August 17, 2004

Minnesota to South Dakota (SD)

August 14.  After leaving our motel in Albert Lea,  we drove 20 miles south to view about a hundred Dutch-built $850,000 wind driven generators in an Iowa cornfield.   Unlike in the eastern USA, most of the locals seem to like them.   We stop the car occasionally when something makes us curious, but after lunch we realized that our destination for the night was apparently much further away than sunset.   So we set cruise control to the local limit, 75 mph, and arrived at our Hill City motel in southwest South Dakota as the sun disappeared from the clear blue sky.

August 15.   The reason for the accommodation shortage had become clear.   All yesterday afternoon motorcycles, thousands of them, had streamed by us in the opposite direction.   We had never heard of the Sturgis (population 7,000) Motorcycle Rally, but discovered it is world famous, and this year  about 515,000 people attended.   click here for more on the Sturgis motorcycle rally    The bikes were mostly Harley.   On every little road and at every gas station the next 2 days, they were thick like mosquitoes.    The typical biker was male, about 50, out of shape, tattooed, courteous, friendly, had a beard or long locks, and travelled under the speed limit, on a rig costing a lot more than our car.    He and his lady wore grimy black leather, but their Harleys were polished daily to pristine showroom condition.   The outstretched Harley biker below is Flip Wilson in 1996,  a famous comedian who died in 1998.

The rally ended the next day, but most of the bikes were still there.

This day we visited the Crazy Horse Monument, a mountain-size statue in the making, of a prototypical Indian who died under a truce flag from a soldier's stab in the back.
Then we drove slowly through Custer State Park, where we saw hundreds of buffalo, as well as pronghorn antelopes, deer, scads of prairie dogs in colonies, and a few bighorn sheep.   The old-timers killed all the wildlife except the coyotes and prairie dogs.   Beaver, which brought the mountain men here, is not among the reintroduced species.   Burros stopped traffic, looking for handouts.

As some insist, should I have said "bison" not "buffalo" ?  Then we'd have Bison NY, Bison Bill, the bison nickel,  "Well, I'll be bisoned", Bison soldiers (the famous post-Civil-War Black Cavalry), and
"Bison gals won't you come out tonight, and dance by the light of the moon?".   Click on that, then click on "Listen to this song".

Monday August 16. We "did" Mount Rushmore, famously awesome, and learned a lot about the sculpture of the four presidential effigies.

We continued on a scenic tour which included the ghost town of Aladdin, Wyoming, population 15 and some ghosts, with a seedy dark very-general store/post office/bar seemingly right out of a movie.

Tuesday 8/17.   Marge, especially, was very tired, from doing the weekly laundry and having insufficient sleep.   So we took turns driving and sleeping just 3 hours to a Comfort Inn (again "free" with accumulated points) in Pierre, South Dakota.   Tomorrow Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (what a nice alliterative sound !).

Here are our impressions of South Dakota after 4 days.   Except for the pretty forested Black Hills, from Interstate 90 this state seems mostly rolling brown prairie, treeless except in gullies and around homes.   The tourist industry is counter-productive: rampant billboards touting countless "attractions", and too many casinos, not confined to Deadwood.   A sign proclaimed, "Car Wash and Casino".   Worth seeing: Missouri River, museums regarding Indians and the 1803-6 Lewis & Clark expedition, buffaloes, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse statue project.   Away from I-90, SD's great agricultural engine is impressive.   But South Dakota does not inspire a return visit.


Blogger Sharon said...

Hello Uncle Dick,
Your analysis of the typical motorcycle rider made me smile after all I am over 50, have long locks, out of shape and paid way to much for my motorcycle.
There is hope for me yet though. The bike is up for sale, I have gone back to school again and I am working on the getting in shape.
Hope all is well with you and Marge.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Racn4acure said...

Hi Dick - good point on the use of the word buffalo, especally "bison girls, won't you come out tonight?" I think Buffalo, NY was called 'Belle Fleurs" (pretty flowers) by the French, which the English corrupted to "Buffalo." I've never been to SD but would like to see Custer State Park, and the other things that you mention. Art

7:18 AM  

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