1) I got up early to catch the sunrise over the Badlands, but so did the mosquitoes;
2) we tackled the Notch Trail at 7 AM, when it was cool and cloudy-- and after we ascended the rope and log ladder, edged our way along a cliff, and peered through the windy notch and into the White River Valley, we remarked at how much easier the hike was than the guidebook described it, and how lucky we were that it wasn't so hot . . . and then it started pouring rain, big drop rain-- the kind that hurts-- turning the ash and broken sandstone trail into a treacherous mudslick-- we tried to climb into a cave, but the climb turned out to be more dangerous than the actual trail, and then -- as fast as it came-- the downpour stopped and we made it down without injury (and later in the day we saw several ambulances at the head of this same trail and heard from a fireman at the rodeo that a guy fell from the rope ladder and broke his leg);
3) we found the best food in Interior (and maybe on the planet) at the Cedar Pass Lodge . . . and this could be hyperbole because we had been hiking all morning (and ate dinner at The Wagon Wheel the night before) but the Sunrise Fry Bread-- a piece of Indian fry bread covered with buffalo meat chili, refried beans, two fried eggs, and cheese-- is the best breakfast I have ever eaten in my entire life, and everyone else was very happy with their food as well;
4) we rode the Loop Road through the park, stopping several times to climb surrealistic rock formations-- the Badlands are a paradise for kids, a giant game of king of the hill, but not as fun for parents, who notice the cliffs and rockslides-- and we saw big horn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison;
5) Wall Drug was just as tacky as ever, and we learned that folks in South Dakota call seltzer "soda water" . . . we thought our waitress was mentally challenged and she thought the same of us, until we sorted the whole thing out;
6) my son Ian has been keeping a journal and when he read his description of the Ashfall Fossil Beds, I realized that he described what happened there better than me: "there was a giant volcano and it erupted and the lava didn't touch the animals but they suffocated from ash and the bad air from the volcanic eruption" and he also described the dynamic between my wife and me when we arrived at the Badlands Budget Host: "at the hotel there were fishing hooks in the bed and mommy got mad at dad because he chose this motel."
7) though it was ninety degrees, we went to the rodeo (and when I expressed my worry about the heat and the rodeo to the grizzled waitress at The Wagon Wheel, she agreed that it would be brutal but gave me some advice: "drink a lot of beer" but that didn't help-- and though we were very impressed with the bronco riding and the steer wrestling, we left after an hour and went back to The Badlands Budget Host to enjoy the above ground pool . . . even my wife took a swim).