Monday, October 19, 2015

Goodbye to the Best of Summer - The Salty Dog

We're having a super autumn around here. Cool nights, warm days, plenty of sunshine, and we're enjoying it while it lasts!

But even though summer-style weather is hanging around, the calendar is marching on toward October 31st, one of my least favorite days of the year.

Why? Because that's when my favorite ice cream shop closes for the season.

From November 1st through March 1st, our town has to make do with lesser forms of our favorite treats. Everyone goes into a kind of withdrawal!

Armadillos is owned by some friends of ours. Mike and Mel, Dave and Sandi started the shop almost twenty years ago as a business venture with a purpose.

Their favorite employees are high schoolers who are looking for their first job. The goal is to teach the kids to enjoy their job, learn to work, deal with customers and, at the end of their time at Armadillos, have a great work history to add to their resumes. All before they're eighteen years old.

But the restaurant also has goals when it comes to their customers: Quality, Service, and Cleanliness.

At least that's what is listed on their website - I'm going to add one more: fabulous ice cream!!!

As the older generation of Armadillos owners move toward retirement, the next generation is picking up the reins.

Austin, Mel and Joey

Mike and Mel's son, Austin, and his wife, Meg, are taking on more of the bulk of the day-to-day operations. Joey and her soon-to-be-born baby brother are the next generation-in-training.

To learn more about this Rapid City icon, jump over to their website. But be sure to come back!

You might ask what my favorite Armadillos treat is. Well, I'm partial to the chocolate ice cream, and normally I get a small cone like the one my husband is holding in the picture above.

If I'm stopping by for lunch, I'll choose a bowl of Cheesy Tortilla soup (if the weather is cool enough!), or the "When Chickens Fly South" Panini.

But my favorite treat, hands down, is the Salty Dog.

Now, don't tell Austin and Meg, but I'm going to let you in on the Salty Dog secret recipe. After all, how else am I going to splurge on my favorite treat between now and March 1st?

The Salty Dog

This is an ice cream sundae, so of course you need to start with ice cream.

I'm planning to stock up on a few quarts of Armadillo's famous chocolate to keep in the freezer to get me through the winter, but if you don't live near the Black Hills, you can buy your favorite chocolate ice cream at your local store. Or if you want to be picky, use vanilla like in the original menu.

Scoop a reasonable amount of ice cream into your bowl.

Top with hot caramel, marshmallow cream, and salted peanuts.

Eat it immediately! You don't want it to melt!!!

Of course, your homemade sundae won't be as good as the real thing, freshly prepared by one of Armadillo's stellar employees, but it will do until spring.

Like I said earlier, our weather has been picture perfect. Over the weekend we headed down to Custer State Park. You know that's one of my favorite places in the world.

We saw plenty of wildlife:

Magpies were stocking up on food for the great migration. The rest of the flock was pretty shy, but this guy stuck around long enough to get his picture taken.

Just to the right of this aspen tree was a herd of Pronghorns - the biggest male I've even seen with his harem.

The does are so graceful.

This is what the trophy hunters are looking for! But he's
safe in the park. Do you see the black patch under his ear?
That's his scent gland. It's mating season.

A bit farther down the road we ran into this rattler sunning himself. He didn't move as we drove by. And no, I didn't get out of the car!

He had recently molted, that's why he has that
greenish tinge.

The prairie dogs were busy, busy, busy harvesting grass and storing it in their burrows.

And even though we kept looking, we only saw a few female bison with half-grown calves. They were too far away to get a good picture, though.

But we saw signs of the bulls. They rub against trees when they're in rut. 

We saw plenty of along the way, too.

But it was getting late, so we started making our way out of the park. The French Creek crossing on Lame Johnny Road is always a highlight.

But then, a few miles later...

A couple huge bulls, just hangin' out in the buffalo wallow.

They didn't even blink as we drove by.

I can't describe how big these guys are. This one's head has to be at least four feet from his chin to the top of his noggin.

