wanted to talk about.

Wednesday, we’ll be talking about Sturgis – the Motorcycle Capital of the World.


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