TRAVEL NEWS, TIPS & STORIES
Web Cam's of the Week * Website of the Week * Special Offers * Bonus Mile Offers * Where's Johnny Jet? * Reader Tip of the Week * SkyGirls ?'s * SkyGuys ?'s * Jet Captain ?'s * Celeb Q&A * Chicago Tribune * LA Times * NY Times * Washington Post * USAToday * Elliott's Commentary * Columnists * Other News * Yahoo * ABC News * CNN * MSNBC * Good to Know!
|LIVE WEB CAMS OF THE WEEK|
|WEBSITE OF THE WEEK|
This one you would think would be a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many travelers don't know that by paying with a credit card gives you certain benefits and protection.
|BONUS MILE OFFERS|
|WHERE'S JOHNNY JET ?|
Didn't have a chance to read last week's newsletter?
Click here! |
KEY: BOLD = PICTURE, HYPER LINK = WEBSITE
This week we finish up our trip to South Dakota. Make sure you have film in your camera, because we visit all of the state’s popular sites: Sturgis, the Badlands, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, the Hot Springs, Custer, Keystone, Rapid City and – yep -- Wall Drugstore.Welcome back!
We left off last week on our four-hour float ride down the Niobrara river in Nebraska. It was quite an adventure getting out of there. Winner was only 40 miles away, but instead of a hop, skip and jump it became a trek. That's because we almost ran out of gas in No Man's Land. I had visions of being in the movie “Children of the Corn.” Luckily that didn't happen, because we found a general store with a gas pump in the middle of nowhere.
We made it back to Amber Airplane’s grandparents just in time for another tasty South Dakota meal (chicken and broccoli casserole, and of course corn on the cob). Her grandmother can cook but she likes to use a lot of mayonnaise, which I hate. That was our big joke. (Guess you had to be there.)
Speaking of spread, I almost fainted the following morning, when I saw her grandma put a glob of butter on her donut. Yes, a donut. When her father did the same thing I couldn't hold it in any longer. I blurted out, "Are you kidding me?" They were surprised to see my reaction and said, "No, it makes them tastier.” Folks, it’s stuff like this that makes traveling so much fun! You get to see how people in other parts of the world – even other parts of the country -- carry on with their daily lives. Butter on donuts – who would ever have thunk of that?
After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Amber Airplane’s Winner grandparents. Goodbyes are always sad, and this was no different. Our teary farewell reminded me of the time my parents used to bring me to JFK Airport when I was in college. They would walk me to the gate, and I would hug and kiss them goodbye so many times the other passengers must've thought I was a freak. But it's nerve racking when you don't get see your loved ones as often as you like -- and God forbid you never know if it will be the last goodbye or not.
We made it across the state in no time, because Leadfoot Jimmy was driving. Our first stop in the western half (and Mountain time zone) of South Dakota was the . “This National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. The park contains the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years old. Scientists can study the evolution of mammal species such as the horse, sheep, rhinoceros and pig in the Badlands formations." Hey, don’t listen to me – that’s the National Park Service talking.
I'm guessing they must've named it the Badlands because it's so dang hot in the summer time. When we pulled up, it was one bad piece of land. The thermometer read 120. If you ever wanted to know what a natural sauna feels like, then walk around the Badlands on a hot summer day like we did. It was scorching! But then be sure to drive over to the visitor center, check out their little museum and watch a 5-minute introduction film about the Badlands. I wanted to see the film in its short entirety, but it was so damn hot out and I couldn't take it any longer. Did I forget to mention that the theater is outdoors? Are they nuts? Don't get me wrong: The theater is probably awesome in the spring and fall months. But when it’s 120, it’s unbearable.
