My journal of GOAT Tour 2021 so far has followed a pattern of: I post a quick photo on Facebook so family and friends know where we are; then I put photos of the actual experiences and discoveries, with a brief description, on the Post Cards 2021 Page; and finally I write a more in depth description of the stop as a blog entry which is what you receive automatically as a follower.
Stop sixteen was the Rapid City/Black Hills KOA in Rapid City, South Dakota for ten days. In this part of the country there is a KOA every few hundred miles. We selected this one as it is close to I-90 and a good base location. When we planned this trip we scheduled this as one of the longer stops because there is so much to see. The area is known for the proximity to Mount Rushmore, The Crazy Horse Memorial, Native American History, The Black Hills National Forest, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, Dinosaurs Discoveries, the motorcycle Mecca of Sturgis, and the old western towns of Deadwood and Lead. That does not even include the county fairs and rodeos! South Dakota does a great job promoting tourism. We have guides, maps, brochures, and attractions, three inches thick, from which to choose. Kathryn’s priority list for this trip has always been Mount Rushmore and Black Hills Gold Jewelry. Ureka, we are here!
A logical place to start is why is it called The Black Hills. The name Black hills comes from the Lakota words Paha Sapa, which means Black Hills. Seen from a distance, these pine covered hills, rising several thousand feet above the surrounding prairie, appear black. The Black Hills are sacred because Laramie promised 60 million acres of the Black Hills “for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupancy of the Sioux.” Settlers were aware that the Black Hills were sacred, considered the womb of Mother Earth and the location of ceremonies, vision quests, and burials. President Grover Cleveland established The Black Hills National Forest in 1897 as public lands for a diversity of wildlife and fish, recreation, water production, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, wilderness and other uses. The 1.2 million acres straddles South Dakota and Wyoming.
We discovered so much during this stop, I thought it best to break the blog entry into two parts. Let’s start with our continuing quest for the “out of the way” discoveries. More on what you would expect from a stop in Rapid City in Part Two.
Not far outside downtown Rapid City is Chapel In the Hills. This unique “Stavkirke,” built in 1969 is an exact replica of the famous Burgundy Stave Church in Norway, built in the 12th century. Its intricate wood carvings, multiple roof lines, and ingenious pegged construction make it a place of unusual interest. Hand carved Apostles’ heads and crosses lifted to the sky outside are just some of the Chapel’s unique features. A prayer/meditation walk takes visitors into a quiet forested area for prayer and reflection. A “Stabbur” with a grass roof was constructed in Norway and imported to serve as the reception center and gift shop. Also on site is an authentic log cabin museum. Built by a Norwegian prospector in the 1800’s it houses a collection of Scandinavian antiques.
In Memorial Park, downtown Rapid City, there are two sections of the actual Berlin Wall and two tank traps. The display is well done, explaining the history of the building and tearing down of the wall through a series of plaques. The memorial is near Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and Ellsworth Air Force Base which contributed bombers to the 1940’s Berlin airlift humanitarian mission.
The City Of President’s Walk, is a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and sidewalks. The project began in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency. Each sculpture is privately funded, and the pattern of placement was chosen to maintain orderly structure and eliminate any sense of favoritism. Forty four presidents are in place while they continue to work on the statue of our forty fifth.
As I mentioned above, besides Mount Rushmore, Kathryn has been waiting to arrive in the Black Hills because she has long been a fan of Black Hills Gold jewelry. Not from QVC mind you, but the real thing made in the Black Hills. Lucky for us, Landstrom’s Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory and Outlet Store is located right here in Rapid City. To quote their brochure: Over a span of 14 years, 360 goldmines turned craftsmen carved a rough granite mountain into a polished national treasure, known today as Mount Rushmore. Today, in dozens of intricate steps, our craftspeople carry on this tradition of quality and excellence with every piece of Mount Rushmore Black Hills gold and diamond jewelry. Take a fascinating FREE tour through our jewelry factory to watch up close and learn the details of how gold jewelry is made. During the tour you’ll see the ancient process of lost wax casting and how diamonds are cast into molten gold.
I must admit, the tour was fascinating! The best part for me was I got to fulfill my promise to buy Kathryn “any piece of jewelry she wanted” as her (May) birthday present. Do you know how hard it is to find something for someone you love who wants or needs nothing?
Part two of this stop coming soon!