It’s hard to believe that just last week I was kicking my heels up in the beautiful Black Hills. My mom and I had a great time on our vacation, and it was wonderful to see my brother and his girlfriend, to meet her family, and to get together with a family cousin. It was six days in heaven and the time went by way too fast. We didn’t tick off everything I had wanted to do, but hey, now it’s just more reasons to go back as often as possible!
Our first day we spent in Hill City, getting our buffalo burger fix before continuing on to Custer where we visited the cemetery and then drove some back roads through the park before surprising our cousin with a visit. We made plans to come back the following day and returned to Hill City for some shopping (where we met the sweetest, most adorable Newfoundland puppy ever!) before we met my brother and his girlfriend and her parents for dinner at the Alpine Inn. This place is a definite you-have-to-stop there kind of restaurant.
So, the following day we returned to Custer. We made a quick detour just west of Custer, to the old family home of our cousin. She gave us permission to wander around the old beauty. It’s diminished in size since it was built because the state put a highway in that required the kitchen to be removed, but the original structure was built with beautiful hand hewn timbers. That thing isn’t going anywhere. Even though it hasn’t been lived in for over forty years, I would happily take it. There’s just something about abandoned homes, ya know? The stories and secrets that decaying walls hold just call to me.
When we arrived back to our cousin’s, she had a couple old photo albums out that we spent hours thumbing over, commenting here and there on people we recognized, and talking about family lore. We were able to share things with each other, enlighten each other with stories, and came to the conclusion that it’s best if families talk. We’re so afraid of our dirty laundry being aired, so our lives become secrets, shoved beneath ancient rugs. And yet, most secrets will never stay buried permanently. It’s just so silly when you stop to think about it. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what makes us human. The acceptance of, and forgiveness of those mistakes is what makes us family.
It was with much feet dragging that afternoon that we left her house. Her sister, who has a family genealogy collection that was begun by a shared aunt is returning to Custer this summer, so my mom and I are hoping to make a quick return some weekend to sit down with both sisters. I’m so looking forward to it.
It rained the next day, so what else were two girls to do but go to the mall? 🙂 Luckily, my brother’s girlfriend works for the Visitor and Convention Bureau and called us up to see if we wanted to meet her to go on a trolley ride around Rapid. We hopped in the car and drove down to meet her. It was really fun! The ride takes you around downtown, to Dinosaur Park and to the The Chapel in the Hills. And for only $2 a day you can’t beat that! Especially when you can get on and off at the different locations.
We continued our shopping downtown at a cute little antique shop where my mom scored on some Breyer horses, and I found a new hat for next year’s Kentucky Derby!
Our last day we were treated to a delicious breakfast provided by my brother’s girlfriend’s parents before we headed back to Custer. (Writing this, I realize now that we have a slight addiction with Custer. But I’m sure it’s healthy :)) We sojourned into Custer State Park where my mom showed us the sweetest little chapel in the woods before we did the Wildlife Loop. We had fun, mock-pointing at all the deer and antelope we could see, only slightly grumbling about the lack of “cool” animals like bison or elk or “bears”. (Still can’t believe I fell for that one. Thanks, brah.) But finally, we spotted some lone bull bison.
And then, the mother load.
(It only required helicopter herding to guide them to the right spot but whatever, it’s still cool.)
That night, we went to Mt. Rushmore for a night-lighting, and even though it’s something I’ve seen before, I would absolutely go again. It is breathtaking.
And on Sunday when we left, I had a severe case of homesickness. For the Hills. Don’t get me wrong, I love Omaha and living in this area, but the Hills are and always have felt like a second home to me. I can only hope that one day I’ll have a little home-away-from-home there.
And I think they were sad to see us go because it rained the whole drive home. We stopped in Wall for some lunch, and fate led us to the table that had a brand of family names. So I ran around like a crazy taking pictures of all the names I could recognize. Our last stop was at another antique shop in Chamberlain where my mom found all these adorable vintage poodle decor. Best find ever!
Even though I totally forgot to stop and by wine…I know, what is wrong with me?! It was an amazing trip. I’m so excited for this summer and I can’t wait to get back.
Below are some pictures from the trip.
I hope ya’ll have adventures of your own this summer and Happy Writings!