Eastern Wyoming to Yellowstone: Cowboy Country, Buffaloes and more

Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Buffalo Bill Reservoir

On June 2, 2013 I continued my trip westward from Lexington thru South Dakota and into Wyoming.  On this leg I started in Gillette, Wyoming and made my way to Rexburg with a trip through Yellowstone National Park.

Welcome to Gillette, WY
Welcome to Gillette, WY

Gillette, Wyoming is the first large town in Wyoming on the western end of I-90.  It was incorporated in 1892 and is now called the “Energy Capital of the Nation” due to the high grade coal reserves as well as nearly 13,000 oil wells.

Cowboy Mural
Downtown Cowboy Mural by Harvey Jackson

Downtown Gillette is not too large, but, along the main street there are a number of sculptures and a great wall mural.  The mural above was done by Gillette artist Harvey Jackson, who has murals throughout Wyoming including a giant mural on the side of L &H Industrial in Gillette called “Campbell County Industrial Mural“, which is twice as large as Mt. Rushmore.

Poco a Poco Se Va Lejos by Pokey Park
Poco a Poco Se Va Lejos by Pokey Park

Gillette has a Mayor’s Art Council which features an “Avenue of the Arts” annually.  They have a number of pieces made and display them on the Main Street through town and then auction them.  Here are a few that I took while driving through town.

Abraham Lincoln - by Gary Lee Price
Abraham Lincoln – by Gary Lee Price

This Abraham Lincoln bronze work by Gary Lee Price is a duplicate of a piece in Jackson, Wyoming, which I visited a couple of months ago.

Talvez Manana by Pokey Park
Talvez Manana by Pokey Park

Pokey Park is a sculptor from Georgia.  She has the two turtles on display.

Belle - Jeannine Young
Belle – Jeannine Young

“Belle” is a work by Jeannine Young of Salt Lake City.

Cowboy - artist unknown
Cowboy – artist unknown
Feeding the geese
Feeding the ducks

Gillette is also home to the “Rockpile Museum.” This Campbell County Museum focuses on general, regional, and local history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Campbell County.  It was opened in 1974 at the site of the historic natural rockpile, which has been a piece of Gillette history since the 1890s.

Rockpile Museum - Gillette, Wyoming
Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming
Gillette's Rockpile
Gillette’s famous Rockpile

From Gillette I headed west towards Buffalo, Wyoming on I-90.   It was a beautiful day heading into the mountains of Wyoming.  There were some nice views and I also saw some antelope.

Mountains near Buffalo, WY
The Bighorn Mountains near Buffalo, WY
Heading West on I-90 in Wyoming
Heading West on I-90 in Wyoming towards the Bighorn Mountains
Antelope grazing near Buffalo, Wyoming
Antelope grazing near Buffalo, Wyoming
Welcome to Buffalo, WY
Welcome to Buffalo, WY

Buffalo, Wyoming is a nice small town in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

Horse Sculpture - Buffalo, Wyoming
Cool Water – Buffalo, Wyoming

The sculpture above is called “Cool Water” and was done by Buffalo artist D. Michael Thomas, who has been sculpting cowboy themed pieces for over 30 years.

Nate Champion's Last Run - D. Michael Thomas
Nate Champion’s Last Run – D. Michael Thomas
Buffalo by Lyndon Fayne Pomeroy
Buffalo by Lyndon Fayne Pomeroy

Havre, Montana artist Lyndon Pomeroy did the unique bronze buffalo above.  I noted some of his work in Havre on a previous post.

Mountain Wildflowers - east of Buffalo on US 16
Mountain Wildflowers in a Mountain Meadow – east of Buffalo on US 16

The road from Buffalo, WY to Cody, WY has mountain majesties, wondrous wildflowers and amazing canyons.  Following is some of what I was able to see along US Route 16.

Mountain Scene on US 16 east of Buffalo, WY
Mountain Scene on US 16 east of Buffalo, WY

There are lots of wildflowers in bloom.  The yellow ones closeup look like this

Yellow Wildflowers in Bighorn National Forest
Arrow Leafed Balsamroot in Bighorn National Forest
Lupine in Big Horn National Forest
Lupine in Big Horn National Forest
Meadowlark Lake in Bighorn National Forest on US 16
Meadowlark Lake in Bighorn National Forest on US 16
Tensleep Canyon on US 16
Ten Sleep Canyon on US 16
US Route 16 into Worland, WY from Ten Sleep, WY
US Route 16 into Worland, WY from Ten Sleep, WY

Worland, Wyoming is also home to the Washakie Museum which features exhibits that portrays the history of the Big Horn Basin.  It is also home to a giant Mammoth Bronze statue.  The statue is 25 feet tall and weighs 6000 pounds.  It is the work of Casper, Wyoming (and Sedona, AZ) artist Chris Navarro.

Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

From Worland I headed north on US 20 towards Greybull and then west on US 14/16/20 towards Cody.  This provided some great scenes of the mountains of Yellowstone.

Heading west on US 14/16/20 out of Worland
Heading west on US 14/16/20 out of Worland
Another view of the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone
Another view of the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone

I eventually arrived in Cody, Wyoming by late morning.  Named after William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who was one of the founders of the town. There is plenty in town of you are a Buffalo Bill (and I don’t mean football) fan!

Welcome to Cody, Wyoming
Welcome to Cody, Wyoming
Painted Grizzly on a corner in Cody
Painted Grizzly on a corner in Cody

The grizzly above is part of a Cody fundraising program called “The Grizzly Gathering“, which was created to raise funds for their library.  Many towns are doing similar things.  We had the horses in Lexington (“Horse Mania“) and I have seen buffaloes (“Buffalo Roam” project in West Yellowstone, WY), birds, etc., as I go through some towns.

