Big Bike Solo in the Black Hills

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, May 18, 2009.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Stopped in at Ellsworth AFB.
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    Ellsworth AFB started in 1942 as a B-17 training base. Later it took on B-29 and eventually B-36 bombers. In fact, it is named after the commander of a B-36 that crashed in Greenland killing all 23 crewmembers. In 1957 the base changed over to B-52s. Eventually it took on the missile mission in the region as well. In 1987 they changed over to B-1 bombers. Right now area politicians are working to preserve a new bomber project that they hope will come to Ellsworth. In 1992 the Strategic Air Command "went away" (reorg) and the missile complex went under in 1994. The base involves a composite wing so F-15s, F-16s, and KC-135s are in the area as well.

    For those that like airplanes, make sure you check out the Air and Space Museum right outside the gate. They have a bunch of them on display.
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    I always thought it would be fun to sport around in one of these trainers.
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    This is more in line with my skills and qualifications though. :lol3
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    I jumped into the cockpit of this Delta Dart. These were vectored by ground radar stations (some in the area) to shoot down threatening bombers. I think George Bush used to fly one of these things.
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    Lots of gadgets to keep track of. The stick had two grips. I assumed that the left was for guiding a weapon.
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    Lots of switches to memorize.
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    This B-1 Bomber cockpit looks much roomier and much sleeker.
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    Of course, on the B-1 you have a crew behind you managing the weapons system.
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    #21
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Some people base their trip to the Hills out of Rapid City so I'll share a little Rapid info.

    Rapid City started up on 1876, the same time as the Black Hills gold rush, and initially had about 200 people. They were regularly being attacked by indians so most of the people left at one time leaving only 19 people and a block house. Now the city relies a lot on the Air Force Base, gold manufacturers, and a particle board company.

    The city initially was a hay town where freighters could rest and feed stock before pushing on to the mining camps in the Hills. One freight company operated from 1876 to 1888 until the railroad came along. During that time they moved 12 million pounds of freight. They were able to haul 400 tons in one movement. They had 1000-1500 men and wagons, 2-3 thousand oxen, and 1500 mules. They hauled about everything, including a narrow gauge steam railroad engine that weighed 30 tons. The freight line ran from the river at Pierre all the way to Deadwood.

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    Stopped in at a boneyard to check out this sculpture made of car bumpers. Great work!
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    The city managed to get a couple of hunks of the Berlin wall. If you have never seen this barrier in person (back in the old days), it is worth pondering this exhibit.
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    The tube on top is to prevent people from getting a hand grip to go over. The L shape is to prevent toppling if rammed by a vehicle.
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    On June 9, 1972, Rapid City suffered a devastating flood. This memorial with the names of the dead seems like a small remembrance, but when you consider the surrounding parkland is really part of it things take on a better scale. The huge park along the river is essentially an area that was wiped out by the flood. 238 people lost their lives in that flood making one of the deadliest in US history. Over 3,000 were injured and 118 were hospitalized. 770 permanent homes were destroyed along with 565 mobile homes. About 3,000 other structures were damaged and about 5,000 vehicles were destroyed. Nearby Keystone (a small town tucked in the Hills that we will visit later) got 15 inches of rain in six hours. Another Hills location reported 4 inches in 30 minutes. More than 10 inches fell over a 60 square mile area. Check out these photos: http://sd.water.usgs.gov/projects/1972flood/photos.html

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    You can visit the Cleghorn Springs Fish Hatchery where South Dakota raises about 250,000 Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon for stocking each year. Trout are not native to the Hills even though the habitat is great. These guys stock 11" catchable trout throughout the Hills. Two guys brought some trout in cream cans in a wagon from Colorado in the 1880s and it all took off from there. A spring at this site produces 6 million gallons of 52 degree water a day year around. There is an interpretive site at the hatchery.
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    You can also visit the Chapel in the Hills.
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    Interesting wooden construction.
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    Seems like this region has an urban deer problem similar to our urban geese problem in Wisconsin. Apparently the lawns are better browse than the sparser pickings in the wild. These deer were well rehearsed in road crossings.
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    A "must ride" in town is the Skyline Drive. The twisty road runs along a ridge that overlooks the town. A WPA project from years past included putting these dinosaurs (or what they thought dinosaurs looked like in the 1930s) high on the ridge.
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    Views from the ridge include the plains to the east . . .
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    . . . and some of the Hills to the west.
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    There is also the remnants of a hanging tree mounted in cement on the ridge. Vigilantes broke into the jail and hauled out three horse theives and hung them using this tree. Many believe that one of the three, a 19 year old who happened to ride into town with the two thieves, was innocent. This produced a bad rift in the town for a while. Well, as Homer Simpson would say, "Yeah, but whattaya gonna do!"
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    The downtown is populated with a bunch of statues of Presidents. Have your picture taken with your favorite one.
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    It is a very nice ride up the canyon to the site of the Westberry Trails Fire. This picture doesn't show the great part.
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    In July of 1988 someone started an arson fire that took out 15 homes, 42 outbuildings, 40 vehicles, and a bridge. The fiefighters stopped the blaze within 500 feet of 440 homes and outbuildings. The arsonist was never caught.
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    The place still looks bleak.
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    As I saw some of the really nice looking wooden homes built out in the Hills, I wondered about their fire safety. This guy survived a fire by good practices of removing trees and brush, having a fireproof roof, and keeping a lush lawn. The swimming pool probably helped as a water source.
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    Two more items of interest in town. The school of mining has a great geology museum. Another museum, the Journey Museum, has a fabulous array of exhibits that will entertain and inform. Search the web for more details.
    #22
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  3. tommo2

