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This road trip came about as a suggestion from my friend Amy who was coming to the States with two friends (James and Monique) from South Africa, and she wanted to show them the Black Hills and surrounds of South Dakota.  They had visited Memphis, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and seeing as they were headed back to Denver, she asked if I would like to join them on this leg of their trip.  As I had not been to this part of the country and it was on my bucket list, I jumped at the opportunity.  I made all their arrangements and did all the driving to give the tourists a real treat.  They could sit back and enjoy the ride and the scenery.

There are fewer photos than normal as I had to respect my passengers' tolerance for the infinite stop-start-stop-start-to-take-a-photo that I usually do.  Our first stop was in Cheyenne, WY where we spent quite some time digging around a western outfitters where a few "cowboy" shirts were purchased.  Amy's two friends are both Elvis Tribute Artists and they also perform country songs, so this store was an appropriate stop.

Our drive north on the I-25 was a long one but we had time catch up as friends and check out what rural Wyoming looks like.  After Chugwater, the scenery started to liven up and become quite pretty, but before long we headed east towards Custer.  A pit-stop was necessary in Newcastle, our last stop in Wyoming, and then we headed into the exquisite Black Hills National Forest.  Completely different scenery along here, and I did all I could to try and see the trees and rocks and general beauty of this area.  Shortly before Custer you'll notice the Flintstone's Bedrock City which looks like great fun.  I would imagine it would be the perfect spot for children.

We drove through Custer until we reached the entrance to the Crazy Horse monument.  We were a little behind schedule and decided to forgo the $28 per car entrance fee and just admire this immense achievement from the roadside.  Amy had seen it up close before but we were happy with what we could see from afar.  There aren't many signs for this incredible monument, so be on the lookout for the entrance.

Next we hotfooted it to try and catch a glimpse of Mount Rushmore before the sun set, and we were quite lucky.  However, for a good photo, we decided to return in the morning and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day.  As there weren't that many tourists on the road, all stopping and gawking, we were exceptionally lucky to find a small pull-out and we had a fabulous view of the four presidents.  We didn't really have the time to spare but a visit to the museum and a walk around inside the grounds would have been nice.  Next time!  The road to Rapid City (Hwy 16) is a lovely one, and if you're lucky enough, you'll also see the fall leaves as they change color.  Do try and stop at the quaint town of Keystone as you leave Mt. Rushmore.  It's adorable.  We continued into Rapid City for our first night at the America's Best Value Inn.

After breakfast the next morning we headed south on Mt. Rushmore Road (which becomes Hwy 16) to go and take a second peek at Mt. Rushmore.  We noticed a lot of attractions along this stretch of road, like the Reptile Gardens, the Black Hills Maze or Bear Country USA.  We chose to visit the Fort Hays Chuckwagon and Dakota Film Museum (free) which turned out to be a thrill.  Not only can you get a glimpse of how life was in the 1880s, there are also Dances with Wolves memorabilia and information.  I loved it!  You can have dinner and live music in the delightful Chuckwagon Supper and Cowboy Music Show. 


We hit the I-90 east towards Murdo and took Exit 170 to go and see the spectacular 1880 Town.  Not only does it house replicas of buildings, there is also a Dances with Wolves exhibit, which for any fan, is a huge must.  I enjoyed popping in and out of the various buildings (saloon, hotel, post office, bank, school etc.) and walking around, but the movie memorabilia and props were fantastic.  I saw the original wagon John Dunbar rode on to Fort Hays, his little house he lived in and much more.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the Badlands National Park even though it was a free national park day!


After the lovely time we all had at the 1880 Town, it was back west on I-90 to the small town of Wall.  Amy had been to the main attraction, Wall Drug, and wanted us to experience the vastness of this HUGE "drugstore".  A very, very large store complete with a large restaurant with the most incredible art collection.  You could spend a couple of hours looking around and not see everything on offer.  We had buffalo burgers which were a little tasteless and a tad pricey at $7.50!  The restaurant also has homemade donuts and cinnamon rolls, the likes of which I've never seen.  Wall Drug is famous for their free ice water and 5c coffee!  I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning saunter through this store, and yes, I did have a 5c cup of coffee, at 7am when they opened.  I noticed that they had an $8.99 breakfast buffet.  Our spot for the night was at the quaint Ann's Motel, just one block away from this gigantic attraction.



