When I first got the e-mail and phone calls from Travel Mindset, I was convinced it was a big joke. There was no way a company wanted to pay me, Andy Whisney, to travel to Rapid City, South Dakota to meet some new people and take a bunch of pictures. Like - what? But that's exactly what happened - and it's a trip I'll never forget.
Traveling isn't my favorite thing to do. I don't hate it, but all the hullabaloo leading up to actually flying is a bit nerve-wracking. Plus, add the possibility of turbulence to that, flying is just sort of annoying to me. A burden, almost. But - it's something I look forward to doing more and eventually becoming more comfortable with the entire process as a whole.
Enter Day 1. We got to Denver just fine, no problems on the flight there...all good. Then as we're hustling to the gate, we find out the plane has been rescheduled. No big deal - another 30 minutes. Gave me time to get a coffee and find a personal bathroom as I am deathly pee shy. I take care of business, and hustle back to the gate. The pilot comes out and informs us that visibility is very poor (*gulp*) but we're going to take off and see how it goes. Worst case, we need to turn around mid-air and come back to Denver until the weather in SD is better.
Well that's exactly what happened. We take off, get half way to Rapid City, which is literally an hour long flight, and have to turn around. But Plot Twist! We didn't have to turn around because of poor visibility, we had to turn around because of mechanical problems. Great! So we land, they start fixing the plane, and continue to push back take-off time.
About 2 hours later, they tell us that we'll need to switch planes and will be taking off at around 2:30pm. At this point, I've been up since 4am. I was not stoked about what was happening. Regardless, we take off and get to Rapid City without any further problems.
I get my awesome car rental - which was seriously so much fun - and head over to our AWESOME hotel! They must've gutted this place a few years ago and did an entire redux because the rooms were amazing. And, best of all, it was in the heart of Rapid City, which is a SUPER underrated city in itself.
It's very close to everything - Mt. Rushmore, Crazyhorse, the Black Hills - all that stuff. It was the perfect hub to get to anywhere incredibly quickly.
After we all got situated in our rooms, we gathered at a local coffee shop to recharge. Once we got a good caffeine buzz going, we headed over to a local brewery - Hay Camp - and got to take a bunch of fun pictures and try a bunch of tasty, drinkable beers. Now, coming from Minneapolis I'm surrounded by breweries. Most of them have beers that I can't personally drink, so jumping over to a place like Hay Camp was super refreshing. We got a back-stage tour of their entire facility and a peak into how they make their stuff. Super super cool and a very friendly and nice atmosphere.
Once we left the brewery, we headed over to a local restaurant that was highly suggested to us and finally got to relax and dine on some local fare. Afterwards we headed downstairs to their speak easy and had some great conversations over some tasty desserts. It was a great way to end a very hectic and long day.
Day two didn't start nearly as early as Day 1, but we had the same amount of awesomeness to do! After we woke up, we trekked over to a local breakfast spot that was suggested to us. It was super super good and the atmosphere was great! Once we all finished, we headed off to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy horse.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best - it was super foggy and rainy so we didn't get a ton of pictures at either place. But it was all good as we made the most of it, pulling off and taking pictures when we could.
We made a quick pit-stop at Bear Country and drove through there for about 45-minutes. It was super fun and got a few great up-close-and-personal looks at all sorts of wildlife! Once we all got back to Rapid City, it was sort of a "Choose Your Own Adventure"! I got a chance to tool around the city and get prepped for Day 3, whereas a few other folks drove up to a waterfall and everyone else headed over to the Black Hills.
After we all got back to Rapid City, we went over to a restaurant for a very low-key dinner before our incredibly early wake-up call on Day 3!
We got up bright and early at 4am and made our way over to Custer State Park for an open canopy tour of the park. Aside from the frigid temperatures, we made the most of it and got to meet some furry friends along the way! Once the tour was complete, we headed to get some breakfast!
It was Mother's Day so a lot of places were packed, but luckily we got a nice warm spot at a place called Skogen - which was amazing! I myself had a very light breakfast as I'm not a huge fan of eating a lot before traveling. We were all to leave later in the day, so I went with a very light breakfast. It was incredible!
Once we left breakfast, we headed back to the hotel to check out. As a few of us had earlier flights than others, we all said our goodbyes and one group headed to the airport, while another headed deeper into the incredible wilderness of South Dakota!
We stopped at Sylvan Lake Park which was a highlight for me as. The sceneray was breath-taking, the weather wasn't too bad, and it gave me a good opportunity to continue to build friendships with some new friends!
All in all, this trip to South Dakota is a trip I will never forget. Saw some awesome things, had a lot of time for internal reflection, and also made a lot of lasting friendships.
Thank you to TravelMindset for this incredible opportunity!
See you soon, South Dakota!