Friday, September 10, 2010

Letter 22: South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming

Tuesday, August 31 we drove 225 miles through the plains of North and South Dakota. About every 40 miles there was a little town. We could see all of them as we approached. We were glad to arrive in Deadwood and the Fish & Fry campground. A nice Passport place. We were tired and Fred had seen buffalo burgers advertized so we ask where a good one could be found. Sure enough about one mile down the road was Boondocks!
We split a half pound buffalo burger and was it juicy and good. We left satisfied, but really each wished for a little more.

Wednesday, Sept 1, we slept in and took the morning easy, then decided to do some sightseeing. We drove over to Lead and saw the
Homestake mine Open Cut Mine, one of the best known landmarks in the Black Hills. It was originally discovered in 1876 and named for “making a man rich enough to make his home stake (enough money to return home and live comfortably).” Later it became one of the largest underground mines in the history of North America and one of the deepest in the world. They mined until 1998, yes over 120 years.

They open cut, drilled, blasted and hauled until it was 1200 feet deep and one-half mile wide. At one time they thought they had hauled out all the source of the gold, then someone discovered a new way to take it out underground. They tunneled to 5000 feet. It was the largest gold mine in the USA.

The town of Spearfish was our next destination, which is a larger city north west of Deadwood. On the way the brakes started to shimer. We knew the disc needed turning and were hoping to get home to have them fixed, but this was too much when going down hill, so we looked up a Chevy Dealership and had them fixed. Also a few other things too, but besides spending the money we missed going to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Oh, well!

On the way back we drove through
Spearfish Canyon, which was a very pretty drive especially with the late sun hitting the bluffs on the canyon walls. This was the location of the winter scene in Dances With Wolves. Kevin Costner fell in love with this area before the film and decided this would be a great place to film, with all the plains around the Black Hills it worked!

We stopped at
Roughlock Falls and forgot to look for the little bird that walks on the bottom on the stream.

Thursday, Sept 2, we piddled at the trailer then drove into Deadwood and Olivia dropped Fred off at Cadillac Jacks to play in a Texas Holdem tournament, then she went to see Marlene Todd of the Deadwood Teen Court.

She is very active not only in her busy court, but is President-elect for the National Association of Teen Courts. Myra Weeks from Wichita Falls Teen Court told Olivia to be sure and visit Marlene. They had a wonderful visit talking all about local, state and national Teen Courts. Her office is in the old Post Office across the street from the
County Courthouse where they hold Teen court. It was like they had know each other for years. Sure enough just as they were winding down their conversation Fred called he was out of the tournament so Olivia went to pick them up and they browsed downtown Deadwood.

The lower end of Main Street earned its reputation through it’s saloons, brothels, theaters, gambling halls, and opium houses, which provided rowdy entertainment for the largely male population. Out of this district came many of the personalities and folklore that made Deadwood famous.

“The man who ventured the remark that a fool and his money are soon parted must have had in his mind’s eye some place such as Deadwood...The ‘tenderfoot’ here is brought face to face with...the slick confidence man, the claim jumper, the land shark and the desperado.”

So we just had to venture
down this street, which is now parting with all the tourist’s money. One of the stops was the
Historic Site, Saloon Number 10 where Wild Bill was shot and sure enough in the back room was
THE place and Bill still had the famous “aces and eights” hand.

On our way back to the trailer we started talking about Buffalo meat, so much so that we went back to the Boondocks and each of us had our own buffalo burger and fries. We really overdid it this time! Fred said it was just right!

Friday, September 3, we moved south passing
Crazy Horse monument. It was started in the late 40’s and is still being worked on. He will be pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, “Where are your lands now?” He replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

We set up camp in a lovely forest camp four miles east of Custer on Bismarck lake and waited for the arrival of Dolores and Mike. They have a brand
new shining 28” Airstream along with a new pick up. Both have all the bells and whistles you could possibly want. It looked very nice.

