WY & SD Road Trip with Friends   11 comments

WY & SD Road Trip with Friends

July 18 – 25, 2015

Initially this foursome of good friends decided that we have all wanted to see Mt. Rushmore and this summer was the time to do it.  And as usual one thing led to another.  We had some pretty good ideas of what all we wanted to do, but one day I realized that the Cheyenne WY Frontier Days & “Daddy of ‘em All” rodeo would be in full swing during that same time frame.  Well…we all agreed,  “heck, yes, let’s do that too.”  So off we went!


So about 2,200+ miles later we had gone from home to Ogallala, NE; Ogallala to Cheyenne Rodeo; Cheyenne Rodeo to Hisega Lodge, SD; traversed all around the Black Hills; from Hisega Lodge to Badlands Lodge;  traversed the Badlands; Badlands Lodge to Sioux Falls SD; Sioux Falls to Home.  Add the scenery and four bestest friends and that equals lots and lots of fun. 

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Cheyenne Frontier Days:  The Daddy of ‘em All has been happening since 1897.  It’s billed as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western Celebration.  It started with a bunch of cowboys doing bronco busting and steer roping contests.  After the fun they’d stay around to sort cattle and brand calves.  Everyone liked it so much that it expanded into two days and a parade.  More than 100 years later, Cheyenne Frontier Days is a 10-day festival featuring the world’s best PRCA rodeo action, night shows, parades, food and family fun. 


A map of the Cheyenne Frontier Days area:  It’s a 100-acre park with barns, grandstands for 19,000 people, exhibit halls, food facilities and arenas.  The info indicates that they have a force of 2,500 volunteers that won’t let the event be anything but the best.  Our group of four agree whole-heartedly with that.  We all commented that we had never been around of group of more friendly and helpful individuals, from the time we purchased tickets on the phone until we drove away that evening. 

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 We arrived at Cheyenne on Sunday morning so we took advantage of the opportunity to go to Cowboy Church in the rodeo grandstand.  Susie McEntire was the featured singer.  She sounds much like her older sister, Reba.


To open the Rodeo festivities the U.S. Navy Seabees parachuted into the rodeo arena.  Spectacular!  The presentation of the American Flag was amazing!


We watched bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, steer roping, team roping, tie down roping & barrel racing. 


Something we had never seen before was a Wild Horse Race.  Teams of three attempted to saddle an unbroken horse and ride it once around the track.  That was a lot of fun to watch. 


The Rodeo in Cheyenne had started around noon and was over at about 3:30.  We loaded up and headed out to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  It was a desolate journey of about 320 miles taking 5+ hours.  We arrived in Rapid City before dark, with only 12 more miles to go to get to our lodge and were glad of that.  We only saw a few towns and we were amused when on a town sign it would indicate a population of 12 and another of 17.  And by the way, the roads weren’t crowded.

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http://hisegalodge.net/ :  We quickly discovered that we made the perfect selection when we decided to stay in the Black Hills at the Hisega Lodge for the next for nights.  It is centrally located, close to Rapid City, yet off the beaten path.  From the lodge it was an easy drive to all the destinations that we wanted to see in the area. 


Loved Hisega Lodge!  It’s a historic lodge from 1908 (actually billed as the oldest in the Black Hills).  It’s nestled in the beautiful scenic hills alongside a roaring mountain stream.  There are upper & lower lever wrap around porches with great seating and even a wool blanket if you get cold.  This was our perfect place for our morning cup of coffee (or two or three).  Drinking coffee in the cool of a mountain morning listening to the mountain stream roar by, how can it get better than that?  Oh yes, and the breakfasts….delicious!


Pactola Dam & Reservoir:  Flood control, irrigation & recreation. 

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1880 Train:  We rode the vintage steam train in the Black Hills.  It’s a two-hour narrated, 20-mile round trip ride from Hill City and Keystone.  Fun!


These early locomotives were steam powered.  Water tanks were placed along railroad lines to fill stream engines with water.  This water tank in Hill City has a capacity of 3,000 gallons and the engineer is filling the locomotive with water from it before we boarded the train.


