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Originally published in 1992 in the Forsyth Independent-Enterprise

I recently read where the Government did a multi-million dollar survey in which they found out the following amazing fact: These days, most Americans will take several weekend vacations during the year, instead of a two or three week vacation. This is because, the Government says, people will be too involved with their work to be able to take an extended time off.

So, complying with what will probably soon be a new federal law, some friends and I recently took a weekend vacation in that great tourist land, the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Before going on, I would like to quote from a tourism magazine distributed in South Dakota, which compares the Black Hills to the Rocky Mountains:

"[The Rockies] are awesome, best appreciated from a distant vantage point. The Black Hills, by contrast, are totally accessible...there are no wild bears to bother campers and hikers...nobody's gotten life-threateningly lost in the Black Hills for decades...no need to stand back and be intimidated by mountains that are manageable only by professional outdoorsmen...these are FRIENDLY MOUNTAINS."

Well, that was all the sales pitch I needed. Here I always thought the Rocky Mountains were awe-inspiring and grand. I have always loved to drive through the mountains in Montana, to stand alongside the road and just look up, imagining how I would feel if I were an Easterner seeing those peaks for the first time.

For some reason, I never realized that the Rockies were "unfriendly," as this South Dakota brochure said.

So, like I said, we needed no more sales pitch. Without further ado, we headed for the Black Hills. The following are a few things I noticed while I was in South Dakota:

  • Almost everything there is named "Rushmore," which is an old Indian word which means: "what you have to do if you want to see all the tourist traps in one weekend." You could, I guess, go against the Federal Government and take a two-week vacation, enabling you to see everything from the "Beautiful Awesome Spectacular Rushmore Cave" to the "Fabulous Rushmore Aerial Tram" and still have time to spend your last remaining tourist dollars at "Rushmore Mall," although I understand the sales clerks there aren't any friendlier than they are in the Rocky Mountains.
  • There are approximately one million billboards in South Dakota, most of which advertise Wall Drug. Now there's a tourist trap that is proud to be a tourist trap. There are also quite a few billboards pushing the aforementioned Rushmore Cave, which you'll be severely disappointed in if you've seen Montana's Lewis & Clark Caverns.

  • Somewhere near the beautiful Rushmore KOA Kampground is a large memorial sculpture featuring four of our most honored Presidents. (The name of the sculpture, naturally, is Mount Rushmore, probably named after the Mall or the Cave, although I'm not sure.) Even the most jaded tourist is awed by this spectacle. Some of the awe-inspired comments I heard were:
    - "Where are the rest rooms?"
    - "Dad, when are we leaving?"
    - "When will it be finished?"
    - "It would be a lot cooler if they would talk, you know, like at Disneyland."

  • And finally, driving ten miles per hour uphill behind a Winnebago that needs a tune-up is just as annoying in the Black Hills as it is in the Rocky Mountains.