Monday, October 16, 2017

Last week in Spearfish

October 8 to October 16:

On Sunday (10/8) we had cold weather with rain most of the day. We spent the day inside watching the Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers football game. It was a great game even though the Cowboy lost on a late touchdown throw by Aaron Rogers. Monday continued with cold windy weather so we spent most of the day inside.

Tuesday it warmed up so we decided to take a bike ride on a small portion of the George S. Mickelson Trail. This rails-to-trail pathway was created in 1991 and is named after the South Dakota governor at the time. The trailhead starts in Deadwood and continues for 109 miles south. We rode south for about 45 minutes (all uphill with a grade of 2-3%) and then turned around to have a downhill ride back to our Jeep.

When we got back to our campground we tried throwing our new golf discs after watching a couple of  YouTube videos on techniques. We still need lots of practice to get the proper method down.

Wednesday the weather remained nice so we drove into Spearfish and rode the hike/bike trail in town. We decided the "right" way to ride the trail was to start out at the lowest point of the trail in the west end of town and then have a downhill ride on the return trip.

On Thursday we drove north of Spearfish about 18 miles to Belle Fourche (french for "beautiful fork") which is located between the Redwater and Belle Fourche rivers. It is the closest community to the geographical center of the landmass of the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii).

We also visited the Tri-State Museum and Visitor's Center located on the same site. The museum has a nice set of exhibits and history of this ranching area. Belle Fourche was a railhead for shipping of cattle & sheep to meat packing plants in the Chicago area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since it was a major rail head the town had lots of brothels, saloons and hotels to house & entertain the cowboys at end of their cattle drives. One traveling house of "ill repute"  floated up and down the river docking at points close to town. All of this ended in 1919 when the town outlawed both prostitution and alcohol.

Calamity Jane returned to the Black Hills in her final stages of raging alcoholism and worked at one of the local brothels in Belle Fourche as a laundress & cook until her death in 1903. She was buried in Deadwood next to Wild Bill Hickok after her death. The Hole-In-The-Wall-Gang including the Sundance Kid robbed the Great Butte County Bank in Belle Fourche during 1897.

Belle Fourche is home to South Dakota's oldest and largest rodeo each year, the Tri-State Roundup, which started in 1917 as a fund raiser during the first World War. The famous bucking horse, Tipperary, was first rode by Yakima Canutt, a cowboy from a ranch near Belle Fourche, in 1920 after bucking off 80 riders. The horse was named after the WWI song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" sung by a cowboy who was bucked off the horse (thereby losing a $500 bet to the owner of the horse).

Historical cabin moved to this site a few years ago.
Friday we drove over to Deadwood to pick up a few more "bottles" of the Full Throttle Cafe Moonshine at Deadwood Distillery. We also walked along the hike & bike trail that runs along the creek in town.

Saturday morning we had a snow/sleet mix here in the campground. The ground was too warm for it to stick, but it did looked like winter out our windows. There are only a few RV's left in the park as most people have already headed south. Connie worked on her jigsaw puzzle in the afternoon while I watched the Texas/OU football game. With very few people in the park we were able to stream a movie on our Amazon Prime account in the evening.

Sunday we did some last minute grocery shopping here in Spearfish and got the Duchess ready to head south. The wind was blowing so hard that we decided to go ahead and put our satellite dish and TV/WiFi Ranger antenna down to prevent any damage to them. Monday morning we will finish packing up and head to Custer, South Dakota for a few days. Here are a few more pictures of the RV Park we were at for a month. It is a nice park although they close the pool & hot tub after Labor Day.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Weeks 2 & 3 in Spearfish

September 23 to October 7:

During our second and third weeks in South Dakota we experienced wide swings in the weather. We had everything from temperatures in the 80's to one night of freezing temperature.We took advantage of some nice days to drive in several canyons in the area to see the fall colors on the trees.

We visited several of the towns nearby during these weeks: Deadwood, Lead, Sturgis and Rapid City. Deadwood in an old mining town established during the South Dakota gold rush that has become a tourist destination based on the legends of Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane along with a number of gambling casinos. Lead in where the Homestake Mining Company was located along with it's large gold mine that closed in 2002 leaving the town struggling to find something to replace the mine. Sturgis is home to the world's largest motorcycle rally each year in August, the Black Hills Motor Classic along with Fort Meade and it's Veteran's Administration facilities. Rapid City is the largest town in the area with a population of about 75,000. It is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base where one of the nation's B-1B bomber squadrons is stationed.

