Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sturgis, South Dakota – Home of the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally

The 350 mile trip up through the Big Horn National Forest from Cody, WY to Sturgis, SD was nothing short of spectacular. The country roads from Cody to the foot of the Big Horn National Forest were in good shape. Nice and wide with 10 foot shoulders. The ride up through the forest was a big view around every corner with plenty of passing lanes. The downhill grades on the eastern side of the forest were some of the steepest I have faced yet. Eight percent (8%) grades for a couple miles. I think we traversed five of those.  The motor home has a retarder (downshifter) that I activated on these grades that kept our speed at 45-50 MPH.  Nice and easy does it. The motorhome is a nice ride with the air suspension. It cruises right along like we are on a cloud. It still weighs between 13-14 tons with liquids onboard so it doesn’t stop on a dime. Other vehicles that squeeze in front of me on occasion don’t realize how dangerous that can be. Naturally I just back off. Retired people can show huge amounts of patience!

NOTE: You can enlarge the pictures in this blog by clicking on them.

We left Cody on a bright and sunny day at 8 AM and our driving time to Sturgis was just under seven hours. I usually average about 60 MPH and the drive up through the forest didn’t slow us down too much. The final leg (100 miles) of the drive from Gillette, WY to Sturgis was on Interstate-90 and I had it all the way up to 65 MPH for most of that time. The speed limit in these northern states is 80 for cars and 70 for trucks. I’ve assumed we are in the truck category. You would be surprised the difference it makes when I have driven 60 for miles and then all of a sudden go up to 65. The increase is easily noticeable in speed and noise. The co-pilot usually says, “You are going to fast!”

There was no time change on this trip so we got into Sturgis just before 3 PM. Our reservation was for two nights but after bringing ourselves up to date on the sightseeing opportunities in the area and the quality of the RV Park we extended a week, and eventually a second week. We were delighted with this stop.

The Sturgis RV Park is a very nice park. It was not real crowded yet as the summer season was just getting underway. We requested and got a space on the third level in the park. The third level being up the side of a hill which provided us with a nice view of the town and countryside beyond. It was about two miles off Interstate-90 so there was virtually no noise.

Sturgis has one claim to fame and that is each year this town of near 7,000 supports The Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. From August 3-9 this year they are celebrating the 75th anniversary of this get together. I heard during our stay the area expects one million riders to come into the area for the anniversary. Lodging as far as 200 miles away were raising their pricing during the rally.

Sturgis is in the northwestern part of South Dakota. It is about 30 miles from Wyoming, and 25 miles west of the hub of this area, Rapid City, SD. The entire countryside and surrounding area of Rapid City are in rolling hills that are lush and green. Interstate-90 is almost a straight line for about 450 miles across South Dakota. Rapid City was founded in 1872 and is the second largest city in South Dakota behind Sioux Falls. The population of Rapid City is just over 70,000. Ellsworth Air Force Base is on the eastern edge of the city. The city is the gateway to Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Deadwood, and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Rapid City is known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills”. Gold was discovered in 1874, and even today Black Hills Gold supports a thriving jewelry market for miles around.

We spent some time at Ellsworth Air Force Base in the air museum. They have a wonderful display on hand of many of the strategic planes used by the Air Force in the last 60 years. From Korean War fighter jets to today’s B1B bomber. Nice presentations in and out of the museum.

My thrill was going down in the training silo of a Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Temperature in the silos is kept at approximately 50 degrees. This silo provides an eerie coldness while staring at one of the most powerful weapons known to mankind. Most of, or maybe all of, the 150 missiles set in the countryside around Rapid City have been destroyed in our agreements with the Russians. WELL, maybe not all of them! What IS a Minuteman III?

We made two trips out to Mt. Rushmore during our 16 day stay in Sturgis. The first time was on a day when the weather didn’t cooperate completely. We were in a light drizzle during the 40 mile drive from Sturgis, and low clouds were flowing by the faces of the Presidents during the time we were there. Nice presentation with the entire area very presidential like. Hanging flags with a lot of “power blue” around. Reminds me of something that you might see around Washington D.C. Very elegant! Nice parking for easy in and out.

The second trip to Mt. Rushmore was a few days later under warm temperatures and very blue skies. I had some fun playing with a telephoto lens. This is truly one of the major attractions in the entire country.

Custer State Park is a few miles south of Mt. Rushmore. We didn’t see the big heard of buffalo we heard was around the area, but we did see some buffalo, donkeys, pronghorn, and plenty of deer. No bears!

The other good attraction in the area was a 70 mile drive from Sturgis back into Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. The Senior Pass gets us in all these National Parks. This was a fun day. We took the freeway back into Wyoming to get to the attraction but took the roads less traveled to get back to Sturgis. Beautiful country, so green!

We visited Deadwood, South Dakota. A town of refurbished old buildings. Hotels, bars, and casinos. It is only about 15 miles from Sturgis. Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker in the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood on August 2, 1876 when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head. He was holding two pair. Aces and Eights and this hand has been forever known as “The Dead Mans’ Hand”. After two trials, McCall was eventually hung for murder.

Janet had been looking for a pair of boots for the past 2 years. She finally found them in The Boot Barn in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yee-Haw!

After 16 wonderful days in Sturgis we departed on June 18th. We spent the night 300 miles east in Mitchell, SD. A nice little lakeside recreational town that probably wasn’t so little considering just down the street from our RV Park was a Super Wal-Mart and a Cabela’s.

Up early and a 7:30 A.M. departure for 300 miles further east on Interstate-90 to Rochester, Minnesota.

I don’t think we have ever eaten breakfast on a morning we have made a major move in the motorhome. I guess it is just the thrill of changing locations and the excitement of it all.

Rochester is 80 miles south of the Twin-Cites (Minneapolis/St. Paul) and is the home of the original Mayo Clinic. IBM’s home office is here also. We will be staying a week and completing one of the things on Janet’s list – visiting the Mall of America. I know it was an exciting event because we did that two days ago!

Who knows what the T-Mobile service in Two Rivers will be? It has been from non-existent to shaky across the northern states. After 12 years with T-Mobile it appears Verizon may be on the horizon! Maybe!

We switched time zones from Mountain to Central in the middle of South Dakota. We are now one hour behind Eastern Time and two hours ahead of Pacific Coast Time.

How about Jordan Spieth winning the U.S. Open Golf? I think that is the first time in 59 years of golf that I can remember someone winning a big tournament when an opponent missed a very short putt on the last shot of the tournament. So surprising - the crowd went dead silent!

We had an anniversary of sorts. June 18th was our two year anniversary of being nomadic. Still having a great time meeting new people and seeing different settings. I guess we have three years to go on “Plan A” but nobody is counting.

We are moving in the morning (June 26th) 280 miles from Rochester, Minnesota to the banks of Lake Michigan at Two Rivers, Wisconsin. That is 40 miles south of Green Bay.

Until next time we hope everyone is well and remains well.

Dave & Janet are the BooniePeople.

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