South Dakota – Mitchell, Sturgis, Custer State Park, and so much more….

We left for Sturgis, SD and came across Mitchell which is known for its Corn Palace.  This is a building utilized by the community for various purposes, including sporting events.  What is most interesting is that all the walls inside and outside the building are decorated with corn stalks, husks, and corn cobs of all sizes and colors to form beautiful murals.  These murals are taken down each fall and replaced with different murals.  Imagine the artistry involved.  It must be a full-time job, just to think of the project, let alone to create them.

And that was only the outside.  The inside walls were just as fabulous.  The attention to detail is unbelievable.

Some of the walls inside

We then continued on to Wall where the famous Wall Drugs is located.  We had lunch at Walls Drugs and then continued our trip to Sturgis, SD located in the beautiful Black Hills.

This year it was the Motorcycle Rally’s 75th Anniversary and about 1.5 million bikes were expected.  As you know, we are not bikers but it certainly was an item on our bucket list.  When we arrived in a full week ahead of the rally, we saw thousands of bikes everywhere and as the week progressed and the rally date got closer, more and more were seen, as if they were cloning.  We knew that we would have to share the road with many, many bikers and since Bertha Butt is a road hog, we opted to arrive a week early.

We stayed at Broken Spokes Saloon which sits on 600 acres about 10 miles out of town.  Since we arrived well before the crowd, we had the pick of the liter when it came to campsites.  We opted to choose a site far away from the pool area, as we were warned that if we chose something closer we would never get a night’s sleep.  The sites we chose had a beautiful view of Bear Butte and nobody to block the view.  Linda and Walter West and Doug and Kelly Williams joined us for the week there.

View as we opened our door each morning.

We also happened to be in the area during the blue moon.  Someone told me that is when you have two full moons in a month?  I’ll have to google that sometime.

As the week progressed though, you could see the number of bikes increase exponentially.

Of course, while in town, Doug and Kelly and we had to stop for libations at several of the local establishments.

Easy Rider Saloon

and of course, the Dungeon Saloon, where the lighting was indeed orange (not a photography faux pas)

Some of the prettiest bikes

In spite of the crowds, we were able to drive many beautiful scenic byways taking in some gorgeous scenery.  We decided to go through Belle Fourche, (pronounced “Foosh”), which is the exact center of the nation on our way to Spearfish and Deadwood.

Deadwood is a historic gold mining town that has not changed much of its appearance.  It’s an old western town.

Some of the West’s most flamboyant characters now “rest in peace” at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Wild Bill’s resting place and Calamity Jane – right next to him.

We drove to Spearfish and absolutely loved the drive through Spearfish Canyon.  One early morning we drove to Custer State Park.  The Wildlife Loop Scenic Road is 18 miles of nature at its best.  While driving this route we encountered grasslands dotted with prairie dogs, deer and “begging” burros which like to come up to your vehicle’s windows, but most amazingly we somehow were trapped by the largest herd of buffalos we’ve ever seen.   The entire  herd was hard to capture as they were spread out and quite a bit.  They were roaming on both the grasslands and the road.  In front of us, beside us and behind us.  Actually, a couple of them decided they were going to get frisky “right behind Big Bertha”.   Naturally, John wanted me get out and take an upfront and personal picture.  What was he thinking?  We were told by the rangers that we might see bighorn sheep, antelope, even elk.  Unfortunately, none were to  be seen this time.  I bet you they saw us though.

Prairie dogs


Herd of bison.

Hmmm.  I dare not interrupt…

He needs to use the bark of an aspen tree to reshape his horn, after all, that is what deer do.

We then drove the Needles Highway is 14 miles long and it is actually amazing.  After seeing incredible needle like granite formations all around you, you get to drive your vehicle through a rock tunnel, the eye of the needle.  The needle eye tunnel is 8’6″ wide so Big Bertha had about a 2″ clearance on either side.  I know that John will probably never do that again.

The needle eye tunnel is barely wide enough for one vehicle and therefore vehicles approaching from either way of the two way road must stop and confirm that no vehicle is entering the tunnel from the opposite direction prior to entering themselves. 

Oh, let me give you a huge hug!

We then took the Iron Mountain Road which is 18 miles long. This road has several tunnels, but most specially there is a tunnel that frames Mount Rushmore.

On way back we drove by Mount Rushmore to see it a bit closer.

We drove up Mount Coolidge, elevation 6,023, which is one really winding and narrow road for a great views of the surrounding area including Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument.

Mt. Rushmore

Crazy Horse Monument – is the largest sculpture in the world.  This sculpture began in 1939 as a memorial to Lakota Leader Chief Crazy Horse.  The original sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski’s wish that no federal or state funds would ever be accepted to build the memorial.  When it is completed, the sculpture will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide.

We took another ride and drove to Devils Tower National Monument in Northeast Wyoming but before we arrived we drove through the town of Hulett, yet another old west town.

Our trip to South Dakota is nearing its end as we will be heading to Colorado next.

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