Even if it wasn't that hot, we actually wouldn't have had much time to spend in the park. Good ol' Jimmy had a brain freeze, and forgot to put gas in the car when we told him to back in Winner. He mentioned this small detail ("we’re on fumes") while we were at the visitor center. The next scene could have been out of a movie. We drove 18 miles through the park with the AC turned off, and the windows and sliding door wide open. I was in the way back stripped down to my boxers, with sweat pouring down my head, neck, chest, legs (sorry, no photos!). What made it even crazier was that just a few minutes earlier I had been thinking: How in the world did our forefathers make it through this place without AC? Memo to self: Good job Johnny, you jinxed everyone. I thought for sure we were going to run out. I wasn't that worried -- except for the baby. Somehow we made it to the nearest gas station in Wall. Let's just say Erica (Jimmy's wife) was not too happy with her husband! Poor Jimmy.
The first town out of the Badlands is Wall. This is where Wall Drug is located. (Duh!) Now I know the two reasons why this place became so popular. One is because of Ted Husted’s masterful marketing techniques. The other is because Ted found a water well. Therefore Ted had all the fresh water they needed. Put those two together, and the signs that read “FREE ICE water at Wall Drug” worked! I’m sure that this shop made driving through the badlands in the middle of summer an oasis, as it does today. I know Jimmy loved it, because Wall Drug was so much fun that everyone’s ill feelings toward him went away.
Wall Drug is more like a department store than a drug store. (There is a pharmacy in Wall Drug, and in fact it's the actual replica from 1931. I saw something there makes me appreciate modern medicine. If you’re an asthmatic like me, this is what your inhaler would have looked liked. Pretty scary eh?) Wall Drug – the modern version -- has everything you could possibly imagine (including the hard-to-find CRV3 batteries for my camera). The big item here is the jackelope (a fictional rabbit with horns). Most of it is touristy junk, but I recommend a walk through the back yard (especially if you have kids) to have some fun with all the life-size toys. If you are just passing through, grab an ice cream and of course some free ice water. Wall Drug Store, 510 Main Street Wall, SD, tel.: 605-279-2175.
From Wall we drove straight to Rapid City, home of Amber Airplane’s other grandparents. Do you remember her grandpa from our trip two years ago to Iowa for their family reunion? He was the one who introduced me to the bean bag toss! I remember thinking when I first saw this game: Are you kidding me? It's so boring out here that you play bean bag toss?! Well, as soon as I threw my first toss my opinion made a 180-degree turn. This game is awesome. If you like horse shoes, you’ll love bean bag toss.
I forgot to mention in last week's newsletter that my terrible Sprint cell phone worked in Sioux Falls -- but nowhere else in the state. Amber Airplane uses Cingular as her cell phone provider, and she had the same limited coverage I did. But Jimmy’s AT&T cell phone worked across the state. So – if you travel to South Dakota -- make sure you have AT&T! It wasn't all that bad for me not to have my phone working, because her grandpa had high speed internet. That made my life a lot simpler. Attaboy, Grandpa!
Rapid City is a small city at the base of the Black Hills. "The Black Hills National Forest is located in southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming on 1.2 million ponderosa pine-studded acres, ranging in elevation as high as 7,242 feet. Amid the splendid scenery are 11 reservoirs, 30 campgrounds, 26 picnic areas, 2 scenic byways, 1,300 miles of streams, 13,605 acres of wilderness, over 450 miles of trails, and much more. As the forest is managed for multiple use, visitors will see mining, logging, cattle grazing, and summer homes on their travels. Some of the more spectacular features nestled among the hills are seen from the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway with its one-lane tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore and curly pig-tail bridges along the Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway. Breathtaking views of waterfalls, sheer cliff walls, springs, a roaring stream, and plenty of wildlife can be enjoyed along the Spearfish Canyon National Forest Scenic Byway." Once again, don’t believe me – that’s the USDA Forest Service talking.
Our first night there we had a tasty steak meal. Then we sat out in the back yard with a big bowl of ice cream and talked with each other. The next morning after bacon and eggs, our first stop was Evan's plunge in Hot Springs, SD. Jimmy and I got in a big fight with the girls because we asked the logical question, "Why should we go to a hot spring when it's 103 degrees out?" To make a long and painful story short, the women (as usual) got their way. They were even right for once. (Just kidding. They’re always right, right?)
