Thursday, November 20, 2014

Discovering South Dakota

As a child, I drove with my parents and my brother cross country almost every year. We would stop along the way, sometimes for a few hours and other times overnight if there was a lot to see. By going different routes we managed to see all of the continental United States.

Around the time I was 10, the vacations were by airplane and there were states I would never see again. South Dakota was one of those. 

With my new role in charge of the Midwest Travel section for, I had more reason than ever to get to South Dakota so I was excited when the tourism board invited me on a trip.

The day started with an early morning flight and included a tight connection, so I was pretty tired and hungry by the time I met Julie Jones-Whitcher of Rapid City Tourism

We had planned to meet directly at The Journey Museum, but I had called and asked her if we could meet somewhere for a late lunch first.
We met in Main Street Square and proceeded to Alternative Fuel so I could load up on some energy.

It was a delicious combination of a chicken salad sandwich, barley soup, and a latte that got me ready to explore the downtown with Julie by foot.

I’m not sure what I expected, but Rapid City surprised me on every corner. First, there was the square, complete with a stage and fountain, and an amazing art in progress. 

The Sculpture Project is a privately funded exhibition that is being created by Masayugi Nagase while everyone watching. It’s fascinating to see him sculpt and even more fascinating to watch the faces of the children who stand mesmerized watching him.  

I would be coming back in a few days for an evening downtown so we concentrated on the things I wouldn’t be able to see as well at night. 

We then went down Art Alley, the town’s graffiti project that displays some incredible talent.  From there it was the historic district.

All along the way, Julie pointed out one of the things that makes Rapid City so interesting and unique – the bronze presidents. On every corner, you will see as statue of a president of the United States.

Every presidency is represented and they are already working on a spot for Barack Obama. The sculptures are fascinating as each depicts something personal about the leader.

We drove to our next stop, The Journey Museum. I could easily write a story just on that (and I will for  Go Midwest at It’s a fascinating place that shows the history of this area of South Dakota through films, exhibits, and demonstrations. I also loved that there were so many hands-on opportunities for children to learn through doing.

I will have to go back to The Journey Museum again someday as I couldn’t stay very long. I wanted to get to The Badlands before dark and it was just over an hour away.

The Badlands were amazing! I was blown away by the rock formations surrounding me.

I asked at the information booth which area would be best for an easy short hike and I was told to go to the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. 

I enjoyed the walk (with the pavement it was more of a walk than a hike) to get up close with the scenery and vowed to come back and spend an entire day here.

I got back on the road and stopped at Cedar Pass Lodge within the park. I was led her so I could see a beautiful sunset, but it was, unfortunately, too cloudy. I did take Julie’s advice and order the Indian Buffalo Taco. 

It was fantastic, though I wouldn’t have thought it was a taco. The meat and cheese were on a soft, sweet dough, like that of a funnel cake.

It was getting pretty dark so I headed back through The Badlands to the west. I was thankful that there was no one else behind me so I could drive slowly and take in the breathtaking rocks surrounding me before I came out of Badlands Loop Road and onto the highway.

I was in Wall for the night at a small motel. It was a busy week in town and everything else was booked up. It didn’t matter at all to me because I was exhausted and ready for sleep. I had another long day in front of me discovering so much more that South Dakota had to offer. 

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