5-Day Road Trip Through The Dakotas

We’re taking you on an epic road trip through the Dakotas! In this episode we detail our 5-day road trip that takes you to multiple states, cities, state parks, national parks, and unique roadside attractions including:

  • Wall Drug Spearfish Scenic Byway
  • Carhenge 
  • Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Buffalo Safari 
  • Toadstools Geological Park
  • Custer State Park
  • Custer State Park
  • Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Wind Cave Tour National Park
  • Badlands National Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Find our Dakotas trip and all other on our Travel Itineraries page

The Dakotas Road Trip – Episode Transcript


Hey squaddies, welcome to this week’s episode of the Travel Squad Podcast.

Today we’re taking you to the Dakotas for a National Park road trip.


So our road trip started in Denver, Co and we drove up through Nebraska to visit South Dakota and North Dakota, which marked off states 4243 and 44 for Jamal and I.

And during our trip there we squeezed in three national parks.

We went to Badlands, Win Cave and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks, which marked off National Parks 4950 and 51 for us.


This was an extended Weekender to fit in all the things Brittany just mentioned, but she also failed to mention that we included the going to Custer State Park which connects and touches with Win Cave National Park.

We also visited Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota.


This was a National Park journey filled with wildlife sightings from Buffalo, elk, deer, wild horses, coyotes, Prairie dogs, and so much more.

Honestly, the Dakotas and Great Plains regions really exceeded my expectations on this trip.


It looked really fun.

You guys were having a blast out there.

Several days, you said?

A weekend or extended weekend?

Or how many days exactly was this trip?

It was five days, including travel.

Five days, so typical weekend is 2 days, five day trip including travel.


That’s not bad.

You you covered a lot of ground.

Out of all of those attractions and monuments and parks and states that you mentioned, the one on my list is Mount Rushmore.

How cool was that to see?

Mount Rushmore was actually pretty cool to see.


You know, Brittany threw it on because of course, we’re in South Dakota.

We’re not too far from it, from where we were at at Wind Cave and a few other locations.

Honestly, I don’t want to say that I feel like it’s a tourist trap because it’s not, but I could have gone without it when Brittany was planning the trip.


But now that we’ve experienced it and we went to it, I’m really, really glad that we did because it’s one of those iconic American landmarks, right?

It’s almost like the Statue of Liberty, but in the middle of South Dakota.

It’s impressive too, that that they’re so detailed and realistic and they carved it into the mountain.


It blows my mind.

It is.

And we also, like we had mentioned, we didn’t go and pay the fee to go see the Crazy Horse Monument, right, because we’ll get into this a little bit later, but Mount Rushmore is free.

Crazy Horse, if you’re not too familiar with it, is a Lakota chief and they are building a monument to him.


It’s going to be the largest mountain stone sculptured monument in the world.

When it’s completed, his face is done, but it’s going to be him riding a horse.

His head alone is already 4050 feet taller than any of the tallest heads on Mount Rushmore, So it’s going to be ginormous.


And we were able to see that from the roadway.

So when that’s done, that’s going to be equally impressive.

And South Dakota is going to really have great monuments etched into the mountainsides out there.

It’s going to be great.


Well, let’s start.

This squad is off with some tips for a trip like this.


All right.

So our first tip is to rent a 4 by 4 vehicle.

We’re going to get into it.

But when we were driving through Nebraska, one of the things that we did was go to a geological park and the roads there and a lot of the roads that we drove were like gravel roads.


And because of the previous rain, it did ruin the roads and so we really did need that 4×4 vehicle in order to stay on the roads.

We actually slipped off of the road twice in the mud and so highly recommend renting A4 by 4 vehicle for general safety.


Honestly, if we didn’t have that 4×4, I really think we would have gotten stuck in the mud on that little venture when we were driving through Nebraska, going to the State Park or geological park that Brittany had just mentioned.

But even beyond that, even if you’re not going to do that, the Dakotas, you know, it’s the Great Plains.


Everyone thinks it’s flat and for the most part it actually is.

But there is the Black Hills area of South Dakota where Mount Rushmore is, Custer State Park, Wind Cave.

It’s very mountainous.

So having an SUV 4 wheel drive is always conducive in those situations too.


Another tip is to download offline maps.

We didn’t have service in some of the national parks.

Of course, you want to have your offline maps downloaded in advance so that you can write yourself from destination to destination.

And with that being said, make sure that you have All Trails Plus downloaded with your coordinating hikes downloaded on your phone as well so you don’t get lost on those hikes.


This one’s really important.

Bring snacks for the road.

OK, you are in the Dakotas and this is no disrespect to the Dakotas, but it’s not a very highly populated state or states.

You know what, if we’re talking North and South.

So there is lots of vast openness from one town to the next.


And in a lot of those towns, there’s not even really any great food options other than like mom and pop sit downs, which is fine, but you’re not really going to find anything quick to eat on the go.

So bring some snacks.

Our last tip for you is to make sure you bring sunscreen, a hat and water.


You are out in the Great Plains, a lot of open space, not always a lot of shade, so make sure you’re bringing all of that to stay cool and hydrated in the summer heat.

Hey squatties, let’s take a quick detour to talk about our travel itineraries that we’ve created just for you.


We just launched several new international trip itineraries, including Tulum and Japan.

This is on top of the itineraries we already have for US trips like the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the US Virgin Islands, as well as National Park trip itineraries including Utah’s Mighty 5 national Parks and a week at Grand Teton and Yellowstone.


These fully built out 20 to 30 page PDF guides are available for instant download on our site right now.

Every detail of the trip is laid out for you, so all you have to do is download book, show up and have fun.

The itineraries tell you where to fly into, the exact route to take, where to stay, park entrance prices, where to eat, driving distance between attractions, the things to see and do, even the hikes we recommend, their mileage and the time to allot for each one.


And believe it or not, so much more.

Be sure to head over to travelsquadpodcast.com to download your very own comprehensive travel itinerary today.

All right, day one you left.

You said it was a five day trip.

What day did you start?


On We started on a Friday and we flew from San Diego St. to Denver, Jamal’s favorite airport.

Oh my gosh, I can’t stand the Denver airport for a multitude of reasons, but we won’t get into that in this episode.

But the reason why we flew into Denver is honestly, it did make the most sense.


It’s a far drive, no doubt.

We got to drive North Pass through Nebraska just to even get to South Dakota.

But again, I mentioned earlier, the Dakotas, they are very sparsely populated, not very many big airports, let alone airports that have good flight routes and prices from San Diego.


So it was just better for us to fly to Denver.

And in all honesty, wherever you’re coming from in the United States, I’m not saying that this should be the airport that you fly into, but this is the largest airport closest to any of these places that we’re going to be going to.

So it makes the most sense.


Well, there is Rapid City Airport.

Yeah, Rapid City.

OK, but how many people off the top of their head would know Rapid City?

That’s what I’m saying.

It’s a regional airport.

It’s not international.

It’s small.

So you’re saying Rapid City would not be a good option because prices are going to be a lot higher and they don’t have as many flights every day, right?


Usually those smaller regional airports are like that, yes.

But again, it depends on the market that you’re coming from.

But like I said earlier from San Diego, it just didn’t make sense for us at all.

Denver was the option.

And one of the things too, was that we wanted to hit Nebraska offer list because we’ve never been to Nebraska.


So flying in in Denver allowed us to drive all the way up through Nebraska.

And we don’t count driving through a state unless we do something as actually going to the state.

So Brittany racked her brain to try to find, what can we do in Nebraska?


And what did you come up with, Brittany?

Well, I found that there was a Carhenge monument, which is basically a replica of Stonehenge, but just made with cars.

There’s a total of 39 cars that they’ve used.

The diameter of the circle is 96 feet, and this monument was actually built in 1987, so it’s been there for quite some time.


It’s honestly a big tourist attraction now going through Nebraska.

In the gift shop area, when you go in, there is a map that people could push pin and from where they’re coming and visiting from.

