Day 14 Sod Huts to Mansions – Sites of South Dakota

Wednesday August 18, 2010

(Blog Hint: you should be able to click on the images to get bigger versions).

Today was given over to seeing the sites in southwest South Dakota. Our hotel room in Kadoka was okay, but boy did it stink. We woke up at 6:00 and were just tired of it, so we headed out early. We were in the car a little after 7:00.

We first headed out to the Bad Lands, then hit the booming burg of Wall, headed south to Mount Rushmore, finished up by a trip north through the Black Hills into Deadwood.

As we got close to the Bad Lands we stopped by a place that has an original sod hut built in 1909. As we walked back to it we saw lots of prairie dogs.

Ed and Alice Brown homesteaded this area in 1909. For $18 and the ability to improve 5 acres of the property over 5 years the homesteaders would get 160 acres. They had a saying about homesteading: the government was wagering 160 acres against $18 that the homesteaders would starve to death within 5 years. Apparently this land is much more accommodating to grazing than farming; millions of buffalo can’t be wrong. 
Here are a couple of shots showing the inside and outside of the hut. You can see where it the left and back walls are sod.
Numerous problems beset the homesteader. Extreme heat in the summer with frequent droughts; fierce cold in the winter including blizzards and a lack of water. At this homestead site we saw the site of the original well. It was 30 feet deep, dug by hand and yielded a couple of buckets of water a day.
Then we went on a 32 mile scenic tour of the Bad Lands. These are amazing and defy description. The erosion continues to work its way northward and the high plains washes away into the low plains.

One of the amazing things about this country at this time of year is seeing the beautiful blue sky juxtaposed against the gray pyramids and spires
We met a young woman moving back to Alabama from Washington; we exchanged the taking of pictures.
As we headed farther west we noticed that the hills picked up some hints of pink.

Back on the theme of homesteading. Imagine you move to South Dakota from back east with the hope of homesteading; you come upon your stake. Imagine trying to make something of this:

I’ll be honest, it’s more than I can imagine myself doing.
No trip to western South Dakota would be complete without a trip to Wall Drug. We learned that the town of Wall got its name from the fact that it is perched atop the wall formed by the Bad Lands; don’t worry, it’s safe, it’s just built close to the area on the high plains side.

Yeah, we bought some souvenirs.

Next we headed south to Mount Rushmore. I didn’t know what to expect. I had figured it was probably larger in my mind that in reality, so I tried to set myself up for it being smaller than expected (if that makes sense). But it was indeed big. Looking through binoculars it looks to me like Lincoln isn’t completely finished, the top of his head is kind of still just block.

People who saw this and the Crazy Horse monument say the Crazy Horse sculpture is more impressive
 thing that really struck me is that this is such a big pieced of Americana but because of it being so remote there weren’t a lot of people there. Maybe we saw it on a slow day, but this is in the middle of the summer. Only 1 1/2 of the 4 parking lots were filled. I wonder if this were in California, Oregon, or Washington would there be a huge traffic jam for miles, kind of like for the tulip festival in the fall?

From Mt. Rushmore we headed north on a scenic drive on US 385 to Deadwood. We passed a couple of beautiful lakes that I bet it would be way fun to boat on and swim on. I can almost see myself camping there (Horrors!)

In Deadwood our number one priority was to see the Adams house. It was owned by a couple of the local rich merchants in town. It was a very well preserved/restored Victorian house with all the original contents.

The tour guide was okay, but not great. If you remember my recounting a tour of a railroad museum back on our Route 66 trip, you’ll recall the character who guided our tour. Well intentioned but a little too corny and rehearsed. But he gave us plenty of time to look around each of the rooms.

Next we signed up for a quick bus tour to see the highlights of town including Boot Hill where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. This tour guide was wonderful; very knowledgeable and informative with a minimum of corn.

We finally checked into our hotel, the AmericInn and the Cadillac Jack casino. Back in the 70’s or 80’s the South Dakota legislature allowed gambling in Deadwood with the proviso that 4% of the income be devoted to historic restoration. All the better for Carla and me; we get a low rate for a nice room and meal discounts. They figure they’ll get the money back from us on the gaming tables – not so much. Walking through the casino to the restaurant, the people don’t look very happy.

We’ve covered 1,000 miles on our way back west and are still less than halfway home; we still have about 1,300 miles. Tomorrow we head through northeast Wyoming into Montana with a quick stop scheduled for the Custer battlefield monument. It will be a long driving day tomorrow so no promise of an update tomorrow.

I hope my blog entries aren’t too long to be interesting; we’ve been very busy and I’m trying to capture something about everything we’ve done so we can remember what a blast we had.


One thought on “Day 14 Sod Huts to Mansions – Sites of South Dakota

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.