Rapid City, SD

rapid-city-sd1Morning dawned bright and clear after the amazing lightning storm of the night before. I’d made plans with a coworker to go into Rapid City today, so the nice weather was a welcome relief.

With a 8 am departure time on a Monday, traffic remains light along I90 heading west through the prairie. I’ve never actually seen I90 get congested, it seems like there just aren’t enough people living and traveling through here for that to happen, even when the road goes down to one lane near Wall with the construction. And now that the peak tourist season is over, the roads are even emptier. But that’s just fine with me.

There are a few stops to make in Rapid. My coworker is a full-timer like me and she needs western clothes for her next job, working at a ranch down in Arizona. While I’m normally not a mall person, it turns out that Rushmore mall here in Rapid has a western store, and we have a fun time dressing her up.

rapid-city-sd2After that we make a stop to the local thrift store. I love poking through thrift stores, it’s like a treasure hunt. I’m proud of myself for not walking out with anything, experiences over possessions! I’m the kind of person who can enjoy a shopping trip without having to buy something. It’s a pretty valuable skill to have.

Next is Prairie’s Edge, a shop downtown that specializes in Native American arts and crafts.

This place is amazing. It’s like the local stuff we sell at Cedar Pass Lodge, only on a much grander scale. My boss told me I should come down here to check it out before I left, and she was right. There is beaded clothing, headdresses, painted artwork, carved furniture, musical instruments, and of course jewelry. If I was tempted to spend money anywhere today, this was it.

rapid-city-sd3Back outside, downtown Rapid City is a pleasant surprise. There are a lot of trees and flowers in pots, and on the street corners are life size bronze statues of the presidents. We wander down another block to a city park that has a lot of stone art and water features, a stage graces one corner of it. It’s nice to just sit down at a table and soak up the day. The crazy heat wave that has made this September to date the hottest on record is finally over it seems, today’s high is only 80.

We now find ourselves with all of the chores for the day done save grocery shopping which will happen last, and there is still a lot of day left. My coworker has wanted to hit Mt. Rushmore before she leaves the area, and instead of waiting until the end of the month when her time is up at the Lodge, today seems like the perfect day to go.

Climbing up into the Black Hills, some clouds and a few scattered showers start popping up, but they just add to the beauty of this dramatic land. It’s $11 to get into Mt. Rushmore, and the pass is good until the end of the year.

It’s been built up some since I last came here as a teen. We park on the top floor of the parking garage and navigate to the entrance.

rapid-city-sd4Despite being late in the season there are still quite a few people and no less than 5 tour buses parked in their designated area. The vast majority of folks visiting are foreigners, or retirement age. I stand out among a sea of gray and white hair and have to smile to myself: I could have been hard at work on this beautiful Monday afternoon. Instead here I am, giggling at antics of a hopeful chipmunk, waiting around for handouts at the edge of the stone pavilion. Sadly for him there are signs posted all over: “Don’t feed the chipmunks or other wildlife.”

We don’t bother with the shops or sculptor’s studio, and instead just take the trail that goes to the base of the hill, winding through stately ponderosa pines and quaking aspen. Not far down the way tourists are standing on one side, readying their cameras.

It’s a mountain goat, calmly munching on grass not 15 feet off the trail. Another one is just behind, part way down a slope and harder to see. It’s wearing a tracking device around it’s neck, and seems utterly unconcerned by our presence. This will be the closest I’ve gotten to a wild animal (well, besides a chipmunk) since arriving here in South Dakota. I snap a few pictures, for once the lack of zoom on my camera doesn’t matter.

rapid-city-sd5Back in Rapid City, we eat a early dinner at the Firehouse, a brewery that is in the old fire department building downtown. The building is neat, and the food is good. The portions are also large enough that I’ll have lunch for tomorrow too.

The last chore of the day is grocery shopping. I have very little to do since I’m on the meal plan at work, but my coworker isn’t.

The drive back home is just as peaceful as the drive out. The clouds have followed us from the Hills, and they obscure the sunset. No matter, it was still a great day.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Dale on September 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Becky,
    With the Badlands on my list of places to visit and a long time reader of your blog, I knew I had to stop in and say hello! It was so nice to meet you and chat for a few minutes.
    I camped for a couple of nights at Sage Creek Campground, the primitive site on the other side of the park, and experienced a herd of maybe 80 Bison walk directly through the camp. The bulls were pawing the ground and making threatening grunts at each other. Quite an exciting experience!
    This area of South Dakota has a lot to see, and yes, I was one of those retired folk at Mt. Rushmore.

