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Monday, August 8, 2011

Roar No More

Day seven of the Great American Road Trip is complete with the family firmly entrenched in complete after dinner relaxation in the Best Western in central Sheridan, Wyoming. It was in this town where Buffalo Bill Cody would audition local cowboys for his Wild West Show.

We started our day sleeping in at the Holy Smokes cabin where we stayed the night. After a very long Saturday and a very short Saturday night everyone needed some extra rest. After getting the girls to consolidate from two bags each they used for camp to only one bag each to lug into a hotel each night we went a few miles into nearby Keystone, South Dakota. Hearing a constant roar and rumble from the nearby highway all morning we followed the constant stream of Harleys into Keystone in search of some grub.

Driving through Keystone the intrepid Odyssey vibrated from the hundreds of Harleys on the street, a street lined by hundreds more of parked bikes. Coming down from Mount Rushmore last night we saw a diner we suspected may be perfect for breakfast in the morning. When we parked in a lot, there was zero parking spaces for a mini-van on the street, the man taking our parking fee suggested the same diner, Peggy's Place. A five star recommendation from the Smith's if you are near Rushmore for any meal, hit up Peggy's.

We strolled from Peggy's down one side and up the other of Keystone. Sidewalks were packed with black leather, bandannas and boots, streets were lined with Harleys parked side-by-side-by-side. Having been tipped off by Rapid City native Rachel Bredemus at Birchwood about fudge and taffy in Keystone we made the stop at Turtle Town for some fudge and the taffy-something store for some goodies. Goodies is a vast understatement.

Ready to go we hit the road at noon local and drove around the backside of Rushmore to Custer. A gorgeous drive through the woods and fields and rocks of the Black Hills we had a micro-storm that had many Harley drivers off the road standing under trees as pea sized hail pummelled us for several minutes. Driving from Custer we headed up to Spearfish and then across the border into Wyoming.

Winding our way around a loop we passed several establishments with large banners "Welcome Bikers" and beer gardens set up with hundreds of bikes parked. We passed through Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the back of the head while playing poker. His hand, two eights and two aces all black, has become known as the "dead man's hand."

With terrain changing from forested mountains to hilly fields back to forests our drive was beautiful. Our goal was Devil's Tower. You may remember Devil's Tower as the object of Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." We first saw Devil's Tower poking over the landscape during a break in the hills and trees from about fifteen miles away. As we got closer we would see it grow with brief glimpses. Then after passing through Belle Fourche, which was packed with bikers, we emerged from the town and there looming over us was the Devil's Tower. It is incredible to see in person the way it just springs out of the countryside with no foothills or mountains nearby.

From Devil's Tower we began heading west and then north across great, vast plains of Wyoming with the mountain range in Big Horn National Forest growing ever bigger as we drove west. As with our prior visit to Wyoming last Wednesday the horizon was filled with large storm systems and visible rain. After a torrential downpour we arrived safely in Sheridan for a night's rest before heading off tomorrow towards Yellowstone. We are uncertain whether we will enter the park tomorrow or stay somewhere very near the park entrance tomorrow and enter early Wednesday morning to drive through and head towards Jackson.

We did not cover a lot of mileage today, but covered more beautiful country with plains, fields, forests, hills, lakes, streams, mountains and small towns. As we left Buffalo, Wyoming and headed north to Sheridan we finally have left the ring of bikers that emanates from Sturgis. The economic impact of the rally must be tremendous given the thousands of bikers we have seen without actually getting closer than 20-30 miles to Sturgis. Towns, rest stops, roadways, the roads themselves, were packed with the roar and rumble of the huge machines. We saw no ill behavior, poor or dangerous riding or rudeness from anyone wearing the famous Harley-Davidson emblem. I am sure the hundred mile radius around Sturgis appreciates the annual event and the commerce it brings to their stores, towns and communities.

Leslie said she wants start a Mini-Van Rally. I suggested she stage it in Irvine or perhaps a suburb of Chicago, St Louis or Kansas City. Rock on Honda Odyssey! Rock On!

Pictured below is the main drag of Keystone, South Dakota at noon and Devil's Tower from about ten miles away.

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