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.

Bikes, bikes and more bikes; and corn!


Originally posted August 2010

Day 4- Saturday

The bikes began to pass us first thing this morning, one or two bikes for every two or three cars. By one o’clock the ratio had changed. By then we’d crossed the border into South Dakota. There were bikes on the road, bikes in the back of pickup trucks, bikes in trailers and bikes in toy haulers. There were girls, guys, one-up and two up, some pulling trailers, others packed with gear. There was even a “headless” rider! Or at least that’s what it looked like. When he passed us his gear was stacked so high behind him, that he couldn’t be seen, but a helmet attached to the side of the load created a strange illusion. There were bald heads, scarved heads, hair flying, since riding without a helmet is legal in this state unless you are under eighteen. Often times, though, the women were wearing helmets as were some men.

After we crossed into South Dakota, we stopped at the visitors centre, and met up with many more bikers. We thought we were pulling a load until a huge motor home that must have been 42 feet long pulled into the parking lot. A lift on the back held a trike, and behind that was a twenty foot cargo trailer, presumably containing a few more bikes. Jim asked the fellow that was outside it if he found that the weight on the back made the front of the motor home lift. He was told, “It poses no problem. It’s much easier to pull with the motor home than with the hummer!

That’s a heavy load!

At the visitor centre we picked up several brochures and when we said we were on our way to Sturgis, we were given a Rally Package. Inside was more literature about things to do and see in the area. Looking through them stirred our excitement. We could spend a month here and never see all there is to see!

As the day wore on, however, the cool temperatures of the morning turned hotter and more humid. We stopped more, as did many other bikers. The vehicle a/c wasn’t working. Our last stop was at Mitchell where we filled up with gas, bought a Dairy Queen treat and then visited the Corn Palace.


The Corn Palace is an intriguing thing to see. The outside is adorned with pieces of art done entirely out of corn cobs of various colours, straw and other grains. Inside there are many more murals of the same medium. Amazing! And it was all free to see, even the parking. Purchases from the gift shop pay for the upkeep.

Jim made a new friend

When we left Mitchell it was already five o’clock and we’d still have a four and a half to five hour drive before we reached Sturgis. We decided we’d had enough for the day and looked for a campsite. We found a quiet RV park attached to a motel about thirty kilometres down the road. We plugged in, turned on the “house” a/c and barbecued outside under a tree. Sturgis can wait another day.

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.

How Many Geeks Does it Take?


Day 7 (Tues)
After discovering that the device for getting onto the internet, which we bought the night before, just wasn’t going to work, we headed back into Rapid City with computer packed into the saddle bag, expecting to get help quickly from the computer geeks at Best Buy. The first geek couldn’t do it so he called the sales associate from the mobile phone department. He could do it through the phone help line, if only he could get through to them. He was on hold for twenty minutes, when another geek, the head of the department suggested that a different device would work better for our needs and could be installed very quickly by her. It was more money, but we decided it would be worth it if it was going to work. So, we made the exchange. That wasn’t a simple process. A monthly invoicing system had to be set up because, unlike the previous device, a one month prepaid card couldn’t be purchased. Our having a Canadian address made that process complicated. It took about an hour just to set up the account. Then, it was back to the geek desk. A half hour later, the geek was still trying to get this device to work. In the meantime, the head of the mobile phone department came in (he’d sold us the original device) and he tried to help with first the account set-up and then the device set up. We left for lunch. When we got back, the head geek had left for the day, leaving the problem with yet another geek. Another half hour passed before it was finally discovered by the mobile phone fellow, that the battery hadn’t been installed in the device! We thought that was the quick fix, but no, it still wouldn’t work on our computer, but it did work on theirs. So, after wasting four hours of our day, we left with computer and device once again stashed in the saddle bag. Jim decided he’d like to take a back route home, and it was a lovely ride, until we ran out of gas! Fortunately a kind lady who lived nearby went home to get us enough to get us to Sturgis and a gas station. Once we were finally back in the RV Jim went to work on the computers and internet device and he got them both working. At least the day ended better.

At last, Sturgis!


Days five and six
On Sunday we took our time getting ready to leave the campground. I did some laundry; Jim repaired a window screen that had become loose, and I finished blog and Facebook postings. While I sat outside completing these tasks, I watched streams of motorcycles speeding past on the I-90. By 10:30 we had joined them, but the bikes ruled the road. With a couple of stops along the way to refresh, we arrived at our campsite around 4:00 pm. The day was another very hot one reaching temperatures in the upper nineties. Our poor old motor home began to protest when we stopped to register. She didn’t want to start again. But we managed to slowly move her to our campsite and backed into place. We did our nesting; electric hooked up, table and chairs out, awnings pulled to provide some shade. We started a list of things we should purchase the next chance we got, like a sewer connector, a new door blind and stamps to mail cards. After a frustrating evening of trying to get and stay connected to WiFi, an internet stick was added to the list. Hence the reason no news got posted that day.
Today (Monday) we took the bike into Sturgis, list in hand. Lots of luck! There were lots of interesting sites and lots of pictures to take. Beer could be bought at nearly every corner; if you wanted a souvenir t-shirt or cap or any biking paraphernalia, you had hundreds of shops to choose from. But nowhere in sight was there a computer or mobile phone store, or a grocery store. Our list had to be discarded for the time being. We just parked the bike and enjoyed the show. The streets were line with bikes of every shape, size and description that you could imagine. Granted the majority seem to be Harleys. At least the loud pipes on our Virago blended right in.
There were bikes customized to look like cars; there was a bike that looked like our Venture, but it pulled a coffin for a trailer, painted to match the bike. The licence plate read “X-wife”.
The people riding the bikes and walking on the streets were just as varied. Jim especially enjoyed photographing the buxom women who equally enjoyed flaunting what they had. It seems that pasties are the only top covering required in this state. We saw people dressed in caveman/warrior garb, women in bikinis, old people, young people, an extremely tall woman, probably seven feet.
We stood in the crowd for the daily group photo. If you look really closely you can recognize Jim’s hat in the crowd.  Well worth the $10 we paid for a copy. We poked through several of the shops, had pulled pork for lunch and ice cream cones for dessert. We visited the Knuckle Saloon for a cold drink and a listen to some excellent guitar picking and songs by Rogan Brothers Band. By 4:30 the sun and the walking had done us in so we found our bike and decided to look once more for the Post Office. By the time we did, it had closed and there seemed to be nowhere else to buy those stamps. Some suggested we might try the grocery store and told us where to find it, but it would mean another slow ride through town. We came back to camp.
But the desire to get internet connection to complete some business and post our updates led us to get on the bike again and head sixty miles east to Rapid City. There we found the internet stick we were looking for and an Ihop where we finally had some dinner. It was nine o’clock by the time we finished eating, time to return to camp. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll get that list taken care of. Tonight we’re still struggling with internet while enjoying some live music coming from the beer tent.