Black Hills, South Dakota

When we started our trip planning process about a year ago, we were quite determined to visit Mt Rushmore – the famous rock monument of President Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt carved by Gutzon Borglum: http://www.nps.gov/moru/index.htm. However, little did we know about the area where it was situated – the Black Hills in South Dakota – or any of the history of this place, but this about to change. First thing that struck us was that it was pretty much impossible to find any affordable  accommodation in the area and the reason for the hotel price profiteering was the Sturgis Rally, one of the biggest bike meeting festivals in the world: http://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com/. But more about the biker madness later. In the end we found a cabin near Custer literally up a dirt track in the woods with no TV!! On the wall of our room hung two tapestries with wolf themes which were complimented with wolf bedsheets – creepy but hey after a 500 mile day we didn’t ask any questions and were glad to have a bed for the night, albeit a seriously squeaky one…

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Regardless of the questionable accommodation, we were pretty much located in the heart of the Black Hills with tons of things to see. We started of with the Custer State Park: http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/default.aspx  were we saw our first herd of buffalo frolicking in a breathtaking landscape. Then there was the Crazy Horse memorial: http://crazyhorsememorial.org/  a stone carving of one of the most influential Native American warriors in the history of the US. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski started the job in 1948 and given the size of this ambitious people funded project they will be still chipping away for a little while. It took them 50 years just to make the face.Team Berg actually witnessed the blasting of about 500t of rock in one hit… Quite a big bang. In the end we had to admit that the sight if Crazy Horse and the audacity of the project was by far more impressive than Mt Rushmore. The famous quote of Crazy Horse that sets the scene for the monument is: “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” His extended hand on the monument is to symbolise that statement. Within the Crazy Horse complex DB was drawn to all the Native American art and crafts, like she usually is, but this time she was drawn to an old medicine-man and former Sundancer. She ended up buying two books about Native American philosophy but at least she didn’t buy her usually kitsch fridge magnets!

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As mentioned earlier our trip to the Black Hills coincided with the Sturgis Rally – aka the Harley Davidson rally, even though they say all other bikes are welcome. Wherever we went around the Custer-Rapid City area the roads were inundated with Harley Davidson motorcycles to a point that riders stopped greeting each other on the road because otherwise your left hand would never be on the handlebar. We were curious about Sturgis and decided to make the trip to the town to see what all the fuss is about and oh boy, it a human zoo. We cannot remember a time we ever felt more out of place than here, the men and women were all hurley-burley, tanned to a lovely shade of cooked lobster, covered in tattoos, wearing leather vests and riding pimped out Harleys. Legend has it that all the people who come to Sturgis are doctors, lawyers and accountants…after riding through Sturgis and seeing all the pimped out bikes and given the current economic situation in the US we are starting to believe this might actually be true! And to fit in these people get temporary tattoos…hmmm. In hindsight we realised that riding into this otherwise sleepy town on a BMW came close to a suicide mission. There was a lot of booze, flesh and metal to see, but after a loop along the main strip we’ve seen enough and return back to Custer. DB was also starting to complain about all the smoke inhalation from the raw Harley engines around her.

 

Well that sums up our Black Hills visit. Next stop: Montana!!

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