And it was actually quite filled up.


They replaced the map every year.

The lady in the gift shop said yesterday was their first day actually open.

And by that the gift shop, because car hinges open year round and within that first day, I mean, I couldn’t even believe how filled the map was from just all these random places that people were coming from.


So it is quite the attraction in Nebraska.

Well, that’s great, And was it worth the stop?

You know, to do something, to do something to kind of hit Nebraska off the list, it counts.

Would I particularly go out of the way to do it?

No, but it was on the way for us, Kim.


So it counts as doing something, but we did something else on top of that.

Yes, we also went to Toadstool Geological Park.

This is actually recommended by our squatty Erica.

So shout out to Erica.

But like I mentioned in the tips, the road to get here was really, really muddy.


We had to put our 4 wheel drive vehicle in four wheel drive and we still slid off the road twice leaving.

But the actual park itself was really cool.

The parks named after these like unusual rock formations that look like toadstools.


And we did a quick like one mile hike in the park.

OK, but what’s a toadstool?

Is that a form of a toad or like what am I looking at?

Toadstools are basically the things that toads sit on.

That’s why it’s called a toadstool.

They almost look like mushrooms.


Yeah, imagine them like mushrooms, you know, if you play Nintendo and then there’s Toad.

He’s a mushroom, OK?

I have the visual beautiful.

So basically these rock formations, but the way that they’re eroded from wind, water, etcetera, they really form these toadstool looking formations pretty much of like kind of mushroom shaped really.


And there’s a whole bunch of them all that concentrated in an area.

So it really makes it unique.

I’ve never really seen anything quite like that.

Before so that was our second stop in Nebraska and so we count visiting Nebraska after doing those two stops.

So from there we drove to Hot Springs, SD.


We checked into our hotel and then there was actually a really cool storm going on where the Northern Lights would be visible in South Dakota.

So we left our hotel and we went to look for a remote country Rd. so we could see the Northern Lights.


Did you see them?

We did actually, you know, when you see photos of the Northern Lights, when they show up in Scandinavian regions or Iceland or anything like that, and they’re just really bright, colorful, really WAVY.

We did not see anything quite like that, but we were able to see the difference of the night sky.


It wasn’t just pitch black.

You can see the tinge of the color, like ours was a little bit pink and purple.

And what we saw was like you really had to look and train your eye to see it and it was there.

It comes off better and photos even without filter, believe it or not, right.


So when you captured on your camera, it’s almost like, Oh my gosh, this is literally what the light waves look like.

But the camera captured it much better than your naked eye could in that region that we were at.

But it was still really awesome to see since we’ve never seen Northern Lights before and it was down in the the US region.


So after our Northern Lights venture, we went back to the hotel, went to sleep because we were going to have a really busy Saturday.

Kim, have you ever heard of the Black Hills?

I have, yes.

So I really hadn’t heard of the Black Hills before planning this trip.

And it is such a big region.


It’s actually like 1.2 million acres to mountain range in western South Dakota and in northeastern Wyoming.

But it includes like the National Forest, it has a really High Peak, Black Elk Peak.

And the hill itself is named Black Hills because from a distance they look black with the trees covering it.


Which is really crazy because what’s funny, and you asked about Mount Rushmore beforehand, Kim and I know it’s carved onto a mountainside, but when I think of the Dakotas, I don’t really think of mountains at all, right?

It’s the Great Plains.

That’s what it’s called.

That’s what it is.

But this is the one region where they actually have mountains in these Black Hills.


So you get the pine trees, the the mountain vibes.

But then on top of that, it’s really crazy in the Black Hills.

Here is where Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park is, and they have plains in that region, so there’s almost like little outcrops in the mountains where all of a sudden it becomes plains and valleys and then mountains.


So there’s just this crazy disparity that I really wasn’t expecting.

Yeah, actually there’s a lot of different landscapes.

It has grassland, prairies and mountains, forests, and then The Cave systems.

So Jewel Cave, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park, as well as Crazy Horse are all in the Black Hills region.


So quite a bit fits in that region.

The night before you also mentioned you see that Springs Lodge in Cafe Hot Springs, right?


Were there Hot Springs?

I actually did learn that there is a Hot Springs pool, but we did not go to it this time.


How could you not?

I know it just wasn’t really on my radar to begin with and we were got there so late that it was closed anyways and we had such a packed rest of the trip that we just weren’t able to fit it back in.

But I was wondering that because of the name originally, and I did find that out once we got there, that there were Hot Springs in the area.


OK, next time, because I’m sure this is going to be a repeater.

I would for sure come back to the Dakotas, especially in this region.

And you kind of touched upon something before I got into it, Kim.

We woke up Saturday morning, Day 2 here, and we were going to Jewel Cave.


Now, Jewel Cave is a a National Monument, but in this region, of course is Wind Cave National Park and we’re National Park people.

So we were supposed to go to Wind Cave National Park today and do The Cave tour.

But their elevator system at Wind Cave has so many problems that they are actually not doing cave tours anymore at Wind Cave until they fix it.


And they’re in the process of redoing their whole elevator system.

So we’re like, well, are we still going to go on this trip since Wind Cave is closed?

And then we did a bunch of research and had a whole bunch of people and squatties chime into us when we put on Instagram pools for recommendation, questions, etcetera.


Say no, no, no, go to Jewel Cave.

Jewel Cave actually is maybe better than Wind Cave in terms of The Cave system itself.

Every person we came across on this trip, when we said we went to Jewel Cave and they said it’s better than Wind Cave and that we went to the better of the two.


But to your point, Kim, and when you’re saying I think this is a repeat, yes, because we are going to have to go back to Wind Cave to do The Cave tour in Wind Cave.

I would love to go back when you do because as you guys know, I live in a neighborhood where all the streets are named after national parks and my street is Wind Cave Trail and I don’t feel right living here without having seen Wind Cave Trail.


So count me in for the next one.

Market on the new squad trip coming right up.

So it was about an hour drive from Hot Springs, SD Inside The Cave it’s about 40-9 degrees.

So it’s pretty chilly inside and you have to wear closed toed shoes.

We did the most popular tour, which is called the scenic tour.


It’s guided, lasts about an hour and a half hour, 20 minutes.

It was like $16.00 a person and we booked the 9:00 AM tour.

Jewel Cave is actually the fifth longest cave in the world, and the second longest cave in the United States has like over 220 miles of marked passageways.


Kim, do you know what the longest cave in the US is?

Mammoth Cave, Yes.

See, I’m paying attention these episodes.


So the name Jewel Cave gets its name because a lot of the formations look like jewels, but the specific way that these crystal like structures are actually formed, some of the structures are called popcorn because you see these little what also looks like popcorn along the walls, right.


So when we went in there, I was of course in a cave expecting to see a lot of stalagmites, stalactites, what you would normally see in cave.

And they have them not very large or grand, at least in the areas that we are able to see.

But our Ranger guide did tell us that this cave is 95% dry.


So what that really means is only 5% of The Cave actually has enough water coming down to create the stalagmite stalactite formations that you would normally associate with The Cave.

This claim, the claim to fame of Jewel Cave of course, is the structures that are made the crystal like structures that give the impression that they look like jewels.


I love caves like that.

I went to a cave in Tennessee that had jewels and crystals in it and I got to say those are the best ones.

Yeah, it was really cool.

And this tour I was just expecting like a quick walkthrough of The Cave, but we had to go down 734 steps and it was a half mile loop.


And then what was really cool is we went down in an elevator and we got out, We went down the stairs and where you exit out of is the same elevator but further down.

So you kind of start in the same spot as where you end, but just beneath it, like you’re going further down into The Cave system.


So it kind of like spirals down.

Very cool.

And while we were there, we got to see, like Jamal said, the jewels.

But there were some stalagmites, stalactites, cave popcorn, flowstone draperies, and my favorite, cave bacon.

Cave Bacon.


This is a first.

What is that?

