The Adventures of Cathy - Chapter 11 - Dances with Dirt
On the way to the Blackhills out of Idaho we saw a sign that read, "Warning to tourists DO NOT laugh at the natives". Well gee, I was planning on having some knee slapping laughs at Tonto wannabees, but I guess I'll keep my mouth shut... I has beens warned.
I had bought a book on the Badlands and Blackhills a few years ago when I was fantasizing about a vacation there. I had it in my mind I was going to do a solo trip in the Badlands. It never worked out, but I had a book. We wanted to get back on the bikes so I rummaged through the book and picked out a few trails that seemed doable for me. We choose a 10 mile loop trip that is primarily a cross country ski route in the winter time. The book said all ski routes are good for Mt. Biking in the summer time. I was once again disgusted with my athletic ability. I had to get off my bike and walk it for about the first 3 miles of trail. As I moaned and groan and became increasingly disgusted with myself Andrew soon had to walk his bike up the trail. Muttering things like, "this ain't no biking trail." In that perverse way I felt much less inadequate when Andrew had to surrender to the terrain as well. We made it to the top and climbed up a fire lookout tower that had great panoramic views of the blackhills. Cruising down the mountain was fun and I decide I liked biking again. Except when Mr. Koransky, master navigator, had us take a wrong turn that added more miles and uphills, river crossing and tree jumping to the ride. I once again was pleased that I had encouraged us to take the correct route, but gave in because I am usually chronically lost. We stopped at a forest service office to ask about more appropriate trails and they told us the trail we just did does not allow mt. bikes, ooooops.
We met my parents at the hotel in Custer, S.D. Ironically the name of the place was "The Chief." I about went into ecstatic convulsions when I saw the pool and hot tub. With quick introductions and chit chat I jumped in to my suit and wallowing like a pig in mud.
The fam and I went to Mt. Rushmore the next day. Most of the time was spent with my brother, Chas, and my dad having contests on who could look the most bored and inconvenienced. I must say the museum on how the mountain was carved was great, but the actual sculpture was, well, boring. I prefer to stare at mountains that look a little less like our political heros and more like, oh say, nature. They should have left the mountain alone and saved the praise and preservation of these fellows to the mall in D.C. I imagine Teddy Roosevelt who helped make Yosemite a National Park and would tour around with John Muir would be highly disgusted that he is now defacing nature.
The next day we went to Custer State Park. They have over 1500 Bison roaming around. We got to drive through a heard crossing the road. That was cool. These things are huge. After our nature drive we spent the day at a lake fishing and relaxing. It was a good day. No fish were caught and my nephew, Garret 7yrs, fell in once.
My parents, brother and nephew left the next day. It was rather enjoyable and everyone seemed to have fun and enjoyed the time. I had prepped Andrew for the weirdness I call my family, but they behaved. My dad did offer up his horrid jokes, such as. "Dad, have you ever seen bison?", " Why yes, in the Bisontenial" I was so proud.
This area has a rails to trail program and last year the just finished 114 miles of trail for bikes and horses. Andrew and I picked a 10 mile section and pedaled out. It was a great ride. Not a whole lot of up and down, gentle grades and the scenery was/is great. We got to our turn around point which is a little town with only gravel roads and a population of 25 called Rochford. While in Rochford one can go to almost any of the 3 buildings there. We chose the "Moonshine Gulch Saloon" On the porch a couple of tired skinny farmers sat with a Busch beer in each hand. When we walked in I was in love. The place was decorated like, well every inch of wood was covered with something. Some art from a local man. Cliche' signs like "If you a drinking to forget pay in advance". A bird was in the corner on a log. Every kind of animal you could think of hunting was fastened to the wall. The ceiling had over 200 ball hats affixed to it. Most of them had clever sayings, "I had to choose between fishing and my wife... I sure will miss her" 24x17 frames held pictures of men in orange over there camouflage holding their prey. The stool at the bar had square boxes on them that had dice painted on them. It was a place that if in Atlanta it would be expensive and called Kiche. Out here it simply the local bar. The bartender, Betsy, greeted us with her smoke in her mouth. She fixed great food and was pretty damn intelligent. Soft spoken too. I figured by seeing her Harley T-shirt she'd be loud and wamegoesque. She went to the back of the kitchen and called, "sexy, sexy" A little fawn came running in the building and Besty got to work making it a bottle. She had raised 10 for about 9 years now. I guess people kill the mom and then have pity on the kid so they bring it to her. While Betsy bottle fed Sexy we were told a story about the health inspector being there one year. He was writing his report and someone opened the door. In came 2 fawns, 2 dogs and a cat. She said she didn't get written up. If you are ever in the area The Moonshine Gulch Saloon is a must see. Stay and talk to Betsy and you will have found piece of modern day Americana.
We stopped in Hot Springs for a Hot Spring mineral bath. what is was turned out to be a cemented in spring turn to pool with water slides and other play stuff. The water stays a constant 87. I wanted a Hot Tub type thing oh well. Andrew suddenly turned 10 years old and was running about with a mat going on every slide and giggling as he landed. I was just wondering why I trust this man to get me back to Atlanta in one piece.
We spent a few hours at Wind Cave, NP. The good tour which lasted 4 hours and lead you on your belly through passageways was not being done that day. We settled on a less active tour that took us through several rooms and level with many different formations. They estimate that only 5% of this cave has been explored and mapped. This seemed to be the best run National Park so far. I can't pinpoint the differences, but they had great displays and the rangers knew the answers to your questions and didn't have to consult 14 other people.
The Badlands are truly Bad. We hiked around the place for a while. They don't have any marked trail, but just tell you to go around where ever.. We followed up a milky silt stream until we hit cliffs and had to turn around. The formations are mostly hardened clay, so when it rains the rock will mold to your boots quite nicely. We had wanted to do a backpack here, but you have to carry all you water for however long you are out. The streams are milky white with the silt and there is no way to filter it. To quote an early settler, "It is to thick to drink and to thin to plow".
I wanted to see Wounded Knee and get a "Free Leonard Pelliter" bumper sticker. The town of wounded knee had about 30 houses and a post office. No gas or services that we could see. No big brown signs leading us to the marker that tells about the 2 tragedies that happened there. I am somewhat impressed that they are not trying to make a buck off of the ordeal.
2 other places we stopped are worth mentioning. Wall Drug, S.D. This is the USA's largest drug store. Out back they had several ceramic animals and people you could pose with, we took our liberties with them all. We also stopped by the Corn Palace in Mitchell S.D. It is a big palace like public building that has ears or corn and other grains glues to it in pictures of cowboys, Elvis, the flag, etc. The design is changed every year, I heard that from the Colonel/Kernel. Aw, Shucks now. Don't give me an ear full. We just missed the annual corn festival. This also meant we missed a performance by Jim Neighbors, remember Gomer Pyle and Goober on Andy Griffith. Turns out he is a quality show man too. After Emmy quality performances of playing an idiot on T.V. you to can sing at small town carnivals.
We are now off to Minnesota, Isle Royale, Wisconson, where I will stock up on cheesey comments.
Copyright (C) 1998-2008 Cathy Cutler