Tuesday, June 4, 1991...
Started off the day by driving up to Lead (pronounced like the verb, not the mineral) and Deadwood. I'd never been through Lead before -- a typical mining town, complete with huge gash in the earth at one end of town. Which still made it more attractive than the new-era Deadwood, which has none of the charm of the old ghost town and 10x more hassles. The main road into town was being ripped up, leaving only one lane of traffic in each direction, and everything is now based on gambling.
Until November 1, 1989, Deadwood was one of the finest semi-ghost towns in the West. Its entire downtown area had been declared a National Historic District. But that day marked the start of casino gambling in Deadwood, and the permanent end of the Old West atmosphere which had survived 100 years. An astonishing eighty low-stakes casinos now fill every available storefront, creating mind-boggling traffic jams on the handful of winding mountain roads leading into Deadwood Gulch. The exterior of Deadwood's buildings hasn't changed, but Deadwood's heart is gone.
Then I spun back south via Rapid City. The sun was finally emerging, so I took the advice painted on about 50 abandoned truck tractors along the Interstate by stopping at the Rushmore-Borglum Story. This attraction tells the story of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who carved Mt. Rushmore, through newsreels of the Rushmore carving and displays of his other work. The films tell a fascinating story, though the print I was shown was badly in need of replacement, and the full-sized reproduction of his carving of Lincoln's eye graphically illustrates the size of the Rushmore figures. Apart from Rushmore, though, Borglum's own life story just doesn't merit so much attention.
I stopped by Mt. Rushmore to see it in the morning light, the most attractive view. Also wandered down to the sculptor's studio and amphitheater, which I had previously missed, and then it was down to Custer via Custer State Park, past dozens of bison. Stopped briefly at the Flintstones Bedrock City gift shop, then much longer at a wonderful old record store on the main street: hundreds upon hundreds of old country and vulgar blues/folk records, including some I'd been after for years. The old man who runs the place is obviously a big fan; also eccentric to the point of having no phone in the store and refusing to take credit cards because the phone company wanted $150 to put in a touch-tone line to verify the numbers.
After Custer came a six-hour journey south to Ft. Collins, Colorado. The only stops along the way were for some Oregon Trail scenes -- wagon ruts and a register rock -- south of Guernsey, Wyoming. I was disappointed not to see any of the policemen from Lusk out stopping cars for driving 56 mph, though... At Wheatland, Wyoming, a sign warned, "No services for next 70 miles," but the drought lasted "only" about 65 miles. Through this desolate area, the Interstate was built next to US 87 rather than on top of it, presumably to give ranchers better access to their property. Tomorrow it's up into the Rockies...
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