Wednesday, August 25, 2010

South Dakota - Presidents, Slides, Mysteries, and Bears

Today was another great day - there is so much to do and see around Rapid City and we really packed in a lot of activities today. I know I already said this, but I am so glad we ended up staying at the TeePee Campground & RV Park instead of Ellsworth Air Force Base; we are much closer here to most things than we would have been at Ellsworth!

We started today by driving a few miles south to the town of Keystone where we visited the Presidential Wax Museum.  It was time well spent, although some of the figures are better done than others. This museum is more than just a collection of costumed wax figures on display. Figures are carefully arranged into scenes depicting important events and you can listen to on-demand narrations about the events and/or the people. The overall experience was interesting and educational. Click here to see some photos.

After visiting the Presidential Wax Museum, we decided to go across the street and take ride on the Alpine slide.  Lynda and I have both been on mountain slides before, although its been a several years. Actually, the last time Lynda rode one of these, she was showing off and ended up shooting out of the track and breaking a couple ribs!  Today, she promised, would be different.

And so we bought a couple tickets and went on up.  I was pleasantly surprised at how nicely this place is landscaped with pretty little gardens and colorful flowers. There is also a good view from the top of Mount Rushmore, and so we got our first look at this iconic memorial from the alpine slide. Who says silly pastimes can't lead to education and enlightenment?

Anyway, after relaxing a bit at the top we went ahead and rode the slide on down.  I love these things!  In fact, I enjoy just about any roller-coaster, adrenaline-type ride there is!  I actually got down to the bottom far enough ahead of Lynda to move my sled out of the way and get the camera out. Here comes Lynda!

After riding the Alpine slide, we headed back toward Rapid City but stopped at the Cosmos Mystery Area.  We decided to check this place out because a young lady that worked in a gas station in Buffalo, Wyoming told Lynda this is a MUST SEE place.

The Cosmos Mystery Area is a place that claims to defy the law of gravity. It is a strange place where one can actually feel forces pressing against them.  How is this possible? What is the cause? Well, the Cosmos Mystery Area is situated over a a magnetic hill where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope.

Whatever the explanation, let me tell you we had some real fun at Cosmos! We were part of a group of around 15 people led by a young man who took us through a series of demonstrations designed to boggle the mind and show the awesome power of the Cosmos "force". From people changing heights on level platforms to water flowing uphill, to sitting on a wall... it was all very entertaining!

By the time we left the Cosmos Mystery Area, we were ready for lunch and so we drove past the campground and went to Ruby Tuesday's to feast at the salad bar.  And then we headed back to the Trek to spend some time with Sydney and Barley.

I have to say these two dogs have been great!  We've been leaving them loose in the Trek for longer and longer periods of time and they have behaved perfectly!  In fact, we're now up to 8 hours or so with no chewed-up cushions (or anything else), no messes, nothing bad or unpleasant.  When we leave them alone like that, we turn on the radio or TV on so they have some "company" and it certainly seems to work.  Sydney and Barley have proven to be excellent travel companions!

After spending an hour or so with the dogs and taking them for a nice long walk around the campground, Lynda and I headed back out to visit Bear Country USA, which is just a mile or two from the campground. I had read reviews on this place and they were all glowing but I still harbored the thought that is was essentially an overblown petting zoo.  I was so wrong!

First of all, the collection of animals is very impressive. We saw grizzly and black bears, arctic wolves (they look like Barley), badgers, beavers, bighorn sheep, lynx, coyote, bobcat, mule deer, mountain goats, elk, porcupines, raccoons, red fox, reindeer, river otters, skunks, timber wolves, and even a white bison! Some of these animals live in generous enclosures along a 3-mile driving route (you must keep your windows rolled up), and others live in large enclosures along pedestrian walk-ways, like you would find in a zoo.

Secondly, the place itself was impressive. It is spotlessly clean, very well maintained, and beautifully landscaped.  The animal enclosures are well built and each is generously sized according to what type animal it is housing. The animals all looked very healthy.

I highly recommend a visit to Bear Country USA if you have the chance. Children are sure to love it and so will the grown ups!  Click here to look at our photos.

And so we've enjoyed another fun day in South Dakota. We will be taking the Trek in to be worked on tomorrow and then we'll load the dogs up in the rental car and take them with us to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Stay tuned!

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