I believe we woke up in Mitchell, SD around 6 and attacked the hot continental breakfast by 7. Attacked is the precise description. It’s pretty much a standard continental breakfast with a single hot item – scrambled eggs and cheese on a English muffin. It’s the sort of concoction a bachelor would create. Not the tastiest thing (or the freshest) but we put down several. Being middle class means always finding a way to stretch a free breakfast into a full stomach well into the afternoon. It’s also what makes you figure on eating back some of your room rate, therefore “winning” as my father and I joke about. For example in a related way, if an event is charging for parking and you end up parking close by for free to the given event, you have “won.” Life it seems is an endless string of wins (“we ate back at least $20 at breakfast”) and losses (“they screwed me on parking yesterday. I had to pay”) out of which the south side polack gets ahead. It’s silly when I write it down, but it certainly makes sense in my mind.
We hit the road at 7:30 and made it off the main road towards Mt. Rushmore around noon. Mt. Rushmore is about 35 miles outside of Rapid City and involves some pretty steep roads. Very steep indeed. The descent into Keystone, SD found us on a 9%+ grade going through single lane construction. I believe Greg gained some grey hairs from that gauntlet. 10 minutes later when we parked at the monument the brakes smelled distinctly strong in the air. I dared Greg a $1 to touch the rotor but he turned me down. I got close with my finger but the heat from 2 inches away was warning enough.
The monument itself is awe inspiring. Just attempting to grasp how one goes about even creating and sculpting such a thing is plenty to chew on for me. Hearing all of the foreign languages and different American accents in the air was also fascinating and beyond what I expected. I always assumed Rapid City, SD was a little off the beaten path for a foreign family’s American odyssey. I guess not. Cool.
On we drive praying for Great Falls, MT, but as the afternoon waned we ended up settling for an 8pm Billings, MT hotel. I’m told that downtown Billings is a cool town, but peripheral Billings certainly is not. We drove by the refineries and stopped at yet another Hampton Inn (the breakfast now had a perpetual target on its back so to speak). After some Outback hamburgers and a blooming onion we dragged our bloated guts back to the room. We were a little behind our schedule and had also found that our stomachs were shrinking due to the long days of coffee, granola bars, and water. We sadly left some of the blooming onion on the table. But, our plans now had us getting up at 5am to hit the breakfast at 6am in time for a 630 am pull out.