Category Archives: South Dakota

Win A Trip to South Dakota Through Pinterest

a close up of a tag

I received an e-mail from the Rapid City Visitors Bureau regarding a Pinterest contest- “Rapid City Pin To Win” starting on Monday, April 8. They thought that it might be of interest to some of you and asked if I would like to share the details. 

We visited South Dakota in late June- early July 2012 and had a great time. There are lots of great sites to check out around the state. I wrote about trip planning and some of the things we did while in SD.

Check them out:

And now for the contest:
The Prize:

  • A Rapid City & Black Hills vacation valued at up to $2,500
Some Rules:
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States & D.C.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older

How To Enter:

  1. Follow @VisitRapidCity on Pinterest
  2. Create a Pinterest board named “Rapid City Pin To Win”
  3. Repin the contest graphic shown here
  4. From April 8- May 16 pin at least 10 Rapid City images. You can pin from A) B) @VisitRapidCity’s Pinterest Boards or C) Use your own photos
  5. Use @VisitRapidCity in the descripton/ comments so your pins will be seen by contest sponsor
If you’re interested in checking out the contest page before pinning, Click Here
(Contest starts tomorrow, April 8)

Custer Stampede: Life Size Buffalo Art- Custer, SD

a statue of a buffalo
While driving through Custer, SD I noticed life-size buffalo statues on many street corners along Mount Rushmore Road. Each buffalo was painted in it’s own unique way. When we arrived in Custer we didn’t have much time to stop and check out the statues. We were in a bit of a rush. We wanted to relax for a bit, grab dinner and get back to Custer State Park to drive the 18-mile Wildlife Loop.

The moment I saw the buffalo they reminded me of a couple of similar art projects (charity auctions) that I had seen in the past. I remembered seeing the Cow Parade in New York and on our visit to Boston, Kim and I had fun wandering around and taking photos of their Cow Parade.

Here are a couple of buffalo that we stopped to take photos of. If we had more time I’d definitely have quite a few more.
a statue of a buffalo
“Star Keeper”
a sign with a picture of a man

Here is my favorite buffalo that we saw in Custer. Not only is the artwork amazing- I love the skeleton design. The story behind the design was also really interesting.

a statue of a bull in front of a building
“How I’ve Disappeared”
a statue of a buffalo
a sign with a picture of a buffalo

Find out more about the Custer Stampede HERE

Driving (and Jumping) Along the Needles Highway- South Dakota

a rocky mountain with trees
There are lots of scenic drives that you can go along in South Dakota. I am usually not a fan of long drives but the roads in SD are in great shape, there are few cars on the road and the scenery is incredible.
a rocky mountain with trees
One of my favorite drives was along the Needles Highway. The highway is 14 miles of curving and winding roads located in Custer State Park. The highlight of driving the highway is viewing the incredible rock formations called “needles”. There are also two narrow rock tunnels that you get to drive through along the way which we enjoyed checking out.
a group of people standing in front of a large rock formation
The Needles Eye
The most famous rock formation along the highway is the Needles Eye. I think the reason for the name is pretty self-explanatory. We stopped for a while to take pictures and really enjoyed the views. This was also the most crowded area that we stopped at.
Right by the Needles Eye there are some other interesting rock formations and one of the two rock tunnels.
a car driving through a tunnel
The tunnel is pretty amazing to see and was a great place for a photo-op. I really liked seeing the cars squeeze through. As you can see, there is only one lane but we never really saw a traffic jam at the tunnel.
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We passed through the second rock tunnel towards the end of our drive.

a road with a tunnel in the middle
Here are a couple of jumping pictures by my favorite (close-up) rock formation along the highway.
a man jumping in the air between large rocksa man jumping in the air between large rocks

