Our rental car is dropped off and we drive 5 minutes into town. What are all these motorcycles doing? Oh yeah… it must be Sturgis Bike Week. Thousands of motorcycles everywhere.
We are all starving so we find a little brewery to eat at downtown. Kid-friendly.
Then we load up in our minivan and drive to Mt. Rushmore… the reason we came this way in the first place.
After visiting Rushmore we went back into town where we rented a little one-room cabin where we spent the evening and stayed the night.
Day 3: Custer, SD to Glencoe, MN
We got up early today, 5:30AM so that we could get an early start on our travels and try to be in Minnesota by noon. We took off and decided to swing by Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorial since they were kind of on the way to Aberdeen, SD, our halfway fuel stop.
Crazy Horse monument (hard to see, but there is a face down there):
Of course, Mt. Rushmore several thousand feet below. Looks so small from up here… about 2500′ above the ground.
The morning looked good near Custer, but there were low overcast skies in the forecast. Still, we thought we could make some progress. We saw a cloud here and there, and they were getting closer and closer together.
And finally we reached a point where it was just a solid cloud deck. This was only 30 miles after takeoff.
We radioed Flight Watch to see if they could tell us how far this overcast condition went on. Turns out it went on for hundreds of miles. We were at a decision point, since we had Rapid City airport in sight on our left, but after that all we could see were clouds. Flight Watch advised us to land at Rapid City, and I was glad to comply. We’d much rather sit on the ground than wonder how to get back down to it. We sat at the FBO (fixed-base operator) lounge in Rapid City for a few hours, watching the weather and drinking coffee and eating cookies in comfy recliners. And they even had a play kitchen and some toys for the kids. After a few hours weather still was not great so we grabbed the courtesy car and drove to town to grab lunch. So much for waking up early.
After lunch things were starting to improve and some of the clouds were burning off. I called a weather briefer and he said we could probably head north over broken clouds, but the clouds would dissipate after 40 miles, then after that the skies should be mostly clear and we could start heading east. We decided to go for it and get out of here.
So we flew for 40 miles “VFR over the top” on top of this:
Of course the plane doesn’t care where it is flying, and air is almost always smooth above the clouds, but the pilot gets a bit nervous since he has no landing spot in sight. Luckily the briefer was right and soon the clouds started to thin out.
In the mountain states, our plane can only dream about flying high over the clouds and above the weather. However in the midwest, the clouds are much lower and so we spent much of the time cruising over them in smooth air.
This was a new experience!
We made a stop in Aberdeen, SD, by this time it was nearly 3PM. Still two hours of flying before our Minnesota destination. But Hangar9 at Aberdeen did have some cool furniture. And cookies that just came out of the oven.
And about 3pm we took off for Minnesota. Easy to see why it is the “land of 10,000 lakes”.
And we finally made it. Ben was just driving up to pick us up as our wheels thunked the ground. We were all glad to pile out of the plane and be done flying for a bit.
Contine to part 3/3 here…