Published: July 13th 2012July 7th 2012
We got up early with alarms at 7am and had breakfast downstairs and we were packed and ready to leave at 8.30am which was pretty good. Weather was cool and overcast about 18 degrees at best.
We decided to head towards Rapid City and visit Bear Country USA. It cost $60- to go in but wow ! was this place special. We did a 30 minute loop on a road circuit. The first 15 minutes we saw a range of animals in individual enclosures that you drove through and the animals were so close and next to the car. When we entered the bear enclosure you had to keep windows closed for obvious reasons and there were more bears than you could throw a stick at (about 200) and mix between Black Bears and Grizzlies. Because is was early they were quite active walking on the road or moving on the grass, a truly amazing sight to see.
Once we finished the drive around the park, we visited the main building area where they had about 35 baby bears in one enclosure. They were busy playing and chomping on each others ears except for one. He or she had
figured the safest place was to climb the tree and avoid the carnage down on the ground !
I always remember going to the zoo and watching monkeys and thinking I can watch them for ever and this is especially the case with Orangutans, and watching the baby bears gave me the same feeling.
They also had some deers, buffalo, coyotes, beavers, raccoons, foxes, and two river otters who were playfully fighting like our teenagers do at times on the grassy mound. They would tumble on top of each other again and again, and then jump in the water and keep going. I don’ know where they get the energy from ?
We left the park after about 90 minutes and headed to Rapid City to get the connecting Interstate up to Sturgis and exit towards Deadwood. We knew about this place due to Calamity Jane movie starring Doris Day but when I researched this I found Deadwood to have quite a deep history in the Wild West.
When we drove in to the town it was like going to the set of a Western Movie with bars and saloons etc on the main street. They
do not allow any cars to park on the main street so you know it looks really authentic.
We had lunch in No 10 Saloon which is really famous as the place where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated in 1879. He was shot in the back by Joe McCall. There was a massive fire in Deadwood in 1870 and some 300 buildings were destroyed so they they rebuilt the city in mostly brick structures which stand today including the new Saloon No 10. It has a real authentic look and feel. The bar area has a floor which is grit and dirt you walk on, and they actually have on display the chair which Wild Bill Hickok was sitting on when he was shot.
After lunch we did a little souvenir shopping and then we drove to the local cemetery where they have many historic grave sites with the most famous being Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Potato Johnny. It only costs $1- to enter and we saw these three all together. Calamity Jane’s tombstone final words were to “bury me next to Wild Bill”, and that is what they did. It was still quite cool, at around
Next we drove North to get back on the I90 West towards Sundance (made famous for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). No time to stop so we moved on towards Devils Tower National Monument. Now this is one of USA’s greatest monuments and was truly inspiring. It is so dramatic words cannot explain but you just have to go here.
After we entered the national park we saw some prairie dogs playing by the side of the road and we were so excited we forgot about the monument for a while. The temp had changed and now it was about 27 degrees,
We walked up from the car park for a while to get closer and took a few pics and then we spotted some guy starting to climb it. Wow this this was so cool, we watched him effortlessly climb the 45 degrees section, and then foot by foot he starting going up. We watched for about 30 mins and he was going vertical (amazing !!). He had about 4 hours ahead of him I guess, so good luck !
Next was the 2 hour drive across Wyoming’s prairie. Some amazing scenery
as the landscape kept changing. No-one lives our here much. The further we headed west the clearer the skies became and the warmer it got (peaking at about 32 degrees) We saw moonscapes, mars scapes, some little mountains that looked like Tee Pees coming straight out of the ground, and finally as we approached Buffalo we saw the majestic Big Horn mountains which reached up into the clouds with a bit of snow capping.
We arrived in Buffalo about 6.30pm and stayed at the Occidental Hotel. This is the most famous hotel in the area, and is littered with historical touches and antique artifacts. Our room is known as the Bordello Suite. Search online for details of this place (Occidental Hotel in Buffalo Wyoming). Famous folk have stayed here. We had dinner downstairs and I had the best Rib Eye Steak I have ever had (we are in Wyoming !) and the saloon had a country duet playing. Later Kerry & I went back down and started talking to an old guy from Bilings Montana who was with a family group. We had a chat and he knew about our hopeless PM (talked about immigration policy etc) and we
danced to Johnny Cash song “Ring of Fire” before ending the night.
There are more photos below