By Laramie Giles
South Dakota has always been and will always be home. South Dakota is a beautiful state with rolling plains in the east and black hills in the west. I was born right here in Sioux Falls, growing up in the city for most of my life. Now, as an adult, I split my time between both sides of the state. I spend a lot of time in Rapid City where I attend the School of Mines, but I also spend lots of time home in Sioux Falls for summer vacation and other holidays throughout the year.
One thing I tend to hear a lot of people say is, “South Dakota is Sioux Falls and Rapid City with nothing in between”. Now, as someone living in both Sioux Falls and Rapid City, I have to disagree completely with this ‘boring’ conception about the middle chunk of our state. I take this long drive across the state many times a year, and I can tell you it is NOT boring.
The beginning of my drive from Sioux Falls to Rapid City starts out with a look at the big flowers, giant gold fish, and a huge bull head at the Porter Sculpture Park. After that, there is no better sight than when I-90 twists and turns to reveal the Missouri river at Chamberlain. Even after driving so many times I still get excited to drive over the bridge! And then I see her, Dignity, the most breathtaking sculpture along my drive.
I love to watch a thunderstorm slowly draw closer as I head west, waiting for the rain to come down. And who can forget the innumerable Wall Drug billboards to count as you drive? But there’s so much more than just signs and storms to watch as I drive. I get to see all kinds of wildlife like deer, antelope and tons of cows with their playful calves.
As I come closer to the end of my drive the beautiful badlands come into view and the edges of the Black Hills are in sight. For me those dark black hills covered in spruce (our state tree) mark my new home. This beautiful isolated mountain range offers limitless wildlife, hiking, camping, and trails to run on. Mount Rushmore, Keystone (with the best saltwater taffy shop), the Mickelson Trail, and Harney Peak are all less than 45 minutes from my dorm. How awesome is that?
Of course saying goodbye to Sioux Falls is never easy. Goodbye to friends and family, goodbye to the best running paths, and my thinking bridge in Dunham Park. So long to the Empire Mall, with around seven million visitors annually, where small me would throw pennies into the big fountain and beg mom for a pretzel. Goodbye to Gitchie Manitou and all the spooky feelings, goodbye to Falls Park with all its power and beauty, and the best Christmas lights in town. The hardest goodbye will now be The Outdoor Campus East; the best place for a summer internship.
I can’t believe how fast this summer is going, soon it will be time to pack up my car and hit the road west with my beta fish Solstice. I am already looking forward to coming home to Sioux Falls, at the same time getting really excited about moving to Rapid City for the next school year. I feel that I belong to both East River and West River of South Dakota; the best state to call home.