The next stage of our trip was back west along I-90 to Deadwood (junction with Hwy 14A), all the while keeping our eyes open for buffalo.  We'd not seen any so far.  The drive along Hwy 14A was just gorgeous.  Deadwood is a little casino town and very cute.  Take a drive through the main street to orientate yourself and then walk the length of it.  There is a lot of history in this area, and aside from gambling, you can pop into any number of hotels and read about who did what to whom and when.  For example, it says on a flyer on Deadwood History, that "Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876."  (For more visit DeadwoodHistory.com.)  We were anxious to visit Kevin Costner's Midnight Star casino and restaurant.  What a lovely entrance, complete with staircase to the restaurant.  We didn't eat there but spent time looking at some of the movie costumes Costner wore.  There are many more costumes and props from other movies in the Celebrity Hotel, which is definitely worth visiting, especially if you're into seeing signed rock stars' guitars, an Elvis jumpsuit, Herbie the Love Bug and much more.  On the way back to Rapid City to spend our last night at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn, we drove through a thick mist which added atmosphere to the pretty route along Hwy 14A.  Just north of Deadwood is the turn-off to Hwy 85 to the Tatanka: Story of the Bison, started by Kevin Costner.  As we hadn't seen any bison and thought there were bison at Tatanka, we made a quick stop to ask.  There weren't, just the tour and story of how the bison once roamed the plains of North America and what happened to them, along with a huge brass sculpture.  You can also enjoy the interactive exhibits.




The last leg of our trip took us south on Hwy 79 out of Rapid City (in torrential rain) towards Hot Springs where we turned right onto Hwy 18/85 and worked our way back to I-25 and then it was south to Denver.  Once we were really and truly out of Rapid City, and the rain subsided a bit, we spotted some bison close to the road.  We stopped to take some photos, making James really happy, as he (and we) finally got to see some real bison.  We stopped briefly in Hot Springs and I noticed a beautiful wall mural opposite a gas station.  I was told it was done by a local artist.  Another lovely stretch of road which just added to our trip.  The last hour and half to Denver was a nightmare I'm not going to recall.  It rained like I've never seen and the interstate was treacherous.  We made it safely to Denver where I spent the night at Amy's friend Audrey's house before heading south and home after a wonderful road trip.
  I would highly recommend a road trip to this part of the country, and if you have children, so much the better.  I know that I have a second trip in me as there was so much more I wanted to see and photograph.

These are the three intrepid travellers.

I would recommend at least four full days in this area as there is a lot of driving involved, which takes up a lot of sightseeing time, not to mention the host of things to see and do in this area.  I tried really hard to find accommodation in Hill City, Keystone and a few other out-of-town places, but was told that there was a "buffalo run" that weekend, which is why accommodation was non-existent in these areas and why we stayed in Rapid City.
A few days after I returned home, I watched Dances with Wolves which I had bought on DVD a year ago and had never found the right time to watch.  Wow, it was impressive second time around as I had just seen so much of what I saw on the screen.


ACCOMMODATIONS
America's Best Value Inn   Ann's Motel   Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn

America's Best Value Inn
It had been a long day's drive from Denver to Rapid City and we were all looking forward to a good night's rest.  We were greeted by two friendly frontdesk ladies who welcomed us, gave us the rundown of what was where in the inn, and we set off in different directions; Amy and I had a ground floor room overlooking the pool (which was closed because it had recently snowed) and James and Monique had an upstairs room on the otherside of the building.  Our room was spotlessly clean and I was assured that we would not hear any noise, and we didn't, even though we faced the interstate.  The room had a large screen TV, microwave, little fridge, hairdryer, a small but adequate vanity, aircon and good wi-fi.  I really loved their large sitting room where there were computers and printers for guests to use, as well as an ATM machine and a couple of really comfortable sofas.  Apparently there was a hot tub, which I probably could have done with after all the driving, but I didn't use it.  The inn offers a free breakfast and you could choose anything from fruit juices and coffee to pastries, make-your-own-waffles, biscuits and gravy, cereals and fruit.  They even have an elevator!  Contact details.
Here's my TripAdvisor review.

