Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer, South Dakota

We finally went to Crazy Horse today after some postponing due to bad weather on previous days off. Well, we have a mixed review, and from what we gather from other visitors, we may be in the minority. We like the premise of the Crazy Horse Memorial ~ a monument that represents the history, culture, and spirit of Native Americans in North America. We also enjoyed the movie in the Visitor’s Center and appreciate the final goals and outcomes of the memorial.  
We were disappointed that it felt very “touristy” (for lack of a better word) – for example, the American Indian Cultural Center had mostly Native Americans selling their wares.  That’s fine, of course, but it would have been nice to see and watch the artists at work – making jewelry, drawings, etc… it felt more like a flea market, rather than a Cultural Center.  The entire site seemed a bit unpolished; for example, there were descriptions of artwork at the Orientation Center that were held up with peeling scotch tape. We recognize that Crazy Horse is funded completely on visitor support and donations, but for such a large facility, there lacked a level of attention to detail one would expect.
The price for admission is either $10 per person or $27 a carload. (As with other area attractions, we were able to get in free with our VIP pass given to us from the Mt. Rushmore Bookstore Association.)  For an additional $4 per person, you can take a bus to the base of Crazy Horse, which was another disappointment since we thought we could walk to the base of the mountain.

Would we go back? Actually, the answer is yes. We’re going back on Saturday to do the 10K Crazy Horse Volksmarch. (We’ll write about that this weekend.) We’d also probably come back in ten or twenty years to see the progress. 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

WOW! So we’ve had business in the Mt. Rushmore Bookstores since we started workamping on May 2nd, but not like this!  It’s like everyone who has ever wanted to visit Mt. Rushmore was here this weekend, especially Sunday!  Where did all these people come from?  All of the streets in Keystone are full, there’s traffic, the parking lots of all of the hotels are full, every tourist attraction is full – again – WOW!

But we’re still having fun!

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rushmore Boglum Center & National President’s Wax Museum, Keystone, South Dakota

Part of our compensation package in working for the Mount Rushmore Bookstore Association is that we were given VIP passes to multiple attractions in the Black Hills area. The pass, for the most part, offers free admission to attractions, with the idea that when tourists and visitors ask us about places to go and things to do, we’ll know the area. So today, we went to two Keystone attractions, as they’re right down the road from us. 

This is a museum with an audio tour that gives information about Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore.  It was interesting to see more of his work (there are a few pieces at Mount Rushmore), but given that we have “done” all of Mount Rushmore, we didn’t really learn anything new. In all honesty, the place was a bit run-down and we were glad we did not have to pay the $10 per person admission price. If you’re interested in learning more about Borglum, better to spend time at Mount Rushmore and really take-in the Sculptor’s Studio, Ranger talks, and information offered.

Wax museums aren’t our favorite thing, but when it’s free and a rainy day, well, there ya go!  Again, another audio tour is included with a $10 per person admission, and again, we were disappointed. The wax presidents just didn’t look very much like the real thing, and this place was also outdated ~ notice the sign……

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Climber on Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

We were in a National Park Service training yesterday hearing about safety, guest relations, etc…when we were informed by park service that there was a climber on the memorial (cannot be seen in photo above), so of course, class was dismissed and we all went out to watch! :-)
A man was seen on George Washington’s left shoulder, and by the time we were informed, there were also four law enforcement rangers at the ready to apprehend. The man was taken into custody fairly quickly with what seemed like little resistance ~ he was fined and spent the night in jail. Apparently, there are usually a few climbers a year, and always with the same results. 
Believe it or not, this was one of the reasons we wanted to spend the season here – we’re interested in seeing all of the “things” that go on over the course of a season – in the front line & behind the scenes.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evening Lighting Ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

When you visit Mt. Rushmore National Monument, many people enjoy coming back in the evening for the nightly Ranger talk and lighting ceremony, which we did last night.  Starting at 9pm this time of season, later as the days grow longer, the Ranger (this case it was Ranger Jerry, whom we know from our work) began with a few trivia questions ~ see if you know the answers:
  1. Which four states have capitals that begin with the same letter as the state?
  2. Which four states have capitals named for presidents?
(Write your answers in the comments section and we’ll let you know if you’re correct or not. Even if you can’t list all four, or answers to both question, let us know what you know! )

He then gave a ten-minute Ranger talk (inside tip: each Ranger creates his own talk, so they are different) and his was based on what one will do with her/his life, giving examples of a few men who signed the Declaration of Independence.  We then watched an interesting 20-minute movie based n the presidents on the monument, finished with the audience signing the American National Anthem, then the lowering of the flag ceremony with all veterans and those who have lost a loved-one in a war on stage. Each person passes the flag to the next, while sharing their name and branch of service.

The entire ceremony was about 45-minutes and a definite when visiting Mt. Rushmore. Remember, you’re parking pass is good for the entire calendar year, so just keep it with you if you leave the monument during the day and you can return that (or another) evening,
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Alpine Inn, Hill City, South Dakota

After touring around Custer State Park, we continued to celebrate Brad’s birthday with dinner at the Alpine Inn in Hill City. (Incidentally, Brad grew-up in the area and spent three years in Hill City, but more on that later.) 

