South Dakota Finale is Historical

My final day in South Dakota was filled with some of the nation's most important landmarks. I hadn’t seen any of them since I was a kid and it didn’t take me long to regret not having come back sooner.

I knew it was going to be a long day and I fueled up at the Hill City Holiday Inn Express with a yogurt, fruit and oatmeal breakfast before hitting the road.

My first stop of the morning was at Mount Rushmore. I was just blown away by this amazing mountain depicting four of our country’s most important presidents. It was even more special after I heard two kids playing “America the Beautiful” in front of the mountain, and then saw the film of how Gutzon Borglum, and his son, Lincoln, sculpted it.

I walked around Mount Rushmore National Park for a while before getting back in the car and heading for a short stop in downtown Keystone. It looked like a fun touristy town that I would probably spend more time in some day when I didn’t have such a full schedule.

I drove to Custer State Park next and parked by Sylvan Lake. The South Dakota Tourism Board had noted on my schedule that it was someplace I’d probably like to spend some time hiking around and they were right.

The lake with the mountain formation around it was just beautiful and I was happy that the rain stayed away long enough for me to walk around it.

It was then time for my drive along Needles Highway. It was something I’m not sure I’d do again.

Even though the scenery was breathtaking, it’s a narrow winding road with one way tunnels and a VERY long drop without guard rails. The abundance of motorcycles on the road didn’t help matters either.

I think the next time I return to Custer State Park I will be sure that I’m the passenger and not the driver.

I left the park and made my way to downtown Custer for lunch. I had heard that Black Hills Burger & Bun had been named “America’s Best Burger” by TripAdvisor and I was anxious to try it for myself.

I was not alone. I had to wait an hour for a table (the takeout line was even longer). I was glad I did as it was a delicious lunch.

Before I drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial, I decided to make a quick stop at the Flintstones Bedrock City. It had been a favorite show in my childhood and I enjoyed looking through this replica of Bedrock.

I was in for another memorable experience at Crazy Horse Memorial. Unlike the other places I had been, Crazy Horse is privately funded. That doesn’t give it any less significance.

The memorial was carved by Korczak Ziolkowski to “honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.” It is still a work in progress.

In addition to seeing the sculpted mountain – the largest of its kind in the world – the campus provides educational programming about the culture of Native American.

The Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Educational & Cultural Center, and the Indian University of North America are all located here too.

The time I spent here was also not enough to take it all in, but I did learn quite a bit and look forward to returning when more of the carving has been completed.

I drove back to Rapid City for a delicious dinner with Julie Jensen, Executive Director of Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau. We went to the Wine Cellar Restaurant and owner/chef Pamela Light made us quite a meal, starting with a fantastic Burrata and continuing with risotto and a scrumptious chocolate dessert.

Julie and I walked around downtown Rapid City for a while. It was quite busy as they had live music in the street and at many venues.

My South Dakota adventure ended with at The Blind Lion. Unfortunately, I can’t write about that yet because I promised Midwest Living Magazine first showing.  Look for it in their Summer 2015 issue.


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