It’s like this drapery that comes down in a wave that looks like a strip of bacon, and it’s so thin that in the right light, the colors of it truly make it look like it’s a piece of bacon.

That’s cool.


You’re gonna have to Google it to see what it looks like.

It is quite unique, I think the longest piece of cave bacon, she said.

We did see and was about 2025 feet long, so rather long.

Caves are hard to get good pictures.

Did you feel like you were able to get a picture of the bacon?


Oh yes, I got a good picture of the bacon.

OK, we’ll put it up on our website thentravelsquadpodcast.com/episodes.

The day this goes live, it’ll be up on our site so we can all revel in The Cave bacon.


So Jewel Cave was a fun and unique experiences going into any cave.


A lot of caves are the same, but they’re all so unique and different in their own ecosystem, even though they have a lot of the same characteristics.

But after Jewel Cave, we were on our way to Custer State Park, which again, as I mentioned earlier, is a State Park, but it touches Wind Cave National Park.


But along the way to Custer, we were able to stop along the side of the road because that just happened to be the way we were going to see the Crazy Horse monument.

So like I had mentioned earlier, Crazy Horse is a Lakota warrior and chief of a Native tribe that was indigenous to the South Dakota region here.


And the monument is not complete.

How long have they been working on it now, Brittany?

I think over 30 years.

Yeah, like close to 30 years or a little bit over.

There is no end date insight, so you can pay to go closer to it and off the main highway.


They do have museums.

We would have done that, but we were on a time crunch.

But you can see the monument from the road.

His face is done, part of his hand holding the horse’s mane is done, and you can see where everything is carved out and where they’re going to really fine tune it.


But a lot more work still needs to be done.

You know, it reminds me of when we were in China and we went to see Xi’an, the terracotta soldiers, and they were telling stories of how for 30 plus years they were building all of these terracotta soldiers and all of the other stuff in the pits.


It’s almost like this, like it’s going to go on forever and never end and.

You know what’s really interesting, Kind of on that side note, I met someone recently who said they had gone to see the terracotta soldiers a while back, much farther back than we did.

And she said it wasn’t that impressive.

And I was like, Oh my gosh, you should see all the pits they have now because we were impressed with how much has been done.


Oh, totally.

So as they work on Crazy Horse, you can just see like the scale of this mountain and how big it’s going to be and how impressive it’s going to be.

But there is still so much work that needs to be done.

Like none of the horses done.

His hands not finished.

So I can’t wait to see the end results of it.


But they want to charge about 30 bucks for the two of us to go in.

And we’re like, we didn’t have time to go see the museums in a harshly done monument.

So we decided, you know what, we can see it from the road.

We’re going to enjoy it from A roadside stop.

I would highly encourage anybody to Google Crazy Horse final and just look at what the final rendition is supposed to look like.


It’s going to be impressive and for how slow they’re moving, I honestly hope that it’s done in my lifetime because it really will be impressive.

And after a roadside stop, we went to Custer State Park.

So Custer State Park is the 1st and largest State Park in South Dakota.


It’s known for its scenic drives, its abundant wildlife including a large herd of bison, Burrows and Prairie dog.

The parks actually named after Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.

It spans about 71,000 acres and it has a pretty cool, diverse landscape to explore.


We always talk about how state parks are so underrated and did you all want to go to this one because of the wildlife or what drove you here?

Two things, the wildlife.

And then I heard the hiking was really good.

And I’ve actually heard from even several of our squatties that they’ve enjoyed at this State Park more than some of the national parks in this region.


Good to know.

So we started by driving the Needles Highway and this highway is not very long.

It’s like 14 miles long that goes through pine and spruce forest, meadows and then the granite mountains.

It’s named the Needle Highway because there’s a lot of needle like granite formation and the trail was actually planned by one of the former South Dakota governors, Peter Norbeck, who marked the entire course on foot in horseback.


That’s dedication to ride a horse and create the path and say I’m building a highway right through here, right?

That’s pretty intense.

So one of the highlights of the park is to drive the Needles Highway just to see the scenic aspects, the different terrain.

But we also did do a hike here now to get into Custer State Park.


It is $20 per car and it is valid for.

Seven days.

Seven days, one week’s time.

But what hike did you want to do, Brittany?

I specifically wanted to hike the Sunday Gulch Trail.

And why was that?

Because when I saw pictures and videos of it, of course, on like Instagram and Reels, you are basically hiking down these giant boulders while you’re holding on to these railings and you’re going over like a Creek at the same time.


And then you kind of end with amazing forest views.

This hike was actually probably one of the cooler hikes that I’ve done in a while.

They have a man made lake that they have dammed and of course they have some overflow from the dam to create a Little River and a Creek.


And that overflow, you are hiking through that overflow down the mountainside before you make your way back U through the forest.

So yeah, certain portions there’s railing on each side because you’re wading through water.

But they’ve also kind of like made steps.


So the natural water flow goes down the steps you’re trailing in the water.

They could bet like almost like the narrows in the mountains can like at Zion, but not on that grand of a scale, but kind of traversing through water that way.

It was incredibly unique and fun.

And what shoes were you wearing for that?


I actually just wore my normal hiking shoes because you’re not going to get super wet unless it’s early spring or winter.

Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s at the point where like you’re going to be waiting your boots in there or shoes and it’s going to get up to your shins or knees.


But definitely the waterfall and Creek is trailing through those stairs and steps and rocks that they have you passing through.

So I would highly recommend that hike to anyone that’s in the region.

And then after the hike, we drove the rest of the Needles Highway.

There’s some parts of the Needles Highway where you can only squeeze one car in at a time and you go through these rock formations that are so close on both sides of the car that you can reach your arms out and touch the Rockwall on the sides.


So that was really cool.

We stopped for a few photos because there’s an area called like the cathedral Spires that are just like very pointy cathedral like rock formations.

So very scenic in this region.

The roads really windy.

This was actually a potential for a hike too.

Brittany wanted a hike in that area.


I did.

We just didn’t have enough time because a squatty Courtney, she said on our Instagram, You must do the Buffalo Jeep Safari.

And when she told me that, I was like, OK, let me look into it.

You know, I saw that you went on this Buffalo Jeep safari and I was wondering why, because we have been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton and we saw herds of Buffalo.


So what in the world would drive you to then want to do a Buffalo safari?

Well, our squatty sold me on it.

And was her recommendation legit?

Yes, it was.

We actually really enjoyed it.

It was a 2 hour experience and we got into these like off roading vehicles.


There was probably how many of us?

2 for seven of us.

Seven of us, plus our guide.

Plus our guide and we were able to get really close to the Buffalo and not only just like seeing them because we could have done that in our car, but learning about them.

We learned so much about the Buffalo.


You know, that sounds silly, but it really is quite interesting what you learn and with other wildlife there, right?

I mean, the Buffalo is the main draw, but there’s a whole bunch of other wildlife.

So you’re getting this personalized guide.

If we did it in our car, yeah, we could have seen maybe the same things from the side of the road.


But this is a safari, and they are tricked out off road Jeeps.

And at some points we did go off road too.

So if they’re not by the side of the road and you happen to be there that day, if you’re on this tour, you are able to go off roading in the hills to go search for them.


So that in and of itself is a unique experience plus the knowledge that you gain versus just I’m looking at them.

And we went in mid-May, which I feel like was the perfect time to go because I felt like nothing was super crowded yet this time of the year.

And the weather was great, but all of the babies have just been boring.


And so you get to see all the little cinnamon colored little Buffalo hanging out, drinking their mama’s milk, learning how to like, cross the roads and, you know, just frolic in the meadows.

And we got to see some that were so young that you could still see their umbilical cords hanging off of them.


And so our guide was saying, like, that means they were born less than two weeks ago.

And so really cute to see.

They said that at this point in time, most of the males have left the females because the females have just given birth.

They’re still like caring for their young.


And so the males kind of like move themselves away from the group.

