A Day in Rapid City, South Dakota

The day after we settled in our new campsite near the small town of Custer in the Black Hills, we drove to Rapid City to take care of business.  Part of our reason for coming to South Dakota was to change our state residency so we had several stops to make with the first to pick up our mail at our forwarding headquarters.  This was the first time we had picked up mail since moving out of our house several weeks before.  Mark has talked about the reason for changing state residency in a previous post so I will not elaborate further on the subject.  Our next visit was to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).   I am not sure what the DMV is like in most cities, but in Modesto it was a dreaded task to think about visiting the office there.  Without an appointment, you most likely faced a few hours waiting with people milling about both inside and out.  Even with an appointment it was still not pleasant going through the process.  So with that being said, I was not looking forward to the Rapid City DMV since we did not have an appointment.

Our Rapid City DMV experience was much different than we thought it would be.  We found a very small DMV office away from the downtown that was not crowded and had a relaxed atmosphere with helpful, friendly staff.  After the necessary paperwork, eye chart reading and photo, we were given our new South Dakota driver’s licenses and our California driver’s licenses were collected.

After finishing at the DMV we headed downtown to the Treasurer’s Office to get our South Dakota license plates.  Once again the line was short with plenty of staff.  We had a very pleasant person helping us and the experience was relatively quick and painless.   We now had South Dakota driver’s licenses and license plates.  We were official South Dakota residents!  Our next goal was to get our auto insurance squared away.  We were insured through AAA which does not insure full time RVers, so we had to make a switch.  Mark contacted the AAA office and spoke with a helpful representative who agreed to see us right a way even though we did not have an appointment.  He was able to set us up with a Progressive full time RV policy.  He spent perhaps an hour and a half with us patiently explaining and going over everything in spite of us just popping in.

The business part of our day done, we headed to the Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory, a place I visited on a different road trip many years ago with my sister, daughter and niece.  On that trip we took the factory tour to see how the jewelry was made and I bought a necklace, a unique souvenir.  A year or two ago someone broke into our house and although the intruder took very little, he did make off with most of my jewelry (which was not worth a great deal).  I wanted to see about getting another Black Hills necklace on this trip.  After finding a beautiful necklace which is quite different from my last one, we ate lunch and decided to check out  downtown Rapid City.

We soon discovered that Rapid City is the “City of Presidents.”  Life-size bronze statues of all the American Presidents are placed along the city’s streets and sidewalks.  It appeared as we walked along that they were often on the corners.  It was fun checking them out and trying to guess which president it was before getting close and reading the name listed on each one.  I have to admit that I am not good at recognizing many of them, especially some of our earlier presidents!  This project began in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency with each of the statues privately funded.  Here are a few pictures of some of of the statues we came across.  I wish we could have seen more.  Below are George Washington, Zachary Taylor and Calvin Coolidge.

Since I am mentioning the president statue project, I wanted to make a comment about the patriotism I have seen since coming to South Dakota.  There are numerous billboards and signs showing support and honor to the armed forces and the local police departments.   When I called to make a reservation for our RV site in Custer, I was asked if we were military or veterans.  I explained that Mark and I had been in the army but it had been many, many years ago.  The owner said that was fine, they would give us a 10 percent discount on our stay.  I have been out of the military for approximately 36 years and don’t recall ever being offered a discount.   Later on in our stay we attended a nighttime lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore.  It was a very patriotic ceremony and at the end they invited all veterans and military that were attending that night to come to the stage and participate in a flag lowering ceremony.   Although patriotism and appreciation for our military can be seen all over the U.S., it just seems more obvious here.

President statues were not the only works of art that we saw in downtown Rapid City.   We came upon the neatest alley called “Art Alley.”  It was covered with graffiti murals on the walls of the tall brick buildings and even the dumpsters.  A woman who worked in one of the buildings came out to a dumpster and told me that the artwork changes periodically.  I read that artists just have to get approval from the city before they start painting.  I thought it was a very cool place to view some creative and colorful modern art.  Here is a picture of just one section of the alley:

When visiting a town or city there are three kinds of businesses I hope to find:  A really good bakery, an ice cream shop and book store.  I was in luck on two counts in Rapid City.  There was an excellent ice cream shop that created their own delicious, homemade ice cream.  They have made such a large variety of flavors that a poster on one wall of the shop lists dozens of creations.  I chose the honey lavender (I am a big fan of lavender flavored anything).  Perhaps I should have tried something really different and had the dill pickle ice cream?

Close to the ice cream shop I came upon a cute book store that was perfect for a quick browsing.  I really liked this chair on the upper level, especially the saying near the bottom of the chair, “Sit and Read a Book.”  I would love owning that chair but it definitely would not fit in our trailer!

One of Mark’s favorite stores to browse are game stores and he found one right near the book store so he was happy too.  Thanks for reading and in the next blog I will continue with more South Dakota adventures!

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