Sunday, July 13, 2014

Flying to South Dakota

Mount Rushmore
Our daughter went off to EAA's Air Academy  (which is an incredible camp for kids interested in aviation) and we decided to fly somewhere for our summer get-away. One of the biggest drawbacks to general aviation is that it is weather dependent. Most of the time you can't make 100% firm plans because you don't know what the weather is going to do.  In my opinion, this is more than offset by the fact you are not flying commercial.

We both really wanted to visit South Dakota. Neither of us had been and it was about a five hour flight. After reviewing the weather, we set off for South Dakota. I am a planner by nature, and until we left we did not know where we would be landing or spending the night.... It is a little uncomfortable (at least for me - Steven didn't mind it at all) but what can you do?  At 4,500 feet it is difficult to get a good enough signal to search for lodging so I had to wait until our fuel stop.  From 4,500 feet the scenery was beautiful.  I loved watching the changes in the landscape as we flew from Missouri, to Nebraska, to South Dakota. Absolutely beautiful country.

We stopped in Kearney, Nebraska for fuel.  The airport had a courtesy car (it was an old police cruiser - a Caprice Classic - think Blues Brothers) and we borrowed it go into town for food. We ate at Thunderhead Brewing. We had a nice pizza and I had a very nice Scottish Ale.  Most importantly, during the layover we were able to find a place to stay in South Dakota -- the Dakota Dream B&B had a last minute cancellation and had a room for two nights. This spontaneous thing was working for us. So we flew into Custer, South Dakota.

We had some weather we had to fly around and had to make an additional stop for gas (the airport was actually out, but the manager kindly sold us some "reserve" avgas they had in a plastic gas jug). So it took about six hours to get to Custer, South Dakota and I was ready to get out and stretch my legs.  According to Steven, it was interesting landing for the first time at altitude and on a runway that (unbeknownst to us) was going decidedly downhill. I was amazed that the two windsocks on the runway were flying in different directions. It probably wasn't Steven's prettiest landing ever but it was a successful one. At the airport there was a very nice gyrocopter - a tiny flying machine that looks like the love child of a Huey and a snowmobile. (It is pictured below with The Dog in the background). We oohed and aahd over it -- it really was quite amazing.

The gyrocopter

After drooling over the gyrocopter, we found our way to the Dakota Dream.  The owners, Ernie and Kathy Mowery, are lovely people and they have a lovely B&B. They greeted us with chocolate chip cookies, mmmmmmmm cookies. They shared their homemade apple pie schnapps (I think it was schnapps) made from Everclear. Yummy! If Kathy sees this maybe she will share the recipe in the comments (hint hint). I really like staying at B&Bs and Dakota Dream was a wonderful place to stay.  It was a bit unnerving at first to look out the window in the bathroom and see deer watching you shower (they feed the deer and there are several milling around the back yard at all hours).

We spent the next couple of days hiking and eating. Custer State Park has amazing trails. We climbed to the top of Harney Peak the first day, tackled Little Devil's Tower the second day and ended the trip with Sunday Gulch. Three very different trails. My favorite was Sunday Gulch which included climbing up an active waterfall. We also had a great time at the Rapid City Summer Nights Festival listening to Trailer Choir.  I laughed all the way through the song "Rockin the Beer Gut."

My recommendations for food and beverage are..... drum roll...... Alpine Inn in Hill City - they have some amazing German food for lunch;
The Reuben
Independent Ale House in Rapid City amazing service, great pizza, and wonderful beer (you have to like a place that has 40 rotating taps and does not have Bud or Bud Light on tap); Sage Creek Grille in Custer the hot artichoke dip with Parmesan was yummy;
Hot Artichoke Dip with Parmesan
and Botticelli Ristorante in Rapid City for Italian.

We did two touristy things: a to visit Mount Rushmore and a trip out to the South Dakota Air and Space Museum near Ellsworth AFB (of course).  They were both very nice.

I hope that we will be back... I guess it all depends on the weather.....


  1. Amy, here is the recipe for the Apple Pie Moonshine. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1 gallon Apple Cider
    1 gallon Apple Juice
    1-1/2 cups Sugar
    1-1/2 cups Brown Sugar
    2 - 750ml bottle of EverClear or Grain Alcohol
    4-8 Cinnamon Sticks
    8 Quart-Sized Mason Jars with lids


    Add all ingredients, except for the alcohol, to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature. Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the alcohol. Pour into clean mason jars and add in 1-2 cinnamon sticks per jar. I add two into quart size mason jars. Seal and place in the fridge or cool, dark room.
    It's best to let it set for about two weeks.
    But be careful - this stuff is potent!! Sip wisely.

  2. Kathy-

    Thanks! We can't wait to make it.