Saturday, Sept 4 With
Dolores and Mike in our Suburban we struck out for a days sightseeing and right off the bat we saw this
buck deer grazing on the side of the road. We were headed for Mt Rushmore and took the Iron Mountain road with many
views of the mountain along with several tunnels ending with more
framed views. Arriving at the monument we found the temperature called for
ice cream right under the president’s noses. We took a Ranger walk from the amphitheater to the base of the rock fall, where we could see the
details of all the faces. From there we walked down a lot of steps to the artist studio and another ranger talk in front of the
model of the sculptures.

As we left the monument we were treated with a view of
famous profiles.

The needles highway was on our way back to our camp with a lot more stops to see all the granite uplifts,
and yes,
more tunnels.

Sunday, Sept 5 we stopped in the town of Custer for a few items and were enamored with these
giant horses we at first thought were stain glass, but in reality are medal.

The wildlife trail in Custer State Park was our destination and were we in for a treat. We saw a few Pronghorns just before our first big stop along side a
herd of Buffalo. They were very happily grazing along toward us, but soon we turned around to go with them and then return to see them coming toward us
on the road. One huge bull caught our eye. Mike pronounced, “235 pictures!” He has one of these really fancy cameras and was having a good time using it.

Our next wildlife was a herd of burros, all strung out
along about a mile. They were really wanting hand outs and lots of people were obliging them including a
truck load of children. One truck was stopped on
both sides.

After stopping at a ranger station we were told the Big Horn Sheep might be seen along our remaining part of the road. Olivia really perked up as she has only seen a few of these beautiful beast. Sure enough we soon saw a few females and Mike said “350!” then all of a sudden Olivia said, "I see a ram," then there were five. Their
lookout posed for Mike and Olivia for a good while. Jackpot! We don’t know how many more shots Mike took.

We really enjoyed having Dolores and Mike with us both days. Their comments really added to the delight of the country we were seeing.

Back at our
beautiful camp spot we enjoyed a
campfire with our neighbors who lived in Custer. He is an engineer with the NFS and on the Custer City Council. A very interesting young man. Their oldest son (yellow tee) runs cross county for the local school team. He thinks they will contend for the state title. They told us about the pine beetle and about their school system only attending school four days a week. We enjoyed a pork tenderloin with Mike and Dolores. Mike grilled it to perfection.

Monday, Sept 6, was to be our departure but the wind was blowing on the plains to the tune of gusts up to 50 mph, so we changed our plans and drove east to see the famous Wall Drug Store. We had heard about the
Drug store for many years as the owners are Ted, Bill and Rick Hustead. Fred’s cousins. Very, very distant. They advertise for at least
50 miles each way along the freeway. This drug store is noted for their hospitality and free ice water along this long road near the South Dakota Badlands.
It was in December of 1931 that Dorothy and Ted Hustead bought the only drugstore in the little town called Wall on the edge of SD Badlands. By the summer of 1936 the business had not grown much. They had given the business five years trial time, but they were still seeing a lot of cars going by without stopping. Then on a hot July Sunday, Dorothy came up with a startling idea. Realizing that all the cars going by on Route 16A through the hot, dusty prairie would have thirsty folks inside, she proposed they put up signs on the highway telling people to come in for free ice water. And the rest as they say, is history!

Now it has expanded and is full of just about anything you could want. It is a real curiosity to see the
whole store. This Hustead family has been prolific not only with their families but with their activities and civic sponsored events. There were several halls and walls showing off the family.

Like in most large tourist places we saw workers from all over the world. Students from foreign countries and full time RV’ers. Both furnish a good workforce for part time jobs.

The Badlands area is a wonderland of water chiseled spires, ragged ridges, rugged canyons and prairie. The lower prairie lying along the floodplain of the White River and the Upper prairie of great grassy flats. Then there is “The Wall”, a rugged strip a half mile to three miles wide, is a succession of tinted spires and ridges with twisting gullies.

