Rapid City, South Dakota – Day 1July 10, 2006 at 4:50 pm | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment
My travels are getting more and more exotic; Aruba to Columbia Gorge and now Rapid City, South Dakota. The city is the nearest major town to the Mt. Rushmore National Monument. It could be best described as a smaller version of Spokane, Washington as far as topography and the feel of the town.
Our first day involved visiting the Dinosaur park which has a few full scale Dinosaurs on top of one of the hills here. Not much else there. Kids enjoyed it. Nice views of the surrrounding area.
One thing I should mention is that Nolan (and Jordan to an extent) have both become shopping addicts. The true highlight of each destination for Nolan is visiting the gift shop. They quickly spent the money Grandma Michele gave them. Luckily Lisa’s bag has lots of extra room to accomodate all the junk they are accumulating to bring home.
Had lunch with Sam at his hotel and then went to the Reptile Garden. This is by all accounts the premiere attraction (aside from Mt. Rushmore) in the area. Created in 1937, it is essentially a small, dated reptile zoo. Quite an impressive collection of reptiles, bugs, spiders and other odd creatures. We were entertained by the Alligator show and Bird show. They have a large Alligator from Australia called ‘Maniac’ that is over 15 feet and 1042 pounds. He lives inside a depressing room about 25 feet by 25 feet and just sits in a small pond all day. Pretty sad in my opinion – the whole place has a little bit of a feel of animal exploitation but I’m sure the empoyees are all animal lovers with good intentions. They do have one of the only Bald Eagles in captivity as they saved it from death and it can no longer fly anymore. The law is that any Bald Eagle that can be released back into the wild cannot be kept in captivity. They had a healthy one for their bird show though on a leash (the only bird on a leash) which made me wonder how that works? What a symbol of American Freedom, a Bald Eagle on a Leash.
We then headed into Keystone (another 10 minutes or so) which is the nearest town to Mt. Rushmore. You can’t see the monument from the town. It is small, wedged in the foothills of the mountains, packed with cheesy shops. Reminds me of a small western-flavored version of Fishermans Warf in San Francisco. We just went there to ride the Alpine Slide (2 adults and 2 children cost $22 for one ride each pair – the really milk you here.)
The high prices of the attractions combined with all the billboards along the road and cheesy shops and signs highlight how the area is now a showcase of American Capitalism at it’s best, or worst, depending on how you look at it. They are milking the tourists for as much as they possibly can get here. Takes away from the patriotism in my opinion.
We had a mediocre dinner at a place called the ‘Firehouse’ which is billed as one of the best restaurants in Rapid City. Big menu so it is probably luck of the draw what you order. Big portions too – geez, and we wonder why there is an obesity problem in this country. Menus are heavy on beef, buffalo, and potatoes. Sam and I could barely eat half our Buffalo Brisquette which was probably close to 2 pounds of meat. They asked if we didn’t like our meal. Doesn’t look like there’s a lot of good dining choices in a small town like this.
I haven’t talked about our accomodations as there is really not much to talk about. It’s a virtually brand new Comfort Inn & Suites. One of the few if only places we could find with a fridge, microwave, sink, and pull out sofa bed for the kids (all in a hotel-room like setup). We have a beautiful view of the parking lot from our ground floor unit. It serves its purpose well.
We are having a good time. There is an extremely heavy influence of the Lakota Indian tribe here and also a lot of Gold Mining History.