The Griswalds. We seemed like the Griswalds. Was that the only family I knew from pop culture to compare us to? I guess so. My Mom ran a daycare and my Dad worked at the hospital. My older sister and I went to Catholic school and we lived in a quiet neighborhood with sidewalks, in a very normal, 3 bedroom house in Rapid City, South Dakota. My Dad planted a pine tree out in front of our house when we moved in. We had a dog, no cats. The backyard had a chainlink fence. There was a wood pile in the back that housed garter snakes in the summer. The house was on, the house is on, a street called East Liberty, which always seemed very intentionally patriotic when no one really asked it to be. Dad, Mom, sis, me, and the dog. The Griswalds, but hopefully not quite as ridiculous.
I’m not sure what exactly brought my family to Rapid City, but it was nice enough and I liked living there as a kid. I was born in Iowa and it’s a lovely place too, but the kinda place that makes you thankful you’re not still there anymore. Rapid had cold and snowy winters and mild summers with a pleasant spring and fall to space them out. It’s the closest decent sized town to Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse, and Sturgis (where they have the big biker rally each year), and it’s not that far from Devil’s Tower. I’ll share some stories from those parks and places eventually but today’s is about my favorite park as a kid—and it’s not any of those.
In what seems like the middle of Rapid City is a mountain. Okay, it’s a large hill. Maybe it’s not even really that large, but it’s a hill and seemed like a mountain when I was little. This hill separates a few different parts of town. Our little house on East Liberty was on the same side of the hill as the Catholic school where Rebecca and I went and the hospital where my Dad worked, but some things, like the grocery store, were on the other side of the hill. I’m not sure why I remember the grocery store—Safeway—being on the other side but it was, along with what seemed like a bunch of other stuff like the dentist and my favorite pizza restaurant, basically the other half of the town as I knew it. On top of the hill are several really tall broadcast towers of some kind, and a park. Dinosaur Park.
No matter what part of town you are in, staring down at you from the top of that hill is a giant, almost life-sized, green dinosaur, a brontosaurus (or apatosaurus actually depending on how versed you are in paleontology). What is it made of? It seems like concrete or plaster but when I was little it always made me think of paper mâché. There are other dinosaurs at the park too, all made from outdated blueprints of what we used to think dinosaurs looked like—extra large lizards standing upright and leaning back on their tales. This early 1900s view of how dinosaurs were thought to be can be found all over the West in kitschy ways, from murals to Dino hotel signs, to many more statues like these. Modern, scientific depictions of dinosaurs are more like dinos from the movie Jurassic Park, warm-blooded and magnificent, with their tails definitely not dragging on the ground. But that’s one of the things that’s great about Dinosaur Park. It’s not trying to be a blockbuster.
To get up to the park you drive a windy road called Skyline Drive. There’s a gift shop and admission to the park is free. You’ll find statues of T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurs, and a Dimetrodon (not actually a dinosaur but whatever), and a few more. But the real star is the Apatosaurus up top.
Memories of that park bring back memories of my family at that time and that’s powerful. We weren’t as funny, clumsy, or thankfully ridiculous as the fictional Griswalds, but looking back, it was a time when we were, like them, nuclear—Dad, Mom, a couple of young kids, and a dog. Quaint neighborhood middle-class upper midwest. Eventually we would all leave Rapid as life naturally pushed us in different directions. Sis headed off to college, we moved back to Iowa (ironically), my parents split up, and I grew older, physically at least, and mostly abandoned my obsession with dinosaurs. But the park remains and it’s exactly how I remember it. It’s nice to know that a young family of four is probably heading up there right now to take some goofy family pictures and climb on the dinosaurs like we always did. ~Paul ETC
Updates from the Crew
Wow. Hello world. It's been awhile. I just updated the about page and thought I'd post it here too. A little history of the blog, where we've been, where we are, and where we're headed:) ~Paul ETC
Everyone's Travel Club began back in 2009 as a Seattle-based kayaking, sailing, and travel blog. We (husband/wife duo - Paul & Amber) started the blog after a kayaking trip to the Florida Keys. We had recently purchased an inflatable kayak made by Innova Kayak, and had taken it in our carry-on luggage on the trip. While there it was tricky to find easy, online resources with lots of pictures of the kayaking destinations we wanted to explore.
We got back home to Seattle and realized there wasn't much here as well. Where do you paddle in Washington State? What does it look like? For three years we hiked and kayaked as much as possible in the area and have posted our travels to the kayak/travel blog portion of this site. If you're looking for more PNW adventures check out the map page too. Many of the posts are pretty dated by now (it's now 2022!), but most still give you a good idea of what these destinations look and feel like. So much paddling brought a lot of unique landscape photography opportunities, and some small ones too, another project was born: Brick Sailboat.
Our life changed in a big way when we moved aboard Kingsley, a 32 foot sailboat. We ditched our land stuff, got rid of everything we could part with, packed up the cat (her name was Kali), and lived aboard this little boat for three years. Our sailing, kayaking, and blogging doubled as we added stories of our liveaboard adventures to our Blog.
What sets us apart from other websites and blogs? Three things:
1. The focus is on local, water-y places - lots of kayaking & sailing.
2. We take little trips, not big expensive ones.
3. We actually go to the places we write about. Huh? Well, we hate to break the news to you, but most travel magazines/sites don't actually travel to the places they write about! They write the facts and use pictures from photographers who have obviously been there...but them? Not so much.
We eventually sold the boat in 2014 & traveled 3,300 miles across the USA and have settled in coastal North Carolina. We started paddling and sailing here, posting as we went, but then got a little distracted...by litter. Yeah, that's right, litter. We became so passionate about it that we started a little education project to fight it. Litter Pirate was born. Years passed, COVID has hopefully run its course, and now we're setting aside/archiving Brick Sailboat and Litter Pirate, and working on new projects like The Smell Butler and an unnamed outdoorsy project:) I run a small freelance videography business and teach robots to kids as my day job, Amber is into real estate. We still pick litter, play with LEGO, kayak, and sail.
So, ETC is on the back-burner for now but we keep it up because lots of adventurers in the PNW and ENC still use the articles to help plan their next trip. Be safe out there and leave a comment if you have any questions, we still check in from time to time!
~Paul, Amber, Eleanor (the dog), Matthew (the cat), Jane (the other cat, lots of trouble), & Margot (new cat, more trouble)
So. I'm working on a thing. A project. A book. A book for young readers called The Smell Butler. It's a silly idea I had a decade ago. It's always stayed with me so I thought I'd start writing it down. Expect some more news from it later in 2022:) ~Paul ETC
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