Wednesday, July 6, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Vacations

Week 27. Vacations. Where did your family go on vacation? Did you have a favorite place? Is it still there? If not, how has the area changed?

I remember a number of vacations to various places.  One benefit of having family scattered all over the country is plenty of choices of where to go on vacation to visit family!  I recall several trips to Louisiana, one to Washington D.C. when I was about 11, many to South Dakota to my grandparents' house.

One vacation I remember well was the trip to Mount Rushmore back when I was about 12.  We drove from home in Minnesota down to Sioux Falls, SD, where we picked up I-90 and drove across the state to Rapid City.  We camped at a campground on the side of a hill.  It had an outdoor pool, which was nice, as the weather was hot!  It being on the side of the hill overlooking part of Rapid City, the view was nice, especially at night.  Although we did stop and see the Corn Palace at Mitchell, SD, I don't remember doing too much other than swimming in that pool and visiting Mount Rushmore once we got to Rapid City.  There are tons of tourist traps and things to do in that area of South Dakota, but for some reason, I don't think we did many of them when I visited as a child.

When my kids were about the same age as my brother and I were on that trip, we decided to make the same trip.  Being much more recent, I remember more of what we did, of course, and I think we took the opportunity to do more things.  First, we stopped and saw the car museum at Murdo, SD.  Then we bypassed the Corn Palace at Mitchell, which is vastly over-rated in my opinion, even though we did stop to eat at Mitchell. 

Meadows and mountains at Hill City

Mount Rushmore at night ca 2006
We stayed in Hill City, in a really nice motel with a great view of  mountains, and deer in the meadow at dusk.   There was a large deck outside the doors of our motel room where we could sit and look at this view.  It had a picnic table and a grill so we could cook out and eat.  There was also a pool which the kids used to beat the heat.  We rode the 1880 train to Keystone and back, an old coal-fired locomotive and train. There's a neat dinosaur museum at Hill City as well, and my kids have always been interested in the dinosaurs, so we spent an afternoon visiting that.

We did of course go to Mount Rushmore, being the prime attraction of the region.  We walked the paths under the presidents in 100 degree heat (which we had all week!) and stayed for the evening lighted show.  We drove around and saw the Crazy Horse monument, which looked about the same as it did when I was young, but I am informed that there has been some progress on it since I was a kid.

Blue frogs!
We visited a gold mine, and got to pan for gold in the mine tailings outside, and bring home our gold we panned.  Did I mention it was 100 degrees out?  We visited Reptile Gardens.  I recommend it, there's lots of critters to see!  These little blue frogs are toxic, from the jungles of Central America.  There were also frogs of other bright colors like yellow, orange and green.  Loads of snakes, a 21 foot crocodile, and giant tortoises you can feed were some of the other attractions at Reptile Gardens.  Well worth the time.

Pioneer Sod House, South Dakota Badlands
On the way back from Rapid City, we drove through the Badlands, a very scenic area of canyons.  The road is winding, and it takes a bit of time to get through, so plan accordingly if you go.  And hope for a sunny day, as the sun really brings out the colors in the layers of rock in the canyons.  We were there on an overcast day, and it wasn't as beautiful as it could have been, but still fun to see.  On the way out, there was a Pioneer Sod House attraction.  I would like to have gone through, but we were all tired and hot and wanted to get home at that point, and didn't feel like spending the money to go through it, but I did get a picture. Some of my ancestors lived in houses not unlike this on the South Dakota prairie.  We do have it nice now!

What vacations did you go on?  What vacation did you want to do, but never got the chance?

This an all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman