The cluster of motels around the "Mount Rushmore Service Area," as I like to call it, is daunting at best. They're all around the same price, within $10-20, and most of them are less than an hour away. Which is fine, because the scenery on the way more than makes up for it. This little motel, run by Wally and his wife, is a GREAT little motel, and the whole family agreed that we would definitely be return visitors.
First of all, it IS a budget hotel. Anyone looking for that should not be expecting room service or a four-star restaurant or a fitness center to rival Gold's Gym. What it does have is clean rooms with a microwave and fridge at no extra charge, tv, table with an extra power strip for charging various gizmos (very important with 4 cell phones, a couple laptops, a Kindle, and a partridge in a pear tree), a large closet/storage area and a shower with nice water pressure and plenty of hot water. What it does NOT have, however, is a hairdryer in the room. This was a very minor gripe, though, and if you find yourself without one, the only place in town you can get one is at Ace Hardware. Trust me.
Secondly, breakfast is complimentary, but minimal. Bagels, some donuts, a couple kinds of cereal. Fine for us, since we like to hit the grocery store a couple blocks away and stock up for the week, but if you're looking for a hot breakfast, head downtown to the Fall River Bakery. The place is usually packed with tourists AND locals, but you will NOT be disappointed. It's worth it, however, to nibble on a bagel and just talk to Wally for a few minutes in the morning. Not only is he helpful with anywhere you need/want to go, he's also hilarious, and you can pass much more time than you meant to just chatting.
There is a pool that looks really nice, but unfortunately it had just been closed for the season shortly before we arrived. There is a tiny mini-golf course next door, also owned by Wally, that is an amusing way to pass a couple hours - half price for guests.
If, like us, you are mainly looking for a place to fall into bed at night and leave your stuff so you don't have to schlep it around with you, this is a GREAT place. It's not luxury accommodations, but who wants to spend an entire vacation to the Black Hills in a motel room anyway? We came in with moderate expectations of cleanliness and comfort and were more than pleasantly surprised.
A tip about the Black Hills in general - it will take you at least an hour or so more than the time you allot to get to any particular place. Sometimes more. The roads through Wind Cave Park and Custer State Park are winding and slow, and you will be tempted time and again to slow or stop and photograph the scenery/abundant wildlife. Or the people in front of you will be. Be prepared. Needles highway is ESPECIALLY slow and the cars can back up at the tunnel points during the busy tourist season. Keep that in mind when planning daily activities, because chances are you will arrive a couple hours late to wherever you planned to be and have to cut the next place short out of necessity.
Mount Rushmore - 40-ish miles: This WILL take about an hour and a half.
Crazy Horse - see M.R.
Needles Highway - plan at LEAST an hour to drive the 16 miles.
Lead/Deadwood - 90-ish miles: Plan 3 hours just to drive there.
Devil's Tower, WY - 150-is miles: Do plan 3-4 hours just to get there, depending on your route.
Spearfish Canyon - loop around North on your return from Devil's Tower to see this. it is WELL worth it, especially in the fall.
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