Evan's Plunge was pretty cool. It's an indoor and outdoor spring-fed pool that has been around since 1890. (Well, the pool has been around for thousands of years, but 1890 is when they built the complex.) Supposedly 5,000 gallons of water flow in every minute from the springs which arise out of the pebble bottom. The water temp is constantly 87 degrees, which makes this place perfect and refreshing any time of year. It cost only $8 to get in, which includes a few water slides (the outdoor was the best), a basketball net, and monkey bars.
That's right: monkey bars. I’m surprised the state of South Dakota allows these, because they’re a big liability just waiting to happen. They barely have any padding on the concrete edge, and people always slip off the bars. But good for SD, because today’s insurance companies take the fun out of everything, especially pools. If you’re not familiar with monkey bars, picture five long ropes with a ring at each end hanging from the ceiling. The object is to swing like Tarzan to get across. I tried five times, but could only get to the third bar. By my final attempt I couldn't even lift my arms. What a workout! To make me and everyone else look bad, this punk kid (who I think works there) had to show us all up as he breezed through it like he was Johnny Weissmuller. This kid was truly obnoxious, because before he got to the other side he did a handstand using the last two ropes, then jumped off (successfully, darn it) onto the ground. I felt like pushing him into the pool. Evan's Plunge, 1145 North River St., Hot Springs, SD, tel.: 605-745-5165.
When we left Evan's Plunge we were starving. We didn't want to eat at the lame snack bar, so we decided to wait until we got to Keystone (the town Mount Rushmore is in). Well, Keystone looked quaint but the food was some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. We walked out of one restaurant, and I refused to eat at the second. But the other guys were famished, so they took their chances on over priced cheeseburgers ($10). I took the safe route and had ice cream. To be fair, we drove through another part of Keystone later, on the way to Rushmore, and we saw some better choices for food.
We were just a couple of miles from the landmark I always dreamed of visiting: Mount Rushmore. I saw the first of the four presidents sticking his head out from afar. When we finally arrived we learned it cost $8 per car to get in. That’s pretty reasonable because the ticket is good for a year. Don't try and give the ticket away because your license plate number is written on it (pretty smart, eh?). Recently, the park completed construction of new visitor facilities. They now have a great outdoor display of the 56 state, territory, commonwealth and district flags of the United States of America, from the entrance to the viewing platform. They also have a wonderful museum beneath the Grand View Terrace. Down there you will find the Sculptor's Studio, and plaster models and tools related to the sculpting process. What I saw was fascinating. (They also have a great snack bar.)
Mt. Rushmore was built between 1927 and 1941. The artist, Gutzon Borglum, and 400 workers helped sculpt the 60-foot busts of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, representing the first 150 years of American history. If we had more time I would have taken the stroll along the brand-new Presidential Trail, which provides the closest access to the sculpture. Mt Rushmore, Keystone, SD, tel.: 605-574-3171.
We were 35 miles from Rapid City, but before heading back we took a detour to see Crazy Horse -- the world’s largest sculpture. It is a work in progress, begun in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. He started it at the request of Native Americans, and his wife and family have continued it after his death in 1982. The memorial includes the Native American Cultural Center (dedicated at the 1996 Native American Day Celebration), the sculptor’s studio, and the Indian Museum of North America. A 40,000- square foot Orientation Center opened in May of 2000.
Baby Chloe was tired, so we knew we could not spend more than a minute in there. When we found out the entrance fee was an astonomical $20, we said forget it! The attendant told Jimmy to go up 50 feet and turn around there. Instead Jimmy drove 100 feet and turned around. I yelled, “Stop the car so I can take a picture!” Jimmy said no problem, but Amber Airplane and Erica laid into me. “How can you take a picture in good faith without paying the $20? Blah blah blah....” I said, “First of all, I think Crazy Horse would understand. Second, give me a break. Twenty bucks for a picture is a little steep, don't you think?”
