Day 8 – Gillette to Edgemont via Devil’s Tower, Deadwood and Mount Rushmore
Wyoming to South Dakota
Had an interesting breakfast in the Budget Inn Express. Everyone asking me to speak more (not something my friends would ever request!!) The visitors here were on hunting trips and we learned that you can eat what you kill, but you can’t sell it.
Have to say that the little budget hotel offered great value for money. Our first laundrette on site, a small swimming pool and hot tub. The room was equipped with fridge and microwave, so we decided to have an ‘evening in’ planning our next few days of routes (or routs they call it out here), have a microwave dinner and do some laundry. It was an opportunity for Chris to sample some of the local craft beers, from breweries that seem to be springing up everywhere.
After breakfast we made our way to the Frontier Automotive Museum in Gillette. There was an adjacent antique shop with some great 19th and 20th century memorabilia.
The motor museum was the most interesting for Chris. He was like a boy in a sweet shop as he walked around a 1949 Hudson convertible and a 1959 Chevrolet convertible, among others. Also there was an Edsel, a make that had a short but interesting history. Wow – they were huge and so much chrome!! The replica motor mechanic’s workshop took you back to another era where ‘gas’ was soooo cheap!
This museum was $8 entry and well worth a visit if you are travelling by in this area.
Devil’s Tower – the oldest monument in USA
Having left Gillette behind, it was time for more great scenery. We took the I90 out of town and once again went past miles and miles of prairie land with few houses but lots of cattle and the occasional farmyard. We arrived at Devil’s Tower after an hour and could not believe how this ‘rock’ just stands out on its own. No wonder this iconic landmark was seen as a sacred site by native Americans and became Americas’s first national monument. For film buffs it was used by Steven Spielberg in the Close Encounters of the third kind. We pulled into the ‘Trading Post’ and were met with the normal tourist and historical artefacts which also include images of the aliens as portrayed in the film! A far cry from its ancient past. Not done in a way to spoil it though.
Back on the open road we stopped for some ‘gas’ ($2.93/gallon!) where once again I was asked to please speak some more. How did you say Nottingham and Sante Fe? Oh wow please repeat that. Were two comments!! At the same petrol station I overheard two ladies saying how different South Dakota was from their home (next door state) of Wyoming.
Past Deadwood before the Stage Coach
The town made famous (so I am told) from the Deadwood Stage song in Calamity Jane musical had to be visited. It was a bit like stepping back in time (again), until I heard a guy on a microphone prior to starting a show saying what the eateries had to offer in town tonight!!! Not my cup of tea! Deadwood was lovely and full of old Western buildings. It was the busiest of all the traditional Western towns we visited and had a lot more to offer. The trade off being more tourists. I would recommend staying overnight if you are in this region and have time, but for us it had to be merely a whistle stop tour.
Mount Rushmore – an Iconic USA image
Through the Black Hills mountains on our way to Mount Rushmore we went through more remote country towns and villages. Of special note was a town called Sundance, where the signs proudly proclaim, “Where the kid got his name”! Driving casually through the area we suddenly came across a lovely lake, yet another wow of a, “look at that” moment.
We then saw a rocky horizon and realised we were getting close to Rushmore.
What an iconic site! You come out of Keystone which is another nice touristy western town and as you drive up through the Black Hills National Forest you are greeted with a view of the majestic sculpture of the four Presidents. We drove up to the official car park ($10 charge) and came to the memorial. In the foreground are pillars with the 50 flags of the United States and the year they joined the union. We walked the President’s Trail to take in a little of the Black Hills ambience and see the sculptures from different angles. There is the obligatory gift shop, but apart from that the area has been left in a natural way. There are certain icons that I always associate with a country, for example the Eiffel Tower in France, the Opera House in Australia and Mount Rushmore in the USA. The iconic image did not disappoint, I now knew (if I didn’t already!!) that I was in USA and I was so glad to say I was there!
Crazy Horse Memorial
Heading out of Rushmore we made our way to Crazy Horse Memorial. The entrance fee was $24 for the two of us and they are relying on these funds to maintain and finish the project.
The memorial is a statue which when finished will be the largest in the world. They have been working on it for over 70 years so who knows when it will be finally finished. This memorial has been contentious with some native Americans on the basis that Crazy Horse would not have wanted the sacred mountain spoiling. They may have a point, but it seems to be appropriate that if the key Presidents of this country are to be recognised then so should the Great Chiefs of the regions.
The memorial was striking and an amazing project. At the moment only the head is finished and that alone is 88ft tall. When finished the statue, depicting him on horseback, will be 641ft long and 563ft tall. The heads in Mt Rushmore are only (!) about 65ft tall.
The memorial will be amazing, although under the current ownership I doubt it will be finished in my lifetime. We were both left feeling why has the Government not stepped in to buy this private, culturally vital project and finish it.
To get really close (enough to touch it!) to the face of Crazy Horse required a donation of $125 each. We passed on that. The visitor centre had some interesting memorabilia and artefacts from various Native American tribes, and lots of information about the fascinating life, and terrible death, of Crazy Horse himself. On display were original weapons, clothing, toys and domestic items.
Leaving Crazy Horse we followed the road through Custer State Park into the town of Custer. I guess it gets its name from the General Custer and his last stand. Another typical small western town we have found, and loved to see. However, on this occasion we didn’t have time to stop. We had to get to Edgemont before dark – Chris had some craft ales to sample!