The final portion of our epic Dakotas trip was spent in the old western town of Deadwood, South Dakota.
Prior trip posts:
Day 1–Getting to Sylvan Lake, South Dakota
Day 3–Road trip! Devils Tower, Ekalaka, and arrival in Medora, North Dakota
After leaving White Butte, we had quite a long (and boring) drive south to Deadwood. I wanted to make sure our final day of vacation could be light on driving, which meant day 4 was heavy on driving. We decided to stay in Deadwood because Joel said it seemed cool–and it really had a rich history:
The discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills in 1874 set off one of the great gold rushes in America. In 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills. That’s where they came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold and Deadwood was born.
Practically overnight, the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights – forever after known as the Dead Man’s Hand.
The old-timey feel (plus gold rush! Outlaws! Gun slingers!) really appealed to all of us… so different than back home in North Carolina, or Pennsylvania.
We stayed at the Lodge at Deadwood, which was about a mile outside of the downtown area–an easy drive, but not walkable, unfortunately. I chose the Lodge because of the indoor pool–I figured the kids would welcome the break from driving, hiking, and touring–and also because all the places I looked at downtown were either booked, very small, or didn’t have parking. So to make it easier, the Lodge solved all those issues, and was affordable (we used our military discount, and parents used their AAA discount).
We unloaded our bags, then set off for downtown–dinnertime!
After the exciting bighorn sheep sighting, we found parking in a side street lot, and moseyed (is that a word?) down Main Street, over to the restaurant.
Joel picked the Gem Steakhouse & Saloon, and thankfully we didn’t have to wait long to get seated–though we did have to figure out how to find our way through the maze of a casino on the first floor, and get up to the restaurant on the 2nd floor.
If you guessed we ordered more steak (I don’t think we had chicken once on this trip!)–you’d be right. I should have split with Javi or Gabe, but wanted my own. Huge portions, delicious food–everyone was happy. Asher ate crackers, but hey… just glad he ate something (and he did have 2 slices of pizza earlier). I found all the photographs and captions on the wall fascinating… so many details about Deadwood’s history that I had no idea about.
After dinner, it was already dark, so we didn’t walk around town. I was very tired from running, traveling, and hiking, so I went to bed early… but first I had a “mom meltdown” about my camera charger being in the car, and no one helping me find it (I eventually found it, after getting dressed again, searching the entire car… and it was actually in the hotel room all along–UGH! Very frustrating). I thought maybe I’d wake up early and go for a run downtown, but I just didn’t feel like it. I do wish we had more time/energy to explore Deadwood… a common theme during this trip… should have planned for a little more time at each stop!
The following morning, Thursday 9/17/2020, we had an excellent breakfast in the Lodge, at Oggie’s Sports Bar–definitely recommend their cinnamon rolls!
Afterwards, I took the boys to the indoor water park (part of the Lodge) and went swimming, while the others went sightseeing downtown. I wanted to see the downtown area, but I also wanted the boys to be happy (and get their wiggles out before the 1 hour ride to Rapid City airport, 3 hour plane ride, and 1.5 hour car ride home–plus all the waiting in between).
So I took one for the team 🙂 Or should I say, for the sake of my sanity and those around us!
As the kids enjoyed the rope obstacle thingy, pictured above, I soaked in the (very hot!) hot tub, then I’d go cool off with them in the pool.
While lazing in the hot tub, I noticed a bighorn sheep outside the windows… then Gabe came to look, and pointed out there was a whole family of sheep! It looked to be the same sheep we saw the night prior (they had identification tags).
After the pool, we packed up everything. I had time to use my Canon camera + zoom lens to get up close and personal with the sheep:
By Thursday mid-morning, we had come to the end of our whirlwind Dakotas trip. We headed for Rapid City airport (lovely little airport, btw–reminded me of Greensboro’s!)
We were plenty early (thanks to those of us who love being SUPER early to flights), so we had nearly 3 hours to kill at the airport.
We ordered some burgers from the airport restaurant (they took forever to be made but they were so delish! Mine had pineapple on it) and finally, we were on our way back home, via Charlotte.
The only downside to the flight was the need for a mask the whole time, but we knew we what we were getting into with the times of COVID travel. I watched the Ben Stiller movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, (decent but not amazing) so at least the flight went quickly. We said good-bye to Mom, Dad, and Joel, who had a short layover in CLT, en route to Erie, PA.
Back in NC, our bag came out at baggage claim quickly, we found our van in the pouring rain, and we drove back home safely to Luna and Baby Kitty. What an amazing trip! I didn’t know if I would enjoy the upper Midwest, but I really loved it, and hope to take a return trip someday.