As staycations have become a safer, more accessible option for travel in 2020 and into the new year, 605 reminisces about some of their top road trip memories in South Dakota.
Memory #1 | A Variety of the Hills
605’s Alana Snyder really battled it out for one of her standalone travel moments. Her pick involves a moment from the Winter in the Black Hills, which was published in the May 2020 issue.
“It was fate that we decided to take a winter road trip, and everyone second guessed it since the issue releases in the spring,” she laughed. “It was early March, literally the week of March 14 before the world stopped that we wrapped our vacation.”
The publisher says this staycation gave a different taste for a wide variety of travelers. Snitches in Deadwood had elevated, four-course cuisine with speakeasy vibes. Akela Spa included sipping local beers from Crow Peak Brewing Company in a hot tub in a spa garden. Spearfish Canyon Lodge in Lead hosted 605 for fat tire biking. And the crew stayed in a new, modern cabin at Terry Peak Chalets, which was on her must list.
“It really had everything,” she said. “But one evening will stay with me for a long time, and that’s dinner at Nonna’s Kitchen in Spearfish.”
Alana Never Packs Without: A blanket and airplane pillow.
The night was special, she says, because the “quick dinner” soon became an unexpected friendship.
“Whenever we first arrive at a location for a story, especially when it involves food and drinks, people we interview can be wary or not 100 percent certain how it will go until we get settled in,” said Alana. “Plus our schedules on these trips are back to back, so we came in semi frazzled and late, if I remember.”
She continued, “Darren and Nancy Manzari welcomed us to the nicest table in the place and soon brought out dish after dish. Pretty soon we had wine and heard their family story, and they bellied up to the table. It was like we were in their home.”
Dinner turned into desserts by the bar, and “one more wine,” and Alana remembers 605’s Taylor Hanson jokingly saying, ‘I want you to adopt me,’ as the team left.
She noted, “That’s what I love about South Dakota is when a simple stop becomes a second home you can’t wait to go back to.”
Memory #2 | A Highway to the Badlands
605’s Taylor Hanson recalls finally having a moment she had dreamt about as a South Dakota native and self proclaimed state “fangirl.”
“My favorite road trip memory is when the team headed west on Highway 44 a few years ago,” she said. “It was my first time watching a sunrise in the Badlands, which is something every South Dakotan should see at some point.”
The night before also was a highlight, when the team stopped by the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill, greeted by owner Jerry Johnston with a cowboy hat on his head and a red solo cup in hand.
“Jerry and everyone in Interior were very welcoming,” she said. “You can leave a signed dollar bill on the wall or ceiling, so we had to make our mark before we left (after some fried food that hit the spot).”
Hanson also says she enjoyed nice touches from bed and breakfast host, Circle View Guest Ranch.
“They had fresh eggs ready for us to make for breakfast, and I made the team some of the best scrambled eggs we have ever had,” she said.
Taylor’s biggest road trip tip?
“Always bring cash, as you never know when you’ll need it,” she said. “Some businesses don’t accept cards, and ATM fees are always a bummer, if they even have one nearby.” (Editor’s Note: Alana usually needs it, and then has to Venmo Taylor for never learning said lesson.)
“Take everything in while traveling. There are so many beautiful spots in South Dakota to explore.” – Taylor Hanson
The Badland sunrise is something she says made her understand the importance of seeing South Dakota through her own adventures.
“I had been to the Badlands before when I was younger with my family, but we just drove through,” she said. “This time I got to explore parts the park and take in all the views at my own pace. I can’t wait to do more things like that.”
Memory #3 | The More Bison, The Better
“It’s been my goal in life to see both bison and penguins in their natural habitat,” said 605’s Jordan Cushman. “Geographically, one is a lot more attainable, so this past fall I saw an opportunity when the team went out to see the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park, while making a few pit stops along the way.”
Pit stops included a hot air balloon ride with Black Hills Balloons, lunch at The Custer Beacon, and fine dining at Skogen Kitchen.
“There is so much to do and see, all within a small radius,” said Jordan of Custer. “On top of that, this area is a hiker’s paradise. There are trails for every level of hiker, and views anyone can enjoy.”
His moment for the bison experience occurred in two ways: One at a media tour up close (and safely from a media truck), and the other was the morning of the roundup. Along with the majesty of the beasts running to corrals, Jordan also was impressed by the other patrons’ getups.
“I severely underestimate the amount of leather hats and jackets the other members of the expedition had,” he said. “I will be expanding my own collection before the next adventure in an effort to keep up.”
“It is okay to take a break even when you’re on vacation. Sometimes a quiet night by a campfire can be just as fun as exploring new terrain.” – Jordan Cushman
Something he learned during the Custer trip?
“It is possible to look over the edge of a hot air balloon and not faint,” said Jordan half joking, as he’s afraid of heights.
Jordan’s Bucket List SD Staycation: Wind Cave. Jordan admitted, “I currently have a large print in my living room with a painting of it. Call me a poser, but I have never actually been there. I think I owe it to myself to finally check it out.”
Not being originally from South Dakota, Jordan says road trips have been a great way to get acquainted to his new home. “Since moving here six years ago, South Dakota has become the state of hidden gems to me,” he said. “There is so much worth seeing for any kind of travel enthusiast, and I would wager with anyone reading this outside of the 605 that whatever you seek on a vacation, you can find it here.”
Memory #4 | Grazing the Grasslands
605’s John Snyder’s favorite moment is thanks to a person.
“My favorite road trip memory is when Allen Grassrope of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe took us to the Earth Lodge that was built in tribute to the people that lived on the land in earth and wood circular structures,” he recalled. “Overlooking the banks of the Missouri River, it was very serene and quiet.”
This was part of the first road trip issue in 2015 when the team took the Native American Scenic Byway.
“We felt very welcomed to Lower Brule, and I was really excited for a tour of Lakota Popcorn, as I’ve been a longtime fan,” he said.
The group wanted to get the full natural experience, so they camped, bonfire and all.
“We camped out in the national grasslands southwest of Pierre, and it was really exposed to the surroundings, and a fun overnight camping session,” said John. “A cornucopia of sounds coming from the animals came out that night.”
John’s Road Trip Tip: Always gas up the night before leaving, and make sure to do an oil and tire check prior to the vacation.
John also started his road trip tradition from camping by always remembering to bring a double-walled metal growler.
“I now own a half dozen growlers from South Dakota breweries,” he said. “You can hike with them in a backpack or keep the hot tub area glass free. Bonus, your beer stays cold for days.”
It was also during camping that he learned a lesson he’ll never forget.
“Now I always bring extra socks and pack offseason clothes,” said John. “It gets hot when hiking, or it gets cold when sleeping. Always pack for varying temps and for peeling off or adding layers.”
Lessons aside, the 605 team prepares for another year of hopping in the car and exploring the great state of South Dakota.