Goodbye South Dakota

I already have six blog posts dedicated to the most interesting things I did during my time in South Dakota, but I decided to do a final round-up for everything else that didn’t previously make the cut.

Throughout my road trip, I’ve been parking my truck at the airport at various major cities with large airports and flying back to Las Vegas to take care of some errands once every few months. When I was planning out my trip, I discovered that, strangely enough, Rapid City had a non-stop flight to Las Vegas out of their small regional airport, so I used it as an opportunity to thread in a trip back home.

I had an issue with the hotel not permitting me to use my guaranteed late check-out elite perk (which I later found out they were technically allowed to not honor, because they had a physical hallway connecting them to a water park, and thus counted as a resort hotel), so I ended up going to the airport in­credibly early. Needless to say, there were not very many flights going out of the very small airport, so for a handful of hours, I was alone in a com­pletely empty airport.

The flight I took was on Allegiant Airlines, and was probably my worst flight ever. It’s not that anything particularly bad happened, but, paired with the fact that I wasn’t able to check out late at my hotel and was just sitting at the airport for hours before my delayed flight, it was draining and ex­haust­ing.

I ordered some food at the airport restaurant and it took around 28 minutes to come out, and they closed the restaurant early (which made sense, be­cause there were no scheduled flights during the evening and nobody at the airport), so I ended up getting extremely dehydrated. When I finally made it on the plane, the seats were the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt, and I had lower back pain in less than 20 minutes into the flight. Allegiant also ap­parently charges $3 for water, which I declined on principle, so I got even more dehydrated than before.

By the time I finally made it to Las Vegas, I had to stand in line for about 40 minutes, slowly dying, as Avis‘ two employees tried to get through a line of about 8 people with no consideration for speed or efficiency.

Shoutout to the night shift manager at the Residence Inn by Marriott Las Vegas Hughes Center for giving me a few free bottles of water upon my very, very late arrival (and quite possibly literally saving me from collapsing).

After spending just shy of a week in Las Vegas, I flew back to Rapid City (also on Allegiant Airlines on the return non-stop flight), but didn’t have as terrible of a flight experience this time, as I was able to go to a lounge to get some free lunch and beverages before leaving, and upon arriving back in Rap­id City, I was able to just walk outside the small airport and hop straight into my truck. (The seats were still inhuman levels of uncomfortable, though.)

I haven’t been posting too many photographs of hotel rooms lately like I used to at the beginning of my road trip, mainly because a majority of the hotel rooms I go to all look extremely similar, but I have some pictures from the Courtyard by Marriott Rapid City in Box Elder. This is the first Courtyard I’ve been to with this new design.

I personally think it’s great, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I like designs that are very simple and have subdued colors, so this room was nice. It also had floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as a white-and-glass modern bathroom. With that being said, the bed and couch might be a little too simple for some people; I only ever use the couch as a place to set down my belongings, so it doesn’t matter to me, but it doesn’t exactly look like the most plush and comfortable piece of furniture.

The view wasn’t bad either—the building that’s planned to be constructed in the plot of land across the street hasn’t been erected yet, so there’s a nice view of the hills in the background.

A large portion of my stay in South Dakota was very cold and very windy, so I substituted in some indoor activities in place of a few of the hiking trips that I had originally scheduled. One of the places I went to was the Dahl Arts Center, a very small art exhibit and gallery in downtown.

On the day that I drove out of Rapid City, I stopped by Rushmore Crossing to grab some food before driving to my next destination. After going through the drive-thru, I headed across the street and pulled into the back of a larger parking lot so I could eat before departing.

I just found this so funny at the time that I decided to share—while I was eating, I saw a man pull up in his subcompact crossover, without valid vehicle registration, and park diagonally across two parking spots (when other people with SUVs and full-size pickup trucks were easily able to fit into a single spot). He then proceeds to get out of his car with his dog, walks towards Michaels, stops literally right in the middle of the street, bends down, and starts petting his dog. In the middle of the street.

In the photo, you can see me pointing to his incompetent parking job, and if you look closer down the road, you will see him petting his dog.

After Rapid City, my next destination was Deadwood up in the Black Hills and in Lawrence County. I didn’t really head there with any expectations, and only decided to make a stop there because I saw there were some Marriott hotels in the area, and it would bring me closer along my path towards south­ern Montana. Deadwood ended up being a very interesting place—the valet attendant told me that it holds a lot of Western history, has a bunch of casinos, and can be seen sort of as a miniature Las Vegas.

I stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Deadwood, which was connected to the Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort. This was my first time staying at Four Points, so I decided to snap some photos. (I’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn in Amarillo, Texas before that was connected to a Four Points, but I was booked on the Fair­field Inn side, so I don’t consider that to count.)

For some reason, the Four Points brand tends to have consistently low reviews on the Marriott website relative to other brands. That’s one of the main rea­sons why I’ve avoided staying at Four Points and have selected other brands instead, but this Four Points in Deadwood, albeit a bit barebones in the rooms, still provided me with a clean, safe place to stay for a few nights.

I didn’t plan this ahead too well, so my stay in Deadwood ended up being on Easter weekend. Because of that, a few of the museums that I wanted to visit were closed.

However, I was able to see the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center in Lead, South Dakota. It had a nice view of the mine (though I couldn’t get close enough to the edge to take a proper photo showing how deep it actually was), as well as a handful of exhibits explaining the mine and showing off some of the equipment used there. Unfortunately, the actual underground research facility was not open to the public, and it was not in-season so I wasn’t able to purchase a tour.

With the South Dakota portion of my trip complete, that brings me to 39 out of 50 states visited.

I thought South Dakota was great, though it might be because I mostly stayed in the southwestern-most tip and didn’t have to experience any of the apparent nothingness that spans the entire rest of the state. Rapid City was one of my favorite cities to visit—it had what felt like the perfect balance of being a small town, but still being populated enough that you’re able to find everything you need. Black Hills National Forest was also great, and if the weather had been better during my stay, I would’ve done much more hiking.

At the beginning of my road trip, I was planning on visiting North Dakota as well, but after doing some calculations, I figured that it’s a little bit too much out of the way and too much driving through nothingness to be able to slot in a stop in North Dakota just to say that I’ve been there before. It’s also not just the drive there—the drive out to get back on track also puts me quite a bit out of the way.

So, instead, I’ll be cutting through the northeastern corner of Wyoming through on Interstate 90, then continuing my journey across southern Montana. As for North Dakota, my current plan is to fly into Fargo at one point for a vacation.