We made two trips to Rapid City during these time frame: one to site see and one to attend a "beer festival". We visited the South Dakota Air and Space Museum located at the entrance to Ellsworth where they have over 20 airplanes dating from WWII to a modern B-1B bomber along with a nice museum.

We also walked around downtown Rapid City where they have statues on almost every corner including 42 of the US presidents. The downtown area seemed very "alive" with all of the buildings being occupied by stores, restaurants and other establishments.

Connie with our 1st President, George Washington

We saw this in he window of a "high-end" pawn shop in downtown Rapid City

We also visited the Dinosaur Park which overlooks the city. The park and "dinosaurs" where built as a WPA project during the Great Depression.

Another day we returned to Rapid City to attend their Octoberfest/Beer Festival. There were over 70 microbreweries from South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado that were at the event and a polka band that played.

Mike with LBJ
 We spent one day visiting Sturgis and Fort Meade which is located a couple miles outside of town. Fort Meade was one of the forts built in the 1870's during the South Dakota gold rush to protect the whites coming for the gold from the Indians. Today Fort Meade is a National Guard facility along with a large Veteran's Administration location. There are a number of buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century that are still in use at the fort.

Sturgis is most famous for the motorcycle rally held each year in August. This year about 500,000 people attended the rally (click on this article in USA Today about the event). During most of the year there about 6,500 people residing in Sturgis, so you can see how packed the city becomes during these two weeks. We walked around the downtown area, bought some "Sturgis" items and then visited the Knuckle Brewing Company to sample some of their brews.

We visited Deadwood a couple of times: once to attend their Octoberfest and once to walk the downtown. The Octoberfest ended up being quite small with the only activities (other than drinking beer) being a Weiner Dog race and a beer barrel roll. The downtown has a number of saloons and all of the hotels have casinos. Deadwood was the third place to have legalized gambling in the USA after Nevada and then Atlantic City. The buildings all date from the early 20th century since most of the original structures were made of wood and burned during several fires the city experiences over the years. We attended a "reenactment" of the murder of Wild Bill Hickok in one of the saloons and I got to play the riverboat captain who was sitting at the table playing poker with Wild Bill when he was shot. My one line was "I've been shot" since the bullet that killed Bill ended up in my forearm (the captain showed this wound to everyone the rest of his life). Wild Bill had only been in Deadwood for three weeks before he was killed, but he has made the town famous.

We spent another day visiting the town of Lead (pronounced "leed"). They have a Visitor's Center/Museum that overlooks the Open Cut of the Homestake Gold Mine. We toured the museum and then did a walking tour of the downtown area. The gold mine was open from the late 1870's until 2002 during which it became the largest and deepest gold mine in North America with tunnels 8,000 feet below the surface. The Manuel brother discussed the mine and then sold it to a group that included the father of William Randolph Hearst for $70,000 in 1877. A number of processes to get more gold out of the ore were developed by employees of the Homestake Mine. At Today the mine is home to the Sanford Labs where they do a lot of science based on physics in the old mining tunnels. With the closing of the mine the town has suffered and a number of the buildings in the downtown blocks are vacant.

We took a couple of drives through the canyons located nearby to see the fall colors. In Spearfish Canyon we hiked to a couple of waterfalls, Spearfish Falls and Roughlock Falls.

We also took drives through Boulder Canyon and Vanocker Canyon which are located near Sturgis and another canyon located near Rapid City. All had beautiful fall colors which we decided photos would not do justice (the skies was overcast).

We took advantage of a couple of warmer days to ride our bikes in Spearfish. Spearfish has a hike/bike trail that runs about 12 miles through town along the Spearfish Creek. It is a great place to ride with several parks located along the path. The trees along the river are also turning colors with the cooler temps. We also ordered a set of "disc golf" from Amazon and played a part of the disc golf course located in Spearfish.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Week 1 in Spearfish, South Dakota

 September 15-22:

 On Friday morning we left the campground in Glenrock, WY heading to Spearfish, South Dakota. We ended up driving most of the way in rain and fog. In places along I-90 we had to slow down to 30 mph due to the thick fog. On our drive up Highway 59 near Wright WY we saw a large herd of bison (several hundred) in a field along the road.

We arrived at the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort a few miles east of Spearfish SD and were assigned to Site 59. We ended up having some issues with the electrical hookup along with a leaky water faucet, so on Sunday morning we moved to Site 90.

