David Freeze: A great day of spectacular and interesting sights

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Editor’s note: Salisbury native David Freeze is cycling from Anacortes, Washington, to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Post is chronicling each day of his ride. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net.

Remember Bill Goodjion from the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau?

He met me at the bike shop late Sunday as I raced to have the shifting looked at before the store closed. Bill arranged for me a place to stay and offered his car and guidance on how to make the rounds and still see as much as possible.

Here is how Monday went:

The first and primary place I wanted to visit was Mount Rushmore. Bill suggested that I get up there to see the changing colors on the faces of Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson as the sun started to rise. What a great call, and in a day of awesome and spectacular, this topped it all.

The park opened at 5 a.m. and about 20 of us were there to get the great photos. I was amazed with the start of the day.

I was gone by 6 a.m., only because I didn’t want to wait and see the museum at 8 a.m.

The next stop was Custer State Park, another place with incredible views of granite spires on a road called Needles Highway. Narrow, winding roads and one-way tunnels were part of the experience, although I once again did not see the famous buffalo herd that lives in the park. I never saw a buffalo in Yellowstone either. But no matter what, I got another break when no one was there to pay for entrance into the park, whether it was a July 4th week thing or just too early.

I made it to the Crazy Horse Memorial next, still well before 9 a.m. All of these locations are close together.

There was an admission charged for Crazy Horse but it was well worth it. A woman who watched the sunrise at Mount Rushmore told me that she was going and that the last time she was there, the work crew was not finished with the sculpture. I think they started the idea in 1939 and the end is many years in the future.

What a beautiful and stately thing the sculpture is. Crazy Horse was one of the Indian leaders during the Battle of the Little Big Horn and he never surrendered to the U.S. Army. They did succeed in trying to get him into a jail of sorts and when he wouldn’t enter, one of the soldiers bayoneted him in the back.

Crazy Horse died that night at age 35. Eventually, there will be an Indian university and even larger Indian museum as part of the complex.

One thing I didn’t do and now wish I had was ride a bus to the top of the sculpture. It’s on my list for the next time.

Two towns in the area that I heard a lot about were Custer and Hill City. I rode through them both and saw a lot of historical buildings.

I never got any breakfast biscuits but I did find a huge brownie. No pie either.

On to Deadwood, a place that I was really interested in seeing and left a good portion of the afternoon to do it.

The name for Deadwood came from wood that was piled up in the city streets after flooding pushed the wood and formed a dam, making the streets muddy more than they should have been. What started the whole town of Deadwood was that Gen. George Custer discovered gold in the area and a small sleepy town became a big boomtown with at one time more than 50 saloons and 30 brothels.

Gold kept coming, too. In fact, the gold in the area has never run out but the price doesn’t make it profitable to mine anymore.

Supposedly, if Deadwood were a country, it would have at one time owned more gold than all but four countries in the world. The Randolph Hearst family still owns a mine that goes over 8,000 feet deep.

Kevin Costner has a huge part in the town and in fact owned the tour bus company that I used Monday. There is lots of gambling, mostly tied to the many major hotels in town.

Deadwood is very touristy but still very historic.

Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane were two of its most famous residents. Hickok was killed in Deadwood during a card game when he was shot in the back of the head. Calamity Jane could do all the things that a man of that era wanted to do but she drank herself into a hole. Hickok and Calamity are buried side by side in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

My last thing to do in Deadwood was to watch a re-enactment of the killing in Saloon No. 10. The actor who played Hickok told all about the man himself and how he was killed, then we proceeded to watch it happen.

Gunfight re-enactments for various reasons were scheduled later throughout the night and evening. A trial for Jack McCall, killer of Hickok, is also done nightly. Impressive to me is how the town has fixed up all the older hotels and made them better than they were in the 1880s and ’90s.

I’ll be back on the bike today and headed east again on State Road 44 and into Badlands National Park. Serious heat is coming, too, and I just hope the wind is cooperative. I think my legs got a rest Monday but because of lack of sleep, I nodded off in the Crazy Horse movie and on the tour bus. Planned to get more sleep Monday night.

Ride with me as I head for Nebraska in a few days. It has been a great trip so far, and I hope you are enjoying it. See you tomorrow!