An interesting fact about the Choo-choo:  The train has to constantly take on water because the water is constantly being lost through the steam exhaust.  Where does the Choo-choo sound come from?  When the valve opens the cylinder to release its steam exhaust, the steam escapes under a great deal of pressure and makes a “choo” sound as it exits.  When the train is first starting, the piston is moving very slowly, but then as the train starts rolling the piston gains speed.  There is one revolution of the driving wheels for every four exhausts.  The effect of this is the “choo….choo…choo….choo-choo….choo-choo” that we hear when it starts moving. 

{The above information compliments of the following sign that I read while we waited to board the train.}


Riding the Choo-choo.


Hill City:  Saw some interesting art in town.  The sign indicates that it is Dry Creek Design by Garry Underwood. 


We had a delicious meal at the Alpine Inn in Hill City.


Crazy Horse Memorial:  It’s a work in progress.  The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians, by continuing the progress on the world’s largest sculptural undertaking by carving a memorial of Lakota leader Crazy Horse. 


Mount Rushmore:  Gitzon Borglum’s monument to America grouped four leaders who brought the nation from colonial times into the 1900s.  Most prominent is George Washington, commander of the Revolutionary army and first U.S. president.  Next is Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president, and mastermind of the Louisiana Purchase.  The far right is the 16th President Abraham Lincoln, whose leadership restored the Union and ended slavery on U.S. soil.  The 26th president Theodore Roosevelt promoted construction of the Panama canal and ignited progressive causes like conservation and economic reform.


Now that’s a sight!  The rock & those four people!


George Washington, as we drove away from the Mount Rushmore area.


We left Mount Rushmore and headed west & south towards the Sylvan Lake Area & Custer State Park. 


Custer State Park:  The park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, named after Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer.  It covers an area of 71,000 acres of hilly terrain and is home to many wild animals.  Below is a copy of the Custer State Park Map that I copied from the state park website.  I highlighted in red all the routes that we traversed in the beautiful park. 


First & foremost is having some buffalo burgers at Custer State Park Snack Bar. Jim seems happier about it than Joyce.  haha


Needles Highway:  The road’s name comes from the needle-like granite formations which seem to pierce the horizon along the highway.  It’s a spectacular drive through pine, spruce, birch, & aspen forests and rugged granite mountains.   


The Needles Highway is a distance of 14 miles and has two tunnels.  It was planned by S.D. Govn. Peter Norbeck, and construction was completed in 1922. 


Wildlife Loop Road:    This road is 18 miles in length and twists and turns its way through the prairie and ponderosa pine-studded hills that contain many of the park’s wildlife species.


At the top of Lamar’s wish list was to see bison.  And bison we did see!  A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park.

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Iron Mountain Road:  This road connects Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.  It is 17 miles in length through beautiful Black Hills scenery and includes three tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore in the distance.

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Deadwood:  One always hears of Deadwood, so since we were so close we thought we should take a look at it.  Many famous & infamous have called Deadwood & the Black Hills home over the centuries.  Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Poker Alice, Lewis & Clark, George Armstrong Custer, Sundance Kid & Calamity Jane are a few that were in search of adventure & fortune.  Today it’s lot of gambling casinos which didn’t interest us, but we were pleased ride the trolley for $1 and take in the local sites. 


The Saloon in Deadwood where Wild Bill was shot.


 Sturgis:  Couldn’t help but notice all the hundreds of motorcycles that were already arriving in the area for the big Sturgis hoopla.  Couldn’t really find anything of interest to take a picture of except this building & an interesting house & tree.



 Rapid City:  A fine meal at “Murphy’s Pub & Grill.”


Scenic:  Not far from the Badlands we stopped at a remote town called Scenic.  Not much was happening in Scenic, except I found Jim in the jail house.


