Monday, July 13, 2009
The Black Hills
Our next activity was driving the scenic, winding mountain roads in the Black Hills. We took Iron Mountain Road south from Keystone. You can see Mount Rushmore from a distance now and then. You do some hairpin turns at high altitudes.
There are also one-lane tunnels.
You are supposed to stop, honk your horn, and then drive through. This has worked other times I've been on this road. But it was 4th of July week and busy, and for some reason people were disregarding those signs! Some people were just driving straight through without stopping or honking. Sometimes they were coming at us through the tunnel after we honked, but we also saw it at one point when we pulled over near a tunnel to have a snack: car after car just going. The tunnels are short but narrow.
Here's another view from Iron Mountain Road:
Then we drove across the top of Custer State Park. We've seen wildlife there before, but they've never been on the road with us. We hit the jackpot on that this time. First we saw the burros, who were very pushy about being fed. But of course, people were feeding them, despite signs telling them not to.
Then some buffalo started crossing the road.
We pulled over to watch, because it was neat to see them. But then when we drove on, we saw a huge herd, hundreds, all alongside the road - and on it! We were thrilled.
The picture above is a calf nursing alongside the road. There were many babies.
You can see that they own the road. They just cut you off if they want to walk on the road, edging their way until they're walking right in front of your car. They are really used to traffic.
There were some big bulls among them.
This one decided to follow our van. I didn't get any decent pictures, but he walked behind us for a while. We were joking that he looked like a minotaur chasing us! Then another car got right behind us and he followed them. That driver didn't look so thrilled; those big guys with horns could damage your car! There were many motorcyclists on the road, too. We talked to one at the visitor center afterwards, and she said that a bull started to charge her and her companion before a car pulled up between them and the bull. She got a chance to thank the driver who walked by as we were talking.
So then it was time for the Needles Highway, going back north from Custer. I drove the first half of it. I am not a good driver or passenger on mountain roads, I have discovered. When I'm driving on narrow, winding, roller-coaster roads with no shoulder and with other traffic and there's a gigantic drop-off right alongside me, it's white-knuckle time. I go slowly, I can't look away from the pavement in front of me, and it's torture. When I'm a passenger, I'm a terrible nag: "It says 10 miles per hour on this turn! Look, the sign says it's curvy up ahead! Don't go so fast! (gasp)" My husband is an excellent driver. It's just that those roads are terrifying and I don't want us to fall off the side of the mountain because I failed to warn him. :-)
The views are beautiful:
The needle-like formations are interesting.
There were more one-way tunnels:
And finally we were done and back on normal highways. (sigh of relief)