While they’re forced out of the way by the women because the buffaloes, they are a matriarchal if I’m saying that correctly.

Ah that’s a tongue twister.

But they are a female led society.


So the females, when they give birth to the young, they push all the males out until they regroup together as a herd a little bit later.

And that’s some of the stuff that you learned when you have the guides.

Also on top of that, he said, you know, these are not like cows, but kind of of the same species.


And you know, you would think, oh, if there’s a cow calf, they just go.

They have the udders, they can drink.

But with Buffalo, it’s different.

They don’t just naturally produce milk.

The babies actually have to nudge the mother a certain way for their utters to produce milk and they actually have to do a violent head butt on their utters on the underside of their belly to start like the milk flow.


And we saw that actually happened a couple of times.

Like it’s literally violent, like, Oh my gosh.

But that’s what they do.

And some of the stuff you learn.

So I I would really really recommend the cheap Safari.

Yeah, it was a great recommendation, Courtney.

Really appreciate that.


We also saw the wild donkeys, saw a ton of Prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs have also just given birth.

And so we got to see the Prairie dog babies and then, of course, Jamal’s favorite birds.

Starting to get into birds as I get older, I won’t deny that to you.

So this was a great two hours.


I heard that the best time of day to go and do this tour is either first thing in the morning or last tour of the evening.

We did the last tour of the evening, which was really nice because he asked like, does anyone have any time constraints?

And he took a little bit longer than the two hours and took his time with us, which was really nice and appreciated.


And then after our Buffalo safari, we went to Rapid City and then our squatty Erica, she actually recommended the steakhouse called Dakota Steakhouse.

And Oh my gosh, it was so good.

If you love prime rib.

Yeah, well, they have more than just prime rib, but we were sold on the prime rib.


So thank you for the recommendation, Erica.

Erica has come through clutch with us on a lot of recommendations as of love for places.

Like that.

Very squatty.

I know, I know, and we really did love the Dakota Steakhouse.

Brittany and I split a bottle of wine.

Prime rib, baked potatoes, Brussels sprouts.


It was a It was a good dinner, nevertheless.

You know what else they had?


Let me guess, Peach cobbler?

We didn’t have any of their dessert, but they had the fry bread and we didn’t get to try it and Havasu pie falls and so it was actually like an appetizer as their bread.


The fry bread would like a was it like a cinnamon or honey butter?

It was really good, so we filled up at the Dakota Steakhouse and then went to sleep because the next day on Sunday, we were going to be exploring Badlands National Park.

So Badlands National Park is still in South Dakota, but it’s going to be more east of Custer and Wind Cave National Park region where we were at in the Black Hills.


So maybe people have heard of Badlands National Park, don’t know what Badlands means or maybe heard that term before.

But Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay rich soils have been extensively eroded.


And then they create these unique shapes and characteristics.

They’re known to have like minimal vegetation, but when vegetation does grow on it, it’s actually like really beautiful because all of a sudden here’s this lush Oasis of green, etcetera.

So that’s what Badlands are.


And Kim, I know you loved Bryce National Park in Utah.

They’re famous for their hoodoo formations.

There are hoodoos and Badlands too.

So you get those type of formations.

Oh, I I’m very well aware of the Badlands.

I remember reading a ton of different travel blogs even eight years ago, and Badlands have been on my list for a long time.


It looks just gorgeous.

How was it in person?

It was actually really beautiful.

You know, it’s kind of like a desert landscape, but I feel like deserts can be super beautiful.

And there was points in our drive where there was a mix of colors in the buttes and the pinnacles.


And so it was really pretty to see.

This is one of those national parks where you can actually enjoy it from the road, even if you aren’t able to hike to some of the overlooks and and things like.

That well, there were a lot of spots too that were just overlooks.

I mean, Brittany kept saying we have a stop and I’m like, oh, are we hiking, doing a little trail?


No, it’s an overlook.

It’s an overlook.

Do you remember when we were in Yellowstone, Kim?

And we went to like every single overlook.

Yes, every quarter mile another one and another one another one.

But you know what?

The views kept getting better and and it and it did.



So that’s to the point of what Brittany was saying.

This is a great National Park that you don’t need to do any hiking.

Of course we did do hiking, but very beautiful scenic spots.

If you just follow the trail from one entrance side of the park to the next, you can get out, see all sorts of beautiful rock formations, colors, and even wildlife.


So entrance into the park is $30.00.

For seven days.

We used our America the Beautiful National Park Pass.

So we got in for free because we have our pass from Rapid City to the park.

It took us almost an hour and a half to get there.

We started at what I had read was a good overlook and it was called the Big Badlands Overlook.


But this was a bust.

We felt like we were driving on someone’s property.

Jamal’s like we’re going to get shot out here.

I don’t even remember the name of the town, but there’s a town outside of one of the entrances to Badlands.

And it had a population sign.


And I don’t think it was over 100 people out there.

And so there was this overlook that Brittany heard and saw saying like, hey, this is where you should kind of just check out some of the rock formations of the park as you’re entering.

But where it told us to go to on the maps was literally someone’s property.


And I will say this, this is not stereotypical.

This is just real life facts in this part of the country.

You should never go on to anybody’s property without permission.

And I was not about to do that right here.

Nor do I think even if we went there, we would have gotten a good view.

You just round the corner and get out of the town.


Population less than 100.

And I had a view.

So I don’t know why it was telling us to go to that spot.

Not quite sure, but we ended up going to the Notch Trail.

This is a trail that I’ve seen all over social media.

It meanders through a Canyon and then you climb this iconic log ladder and then you follow the ledge to the notch, which gives you like a really dramatic view of the Badlands below in the White River Valley.


You know, this said that it was a mile and a half round trip and it seemed to go by a lot quicker than that.

The most extensive thing about it, cuz it did mark that this trail was strenuous is because there is a wooden ladder that you have to climb.

But I thought it was fun, relatively easy.


Of course, you do need to be able bodied, but other than that, this was a relatively flat hike.

Your biggest incline is really climbing that ladder and then just kind of a few rock formations at the top that you kind of really got to step over, but it really levels out and there’s a clear path with an amazing view at the end.


I don’t know why.



Get me going.

Of a ladder out in the middle of nowhere.

It’s so fun.


Is it going to be anchored into the rock or dirt well enough?

Am I going to fall?

You know, all that stuff comes into play to be really exciting, doesn’t it?



Depending on how high it is, like in Mesa Verde, you get a little heart palpitation.

It’s always fun.


And then in the parking lot for the Notch Trail, there’s also two other trails that you can do that we did.

One was called the Window Trail and the other was called the door Trail.


Both are really shore boardwalk trails and they end with really cool viewpoints of the Badlands, so we went to both of those.

They’re no longer than like 1/4 of the mile, so really quick.

And that’s what I was going to say.

I wouldn’t even call them a trail.

They are paths from the parking lot to these overlooks within this one region of the Notch Trail.


But still well worth doing, especially if you’re right there.

I mean, it’s a quarter mile on a boardwalk playing to a beautiful overlook.

Another trail that I recommend, which was just a little down the road, was called the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail.

This trail is only half a mile, but there’s over 200 feet in elevation gain on stairs there.


But when you’re at the Notch Trail at the very end, you look down onto this trail and you look down onto the boardwalk.

So we did the half mile boardwalk, climbed up all the stairs and it was definitely leg day and Badlands.

Not an easy day.


Yeah, kind of an easy leg day, so to speak.

But I really like this trail because for the most part it was paved stairs, boardwalk in a circular motion.

So when you’re actually at the start of the trail, you look up and you literally see the entire stair and boardwalk formation in a giant circle that you’re going to be going through.


And this is one of the few areas where there is this lush Oasis of green.

So you’re hiking within greenery here versus just dirt, and it’s really beautiful.

From there we did a quick stop.

The visitor center picked up our ornament, of course, and checked out the Badland exhibit, which was actually pretty cool because you could see some of the old extinct animals that used to roam through the park and they show examples of what their fossils look like, and it was just really informative.


