TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: mount rushmore

travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmoreAfter a long, wet and no-so-fresh day yesterday, we woke up to no thunderstorms (woo) and to the thought that today we would be visiting the world famous Mount Rushmore!

On the way we stopped at the Minuteman missile attraction – it was quite interesting to learn how much damage missiles could do. Aside from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, we learnt that the US still has 450 missiles (something which I think they’re quite proud of).

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minuteman attraction
linebreak After our missile visit, we stopped off at the next roadside attraction – Wall Drug! When we arrived, it was so busy and there were so many shops selling anything and everything. There was a cream fudge shop, a beauty place and other shops selling bits and bats. We decided to set ourselves a $1 challenge to get one of the most funniest/random/useful object. It was actually quite hard as loads of things were over $1! In the end I got an apache tear, which was basically a black gem for 98c – bargain! After the challenge, we did a quick food shop and grabbed some lunch before heading to main event of the day.

travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - wall drugwall drug
linebreakIt’s safe to say that all of us were amazed by Mount Rushmore! We all went on a little trail where we could get closer to those famous faces, as well as listening to a studio talk and watching a theatre experience.

travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - me, kirsty and holly
travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - plaquetravel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - me and polly
top: me, kirsty and holly, middle: names of contributors, bottom: me and polly outside mt. rushmore
linebreakOnce we had finished taking an abundance of selfies, it was onto Crazy Horse – which I was surprisingly so much more impressed with. We learnt that the project was founded and run by a family – something which completely shocked me! It was such a humble experience to hear that they’re doing this without government funding and because of this, it will take so long to complete.

travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - crazy horsetravel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - crazy horse monumenttop: what crazy horse will look like, bottom: what it currently looks like
linebreakWe then headed to our next campsite near Devil’s Tower, where we pitched out tents, had tea and even saw a little bit of Close Encounters of the Third Kind! Once we finished tea we all had a cornhole tournament. To say me and Polly never played it before, I thought we did quite well! That night, again there were severe thunderstorm warnings – we even packed up our stuff into the van and headed into the bathrooms to take shelter just to be sure. Luckily the storm had split in between us and we avoided it!

travel - trekamericas grand trek - mount rushmore - devils towerdevil’s tower
linebreakThe prank war has now been in full swing, and even though me and Polly started off strongly, we discovered that whilst we have good ideas, we are just really bad at executing them! We bought some fart powder from Wall Drug and put it in Rob’s drink – only for it to start frothing up. Strike one. We also tried to padlock the boys’ tent whilst they were asleep. This we had managed to succeed, until the next morning where we found out that the boys could still get out of the tent! Strike two. They then retaliated with a stink bomb! (Little did we know that this would be the first stink bomb of many throughout the Northern Trail – bearing in mind this was day 8!) Despite our minor setbacks, we decided this wasn’t going to stop us, little did the boys know what we would have up our sleeves in Cody,,,

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: badlands, south dakota

travel - trekamericas grand trek - badlandsAfter a long driving day and a chilled night in camp yesterday, we were woken up at 5am by a thunderstorm.

Steve told us to go into the bathrooms and wait it out, but with 60mph winds heading our way (signs of a tornado), he told us to pack up everything and go. So there we were in our PJs, packing our tents away in torrential downpours. (Is it me, or is this a case of déjà vu?)

We stopped off at a café where we had a drink and a bite to eat – we all joked about how the rain was following us (little did we know it actually would throughout our whole trek), and waited the storm out. One of the highlights of that day was when Steve was getting the breakfast box out of the trailer for those who didn’t want to buy anything in the café, and we all looked up and saw the lid blowing down the street with Steve chasing after it – it was such a comedy gold moment!

travel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands corn palacethe world famous corn palace
linebreakOnce the storm had calmed down, it was back in the van and straight to our next stop and our first national park, Badlands in South Dakota. On our way there, we stopped off at the world’s only corn palace (yup, you read that right). Let’s just say that it was a very interesting experience – but hey, one to tick off the bucket list!
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entrance to badlands
linebreakWe then stopped at a gun store, which I wasn’t really too keen on, before we finally arrived at camp to get our hiking gear on and go on our very first hike (out of many) on the trek! After taking a look in the Ben Reifel Visitors Center we started our hike.
travel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands - castle trailtravel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands rockstravel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands me and bobbi
top: view of badlands, bottom: me & bobbi
linebreakSteve took us on our trail, which would only be a short hike (looking back he was easing us all in). It was such a chilled walk – and a different pace from Chicago and being in the van all day.
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top; beware of snakes! sign, bottom: cacti
linebreakBadlands itself was such a beautiful place – who knew rocks could be so interesting? We took so many pictures and even saw the sun set!
travel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands rock formation
travel - trekamericas grand trek - badlands sunsettop: rock formation, bottom: sunset
linebreakAfter our hike, we headed back to camp where most of us went straight into the showers (at this point none of us had washed since the day before, so we were all smelling pretty fresh). At least it gave us an insight of what two days at Yellowstone would be like – with no showers!

Group D were cooking tonight and made an awesome chilli, as it was such a long day we all had a quick chat before calling it a night. Well…we had to be prepared for Mount Rushmore!

sigyhl

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(Corn Palace image from Google)

TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: chicago

travel - trekamericas grand trek - day 5 chicago
After what turned out to be a late night (the joys of waiting for laundry), me and Bobbi woke up at 5am to go see the sun rise at the bean.

