Friday, May 11, 2012

Windswept and moving on from SD

May 8-11, Rapid City, South Dakota
State Highway 79 heading south out of Rapid City
Our primary purpose for coming to South Dakota was to establish residency here—a highly popular decision for many full time RVers as there is no state income tax, registration of vehicles is fairly inexpensive, and insurance rates are some of the lowest in the nation.  We chose to use a mail forwarding/residency service here called Americas Mailbox.  This is a rather small operation that is run by a couple who are/have been full time RVers themselves; consequently, they pride themselves in providing a variety of services for people like us.  They also have a small campground and guest rooms next to their office so most people staying here share a similar quest. 

We arrived at the end of the work day on Tuesday so our business transactions would have to wait until Wednesday.  The owners, Don and Barbara, were here on site to greet us and walk us through the process for getting our driver’s licenses, registering to vote, making decisions about insurance coverage, and registering our vehicles.

The first step on Wednesday morning was a trip to the DMV.  I have to say it wasn’t like a trip to any other DMV I’ve been to.  They greeted us at the door, asked what we were there to do, and had a whole system ready for full time RVers.  They obviously want your money, but it was only $20 for a five year license and the only requirement for residency was a receipt for a one night stay from a hotel or campground.  Pretty amazing.  Even though the process was simple, the emotions were not.  Both of us felt strange relinquishing our Oregon licenses as Vic had his for 44 years and I had mine for 29 years. Oregon will always be home in our hearts, but this interlude in our lives has required many forms of letting go, part of the price of adventure. We both decided if we were going to pursue this lifestyle, it would be more powerful to fully go for it and doing this South Dakota gig was part of our master plan. 
Vic filling out the paperwork for his SD driver's license
After the DMV, we made a thirty mile trip to see Mt. Rushmore.  The monument is just south of a small town called Keystone, a tourist trap with a late 1800s frontier motif, and the usual fudge shops, black hills gold trinkets, etc.  The monument itself is pretty impressive, even from a distance.  There is a fee for parking, but no entrance fee to the museum or viewing area with trails. After walking to the main viewing area, we caught a short film about the making of Mt. Rushmore which occurred between the years of 1927-1941.  Vic and I were both curious about the choice of the four presidents and learned that each stood for different milestones in our country’s history: Washington --the birth of the nation with victory over England, Jefferson--expansion with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Lincoln --freedom with the end of slavery, and Teddy Roosevelt—development of the nation through business, conservation and the creation of the Panama Canal. (Roosevelt was the most controversial choice of the four; apparently, he and the sculptor, Borglum, were good friends.)

A model in museum showing sculpting technique with hanging chisel
Fun to watch all the school children on fieldtrips free of responsibility ourselves
The history of these monuments is not without controversy.  The Black Hills are considered sacred ground to the Lakota Sioux. These lands were granted to them by treaty until gold was discovered –then we stole the lands back and eventually carved the faces of four white conquerors into the hillside.  The building of the Crazy Horse Monument was a direct response to the desecration represented by the carving of Mt. Rushmore. We were going to take a scenic drive around this area to see the Crazy HorseMemorial, a sculpture of even larger proportions, but discovered the drive goes through several winding roads with low overhead tunnels.  We had our Jeep, but our kayaks on top make us at least 9’ and some of the clearances were questionable.  We chose to forego this part of our tour itinerary with some sadness as it only seemed fitting to pay homage to this important Sioux leader.
Slide 1
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a work in progress. This internet  image shows the initial  phase of the sculpture.
This internet image shows what the final memorial will look like when it is finished (60 years after the initial work began.) 
Perhaps the most important grounds to visit in this part of South Dakota are those of Wounded Knee. Having read and taught Dee Brown’s novel, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, and recalling the depiction of this massacre in Costner’s film, Dances with Wolves, I would have liked to pay tribute to this site’s hallowed grounds. I discovered, however, that the memorial area does not open until May 16. I would like to pay more attention to Native American heritage and culture as we travel these lands.

Our last day in Rapid City ended up being task-oriented as we still needed to get information on insurance and registration of vehicles and discovered we had quite a bit of paperwork still to complete.  After doing so, we thought we might take a ride to Deadwood but learned that the town is basically all casinos now with a small 1800s museum—plus it was about 75 miles away. Something else was impacting our lack of enthusiasm for exploring: the wind was blowing steady at about 25 mph with gusts up to 50 mph and the temperature was dropping from 73 with expected lows of 40.  Not too pleasant, but we were just happy NOT to be on the road in our motorhome with these winds.  It was so gusty when we returned to the campgrounds that we decided it would be wise to pull in our slide outs as the canvas toppers were flapping to the max.  The constant noise of the wind inside the motorhome had also driven the dogs a little crazy as they were cowering under the table the same way they do when there is thunder.  Holed up in our cozy space for the last night of this South Dakota experience, we listened to the howling of the wind hoping for a less bracing departure to Ft. Collins, Colorado, in the morning.

State Highway 18 which took us out of South Dakota to Wyoming 


  1. you really should have spent more time in western S Dakota... it is a beautiful part of the state, I lived in Rapid City for a little over a year...

  2. Cold, windy weather is not my cup of tea either!


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