  Badlands National Park, S.D.:  These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds.  The majestic valleys, overlooks and colors are amazing!  The shapes were awesome, from sculpted spires, to toadstool rocks, to suspended silt.  The whole area was impressive.  We drove on all the roads and spent the night at the National Park in Cedar Pass Lodge.

{The following map is copied from the National Park Service website. I’ve highlighted the routes we took through the park.}


We drove from Rapid City to the Badlands on the southerly route (44) and entered the park at the Interior Entrance & went towards the Northeast Entrance. 


Wall Drug:  After the first leg of our Badlands drive we exited the park & went northwest to Wall.  Everyone has heard that one must stop at Wall Drug.  We decided it would be a good lunch time visit then we’d return to the Badlands to complete the rest of the driving route.  We had reservations to spend the night at the Cedar Pass Lodge in the National Park. 

Wall Drug is a mega shopping mall with hundreds of people but we had a nice lunch there.


 Badlands Continued:  This time we entered at Pinnacles entrance and drove down towards the  center of the park and branched out.  It was now afternoon and the temperature was 103 degrees.  But that didn’t keep us from enjoying the beautiful scenery.


We had a delightful stay at the Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands National Park.



Mitchell Corn Palace, S.D.:  The multi-purpose arena/facility in the Moorish Revival building is decorated with crop art.  The murals & designs covering the building are made from corn & other grains. 


 Sioux Falls, S.D.:  Glad we made this our overnite stop.    Lovely park & falls!  We were thrilled to find they have a trolley that you can ride for $2, so we hopped on in the park and did the downtown loop. 



Sioux Falls Park:  The area of the falls was inhabited by the Indians since forever.  Numerous falls cascade along the Big Sioux River.


 A wonderful trip with wonderful friends thus draws to a conclusion.  Keep on traveling!


Posted August 8, 2015 by marilynfarmer in Travel

11 responses to “WY & SD Road Trip with Friends

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  1. I have always enjoyed your posting of your trips. We have also done some Grand Circle tours. I see you live in Altoona, KS. I drive right by there….my daughter lived in Topeka and now recently moved to Manhatten, KS. We live just south of Tulsa, so drive right up Highway 75. You have done some wonderful trips!

    Sent from my iPad


    Sandra Mueller Mathis
  2. It’s still as beautiful as I remember. We took the kids through most of those spots a couple of times and it is beautiful country. I love the wooded Black Hills more than the Badlands, but it’s a study in contrasts, too. Loved your pictures of Rushmore, which always amazes me. Glad you had a wonderful times and got to share it with friends. You guys are looking good. Love you.!

  3. Looks like you had a great trip! Thank you for sharing!

  4. It was a great trip – with our very dear friends. So much fun to look at your blog, see and read about the fun places we experienced.

  5. hi there, our fave “farmers”, from ray & shirley c! surprised to know u took the domestic circuit this yr. we stick w/ go ahead & went to “vienna, budapest & praque” + “ireland walking tour” this july/aug… why, the low euro exchange rate!! but i just love ur WY & SD trip. classic good old us of a, the historic west, & unspoiled natural scenery! i admire ur stamina of driving long hrs between each destination in not too desirable temp! i definitely cannot do what u done! my hat off to u guys! all ur photos are gorgeous & speak more than words can do. thx & keep in touch!

    • Hi Ray & Shirley. Good to hear from you. Glad you are out and about traveling and I see doing another walking tour. We loved being in WY & SD because we were with our bestest friends. Keep an eye out because we just got home from three weeks in Austria and Germany and I hope to get my travel blog done as soon as possible. We traveled around Austria &’Germany by train and saw lots and had so much fun. The castles were almost a daily highlight. Yes, Keep in touch.

      • fantastic, welcome home then! here’s my take of central europe trip:

      • Hi Ray, thanks for sending me the links to your video & pictures of your enchanting trips. I enjoyed looking at your great times. You are seeing so much and as per usual enjoying every minute of your adventures. I think you two should travel with Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure sometime. If you do for heavens sake use our name when you book and we will all receive a nice discount. Keep on traveling and keep on having fun.

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