Lead, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota
Sturgis, South Dakota

August 16th - 17th


Main Street Deadwood, South Dakota


These are some of the cottages at Carsten Cottages in Lead, South Dakota


Mount Rushmore National Memorial


A mountain goat close to the roadway at Mount Rushmore


Sturgis Harley Davidson

Friday morning we left Buffalo, Wyoming under a sunny and cloudless sky. As the temperature rose (up to 95 degrees) we anticipated being able to ride the bike without leathers on (something we hadn´t done in a long time.) But first, we had to get groceries in Gillette before driving through Sundance, Spearfish and the Black Hills National Forest. Arriving first in Deadwood, Central City and then Lead, we made a pit stop at the local liquor store to stock up and ask directions to Carsten Cottages (J.R. in San Diego told us to make sure we stopped there.) The clerk knew who Dan Carsten was and promptly told us the route to take ... make sure you take the first Route 385 Detour but not the second one. We were so excited ... more construction. But, that´s why the clerk told us not to take the second detour (that´s where the construction was.)

We found Carsten Cottages without any problems but Dan was not home (he was working at the Deer Mountain Ski Lodge). His mother, Ceny (pronounced Ceenee) was the only human around. The cottages were empty and the electric camper hook-ups were also (there were 2). After we got Dan´s life history in about 10 minutes, we decided to stay for 2 days. Surprise, surprise ... no paperwork ... just write the check. John and Sissy both really wanted to stay in one of the cottages and simply park the rig, but mom wouldn´t come off the $10 charge for the extra person. She said Dan would kill her if she gave us the discount.

As John was leveling and chocking the trailer, one of Dan´s dogs (3 in all) grabbed a wheel chock in his lips and started heading for the barn ... "stop right now" John shouted. Another dog tried to jump in the truck when we opened the door, and the 3rd dog started walking up the trailer ramp as we rolled the bike out. We would´ve been upset, but all 3 dogs wore Harley Davidson collars so we figured they couldn´t be that bad. Matter of fact, all 3 were well behaved and didn´t bark once the entire time we were there.

Next it was a bike ride to Deadwood, Central City and Lead. With populations of 1,800 - 200 and 3,600 respectively, these were some hopping places. Just kidding ... the old buildings and homes were gorgeous and tourists were everywhere. They started arriving after the Sturgis Rally which ended on the 12th. Some Rally goers were still around, but mostly these people were family types with Nike tennis shoes, shorts, white t-shirts and kids. We drove the cobblestone Main Street in Deadwood admiring the architecture and then drove through Central City (no stop light) on our way to the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead. After a few gift purchases, it was back to our trailer. The ride through the Black Hills National Forest was beautiful ... and ... when we got off the bike a big windstorm arrived. The winds, clocked at over 70 MPH, bent trees over and blew white plastic lawn chairs and trash cans everywhere. We were the only ones around (mom had left and Dan still wasn´t home) so John recovered the items and secured them.


Homestake (Open Pit) Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota


Saturday morning we had a big decision to make; do we chance the bike and ride to Sturgis? do we take the truck to Mount Rushmore? Well, the wind had subsided but it was only 53 degrees when we decided to hit the road for the day. So, we took the truck into Lead and had it serviced, then we drove back to the trailer to make sandwiches for lunch, then we drove the truck to Mount Rushmore and finally we returned to the trailer and got the bike for a ride into Sturgis.

We stopped at the local shop in Lead and Mike (the owner) changed the truck´s oil and filters. He also gave us pointers on which way to drive to Mount Rushmore. Then, we were off to the National Memorial after making lunch. The drive was interesting to say the least. We took Custer Crossing (a one lane, gravel road) to the main highway and then drove through the Black Hills National Forest again. The scenery was gorgeous until we got about halfway. The sky began to haze up and we finally discovered it was smoke and not haze. A forest fire in the Battle Creek area was burning pretty good (4,500 acres at last check.) The smoke got so thick, it was hard to breath and travelers turned their headlights on. After coming out of the valley and heading uphill again toward Mount Rushmore, the sky began clearing and we felt more comfortable.


The profile view of Mount Rushmore


We followed the signs to Mount Rushmore through the town of Keystone and up the mountain. The roads were great and the sky was clear of smoke. We were anxious to park the truck and take some nice pics of this historical memorial ... but, not so fast! (This is where John gets a little upset) There was a "No Fee" parking area which was closed and another parking area that a fee was charged. John figured there would be another farther up the road, but there wasn´t. The only other place to park was a small pull off having a profile view of George Washington. We pulled off, took our pics and Sissy even snapped one of a mountain goat close to the road. Then it was back down the mountain to the parking area.

After pulling in and discovering we couldn´t turn around, we approached the gate. The clerk asked for $8.00 and wouldn´t accept our National Park Pass. He advised us his company was a private vendor operating the parking lot. John was not happy that a citizen of the United States couldn´t go and view a National Memorial without having to pay to park a vehicle. And, he didn´t!!! We were instructed to drive on the outside lane, through the parking lot and out the exit. The clerk got on a walkie talkie and spoke to someone. Shortly after leaving the gate, we were followed very closely by another clerk (walkie talkie in hand) driving an electric golf cart. He followed us all the way to the exit gate. But, John drove very slow and Sissy was able to snap the pics we needed.

Without boring you with too many more details, suffice it to say that John has not given up on this one. He plans to identify the owners of the vendor, seek an explanation from South Dakota´s Senators and find out if President Bush had to pay the parking fee when he visited the memorial the day before.


The forest fire was raging in the Battle Creek area near Mount Rushmore


Whelp, enough of that. We headed back to our trailer, got the bike and rode to Sturgis while we still had daylight. The day before, we´d ridden to Lead and Deadwood without leathers, but Saturday we needed them. It was still only 65 degrees when we headed down the mountain.

The Sturgis Rally was over, but we found some vendors selling off the remainder of their inventory. Sissy bought some more gifts, we rode down main street and then it was out of there and back up the mountain. There wasn´t much to do in town since the rally was over. The ride back got a little chilly, but we made it without a problem.


John snapped this pic of a beautiful bird just outside our trailer on Saturday evening. We´re not sure what it was ... wild turkey ... maybe?


Sunday morning it was time to pack up our things and head east again. Our next goal was to drive to Mitchell, South Dakota and see the Corn Palace. We´ll keep you posted on whether we have to pay to park our truck to see a Corn Palace.



John & Sissy EXCLUSIVE RATINGS: (1 bad - good 10)

  • Campground - 7
  • People - 10
  • Roads - 9
  • Scenery - 10
  • Traffic - 10
  • Things to Do - 8
  • Weather - 8

Next page in chronological order



All photographs are Copyright @ 2002 - 2008 by John T. VanderHeiden.
For information concerning your usage of any photographs, please see our User Agreement.