Ann's Motel

Oh my goodness, what a quaint little set-up this motel is.  Gorgeous dark wood and flowers everywhere.  Ann is one of the most friendly motel owners and she welcomed us to her establishment with a huge smile.  We were given room 11 alongside the road but didn't hear a thing.  We all spent the night in one room with two queen beds and we were just fine as the room was quite big.  James and Monique went out for dinner while Amy and I went and got a Subway sandwich each.  The room had a lovely bathroom as well as all the amenties, like a large screen TV, microwave, little fridge, table and chair, aircon, hangers and really comfortable beds.  There are cute little cabins (each sleeps two) behind the two-storey motel, which look adorable.  Ann's Motel is just one block away from the action on Main Street and offers great wi-fi and off-street parking.  The shower was fabulous as well!  Contact details.
Here's my TripAdvisor review.

Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn

This beautiful Holiday Inn is just on the outskirts of town and a short walk to the center of Rapid City.  We were greeted by very friendly frontdesk staff who welcomed us warmly.  Our rooms were on the fourth floor and we took the glass bullet elevator which affords one a great view of the enormous cavern of an atrium in the center of the building.  There's a giant fountain which tumbles down and is impressive.  The first thing Amy and I noticed were the two huge beds, just what we needed as this was our last night of the road trip.  Amy noticed that the bathroom was flooded so we called downstairs and a maintenance person was dispatched pronto and sorted the problem out.  We were given a new room, just in case.  Our room was huge and included a flat screen TV, little fridge, microwave, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, a lovely desk with excellent wi-fi, bedside tables, lamps and aircon.  James and Monique discovered the pool and gym which they used and enjoyed.  A sauna was also available.  I loved the linens on the beds and had a gloriously refreshing shower.  There is an in-house restaurant which is very convenient.  I enjoyed roaming around downstairs taking it all in, and I found a quiet spot to sit and contemplate our journey.  I would definitely consider staying at this hotel again as it's not often the staff are so friendly and obliging, and rooms at such reasonable rates.  Contact details.
My TripAdvisor review is forthcoming.


ROUTE

  • North on I-25 from Denver, CO to Cheyenne, WY;
  • North on I-25 to the junction with Hwy 18 to Lusk,WY;
  • North on Hwy 18/85 to Newcastle, WY;
  • East on Hwy 16 towards Custer, SD (you'll be going through the Black Hills National Forest and through the cute Flintstones Bedrock City before Custer);
  • North on Hwy 16 (Crazy Horse Monument) to Hwy 244 to see Mt. Rushmore;
  • North on Hwy 16 to Rapid City;
  • East on I-90 to Exit 170 to 1880 Town (you'll pass the town of Wall);
  • West on I-90 and back to Wall;
  • West on I-90 through Rapid City to junction with Hwy 14A to Deadwood;
  • South on Hwy 14A to Deadwood (a beautiful road);
  • North on Hwy 14A to I-90 junction and East to Rapid City;
  • South on Hwy 79 to junction with Hwy 18/85 and South to Lusk;
  • West on Hwy 18 to junction with I-25 and South to Denver.

MAP


Contacts
  Contact Me

Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Motor City Branch, Colorado Springs, CO):  I had requested a Toyota Corolla as its gas mileage is great, and having four passengers, I was hoping to try and save as much on gas as I could.  Man, was I surprised to see a Toyota Prius on the lot!  Naturally I jumped up and down saying I would love to have the Prius knowing it would probably cost a little more.  However, it was booked for another customer.  After a few minutes the other customer came back inside and timidly asked me if we could swap cars!  (I think she didn't like the "electrics" and the fact that you don't need a key and can't hear the engine.)  YAY!  What a delight as I'd been waiting quite a few years for a Prius and now I had one when I really needed one.  The gas mileage turned out to be around 47.7 mpg!  We drove a total of 1,400 miles and spent $94.50 on gas!  Who doesn't want a Prius? 
As usual, Enterprise offered me their great "we'll pick you up" service, and I was more than delighted with the Prius.  My Enterprise really look after me and I love them for it.  I used my two free weekend days I was offered as compensation for car trouble I had on my last trip so that helped bring the cost down.  We paid a total of $100.50 for five days plus toll (on E-470 to get to Denver and which will be billed to me).  Rates almost unheard of, and all because I look and keep looking way ahead of time and wait for the great rates to come my way.
Web: www.enterprise.com  Tel: (719) 635-8029   Toll-free (Reservations): 1-800-261-7331   Toll-free (Customer Service): 1-800-264-6350
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enterpriserentacar

