2018 Caravan Tour – South Dakota

Here is the first post from my fantastic tour of five western states! It was a trip I was bound and determined to do…..and, I guess the travel God’s agreed that it should happen! The Busy Buddies group I belong to had this trip planned for early summer – it was a Caravan bus tour that started in Rapid City, SD and ended in Salt Lake City, UT. When I saw it on the 2018 trip list, I knew it was something I wanted to do, but hemmed and hawed about it and waited too long! By the time I finally decided I was going to do it, the bus was full! UGH!!! So, I asked the travel agent who arranges all the trips for the group if my friend and I could book the same tour with Caravan at a different time. She looked into it and said that particular trip is sold out for the rest of 2018!!! WHAT??? That trip has a bus that leaves just about every day all year! So, I called Caravan myself – not that I didn’t believe Mitzy – I did – but, I wanted to see if there were ANY options. And, yep – the Caravan rep I spoke with confirmed they were totally sold out! But, he did offer to put me on a waiting list in case someone cancels (along with a TON of other people who were put on it before me) and on the list to get the 2019 dates and pricing as soon as it comes out around Thanksgiving time. I figured it was the best I could do, so I had him put me on BOTH lists! Then……a few weeks later, I got a call from the Caravan people saying there was a cancellation for Oct 7-14 and there are now two open seats!!! WOW!!! They said I had 24 hours to call back to book it or pass on it! I got right on the phone with my friend to see if we could do those dates…..she said yes……I called Caravan back and we were booked!!! Score one for persistence and not wanting to take “no you can’t” for an answer!!!

I’m so very glad I didn’t just say – oh well, missed out on that one – and not pursue it further cause it was an amazing trip! I’m not a huge fan of bus trips – yeah, a day trip here and there with the Busy Buddies or other travel groups or even a 2-3 day thing, but a whole week on a bus? That’s why I was hemming and hawing about it……but, it wasn’t bad at all – it was a comfortable bus and having a tour guide and someone else to drive was the key to making a really good trip a really GREAT trip! Also – I had been to SD before (remember my Most Excellent Adventure in 2016?) and the two major attractions – Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse – were things I’d already seen and the places in SD I’d truly love to visit again (Custer Park and the Badlands) weren’t on the agenda – so I kinda discounted the first couple of days as – OK, been there, but it’ll be nice. BUT – I saw things I didn’t see the first time and, again, having a tour guide really made it extra special! So – SD was pretty amazing, after all! And…..going with a group of strangers, instead of the Busy Buddies group allowed us to meet and get to know some new people! And……the weather was better on our trip than the one the Busy Buddies went on – they got snowed on in Wyoming – we did have some chilly mornings, but the weather couldn’t have been more perfect! So……YES……so glad I didn’t give up on this trip!!!

This is our awesome tour guide – Jim Kelly – and our driver, Mike, with our bus! Jim was the BEST tour guide EVER……he talked non-stop and was sooooo knowledgeable – he filled us with so much information and was so very helpful at every stop!

Here are some pics from our time in South Dakota – days 1 and 2:

I actually took this photo when I was in SD in 2016 – couldn’t get one this trip because we flew in! But – had to include it! LOL

We arrived in Rapid City, SD mid day and found these two great statues in the small Rapid City Regional Airport – nice little airport!

After we got settled in at our hotel – The Rushmore  in downtown Rapid City – we decided to explore the historic downtown area and have some dinner. I didn’t get to visit downtown Rapid City the last time I was in SD – even though we stayed at a campground right on the edge of Rapid City, so this was all new to me. And, what a wonderful downtown area it was! They have branded their town “City of the Presidents” because of Mt. Rushmore. There are wonderful bronze statues on every corner of the two main streets in downtown Rapid City – every President is represented up to Bill Clinton – Obama is in the works, but not positioned, yet! The best part is they look so “real” – they were all done by different artists and they chose to sculpt them in ways to show off their personality or something significant in their presidency or personal life. Here are just a few of my favorites – we did 1/2 that first night and the other 1/2 after we got back to the hotel after sight seeing the second day.

Kennedy was my favorite and the first one we saw – right on the corner of our hotel! He is depicted with John-John and he’s handing him a toy airplane! It is such a warm and touching scene!

I really loved the Lincoln one, too! He, too, is shown with his son, who is dressed in a civil war costume and playing with a toy canon. Another heart string tugger!

We had dinner at Thirsty’s

There was a President’s Information Center that had miniature versions of all the statues and you could get a “Presidential Ice Cream”!

We stopped to rest and “people watch” at a lovely little splash park

Of course, I had to try out the splash pad……it was a hot day!

More shots of our walk around historic downtown Rapid City:

They turned an old fire house into a restaurant……the building and the murals around the courtyard were just incredible!

These were located all over downtown (away from the curbs so they weren’t confused with parking meters) — what a cool idea!!!

On day 2, we visited Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore:

I was able to get a better perspective of this awesome monument than I did last time I was here – we took a bus down to the foot of the mountain and between being MUCH closer and having a zoom lens, I got some great shots of the detail.

This was taken from where we were at the foot of the monument with no zoom…..

And, from the regular observation points

The scale model of what it will look like when it is done with the in-process full size monument behind it

Crazy Horse was once asked “where are your lands, now?” after the government started taking over vast areas of Indian land – he replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

This is a zoomed in shot of a breathtaking view of Mount Rushmore at a photo stop on the road to the monument – we didn’t see this view when we were there in 2016……from this angle, you can only see Washington – the rest of the Presidents are set back where they can not be seen from here!

No zoom — showing how it looked from our photo stop location

We had lunch at Mount Rushmore and I gave in and tried the Buffalo Hot Dog and Buffalo Chili — no, not Buffalo seasoning — made with actual Buffalo meat!!! The hot dog was good – a weird texture and drier than a normal hot dog, but good. I wasn’t as crazy about the chili – it had a gamier taste to it – I only ate a few bites.

And…..I just HAD to recreate a photo I took when I was there in 2016…….helping Mr. Washington with a little booger problem!

September 10, 2016

September 8, 2018

And, finally — just some shots of the scenery from the window of the bus as we drove through South Dakota on our way to Wyoming:

I’ll be back to blog about the rest of the trip in at least two more posts……..

6 Comments on “2018 Caravan Tour – South Dakota

  1. Love the descriptions of your adventure and the pictures are perfect!

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