Mount Rushmore, Mount Crazy Horse


Originally posted on August 13, 2010

Day 8 (Wed)

I was a day late, but I finally managed to call Mom to wish her a Happy 96th Birthday, before riding into Sturgis for the pancake breakfast sponsored by one of the churches (still haven’t got the grocery shopping done). We returned to the RV to take care of a bit of business, and then we got on the bike and took off for the day.

We had to go to Rapid City to mail a package, but after that we put troubles behind us, riding up the twisty road towards Mount Rushmore. It was a beautiful ride.

We stopped at the Gas Light Bar & Grill in Rockerville for lunch. I had one of the best salads I’ve ever had – chicken, walnuts, cranberries, shredded cheese and lettuce with raspberry vinaigrette. It was huge. I felt badly when I couldn’t eat it all. Jim managed to finish off most of his seafood salad, which he thoroughly enjoyed as well.

The only modern convenience in the town

Rockerville is a ghost mining town containing partially-preserved old, wooden shops, a bank and a few homes, located in an area just off the main street. Other than a few occupied homes, the Gas Light is pretty much all that’s there, nestled in the valley between the north and south sides of Hwy 16. We wouldn’t have found it if it hadn’t been recommended to us by a fellow biker who’d shared our table at breakfast.

Next stop, still along Hwy 16, was Keystone, a wonderful town whose historical downtown has been preserved in the manner of the gold rush days. It too was packed with bikers. We spent an hour or more poking through the shops and taking pictures before carrying on to Mount Rushmore.

The climb through the mountains was amazing, the sheer rocks naturally carved into some interesting works of art. And then the famous faces of the four Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln, came into view. Awesome!

We spent another couple of hours touring the National Park Information Centre and taking pictures.

From there, we had to go see Crazy Horse, an on-going sculpting project commissioned by the Lakota Indian tribe back in 1948 as a monument to Chief Crazy Horse. The original sculptor is dead, but his wife and kids are carrying on the dream, all paid for by donations, draws and sales at the commercial outlets and museum. Government funding was turned down by the family. It will be many more decades before the project will reach fruition. The contributions made by the thousands of bikers who would visit this week, would make a big difference, as acknowledged by the “motorcycles only” designated parking.

It was after six when we left there. We opted to take Hwy 385, stopping in Hill City for dinner. Here the entire downtown business part of the main street was closed to all vehicles except bikes, and bikes there were! The sun was setting when we left and the reported 100 degree Fahrenheit temperature earlier in the day was quickly dropping.

Watching for long-horned mountain sheep, we saw some scaling the rocks to our left and stopped to take pictures. They seemed curious and began to descend towards the road. Just as curious were other bikers and people in cars who began to stop too. There was some concern then that the sheep would cause an accident when a couple of them scurried across the road in front of a car and a bike. As we drove off, we warned approaching vehicles to slow down.

It was dark by the time we reached Deadwood, so after a quick tour of the main street, which was busy with biker activities, we continued on our way, arriving back at the camp at 9:45 pm. It was a great day, but exhausting, especially after I stayed up late posting pictures to Facebook.

Before we left on this trip I’d just finished reading a book by Nora Roberts called Black Hills. It’s been interesting seeing The Black Hills that she writes about and the area towns, like Deadwood.

Sounding Off: Travelling On


While I stood waiting for my hands to dry under one of those wonderful blow dryers in a Welcome Centre restroom, I noticed a small sign that had been printed from a computer and taped to the concrete wall:

Please don’t flush diapers, Depends, or any clothing down the toilets. Our sewer system will get clogged and stop working.  Thanks for your consideration.”

I can’t help wonder why such a sign would even be necessary.  Are there really people out there who lack that much common sense? Are they the same ones who, here in the US right now, are protesting the possible lifting of the Income Tax Reduction put into place by George Bush, while in the same breath demanding more funding for job creation, social assistance and general economic stimulus from the government.  Do they ever ask themselves where the money would come from, if not taxes?

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On Friday our “side-trip” through the Badlands of South Dakota took all day, there was so much to see! The rock formations are amazing and around each corner the colours and shapes change. At our first viewing area stop we met a couple who were on a motorcycle. Like us, they had recently retired and taken off, pulling a toy hauler.  They’d left that in Rapid City to do some day touring on the bike.

Two stops later, we noticed some people who were having trouble with their car.  Jim asked if he could help, and we spent an hour there. I chatted with the women and invited them into the motor home to keep warm, as the wind was getting cold. The men eventually came up with a temporary solution so they could limp back to Rapid City to a mechanic. We carried on to the next viewing spot, an area where fossils have been found and put on display. After having some lunch we took a walk through the trails and climbed some mounds.  We didn’t find any new fossils though. Five or six hours and two hundred pictures later, we found our way out of the Badlands. We stopped for the night at the Belvidere KOA. It got very cold and the wind whistled most of the night.