    tommo2 Michiganee

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    :clap
    #23
  4. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    Great Ride Report so far Mr. Cannonshot. :clap

    I rode through the area last Fall but did not see all the interesting things that you are sharing with us.

    I did stop at the Minute Man site and got on the tour.
    Very cool stuff huh? :eek1

    I look forward to reading and seeing more of your trip. :thumb
    Q~
    #24
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Stopped in at the Black Hills National Cemetery. I visited the grave of Medal of Honor awardee Sergeant Charles Windolph. Notice that Windolph lived until 1950. His medal was awarded for actions in the Battle of the Little Big Horn when he served in the 7th Cavalry in 1876. This is the battle where Custer's element was wiped out. Windolph was part of Benteen's troops.

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    It is very interesting to read Windolph's account to get a feeling for what it was like fighting Indians at the time. After the battle turned against Benteen, Windolph found himself in a defensive position on an exposed hill. They were being fired down on from surrounding key terrain held by the Indians. On top of being in a bad position, these guys were unsettled because they wondered what happened to Custer and his element. No one knew they had been massacred at that time. Windolph and his foxhole mate had scratched out a shallow fighting position. When Windolph's buddy (a German guy from Milwaukee) rolled up on his side to take is coat off, he was shot and killed by a long range sniper. Windolph could see the Indian with a long range rifle propped up on a buffalo skull but he could not range the shooter with his carbine. Windolph himself was wounded in the chest by a richochet. When the surgeon came to treat him, Windolph sent him away saying others needed help more than he did. Outside of their defensive position were about 30-40 men wounded and crying out for water. No one could assist them as it was too dangerous. Eventually Captain Benteen asked for volunteers to help the wounded and 17 men came forward. Windolph and three others were designated to stand up in a key position and draw Indian fire while they in turn put out suppressive fire at probable Indian positions (bushes and stuff) while the others ran out to help the wounded. Windolph and the other three stood in the open for 20 minutes drawing fire and shooting at Indians. Many in the water party were badly wounded. After the action, Windolph was immediately promoted to Sergeant and eventually was awarded the Medal of Honor. Windolph always maintained that there were many others that were very heroic and very deserving that day. Eventually the Indians burned some grass to lay down a smoke screen so they could leave the area. (These days we shoot in smoke with artillery and mortars.)
    #25
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Something else happened here (before this was a cemetery) in August 1876. Remember that 1876 was the big gold rush here. Charles Nolin was a pony mail carrier. He was hauling mail through this area when he encountered a group of guys camped here before completing their task of hauling hay from Rapid City to Deadwood. The hay camp guys warned Nolin not to go on saying they had heard Indian war cries nearby. They urged Nolin to stay over night with them instead. Nolin insisted on leaving saying that he promised his mother in Nebraska that this would be his last ride.

    It was. The next morning he was found dead nearby. His horse was also killed and the mail was scattered by his Indian attackers.

    The hay camp guys dug a shallow grave with their pitch forks and covered the remains with rocks. In 1880 the remains were moved to a cemetery near Bear Butte.

    Deadman Creek and Deadman Mountain SW of here were named for this event. Nolin was 24 years old.

    There is a marker in Sturgis concerning this event.
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    #26
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  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    There is a nice curvy gravel road that runs from the cemetery the back way to Fort Meade. It is a National Scenic Byway. Along the route are some things to stop and look at.

