Hole N” the Rock in Utah, one-of-a-kind-roadside must see

There’s Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota that pays tribute to one man’s vision of turning solid rock into the faces of U.S. presidents. And there’s Hole N” the Rock in Utah–one man’s vision to turn a rock into a home and a gift shop.

Not far south of Moab, Utah on U.S. 191, along gorgeous red rock cliffs that glow almost neon against the blue sky, you’ll see billboards that shout out statements like “Hole N” the Rock, Must See Attraction!!!” Curiosity builds. What is it? What is this “Hole N” the Rock? you might think. I know I did when the Hole N” the Rock came into view as my family and I tootled along the highway on our way to Montana from New Mexico on July 1. Because it was right off the highway, 12 miles south of Moab, it would have been an easy stop, however, we were there after closing.

I craned my neck to see what I could for future reference. Besides the obvious large white lettering on the side of the mountain that said “Hole N” The Rock,” inside the fence was a cacophony of statuary and hard to place items. It is difficult to see exactly what’s there when going 70 mph.

After reading up on this place, I’m thinking we missed out on a must see roadside attraction. Twice. TWICE. How could we have passed by it twice?

On our way back from Montana to New Mexico, with a side trip jaunt to Colorado in our plans, we sped past Hole N” The Rock after closing as well. Too bad. It seems like it might have more heart than Mount Rushmore–and I love Mount Rushmore.

Hole N” The Rock is not just a Hole N” The Rock. It’s a 14-room house and gift shop that was created as a roadside attraction from the 1940s through most of the 1950s by Albert Christensen. To make such an attraction, Albert carved out 50,000 feet of cubic sandstone.

Unfortunately, Albert died in 1957 before he totally finished his masterpiece that includes a carved face of Franklin D. Roosevelt above the home.

His wife Gladys kept Albert’s project going. Even though she died in 1974, the attraction continues to grow. A petting zoo was recently added.

Regardless of what you can buy in the gift shop, the tour of the home would be worth taking the time for, in my opinion. I’m always interested to see what passions people have to create such places. I can’t imagine one day Albert noticed that the sandstone was carvable and merely thought, “I have nothing else to do today. Maybe I’ll start making a house.”

If you are going to stop here for a look, timing is key. Hole N” The Rock closes at 5 p.m.–even in the summer. It is open all year. If you don’t have time to stop, still look for it. The place is in-your-face obvious.

Next time we are ever in the vicinity, we are stopping. I’m not letting the opportunity pass by one more time.

Guided tours of the house cost: Adults $5; Children, 5-10, $3.50; under 5, free.

Restaurant Rant: Big Time Pizza – Keystone, SD

Big Time PizzaNo one likes writing restaurant rants including myself, but when I encounter very bad service it then becomes my obligation to all potential travelers to make such piss poor service known. Sigh. Before I begin with my rant let me set up the scene in Keystone, SD around this time of year.

For starters it’s off-season in Keystone and what may be a bustling little place right outside of Mount Rushmore in summertime it feels quiet and deserted for fall and even more so for winter. Here and there a few businesses have closed up operation already and will reopen later next year and those that have yet to close either offer discounted rates on goods, limited goods or shorten business hours. All of which makes perfect sense if there aren’t any tourists around to generate a buck. Knowing this and that we were traveling in the area at such a point in the season my companion and I planned to eat dinner as early as we possibly could and remained aware and flexible towards business operation in town. However, business operation and hospitality/service are not entirely one of the same. Here’s my spill:

The first evening we found ourselves at Big Time Pizza it was about 8:30 PM. We stepped in to what appeared to be a humble, cozy kind of family-owned spot that claimed to make all other pizzas jealous. Having had pizza two nights before, we were really interested in just munching on a salad or a sub. On the menu you’ll find half a page listing a variety of subs and half with different pizza selections. On the back there were roughly three salads listed. I had decided on the chef salad and my pal was going for the 6 inch veggie sub. Our server was an older woman (also part-owner) who peered over her glasses and smiled as she made everything we requested sound like an inconvenience. When I requested a slice of lemon for my water she made it sound as if I were in luck that they just so happen to have sliced one. Huh? She said no one had ordered salad in weeks and she would have to see if they had everything needed to make the chef salad. She returned and reported that the lettuce they had wasn’t the normal iceberg type or spinach kind, but it was still good and good for me. I asked if they could kindly serve the salad without the green pepper or the onions and she said told me they came on the side and that I could take it off. (I asked assuming their salads were freshly made as they were and not pre-packaged like a McDonald’s salad.) Thankfully she gave me a napkin so when my salad arrived I could pick everything I did not want off and place it on the napkin. When my friend put in his sub order she had little to say other than there was only one chef in the back and that she would have to see if he could make the sub. Um, fair enough I suppose. Anyhow, our food arrived and we gobbled it down. Having realized how delicious his veggie sub was my friend politely ordered a second serving. Our server as nice as can be told us the chef couldn’t without even consulting him. He was only making pizza. While I thought all of what we experienced strange I kept telling myself we were travelers at the mercy of the off-season business blues. We paid our bill and left.

However, my poor service story continues.On the following day we had consumed a large portion of the day exploring Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, and the whole shebang. The area was absolutely beautiful, but we were getting weary and concerned with time. We knew we had to get something to eat early before everything closed up. We returned to Big Time Pizza certainly not because of their great service, but because we didn’t know if anything else along the main drag was open and didn’t want to miss our chance at having dinner. On this second visit just a day after our first we found that Big Time Pizza was nothing other than a Big Time Let Down. We were seated by a cute little girl who had to have been around 8 or so and shortly afterwards greeted by our server from the previous day. Before we could put in our very same orders from the previous day she said there was no more salad and the chef was only making pizza. We left.

As we drove down the road in search of other restaurants we couldn’t help wondering if we had ordered a pizza if they would have had the kind we wanted? The thing that struck me most bizarre is everything on the veggie sub could be found on a pizza and much faster to fix than making pizza. Everything on the chef salad could be found on a pizza and faster to make as well. What was the issue? Even if it is off-season you’d think they’d go they extra-mile to make all the money possible before things really slow down, but obviously good service and making our money was unimportant.

We ended up having fantastic salads at the Ruby House though. If you’re ever in Keystone, SD go there first and don’t even deal with Big Time Pizza a.k.a Big Time Waste of Time. Note: Big Time Pizza is neither owned or operated by the Roosevelt Inn.

Big Time Pizza is located in the Roosevelt Inn on Highway 16A in Keystone and is open all year. Ph. 605.666.4443

South Dakota in Photos

BadlandsIt’s safe to say I don’t really know diddly-squat about South Dakota and I’m not going to waste my time or your time trying to get your tourist dollars into the marvelous state. I don’t get paid for that. Thankfully someone out there does care enough about the state and all its fascinating attractions to do a photo essay on the land. This month at Go World Travel the online magazine features almost all of South Dakota’s note-worthy sights in a very well-done piece by Sheri L. Thompson. Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Badlands, the Mammoth Site, Needles Highway, Black Hills National Forest, Wall Drug, and Four Mile Old West Town are all there.

After exploring the photo essay and text I learned a lot more about the area and knew a lot more than I actually gave myself credit for. I wouldn’t mind making a quick jaunt through the area this fall though it’ll probably be very cold. If South Dakota is on your radar visit this Go World Travel piece and the tourism site to start planning your trip now!