But then we were out of the park. We gave Crazy Horse a quick wave on our way by, though.

Happy Autumn, everyone!


  1. "Hangin' out in the buffalo wallow"... LOL. Makes me think of a place near us that's called "Frog Holler". It's a little dip in the land, near a pond, and I've never figured out whether it's called that because of the frogs croaking (hollering) or if it's actually "Frog Hollow".

    Also, the Armadillo shop is so neat!

    1. I can hear the frogs hollerin' from here!

      Actually, isn't "holler" the southern way to say "hollow"? Missy? What do you think?

      And yes, Armadillos is great. Great people, great food :)

  2. Yum! I want a salty dog, too! You know, I haven't bought marshmallow cream in years. It might be time. :)

    1. I use marshmallow cream in my fudge recipe at Christmas time, but I don't buy it during the rest of the year. It's going on my shopping list this week, though. The Salty Dog is worth it!

  3. Oh Jan, Forget the food. I'm LOVING the animal photos. Makes me think of so many summer trips when we saw those animals. The antelope are gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing them.

  4. Okay the food looks great too. chuckle. Thanks for sharing.

    1. One thing I love about the tourist season being over is that the animals enjoy the quiet, too. During the season, we often see the bison and sometimes the antelope, but on a quiet day like we had this weekend, they were out in force.

      We even saw whitetail deer - they're so shy that they're off into the woods at the slightest sound. But we were able to get a glimpse before they bounded up an escarpment, white flags flying, and off into the trees. So beautiful!

  5. Love all the pics except the snake. Shudder. You live in an exotic place! I feel like I'm time travelling when you share those photos. Incredible because so much of your scenery is exactly the way it was a hundred years ago. Pretty awe-inspiring.

    I like the idea of caramel and marshmallow on chocolate ice cream but not quite digging the salted peanuts. LOL

    1. But can you have a salty dog without the peanuts???

      The animals are always intriguing. The rattlesnake is the only venomous one we have around here, and they're too common for comfort! People who have ranches or live in the Hills have their pets immunized against snake bites, but the snakes normally stay away from congested areas.

      And you're right about the scenery being the way it was a hundred years ago! There's a photographer, Paul Horsted, who has published books of photos taken from the same place as earlier photos. My favorite book of his is called "Exploring With Custer," and is full of photos from the 1874 expedition through the Black Hills, and the modern photos are side by side on the page. It's fascinating. Here's the link, if you want to see a couple samples:

      And remember, your part of the world is just as exotic to me! I've always lived where an "old" building might be 100 years old, or even 150. So old buildings? Towns that were established before the idea of platting a city on a grid came about? Trees - more than pines as aspens? That's exotic!

  6. I love this line -
    "Scoop a reasonable amount of ice cream into your bowl."

    Hah! I wonder what's reasonable. :)

    Great pictures. Thanks for sharing, Jan.

    1. Cate, when it comes to "reasonable," you do as you think best :)

  7. I'm amazed that you can see the wildlife. We have so many deer, coyote and now black bears here, but you almost never see them. You hear them, and we hit deer with cars often, but except in the early spring when they gather and play, you just don't see them when you take a ride. I love this!!!! It's awesome, and I want to come have a Salty Dog!

    1. We are blessed to live at the edge of a National Forest, a State Park, a Wildlife Refuge and a Natural Area, all in a continuous patch of land the size of some European countries. So the wildlife are abundant and easy to see (if you know when and where to look!),

      On the other hand, all the governmental agencies have fun with the rules and regs - which can cause problems sometimes. But somehow, the animals just keep on about their business.

      So someday, when you come out for a visit, I'll buy you a Salty Dog and we'll head up to the Hills to see the wildlife!

  8. Kav. The salted peanuts are the piece de resistance. They are the pinnacle. The crest. The summit. Without them the sundae ebbs toward mundane.


    That's all I'm sayin'. :)

    And now I'm calm again.