Friday, June 21, 2013

Whirlwind Tour

Home sweet vacation rental
On June 15 we checked out of the campground at America's Mailbox and drove back west along the I-90, getting off at Sturgis and driving to Deadwood, where we picked up US Highway 85 South. This took us through the towns of Deadwood and Lead. About 4 miles south of Lead is the turnoff to our vacation rental. We parked the motorhome in the driveway, used the combination to the lock box on the porch to obtain the key and went inside our new house for the first time. It is a log home with a large pine beams holding up the vaulted ceiling. There are five bedrooms which will each hold a queen sized bed and there is a foldout couch in the downstairs recreation room. The previous owner advertised it as sleeping 17, but a fair number of those people would have to enjoy the hardwood floors. We think 10 or 12 is a more reasonable number and then only if at least a couple of them are children. We went upstairs and downstairs, wandering from room to room debating the wisdom of our purchase. In the end, we decided we had probably done okay.

About the time we came to this conclusion, Lyle and Linda drove up, having gotten directions from us earlier in the morning. We dragged them through to look at all the rooms and tell us how wonderful it all was (I believe their commentary consisted of "Meh"). They would have loved to linger but they only had a couple of days in the Black Hills and Linda had carefully scheduled out a weeks worth of sightseeing, so we locked the house back up again and hit the road. First we stopped at a local biker bar for lunch where we had good beer and overcooked hamburgers, then we drove back up into Deadwood. It turned out that this weekend was designated as "Wild Bill Days" which they celebrate annually to commemorate the fact that Wild Bill Hickok came and lived in Deadwood for an entire couple of months before getting himself shot in the back of the head. The main effect of Wild Bill Days is that you aren't allowed to drive down Main Street and there is no parking to be had near the downtown area.

The Adams House.  Lurch answered the door.
Actually, we did finally find  some parking which cost Lyle an entire dollar which he groused about for the rest of the day. We decided to avoid the downtown festivities and instead went across the main highway to the Adams house where we took the 40 min. tour. It is a quite nice three-story mansion originally built in the 1880s by the Franklin family. It was purchased by William Adams in 1920. William figured out that you could make a lot more money selling to miners than you could being one and made a fortune in the grocery business among other things. After his wife and two daughters died he courted and married his second wife, Mary. This caused some consternation in Deadwood since he was 73 and she was only 29 and what's worse, she was from Lead for heaven's sake!  Anyway, William died of a stroke seven years later leaving Mary the house and $40,000. This was a significant fortune at the time but she shrewdly invested the money in Walt Disney and IBM stocks and eventually became a millionairess. She locked up the house in Deadwood and moved to California leaving everything untouched for 50 years. After her death the house eventually went to the city of Deadwood and was carefully restored to the tune of 1.5 million dollars. All of the furnishings are just as they were when she lived there in the 1930s.

After the tour, we drove up to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery where notable characters like wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. It has apparently gotten a facelift along with the rest of the town and many of the old tombstones had been replaced, which upset Vicki who was hoping it would look like Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona. Instead, it looked more like Forest Lawn.

The following day we drove around the Black Hills in Linda's Outback. It seems a shame to own a car called the Outback and only drive it on pavement, so we spent a good portion of the day on gravel roads. First we drove down Rochford Road which runs close to our rental cabin. When you reach the tiny town of Rochford the road goes on but the asphalt does not. The unpaved road winds through the backwoods of the Black Hills following closely to the Michelson Trail which is a hiking/biking/snowmobile trail built along the bed of an old railway route. It was a gorgeous drive and the gravel road was at least well maintained. This took us down to Hill City where we got our pavement back. We drove down to Custer and then went in the west entrance to Custer State Park. Linda wanted to see some bison.

Bisonettes napping and snacking
There is a "wildlife loop" through the park which is a two-lane paved road but there are also half a dozen dirt roads that crisscross the park and we took off on one of these. After driving around a bit, we came across a modest sized herd of bison, maybe 60-70 head, of which about a third were bisonettes (or whatever it is you call bison babies). These are quite a bit lighter in color than their woolly parents and don't look that much different from regular calves.  A group of tourists had congregated along the edge of the road and the bison had decided to retreat up the side of the nearest hill offering us perfect pictures of bison butts. Fortunately, a couple of miles further along we ran into another, smaller group that did not seem to mind posing for photographs.

With Linda's bison appetite quenched, we took the drive along the Needles Highway. The Needles are a set of granite spires which were the first site contemplated for some presidential sculptures,
Lyle and Linda posing gracefully before the Needles
however the granite was not of particularly good quality (which is why they erode the weird way they do) so the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, selected Mt. Rushmore, a few miles to the northeast. The Needles Highway winds its way right through some of the rock spires and includes a couple of one lane, very narrow tunnels through the rock where you just hope the cars at the other end are going to wait for you to come through.  Finally, the highway goes by Sylvan Lake which has a particularly nice granite backdrop that makes it one of the most photographed vistas in the Black Hills.

Sylvan Lake
The next morning, Lyle and Linda headed back for Whidbey Island while Vicki and I stayed parked in the driveway our new house to await the Bekins truck containing all of our worldly belongings.

1 comment:

  1. We had a really good time spending the two days and seeing your lodge cabin, the Lead/Deadwood area, Custer State Park, and the gorgeous Needles Highway! The smoked pork chop/corn dinner was one of our top meals of the trip --we certainly hope to visit the area again one of the times you're there. L and L