A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 3: A rest day in South Dakota and Wyoming


Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

ISaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.

An ascent of Devil’s Tower...

Tuesday and Wednesday, 07-Sept-2021 and 08-Sept-2021

Tuesday, 07-Sept-2021

After turning the car around and drinking down some post-climbing Gatorade, I headed back onto the road. From now, I had just over a day of relaxation and rest. Two days of climbing, one day of recovery, and then the summit day at Devil’s Tower itself. A good plan, if I may say so myself, and at the end of climbing on Tuesday I was absolutely thankful that I’d have a day to rest before doing any more climbing.

Our story begins right as Doug and I parted ways off the Western edge of Mt. Rushmore. Since I was already on the mountain, I figured that I may as well make use of my location, and visit the monument itself – As I ranted about in an earlier post, I have mixed feelings about the faces… but those feelings won’t change the fact that they are, in fact, there. And if I’m there, I may as well at least learn a bit about it, right?

I drove in, parked (paying a frankly ridiculous amount of money for parking, damnit), and took a lovely quick walk around the monument / tourist trap.

It was definitely interesting. The monument itself is definitely impressive, but… I don’t know. It wasn’t quite as grand as I’d expected; Perhaps it’s the distance, or the prior knowledge of the rock, or the huge granite entryway that was trying to mimic a grand hall… It was absolutely beautiful, but I don’t know if I would be able to rationalize a full trip just for this one monument.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to – Since I was already here, I wanted a bit, took some more pictures, and enjoyed a bit of people watching. “A life-changing patriotic experience”, the signs had heralded… and while I can’t say that my life was changed, I can definitely say that I appreciated learning how it was carved, the history behind it, and that the people watching was definitely top-notch.

There were, unsurprisingly, a ton of RVs… and, as so often seems, quite a few political shirts and slogans being bandied around. What was interesting to me, though, was mask wearing – The news tells me that everyone in the country is polarized with masks – but I’ll tell you, dear reader, that wasn’t the case here. We had all walks of life, and all forms of very overtly political shirts… but not one person complained or argued about wearing a mask indoors.

Simple, clear, straight-forward signs were placed at every entrance to every building, stating mask requirements. And everyone put theirs on as they walked in. It was… nice. Uplifting, almost. Interestingly, I’d say that one simple action had a bigger patriotic impact on me than the huge faces carved, from what I was told by the historian, specifically to bring tourists to South Dakota.

After my visit, I headed out toward Custer State Park. It was still fairly early in the day, and I wasn’t quite ready to go back to camp just yet…

I drove, I explore, and I saw Bison (I thought they were buffalo at the time, so forgive me if you got a text about buffalo), and I enjoyed some great views and cool bridges.

I made my way home, cooked up some delicious dinner, and finished reading Treasure Island.

An excellent day.

Wednesday, 08-Sept-2021

I woke up early, for me.

I mean, not that early, of course… I’m talking about getting out of bed around 9am, give or take. Compared to my normal weekends, though? Yeah. Early.

What got me out of bed so early, you may ask?

Adventure! Of the pancake variety!

Today was my day off – only goal was to relax, rest, energize my muscles for the big climbing on Thursday, and then drive myself to the tower sometime before it got too late. I had to check out from the campground too, of course, but… that was pretty simple, right?

Well, we started with Pancakes, and then moved into rescue.

See, I’ve been making a point to chat with more people. I miss how easily I had made friends back in Boston, and while I’m still finding it much harder to meet people here on the West Coast… I’m slowly getting back into the swing of just being excessively friendly. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t… but I can say that this time, it worked.

See, earlier in the week I’d chatted with a family who had set up camp near me. We’d said our hellos, talked about trips a bit, and I’d even given them a quick lesson in how Technical Rock Climbing works, showing the Mom, Dad, and four (!!!) kids the gear, and giving a quick overview of how the safety gear works together. We’d had a good time, and even shared a glass of scotch (not the kids though, of course).

As I was packing up, they stopped by my camp again – I assumed to say goodbye, and while my assumption was correct… it wasn’t complete. Their van had died overnight, and they were hoping that I’d packed some jumper cables…

Well, I had, of course. Paranoia to the rescue!

Clip clip, lickity split, and their van was powered up and running! We said our new goodbyes, I felt good about being a rescuer, and we both headed off on our separate ways…

The rest of the day was mostly unplanned… I started off by driving down the road a bit to a place called “Chapel In the Hills” – a lovingly recreated Scandinavian chapel, built almost exclusively from wood and placed out in the woods slightly outside of town. It was gloriously beautiful, and I absolutely enjoyed learning a bit about the immigrants from the area, and seeing what they’d lived like.

After the Chapel, I headed into town – I wanted to poke around a bit and find some interesting gifts for folks back home, but didn’t have any specific targets in mind… a quick google search found me a distillery, so… good a starting point as any, right?

Frankly, I was astoundingly disappointed.

Rapid City, and South Dakota itself, had frankly astonished me so far with how cool it was. Lots of neat stuff, positive energy, and… just a great up-and-coming place. This distillery was not so much. It had a cool name, and a neat bar, but… Well, I guess I’m used to Portland bars having the faux dive bar look, but actually not being a crappy dive bar.

This distillery was a crappy dive bar. No tours, no interesting spirits… and when I asked them about aging or any details?

Well, a quote is all I can give, “Ohh, yeah! We filter it through charcoal! You know… Brita filters! Yeah, we just buy them, and filter all our liquor through them. Just the normal things from the grocery store”.

I’m really hoping they were just messing with me… but I’m not feeling positive about it.

Anyways, that was a bust.

But hey! It had found me a place to park, and a starting point for an exploration!

I quickly found an “Art Alley”, where spray artists were welcomed to paint anything they felt like – and they had gone about it with a passion. Beautiful art was everywhere, and had turned a dull alley way between businesses into a gorgeous outdoor gallery:

From there, I wandered my way to a nearby gallery, and was treated to a truly gorgeous display of Rapid City Art. What this town lacks in distilleries, it makes up for in amazing artists… though I’ll freely admit that one of the galleries still haunts me a bit.

Everything was beautifully done – And yes, I absolutely checked to make sure photography was allowed before snapping so many pictures.

The first gallery hit the “strange and quirky” rather intensely, combining beautiful landscapes with very… odd… framing and contextualization.

The second gallery, actually the main gallery, was the results of a contest – various artists from the area, painting their own scenery in their own media. A lovely collection about a lovely town…

((Skip this next section if you’ve got a queezy stomach, or don’t want to see very graphic paintings of dead animals))

The last gallery was the one that still haunts me. It was a commentary on the meat industry… but specifically hunting-related butchers. It didn’t actually say against against it, but just drew the focus to the coldness and intrinsic sadness of butchering a carcass… Many of the paintings were done on raw, unstretched canvas… that appeared to have been treated to resemble leather, or animal skin… they were left to hang and sway ever so slightly in the breeze, under the very dim gallery lighting…

Link to better photos of these paintings, by the artist herself:

Link to the art gallery:

One response »

  1. Thanks for the scotch and the jump on the van! Love reading about your adventures and that we could be a very small part of it. And thanks for the lesson on rock climbing, I’ll never look at it the same. Our kids loved the lessons.
    Maybe we’ll cross paths again sometime. God Bless!

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