Hail, South Dakota! and Land of Living Skies
Rhubarb Strawberry pie. The family decided the slice of rhubarb strawberry was the best among the bunch. Trailing behind the victor was a slice of chocolate cream and slice of bumbleberry (essentially ever berry known to South Dakota).
The kids devoured the pies ravenously. The day had contained over six miles of walking/hiking. A trek through the ridges around Stockade lake as well as a short jaunt on the trail around Mount Rushmore left the kids exhausted and hungry. Even after a filling dinner, the pies did not persevere long. And the children quickly fell asleep as the van was loaded for our trek to Canada.
Mount Rushmore though stunning felt like a tourist trap. With much of a viewing area under construction, the many visitors were forced to the same small central location in front of the gift shop. I’ve never seen a gift shop under construction. And yet it was hardly the tourist trap of a similarly named brewery in Custer, SD. (Here I must devolve and protest any completely negative review of the brewery. However, it was painfully obvious the beer and brewers were mailing it in for a tourist crowd. Beer wasn’t served at the right temperature, it was poorly carbonated, and ultimately the interesting beers relied heavily on the flavor of barrel aging.) Just a day earlier trips to Sylvan Lake and Crazy Horse Memorial had highlighted a 24 hour period that witnessed a donkey induced traffic jam, wondering sheep, and multiple cases of bison.
The luster of Custer State Park ran down the excitement of the children eventually. A big park, the travel for a day was higher than the young and easily bored children could handle after driving from Austin to Custer in the course of thirty six hours. The beauty was beyond them after a few hours. Canada was on their mind-until they found out it would take another eight hours to reach our hotel in Regina.
We departed for Canada through Deadwood at 6:30 the following morning. Dropping our keys off, we said goodbye to the strange horses in the yard and plotted a course for the closest ... McDonalds. Once again a breakfast at McDonalds. Leaving behind South Dakota our van crossed into Wyoming, Montana, back into Wyoming, into North Dakota, back into Montana, and finally into Saskatchewan. Judah delivered his stand up routine to the customs officer throughout her questions. Any worry she had of us importing excessive alcohol, tobacco, or a mere modicum of marijuana melted under the boy’s routine. “He must be the smart one,” she said. And we were sent on our way to Regina.
An evening of burgers, swimming, and a water slide restored a semblance of normalcy to the day. Though “heated,” the pool resided in a room hardly in the 70s and only the pool water itself could keep one warm. The chattering teeth of Cora eventually brought us out of the waters and into dry towels. Entering the elevator and dressing in PJs the children were asleep less than fifteen minutes after laying down while dreaming of a large moose.
Moose Jaw is familiar to me because of my interest in Canadian Curling. (They hosted the 2015 Tournament of Hearts.) The family needed little encouragement to go see a large moose statue. Across the street was an infamous Tim Horton’s. Setting aside the strong desire of many to deride the coffee, I wanted to get the kids some of the maple donuts. Always thwarting my headship, Cora, Olivia, and Judah chose Saskatchewan colored (green and yellow) sprinkles.
Our evenings in Regina have mostly consisted of swimming. The hotel was decided on has a splash pad and water slide. Judah claims he went down the water slide fifty times. But it was probably closer to twenty-five. Needless to say the kids have enjoyed themselves. And enjoyed the lack of driving.
For our final day in Regina, we decided to visit two museums. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum boasted of dinosaur fossils as well as some of the best stuffed animal exhibits I had even seen. Almost creepy levels of good.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre came after our family got kicked out of a pub. Okay, in truth they met us at the door and told us no minors were allowed. But Judah and Kenzie totally stepped into the place before some came and ushered us out. Not to be discouraged (we were) we pressed on to our next destination (actually we got stuck waiting for a +60 car train and decided not to sulk back to our hotel), got a tasty lunch, and visited the remaining museum on our list. The museum itself turned out to be quite good. Listening stations as well as video screens recapped much of the story of the famous Canadian Mounties and all the kids seemed to enjoy the sensory experience.
But perhaps the highlight of the trip was our photo experience outside the museum. Upon telling Alaina I wanted to visit the Heritage Centre she told me that she wanted to see a real Mountie. I told her that this was merely a training site and that aside from a graduation weekend it was unlikely we would run into any.
So naturally while I was taking photos of the kids outside the museum a car pulled over and out hopped a woman offering to take our photo. With my back to her I had no idea what to expect and so when I turned around the RCMP badge on her hip gleamed in the sun. On her way off site from a workout, this civilian dressed Mountie offered to take our photo. Alaina’s wish had come true.
She talked with us for a little while before eventually letting us into the museum. And eventually the kids swam again before falling asleep. And now we are leaving the Great White North behind us.