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Trip out west full of great sites, great food and more


Many of you probably know that my wife and I are on vacation out west — but even here I got a chance to interview recent UK football commit Jabari Greenwood by phone and saw a Kentucky hat in rest stop in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming — as part of a Globus tour where once again we have made friends with some great folks, including those from England, New Zealand and Australia.

But I thought maybe some of you would enjoy reading about our first two days before I get into Yellowstone where I want have internet for a day or two.

Day One
After all kinds of problems with our flight on United, we finally arrived in Rapid City, S.D. — where we were stunned at how green everything was and then learned from locals that they were having one of their most rainy times ever. Rapid City is a large city that is spread out but has a small-town feel. We stayed in the historic downtown district that had many, many restaurants within easy walking distance.

Murphy’s Pub and Grill was right across the street from our hotel and turned out to be more than just a convenient spot to eat lunch. I got some of the best fried pickles ever — with cream cheese and Bruschetta and deep fried. We also loved the cranberry cole slaw with just a touch of cinnamon and the sweet potato fries.

We also liked the Firehouse Brewing Company. It had hand crafted beers along with a diverse menu, including beer bread. And to make it even better, the restaurant is in the original Rapid City firehouse, a structure built of four layer brick in 1915. The building is listed on the National Historic Register.

Downtown Rapid City has the City of Presidents, a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and intersections. It’s a great way to spend a few minutes or few hours — and there’s no cost. The City of Presidents project began in 2000 to honor the legacy each president and was all privately funded. You can get a “City of Presidents” brochure free at visitor information centers. The project produced four statues a year and now all the past presidents are in place.

Each President is shown in a manner depicting something memorable and for which he is known. John F. Kennedy is shown holding the hand of his small son John Jr. — who is remembered for saluting his father during his funeral procession after his assassination.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt has him standing behind a podium for a press conference to hide the cane and braces he wore while in office to conceal his illness.

Day Two
We got to see two historic sites — one well known (Mount Rushmore National Memorial) and one not so well known (Crazy Horse Memorial).

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument complex started in 1948 that is still under construction — and will be for years — on privately held land in the Black Hills in Custer County, S.D. It will eventually show Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski to remind others of the role of the native American just as Mount Rushmore honors four historic figures. The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain and the final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high). Once completed, it will become the world’s largest sculpture.

A foundation oversees the work — which accepts no federal funding — and Ruth Ziolkowski, the wife of Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, oversaw the work until her death last month. Six of her children and many of her 33 grandchildren still work at the memorial in various capacities. A stop here provides a look at Ziolkowski’s life as most of it was spent here after he accept Standing Bear’s offer to come to South Dakota.

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, S.D., and only a few miles from the Crazy Horse Memorial. Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum, (Ziolkowski worked on the project but was fired), Mount Rushmore features 60-foot ( sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

You walk through the flags of the 50 states to enter the memorial and it is a breath-taking sight to see the four faces towering over you.

The original idea was to feature western heroes like Lewis and Clark and Buffalo Bill Cody before a more national focus was agreed upon. Construction on the memorial began in 1927 and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Construction ended in 1941.

The site attracts over two million people annually. It has a visitor information center, movie and walking trail to get you closer to the sculpture.

It also has a cafeteria where I wisely followed the tour guide’s suggestion and ate buffalo chili for the first time — but not the last. Of course, how could anything not have been good when you are sitting outside in the sunshine eating with a gorgeous view of Mount Rushmore and other spectacular scenery.

We got back to Rapid City in time for me to take about a four-mile run before we went to the free music festival downtown — the city has an abundance of free events and parks — where we enjoyed the music and ice cream.

Now it is on to the site of Custer’s Last Stand and then  Yellowstone.

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  1. Ira

    Post some pics sometime soon! Hope you enjoy your vacation to the fullest. Also I have heard b4 that buffalo meat is very healthy. One of the leanest meats etc.

  2. Karen Sprinkle

    Thanks for posting this, Larry. I am very much looking forward to the next installments.

    1. larryvaught

      Having a great time. Won’t have internet next two days as I will be in Yellowstone with no cell phone, internet or even TV. Just me and nature

  3. Keith

    Larry, Sounds like a great trip. Continue to let us know where you go, what you see, where to eat as I would like to take that same trip myself

  4. Tina

    I love following your Wild West Adventure!!!

  5. Hugh Ward

    Larry –
    If you travel the area to Yellowstone and Jackson, keep in mind that some of the early explorers/trappers/mountain men who roamed that area were from Kentucky – including Kit Carson, Bill Sublette and Milton Sublette. If you do get to Jackson and have the time, stop by the Grand Teton Art Gallery and say hello to owners Bob and Mary Beth. If they don’t remember our meeting, remind them that it was the Jd Challenger Gallery West in Overton, Nevada!

  6. Theresa

    Thanks for the trip report and pics. I have been to Mount Rushmore and to see the Crazy Horse exhibit as well but it was good to refresh my memory with the info you provided. Have a safe and wonderful trip! We will be looking forward to the next installment!

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