Saturday, July 19, 2008

Travelblog episode 8: A cave of jewels, a Crazy Horse mountain, and the first night in the new tents

Friday morning came earlier than expected to the ol' Kamping Kabin. I had foolishly hoped we'd be able to sleep in, what with a roof overhead, mattresses under us, and the relative dimness of small curtained windows. But it was not to be, not with five kids sleeping in one room. Not sure what time they got up, but it was earlier than I wanted to. Ah well.

Once everyone was up we scrounged up all our left-over laundry quarters and headed down to the big feedin' tent for the KOA $2.50 all you can eat pancake breakfast (meats and drinks extra). I went first with Logan, Maya and Molly and we just beat the rush. Paige, Matt and Megan came a bit later and ended up waiting in line for about as long as we'd been eating. Suckers.

The cakes were quite good, I must say. The guy cooking them had it down to a science, using a huge batter-holding trough thing on wheels that spewed out 4 or 5 streams of batter when he opened the valve, then rolled on to spew out some more. He must have had 40 or 50 cakes going at once. And didn't burn or drop a one. Far better than I'd do, I must say!

After we'd eaten our fill we loaded the cars, drove over to the main building, checked out of the cabin and checked in to our tent sites for the night. Then it was off to set up tents, load all our crap in the Sebring, and head out again in the mighty Commander for lunch and the Jewel Cave. Lunch was OK: Subway and random groceries. The Jewel Cave was better.

While Paige had done a bunch of cave tours in her youth, the closest thing to a cave the kids and I had been in was a lava tube on the Big Island a few years ago. Jewel Cave was nothing like a lava tube, but then it wasn't really like what you imagine when you think "cave" either. No giant halls of stalactites and stalagmites, no bats, and an elevator entrance. Well, to the part we the "natural entrance" there are bats, and no elevator, but still no big ol' stalagmites. We did see some tiny ones, and lots of the "jewels" (I forget what exactly they were...some kind of feldspar, I think). The highlights were probably the "flowstone" features and Bacon. Because really, who doesn't like bacon? Even 10 foot tall stone bacon? No one, that's who.

Some weird cave formations and the mighty Bacon

After the cave tour was over we piled back in the Jeep and headed back through Custer to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Which, I have to say, is pretty damn impressive. It's about 3 times as expensive as Rushmore to get in ($27 per car rather than $10), but then they aren't taking any Government money for the project. The visitor center is huge and fairly new, the "introductory movie" is shamelessly self-promotional and donation-requesting, but the mountain is crazy impressive.

Crazy Horse mountain

Close-up on Crazy's face

Logan, Maya and Molly pose with
the 1/34th scale model of the mountain

During the movie we learned that the "night blast" that we'd heard the night before, which we thought might be a standard thing to go with the evening laser show, was in fact a twice-a-year event. So we should have come up the night before. Ah well...

Eventually we'd had our fill of giant stone carvings and Native crafts and arts and headed back down to Custer for some pizza for dinner, then back to the KOA so Matt could do laundry, the kids could swim, and Paige and I could relax a bit. Which we did, until Maya got lost coming back from the bathroom and had to be delivered, in tears, by KOA Security...

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