Friday, May 27, 2011
"Don't take away South Dakota's tourism; that's all they have."
Hello from Rapid City, where people rush more! Get it? Get it? I've been making jokes like that all day, to my cohorts' chagrin.
The day began with the trek from Red Cloud to Rapid City. Along the way, we got out of the car to enjoy the sight of the Badlands. They really are remarkable. We only got to see the smallest tip of the Badlands, but it was gorgeous. I wanted to climb down and poke around, but my wiser friends stopped me: there's not much stopping the loose soil from tumbling beneath you. The sheer amount of erosion that took place there is incredible and I'm glad I got to see them up close— it's something I've wanted to do since grade school.
We moved onward to Rapid City where we went to The Daily Grind Coffee Shop, a used bookstore (I insisted on buying a bird and mammal field guide so I can be irritatingly informative about whatever critters we see— p.s, saw some antelope today. Or pronghorns, as they are also called), and got lunch at Black Hills Bagels with my sister, who happens to be in Rapid City visiting her boyfriend. At this point, we are now officially joined by our fifth traveler, Rebecca, who finished teaching her fifth grader here in Rapid City today. Next year, she will be moving on to a different school experience, so I hope she took our little tour as a last hurrah for the year.
For those who have never visited Rapid City, the town is host to what seems to be the largest conglomerate of tourist traps in the United States. Whether it's forcing statues of our country's presidents into compromising positions in downtown Rapid City's infamous Presidential Walk, or allowing yourself to be terrified in Bear Country or the Reptile Gardens, or visiting Deadwood to gamble, or reverently pretending to pick the nose of Abraham Lincoln as he gazes nobly from the foreground of a Rushmore photograph— well, there's a little something for everyone. In all seriousness, I rather like Rapid City, in spite—or because— of the hokey little billboards screaming at you as you wind your way through the Black Hills. Part of me is scandalized because the Black Hills are simply stunning— covered with Ponderosa Pines, rocky crags, and teeming with wildlife. It seems a terrible shame to squander that view with gaudy invitations to seek adventure in Sitting Bull's Crystal Caves. And yet...and yet that's part of the charm of South Dakota. I suppose I could sit glumly in the car and bemoan the desecration of nature, and frankly, I don't think I would be unjust to do so. However, as a guest of the Hills, I decided to enjoy the advertisements as a quirky, silly, capitalistic South Dakotan eccentricity. How very patriotic of me.
After an afternoon of loudly discussing false information around wandering Rushmore tourists (I might have said that George Washington's left nostril is haunted because a tourist fell from it while pretending to be a booger.... keep in mind that I'm a teacher on vacation) and photo-bombing their tourist photos, we returned to the city for last-minute camping preparations and a Chinese dinner at Coco Palace. We rushed about, removing our things from Jill's car to Rebecca's car, which we will be using from this point. Next stop, Yellowstone National Park! Let's hope the weather is better than what they've been promising!
Overheard: "I nearly peed my pants when she said ginger."
Gastric Shout-Out: Black Hills Bagel sandwich— Oven-roasted turkey on a Spinach-Parmesan bagel.
Listen To: "Awake My Soul," Mumford and Sons