The first part of the tour was an introduction and two night stay at the Adoba Hotel in Rapid City. We dropped our rental car off at the airport and the Adoba sent a shuttle to pick us up. At 7pm we had a chance to meet all the other people on the tour as well as the guide and bus driver. The Adoba is located downtown so you are near (walking distance) a fairly good selection of local restaurants, or you can choose to eat at the hotel restaurant which is a little pricey. We ate just across the street at the “Dublin Square” restaurant. This is really more like a bar, but the food/beer was good. The next morning we were bussed out to Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials. Mt Rushmore was impressive enough, but I had never heard of the Crazy Horse monument and it turns out to even more impressive although work is still in progress. This pretty much finished the day and we returned to the hotel. Normally we would have had a fairly good amount of free time, but we had forgotten our camera charger and were busy trying to locate a new one. It turns out BestBuy had one but they were 2 1/2 miles away. No problem - the hotel offered to shuttle us out there and back. We took them up on the offer to go out and decided to walk back. On the way back we stopped at a Mexican restaurant (Que Pasa) for dinner. The next morning our bus headed out for the town of Sheridan and the Little Big Horn battlefield.
Sheridan was a fun stop where we were given a talk about Buffalo Bill. This was put on by a person in “authentic” dress. We had a very good buffet lunch while listening to the talk. The park ranger at Little Big Horn was amazing in the way he told the story of the battle. I believe it was the last talk of the day and there were no children present, so he didn’t water it down. You almost felt like you were there. His account was balanced in that he explained what happened both from the viewpoint of the US and the plains Indians. In the end he pointed out that this memorial is now a symbol of healing between the two people. There is, in fact a new memorial being erected, dedicated to the native Americans who died there. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip. Then we drove to Billings where we received some refreshments (including wine) and then a quick tour of the Yellowstone County Museum. When we arrived at the hotel in Billings, we were disappointed to see a BestBuy about 100 ft behind the hotel (after we had traveled 2 1/2 miles the day before). We walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
The next morning we headed for Yellowstone. Along the way our tour guide read some passages from the Lewis and Clark journals as we passed through areas where they might have been. Again, this was another highlight for me. Finally we arrived at the park and drove mainly the upper loop while looking for wildlife. Aside from Bison we didn’t see much wildlife (the weather was unusually hot), but the scenery was spectacular. We spent 2 days here while staying at the Old Faithful Inn. The inn is a little dated and I don’t think I would want to stay there in mid summer since there is no AC, but at least this time of year it cooled down nicely at night with the window open. The big advantage of this place is that it is close to Old Faithful. In fact you can sit in the upper level, outdoors and wait for it to go off if you want. There are many geysers and hot springs within walking distance. Next morning we drove the lower loop, but still not much wildlife. Weather was still unusually hot for this time of year. We also looked at other geothermal sites along the way. Next morning we got up early, took a few more photos and departed for Jackson Hole and the raft tour.
Again more spectacular scenery as we approached the Tetons. We stopped for a photo op, then continued to our raft tour. This was a fun adventure, but once again we saw little sign of wildlife except for an eagle perched in a nearby tree. We ate sandwiches on the raft while listening to the guide. When the tour was over we headed for the parking lot and guess what? There was a moose standing about 150 ft from the parking lot, so we finally got some pictures of the wildlife we were looking for. We were driven to our hotel and some people elected to go downtown. We just walked next door to the Gunbarrel restaurant and had a great meal.
Last day - we were driven to the National Oregon Trail center. Really enjoyed this too. Along with historical artifacts is a re-enactment of trail life that you get to experience. We were also treated to snacks here. Finally we headed to Salt Lake City where we toured the historical Mormon facilities.
Overall this proved to be a great experience. Much better than driving on my own. I stayed relaxed for the entire trip. I had a chance to listen to our tour guide provide historical information along the way (including some pretty good jokes), and enjoyed meeting new people and eating some new foods (Bison prime rib). This was easily a 5 star tour, thanks to the organization and knowledge of our tour guide.