From the town of Wall we drove south east to the South Dakota Badlands National Park and at
Pinnacle overlook we had a fantastic view of the wall from the upper plains.
Driving along the only road we were sometimes on top and then in the valleys looking up at the
mountains of formations. Near the end of the wall we were greeted with a
ranger telling about all the fossils that had been found in this badlands.

Tuesday, Sept 7, we moved south stopping at
Wind Cave National Park, one of the little, unknown to us, National parks. We decided to take the tour and found the only natural entrance to this cave was only a very small round hole. It is named for the wind blowing with such force out of the hole that it can knock your hat off. Fortunately the CCC boys made a larger entrance with many concrete steps down into this cave of an extensive network of over
100 miles of passageways containing The most prominent features in Wind Cave, the
boxwork—thin, honeycomb-shaped structures of calcite that protrude from the walls and ceilings. It is like brickwork with the bricks gone.

We were also shown
chocolate-colored crystals.

Heading into the panhandle of Nebraska we decided to spend the night at the town of Alliance. The wind had picked up and dust was blowing. We found another Passport RV park which just happened to be across the road from a grain silo where we watched trucks being unloaded. It is definitely harvest season in the plains area.

Just north of Alliance stands a replication of Stonehenge that chart the phases of the sun and the moon, created from
vintage American made automobiles primarily from the 50’s and 60’s planted trunk down and rise 15-17 feet, towering over the plains of Nebraska. Thirty-eight automobiles were placed to assume the same proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. The cars are approximately 7 feet wide; the same size as the standing stones of Stonehenge.
All are covered with gray paint. All 38 of the major stones at Stonehenge are cleverly represented at Carhenge.

Wednesday, Sept 8 we departed Alliance and headed south to the Platt River and the Oregon, California, Gold Rush, Morman and Pony Express trail. Seems like everyone passed this way.

The first landmark we saw was
Chimney Rock and if you have never heard of it or seen it, look on the Nevada Quarter. This was the first big landmark represented the end of the plains.

15 miles and a days walk west we found Scottsbluff where we were driven to the top for the view of the current town of Scottsbluff and the vast flatlands eastward for hundreds of miles. In the mid-1800’s this expansive, semi-arid grassland was known as “The Great American Desert.” The emigrants suffered hardships of the trail: the dust and fatigue; the scarcity of drinking water and firewood; outbreaks of cholera and smallpox; violent thunderstorms; accidents with wagons and animals; and separation from loved ones.

We were standing on the northern section of Scotts Bluff, looking across to the southern section. Below the route of the Oregon Trail cut through
Mitchell Pass opened in 1851 with the engineering assistance from the US Army. A few traces of the old wagon trail are still visible.

All the bluffs we could see were known to the pioneers as “Scotts Bluffs.” Weary travelers found spring water and firewood here and a sheltered place to camp.

Emigrants gazed at Scotts Bluff with a sense of accomplishment. They had crossed the plains, and the first third of their journey was over.

Back in time to 1860 or 1861 the traffic on the Oregon Trail, were freight wagons and stagecoaches, and the emigrants, soldiers and Indians, but most colorful was the Pony Express riders streaking through Scotts Bluff and Mitchell Pass.

Leaving Scotts Bluff we moveed further west into Wyoming, then south toward Cheyenne where we had thought we would spend the night. Not far from Cheyenne we saw a highway sign saying 80 miles to Loveland, Colorado which was our next destination. Olivia found a campground in West Loveland and at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon. We only slowed down in Cheyenne for gas.

The rest of our trip will mostly be a repeat of our trip two years ago. Rocky Mountain National Park, the elk buggeling, visiting with Janet Cole, Olivia’s cousin, our friends Ann Dubinsky, Renea Helmstead & the Jacksons, then west to Leadville and the beautiful aspen. We plan to add a couple of things like Aspen Glade campground near Antonito and Taos to visit with Kathy. We will probably write short notes along the way and for the end of this trip and a few pictures we didn’t take before, but go to
and click on the last two or three dates to see all of the above.

We love to hear from you and to those in Texas we will see you in about a month.

Contact us at and

No comments:

Post a Comment