Thursday, March 12, 2009

Delayed in Denver ... But It's Not That Bad

DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -- Transfers and layovers are never a treat, but Denver is the best place I have found in a long time to spend some downtime en route to somewhere else.

For one thing, the airport has free Internet access! This is certainly welcome in an age when airports routinely charge usurious fees for WiFi (e.g., if memory serves, Newark International charges $7.95 for 24 hours of access -- and, if you really got to use it that long, something would have probably gone really wrong anyway). You would think the airport would aggressively advertise this -- and I helping them out with that here, of course -- but I spoke with at least one fellow traveler who was as pleasantly surprised to learn this as I was.

If you're looking for a place to eat, I would recommend Lefty's Mile High Grill. It's nothing to look at, but the wait staff is consistently pleasant and efficient and I can vouch for the Pork Green Chili, which is exceptional and reminds me of the "white" and "green" chilis I used to eat when I lived in Denver many years ago. It is less expensive than most of the other items on the menu but comes with two tortillas and, if accompanied by a glass of Coors, makes for a pretty filling meal (I have also tried it with a glass of red wine and substituted the tortillas for some corn chips, which made it somewhat lighter fare).

Farewell to South Dakota

RAPID CITY REGIONAL AIRPORT -- Getting ready to board my flight to Denver, the first leg of my trip home, and wanted to get in one last post before leaving South Dakota. My time at the airport here is actually pretty limited, as I got here late and United people offered to get me out an a flight leaving almost an hour earlier than the one I on which I was booked.

Did not get to see or do nearly as much as I wanted in South Dakota but that just means I will have to come back again before the Air Force sends my daughter Lindsey somewhere else! In the meantime, I enjoyed spending a few days with her, my grandson Carter, and her friends Daniela, Josh, and Ben.

Also, thanks to the ladies at the "Destinations Dakota" food concession for fixing me a very nice bloody mary! Travel is always at least a little stressful and a decent drink can go a long way toward taking the edge off.

Deadwood, S.D.

For the past couple of years, the HBO series Deadwood has been one of my favorite shows, so I was glad for the opportunity to visit the historic town during my recent unscheduled trip to South Dakota. I have sometimes characterized the show as "Gunsmoke with the 'F' Word" and, while the modern town is somewhat more refined than that, it cannot completely escape a past in which some of its most prominent citizens were pimps, prostitutes, and cardsharps. And, by all accounts, its biggest industry today is gambling, so it still has some aspect of a Western sin city to it.

Will add more to this post as I am able, so if you are interested at all in Deadwood, keep your eye on this spot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Restaurant Report: Firehouse Brewing Co.

Had a very palatable dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Co. at 610 Main Street in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, this evening with my daughter Lindsey, her son Carter, and her friend Daniela (who is sort of a James Bond girl lookalike). It is one of their favorite restaurants and it was easy for me to see why.

I had a very good jambalaya that I think was listed as "Spontaneous Combustion" on the menu, having made a hard choice for it over the fish tacos and the "Gorgonzola Ale," a twist on the traditional beer-cheddar soup. Will have to try both of those items next time.

Lindsey had a Reuben sandwich that she said was very good, Daniela had very nice ribeye that was cooked exactly to her specifications (very rare, the only specifications that matter with regard to a good piece of meat in my opinion), and both of them loved the mashed potatoes. Carter had chicken fingers, which he picked at in exactly the same way he always picks at chicken fingers, his food item of choice whenever it is available.

Also chatted with our very helpful server Jared a bit about the history of the restaurant, which really is set in a historic firehouse (one of the things I have always liked about my current publisher, Clerisy Press, which has similar quarters in Cincinnati). After learning that I wrote travel guides about haunted places, he mentioned that the Firehouse Grill itself and another property owned by the same people had some haunted lore associated with them. That last bit of information confirmed my intention to come back to the area sooner rather than later and to get started on a Ghosthunting South Dakota entry to the America's Haunted Road Trip series for which I am an author (have visited a few haunted places during the current trip, so keep your eye on the AHRT site for more information about them).

And thanks to both Lindsey and Daniela for taking me out to dinner my last night in Rapid City! It was very much appreciated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Snowed In, In South Dakota

As things stand now, my first visit to South Dakota has turned out to be a little less auspicious than I had hoped ...

To start with, my daughter Lindsey and I had all sorts of ambitious plans for today and are, unfortunately, pretty much snowed in and dealing with very unpleasant temperatures that would be unseasonable almost anywhere else in March (high of 9, low of -4). We could actually make it out into town without too much difficulty, but would have much more of a tough time making it out to any of the places on my wishlist for this week -- including Devil's Tower, in Wyoming, historic Deadwood, S.D., and nearby Mount Rushmore -- all of which would necessitate our driving up into the Black Hills, where road and weather conditions are only going to be worse. Suffice it to say, visitors to the area should take the likelihood of such conditions during almost half the year into consideration when making their plans.

Have also had trouble getting a response from local hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses I have wanted to feature in any number of articles, Websites, and other projects I am currently working on, including the book Mysteries of the Old West for Pagan Publishing and various e-books for Clerisy Press. People can blame bad government, corporate CEOs, minorities, or whatever else they want for the current economic problems plaguing our country -- and I am inclined to think that the first two of those factors have definitely played their parts -- but it is pretty clear to me that the indifference with which so many companies are run these days plays a much bigger role than any of those. Hardly a single hotelier in the country is entirely pleased with business at the moment, but I never cease to be surprised by the ones that won’t even bother to respond to a proposal from a travel writer. (Look for my upcoming book Malaise, which will include numerous case studies and examples of the sad and failing institutions I am referring to.)

What brought me to South Dakota in the first place, of course, was the necessity of driving my daughter and her son to and from Minnesota for a funeral, and the importance of that venture clearly took precedence over anything else. And I have very much enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Lindsey, her son Carter, and her friends Daniela, Ben, and Josh. So, perhaps, more was not meant to come out of it.

And so we sit at my daughter's home in Box Elder, east of Rapid City, the two of us watching Brideshead Revisited and me posting philosophical rant to my travel blog instead travel information. But I almost never give up and might yet make this trip bear publishable fruit, so keep your eye on this space for more!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

South Dakota, Ho!

Just found out that I have to go out to South Dakota for several days and, as it is somewhere I have never before been, I am going to take the opportunity to do some fieldwork in support of several ongoing projects! Keep your eye on this site in particular for reviews of local hotels, restaurants, and the like, along with photos and useful travel information you can use on your own ventures to the area.