So after spending some time in Sioux Falls after the Indy rally, we got some tasks taken care of and then headed west for our “Let’s go see the USA!” summertime adventures. We started by heading to Rapid City, and then Keystone, SD and camped for the night right behind Mount Rushmore at Kemp’s Kamp. It was the only campground nearby with a spot open with 50 amp power so we booked by phone while en route (figuring we may end up dry camping at the Cabela’s in Rapid City originally) so we plugged the address into the GPS and started on our way. Well, our GPS (the CoPilot app for RV) sent us on a roundabout path that took us on a very winding and bumpy road that ended up coming into the campground from what would normally be considered the “wrong” direction (coming from 14A through Keystone would have been MUCH better, but was not in the GPS nor mentioned by campground staff) so we ended up blocking the driveway and having to unhook both the Jeep and the dolly to be able to get turned around and in the right direction. If you know me, you know that there were some colorful phrases that found their way out of my head. But once we got turned around and we got to our site, it was really pretty and right across the road from the Keystone train tracks.
The camp had a nice pool and after getting set up, we decided to go take a dip to cool off. The train came by and we waved and they waved back and then we headed back to eat. The train came back again and we managed a few pictures.
In the morning, we got up early and got all connected up and then headed for Mount Rushmore. It was about a 15 minute ride back through Keystone up to the National Park Service parking area. We paid our $10 parking fee and then parked, turned on the generator and AC for the puppies and then set out to really see the monument. Yes, it was visible from the road as you approach but it isn’t quite the same as the view from the Visitor’s Center. And yes, it is everything expected and more. There are all kinds of places to learn about the story of how it all came about. But just seeing it in all of its majesty is plenty enough.
Even the puppies got in on the action.
Once we finished, we packed up and headed off for Deadwood.
We decided to go back to Rapid City to get more groceries and gas and then headed west. We got off at Sturgis and headed for Deadwood. We made reservations the day before at Days of 76 Museum and RV Park. Once we got there, we found the park ideally suited for getting in and out of Deadwood itself as there is a trolley stop right at the museum/camp and it is a short drive to the visitor center right outside of historic old Main Street. We were supposed to have a pull through site but the occupants on the other side hadn’t left yet so we ended up unhooking and backing in. Not a big deal and we ended up parking right by the horse corral (sadly, no horses were there) in front of the RV.
All I can say is that Deadwood was fun. There are a lot of casinos and saloons, it isn’t quite what we had expected. There were no horses in the streets and not many cowboys to be seen, but they did have some gunfight reenactments and lots of entertainment options besides the aforementioned gambling. There were a lot of eateries. The shops were fun to wander in and with the Sturgis bike rally coming up in a week, the shops were all willing to get rid of some merchandise to stock up on biker goodies.
Of course, it couldn’t be Deadwood without mentioning Will Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock, all part of the lore that goes along with the Wild West and the lawlessness of 1870’s Deadwood. For those who don’t know the story, Wild Bill was a wanderer who came to Deadwood based on its reputation. He was a gambler and Calamity Jane was said to be taken with him (even though he was married to someone else) but one night in Saloon No. 10, a card game was being played and in walked Jack McCall who felt that he had been wronged by Wild Bill the night before. He came in behind Will Bill and shot him in the back of the head and then fled, only to be found a few saloons down the road. Jack McCall was tried and originally acquitted, but due to the treaties of the time (the Black Hills were supposedly all in Sioux control and not part of the United States yet) the trial was deemed to be not valid since there was no jurisdiction, but Jack McCall was eventually retried (no double jeopardy) and found guilty and hanged. Calamity Jane was heartbroken and already a drunkard, but she eventually moved on to tour as part of a Western show and her final request was to be buried next to Wild Bill, which she was. Some say it was just a final joke, that Wild Bill wouldn’t have her in life but would be forever connected to her in death. In any case, they are buried side by side in Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Seth Bullock was the first sheriff of Deadwood, arriving in town the day before Wild Bill’s murder and he was elected sheriff to bring some sense of law and order to the otherwise lawless town. He lived a long life, as a friend of Teddy Roosevelt and as a true pioneer and businessman. His family plot is above the main cemetery on Mount Moriah and quite the hike up the hill.
You have to love the pilgrims who leave a hollow point bullet on Seth Bullock’s grave stone.
Among the saloons and restaurants is the Midnight Star, owned by Kevin Costner. Of course, he is the actor who starred in “Dances with Wolves” and many other Westerns, and he has a lot of his movie memorabilia in his place. There is the Gem (not the original, as it burned down not once, but twice) and Seth Bullock’s hotel, all full of gambling and eats. We liked Tin Lizzie where we had our best run of the slot machines and had some good food and beverages.
We walked up and down old Main Street, watched the gunfights (every day except Sundays at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.) and simply took it all in and enjoyed the ambiance.
After a couple of days, we decided to pack it up and try to make a run to Devil’s Tower. We did make it there despite a crazy road construction mess that left us on a dirt/gravel road. Devil’s Tower has the distinction of being America’s first national monument and is easily seen from miles away as you approach. This only makes the view close up even more spectacular.
Once there, parking was at a premium as several spots designated for RVs only were occupied by SUVs and people left too much space between their parking jobs so there weren’t many RV sized spots left, and the ones that were ended up too short for an RV with a tow. Eventually some of the RVs and wingnut drivers left and we were able to park and walk out for a better view.
We stopped in the Devil’s Tower KOA parking lot to let the dogs out for a walk and to get some ice cream (no squeaky wheels here!) and I had to take advantage of the photo opportunity with Valhalla and the tower in the background.
Once we left, we headed back towards Spearfish, SD to stop for the night. The Spearfish/Black Hills KOA was great, we got an amazing site next to a stream where the pups all got to take a nice dip. During the whole adventure the weather had been very warm, so having some cooling was a nice relief. The campground also had a nice pool and dog park and the puppies made some new friends and we got to recharge our batteries for the ride back to Sioux Falls,
We would definitely like to recommend the Spearfish/Black Hills KOA and want to return in the future!
As all good things come to an end, we packed up on Sunday morning and drove the 400 miles back across South Dakota to our new home in Sioux Falls, currently at the KOA.
The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door
– The Beatles