I think it’s a cool stop.

Absolutely worth a visit when you’re here to go to the visitor center.

So from the visitor center, we did do the fossil exhibit trail, which does not just the exhibits in the exhibit center, but there is a trail that’s a quarter mile long boardwalk trail.


And this is a area where there is a high concentration of fossils, bones of extinct animals and even not extinct animals that they found in this area.

And of course, they do have signs that tell you about the animals that they have found here, what they know about them.


So this is a little unique informative, like Quarter Mile loop that gives you a really great perspective of the park and the actual prehistoric history that has taken place here in terms of animal life.

So everything we’ve mentioned so far has been pretty much off of Badlands Loop Rd., which is the most scenic part of the park.


So this is the road that has a ton of the overlook.

So we stopped, like I said, Kim, we stopped at so many of them.

We stopped at the White River Valley Overlook, Panorama Point, Kanata Basin Overlook, Pinnacles Overlook, and they were just all beautiful panoramic overlooks along the road and all worth the stop, I would say.


I told Jamal I was kidding with him.

I was like, we have five more overlooks to go.

And he looks at me.

He’s like, you’re kidding.

I mean, it was just overlook after overlook.

I really kind of believed her for a second because every time I thought we were really done with the overlooks, there was really one more that she told me to stop at.


And then again and again.

OK, so squatties, I don’t know if we’ve ever told this story if they know that at this about Brittany, but she likes to play little pranks on us because Brittany’s always the one that makes the itinerary for the most part.

She does a lot of research and she has really good retention of information too.


So she like knows what’s coming up next, right?

So I’m glad she finally got you, Jamal, because I’ll never live it down when I think we were going to Denver.

Where we were.

And we flew in kind of late.

No, we got to the.

Airport Boise.

It was in Boise.

Boise OK yes we flew in late, got to the airport and me and Zana were like how long is the drive to the hotel and you said 45 minutes and I literally got a snack at the fucking gas station for the 45 minute drive and it was literally 3 minutes away.


Yes, I am a little bit of a prankster.

Or when we’re taking a gondola ride at mountain near Nashville Park and Brittany just decides to stomp on the cable.

Well, not on the cable, but you know, yeah, shaking the cable of the gondola of doing a stomp, Yeah, that’s not fun.


So that’s Brittany’s personality.

We got to get her back.

You do, and I’ll be waiting for it.

So that was our time in Badlands.

You know, those hikes plus the overlooks along the way to exit the park towards the exit.


That’s when we first came across the bison and Badlands.

They are throughout the park, but this was the only area in which we caught them.

So we did see some bison out here in Badlands.

But from Badlands we were going to be driving to Mount Rushmore.


Along the way, there was this one unique stop called Walled Drugstore, and really again, one of the only places to stop along the way if you want to get food, restroom, et cetera.

But this has sort of become a tourist trap, so to speak, back in the heyday.


And by the heyday, you know, I’m talking early 1900s, this was a popular spot for people to stop as it is now.

Of course, still when they were going to the National Park, it’s claimed to fame as they offered free water, $0.05 coffee.

And they have not changed the price on that $0.05 coffee.


It’s still $0.05.

And they still give you free water, but it’s free water from a water fountain.

And by that I’m talking like, you know, you have your soda fountains and here’s your water.

It’s not like they’re giving bottled waters for free.

I will say this food looks good.

We knew we weren’t necessarily going to eat here, but the food here looked good.


Coffee tastes like it would be $0.05.

So don’t be deceived by getting $0.05 coffee.

It’s not worth it.

Just get it somewhere else if you want my honest opinion.

But they have like a whole shopping complex here.

It’s like this big tourist attraction now.

So it’s worth going to, of course, but definitely like, you might want to skip the five set coffee.



See, from here, we drove to Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore.

I feel like everyone should know what it is, but it’s that massive sculpture carved into the mountain in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.

Kim, can you tell us who are the four presidents on Mount Rushmore are?


George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Donald Trump.

I’m Donald Trump, you know, you’re not the first person to tell us Donald Trump for number 4, you would be right.

Some people would say let’s make him the 5th, but it is good old Abe Lincoln on there.


But I know you know that Kim, for that, I’m actually quite impressed that you knew all four cuz Courtney had to strain her brain before we got there to to figure out who the four were.

But she ended up getting it.

But she wasn’t as fast as you.

But Mount Rushmore was an hour and a half two hour drive from Badlands to get back into the Black Hills region.


And the sculptures, they’re about 60 foot high granite bases that are carved in.

How they got them carved in was a lot of dynamite and then people actually carving more of their face detail.

There is a trail that goes through Mount Rushmore, it’s called the Presidential trail.


And when we were looking at Mount Rushmore, face on Jamal’s like we’re not going to get any better views than this.

We’re looking at it face on.

He was like, I don’t even know why we’re doing this trail.

So I almost said like let’s not do the trail, but then we did it and let me tell you, we got better views of Mount Rush.


Well, that’s subjective.

We got closer and they looked bigger.

Were they better?

I don’t know because it’s now an underview.

There were certain areas where their faces would peek through off of the mountain, or one or two faces through some open tree line.

That made it really cool framing shots, don’t get me wrong.


But when you’re actually really, really close to it, you’re under them.

So is it as great?

I don’t know.

I mean, I guess that’s subjective.

I won’t say that it’s not worth doing the President’s Trail, but I don’t think the views are like, Oh my gosh, they’re so much better, Let’s absolutely do it.


But along the way they had fun facts on like little boards about the former presidents, what they were known for, who they were married to when they died, how many children.

They had some fun facts about them.

So I thought it was very informative and worth the visit.


Mount Rushmore as a National Monument is free to go to except they do charge you for parking. 10 bucks for parking. 10 bucks for parking which I guess squad tip bring your ticket with you when you leave the car.

I thought you would pay when you leave.

No no no no.


There is a ticket validation right at the entrance and promenade area where they have all the state flags of all the US territories.

You pay for your parking right there.

I had to make the mistake once I saw that to walk back to the car to get the ticket.

So if you go to Mount Rushmore, bring your parking ticket with you and validate it and pay for it right when you look at the faces.


So after leaving Mount Rushmore, one another thing a squatty mentioned to do was to drive the Spearfish Scenic Byway.

We were going north to North Dakota, so I just kind of rerouted us a little bit to go on the scenic Byway.

So the already long drive that was about to be 4 hours long Brittany wanted added more time to do the scenic byway of.


Course sounds about right.

It does, doesn’t it, Kim?

So it’s a 19 mile stretch of driving through the Spearfish Canyon.

It’s one of the Black Hills at best.

Scenic drives to be seen.

There’s a few waterfalls in the Canyon.

We were able to see Bridal Veil Falls from the road, but I guess there are more waterfalls that are quick hikes.


I didn’t make Jamal do them, of course.

Leg day and Badlands.

But then when we exited the scenic byway, we were in Spearfish the town, and we ate at a restaurant called Guadalajara’s.

It was pretty good for Mexican and South Dakota.


Oh wow, that is so surprising that it would be there and that you would go to it.

You know what’s so funny is we were driving through spearfish and we’re like, what looks good to eat here?

And it was really Applebee’s or this.


And we were like, well, you know what, let’s go with Mexican.

You know, we’re California natives.

I won’t say this.

We are really picky about Mexican food outside of the state of California, but we’re like, let’s just give it a go.

And it did not disappoint.

It was actually pretty goodwill.


I say it’s California equivalent.

Absolutely not.

But for where we were in South Dakota, I would say I was quite impressed with this spot.

And let me tell you, this was the place to be.

I don’t know if it was because it was Sunday, I don’t know if it was because it was Mother’s Day, but everybody and their mom in Spearfish was at Guadalajara’s enjoying some fine Mexican cuisine.


And it wasn’t like Tex Mex style, like the owner was speaking Spanish, the workers were speaking Spanish.