    Stage coach robberies were a big problem in the Hills sometimes running about one a week. Two federal law officers arrested Curley Grimes as a suspect in a robbery. On their way to the Deadwood jail, the two officers said that Curly made a break for it in a snowstorm. The lawmen shot Curley down on this spot. They then rode over to nearby Fort Meade to report what happened. Colonel Sturgis investigated and held the men as murderers. Eventually they were acquitted. In fact, they were acquitted in a second similar incident in the region later on.
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    Curley was buried by soldiers right where he fell face down.
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    Fort Meade's last Indian campaign was in 1906-1907 when they rounded up several hundred Utes who left their reservation in Utah to try to find another spot to live. The Army was sent out to round them up and brought them to this spot next to Fort Meade. Here they camped while the government sought to find them some reservation space. What is not widely known is that people from Sturgis brought out food and blankets during the winter to supplement what the Army provided. Turns out the new reservation deal didn't work out so the Army escorted the Utes back to their original reservation.
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    The Sidney (NE) to Deadwood stage and freight wagon route came through here. The ruts visible in front of the tree are from that trail.
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    The cavalry at Fort Meade trained here. This is a stone training jump for horses. Stone and wooden jumps were part of the program. By the way, around the time of WWII they traded their horses for motorcycles thus starting a long tradition in the region.
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    This is the original post cemetery. The post is visible in the mid-ground and Bear Butte is visible in the background. More on Bear Butte in a bit.
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    An old machine gun range.
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    #27
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  8. Yossarian™

    Yossarian™ Deputy Cultural Attaché

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    #28
  9. ricohman

    ricohman Long timer

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    Nice ride report. Nice pics.
    I had no idea you could tour missle silos. I might have to add that to my "to do" list.
    #29
  10. freeflow

    freeflow get in or go in Supporter

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    Bryan, thank you for yet another Quality ride report. :thumb. keep it coming please ! :lurk
    #30
  11. Jeremy1981

    Jeremy1981 shopping for a ride

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    I've always loved the Black Hills area, this is a great view of them! Subscribed!

    Jeremy
    #31
  12. TheTomcat

    TheTomcat The Tomcat is here!

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    I'm going to be there next month for the V-Strom Ralley. You gave me some idea of where I want to go now. Thanks.
    #32
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    There will be much more information about other things to enjoy . This is still about day 1 of 6. Lots of good riding ahead.
    #33
  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks folks for the positive and encouraging replies. This thing takes a little bit of effort - not just the research ahead of time - but also the reporting. Your feedback lets me know I'm not the only guy interested in this stuff. :lol3

    Of course, it is all worth the effort if it helps the next bunch of riders better enjoy the place. :thumb
    #34
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  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    In 1878, Fort Meade became the first official post of the Hills and it lasted for about 66 years - far longer than some other frontier posts. This is where the 7th Cavalry was reconstituted after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The purpose of the post was to protect people invading the Hills from the pissed off Sioux. The post is strategically located at the mouth of a gap in a ridge that surrounds the Hills. Colonel Sturgis commanded the post. Nearby Sturgis is named after him.

    During WWI the SD National Guard trained here. During the depression a CCC camp was here (much more on the CCC later). In 1942 the Cavalry gave up their horses and got motorcycles and light tanks. In 1943 this was a training ground for glider troops. In 1945 it contained a German PW camp - the labor being needed for sugar beets in the area. Today the place is primarily a Veteran's Administration hospital.
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    A horse named Commanche, the only living thing found on Custer's battlefield, was kept here. The horse recovered from his wounds and was a mascot of sorts - never having to do any real work except appear in a few ceremonies. The horse learned to panhandle treats and beer from the troops. He died at about age 30 and is now stuffed an in a museum at a Kansas university.
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    Major Reno was courts-martialed here for scandalous behavior and was kicked out of the Army. A little about Major Reno. During his service his wife died and he was denied leave to attend her funeral. Eventually he was able to return home to settle some matters. When he returned to his post, he was deeply affected by the loss of his wife and the separation from his son. His personality changed, he became isolated, and he had a hard time getting along with others. He was not in Custer's inner circle.
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    After the Battle of the Little Big Horn people were looking for a scapegoat. Reno was easy not to like so his actions were called into question. In the mean time his bad behavior made it easy for some to believe he was the problem. Reno had been suspended for two years for hitting a fellow officer's wife. During this suspension, Custer's biographer accused Reno of cowardice and disobeying orders at the LBH. Reno demanded a court of inquiry and after 26 days of testimony was cleared. Later, Reno screwed up again by fighting with a junior officer and window peeping to inappropriately look at the Post Commander's daughter. Some say the daughter might have been encouraging some things, but once the fit hit the shan she probably wasn't in a position to accept any responsibility. So, Reno self-destructed and was punted from the Army in 1880. Later he died of pneumonia after mouth cancer surgery in 1889.
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    Old horse stables nicely refurbished and being used as warehouses.
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    I wanted to tour this museum on post but it wasn't yet open for the season. As luck would have it, a nice lady that was part of a volunteer group that was going to clean the museum that evening asked me if I wanted to check it out. She also shared some great local history with me as I made my visit.
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    As I mentioned, horses were turned in for Harley's.
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    This commission arrived in the mail a short time ago - 107 years late. It was for a Captain of Cavalry. I hope he gets his back pay. The Post Office admitted the item was somewhere in the postal system all that time and acknowledged it was a case of snail mail.
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    This is some stuff having to do with the German PWs. They made some things (ship in a bottle, carvings) in their spare time.
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    This thing explains itself. Who would have thought . . .
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    The Ku Klux Klan was prominent in the Hills a while back. In fact, they used to publish items in the paper about their activities and such. The Klan came out to the post to demand that a black man associated with the post be turned over to the Klan. The Klan was accusing him of stealing a white man's horse. The Post Commander said something like "No way am I turning anyone over for any stinkin' Klan justice." The Klan got pissed and went to burn a cross on the boundary of the post. A couple of guys took a machine gun over there and fired off a few rounds over the Klansmen's heads.

