We woke up this morning in Scottsbluff, NE at the Holiday Inn Express after a great night at the Whiskey Creek Grill. We were on the road by 9:30 and headed north out of Scottsbluff toward South Dakota for a day of sightseeing in the Black Hills.
It’s amazing how different the Plains are from one area to another. The area north of Scottsbluff in the Nebraska Panhandle was stunning. Rolling hills and grassland with grazing cattle and small farms every few miles made Sioux County, Nebraska one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen.
We pulled over to grab picture of the “Welcome to South Dakota” sign on the Nebraska/South Dakota border. The sign was riddled with bullet holes.
The guy who used Mount Rushmore as target practice is a pretty bad shot. He missed Thomas Jefferson about a dozen times though George Washington fell victim to a stray bullet. Thankfully, Honest Abe was left alone.
The journey into South Dakota took us into the Black Hills and Wind Cave National Park. We had no desire to see the cave (we’ve already been to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky… so we’re sort of cave snobs) but we were taken aback when drove by 2 bison trying to cross the road. The Wind Cave Bison Herd is one of the few pure bison herds in North America remaining and these things are incredible. We were fortunate to see dozens grazing the beautiful fields of Wind Cave.
After Wind Cave we continued north to Hill City where we grabbed some grub at an awesome place called Desperado (thanks Matt Lanza for the tip!) and then headed toward Mount Rushmore. The monument was really cool. What amazed me the most about it was how beautiful the surrounding area was. The Black Hills are really awesome. It’s in the middle of nowhere but if you get the chance to visit southwest South Dakota you should do it!
We left Mount Rushmore and took Rt 16A over Iron Mountain (complete with tunnels, switchbacks, and something called pigtail bridges – read more here and here) which was phenomenal. The top of Iron Mountain gives you a sweeping view of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills and the other side of Rt 16A brings you to Custer State Park.
Tonight we’re staying in Rapid City. From what I’ve seen so far this place is really cool. A brewery, a bunch of restaurants, saloons, and bars. We’ll be doing some bar hopping tonight before a day full of chasing tomorrow.
It looks like Tuesday will be our supercell chase day. I like what I’m seeing so far on the computer models. Very strong instability and shear with an upper level disturbance moving out of the Rockies and into the high plains. With a strong ridge anchored to our south and really warm mid level temperatures we’ll battle capping for part of the day. The 18z NAM erodes the cap south of Rapid City near the Nebraska line and sets up an explosive, and possibly tornadic, situation.
At this point I think our play is south of the Badlands closer to the Nebraska line but there’s a chance that the better play may wind up just northwest of Rapid City along I-90 near the Wyoming line. We’ll figure it out tomorrow!