The Biker Babes’
Sunday, 25 August 2002: Keystone and
This morning, we went up past Keystone to
On the way down and back from the memorial, we drove through the heart of the
We walked through Keystone after leaving the Rushmore memorial, and then we rode the 1880 Train from Keystone to
Monday, 26 August 2002:
Crazy Horse is a memorial more monumental than Rushmore: a carving of Crazy Horse mounted on a horse, showing Crazy Horse from the waist up, and the head, neck, and one lifted foreleg of the horse. In fifty years, the only feature that has been completed is the face of Crazy Horse. All four of the heads on Rushmore would fit in the head and flowing hair of Crazy Horse! The family sculpting it is working now on the head of the horse, which will be 22 stories tall. It’s impressive, but I wonder how much I’ll see completed in my lifetime, especially since the final complex is supposed to incorporate an airport, a university, and a hospital as well as the existing museum. The project accepts no government or taxpayer funding, but relies entirely on donations.
From the memorial, we took a trip through
But we saw more than did the two unfathomable men who dug the Big Thunder gold mine in Keystone. Of all the mines available to tour, this one had the easiest access. Unfortunately, it also had the poorest guide of the trip. The Big Thunder is a drift mine, which means it is a hole dug mostly straight back into the side of a mountain. Well, it’s not actually straight back; the tunnel has one slight kink in it, so that someone blasting at the face would have a place to shelter if the charges went off before he could make it all the way out the mouth! (The other mine types are open pit mines, which are simply excavations stripping off the surface of a mountain, like the Homestake Mine, or shaft mines that drill straight down into the ground and then have tunnels opening off of them, like the Holy Terror.) Anyway, this particular drift mine goes 680 feet into the side of a hill. The two men who owned it spent 32 years digging it out, and after all that time and effort, it netted them a grand total of 10 ounces of gold, worth about $50 at the time. They were digging right next to one of the richest drift mines in the area, but the rich veins that they were hoping to intersect petered out before reaching their tunnel. Our question was, what idiocy kept them hoping and digging for 32 years? You’d think that anyone with a brain would have given up long before then!
By the time we left the mine, the weather had turned, so we put on our gear in the rain and rode home wet. Didn’t dampen our spirits any!
Tuesday, 27 August 2002: Devil’s Tower, WY; Hulett, WY; Spearfish, SD
In the morning we made tracks for Devil’s Tower, crossing the state line into
We also saw our first honest-to-Pete herd of bison – as opposed to single animals – grazing in a pasture below the Tower along the
Hulett was a cute little town where we opted to hit the Pizza Plus Café for lunch, and wound up with a yummy veggie pizza. There’s not much at all to Hulett, but it’s cute!
The scenic drive through
We returned to Spearfish to buy tickets for the night’s performance of the Black Hills Passion Play and to kill time until the show. The layout reminded me a lot of the Shepherd of the Hills production in Branson – an amphitheatre built into a rustic hillside. We saw some of the cast – six white horses and one brown were grazing in the pasture by the parking lot.
The “killing time” part turned into a real treat, because we visited the D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery, and that was an unexpected delight full of fascinating information tidbits (did you know that the U.S. government shipped fish eggs and fry by train in specially built Fish Cars?) and the fun of feeding fish and ducks. The preservation of the place is remarkable and largely the work of volunteers, although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came back to this location once it had been restored to locate a museum here. The grounds are gorgeous, the historical renovations and displays are spectacular, and hey – you can feed the fish! It’s no longer an active hatchery – the hatchery had to move ten miles away when increasing progress diverted more and more water from Spearfish Creek and the local aquifer (including the Homestake mine establishing a hydro power plant you can still see when driving through Spearfish Canyon), but the active hatchery keeps the ponds and runs at D.C. Booth (named for the first superintendent) stocked and active. Wild to realize that trout fishing in the West exists only because of hatcheries: until the white men brought the railroad, all those cold, pure, perfect-for-fishing Western streams were bare of trout or any other fish beyond suckers and chub!
We decided to do a real steak dinner here in the heart of cattle country, so we dined at Mad Mary’s Steakhouse. Okay, each dinner was enough beef for a week (well, slight exaggeration on my part – the sirloin tips weren’t that huge a portion, and Mom’s 7 ounce sirloin wasn’t that bad a violation, but Terry’s 14 ounce ribeye came close!), but it was tender, perfectly cooked, and delicious.
The Passion Play was pretty well done. It is a 63-year tradition in the Hills, with a huge cast (we wondered how much of the total population of Spearfish was showing up on stage) plus animals (the sheep were hysterical – they didn’t want to go where they were herded!). Rain threatened and sprinkled a few times, but the thunder and lightning proved hollow and didn’t stop the show.