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      Yes, the primitive camping area is right where the Bison herd lives, it’s pretty neat. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed your time here and was glad we got to talk!

  2. Kathi & Michael Williams on September 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Come on out West next! The Pacific Northwest is supremely gorgeous, esp. northern CA and Oregon and WA!! Our little place on a creek beneath Mt. Shasta is ready to welcome you! Cheers, ~Kathi

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      I really do want to hit that area Kathi! I’ve hesitated from going real far West because there are still a couple lose ends to tie up on the Eastern side of the US and I don’t want to stray too far until I can take care of them. I know I’ll love it when I get out there though. πŸ™‚

  3. Carolyn on September 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Great day!

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      It was!

  4. Carolyn DeLoach on September 11, 2013 at 9:43 am

    One day our paths will cross, I think. I’m surprised we haven’t already. I am starting this Monday at Amazon in Campbellsville. During the winter I’m hoping to gate guard a ghost town in AZ. Then, in May I start work at Mt. Rushmore Book Store. I’ve enjoyed reading all of your blogs but especially those on working at Amazon and SD. My late mother was born and raised near Rapid City and I grew up visiting the area. The reason I got an RV twenty years ago was so she could continue going home for visits more comfortably as she aged. I fell in love with RVing then and have been a fulltimer ever since. I am happy you discovered this lifestyle in your 20s. I discovered it in my 40s. My mantra is “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” (Confucious, I think).

    Stay safe kiddo. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      That’s a nice saying Carolyn, I like it. πŸ™‚ Have fun in Campbellsville, a lot of what determines how much you like Amazon is your attitude. I’ve heard good things from people who’ve worked at that site.

  5. Rosemary Rizzo on September 11, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Hi Becky,
    You have now made Rapid City a definite place to visit. Thank you for the well written travel log.
    Keep up the good work and be safe in your travels.

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      Glad you liked it Rosemary, the downtown area is just so pretty.

  6. Arlon on September 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Looks like a pretty part of the country that doesn’t get a lot of press. Someplace I think I’d like to visit.
    Arlon recently posted..Moths from our back wallMy Profile

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      It’s quite pretty Arlon, I recommend it.

  7. Walt on September 10, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    I worked in Rapid City in the mid-1980s when Firehouse Brewing Co. first opened up. Good to hear that it’s still around.

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Still around and going strong. Due in no small part to the great food they serve.

  8. Ingrid on September 10, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I love the Black Hills and last visited a couple of years ago with my daughter. However, it’s been way too long since I last visited the Badlands or Rapid City and your posts have rekindled an interest to visit. πŸ™‚
    Ingrid recently posted..My Own National ParkMy Profile

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 12:11 am

      Heya Ingrid,

      I think part of the reason why I chose the Badlands this summer was because I’d been to this area when I was a teenager on a very memorable family road trip. This being my first summer on the road, a slightly more familiar location was a bit of a comfort. The Badlands and Black Hills are are beautiful as I remember them being, and I know I made the right choice for this year.

      I’m feeling more confident in work camping for concessionaires as a viable way to afford full-timing now, and all bets are off for where I’ll end up next year. I’m thinking it should be a place I’ve never been to before. Adventure ahoy!

      Thanks for commenting, I peeked at your blog and really liked the look of that canyon in Colorado. I bet I’m going to love that state when I get out there for the first time. πŸ™‚

  9. David on September 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Anytime we are in Rapid City, which is not nearly often enough, we make it a point to eat at the Firehouse Brewing Co. We (my wife and I) get the “Baked Fire Fightn Nachos” and share an entree. That fills us up. Of course, I have to have a beer and she always drinks ice tea. It is a great restaurant.

    I enjoy your blog.
    David recently posted..2013/09/08 – Another busy weekendMy Profile

    • Becky on September 11, 2013 at 12:00 am

      We picked the place on a whim because it looked neat from the outside. It’s always nice when you go to a new restaurant and are pleasantly surprised.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting.

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