The Husband ordered these two South Dakota travel books from Amazon, so I had no hand in their selection. It is possible there are better travel books on this area of the country...Regardless, these served us well, especially because we had assumed we would use our iPad to get directions and other information, but found the reach of our AT&T network somewhat lacking in the more remote parts of these hills. (Stupid city folk!)
What we really needed, that we could not find in either of these books or in any visitor's center, was a more detailed map of some of the smaller tourist towns, like Keystone and Custer.
South Dakota: An Explorer's Guide
About two days into our trip, I started referring to this book as the "good" book. (Not to be confused with the Bible, of course).
"Hand me the South Dakota book," I said to The Husband, who tossed me the book pictured below. I shook my head. "No, no, this is the bad book. Hand me the good book."
"I didn't realize one was good and the other was bad," The Husband answered...and he was right. This one really isn't any better or worse than the other; both have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Nevertheless, during our trip I relied heavily on this guide, largely because its contents were organized by town. So, for example, when we were passing through Spearfish, SD, I could turn to the section on Spearfish and find all the information on dining, lodging, entertainment, shopping, and family friendly activities right there in one place.
Had I been the one selecting the books, I might have bypassed this title, because it covers travel in the whole state of South Dakota and we were planning to spend most of our time in the Black Hills. (I'm guessing I would have seen other options focused primarily on the Black Hills and assumed these might be more thorough.)
A few of the restaurant reviews made places sound a lot better than they actually were, but this might have more to do with the fact that The Husband and I, on occasion, have worried that we just might be food snobs. Black and white photographs break up the text and offer readers a glimpse of the area. Recommended for travelers, particularly those who want an overview of the entire state.
Insiders' Guide to South Dakota's Black Hills and Badlands, 5th edition
Okay, so this book doesn't deserve to be called the "bad" book. Not at all. But as I alluded to above, the "good" book was organized by town, which I found useful, and this book was not, which made me a little nuts. In this book all the dining recommendations were in one chapter, all the attractions were listed in another chapter, and so on and so forth.
Nevertheless, by the end of our week in South Dakota, this book was my favorite. The dining recommendations were a little more in line with our tastes, and I really enjoyed the "Area Overview" and "History" chapters. I think this book's focus on the Black Hills and Badlands area gave the authors more room to go into detail. In addition to the historical and cultural overview, the book also informs those planning to move to the area with chapters on relocating, retirement, and child care. Furthermore, there is a chapter that discusses faiths practiced in this region of the country, including Christianity, Judaism, and Native American spirituality.
Recommended for those traveling or relocating to the Black Hills, particularly those with an interest in learning more about the region's culture.
Books We Purchased DURING Our Trip
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
I have to admit, I've never been all that interested in Native American cultures. I respect these cultures, but I've never wanted to sit down and read, read, read all about Native American History.
And then, something about this trip changed all that...I'm not sure what or why, but I found myself very interested and yearning to learn more. Of course, there was little time to delve into this while we were traveling, and although I wanted to visit the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, SD, a pamphlet warned that its exhibits were not appropriate for young children. (I will have to spend some time on their webpage, which looks to have quite a bit of content.)
We were browsing the bookstore at Wall Drug, when The Husband pointed out this book and mentioned he'd like to read it. At the time, I had been skimming the back of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which also appears to be an interesting read. A few days later, we were at the Crazy Horse Memorial when I saw both books again. I wanted to purchase something in the gift shop (so we could do our part to support the organization). Naturally, I decided to buy a book.
I selected Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee because I knew The Husband would read it. In all honesty, I cannot say whether I will ever read either title mentioned above. (I do most of my reading before bed and am usually way too tired for anything too intellectually stimulating!) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is currently on The Husband's nightstand, so I will have to give you his review (especially if I cannot provide my own).
Who Carved the Mountain?: The Story of Mount Rushmore
I bought this for The Bear in the gift shop at Mount Rushmore. I wanted her to have a keepsake of her trip to this national monument, especially because she will not remember it. This book is not at all age appropriate for her now, but when she is in elementary school, it promises to be a tool for her to learn about this treasured monument and these four presidents. Unfortunately, the book does not address the fact that many Native Americans believed the white men who dynamited and carved into the Black Hills were defiling sacred ground...but I suppose Mommy will have to fill in those blanks.
America's First Ladies Coloring Book
This keepsake is another purchase at the Mount Rushmore gift shop. I have been known to store items like this in an archival box because... "I just know it'll be worth something some day!" (Yep, I'm that person. I also own President Barack Obama Paper Dolls). When I first showed this coloring book to The Husband he said, "No fair! You'll never let The Bear color in it." And he's right. I won't.
Film We Viewed AFTER Our Trip
Dances with Wolves
We instant-Netflixed this our first night home from South Dakota. All week we had come across information about the filming of this movie, and Kevin Costner's role in the revitalization of Deadwood, SD, so I wanted to watch it.
I had seen the film at some point in the early 90's when I was probably about 13, but the only thing I remembered was the hero and heroine riding off at the end.
I really enjoyed watching Dances with Wolves as an adult. The scenery and the story were beautiful. The three hours did not seem never-ending (as I have often heard it told!), but perhaps my experience was clouded by my post-vacation reunion with The Doodles, who snored peacefully in my lap the entire 180+ minutes.
During the opening credits I said to The Husband. "Well, is this a classic or is it going to be dated? If it's a classic, we'll really believe it's the late 19th Century. Otherwise, we'll be able to tell it was filmed in the late 20th Century."
Truth be told, there were a few cheesy, early 1990s kind of moments, and by the end, Kevin Costner is sporting a mullet, but this movie is definitely a classic. It is the kind of film you think about a lot the next day. I highly recommend a revisit for those of you who haven't seen it in a decade or two.