After Jimmy, Casey and I took our quick pictures, the girls started teasing. “Oooh, you guys are going to be cursed by Crazy Horse for doing that. What you did was taboo. Blah blah blah....” “Taboo?” I said. “Don't you think Crazy Horse would appreciate me sharing this photo and talking about his amazing sculpture with Johnny Jet's readers?” They said, “We'll see.” I said, "We will see, and in fact if I was you I would be scared of Crazy Horse's curse because he's now pissed off at you for trying to talk me out if it." Well, guess who had the worst stomach aches that night? Erica and Amber Airplane! Crazy Horse Memorial, Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD, tel.: (605) 673-4681.
The next day we didn't do much but hang with the family. But that night -- Saturday -- was our time to don the good duds and take the ladies out. Jimmy and I decided to take them on a double date to Deadwood. Deadwood is about 30 miles from Rapid City, and you have to go through Sturgis to get there. Good thing the famous Sturgis motorcycle rally wasn't going to start for a few days, or we would still be there, stuck in traffic.
The city of Deadwood was founded in 1876 following the discovery of gold. It was named for the dead trees found in the narrow canyon (Deadwood Gulch), where you'll also find the historic Main and Sherman streets. In 1891 the railroad reached there, helping the city develop as a trading center for the northern Black Hills region. Today you can visit an old gold mine where you can "pan for gold," or check out several historic museums and the cemetery containing the graves of Wild Bill Hickok (who was killed there) and Calamity Jane. There are also many historic hotels and saloons that since 1989 have allowed limited -wage gambling to help rejuvenate tourism.
One highlight going to Woody's Wild West, where we had an old-fashioned picture taken for $44. This place was cool. Three floors looked like it would have in 1890, and there were all kinds of costumes and props (I think the guns were real). It felt like I was on a Hollywood set! Woody's Wild West, 641 Historic Main St., Deadwood, SD, tel.: 605-578-3807.
The other highlight was having dinner at Jakes , located upstairs at the Midnight Star casino. Jakes is owned by Kevin Costner, and is the only restaurant in all of South Dakota to receive AAA's four-diamond award for dining excellence. Midnight Star Restaurant, 677 Main St., Deadwood, SD, tel.: 605-578-1555.
The next day we had Sunday brunch at Minerva’s, a good way to start our long day. Minervas, 2111 Nirth LaCrosse St., tel.: 605-394-9505.
Then Grandpa took us on a little tour of Rapid City. The first stop was downtown, where Grandpa had to feed Amber Airplane’s shopping habit. He took us to a really cool native American store called Prairie Edge. This is a huge all-Indian emporium with floors of Lakota Sioux crafts, jewelry, artifacts, reproductions, contemporary art, books, music and decorator items by top Sioux designers. This is the place to find some great gifts. Prairie Edge, 606 Main St., Rapid City, SD, tel.: 605-342-3086.
Our following stop was the "Chapel in the Hills." This chapel is a full-size 1968 replica of the famous 850- year-old Borgund Stavkirke (Stave Church) in Norway, and has some amazing wood carvings. on site with plans from the Norwegian government. The chapel is made entirely of Douglas Fir, shipped from Oregon. The little grass roofed building (aka stabbur) was built in Oslo, Norway, then shipped to Rapid City and put together. Chapel in the Hills, five miles west of Rapid City off Hwy. 44 on Chapel Lane, tel.: 605-342-8281. Free admission.
The next stop was Dinosaur Park. From the city you can see these dinosaurs up on the hill. Curiosity was killing me, so Grandpa took me to view these seven life-size concrete replicas of prehistoric reptiles up close. It's worth the short drive. Dinosaur Park, Skyline Drive west off Quincy Street, Rapid City, SD, tel.: 605-343-8687
The next stop is also perfect for kids: Story Book Island. This place needed a little touching up, but every city in the world should have a park like this. It includes every possible story book character, from the 3 Pigs and Tigre, to Dopey, and Barney. They even have a train and a fire engine that my nephew would have loved. Can you believe all of this is FREE? The park is sponsored by the Rapid City Rotary Clubs, and supported by your free-will donations. Storybook Island, 1301 Sheridan Lake Rd., Rapid City, SD, tel.: 605-342-6357.