I felt like it was an authentic Mexican spot.

A little hidden gem out there.

So after we stopped to eat at Guadalajara’s, we were on our long drive to Bowman, ND, which is pretty much the first town that you’re going to come across in North Dakota when you exit the North End of South Dakota.


And like we said, this was about like a three to four hour drive collectively.

And we stayed the night at the Bowman Lodge and Convention Center.

Hey, they have a Convention Center here at the Bowman Lodge.

It’s not very big, but you know, I think for the 50 or so people that they wrangle up for whatever conventions they have here, this is the spot.


And actually this was a really nice hotel.

When we checked in, we were like 30 minutes before pool closing.

We got into the hot tub.

They have a restaurant that’s attached to it, known for their burgers.

We did not eat there, but that was a really popular spot that a lot of people were going to too.


And All in all, I would say actually a really nice hotel.

And we stayed in Bowman because we knew it was going to be a long drive for everything we had done in earlier that day in South Dakota.

So the next morning, which was Monday morning, our whole goal was to spend the whole day exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park.


So Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it’s famous for its rugged badland terrain, but it has more greenery on the Badlands than Badlands did, has a good amount of wildlife, and then it has historical ties to President Theodore Roosevelt, who actually owned like a ranch in this unit and really cared about the conservation of this area.


The park has 2 units, so there’s a north unit and the South unit they don’t touch.

Takes about an hour to drive between the two.

Both of them have scenic drives, hiking trails, and then of course opportunity to see lots of the wildlife in the park.

And I would say here, we caught a lot more wildlife in these Badland regions than we did in Badlands National Park in South Dakota.


So the entrance is $30.00 for seven days.

But we always stress and harp on people, especially if you’re going to be doing an itinerary similar to this and doing multiple national parks, just get your America the Beautiful National Park Pass so you don’t really have to worry about it.

The $30.00 for seven days, it’s good for North and South unit as well as President Roosevelt’s camp and lodge that he has, which is not in the North or South units, somewhere in the middle along the Little Missouri River that runs right through here.


We did not go to that, but just so you know.

We hear the South unit is more popular, probably because it’s closer to more things.

But we did start with the North unit, which Kim is actually in a different time zone.

It’s in Central time.


And then you go on to the South unit and then it’s back in mountain time.


OK, well that’s fun.

So we started at the Oxbow overlook that overlooks the Little Missouri River where the Oxbow is.

Jamal, what is an Oxbow?

So we’ve talked about this before, but an Oxbow, where Oxbow lake is a natural formation that will happen over time in a river or a stream.


Because of course water always wants to take the path of least resistance.

So a lot of times you’ll see, you know, big turns that are taken in rivers and it forms the shape of AU.

Well, eventually in time, what happens is it’s easier for the water, instead of taking that U shape, to start forming a straight line to connect the tops of EU, So the river will then start running straight through there.


It cuts off that U formation that’s there, which creates what they call the Oxbow.

So this gave an overlook to see this formation of an Oxbow lake that’s taking place in real time right now.

Kim what Oxbow lake have we seen together?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know we went to Horseshoe Bend and one day it will be an Oxbow.


It is an Oxbow.

It is, but I mean, it’s not fully cut off yet is what she’s saying.

But yeah.

That’s the answer I was.

Okay, A+ nailed in a plus.

So then we did a hike in the north unit.

It was called Capra Cooley Trail.

It was only 4 1/2 miles, but it was a great trail.


It had a ton of scenic overlooks to the badland landscape overlooking the Little Missouri River.

It was just a really cool hike in general.

There was so many different portions of it, Like some parts we were going through the Badlands, some parts of it we were going through the forest, some parts we were just like in Prairie areas.


So it was very diverse in its landscape.

It took us through multiple different landscapes, like Brittany said.

I really enjoyed this one.

You know, in the actual Badlands regions where the, you know, you have the more rugged rock formations, you wouldn’t really expect a lot of Buffalo to be there more in the Prairie regions.


But along this trail, we did see a lot of Buffalo paddies, if you know what I’m talking about, and look fresh.

And I was really hoping that we might actually encounter some on the hike, not necessarily to be close because they are actually quite dangerous animals, nor would we approach him.


But you know, I want to be on a hike and see him versus just seeing them on the road.

But we did not encounter any on the trail itself.

Where did we go after the hike?

After the hike, we went to Wacky Cannonball Concretions Overlook, and this is not a spot that you would hike, but this is a very famous spot that a lot of people who visit the North unit go to where some of the rock formations of the Badlands are eroding.


But as water has made its way through before it got eroded in this area and kind of concentrated, it created these circular ball rocks that are a lot more solid than the outside structure.

And that’s why they’re called cannonballs, because they form these almost perfect circles, which you don’t really find anything ever perfect in circle or straight line in nature, but here you find them.


So it’s really cool, just like little spot to overlook and get out and see the cannonball.

And then we drove to the South unit.

We took this random Rd.

I don’t know, Google Maps sometimes like puts you on some weird roads.

And we drove this crazy Rd. getting into the South unit.


Well, what made it crazy?

Well, so we were on a main highway headed South, the same highway that we headed north to go to the north unit.

But the main entrance into Teddy Roosevelt South unit, which again where we were starting to go is off of an Interstate, I think Interstate 94, is it not?


And we were like, well, OK, is it going to take us there to catch Interstate 94 and go in?

No, it had us go in from the north side, the South unit, which the main entrance is the South side of the South unit.

But going along that way, it took us on a dirt Rd. for about 15 miles inland with no signage whatsoever that you’re going to enter the National Park.


You see kind of, I don’t want to say a lot of industry, but North Dakota does have oil.

So there’s oil wells and rigs and things like that out in that area.

And you see a lot of that at the edge of the park boundary.

And you’re like, OK, well, there’s all this industry going here and I’m about to enter into a National Park and you’re on these dirt roads.


And I take another turn on another unsuspecting dirt road, and I see the tiniest sign saying I’ve entered into Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

And like the tiniest little sign that you would expect.

But not only in that while we’re driving the road, it’s like all gravel.


And then there are like semi trucks on this road too and they are going so fast and there’s so much dust coming up from the gravel that every time 1 passed us we literally could not see out of our windshield for a second or two until it like cleared.


So the semi trucks were passing you then?

No, they were going in the opposite direction.

No, they weren’t passing me, but they were going in the opposite direction.

And then we saw a sign for private property and most like, we’re not going to even going to be able to get on this road, Brittany.

We’re going to have to go all the way back.


You sure know how to pick them.

I didn’t.

I didn’t pollute.


I didn’t know.

I did not actually.

You know what, I’m offended.

Brittany said that because I was quite calm on the two sets of shitty dirt roads that she had me drive this time.

I was actually really impressed for Jamal’s temperament on this one.


And you know, I’m noticing in more recent trips, Jamal, all your freak outs happen behind the wheel.

Yep, because sometimes Brittany’s not the best copilot.


They happen in the hotel room when you’re getting ready and Brittany has to report back on those.


I’m I’m trying to contain the freak outs and be.

A little bit better.

Doing great, sweetie.

Thank you, thank you.

But we came in through this way because this was the closest point to a hike that Britney wanted to do, which was going to be the Wind Canyon Overlook.


So again, we finally made it in.

This is only a .5 mile trail, but you do a little bit of hiking up and by a little bit.

I don’t want to see you gained any more than like 100 feet in elevation game, but you get these amazing overlooks of the Badlands of the valleys of the Little Missouri River.


We saw some Buffalo and wild horses in the distance.

So this is a very scenic overlook and I really enjoyed, you know, Wind Canyon.

You can get to it from the main entrance off of the well paved roads.

But from where we were coming from, that’s why it took us down those dirt roads to get here first.


Yeah, then we wanted to go to an area called Buck Hill on On our way we saw a few different groups of wild horses.

One group was really large.

How many wild horses would you say was in that group like 1520?


And they were pretty close to the road and wild horses in person.

