Day 3 in Rapid City was an active one. We went to the Crazy Horse Memorial; Flintstones Bedrock City; Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns; attempted to go to Jewel Cave; and ended the day at a street festival in downtown Rapid City.
I say, “attempted” to go to Jewel Cave because the tours had been sold out by the time we got there. Harper was devastated; she’d been asking to go to a cave ever since she found out we were coming out here. So, that’s why we ended up going to Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns — a smaller affair to be sure, but it really fit the bill. The kids were troopers, going up and down the 180 some odd steps into the cave. We saw the tour before us coming out and, to hear them huff & puff, you would’ve thought it was 1,800 steps. Cave tours inevitably involve some appalling story of how they were discovered in the 1800s and some maniac wormed into a tiny hole, not knowing where it went; then there would be stories about people taking tours with candles in decidedly unsafe conditions. Altogether, stories about 19th century cave tours give me the creeps.
Crazy Horse seems to be one of those places where mileage varies quite a bit. My wife and her friend liked it quite a bit, as do a lot of other people I know, but I did not care for that site. I haven’t exactly put my finger on what I didn’t like; but at least part of it was a sense that it seemed to be a tribute to being aggrieved. I’m not sure that I learned much about Crazy Horse except that what he considered to be his lands were taken from him. There was not much at all about his biography, his leadership, his accomplishments, or anything else. I get that the Lakota, along with other Native Americans, were not treated well by the Europeans. And I’m not at all opposed to acknowledging that fact and even highlighting it. But, there has to be more. And I’m not sure I saw much more highlighted about the Lakota and their ways. Korczak Ziolkowski was a fairly impressive story – even if he seemed a little offbeat to me – but, with the story since his death, I have a hard time figuring out where “family tradition” stops and “nepotistic gravy train” begins on this project. The face itself is pretty cool. But, the full project seems hyper-ambitious. I get the sense that this is due in no small part to a desire to “out do” Mt. Rushmore – that makes sense if this is mainly intended as an Airing of Grievances. I probably shouldn’t spend so much time slagging the site; it has positive qualities. Just, for me, there wasn’t a good energy to the place.
“Flintstones Bedrock City” was definitely cheesy, but surprisingly entertaining even so. Probably I just liked the Flintstones enough as a kid that it was a childhood throwback. The kids only had a vague notion who the Flintstones were. There was a little walking tour with Flintstones style houses and the characters here and there. I thought they’d just pretend away the Great Gazoo entirely. But, they even stuck a picture of him up . . . in the back of a little theater where almost everyone would miss seeing him. Which, I assume was the intent, since he was a remarkably bad idea for the show. Anyway, we had a little picnic there, did the walking tour, and let the kids go nuts on the playground – a real throwback kind of facility with exposed metal and plenty of danger. Then, we took a train ride around the park, and headed out.
We probably could have called it a day with all of those activities, but we capped it off with dinner at a festival in downtown Rapid City. One of the neat features of downtown Rapid City are statues of the U.S. Presidents spread out on corners throughout downtown. My friends seemed impressed (and Amy mildly exasperated) by the non-stop stream of history and Presidential trivia I make my kids listen to each time we ran across a President (Madison: He was the primary creator of the Constitution; Ford: He was the only President not elected to any position; etc. etc.)
Today, we went to Bear Country – a sort of driving zoo/nature preserve which might have some objectionable practices; but does let you see some wildlife up close. This afternoon, I think we’re going to try to take out the boat and do some fishing with the older kids.