I have undoubtedly waited so long to write about my lengthy drive to Billings, Montana, and back that it’s on the verge of being completely irrelevant. (And not that I’m assuming any sort of salient and on-the-edge-of-your-seat relevance had I posted it in a more timely fashion, either). It was a pretty amazing drive, though, and I enjoyed my adventure thoroughly. So, without further ado, and hopefully better late than never, a brief synopsis of my travels to Big Sky Country:
July 7, 2004
After an unbelievably slow start due to incessant blithering and dithering around, I finally hit the road early on in the afternoon. My goal for the day–Deadwood, South Dakota. On I-90 West, however, I found that certain stops had to be made. My first stop? The Corn Palace, in Mitchell, South Dakota. I couldn’t pass it up. Why not? Because it’s, well . . . a palace. Made out of corn. Made entirely out of corn. Clearly. I had to stop.
Also on I-90, I discovered a nice rest stop just outside of Chamberlain, South Dakota, which featured a little museum with Lewis & Clark information and a keel ship exhibit. Climbing to the top level of the museum, you could step outside onto the deck of a reconstructed keel ship, and then take pictures of the Missouri River. Once you cross the Missouri, you’re now officially West River, which for SoDakians is not merely a geographical designation, but a signifier of cultural and emotional climes as well.
Pressing on further west, through Rapid City, Sturgis, and Spearfish, after which I took a detour of I-90 through winding, canyon roads round and round, and down and down into the gulch in which the historical city of Deadwood is located. In Deadwood, I stayed at the Historic Franklin Hotel, which featured an old-fashioned, man-operated elevator with one of those large cranks, incredible woodwork, an elegant, period-style sitting room, as well as a fainting room.
July 8, 2004
Everywhere in Deadwood, the endless cling and clang of slot machines and casinos. Every restaurant, shop, and establishment was fronted by a casino in the lobby. I couldn’t decide if it was depressingly tacky, or if it was an appropriate vestige of Deadwood’s wild west past. The old, Victorian buildings were intriguing and amazing, though, and in the morning I spent some time wandering up and down the main street, past the bar where Wild Bill Hicok was shot, over to the old train station, by the library, and finally on to the Adams Museum, which provided a fascinating overview of Deadwood’s history.
I hit the road again after lunch, stopping to take several pictures of the beautiful Big Horn Mountains in between Buffalo, Wyoming, and Sheridan, Wyoming. I-90 eventually crossed into Montana, and when I became hot and tired later on the afternoon, I stopped off in Garryowen, Montana, to cool off and take a leisurely walk through the Custer Battlefield Museum, which had a number of battle artifacts, amazing photographic portraits of significant Native warriors and chiefs, and a lot of very beautiful Native artwork as well. I finally arrived in Billings to rendezvous with my parents for dinner in the early evening.
(To Be Continued . . . )