Wednesday, 28 August 2002:
Terry wanted to do two more of the scenic drives in Custer State Park – the pigtail bridges (heavy wooden framework bridges that carry the road in a tight spiral over itself), which include tunnels through which you can see the faces of Mount Rushmore, as in a frame; and the wildlife loop trail. The curvy pigtail bridge road was a blast, with spectacular views. The wildlife loop finally delivered the one western sight we’d so far been denied: large herds of bison, roaming free. A few hundred head had passed the ranger station in the early morning, we were told, and we saw ‘em – scattered into several large groups were bison of all ages and sizes, including a bumper crop of calves. Most seemed unconcerned about cars and motorcycles; animals crossed the road with impunity. Wild! We also saw the park’s famous begging donkeys, several of which had pretty thoroughly mobbed a small car in search of treats, sticking their noses right into open windows. A couple of other bikers who had been watching before we arrived advised us that we’d missed the main feature of the show – that the black donkey had been mating with the grey one, which was what caused the now-mobbed car to stop for pictures in the first place! We eased on by and kept driving, marveling at the monster size of the bison bulls and rapidly losing count of the animals we saw. We also saw quite a few pronghorn antelope scattered around too, including one who posed very prettily (too bad I couldn’t get the camera out!), and lots and lots of prairie dogs.
We lunched at Red Lobster, and then went to take the tour of the Mt. Rushmore Black Hills Gold Company, right on the outskirts of
I sat for the last time with our laundry, making my journal entries; from here on, we’ll be heading home.
Oh, and for any bikers who read this: in the vicinity of
Thursday, 29 August 2002:
This was a pushing day. We left
Friday, 30 August 2002:
Note on last night’s news: you know you’re staying in a sportsman’s small town paradise when what’s biting where and which bait and tackle are working best are a regular part of the evening news!
We headed north to Sisseton in wind-driven, pouring rain. It was so wet and blowing so hard that my leather gloves soaked clean through: I wrung them out like cleaning rags when I finally got to a dry place. Couldn’t wring out the boots, though, so those got shown to the hair dryer for a few minutes when we finally got back to the hotel.
Well, when we got to Sisseton, north up 29, we got a surprise:
But it’s the journey we’re in for anyway, so we headed west on 10 in the rain – and 25 miles before we would reach the fort, we found 10 closed for major work! The road surface simply vanished into greasy red-brown clay being shoved around by earth-moving equipment. Fortunately for us, the woman stationed in a parked car at the start of the closure was able to describe a route to take us south and west to clear the construction area and return to 10 to complete our journey to the fort. I say, fortunate, because there were NO detour signs marking any alternate route! We thanked the lady, who returned to the shelter of her car, and headed in the direction she described ... and the second turn put us onto a road that abruptly transitioned from blacktop into rural gravel! At least we were on three wheels, and this time, unlike our Wild Horse Sanctuary visit, we wouldn’t get dusty ...
The next turn continued the gravel country lane motif, and the fourth turn back to pavement left us wondering which direction to go. We turned right, to head back north toward 10, but found that we hadn’t cleared the construction yet. The guy there, who really got a chuckle out of three insane women out in the rain on a sidehack rig, gave us the more complete instructions that the first woman had missed, and we got back onto the detour. A few more miles down the way, we finally encountered our very first “Hwy 10 Detour” sign, and were able to hook up with the road again and find the fort, although it was a fair bit later than we’d intended!
About 15 minutes after we reached the fort, the rain stopped, so I did get a few pictures. This place is really neat! It is the best example I’ve seen of a preserved fort from the 1860’s through 1880’s: the original stable, barracks, hospital, officers’ quarters, commanding officer’s house, armory, guardhouse, library, blacksmith’s shop, and several other buildings have been marvelously restored, and some totally vanished buildings, like one of the corner wooden blockhouses, have been reconstructed. You can walk the grounds, which are gorgeously maintained (including the berm and defensive ditch circling the fort – this one never had a palisade, because there wasn’t enough timber), and then view the exhibits in the north barracks. You can request a guided tour from the ladies in the barracks, and there are a few regularly scheduled guided tours as well as interpretive tours by costumed guides.
I have no idea how or why AAA missed including this gem in their tourbook, but I’m planning on sending them a tip to check it out and put it in next year’s book. Visiting costs only $5 per private vehicle, or $3 per person. There’s also camping available right at the fort. The fort was originally built in 1864 in response to an Indian uprising, but it wound up never seeing any hostilities itself, instead just serving as a garrison to keep the peace.
The ladies in the barracks gave Terry good directions about how to get to Hwy 25 south, which got us to 212 heading east back to Watertown. Our return was rain-free, but as we approached home base, we realized that the rain had been there just before us, and we learned that it had never stopped raining in
This entire drive was through the glacial lakes region of
We also saw lots of birds, including what looked like storks, egrets, and herons as well as many types of ducks. I added one more deer sighting to my total, and we saw one monster pheasant statue that looked like it wanted to compete with Huron’s “World’s Largest Pheasant,” which we saw on our drive to Watertown yesterday. The farms here are big, and very far apart – you could travel miles to take coffee with your neighbor.
Saturday, 31 August 2002:
Once again, we hit the road simply to eat it, loping across the miles to wind up back home. Along the way, we had several of our major impressions reinforced, like the size differences in farms even between
This trip solidified my resolve to get a pair of chaps, though. More than once on this ride, we ran into swarms of grasshoppers, and I really do mean we ran into them. These things were fully two inches long and there were a lot of them, and when we smacked into them at highway speeds, they hurt. I looked at my legs when I was getting dressed one morning and realized that I had lines of little bruises running down both shins from grasshopper impacts at 60+ mph, and that was despite my wearing heavy jeans! Terry not only had chaps, but also the front fairings on the bike to protect her, and Mom had the windscreen on the sidecar, so I was the only one getting mashed by hoppers. Yeesh!
As has become a tradition, we ended the trip by stopping at