Oh my gosh, they are so beautiful.

Just like galloping off into this.


They really are.

So I was really happy to see them because my goal in this National Park was to see the wild horses.

Then we went to Buck Hill, which is the second highest point in the South Unit has really cool panoramic views of the surrounding Badlands.


So we did that.

It was really quick, probably like less than half a mile to get up and down.

This is a really good spot for sunrise or sunset if you can time your day accordingly.

Obviously for us that wasn’t conducive, but if you can, Buck Hill is the spot to do sunrise or sunset within the park.


And then we drove to an area called Colvane Trail.

We actually didn’t do the hike, but I had read if we wanted to see more horses, this is your best opportunity to probably see them.

We unfortunately did not see any more horses on the way to this trail, but it’s called coal vein because there’s actual coal burning within the Badlands and there is a basically like vein of burnt coal and a coloration line within the mountains that you can see.


We actually even saw a sign that said do not report this as like a wildfire.

Why is it burning?

How is it still burning?

Well, it’s within the rock and so it’s burning within the earth itself.

I mean, there’s a place in Turkmenistan, if I recall correctly, where it’s called like the gates of hell, where there’s there’s just opening of coal and it’s continuously burning.


But think of that, but just really enclosed.

But you can see the fire scar, so to speak, of where it’s burned along the rock.

So it’s still burning to this day in certain sections.

What originally started it, I’m not too sure, but there’s one section of this cool vein area that burned from 1951 to 1977.


So really long time that they’ll have these continuous burns.

But it’s not like it’s a big roaring fire.

It’s taking place within the mountain and the Badlands, not on the surface.

I need to see that.

That sounds really cool.

Yeah, it it is really cool like to we stood at the sign, learned about the history and you could see the fire scar, which is really cool to see.


And this is along a loop Rd. in the South unit.

So we wanted to continue and do the full loop but it was actually closed so we had to turn back around and go all the way back to get to like the South entrance but.


It worked out for us because we did pass a parking lot that had three horses that were pretty close to the parking lot.

So we got out and got to see them, and then we saw a coyote in the distance as well.

Yeah, not too far off.

And that was actually really cool to see because we hadn’t seen any coyotes yet on this adventure in any of the National Park.


So like I mentioned kind of in the intro, I mean this was wildlife galore.

And I feel like this region of the US and you know, you alluded to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone earlier.

Like of course people when they think safaris, you think Africa, right?


And those type of big game.

But if you’re looking for big game and a lot of wild animals in the US, these are the regions of like these are American safaris out here in this region with the type of wildlife that you’re going to see it.

So that pretty much concluded our stint in Teddy Roosevelt National Park in the South End.


We were going to be making our way back from North Dakota to South Dakota.

We were going to stay overnight in a town called Deadwood, and this was about a four and a half hour drive from the South unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.


We did stop back in Spearfish for more food.

No, we did not go to Guadalajara this time.

We did what was the alternative option and we ate good in the neighborhood and went to Applebee’s and got some dollar Ritas.

Kim, do you know that?

Do you know that song of fancy like?


Of course.

So every time or in the country, I always have to play that for Jamal.

Yeah, but she didn’t want to be fancy.

Like she did not get the Bourbon Street steak or the Oreo shake.

So, you know, she kind of let me down on the.

Apple Well, she did do the dollar.

Rita’s right.

I did do the.


How can you go to Applebee’s and not do Dollar Rita?

That’s silly.

And the reason why we didn’t get the Oreo shake ’cause I was eyeing it, but in Spearfish there was a small batch ice cream shop called Leon’s.

I want to say it was and they had really good ice cream there, so we decided to stop there and get ice cream.


But Deadwood again is back in South Dakota in the Black Hills region, and we ended up staying at a Springhill Suites by Marriott.

Really nice hotel.

Actually really shocked for how nice and inexpensive it was.

I think like $80.00 a night.


But it was connected to a casino and when we checked in, they told us, oh, you know, you sign up for their players card, you’ll go ahead and get $15.00 in free play.

We each did that and walked out with a little bit of moolah along the way.


So, you know, every time we stay at a place and I could sign up for a player’s card to get free play, I’m going to do it.

So we walked out with a little bit of money.

That was fun.

Although I will say this, when those events happened, Brittany’s the one with the luck that usually went.

Yes, this is twice now that we’ve signed up for a free player’s card and I’ve been the winner of the money.


At this casino, did they provide free alcoholic beverages while you were gambling?

It said they did, but it was such a small casino that while you’re playing no one even came by.

So yeah.

And if we stayed to wait for a free drink, we might have lost all that money.

We won.

So we were like.

Yeah, that’s how they get you.


I know.

Well, you know, it was a long day, terms of hiking, driving.

We arrived late.

So we’re like, all right, we’re we’re done.

Let’s get back up to the room and go to bed, which we did.

So the next day, Tuesday, was our last day of this trip and we saved Win K for this day because it really didn’t fit in into any other day of our trip.


So we drove back S through Wynn Cave National Park.

Of course, Wynn Cave is known for its intricate, extensive cave system, and it specifically has these formations called box work.

It’s one of the only caves that has it, but we weren’t able to see that because, as Jamal mentioned earlier, The Cave elevator is actually being completely replaced and repaired.


Why they want to start it during summer season is beyond me, but like, why isn’t that a winter project?

Well, they have.

Harsh winters, so maybe they can’t bring the stuff in on the roads and trucks.

I don’t know.

It doesn’t really make sense in terms of summer season, but I’m sure there’s a reason why they’re doing that.


So again, we alluded to this.

You want to see Wind Cave because you live on Wind Cave Kim.

But Wind Cave again is known for its rare box work.

I think there’s less than 5 caves in the world that actually have these formations and box work.


Just imagine kind of like cave structures that look like boxes or bee honeycomb type shapes, really thin, really frail coming out of the the walls and ceilings.

So that’s what you can kind of expect to see in The Cave.

But of course we weren’t able to do that and where we at we are in the Black Hills, so mountains and also the of prairies, rolling hills and grasslands.


So instead we did a few hikes.

We went up to Rankin Ridge, which is the highest point in the park.

It has a really good overlook of the Prairie.

You can see some bison down below in the distance.

And on our way up to this Ridge, we actually did pass some bison that were pretty close to the road.


On our drive to our next stop, we saw some Prairie dogs there.

Prairie dogs are abundant in this area.

They’re actually, they actually live in like these Prairie dog towns.

That’s what they call them, Prairie dog towns.

I love Prairie dogs, by the way.

Probably maybe one of my new favorite animals.

They actually mate for life and then they have like in their underground Burroughs, they make rooms for like them to live in.


So they have a lot of different chambers that they go and live in.

And then this season, of course, is when all of the babies have been born.

So there’s usually like four to six babies and they’re just like all just kind of chirping around and they are called Prairie dogs because they bark at each other.


How cute.

So we did another trail coming off of the visitor center called Prairie Vista, and we got to pass the natural cave entrance, which was right next to where the elevator is.

And then there was a sign along one of the trails where it shows you what you’re standing on and what that would look like underneath.


And with The Cave system, like how it branches out from the visitor center, which was a really cool perspective.

Both hikes that we did were no more than a mile each.

So quick, good way to see a part of the park.

We also went into the visitor center and they had a video playing in like an auditorium room where it talked about like the history of 1 Cave and the tours and things that you could see.


And like Jamal had said, the box work structure that it seemed after people named it that because they said it looked like a whole bunch of cardboard boxes being left open in like a mail room.

So they called it box work.

Oh, that’s unique.


And one thing we didn’t mention about Wind Cave entrance is free.

But of course if you are going to do The Cave tour when it’s open, you will have to pay for that.

But in general, to get into Wind Cave National Park, absolutely.

Free And one thing I learned from visiting Wind Cave was that prairies are the second most diverse ecosystem on earth.


Do you know what the number one most diverse ecosystem is, Kim?

The rainforest.

Yes, good job.