Unfortunately, when we arrived we had just missed it! However, there were hardly any tourists in sight and we got some great shots of the skyline reflecting on the bean (hey, every silver lining…)
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chicago’s skyline reflecting on the bean
linebreakAfter making the most of the bean we headed back to the hostel for breakfast before walking to the famous Willis Tower. We ended up walking in the direction of the Hancock Tower, but we managed to get to the right one in the end! We decided on the Willis Tower as it had a glass skydeck ledge, where you could literally stand on top of Chicago (you also didn’t have to pay any extra money for this experience, unlike the Hancock).
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travel - trekamericas grand trek - chicago - willis tower glass ceiling
travel - trekamericas grand trek - chicago - willis tower view of chicago
willis tower

linebreakWe luckily got some discounted tickets at the hostel before we set off, so when we arrived at the tower, we just went straight in without any queuing – bonus! We all watched a theatre experience which explained the history of the tower, and we learnt some fun facts. Did you know, that it used to be the world’s tallest tower before it was overtaken by the Taiwan Tower? After the experience we went onto the skydeck ledge – which was so cool! We took so many selfies on the glass ledge and got some breathtaking shots of the city!
travel - trekamericas grand trek - chicago - boats on lake michigan
travel - trekamericas grand trek - chicago - ducks and boats on lake michigan
Our little tour of Chicago that day took us to the Navy Pier, which was apparently the city’s local touristy attraction. There wasn’t much there apart from a ferris wheel and a small fairground – but it did have an amazing view of the city and the skyline along Lake Michigan. Cue more selfie and Go Pro vid moments!
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travel - trekamericas grand trek - chicago - view of skyline from navy pier
navy pier and lake michigan
linebreakThat day, the group was also offered an optional activity of going to see a baseball game. Only me and Bobbi were up for it, so off we went with Steve (on his day off, what a guy) to my very first baseball game! We paid $13 for a nosebleed seat to see the Chicago White Sox take on the Texas Rangers, and each got a hotdog and some nachos. Steve went one step further and bought a strawberry daiquiri (well, it was his day off) and even made us try funnel cake (insanely sugary churros – sweet was an understatement). The game only lasted three hours (they usually last between five and eight), and the White Sox won!
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chicago white sox game at us cellular field

linebreakOnce the game had finished (with fireworks in true American style – did we expect anything less?), we all headed back to the hostel and met Polly and Kirsty for a milkshake at the Shake Shack. We unanimously dubbed it the Sh*t Shack, due to their terrible service and not-so-nice milkshakes, before chilling out in the park.

That night we all met up and decided to go to Millers Pub for an evening meal. I tried a succulent patty melt with fries and coleslaw. If there was one thing I had to get used to, it was how hearty American cuisine could be! It was delicious, but very filling!

To say it was only day five, it felt like we had been on the tour for ages (and we had another 38 days to go!) It was safe to say that Chicago totally picked up everyone’s spirits and we were ready for a long drive day tomorrow through Wisconsin and Minnesota!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: cedar point, ohio

travel - trekamericas grand trek - day 3 cedar point ohioAfter a couple of days of long drives and sightseeing, today we finally got to let our hair down and visit the Rollercoaster Capital of the World, Cedar Point!

With predictions of thunderstorms and scattered showers, we put on our best brave faces and headed to the theme park. It was so much fun to head out as a group and go on a few rollercoasters together such as The Gatekeeper and Wicked Twister. The sun was shining and as I was getting badly sunburnt (classic move not applying sun cream Sarah), I thought for a split second ‘wow it actually might not rain…’

travel - trekamericas grand trek - day 3 cedar point ohio th gatekeeper the gatekeeper
linebreakBoy, in a few hours’ time was I wrong! After splitting off into little groups for a while, we all met back up to tackle some water rides – Thunder Rapids and Snake River Falls. As we all got onto Snake River Falls and were ready to set off, it suddenly started pouring down with rain. Yep, we were about to go on a water ride and get absolutely soaked by not only the ride itself but also by the thunderstorm! All we could do in that moment was laugh as the ride attendant had already pressed the ‘go’ button. Needless to say, we all got very wet!

travel - trekamericas grand trek - day 3 cedar point ohio snake river fallssnake river falls
linebreakOnce we got off the ride, we sought shelter and got chatting to some of the theme park staff who were amazed by our English accents. After what seemed like forever waiting for the rain to stop, it finally did. A few of us wanted to try Millennium Force, the world’s only steel rollercoaster but due to the thunderstorm it had closed. We all decided to wait for 20 minutes to see if it would open up again, but after being super-soaked and with the fear of flooded tents beginning to set in, we decided to call it a day and head back to camp.

travel - trekamericas grand trek - day 3 cedar point theme park ohiocedar point
linebreakWhen we arrived back at camp, we saw that some of the group’s tents had flooded. At that point we wanted to get cabins but Steve was adamant that we could cope. To top off the flooded tents the rain had picked up again, and another thunderstorm was brewing. To add a further blow, me, Matty and Marc still had to cook. So there we were, cooking in a thunderstorm in ankle deep water getting bitten by mosquitos. What had started out as such a fun-filled day had brought the whole group to a major low point. That night a few members of the group went bowling, but deciding to call it a day, I went to bed… only to find out that my sleeping bag was locked up in the trailer and Steve had gone bowling with the other guys...

Words could not describe our luck that day… but hey, it could have been worse, I could have been sick on the rides like Aussie Dave…

sigyhl

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(Image one credit to Bobbi, rest from Google Images)