Check out the Visit Rapid City page about the Needles Highway HERE

Update: Country Inn & Suites Rapid City Issue

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I wrote about our Last Minute Hotel Change of Plans at the Country Inn, Rapid City about three weeks ago. I’ve been meaning to write an update to what the outcome was but Club Carlson and the Country Inn property were very slow to act on the matter.
Here is a quick recap:
For our first night in Rapid City, South Dakota we booked a room at the Country Inn & Suites. Upon check in we were informed of a water issue- there wasn’t any at the moment! The problem was being worked on and was supposed to be fixed by 6:00 that evening. When we returned to the hotel we were told the problem was not what they thought and everybody had to find rooms elsewhere. They offered to help us find another room and the option was a hotel nearby which was “only” $13 more plus tax for the night. I declined and found my own room. My main concern was what would happen to the Stay 1, Get 1 Club Carlson points we were supposed to earn for our stay. Before leaving the hotel I checked with the desk to make sure that we would not be charged and was given a paper. The paper seemed more like what you get when you check out not a receipt for a reversal of the charge.
A couple of days later I contacted Club Carlson through Twitter and received a speedy response. They asked me to send an e-mail regarding the situation. Soon after sending the e-mail, we received a response that the problem would be resolved. We were told that we should expect to hear back from them again after the weekend.
We did not hear back from the rep after the weekend but I was really happy to see that the 44,000 Gold Points bonus (and other points associated with the booking) did post to Kim’s Club Carlson account! I was really impressed that they did the right thing and gave us the bonus for our non-stay.
About a day later I was wondering- maybe the points posted because we were charged for the room, not due to Club Carlson being so kind. I had Kim check her credit card statement and what do you know, we were never refunded for the stay!
a large building with a sign on it
We decided to deal with the hotel directly to get our refund. I wasn’t worried about getting the money back but was worried that Club Carlson might take back the Gold Points bonus. 
Getting the refund was a bit frustrating but it got taken care of in the end. It took us four calls spread out over a few days to get it done.
  1. July 5- Spoke to Jake. He told us that he was busy checking guests in and would give us a call back which he never did.
  2. July 7- Call #1- Spoke with Jake again. He transferred Kim to the general manager’s line to leave a message. The phone kept ringing & the answering machine never picked up for Kim to leave a message… Go figure!
  3. July 7- Call #2- Kim called back and spoke with a female employee (we did not get her name). She said that she would look into the matter and call back which she never did.
  4. July 8- Spoke with Shelby. She told us that managers do not work on Sundays. We explained the situation and she actually seemed to care. She said that she would look into what was going on and call back in 15 minutes.
  5. July 8- Shelby did call back (when she said she would) and was able to refund Kim’s card for our non-stay. Finally a competent employee!
While this back and forth was going on we had discussed the idea of reaching out to Club Carlson social media. We decided against it since that did not lead to much happening in the past. Another option was to file a claim with the credit card company. Filing with the credit card company can be a pain, sending in documents and proof so we felt calling the hotel directly was the way to go.
In the end I think that Kim’s Gold Points bonus posted due to the mistake of Country Inn & Suites charging her for our non-stay. Maybe I am wrong and Club Carlson responded to our e-mails and awarded the points bonus for our troubles but I doubt that this is the case.
I waited a couple of weeks to post regarding this situation because I wanted to see if Kim’s bonus points would be taken back by Club Carlson.. I am happy to say that I’ve been checking on a daily basis and her account has all of the points earned from the Rapid City Country Inn booking.
For this headache, Kim earned:
Jul 2, 2012 Adjust Adjustment – Discretionary Award 3,000
Jul 2, 2012 Earn Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Rapid City, SD – Jun 27, 2012 to Jun 28, 2012 – Country Inn – Rapid City , SD US Points|Room Earning 20 Points per USD 2,535
Jul 2, 2012 Earn Country Inn – Rapid City , SD US Points|Online Booking Member Bonus Points 1,000
Jul 2, 2012 Earn Country Inn – Rapid City , SD US Points|Country Inns So Go Country 44,000 Point Bonus 44,000
Jun 19, 2012 Earn Radisson Hotel Valley Forge – Jun 15, 2012 to Jun 16, 2012 – Radisson – King of Prussia , PA US Points|Room Earning 20 Points per USD 2,224

I think that in the end this whole ordeal was worth the time we put in to earn 52,759 Club Carlson Gold Points!

Last Minute Hotel Change of Plans- Country Inn Rapid City, SD

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We had a sudden change of plans on our first night’s hotel stay on our current trip to
South Dakota. Kim and I had selected the Country Inn & Suites Rapid City to fulfill her night for the Stay 1, Get 1 promo.
Our flight arrived in Rapid City, SD around 11:00AM so we stopped for a bite to eat before trying to check in to the hotel a little early.
When we arrived at the hotel we were first told that our room was not ready and to come back at 3:00. Bummer- we were all exhausted and just wanted to get some rest.
A couple of minutes later they said that there was a room for us but the water was not working in most of the hotel. It had been hit by lightning the night before and damaged a pipe knocking, out the water.
The problem was supposed to be fixed by 6:00.
a large building with a sign on it
Country Inn & Suites Rapid City
We went up to the room and got some rest for a couple of hours and then spent some time checking out Rapid City. We headed back to the hotel a little after 6:00. 
We were immediately informed that the pipe they had tried to fix was not the issue and didn’t know when the  problem would be resolved. They also let people know that nobody could stay in the hotel (who would want to?) since the fire sprinklers wouldn’t be working.
The staff was working hard trying to find rooms for everyone. We were “offered” a room across the street at a Cambria Suites. The girl at the desk said that the hotel was brand new and would only cost $13 more plus tax than our night at the Country Inn. No thanks if you ask me!
I immediately started to wonder two things:
  1. What would happen to our Stay 1, Get 1 bonus?
  2. Why wasn’t the Country Inn offering to cover the price difference for us?
This was a real pain that needed a fast solution.
We went back to our room and figured out a plan. 
Instead of staying in Rapid City for the night, we were going to drive about a half hour away and stay a bit closer to Mount Rushmore to make things easier for the following day. After fumbling around on my phone for a bit, I found a reasonably priced hotel and booked it. 
Upon checking out from the Country Inn, I made sure that we were not charged for the night and asked for a receipt. The receipt is proof that we checked in and out of the hotel.
I feel that Kim and I fulfilled our obligations to earn the Stay 1, Get 1 bonus. 
I wonder what Club Carlson will have to say about this when I contact them to find out?
To Be Continued…