    I was informed by one of the locals that there is still some Klan stuff associated with the Rally. Apparently members wear buttons to identify themselves to each other. One interesting story was about a woman who rented yard camping space to a nice man named David who she later found out was David Duke.

    Have to have an artillery picture . . . it is kind of a rule.
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    One last story about this post. The wife of one of the soldiers years ago was kind of strange but very nice and very helpful. She always wore a cap, veil, gloves, long sleeves, and a long dress. She helped out with child births, babysitting, and other stuff. She often remarked that when she died they should just bury here as she is. Well, she died and the grateful people of the post got her a new dress to be buried in. They were quite surprised to find out that she was really a he. When word got out to the field where his/her husband was on a wood cutting detail, he walked off into the woods and shot himself. Unreal.
    #35
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I rode over to a spot where the Custer Expedition of 1874 camped from 14-16 August. The expedition consisted of 1200 men and horses and 110 wagons and equipment.
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    It was fun to look around the site and imagine all of that stuff bivouaced here.
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    This expedition was in violation of an 1868 treaty that gave the Hills to the Indians. Custer and the boys had been instructed to nose around the hills looking to see what was there. He had some prospectors as part of his crew looking for gold. He also had Illingsworth, the official photographer, who too some great snaps. Custer had some other tasks to complete like finding a spot for a fort on the west side and find a connection for another route.
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    To move this large group through the Hills, they were doing some pioneer road and bridge building as they went. There are several spots along the route which still show the wheel ruts from this expedition. The Indians called Custer's path through the Hills the "thieves road".
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    More on this expedition later on as we visit some other significant sites along the route.
    #36
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    This mountain was a navaid for centuries for Indians and later for fur traders, cowboys, and other travelers. It was a sacred mountain to some Indians. A great council was held here in 1857 by the Indians to determine that they would keep the Hills inviolate forever. Artifacts going back 10,000 years have been found in the area.

    Now it is a state park. Some believe that if you want to have twins you need to do some work on this mountain. There are colored prayer cloths and offerings of tobacco on the paths leading to the mountain. These are religious offerings and should be respected and not photographed.
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    Sturgis also has a motorcycle museum. Check it out on the web first.
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    They tell me this is Poker Alice's house, but it is not marked.
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    There are too many great stories about this cigar smoking, gun toting, enterprising, high-rolling, brothel running woman for me to try to relate in this post. Check out this link for a little entertainment.
    http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-pokeralice.html

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    Well it was getting dark. I was going to camp over by the lake in Bear Butte State Park. The bugs were annoying so I went over to a BLM campsite across the street from where Curley Grimes was shot down and near where the mail carrier was murdered by Indians. I took this shot the next morning. Once I got set up that night I sat alone in the dark smoking a cigar while taking in my surroundings. Very relaxing.
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    End of my first full day on the ride. Monday night. I made it from the missile exhibit near the Badlands through Wall, Ellsworth, Rapid, Ft Meade, and Sturgis. I think I need a rest. :lol3
    #37
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  18. gatling

    gatling Long timer

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    Great report; thanks.
    #38
  19. judjonzz

    judjonzz Beastly

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    Bryan, another terrific report in the making. I have been riding in the Hills at least once a year, often more, for 20 years, but still, your report is full of stuff that is new to me. Well, I'm subscribed now.
    #39
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks gatling. And thanks Jud. I've always considered you to be a great source of information on the Black Hills so your remarks are high praise in my book.
    #40