After a short stay in Sheridan, we headed to Rapid City, SD for a six night stay. We are staying at Ellsworth Air Foce Base, another nice full hook up RV Park for the bargain price of $28 a night. Ellsworth is home to a bunch of B1B bombers and was a former base for Nuclear Ballistic Missles during the Cold War era. It was a great launching pad to get to nearby attractions, such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Hourse Monument, Black Hills, Deadwood, Stirgus, Custer State Park to name a few. I was lucky to get reservations during this period, since I now know that the annual Stirgus Motorcycle Rally is the first two weeks in August, right in the middle of our stay. Looks like they get like an average of 50,000 people a day over the 10 days. To put that in perspective, Rapid Falls has like 68,000 full time residents, and for Stirgus to build up that big is pretty amazing.
So I planned to try and get some of the stuff close to Stirgus done before the crowds really hit on the coming weekend. First up was the local Air Museum covering the Air Force Base. It was neat to see many airplane displays including some from World War II like a B-29 Bomber, and ones being flown today such as B-52 and B1B. The base supports I think 2/3 of the B1B which is a conventional bomber with wings that change positions to allow close terrain following to penitrate air defenses. I’ll let you Google the rest.
B52 Bomber, Minuteman Missle, B1B Bomber
Up next was a drive to the old mining town of Deadwood, which was also made famous by the HBO series “Deadwood” which covered the Wild West when South Dakota was trying to join the union as a state. Some of the major characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and the main character Seth Bullock from the series are actually buried here in Deadwood. The town has many buildings dating back to the late 1890’s and early 1900’s since they have had several serious fires over the time since the town was established.
Wild Bill Hicock’s grave with Calimity Jane right next to him
It was a short hike up to the grave. He wanted to overlook the town he spent his life building and developing. His character was played by Timothy Olyphant in the HBO series, and this series was a rough protrail of the Wild West that I recommend if your not offended by raw language, killings, and prostitution that HBO covered in the series in graphic detail.
View from the cemetery overlooking the town below.
The big horn sheep seem to like the grass at the cemetery also…
We went to Mount Rushmore one evening just to get the lay of the land, and get maybe a sundown shot, but boy the place was mobbed since little did I know they have a evening program where they show a movie of the building of the monument and then light it up. We came back the next morning to walk a short trail underneath the monument. Overall, a very busy place, but one is a must see and they have plenty of viewing areas.
Nearby in the same mountains was the Crazy Horse Monument, a privately funded monument to tell the story of the Native Americans. They have a Native American museum and are starting a college on the site. The building of it started in 1948 and continues to this day. Pretty neat to see the progress from the raw mountain to what it is today. A 747 would fit on his arm to give you some perspective on the size of it.
Custer State Park is a great state park nestled in the Black Hills and is a rival to a National Park, it is that nice. It has great facilities, a beautiful wildlife drive, home to a large herd of Bison. We spent the day exploring all around the park in the Jeep and just scratched the surface. We need to put this on our repeat list and spend a week exploring it. Here are the highlights from just a single day trip…
Well, that about does it for our stay in the Rapid City area, it has a lot to see and do and it takes more than 6 days to experience it.