Just last week, my husband and I were discussing how fun it would be to take a weekend trip to South Dakota now that the fairy sessions and sales were wrapped up. We talked of all the places we wanted to see; deciding on a few must-haves and maybes.
Mike loves planes so our first stop was in Rapid City, S.D., to watch the free air show at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Once we passed through check-through, the crowd scattered to find a space on the tarmac preparing for the forecasted 97 degree heat. We made our way to the shade in the wing of an F15 and set up our chairs.
I tried to keep my eyes on the jets climbing and dipping above, but I was mesmerized most by the people: veterans, soldiers and their young families.
There was such a look of pride on their faces. The planes screaming and spinning above our heads belonged to them, not the military.
With wind-burned eyes, I tried to follow the flight path across the sun and get the images that I wanted. Soon, I had a group of veterans helping me -- "On your right! That Sig is coming in fast!!" they shouted. It was a team effort as I captured the gorgeous images of jets blazing with trailing smoke across the sky.
The next day we made quick visits to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
There was a great sense of awe about the places where men's hands had carved mountains into breath-taking monuments to our nation and peoples.
What I noticed most was the quiet, peaceful atmosphere where visitors spoke in hushed tones and we offered our assistance in taking family photographs for strangers.
At Spearfish Falls, we dove into the nature trail flanked with native flowers still wet from an overnight storm.
The crisp air felt amazing as it filled our lungs. I did have a slight trepidation about running into a bear, but fortunately we had no such meeting.
I had to stop at Sturgis, just to say that I did. I actually have a hair-raising motorcycle crash story in my history so now I can add to that the fact that I've been to Sturgis. I'll just conveniently leave off the part that it was not during bike festival week and we did so for tacos instead of memorial tattoos and beer.
Wall Drug was all that they advertised. I don't like touristy stops much, but it was actually fun and we stocked up on some much needed souvenirs.
We debated about taking an excursion into the Badlands due to time constraints. Finally we decided to give the scene a few minutes from the overlook.
When our eyes filled with the wonder of pink, striped canyons and sharp rises towering to the sky, we were stunned.
Mike decided to take a road to see get a view from the backside. We found more and more to delight our senses.
We decided to join the families trekking over the paths through the hills. I was stopping constantly to take another photograph. After being there for an hour, we were brave enough to go sit on a terrifying peak and take a selfie.
We decided to follow one of the trails into the dry moonscape and walked almost 7 miles! So much for just spending a few minutes there. Surprisingly, the visit to the Badlands was the highlight of our trip. It added an extra night to our itinerary, but we wouldn't have missed it for the world.