I really wasn’t going to stop in Sturgis, but not only was it on our way to our next stop, I’ve been a biker for over half my life. For those of you in the total darkness, Sturgis, SD hosts the single biggest annual motorcycle rally in the world, attracting over 500,000 bikers. How could I pass this town up?
Being a snowy October day, not much was going on in town, and most of the shops, bars and tattoo studios were closed. The motorcycle museum was open, however, and so we whiled away an hour in the small but awesome museum. There were all kinds of vintage bikes including Indians, Harley Davidsons (of course), BMWs, Triumphs, and even a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow. Even Stephanie got into it, and started picking out her favorites – including a 60s-blue Triumph scooter called the Tina.
Next Stop on the open road was Deadwood, South Dakota where western lawman Wild Bill Hickok met his untimely end at the No. 10 Saloon. I had always thought Wild Bill was an outlaw. Turns out he was the good guy (mostly), and was shot in the back while playing poker as he held what was to become the infamous “dead man’s hand.”
Deadwood is still a gambling town, and that meant we couldn’t leave without playing a few rounds of blackjack. The No. 10 Saloon is not in the same exact spot as the original, but it’s close enough, and in we went. Our dealer looked the part in a vintage vest with a handlebar mustache, and the No. 10 uses nice chunky silver coins instead of chips for their $1 tokens. Unfortunately, our dealer went on break right after I sat down, and the table turned ice cold. We departed Deadwood down by $15 in under five minutes.
We crossed the border into Wyoming, and went to check out Devil’s Tower. I’ve wanted to see this thing ever since I saw “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” back in the 80s. Devil’s Tower did not disappoint (although the lack of aliens did). It looks completely otherworldly, and almost nothing grows on it. It’s a flat-topped cone of sheer rock rising out of the ground, and appears to be made of many “columns.” Although there is a boulder field around the base made of pieces of columns that have broken off, none have fallen off Devil’s Tower since it was declared a national park over 100 years ago. Maybe one is due, we thought as we looked for the “loose” columns.
Originally called Bear Lodge by the Native Americans, it is still a sacred place, and we saw several medicine bundles tied to trees. We hiked a loop around the base of Devil’s Tower where we once again had the place almost entirely to ourselves, and we clambered over a section of the boulder field. (You need a permit to actually climb to the summit, but it is very popular with rock climbers.)
There was a bigger loop that took in more of the valley below, as well as a town of prairie dogs. We never tire of these cute little animals. After the prairie dog town, in the stillness, we could hear the cows mooing all around. Little known fact: When you moo at the cows from on top of a bluff, they moo back at you. Too funny!
By the time we got back to the car, we were the last ones there; even the rangers had packed it in for the day. We drove in the swirling snow to our couch surfing host in Casper, Wyoming where we spent the night.