Devil's Tower National Monument is a volcanic plug on the western edge of the Black Hills.
The land around the tower itself eroded over time to reveal the structure visible today, which was made famous in the late 1970s by the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
We couldn't leave the park grounds without nearly running over a herd of prairie dogs, which came out in droves as the sun melted the snow around the tower.
Following our morning visit to Devil's Tower National Monument, we drove into South Dakota and visited Mount Rushmore.
Despite the fact that Mount Rushmore is much smaller than I expected, Josh and I had fun trying to look gigantic next to the monument.
Following our visit to the very commercialized Mount Rushmore, we drove further east out of the Black Hills and into Badlands National Park. The Badlands were absolutely beautiful and full of amazing vistas and canyons. Imagine a miniature Grand Canyon in the middle of the prairie!
A photo of the prairie and the Badlands National Park in the background.
After a night in nearby Oacoma, South Dakota, we stopped at the world famous "Corn Palace" in Mitchell, South Dakota. Behind us here is the official "Corn Palace" mascot.
From South Dakota we turned south towards Iowa and Missouri. After staying the night in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, we headed over to the nearby Steamboat Arabia Museum.
The Steamboat Arabia Museum was built to house the remains of the sunken Steamship Arabia. The steamship sank in 1856 in the nearby Missouri River after hitting a log. The only life lost was a donkey. The liquor and one of the steam engines were recovered by the rescue vessel before the Steamship Arabia sank. The other steam engine (seen in the above) was recovered when the rest of the ship was found in 1988 in a nearby cornfield.
The Missouri River had shifted course since the Steamship Arabia sank and the ship was buried in one hundred feet of mud. A local team of treasure hunters found the Steamship Arabia and built this museum to clean, sort, and display all the goods found inside the Steamship Arabia.
Part of the stern of the Steamship Arabia was excavated and is preserved in the museum. The remainder of the ship was buried in the cornfield. On an interesting side note, once the Steamship Arabia was found and an excavation site established, twelve industrial dewatering pumps were required to run twenty four hours a day to keep the groundwater out.
Following our morning in Kansas City, we drove east to St. Louis for the night. We stayed right next to the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. Here is the view from our hotel room on the 15th floor.
We took the ride up to the top of the Gateway Arch. The woman who sold us our ride tickets was required to ask everyone if they have issues with claustrophobia. That being said, the view from the top of the Gateway Arch was worth the ride. The live Cardinals-Giants game (#2 in the 7 game series) is visible on the left side of the photo.
Following our Gateway Arch adventure, we headed back to the hotel pub to watch the Cardinals-Giants Game. There was a special on yards of beer for the game.
Next we headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where we stayed just off Honky Tonk row. We spent our evening in Nashville pub-hopping and taking in the local country-western culture, including pitchers of Yingling.
Last but not least, we reached Orlando, Florida, where we were attending the wedding of one of Josh's best friends, Dylan, (at right in the above photo). Josh, Todd (middle), Dylan, and Dylan's father went out for steak two nights before the wedding.
The newlyweds, Dylan and Kelin, outside the church.
Following the wedding reception, we all took the bus back from the reception site to the post-wedding party. While on the bus, Dylan and Kelin sealed up one of their wedding gifts, a seven year time capsule in which all wedding guests wrote predictions for their future. Kelin is seen here hammering the lid on the time capsule while the bus is moving.