Friday, September 14, 2012

Custer, Hill City, and Deadwood, South Dakota

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We woke up in Custer, South Dakota. It's funny how I remember certain things from my family's 1959 camping trip. I recalled the post office in Custer, today, and know without a shadow of a doubt that I went in there with my father back then to pick up his mail which had been forwarded by a neighbor to “General Deliver, Custer, South Dakota.”

Custer is a very small town of only 1,800 people, but it is so wonderful. (I already checked out the real estate.) Everyone we've met has been friendly and welcoming. The little downtown area is really working to stay fresh and up to date but at the same time keeping the Old West flavor. This has been very successful. We noted several businesses, along with the Sage Creek Inn, that are successful at looking clean and up to date, but still old. (Oh, that it were so easy.............)

We went on a “Buffalo Hunt” this morning, seeking out the buffalo statues that I mentioned yesterday. We took pictures of all of them, and one may even be on our Christmas card due to its bright colors. We visited several t-shirt shops, some jewelry stores, a wonderful gallery full of great photographs and woodworking, peeked into the town museum, and then the trip to the post office.............

The very first building ever to be built in the Black Hills sits next to the Town Hall in the middle of town. It is a log cabin complete with everything that a pioneer woman would have needed to make it a palatial estate. Nearby is a statue to celebrate the man who discovered gold in South Dakota. Great little city!

We liked Custer so much that we drove north to Hill City to see something a bit similar yet different. We'd driven through Hill City a day ago, but had not stopped. Today we enjoyed the main “strip” with all of the tourist places. Another fun town! We saw some more lovely galleries and also the ubitquitous t-shirt shop, then chose The Bumpin' Buffalo for lunch.

The Bumpin' Buffalo is a fun place to eat. Buffalo heads wearing various hats and caps decorate the walls, and each booth has a private TV set to watch in case you can't live without it. The servers were extremely pleasant and welcoming, and we ordered a pulled pork sandwich with French fries. A+. We only ordered one sandwich, to share it, and both of us were wishing for more, but knew we didn't need more. It was absolutely delicious.

Hill City is where an 1880 Railroad starts and then goes to Keystone. There is a roundtrip ride that you can take between the two cities, and we very nearly signed on to do it back when we were in Keystone. You can probably see that we had plenty of other things to see, which is why we didn't do the train ride. We did, however, enjoy seeing where the train started while we were in Hill City today.

After lunch, we continued the drive north, stopping at The Naked Wine tasting room, which seemed to be a place that sold wine using provocative names for the wine and tee shirts with the same suggestive words or phrases on them. We did not taste, due to our immediate impression.

We also stopped at a real winery, The Prairie Berry Winery, not even a mile from the other place. It seemed to have actually made the wine, had serious tasting sessions going on, and wasn't just there to catch the tourists.

Continuing north, we passed the most beautiful lake area called Poctola Pines Lake. We had to stop several times to take pictures of the beauty of this place. We gathered aspen leaves at one stop, as there has already been a frost here, and the leaves are starting to turn and fall from some aspens. This was an area for recreation, and there were fishermen on the lake, but no residential places on the banks of the lake. It was clean and lovely. Camping places seemed to be plentiful.

We had planned to go one way, but went the other when we reached a crossroads. Robert Frost might be proud or just laugh at us. We decided, on a whim, to visit Deadwood, South Dakota, known for its casinos.

Our method of finding a motel may seem odd to some of you, but we “shop.” We stopped at several motels as we approached the city, got their best offers, looked over a few rooms, and then continued driving towards town.

Inside the city limits, we followed a sign up a very, very high moutainside to visit the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, who are buried side by side in Mt. Moriah Cemetery. It is the only cemetery we've ever been to that we had to pay admission to see graves! I even asked the admissions person about this, and questioned whether I'd have to pay to visit the grave of a relative there. She just asked me if I had a relative there, and I said, “No, but what if I did?” She responded that I wouldn't have to pay.

A number of tour buses were bringing people into the cemetery while we were there. Bill Hickok was shot in the back, by a man named Jack McCall, while he was in downtown Deadwood in 1876, playing cards. He turned his back to the door only that one time.  A sign on a building tells you where this happened, and another one tells where McCall was arrested. His last hand of poker cards is framed and on display at the #10 Saloon.  Calamity Jane didn't die until 1903. Her dying request, according to a sign, was, “Bury me beside Wild Bill,” and they did.

We were glad we had not booked a room yet, when we found downtown Deadwood. What a fun and Western old town! We had actually driven into Deadwood in 2004, but had not stayed there because we had other plans, I guess. Today it was still early afternoon, and we found The Iron Horse Hotel, from the 1880's, right downtown within walking distance of everything else. Most of Deadwood seems to be casinos, and I lost about $5 to some slot machines, losing a quarter here and a quarter there...........not a huge gambler, but I think it's fun.

Our room is not huge. It reminds me of a dorm room I had in Elliot Hall at Mount Union College, (now called the University of Mount Union,) which would probably have been about the same vintage. The bathroom is brand new, and it is up to date, actually. We cannot complain. It is a nice place at a fair price, right in the middle of “what's happening” in Deadwood.

We had a very tasty dinner at BB Cody's Restaurant which is in the lower level of the Hickok Casino and Steakhouse. Every restaurant and hotel has a casino in it. There are 88 casinos here! We dropped some quarters into Kevin Costner's slot machines at The Midnight Star. There's a restaurant in there, too, but we haven't investigated there, yet.

I plan to drop a few more quarters into the slots before we leave tomorrow.

Post Script: I am having huge issues with the internet here and also last night, so am writing this on my word processor and will try to copy and paste when we get to a place that has faster servers.