Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rapid City surprises...

A lot of the time we choose our campground locations by how many miles we want to travel in a day.  Our "rule of thumb" is four hours on the road.  This doesn't tax Jack to much and gives both of us time to settle in, relax and still enjoy part of the day.  Because of this, we don't always know a lot about the towns we end up staying in, or near, so once we get there, or near there, we try and find out about it as much as possible.  We will stop at Visitor Centers (our favorite) or ask locals (restaurants staff, campground staff, etc) for suggestions.  I'm always on the lookout for brochures and nab ones that look interesting, even if it's not where we are at, just in case it's someplace within driving distance.  Of course we always have our books - AAA Guide Book, 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die, and Off The Beaten Path and Watch It Made in the USA.  We also found a fun app we added to Jack's I Pad, called Roadside.  It lists all the roadside oddities and attractions, everything from the littlest museum to quirky graves, to Muffler men statues.

So, while I'm sitting in my 'co-pilot' seat, I'm perusing through all these various forms of information, figuring out what, if anything, this city/town/area we are staying at for the next day or two or three, has to offer.  It's often that during this research session, we find out that this place that we thought was just going to be an over-night stop, is worth spending several days there because it has lots to see!  Such a place was Rapid City SD.  We knew it was within driving distance to Wall Drug, and that was the reason for the visit...and that was going to be it, and go.  Until we got there...

A day filled with Wall Drug Store (it's own blog), a day filled with the 1880 Train and the Chapel in the Hill (another separate blog) and a day filled with what I call it's oddities...

Now, for the one or two people that may be reading this, that doesn't know, I worked for the World Famous San Diego Zoo & Safari Park for 20 years, so I've been around animals.  All kinds of animals.  I've been privileged to be up close and personal with some pretty exotic ones (no, I didn't work with animals, only people) too, so I usually don't get overly excited about seeing most animals in captivity, however...THIS place was a hoot!

Bear Country U.S.A. is a drive-through animal park.  Now, many, many years ago, California used to have something like this called Lion Country Safari where you could drive through while lions walked about, but it closed down (They say for dwindling tourists, but I would bet a lot had to do with high insurance costs, among other things!).  It's a three-mile drive through several enclosures and encounter black bear, elk, reindeer, deer, cougars, bobcats, rocky mountain goats, bighorn sheep, dall sheep and buffalo.  Even though you see all the other animals, the black bears are the attraction.  There are dozens of them wandering about!  We had one come right up along side my window and walk along with it for a minute, that's how close...and that's the closest I've ever been to one, I can tell you!  They're big!  It's kind of fun to see all the various shades of "black" they are too - from gold all the way to darkest brown.  Afterward, they have an area where you park and walk around to see the young bear cubs,  fox and other small animals.  A unique experience, I will say, even for a zoo person like me!

After all that "animal watching" we were ready to face the city, have some lunch and see what it had to offer!   One fun thing was their "City of Presidents series", life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and sidewalks.   I picked out a few of our favorite and hunted them down and took our picture with them.  The other really cool thing was what they call “Art Alley”.  They let the local “artists” paint whatever they want - graffiti, art, writings, anything.  Some of it was pretty cool stuff too!  It seemed to keep “tagging” in one area of town too, as we didn’t see any outside this alley, so pretty smart of the people who came up with the idea, I’d say!

Just goes to show you...one never knows what hidden gems lies in wait for us...guess we will just have to keep searching them out!

...kicking back in Rapid City South Dakota,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

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