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.
After 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.
Back 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.
Despite 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.
Back 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.