south dakota: sturgis, bear butte & wall

After leaving Spearfish Canyon, I drove past DICK & JANE’S NAUGHTY SPOT, and signs saying “Imagine Being Evicted Because of Who You Love.” I arrived at the town of Sturgis at 12:30.

Sturgis is home to the legendary annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally the first week in August, drawing close to 500,000 attendees. The rally attracts “weekend warriors and biker gangs such as the Bandidos.”  It also attracts celebrities such as Peter Fonda, Emilio Estevez, and heavy metal thunder.

This was the same town of Sturgis that held a big motorcycle rally on August 7-16, 2020, despite the pandemic (NPR: States Report Coronavirus Cases Linked to Sturgis, S.D., Motorcycle Rally).  The motorcycle rally is held every year at this time; I visited here in September of 2019, when the rally was over. The town was quite dead.

At the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, I walked around the cool museum looking at examples of different motorcycles through history.  The museum blends motorcycle memorabilia, antique motorcycles, unique bikes, and rotating exhibits. Though I’ve never been a motorcyclist, there is an appealing sense of freedom to them.


After visiting the museum, I took a brief stroll around the town of Sturgis.

After leaving Sturgis, I ate the rest of my buffalo ravioli from the night before, though it never really warmed up on my dashboard. 😦  I drove along to my next destination, seeing an interesting buffalo-shaped sign.


sign along the way

I drove to Bear Butte State Park, an interesting geological formation.  The Indians gave it the name “Mato paha” (Bear Mountain). This formation is a lone mountain, not a flat-topped “butte” as its name implies. It is one of the several intrusions of igneous rock that formed millions of years ago along the northern edge of the Black Hills. A small bison herd roams at the base of the mountain.

Artifacts from 10,000 years ago have been found here, and the volcanic laccolith is still used today by Native Americans for religious ceremonies and vision quests. Many see the mountain as a place where the Creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer. Notable leaders including Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull have all visited Bear Butte. These visits culminated with an 1857 gathering of many Indian nations to discuss the advancement of white settlers into the Black Hills.

George Armstrong Custer, who led an expedition of 1,000 men into the region in 1874 and camped near the mountain, verified the rumors of gold in the Black Hills.  Bear Butte then served as a landmark that helped guide invading prospectors and settlers into the region.


Bear Butte State Park


Bear Butte State Park


Bear Butte State Park

I went into the little museum at the park to see some displays about Native Americans.


painting of Native Americans at Bear Butte State Park


painting of Native Americans at Bear Butte State Park


farewell to Bear Butte State Park

I was too tired to attempt the steep summit trail, so I was on my way.

I approached Rapid City, South Dakota, passing Box Elder Creek and signs for Mount Rushmore.  A MicroMinnie trailer went past pulled by a jeep.  On the driver’s side door of the jeep read: “Not all who wander are lost.”

On I-90 E were numerous signs for Wall Drug.  Here is my journal page showing all of them.


signs on the way to Wall Drug

Lightning struck in the distance and I passed over the Cheyenne River.  I stopped at a rest area with a teepee structure and a Mount Rushmore relief sculpture.

I arrived in Wall, South Dakota at 4:00 and went directly to the Wounded Knee Museum. It tells the horrible and heartbreaking details of the Wounded Knee Massacre through a film, vivid graphics, photographs and music. 

The Wounded Knee Massacre was a domestic massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians, mostly women and children, by soldiers of the U.S. Army on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, following a botched attempt to disarm the Lakota camp.

The massacre was related to the Ghost Dance, a religious movement incorporated into numerous Native American belief systems.  According to teachings of the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka, proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to Native American peoples throughout the region.

I tried to mail a birthday card to my Dad from Wall. I thought I’d make it by the 5:00 closing, but it had closed at 4:00. 😦  I checked in at America’s Best Value – Wall for two nights.

After settling in, I went to Wall Drug Store.  Hyped up billboards along the highway lure tourists with free ice water after they leave the Badlands. The cafe still serves 5¢ coffee.  It is a cowboy-themed shopping mall: drug store, gift shop, restaurants, and various other stores, as well as an art gallery and a large brontosaurus sculpture. It was purchased in 1931 by Ted Hustead, a Nebraska native and pharmacist looking for a small town with a Catholic church to establish his business.

Hustead’s wife thought of advertising free ice water.  Wall Drug includes a Western Art Museum, a narrow chapel, western wear (boots, hats, clothes), jewelry, and western books.


Wall Drug

I had dinner at Badlands Saloon and Grille: a Bud Light (free) and Cowboy Chicken Slop: a healthy helping of mashed potatoes topped with fried boneless chicken breasts, sweet corn, white gravy and cheddar cheese.


Cowboy Chicken Slop

After dinner, I walked to the end of the Wall Drug Complex and captured a huge set of silos which I’d found to be very common on the Great Plains.


silos at Wall Drug

Below is my journal spread for today.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019 journal spread

 *Drove 162.7 miles (total trip 3,920.5 miles); Steps: 7,880; or 3.34 miles*

*Tuesday, September 17, 2019*