Saturday was a long drive through acres of rolling farm land, under cloudy skies.  We stopped at the town of Kimball, South Dakota, looking for some bread and other sandwich ingredients.  It was mid-day, yet the streets were all but deserted. Some of the buildings appeared to have been there, unchanged, since the 1800s.  We did find a well-stocked grocery store, got our supplies and made lunch while parked on the street. We didn’t think anyone would mind that we were taking up four parking spaces.

Mid-afternoon we arrived at the Minnesota Information Centre. The very helpful woman there gave us a list of available RV parks in the state and suggested that if we were looking to drive for another couple of hours we could get free camping at the Blue Earth Fair Grounds. That sounded great!  We made it our destination for that night. As indicated on the signs, there were “full” hook-ups”. The only problem was, septic and water taps were in one spot; electricity hook-up was in another, requiring a very long extension cord, which we didn’t have.  We chose electricity, but it seemed all of the reasonably level spots near the outlets were already occupied, and the ground looked pretty soft around the others.  We finally returned to the grassy area closer to the gate, where only one other RV had parked, and set up. Even there, the ground was squishy and not at all level. Like our neighbours, we had to do a lot of jacking, but it seemed pretty good when we were done. We had dinner and then took a stroll through the grounds, over to see the Jolly Green Giant. It’s a huge replica of the one-and-only Green Giant, but we could find nothing to tell us why he’s in the park in Blue Earth, Minnesota. We took some photos before walking across the street to Walmart to pick up a few more supplies.

By bedtime the RV seemed to be leaning a little, so Jim gave the jacks another turn or two. When we woke up in the morning I found that I was crowding Jim to the wall, and walking down the hall felt a bit like I’d had too much wine. When Jim, preparing to leave after breakfast, pulled up the jacks and went to pick up the three blocks of wood he’d placed under one of them, he discovered one block buried so deep into the ground that he had to get out a crowbar to remove it!

Today, Sunday, we just drove. The day was cloudy and damp. My arthritis was acting up so I slept a lot. We had a bit of a stretch and a walk when we stopped to eat lunch at a Rest Area near Lewiston, and decided that we’d attempt to get as close as possible to Chicago tonight. That’s where we are, in a very pretty KOA about fifty miles north-west of Chicago. It would be nice to be able to stay put for a couple of days.  I know Jim is getting tired of driving every day, but, tomorrow we will stop at the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology before starting the last leg of our trip. We should be pulling into our driveway sometime on Wednesday.

Wall Drug leads to Badlands


Yesterday we enjoyed another sunny day.  Our one major stop, before stopping for the night, was at the Battle of Little Bighorn historical site. We only saw a portion of it because we had only three hours before it closed! Yup, we spent most of the three hours there anyway. It was pretty interesting. A ranger gave a half-hour talk about the battle, in a very engaging way, the kind that makes you want to listen, and wish that your high school teachers had been this interesting.  I might remember more of Canadian history details. Anyway, we did get a good lesson in American history, and to my surprise, he acknowledged that the Natives were treated badly and portrayed incorrectly in the past. I was also interested to see that one of the names displayed on the monument to the US Calvary who died there, was Yates, my mother’s maiden name.  Could he have any relation to my great-grandfather, who seems to have moved to the US?  Wouldn’t that be interesting.

It was nearly 6:00 when we left there, and an hour later before we decided to stop in Sheridan Wyoming for the night, at the KOA. It’s hard to believe that when we were in the area last we were enjoying the outdoor pools and hot tubs. Now they are all closed up and most of the camp sites are empty.

Today we drove out of Wyoming shortly after noon, and once we reached Buffalo South Dakota, we began to retrace our path towards home, with a planned side-trip to Wall and through the Badlands. We had to take a stroll through downtown Sturgis to see what it looked like without all the bikes.  We hardly recognized it! It seemed strange to see only a handful of bikes along the highways in the area too. Even the traffic lights at the highway entrance and exit ramps to Sturgis have been removed.  There is no need for them now.  There’s hardly any traffic.

Long before we reached Sturgis we began to see colourful signs advertising Wall Drug. After Sturgis, they became more and more frequent: Free Ice Water at Wall Drug; Western Wear at Wall Drug; Have you Dug Wall Drug?; Wall Drug ,Exit 109. Finally we reached the exit.  What is Wall Drug, you might ask? Well, it’s a Drug Store in the town of Wall, South Dakota, just at the entrance to the Badlands. It began in 1931 as a struggling enterprise. Today, because of a very clever marketing scheme, offering free ice water to hot, weary travellers along the highway, and posting signs to advertise it, it has expanded into the now famous Western-style conglomerate of many shops, cafes and museums. It still gives away ice water, an estimated 5,000 glasses every day during the summer. If you’re travelling along I-90 anywhere within 200 miles of Wall, you’re sure to see the signs that will lead you in. Wall Drug

Tonight we’re in a campground just a block away from Wall, joining many other RVers who probably, like us, chose to wait until tomorrow before starting the journey through the badlands.

We are half-way home.