There was a FMCA Jeep 4-Wheeling Rally going on in the park and the majority of the motorhomes with the rally seemed to be Newmars (we counted a least a dozen). There is also a New Horizons Owners Group (5th wheels & bumper pulls) rally that will start on September 20th that our friends, the Potts will be attending.

We spent all day Sunday (after our move) washing and cleaning both the Duchess and our Jeep. After spending several months in campgrounds with unpaved roads/sites and then driving in the rain both were extremely dirty.

On Monday the Potts and us drove down to Mount Rushmore which is about 80 miles south of our campground. We spend a couple of hours at Mount Rushmore seeing the sites and the museum located at the park. We also listened to a ranger talk on the construction process of the creating the heads of the four presidents located here. The original concept by a South Dakota politician was to carve western heroes into the rock to create an attraction to bring tourists to the Black Hills. Once Gutzon Borglum was hired to oversee the project (which started in 1925 with the last work in 1941), money was raised and the decision was made to carve presidents and not western heroes into the mountain. The carvings are impressive and the process used (dynamiting 90% of the rock and then finishing the remaining 10% with jackhammers and chisels) created a truly national monument. The museum and sculptors house do a great job of explaining the construction of the monument and the years spent by over 400 men to complete  project. The project lasted for 14 years but work was only done for about 6 1/2 years of this time period due to the lack of funding.

Part of the models used to by Borglum

Working model used to create carvings. Only the upper part was completed.

We had a great day with clear skies and nice temperatures for our visit. We had seen on CBS Sunday Morning a segment about Luigi Del Bianco who was honored recently as the "Chief Carver" of Mount Rushmore. We asked about Del Bianco's plaque and the rangers told us it was used in the Washington DC ceremony and would be located at Mount Rushmore in the near future.

All of ate a quick picnic lunch near Mount Rushmore and then drove on to the Crazy Horse Memorial. After finding out it costs almost $30 a car to go into the memorial, we decided we could see the carving (it is still a work in process) from the road and did need to pay that much to see it up close and personal.

Tuesday we had rain so we stayed inside the rig.  Connie did finish one of her jigsaw puzzles that had 1,000 pieces (thanks Larriann).

Wednesday we took a walking tour of the commercial district in Spearfish: there are a number of buildings from the 1880-1920 time period still standing and being used today. We also walked several blocks near the downtown area to see some of the older homes in town from the same time period. Spearfish was not a gold mining town like Deadwood, but was considered the place for people to raise children in this part of the state.

After finishing our walk, we drove over to look at Black Hills State University which is home to about 4,500 students during the school-year. From there we went to Crow Peak Brewing Company where sampled several of their brews before getting a couple of glasses of their "Pile O' Dirt Porter" which we really liked. While at the brewery we met Jeff & Barb Fisher from Wisconsin who were staying at Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort with the Jeep 4-Wheeling Rally. They have a new 2017 Dutch Star 4369 which they are very happy with (their 3rd Newmar).

Crow Peak Brewing Company - Spearfish

Crow Peak Brewing Company - Spearfish
On Thursday Connie and I went into Spearfish and walked the Lookout Mountain trail located along the interstate highway. Once we finished the hike, Connie was not feeling well and slept for several hours that afternoon. She was up for dinner, then back to back where she slept all night and felt better in the morning.

Friday morning we got up early and drove back into Wyoming to visit the Devil's Tower National Monument. The monument is the magma remains of an old volcano that rise 867 feet from it's base. The Indians called this the Bear's Lodge and most of the local tribes had stories about how the tower was formed. Here is the Kiowa legend about the rock:

Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there were a great many bears, many of them. One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears. The girls ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, "Rock take pity on us, rock save us!" The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell on the ground. The rock rose higher and higher, the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. When the people came to look, they found the bears' claws, turned to stone, all around the base. No Kiowa living has ever seen this rock, but the old men have told about it - it is very far north where the Kiowa used to live. It is a single rock with scratched sides, the marks of the bears' claws are there yet, rising straight up, very high. There is no other like it in the whole country, there are no trees on it, only grass on top. The Kiowa call this rock "Tso-aa", a tree rock, possibly because it grew tall like a tree.

Devil's Tower was the first National Monument designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. So Wyoming is home to the first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) and the first national monument. The tower is impressive and is a place we are glad we visited. We walked the trail around the base of the tower to view it from all four sides. We saw several people climbing the tower while we were there (there are a couple of thousand individuals who climb it each year - no spikes allowed - all done with hands and feet using the crevices in the tower).

We drove back to Spearfish to complete our first week here in South Dakota.