Later Amber's Grandma bought us each a $5 raffle ticket -- I mean, rubber ducky for the annual Great Black Hills Duck Race. This is a great fundraiser . The Children's Miracle Network and regional hospital put on this 1.5-mile race with approximately 20,000 (YES, TWENTY THOUSAND) rubber duckies . The winning duck (check the number on the bottom of each duck) wins $10,000. Most spectators follow the ducks down the river; it takes about 35 minutes. The race ended in Memorial Park, where I was surprised to find the largest section of the Berlin Wall in the U.S.
Good golly! Seems like to me that South Dakota has everything you need for a good ol’ American vacation!
LINKS TO SOUTH DAKOTA
|QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:|
|TIP OF THE WEEK|
Q: Dear Johnnyjet: I had the misfortune to be in a coach middle
seat (seat B) last week on a Continental Airlines 737, and the aisle seat
(seat C) was occupied by a very large man. Unless I wanted him on top
of my right side, I had to scrunch over as much as possible on my left.
Fortunately, I was only in the air around 2.5 hours - but my right shoulder
blade hurt for about a day after this - and the flight was MOST unpleasant.
There were no reseating opportunities - the plane was completely full.
Do I have any rights under this situation - for the next time it happens?
Thanks in advance, B. Browne|
REPLY: The best thing to do is always complain right away. Continental would have either tried to move your seat or make the gentleman buy another seat. But since the plane was full they would've either put him or most likely you on the next flight. At this stage of the game you probably won't get much compensation but it's always worth a try. Send a hand written complaint to the airline. The addresses and some tips are on this page
Have A Tavel Tip? (Send it to Johnny@johnnyjet.com)
|CHICAGO TRIBUNE (Free Registration)|
|LOS ANGELES TIMES (Free Registration)|
|NEW YORK TIMES (Free Registration)|
|WASHINGTON POST (Quick Survey Required for first time visitors)|
|USA TODAY (Free Registration)|
You've got work to do, you're on the road and you need to turn your hotel room into an office. Hoteliers think they've got you covered. They outfit their hotel rooms with thoughtful extras such as fax machines, two-line phones, high-speed Internet connections and oversize desks, all in the hope that you'll think of their hotel as a great place to work - and stay. An office away from your office. But you know it's not that simple Details in Power Trip.
OTHER STORIES FROM ELLIOTT
Make Your Mobile Go Global - Got the World on a Keychain - Tech Travelers Start Over
|HELP SUPPORT JOHNNY JET! BOOK YOUR TRIPS THROUGH US|
AIRLINE TICKETS: Orbitz • Expedia • Travelocity • Hotwire • Priceline
HOTELS (UP TO 70% OFF): Hotels.com •1800USAHotel • Lodging.com • Priceline • Hotwire
CAR RENTALS: Auto Europe • Enterprise • Hertz • Hotwire • Priceline
CRUISES: Cruise Deals • Cruise 411 • Cruise Wizard • Cruise Direct
|GOOD TO KNOW!|
From Bestfares.com |
When shopping abroad and paying for purchases with a charge, credit or debit card, say "no thank you" if a merchant asks if you would like to pay in U.S. dollars rather than the local currency. Allowing the merchant to charge you the USD rate usually results in an exchange rate less favorable than bank rates and incurs an added currency conversion fee which can be as much as four percent of your purchase price. Your total cost can be five percent. This practice isn't limited to shops; companies including RyanAir, Avis and Hertz try to boost their revenue by hidden currency conversion fees. Letting your credit, charge or debit card company do the conversion will add about one to three percent to your bill -- saving you two percent or more in many cases. In addition, banks must disclose their fees -- a regulation that does not apply to merchants. Shop wisely for your issuing bank and you may be able to find deals in which these fees are waived, or kept to one percent .
This Newsletter is sent by permission only. If you wish to subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription at any time, please login HERE . If you have any questions or suggestions please send message addressed to Johnny@JohnnyJet.com