Accommodation Contacts

America's Best Value Inn - 620 Howard Street, Rapid City, SD 57701
Tel: (605) 343-5434
Toll-free: 1-800-456-0061
Web: www.RapidCityABVI.com
E-mail: FrontDesk@RapidCityABVI.com
Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericasBestValueInnRapidCity
Free wi-fi and off-street parking
Rates: From $59


Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn - 505 North Fifth Street, Rapid City, SD 57701
Tel: (605) 348-4000
Web: www.rushmoreplaza.com
Email: info@rushmoreplaza.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RushmorePlaza
Free wi-fi and off-street parking.
Rates: From approximately $90
Ann's Motel - 114 Fourth Avenue, Wall, SD 57790
Tel: (605) 279-2501
Web: www.annsmotelsite.com
E-mail: flowers@gwtc.net
Free wi-fi and off-street parking
Rates: From $55
Always visit websites for up-to-date rates and/or specials.
Sights and Contacts and Links   Contact Me
Make the most of your trip by investigating online as to what there is to see and do in the area/s you intend visiting.  It saves time and you might discover other things to see and do that you never knew about.
Black Hills National Forest
Tel: (605) 355-3600
Website: http://www.blackhillsbadlands.com/home/
E-mail: info@blackhillsbadlands.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackhills


Crazy Horse Monument - 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs (Hwy 16/385) (north of Custer)
Tel: (605) 673-4681
Website: crazyhorsememorial.org
E-mail: memorial@crazyhorse.org.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crazyhorsememorial
Admission


Mount Rushmore - 13000 Highway 244, Building 31, Suite 1, Keystone, SD 57751-0268
Website: http://www.nps.gov/moru/planyourvisit/events.htm
E-mail: email online
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mtrushmorenationalmemorial
Admission


Fort Hays Chuckwagon - 2255 Fort Hays Drive, Rapid City, SD 57701
Tel: (605) 355-3600
Toll-free: 1-888-394-9653
Website: http://mountrushmoretours.com/
E-mail: office@forthaysreservations.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FortHaysOldWestTown
Free


1880 Town - Exit 170 on I-90 (about an hour east of Rapid City and 22 miles west of Murdo, South Dakota)
Tel: (605) 344-2236
Website: http://www.1880town.com/
E-mail: info@1880town.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/South-Dakotas-Original-1880-Town/296683486474
Fee: $12.00 each which I thought was pricey but you could spend at least an hour or two there.
Wall Drug Store - 510 Main Street, Wall, SD 57790 (Exits 109 and 110)
Tel: (605) 279-2175
Website: http://www.walldrug.com
E-mail: walldrug@gwtc.net
Fee: Free


Deadwood - 767 Main Street, Deadwood, SD 57732
(605) 578-1876
Web: www.deadwood.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/historicdeadwood


Midnight Star - 677 Main Street, Deadwood, SD
Tel: (605) 578-1555
Toll-free: 1-800-999-6482
Web: www.themidnightstar.com/
Free


Celebrity Hotel - 629 Main Street, Deadwood, SD
Tel: (605) 578-1909
Toll-free: 1-888-399-1886
Web: www.celebritycasinos.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Celebrity-Hotel-and-Casino/121535804592701?ref=br_tf
Free


Tatanka: Story of The Bison - Hwy 85 (one mile north of Deadwood, SD)
Tel: (605) 584-5678 Web: www.storyofthebison.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tatanka-Story-Of-The-Bison/589572621067315?fref=ts
Hours: May 15 to September 30 from 9am to 5pm
Admission
Prices quoted were right at the time, September 2014.
TIPS:  I would recommend you check ahead regarding roadworks as we ran into quite a few on this trip.  Nothing too time-delaying, but you never know.
- Always take a warm jacket and footwear as the weather can change at these altitudes.
- Be prepared for crowds in the high summer season; we were lucky in that we hardly saw any other tourists en masse as it were, as we travelled at the end of September, a good time as the trees were starting to turn.
- Request a South Dakota Vacation Guide as it's loaded with helpful information about this area. (www.travelsd.com)
- Make sure you check out and map out where you want to go and what you want to see.  I would loved to have been able to also visit the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Tatanka Ranch, the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park (where there are bison), Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park among many other options.
- Don't forget Sturgis, the city that hosts the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every August.
- Always carry a few extra bottles of water.

E-mail:  pettprojects@yahoo.com

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