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NEON COWBOY – Custer, South Dakota to Sheridan, Wyoming

July 27, 2011

CUSTER STATE PARK, SOUTH DAKOTA.  I woke up in the early morning light and gazed up at the ceiling of my tent.  The Green Gore-tex fabric was doing an excellent job of keeping the steady, cold rain from getting through.  After four days in Custer State Park, South Dakota I was ready for a change of scenery. 

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The previous day, mostly to kill time, I visited the town of Hot Springs and rode over to take a swim in the local hot spring.  For most of the morning, I had been freezing.  The weather turned decidedly colder with a non-stop wind that made everything, even standing by a fire miserable.

There’s not much to see in Hot Springs – as you can see in the Google Earth screen grab.  I did however, stop in to this Ace Hardware store to pickup a few items.  

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Let’s have a Travel Channel moment and insert the “Distinctive Destination” guide to Hot Springs, SD.  I assume the town chamber put this beauty together.  Good effort guys.

My Lonely Planet guide book said the hot spring was 13 miles out of town on XXX road.  I had to take this on faith as the GPS was completely useless.  For large sections of South Dakota the Nuvi seemed to be struggling to provide directions, roads, gas station information, etc.  It was a mixture of fun and frustration sometimes to have to revert to old tech MAPS or even worse, ASKING DIRECTIONS.  Ye gods, no.

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I located the hot spring – in the middle of nowhere as are most places in South Dakota.  Parked the bike (check out the super cool HD side stand support) and walked down to the spring.

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The spring looked inviting but had warning signs about the banks being entirely covered with poison ivy.  I decided against taking a chance with poison ivy and hit the road back to Custer. 

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Side note – I finally broke down and bought a bag chair. I know the Kermit Chair is the best, most portable chair for touring, but I just cannot justify spending over $100 for the chair – more if you buy the leg extensions.  My three legged camp chair died (it was uncomfortable anyway) and for $6.00,  I can live with the ugly bag chair sticking out the back of the panniers.  It made a world of difference in my overall comfort!  Picnic benches are great, but sitting on one day after day, sucks.  It’s the best thing I bought on the entire trip.

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So back to the start of the story…………………..

Back to the rain in Custer State Park, South Dakota.  The rain was sporadic enough to allow me to get the sleeping, air mattress, and tent put away and even remain somewhat dry.  The tent was my my biggest worry as these high tents seem to mildew very quickly.  With the gear stowed, I put on my full rain gear and headed out of South Dakota into Wyoming. 

On the way I stopped again in Custer, SD for a great breakfast and some nice conversation with a waitress who managed to lift my mood from grumpy (cold and and rain will do that to a fella) to cheerful and excited about the days ride. 

Crossing into Wyoming was fantastic.  The weather improved and I was able to stop at the Welcome Center and take off my rain gear.  I always stop at any state’s large Welcome Center.  Usually, these places offer maps, drinks and occasionally hot dogs, soda, cookies, cake, and veggie snacks (THANKS Louisiana!)  I walked inside, had a drink, signed the guest book “Underhill” grabbed a map, and hit the road again. 

I really like the road contrast to the shoulder.  Wyoming was very green in early June. At some point along the interstate, I managed to get pulled over by a county Sherriff for speeding.  I saw a white ford Bronco sitting in the middle of the road and saw it was some sort of law enforcement, but at that point I was going too fast and it was too late to do much about it.  The vehicle remained where it was and eventually, I forgot about it.  What actually happened is the cop let me get about a mile away and started pacing me, measuring my speeds.  I was using the Throttlemeister and running in the low 80’s with speeds going up and down a few miles an hour – as they do when the t-meister is doing the driving. 

I got a huge surprise when about ten miles later I glanced in the side mirror and saw the lights immediately behind me.  I pulled over and prepared for the worst.  One very good piece of advice I read somewhere is that when you are pulled over on a motorcycle do the following.  Shut the bike off, put it on the kickstand, remove your helmet, have your documents at the ready and put your hands in your lap.  DO NOT get off the bike, just sit there. I did exactly that and he approached me and asked how fast I was going, and the usual cop stuff.  ‘Yada, yada, I clocked you at between 82 and 85, does that sound right?  Not having a better answer I said “yes, that sounds right”.  The look on his face was priceless.  Apparently he had been hearing bullshit for quite some time and did not quite know how to handle simple honesty.   So to make a long story longer, he let me go, no ticket, no warning, and we had a nice chat about motorcycling. 

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The next stop today was Devils Tower.  It’s impressive.  Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument’s boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres and includes a KOA and a gift shop selling an assortment of crap, t-shirts, Harley junk and over priced UFO themed post cards. 

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After Devils Tower, it was on to Sheridan Wyoming and my destination – The Mint Bar.  With its location on the Bozeman Trail, Sheridan Wyoming, was the center of turbulent 1800’s western expansion history. Known for its many battles, the "Bloody Bozeman” Trail traveled north to the rich gold fields of Montana.  Since 1907, The Mint served as a saloon, community center, brothel, and casino for Sheridan area cowboys and ranchers. Although it “closed” during Prohibition, its business was unaffected. 

The Mint Bar was last remodeled shortly after World War II.   Inside you will find an 8-foot-4-inch rattlesnake hide, a bunch of angry looking stuffed critters, a copy of Russell White Bear’s map of the Custer Battle, and a set of Charles Belden western photos.  The Mint’s walls, lined in cedar and pine burl, are littered with fascinating western images and wildlife. Wall shingles bear hundreds of authentic local cattle brands. 

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I’ll let the pictures of The Mint do the talking.  It was awesome.  Over the last few years and many thousand miles, there were a handful of places I wanted to spend serious time in and around.  The Mint in Sheridan, is absolutely on the short list. 

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Downtown Sheridan.

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Sheridan is home to King Ropes and Saddles.  They make lasso rope and bespoke saddles and neat hats.  I never imagined you could have an entire business focused around lasso rope – who knew?  Anyway, it’s a fantastic place to buy western gear, and the museum in the back of the building is amazing.

King's Saddlery, King Ropes

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A classic J.C. Penny.  They way they used to be.  The inside is thoroughly modern. 

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I stopped in here on my way to the hotel for a cold beer or three. 

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I was plenty tired after the day’s ride and parked the bike at the downtown Best Western for the night.  I think of all the lower end motels I visited, I like western – Best Western’s the best.  The breakfasts are usually good and if you can get a deal with Priceline, very cheap.  It was good to take a shower and not have to walk back to camp and it was equally good to be able to relax and zone out with the TV playing in the background. 

Dinner that night was at the Dairy Queen around the corner and I stopped into the hotel bar for a beer and some conversation.  So far, its been a great trip.

NEXT – Billings and Bozeman Montana

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Justin Anthony permalink
    July 27, 2011 3:37 pm

    7/27/11- Not sure how your time line is going but if you ‘re passing through Missoula, MT I can put you up, and show you around during the week (teaching MSF this weekend). I am an ex-NY/VT’ er and Tiger rider. I have ridden most of the northwest and can help you with some good roads.

    Otherwise have a good trip. I enjoy your observations as I set out from NY many years ago to explore the country on a BSA and it was an adventure.

  2. Steve Perry permalink
    August 1, 2011 3:30 pm

    I truly enjoy entries, and I look forward to te next on. Ride safe. Steve Perry

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