The final episode of the Americana Road Trip…!
Day 3: Hill City to Deadwood
Before we made our debut visit to Sturgis, we explored Mt. Rushmore.
Mt. Rushmore and the Avenue of Flags.
Mt. Rushmore is an icon of America, a massive sculpture featuring four U.S. presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Detailed information can be found here and here.
It was constructed between 1927 and 1941, cost $989,992 to build and required the labor of over 400 employees who worked for $8.00 a day under very dangerous circumstances (none of the workers died during the construction). A good friend once told me how her grandparents, who knew someone connected to the project, had once stood on the scaffolding that was attached to the monument while it was being constructed.
Some great early photos can be seen on the NG site: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/pictures/130216-presidents-day-mount-rushmore-photography-pictures-south-dakota/
In the rock behind Lincoln’s head is a vault called the Hall of Records. It was partially constructed in 1938-39, but was never completed. In 1998 park personnel decided to use the vault for which is was intended by the designer and lead sculptor of Mt. Rushmore (Gutzon Borglum): a repository for the texts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as other documents and literature. These records were sealed within the vault, never to be removed. It is not open to the public and cannot be seen from any standing vantage point, but only from an aerial perspective.
Colorado represented on the Avenue of Flags.
The names of the men who worked on the monument.
KRC and the model for Mt. Rushmore.
Profile view of Washington, from outside the park.
I was impressed. After seeing so many pictures of Mt. Rushmore, it seemed I had already been there. But there was so much more to it than I knew existed. With Rushmore on the books, we were ready for Sturgis!
Boots, black leather and Harley Davidson bikes. Suddenly, we were a part (in our non-conforming, rented mini-SUV) of the 74th Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, otherwise known simply as Sturgis, the name of the small town in South Dakota (pop. 6,883) which hosts the annual event.
Even though this wasn’t part of the original plan and neither of us know much about motorcycles, there was no way we were going to pass up a chance to experience this HOG extravaganza!
The roads were packed throughout the Black Hills.
Miles of bikes lined the streets. Yep, it was loud. All the time.
Seemed there were as many vendors as there were motorcycles.
Hell’s (or Hells) Angels wearing khaki Dickies was an unexpected site.
No leather, but we actually fit in rather well. Maybe.
We had a great time for about two hours. Then our internal alarms went off and we were suddenly exhausted. We accepted our Sturgis rookie status and split.
Our next destination was Deadwood, SD. In the late 1800s, Deadwood was known has a wild and rough Western town that attracted prospectors hoping to find gold in the streams that cut through the steep hills. In this century it became famous again, in large part, due to the HBO series, Deadwood, which portrayed historical characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Charles Utter, and Seth Bullock.
After our trip I learned that my paternal grandparents lived in Deadwood for a year in the late 1930s. They had told family members about a local character named Potato Creek Johnny, who paid kind attention to my uncle who was a baby at the time. Apparently, Potato Creek Johnny was rather well-known, based on this article.
We were excited to be in Deadwood, but first we needed lodging. We didn’t have any problem getting a hotel room in Hill City and were hoping the situation would be the same here.
Arriving in town, we began calling hotels and soon realized this would not be easy. Over 400,000 people were riding around the Black Hills, all needing accommodations. One local hotel had a room available but we’d have to pay “rally prices,” which was way too much.
We pulled off the narrow two-lane road to assess our situation. We were tired and felt like we’d ridden our Harleys in our black leather from the other side of the country. While pondering the options, we noticed a non-descript mom-and-pop hotel across the road from where we were parked. Weirdly, there was not a “No Vacancy” notice.
KRC called. In the most serendipitous event of our trip yet, we got a room. Just before we called, someone had canceled their reservation due to being in an accident (the person was okay, but had to go home). The proprietor wanted to fill the room and offered it to us at a huge discount. She asked how soon we could be there because she wouldn’t be able to hold it long. KRC told her we were right across the street. Two minutes later we were handing her a credit card.
Could not believe our luck. Crossing that road was the hardest part.
NOW there’s no vacancy!
Lodging secured, we headed to town.
No horses anymore, just hogs.
The saloon where Wild Bill Hickok was shot by Jack McCall. KRC is a big fan of the TV series and was excited to see locations portrayed in the show.
The beautiful and well-kept Mt. Moriah Cemetery.
Apparently, Jane adored Hickok but the feelings were not mutual and he spent a lot of time dodging her.
Wild Bill Hickok.
Tokens left at Hickok’s monument.
Located next to Hickok.
There was more we could have done here, but we still had miles to go and more to see. Driving through Deadwood felt stressful and we had an embarrassingly difficult time getting out and back to the highway. But soon, we were finally on our way to our last location: Devils Tower, Wyoming. (I know. I want to put an apostrophe there too, but this is how it is, so there we are.)
Day 4: Deadwood, SD to Laramie, WY
Devils Tower National Monument is located in northeast Wyoming. It’s considered sacred ground by the Lakota and other tribes and is closed on a voluntary basis every June. “The National Park Service has decided to advocate this closure in order to promote understanding and encourage respect for the culture of American Indian tribes who are closely affiliated with the Tower as a sacred site.” More information about the voluntary closure, the dimensions and climbing the tower can be found here.
For KRC and me, we just wanted to see it. And we took a lot of pictures.
The sign tells the story.
I have more pictures of Devils Tower if you’d like to see them. You want more? No? Just let me know if you do. Because I do have them…
And then it was time to drive back to Laramie, get some things I left at KRC’s house and return to Colorado for the final adventures of the summer.
End of the Americana Road Trip.