The next day we turned left at Rapid City and drove down through Custer State park and stopped at one of the coolest places I have ever been to, Bear Country USA. The lameness factor pegged to zero, cause I am here to tell ya, that place just rocked. This was the beginning of a very cool day.
We got in the line of cars like all the other Sheeple to drive through the park. They had all kinds of cool animals we oohed and ahhed upon from the confines of our surburban. We gazed in wonder at the sheep, buffalo and elk, with the occasional whistle from my dad, trying to spook the wildlife. Fortunately, the buffalo were used to the crazy antics of the humans in their stinky metal boxes and took no offense. I can only imagine the chaos of a stampeding herd of buffalo. Big, impressive beasts that people used to hunt with spear and arrow. I can't imagine that, not even remotely.
Then, we stopped and wandered through the Sheeple Bait Pile and gazed at the mountain lion and all that cool stuff. Being a curious sort and just loving every minute of the whole day, I wandered out back into the baby land section. At first I though it was a petting zoo, umm.. no. It was were the bear cubs were kept in their own area.
I was transfixed, blown away, I just don't have the words for it. I had no idea bear cubs were so playful and so.. entertaining. Those little balls of fur really hammed it up for the growing crowd, I am here to tell ya. They were playing tag, no really. One of the little guys would whack one on the head, then go climb a tree. They ran back and forth, wrestling and acting just like little kids, well I guess like little bear cubs really do, I had no idea.
One little feller was pretty dang smart. He climbed up on a little house(it looked like a dog house) and when one of his playmates walked by, would thump them on the head and hide on the roof. Needless to say, the one that got thumped thought it was the one behind him, and so.. much wrestling and hilarity would ensue. Every time one of them would walk by, he would stick out a paw and whack em, and I would laugh like an idiot. One of his victims figured it out and climbed the small tree next to the little house and did a flying leap on to our friends back. They rolled off on to the ground, playfully smacking each other around in the dust. Yeah, it was just too funny.
But like all good things, it had to end. I gave my parents the old stink eye and reluctantly re-boarded the infernal contraption as we headed out to the next big adventure. The lameness was gone, but how in the world would anything top bear cubs playing tag? My parents answer.. hot springs.
Oh boy I thought. Hot, sulfur smelling water, just what every kid wants on vacation. I knew there would be no bears there, and started to descend into surly teenager mode. But I was along for the ride, and well, we all get to do stuff that each of us pick out as the cool thing to do. If I had known about Bear Country, that would have been my pick, so I still had a choice of what to do, within the parameters of where we were at. Bah, the west just wasn't doing it for me, and setting up camp in the hot springs was just.. bah.
But that night, my parents decided we were going to go to the local water park, splash in the water, enjoy the hot springs. Yeah, okay. What they had there was a huge, almost vertical slide you could go down and body surf across a pool. A lot of kids were climbing the three stories up and shooting down the slide across the wave pool, laughing and having a good old time. Yeah, me and my vertigo were gonna stay in the wave pool and chill. But of course, that didn't happen.
Oh no. See with a younger brother, there is a bit of rivalry, which I have always tried to downplay, but being boys, well.. ya know. We decided we would give the big slide a go, at my brother's behest. He knows I am afraid of heights, that is why he egged me on! So I climbed to the top of this Eiffel Tower of Doom and peered over the edge down three hundred miles of slide. Well okay, maybe three hundred feet, but it was almost straight down! This little kid pushed me aside, screams at the top of his lungs, and plunges down the side, sliding into the water below.
I'm at the top, kids are going by and laughing all the way to the bottom and all I want to do is hurl. The lifeguard at the top nods sagely and politely asks if I want to go down the slide or go back down the incredibly steep, slippery stairs. Then this rather attractive young lady steps up, gives me a wink and goes down the slide. I have to admit, that is all it took. The jeers of the little kids, nah. The jabs from my brother, who I will note, had not gone down yet either, nah. Just a wink and a smile from a pretty young lass and the next thing you know, I am going down the slide, too frightened to scream or even pee my swim trunks.
What a rush! Yeah, I can see why everyone was going down the slide, man it was cool, so cool it scared the daylights out of me. I had to have more. But first, I was going to find that young lady, chat her up. Yeah.. well the best laid plans of mice and teenage boys and all that. I never did find her, so I kept going down the slide. So did my brother, and we had a pretty dang good time too. Who knows, maybe she was just some sort of hallucination from the extreme vertigo. Maybe she was a water nymph, there to help along teenage boys and their fear of heights. I never did find out.
I was so tired that by the time we made it back to the camper, I was asleep on my feet. But hey, tomorrow was another day, and maybe the lame was gone, but I still wanted to see something, do something that was cool beyond belief, we had not made it there, yet.