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"In the heart of [Rapid City] you'll find the historic downtown district and a pubic square  
that features special events, live concerts, and interactive fountains. Downtown   
includes a variety of boutiques, bookstores, restaurants, art galleries, and nightlife . . . 
The City of Presidents' life-size bronze statues, interactive museums, water parks,  
and wildlife parks are just the beginning of what you will find to do here."
~ from the Black Hills Visitor brochure
Rapid City has many features that we've enjoyed in several visits here the past few years. It's a worthy destination in itself, as well as a good place for tourists to use as a "home base" while they explore the nearby Black Hills.

In this entry I'll include photos from some of the activities we've done in the two weeks we've been here this time.

Above and below:  scenes from the new Main Street Square on a quiet weekday

One feature we like that I didn't include in the quote above is the wonderful paved multi-use path that runs the length of the city from east to west, following Rapid Creek. I'll also show more pictures of the new public square, scenes from a farmer's market and the annual Pumpkin Festival, and dramatic sunset photos from Ellsworth AFB.

I'll also include our travel plans for the rest of this week. We'll be leaving tomorrow so we can get to Ohio for my brother's wedding this weekend.


Every time we've visited Rapid City in the spring and fall we've gotten out on the fabulous bike trail that connects several city parks in the green space along Rapid Creek.

Above and below:  scenes from the greenway by the Cleghorn Springs State Fish Hatchery

After the devastating flood of 1972 the floodplain was extended on either side of the creek. No houses or other structures are permitted to be built within a certain distance of the water. The silver lining of his major disaster (lots of lives and property were lost) was the development of miles of linear parks -- and the bike path -- along the creek.

This greenway is a popular place for residents and visitors to get some exercise. Even on weekdays there are people walking, running, cycling, and skateboarding on the path and enjoying other activities in the parks along its length.

I've taken so many pictures previously along the greenway that I didn't take very many this time. I "focused" primarily on my favorite park (Canyon Lake) on recent rides:


Although we've had some windy days since we arrived here the weather has been clear and warm enough for Jim to enjoy riding his bike almost every day either on base, on nearby rural roads, or on the bike path downtown.

My favorite activity is walking with Cody but I get out to ride several times a week, too.

It's not easy for us to ride to the bike path from Ellsworth AFB but it can be done. We usually just put our bikes in the truck and drive to the parking area at Founders Park about midway along the trail, then cycle out and back on the bike path in both directions from there.

New decorative gas lights are being installed along this portion of the bike path.

The total length of the paved multi-use path is about 12 miles. Out and back is double that. It's easy to add on to the distance if we ride on some connecting paths or residential streets along the way.

On this visit we found a new dirt section of trail across the creek that was fun to ride:


We also stopped at a small farmersí market at Founders Park during last Tuesday's ride. All of the vendors were selling fruits, vegetables, baked goods, preserves, and other colorful food items:




Lots of hot chili peppers

This is what I consider a "farmer's market" to be, not a bunch of booths with craft items. For those who want crafts, however, there's also a farmer's/craft market downtown on Saturdays during the summer and fall.


Last Saturday we drove downtown late in the morning to check out the weekend farmerís market and the Great Pumpkin Festival at the new square at 6th and Main St.



Who grew the biggest pumpkin this year?  I bet there was one bigger than this.

Jim wanted to take Cody. Neither of them had much fun because of the crowd. Cody was overwhelmed by all the people and scents so we walked past the crafts and food booths rather quickly.

Jim and Cody found a bench in a quieter, more shady place and waited a few minutes while I got some pictures of the fountains and granite geometric sculptures at Main Street Square:


Kids enjoy the interactive fountains; a water show is set to music and lights at night.

Main Street Square opened to the pubic last fall. It features a waterfall and interactive fountain in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter. There is a large grassy area in the center that is surrounded by trees, places to sit, handsome granite sculptures, and a permanent stage for concerts and other events such as this festival.

As you can see there were lots of folks enjoying the warm sunny day at the festival and in the square. We left after less than half an hour to reduce the stress on Cody and Jim.

On the way back to the truck we walked through part of the historic business area, which was also rather crowded:


Above and below:  the old fire station is now the Firehouse Brewery


Ellsworth AFB is one of the best places to see spectacular sunsets of all the places where we've camped around the country. The base sits on a high plateau with expansive views to the west of nearby metro Rapid City and the more distant Black Hills.

Although we've seen some memorable sunsets from our campsite at Ellsworth I've gotten even better shots down at the lakes, with the colors reflecting in the water.

It's a pleasant 3/4-mile walk to the lakes in the evening, where I took these and other dramatic sunset photos recently:


The sunrises are pretty from the campground and lakes on base, too, but Iím not usually up and outside that early. 


This is our last day in South Dakota.

The past couple days we've done all the normal things we do to get ready for a multi-day drive to another destination -- cleaning the inside and outside of the camper and truck, doing whatever maintenance the vehicles need, checking tire pressures on both vehicles, putting the TPMS gauges on the camper tires, topping off the tank with diesel ($4.07/gallon, the cheapest right now in Rapid City), doing laundry, stocking up on food and supplies for a few days, giving Cody a bath, gathering the necessary maps and other information for our planned route and alternate bad-weather routes farther south, programming the GPS, etc.

One of the city parks along the greenway

To save time getting ready to leave tomorrow morning, Jim hooked up the truck to the camper this evening. He'll dump the gray and black water tanks in the morning so we aren't hauling all those pounds of waste water.

Since we'll be boon-docking at least three nights on the road we'll carry about 30 gallons of fresh water. It's often a hassle to find potable water along the way so we take enough to drink, do dishes, take showers, etc. The fresh water tank holds about 70 gallons but we never travel with it more than half full.

We move the camper frequently enough that not much is left to do on the day of departure. That way we can get an early start, if needed, and have less stress.

Another view at Canyon Lake Park

Our original plan to leave tomorrow turns out to be a good decision weather-wise.

Although today's temperature is still well above normal for early October in Rapid City -- balmy mid-80s F. -- a cold front is coming through sometime tomorrow. The low temperatures Wednesday and Thursday nights are predicted to be 33-34 F. with a chance of rain or snow. The highs both days will be in the mid-50s (65 F. is average). Friday nightís prediction is upper 20s.

Rapid City is going from much higher than normal temps to significantly below-normal temps in one day. Freezing temps are a challenge in a 5th-wheel camper, so it's definitely time for us to get out of here.

Muted colors of sunset behind the water tower at Ellsworth AFB;
two bike paths go around the four little lakes where I like to walk Cody.

We plan to drive east on I-90 through South Dakota tomorrow, then south along the Nebraska/Iowa border to I-80, staying overnight in Sioux City, Iowa. Weíll have to see what the prediction is for that area in case we need to go south first, then east, to avoid cold or snowy weather.

Next entrysummary of the trip back to Virginia -- and the end of our grand Alaska Adventure  <sigh>

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil