Day 22- Devil’s Tower, Deadwood and Rapid City, South Dakota

Day 22- Devil’s Tower, Deadwood and Rapid City, South Dakota

Our first order of business today was a two hour drive away from Rapid City to hit Devil’s tower National Monument and then backtrack through towns such as Spearfish, Sturgis and Deadwood.

Native American Legend of the Kiowa and Lakota tribes of the area say that one day a group of girls were playing when their brother turned into a giant bear and chased them. The girls climbed onto a big rock and fell to their knees, praying for the great spirit to save them. The Great Spirit heard them and made the giant rock rise up so that the giant bear could not climb the sides. The deep ridges in the side are the bear’s claws from trying to climb the steep sides. The rock continued to grow until it reached the heavens and the girls all became the stars in the Pleiades constellation (also known as the 7 sisters.)

The rock formation is so HUGE. Its actually a large magma pocket-or igneous intrusion- that cooled so slowly, the magma formed hexagonal sided joints (basalt has a hexagonal crystal structure) in huge columns and then the area weathered around it due to time and erosion, but the magma weathers slower, leaving this giant tower of rock jutting out of the ground.
The rocks at the base show all the pieces of the columns that have already fallen
We could barely spot one speck of a guy up there climbing. He had a while to go. ha

Also, inside the park, we saw our first prairie dog town. They were adorable little things. So playful. One popped out of a hole with his arms straight up in the air and yelled “MEEP!” and we were sad we didn’t get that on video. ha

Fat Gus prairie dog

We exited the park…and boy were we glad we got there when we did. We had no trouble parking at Devil’s Tower or stopping along the road for prairie dog watching, but when we left, there was a line a mile long waiting to get into the park. We were thankful we were slightly earlier birds than the rest of the folks today!

Our next site was the Aladdin Coal Tipple. A coal tipple is a device used to sort different sized coal chunks into railroad cars. This is one of the last standing structures of its kind in the American West…and as you can see, it’s falling down and has been re-supported to preserve it a bit longer.

We drove on to Belle Fourche. The geographic center of the United States!… except its not. ha If you read the sign out front of the visitor center it actually says that the point is 20 miles away. ha BUT… the monument is here, so we went and photographed it. 🙂

This brought us driving through Sturgis- luckily the giant bike rally that brings in almost a million people doesn’t happen for 2-3 more weeks. It’s in August. I can’t imagine what a congested mess everything will be adding 800,000+ bikes to this summer traffic in this area. ha No thanks!

Traffic hasn’t affected us much, to be honest. Parking lots are full, but we are able to find a spot of someone leaving almost every time… hotels are full, but no issues with our rooms being available or parking in the hotel lots. Restaurants are full, but reservations have been our saving grace. Only a couple nights when we didn’t plan ahead have we ended up with Wendys 🙂 Ordering ahead for pickup through apps online has been a game changer, as well.

Driving back towards Rapid City brought us just outside of Deadwood, South Dakota. Which, if you’ve ever had HBO, I hope you’ve watched the series Deadwood. It’s such a good old western series. With a ton of cursing. ha If that isn’t your thing- please ignore my advice to watch it. ha

Our first stop was at the Tatanka-Story of Bison visitor center. This site has a unique history. Kevin Costner built it. Apparently, he loves the Black Hills. He wanted to make a movie about the people and the west of this area. Couldn’t hardly get funding. That movie he made and directed – Dances With Wolves – went on to win multiple awards and over 400 million at the box office. Smash hit. and even though it was made in 1990, I bet almost everyone reading this watched that movie at least once. It was iconic. Fast forward a few years and Kevin Costner has another big plan- he wants to create a huge hotel outside of Deadwood with a train that will run in to it and bring tons of tourists… he sees this as a destination spot for city folks. But no investors are seeing his vision. After years, he was unable to get anyone to see his vision… but it sounded like (from a video at the center) that the hillside he envisioned for the project had already been cut down and leveled…and he felt like instead of ruining the land and leaving it for someone else or making it easy for a another cheap chain business to plop something down there and tarnish the area, he decided to create a visitor center to tell the story of Lakota people and their relationship with bison historically and give a place to showcase these giant bronze bison statues that he had commissioned for an art installation around his hotel.

He said it was something you do to make things right. You don’t cover up your mess or pass it on for your children to deal with. So I get the feeling this small museum was his way of paying back for the damage to the land with nothing to show for it.

We watched a 20 minute video about it, then a person of Lakota heritage showed us around the items in the small museum section, then we proceeded out back to see the sculptures placed here.

The statues are of a “bison jump”- a Native American hunting technique where they would drive a herd of bison towards a drop off to kill them as they fell below.

Once we left there, we headed into Deadwood proper.

Our first stop was lunch at Jacob’s Brewhouse and Grocer
We parked at the restaurant area in a pay lot and began our walk through town.

Deadwood quickly developed overnight when gold was discovered in the Black Hills. A river running right through the area was loaded with gold and a ton of dead trees- hence “Deadwood”. It sprang up overnight, literally, with outlaws, gambling, prostitution and all the other good things that go along with men making money for the first time in their lives.

One of these men in the town was Wild Bill Hickok- a famous wild west character of his time, famous for gunfights, sheriff duels, and other probably exaggerated and made up stories that the eastern city folks just LOVED to eat up in the dime novels and newspaper articles. He had only been in town a couple weeks when he was shot by Jack McCall, a day after Wild Bill beat him at poker and then gave him a bit of his money back and told him to go get something to eat. That apparently was condescending and the next day, Jack McCall returned to the saloon and shot Wild Bill in the back of the head and tried to flee town. Wild Bill died instantly, holding 2 black Aces and 2 black 8s- forever known as “the dead man’s hand”.

As you can see in the two pictures above, being that Deadwood’s claim to historic fame is the shooting of Wild Bill, there is a bit of a rivalry and tourism dollars to be made from anything about his death. One saloon has the same name – The No. 10 Saloon- but is in a totally different building and other side of the street from the real No. 10 of the time but they claim to have the real chair he was sitting in when he was shot. The second one says its the REAL site where Wild Bill was shot-which is true geographically, but the truth is everything in the town burned to the ground 3 years after he was shot… so everything on Main Street is new and the entire street was built up a level higher to protect against flooding issues and this particular saloon didn’t even open until 2013 in an empty building. So, take your pick of which tourist trap you’re most interested in..or see them both! 🙂
Pam’s Purple Door Brothel that operated all the way up to 1980! ha Lots of men with needs in Deadwood apparently!
The Bullock Hotel. Seth Bullock was the famous sherriff of Deadwood who arrived just a couple days after the shooting of Wild Bill and was known for his hard approach and piercing eyes, but never having killed anyone. He originally opened a hardware store with another famous Deadwood resident, Solomon “Sol” Starr who ended up being the town mayor for years, but after the fires in 1879, they didn’t rebuild the hardware, they built a fancy hotel -the first with steam heat and indoor bathrooms on every floor.
The Franklin Hotel was opened in 1903 with private bathrooms in most of the rooms- a novelty for the time! But closed during the Great Depression. It was private housing apartments up until gaming was legalized in Deadwood again in 1989… and it was renovated around 2007 to former glory. Would seem a lot older without this giant Suburban parked in front of it illegally. lol
Mr Wu’s! ha If you’ve seen the series, you know Wu-one of the main characters who was a Chinese Immigrant. We stopped in and played their slot machines for a bit. Lost miserably, of course.
Nice gesture to offer free popcorn for their players! ha
Norah saw ax throwing and just HAD to do it. She actually stuck 1 out of the 10 she got to throw.

After walking all of Deadwood up and down both sides of main street, we headed back to Rapid City. We finished earlier than I had planned in Deadwood because I had been looking forward to a Stagecoach ride through the streets that you could purchase. I had the location written down and the times that the coach ran. I thought it would be a totally cool experience to see how people would have ridden around before cars. I found the booth and the lady said they that they weren’t running the Stagecoach this season, too many people, too crowded. Never heard of a business that cancelled a money-making service because it was too popular. ha So that was disappointing.

It thunder stormed pretty heavily for a couple hours on our way to town and so we just went to the hotel for an hour or so until it quit, then we headed downtown.

Downtown Rapid City they have a “walk of presidents” with bronze sculptures of each president through Barrack Obama. No Donald Trump statue yet that we could find. I figure that’s better anyway right now as polarizing as that still is. We did see a mini van making laps up and down the main drag with a “F*** Biden and F** You for Voting for Him” giant flag yelling at people. His 15 year old minivan really gave me the vibe he was knocking life out of the park. *sarcasm*

Rapid City has a piece of the Berlin wall and a tank trap from the area of Checkpoint Charlie which we visited a couple years ago!

Downtown amongst all the restaurants and buildings is a narrow alley dubbed Art alley full of grafitti artwork.

Once we finished our president’s walk and exploring, we went to our reservations at Talley’s Silver Spoon, an old diner that it now run by a very good chef turning out some excellent food.

The Mushrooms D’Jour. A lot like Kegan’s mushrooms he makes at home, but add a swirl of basalmic vinegar to the top and put them over fresh toasted sourdough smeared with goat cheese. They were great and it was the only thing the entire trip Kegan TRULY enjoyed eating.
Norah got a Reuben that she ate one bite of and ate all of the fries. ha
Beef Tartar with pickled Daikon radish, a green chile and chili oil light sauce
A Salad I ordered with asparagus, poached egg, smoked ham, pickled onion, mustard seed and a cheese crouton.
Kegan’s Deer Loin meal. He said it was very good.
Buffalo Marsala Pasta my mother ordered. I tasted a couple pieces of the buffalo meat and it was incredibly tender. Very good all around meal.

Tomorrow morning, we drop her at the airport way too early in the morning and head to the Badlands for the last couple days of our trip!

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