So here’s the entire dinner menu for the Alpine Inn: 
  • Filet Mignon, bacon-wrapped ~ choice of 6oz or 9oz 
  • Baked potato 
  • Texas toast 
  • Wedge of lettuce with homemade ranch dressing. 
Yes, that’s it. The 6oz costs $9.95 and the 9oz $11.95. So the only decision to make (besides wine and dessert) is the size of your filet mignon. The food was very good, no doubt. And for a week day, during pre-tourist season, the place was packed! The desserts all looked incredible, and we shared a Roasted Apple Napoleon. We both chose the large filet, and Brad will enjoy many meals of leftovers! 

The only down-side, although the server was nice, the service wasn’t great, and the hostess wasn’t friendly or accommodating either. Not accommodating meaning that when Suzanne privately asked the hostess if Brad’s dessert could get a candle for his birthday, she said to talk to the waitress. But Suzanne didn’t want Brad to know about a surprise candle. Thus, not accommodating. In case you want to know how it ended – right in front of Brad, Suzanne asked the waitress for said candle, which ended up being a cool sparkler, and all was good. 

Two notes
1. The Alpine Inn takes only cash or checks. 
2. If it’s your birthday, you get dessert at half-price. (But no surprise candle.) 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Custer State Park, South Dakota

It was Brad’s birthday and we had the day off, so it was his call what to do ~ Custer State Park it was ~ the 70-mile Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway ~ one of the top ten “Most Outstanding” scenic byways in the US.

There is a great loop drive that encompasses all of Custer State Park, so we left Keystone and traveled along Iron Mountain Road, thus taking us in a clock-wise direction. Note ~ if you do this drive, there are lots of small tunnels, so if you have a large truck, you might have to backtrack (or scrape your sides). We were a bit tight in the F-250. Along Iron Mountain Road there are some cool rock tunnels – be sure you stop along the way and look ~ there are phenomenal views of Mt, Rushmore looking through the tunnel.

The park entrance is where 16A and Rte 36 meet, and is not expensive if one plans to stay longer than a week: $15 for 1 to 7 days, or $28 for an annual pass (which we purchased, since we plan to do a few hikes).  They also have a $14 for a second annual pass, so if you know another person or couple who wants an annual pass as well, you could buy-in together and save a few bucks.

Immediately upon entered Custer State Park, we saw what they are famous for ~ buffalo!

As we continued along Wildlife Loop Road, we saw dozens upon dozens of buffalo ~ even a few calves, along with antelope, wild burros, an eagle, two wild turkeys, and a few prairie dogs.

We continued our drive to Needles Highway where we enjoyed more spectacular scenery 
 and even tighter tunnels!

Onto the Sylvan Lake area, to which we will definitely return (looks like a great lake to kayak and we plan to hike Harney Peak – the highest mountain east of the rockies in the US)and then back to Keystone via Rte. 244 where a profile of George Washington is the star attraction.

So a great day and a great birthday for Brad.  We found lots of places to return along this route, and you know we’ll blog about those! Here's a picture of the birthday boy!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 
Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693

Friday, May 11, 2012

What To Do When You Visit Mount Rushmore?

So you’re coming for a visit to Mt. Rushmore ~ great!  What should you do?

First, realize that although visiting the monument is free, parking is not: there is an $11 charge to park, and it’s good for the rest of the calendar year in which you visit. Once you get settled, first stop at the Information Center (on your right) as you enter, and get some information and plan your day.  On your left as you enter, you can purchase audio tours ($5 each) that provide fabulous information as you walk the Presidential Trail. These tours take you on a 0.6 mile loop past the Avenue of Flags, into the Visitor’s Center (more on the VC later), as close as you can get to the monument, to the Sculptor Studio (again, more later) and back to the entrance.  Be forewarned that although it’s only a 0.6 mile trail, there are 422 steps at a 5500’ elevation. 

As you walk the Avenue of Flags, you’ll end up on the Grandview Terrance, which is on top of the Visitors’ Center.  Be sure you take the stairs or elevator down, as the Visitor’s Center offers a wonderful 14-minute movie about the making of the monument, a museum, and lots of displays with interesting information.

To get to the Sculptor’s Studio where you can see the 9th and final model of that the sculptor Gutzon Borglum used as the model for the real deal, you do need to walk down many steps (and back up again).  Unfortunately, there is no accessible walkway if walking the steps is a problem.

Things to keep in mind:
  1. Remember to shop at the non-profit Mt. Rushmore Bookstore Associations and if you know you’ll be in the area, email us so we can tell you where Suzanne will be working that day ~ we’d love to say HI!
  2. There is a restaurant and gift shop – both run by Xanterra – just before getting to Grandview Terrace.
  3. Check the Information and/or Visitor Centers for Ranger Tours – they are wonderful!
  4. No dogs at all are allowed. (Zoey isn’t a fan of this rule.)
  5. Bring your camera – not only are there great photo opportunities, but a few goats meandering as well!


RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service ~  Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693


Thursday, May 10, 2012

What is the Mount Rushmore Historical Association?

As we posted yesterday, we are working for the Mount Rushmore bookstores.  These are not the gift shops where you buy shorts and magnets – this is the non-profit bookstore that, after expenses, all proceeds go to the monument and pay for things like the Junior Ranger Program, the flags that wave at the Avenue of Flags, the salary for seasonal rangers, the publications that you get when you come to the monument, and more.  The bookstores are located at the Information Center, the Visitor’s Center and in the summer, the Sculptor’s Studio.  Along with selling books, coins, CDs, stamps, etc…  we sell tax deductible memberships to the Mount Rushmore Historical Association ($30 Individual and $50 Family) that give members a 15% discount at our bookstores, discounts at cooperative bookstores (50+ of them) throughout the US, and some other perks.  If you’re in the area, email us and find out where we will be working ~ we’d love to say HI!

How did we find out about this fabulous opportunity? Workamper News, of course!!

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Escapees RV Club Commercial Member #693


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Workamping for the Mt. Rushmore Historical Association

Well, we’ve been working for the Mt, Rushmore Historical Association Bookstores for a week now and still learning lots and having fun. We’re actually doing two different jobs:

Suzanne is a bookstore sales associate – her responsibilities are mainly to sell – books, coins, stamps, etc….  She also sells memberships to the Mt. Rushmore Historical Association, which gives members 15% in our bookstore, as well as dozens of other cooperative historical association bookstores (ex: Yellowstone & Grand Canyon).

Brad is the storeroom guy – restocks the shelves in the three bookstores and one audio tour store throughout the park.  He’s responsible for checking-in shipments and making sure the stores are well stocked. He gets to walk around the monument grounds everyday and chat with visitors to the park.  Brad had the option to choose this or a sales associate like Suzanne, but this arrangement basically guarantees us the same hours each day, as well as a regular 8ish to 5ish schedule. (In the summer, the bookstores are open 8am – 10pm, and we like a more “regular” schedule.)

Since people are curious ~ we are committed to five months working here (we wanted to be in the area for an entire season) we are paid for all hours worked (32-40 per week) and a full hook-site is included (electric, water, sewer – nothing else). We are also given a VIP card that allows us free or reduced rates into many Black Hills and other area attractions, and we will definitely use these on our days off!

In addition to all this, Brad's still restringing RV Blinds............
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Suzanne's First Sale! Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

We’ve been working for a couple days, and here is Suzanne’s first sale as a sales associate for the Mt. Rushmore Bookstore Association! We promise to share more about our jobs in the near future. (Of course we’ll share tons about the area as we have five months to explore!!) We’re still getting settled and into our work routine, but having fun. Here’s the first thing we’ve noticed so far ~ everyone (and yes everyone) has been incredibly friendly ~ this includes our colleagues, the National Park Service personnel, and everyone we meet in Keystone. We’re sure we’ll be very happy here! Remember ~ if you're visiting Mt Rushmore this summer, come by and say HI!! :-)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Our Workamping Gig at Mt. Rushmore Started Today!

View Outside of Our Training Room
Today was our first day of Workamping at Mt. Rushmore. We started to learn the ins and outs of the History Association Nonprofit Bookstores. It's very quiet here now but after Memorial Day the masses will appear. We are staying in the town of Keystone which is literally three miles below the monument. That's a nice commute! If you are in the area, stop by and say Hi.

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Devil’sTower National Monument was proclaimed the first National Monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. (If you’re thinking, no, you’re wrong – it was Yellowstone – nope – that’s a national park!)

It’s a fairly easy drive to the monument, about 40-minutes along a paved road. There is a $10 entrance fee (free if you have a National Park Pass). A small Visitor’s Center is open with a small informative area about how Devil’s Tower was formed (it’s not agreed upon), as well as a small gift shop.  There are few hiking trails which loop around the tower, and we chose Tower Trail - the short, paved, 1.3 mile trail that brings you to the base of the Tower itself.  There were great views along this trail, including those of climbers (of which there are about 5,000 every year from all around the world).

  • The Tower rises 867 feet from its base, stands 1,267 feet above river and 5,112 feet above sea level.
  • The top is tear-drop shaped and is 1.5 acres (about the length of a football field).
  • The base has a diameter of 1000 feet.
  • The Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was filmed here. Having never seen the movie, we watched it the previous night – we thought it was terrible! However, we thought it was interesting that there is no mention made of this movie at all a the Tower – nothing in the Visitor’s Center, placards along the trail, nothing.
 This was a very cool stop along our travels ~ a definite “must do” when in the area!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mountain View RV Park & Campground, Sundance, Wyoming

We  are staying at Mountain View RV Park &Campground for a couple nights so we can visit Devil’s Tower. It’s a small campground, with grass between all of the sites. There is the typical laundry, a small store, swimming pool, and game room, although since it’s early in the season not everything is open. Overall, it is a nice park to stay while traveling through the area, although not a destination park, for sure. 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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