Well, look at me miss trivia over here.

Watch out, Jamal.

I know Kim, you are rising on up rank over here with your random common knowledge.


I love it.

So I thought that was actually really interesting that it’s the second most diverse ecosystem in the world, so pretty cool.

You wouldn’t think about that just grasslands, but it really it really is encompassing everything right there.

Second most diverse ecosystem.

And then after, you know, our few hikes in wind cave and of course seeing more bison and wildlife, we did drive back to Denver.


It was a six hour drive.

We had an evening flight out.

It did get delayed by about 55 minutes.

So pretty much an hour delay.

But we were excited to be in the Denver airport.

As much as I dislike the Denver airport because this is the first time that we’ve flown in or out since Britney has had her Capital One Venture X card.


And Denver Airport does have a Capital One lounge.

So this was our first time actually being able to utilize it.

And in all honesty, I was kind of expecting more because I’m coming off the high that week.

Yeah, yeah, I really am.


You know, the lounge itself was nice, the cocktails that they had were nice, but a lot of the cocktails, their specialty ones were on draft, which that’s kind of weird to be cocktails on draft versus like handmade.

But of course you could order handmade ones.

But the lounge area was nice.


The food selection and how they had it, I really wasn’t a fan of.

I didn’t think it was.

I thought the.

Picture and it looks great.

Your food looked amazing.

It looked good, didn’t taste as good.

And I, you know, in general, like it was good, don’t get me wrong.

But what I was trying to finish saying was I, I’m coming off the high of being in New York’s JFK and going into the Sapphire Reserve lounge that they have over there and their food, everything that we put in our mouth, plus all their cocktails, absolutely exceptional.


So I’m comparing it off of that.

But just in general of a lounge experience, it was a good one, but I thought the food was going to be better.

It looked, as you thought, better than it actually tasted.

The macaroni and cheese was good, The broccolini was good.


The Caesar salad was average.

There was a teriyaki bowl average.

There was like the sushi bites.

Jamal didn’t like it.

I did.

They did have baklava.

It was.

It was decent.

They had a bison sloppy Jill, which wasn’t very good at all.


And then they actually have an area.

So like, if you don’t have time to actually go into the lounge and sit down, I can’t appreciate this.

They had A to go section where you can grab like, you know, a sparkling water or a Coke or a salad.


Pre packaged sandwiches.

Pre packaged sandwiches they had like chia bowls, things like that so I felt like their to go section was pretty decent for what it was.

I love that.

I think more lounges are doing that now with the to go food.

And then Kim, we did a good fucking hard moment after the lounge.


Guess what we did?

You went over to the restaurant.


Use the priority pass with the restaurant feature before they actually take it away here.

So we kind of probably got our last fill of priority pass restaurant access.

But big question for you though, did you steal a chicken strip off someone else?


‘S we did not because we did not eat at that one that you’re referencing where that actually happened.

Kim, you know, that’s kind of embarrassing to to retalk about here, but we all did it and we were all hungry and took somebody’s left behind chicken tender at one of the restaurants at the Denver airport.


But this is not that restaurant.

We had a different one, a little bit more fancy, actually really exceptionally good.

They had fresh made focaccia bread.

We ended up getting a short rib on mashed potatoes and we ended up getting a burrata and heirloom tomato plate.

That was like delicious.


So that was really good.

Yeah, Denver had two restaurants, plus the Capital One Lounge.

Amazing, So did you all fly southwest on this trip?

We did, yes.

We did direct from San Diego to Denver and direct Denver to San Diego.


And I want to say our flights each way we’re like no more than 125 to 150 bucks.

Well that’s not bad at all and the reason I was asking was because we haven’t talked about our hack to get upgraded to 1st class for free in quite a while.


So I was wondering if you might have used it on this trip.

But for all the squaddies listening since Jamal and Brittany didn’t use it on this one yet, we do have a hack that we’ve used several different times on flights where they have business and 1st class available.

The offer still stands if you leave a 5 star written review on Spotify or Apple Podcast.


Send us your screenshot.

We will give you our hack that has worked for us.

Want to say 8 out of 10 times we’ve tried it.

It’s always hit or miss because of course first class or business class maybe 100% sold out, but rest assured you’re going to be treated like a rock star and better than anybody else on the trip.


Bring you goodies from business or first class back to you and coach if they can’t upgrade you.

So please be sure send us your love five star written reviews.

We always love to hear what you guys have to say.

And now it’s time for my favorite part of the week, Questions of the Week.


We have two questions this week #1 Carly from Missouri.

Was Wind Cave worth visiting if The Cave is closed?

You know, that was a question we asked ourselves.

Is it worth visiting if we can’t actually go do The Cave system?

I felt like it was worth the visit still.

There’s so much wildlife in Wind Cave National Park with the buffaloes and the Prairie dogs, and we still got to see parts of the park that we probably wouldn’t have focused on had we gone to see The Cave.


So I’m glad we did that.

And then I can’t wait for Kim to join us the next time we go back to Wind Cave and see the actual cave itself.

And like I said, Wind Cave touches Custer State Park.

Custer State Park is for sure absolutely worth going to tag team and do them both together because quite honestly, you’re going to get a lot of the same.


And if you’re in that region, why would you not go over and cross off a National Park?

Of course we are drawn to go back to go to The Cave, but I would say if you are doing a bunch of other things in this region like we did, for sure go to Wind Cave even though The Cave is closed currently.


Do we know how long The Cave will be down?

No pun intended.

I think for the whole summer season this year.


Next year we’re back in business.

I think so.

Fabulous question #2 Erica from Texas.

What was your favorite part and what do you wish you had time to do?


To be quite honest I did like Custer State Park quite a bit and we only did one hike was in the park and there were some other hikes that I was eyeing in the park like the Black Elk Peak which is the the tallest peak east of the Rockies.


So I of course want to do that hike, the Cathedral Spires hike.

So I wish we spent more time in Custer State Park, which to be completely honest, wasn’t even high on my list before we started this trip.

I would say my favorite part was, quite honestly, the wildlife.


Again, we’ve gone to a lot of national parks and of course you’ll see wildlife, but sometimes wildlife is hit or miss.

If you want to see big game wildlife, you are absolutely for sure going to see it out here.

So that was what I absolutely enjoyed about it.


Every park that we went to, we saw bison or something else or something unique that the park was famous for, like the wild horses or the wild donkeys and mules in another park too.

So we saw it all.

What I wish we had more time to do is I know it was kind of like fast pace, but I wish we had more time to just sit back, relax and enjoy and stay a couple days in the Black Hills region.


Even once we’re done with all our hikes, just driving around a little bit more, sightseeing the animals because people could say you see it like, and I’m done.

But if you just love nature and wildlife, like, it just doesn’t get tiring seeing those animals.

It’s like, why do you think people go on safaris in Africa multiple times?


You see it, but it never gets old.

And I feel like the same thing is here.

What about stars?

You know, we were out in isolated areas for sure, but where we were staying there was still even a little bit of light pollution.

So when we talked earlier about going to see the Aurora’s, when we were staying in Hot Springs, we even really had to go down a few isolated roads to really feel like we got out of there.


I think there are of course, camping grounds that’ll be a little bit more isolated where you won’t be able to see it.

But where we were staying, tell wise, we’re kind of in concentrated like small towns or cities, so there was light pollution.

If you’re camping out there in RV parks or more within the parks, I’m sure the starry night would be amazing.


I have read that Badlands is a really good place to stargaze and as we were entering in the South side of Badland there was a really big campground and I feel like that would be a really good spot to like stargaze and enjoy that in nature.

Beautiful note to end on plan for the next one.


Wind Cave, badland, stargazing and just taking it easy.

Thanks squaddies for tuning into our episode this week and make sure to keep the adventures going with us on all the socials at Travel Squad Podcast and send us in your future questions of the week.

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Stay tuned for next week’s episode.

We have some more amazing adventures and tips and stores for you.

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