Sept. 7 – 13: Big Sky Country of Montana and South Dakota was our panoramic view for the last few days. There’s a calming feeling about soaking up the expanses of wheat fields, sage, cattle and horse ranches, rolling hills and mountains with bright blue sky at the edges.
One night we took advantage of the rv boondocking area at the information center outside Broadus, MT, on U.S. highway 212. A display there contained information about the Montana man who wrote a poem that became the lyrics for the song “Don’t Fence Me In.” “Gimme Land, lotsa land, stretching miles across the West.” Sure isn’t difficult to imagine how he was inspired.
Our next stop on this eastward trek was Deadwood, South Dakota…..returning to the place we were married ten years ago this month. ( Why and How? It’s a long story that I’m not sure we remember completely. Who needs Vegas!) We were curious to see how the town had changed in ten years and if the “cottage” behind the Franklin Hotel was still there.
The expansion of Deadwood jumps out as soon as you drive in on U.S. 85 past the new businesses. The hotels, casinos, hotels, gift shops and restaurants offer a myriad of choices for visitors. Historic preservation dollars have restored a considerable number of Victorian era buildings and homes to resemble the days of the town’s mining heyday. Fortunately, the preservation included the veranda on the front of the Franklin Hotel where we said “I do.” And the little house where we stayed, behind the hotel, hasn’t been demolished – or renovated. (See the veranda in left photo and our lodging in right photo. I won’t go on about the details. :)
Deadwood seemed popular, though not overflowing, on the weekend that we visited. The parking lots and streets had a healthy amount of people for an early September weekend, one without a rally or festival nor Fall colors to attract the big crowds. Actually, our timing was just right. Judging from the availability of sightseeing tours, advertisements for entertainment and numbers of casinos, campgrounds and hotels the town is drawing considerably larger crowds than it was in 2000. The one show that hasn’t changed is the shootout at Saloon #10 where Wild Bill Hickok meets his fate. But, now there’s an enactment of the trial of the shooter, as well. Missed that one.
There are, of course, the hooks designed to draw people into one establishment over another. You’ve maybe heard about Kevin Costner’s place. If not, he owns a casino/restaurant/museum in Deadwood that displays costumes, props and various items from his movies, including Dances With Wolves that was filmed in South Dakota. One of those attractions that I thought was fun was the “Car Museum.” Among the several recognizable vehicles were Magnum P.I.’s 1983 Ferrari used by Tom Selleck and a Jeep from M.A.S.H. Didn’t see Radar, Klinger or Hawkeye around though. Yes, I did try a slot machine before I left the building. Just very quickly. Profit=$1.00.
Our brief revisit of Deadwood didn’t bring us any huge surprises or disappointments. From outward appearances, the town has managed a revival and survival. The ghosts of the wild west and the gold-mining pioneers linger. That’s a good thing.
Travels now are continuing eastward across South Dakota. Stay safe. See you down the road.