Large mural in Cody, Wyoming
Large mural by Austin Kuck in Cody, Wyoming

The mural above is on the wall of Seidel’s Saddlery in Cody.  It was painted by Colorado Austin Kuck.

Cody Theatre - Cody, Wyoming
Cody Theatre – Cody, Wyoming

Of course, like many older towns in the west, there is still plenty of neon….

Irma Restaurant, Cody, WY
Irma Restaurant, Cody, WY
Irma Hotel, Cody, WY
Irma Hotel, Cody, WY

Then, of course, there are the many Buffalo Bill items in town…

Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY
Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY
The Scout by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
The Scout by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Alternate view of the The Scout - Buffalo Bill statue
Alternate view of the The Scout – Buffalo Bill statue

The Scout is a bronze statue of a mounted rider outside the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. It was placed in 1924 to commemorate the town’s most famous resident, Buffalo Bill Cody. Originally in open land on the western outskirts of town, the statue today stands at the end of Sheridan Avenue. The project was initiated by Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, who had established the basis of what would become the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. A New Yorker, she persuaded heiress and artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to sculpt the piece.

"Hard and Fast All the Way" - Buffalo Bill sculpture by Peter M. Fillerup
“Hard and Fast All the Way” – Buffalo Bill sculpture by Peter Fillerup

The above bronze was done by Peter Fillerup of Heber, Utah.  It represents a younger Buffalo Bill as a Pony Express Rider.

Old Indian Woman -m Cody, Wyoming
Indian Woman, Cody, Wyoming
Indian Chief, Cody, Wyoming
Indian Chief, Cody, Wyoming

From Cody I was next on my way to Yellowstone, continuing along the same highway.  As I got closer there were more spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and other unique things as well.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Highway to Wapiti, WY
Highway to Wapiti, WY
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20

Then there is the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill in Wapiti. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  There is a great deal written about this odd place.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to venture up there, but I did get a good shot from below.

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion (The Crazy House) – Wapiti, WY
A Black Billed Magpie on a fencepost in Wapiti
A Black Billed Magpie on a fencepost in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Giant stack of Antlers and Skulls in Wapiti
Giant stack of Antlers and Skulls in Wapiti
Closeup with skulls
Closeup with skulls

From Wapiti the road winds slowly into the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.

Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
The Approach to Yellowtone
The Approach to Yellowstone

The last time I visited Yellowstone National Park was in 1973 while my family lived in Bozeman, Montana.  So, it has been about 40 years since then.  Much has changed, but much has remained the same (or at least appears to have – we all know that geology is also ever changing).

Sumoflam at Yellowstone - First time in 40 years
Sumoflam at Yellowstone – First time in 40 years

In the lower 48 states there are many magnificent National Parks including my personal Big Five of Yellowstone (WY), the Grand Canyon (AZ), Glacier National Park (MT), Zions National Park (UT) and Grand Teton National Park (WY).  There are many others ( I probably would have included Yosemite, but I have not been there yet).  Indeed, I may be known for my visiting offbeat and quirky sites, but don’t let that fool you.  I am enamored by the amazing geographic and historical diversity of this country.  But, I  have only made it to 22 of the nation’s 59 national parks thus far.  I dream of getting to Denali in Alaska and the North Cascades in Washington, along with Yosemite. (Here is a complete list of the National Parks)

Snowy Mountains in Yellowstone
Snowy Mountains in Yellowstone

Unfortunately, I did not have a lot of time on this trip, so I tried to hit the highlights I could on the Grand Loop Road through the park to West Yellowstone.  Here are a few scenes from the drive, some without any captions.

SCENES OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Lake - Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Lake – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Pass - Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Pass – Yellowstone National Park
Burned trees - Yellowstone National Park
Burned trees – Yellowstone National Park
A survivor - Yellowstone National Park
A survivor – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Steam from Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park
Steam from Hot Springs – Yellowstone National Park
Upper Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist's Point
Upper Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist’s Point
Sumoflam at Yellowstone Upper Falls
Sumoflam at Yellowstone Upper Falls

Buffalo and Elk in Yellowstone Park

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park

Of course, everyone knows that wild buffalo roam Yellowstone National Park, as elk as do deer, elk, moose, antelope, mountain goats, bears and more.  Unfortunately, all I saw were the buffalo (and almost hit one too!!).  I saw a couple of elk as well.  I heard from a few other tourists that they saw some bears hanging around the rivers, but I didn’t see any.

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Another bull elk meanders into a field
Another bull elk meanders into a field
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park

As I noted above, I almost ran into a HUGE buffalo while driving through the park.  I rounded a corner and there he was crossing into the road almost in front of me.  This guy was taller than my car and could care less about me rounding the corner. He just kept meandering across the road casually.

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Huge buffalo right next to my car
Huge buffalo right next to my car

Alas, I eventually made my way to the road out towards West Yellowstone and into Montana.

Heading west out of Yellowstone National Park
Heading west out of Yellowstone National Park
Welcome to Montana
Welcome to Montana

West Yellowstone still has some of the old motels from ages past.  Here are a few of the Ho-Hum Du

Ho-Hum Motel - West Yellowstone
Ho-Hum Motel – West Yellowstone
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone
Westward Motel - West Yellowstone
Westward Motel – West Yellowstone
Leaving Yellowstone for Idaho
Leaving Yellowstone for Idaho

I finally made it into Rexburg late that evening…what a fantastic day this was!!

(2079)

South Dakota Backroads: Prairie Dogs and Badlands

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

On my previous post I covered my travels from Omaha to Kadoka, South Dakota along the Oyate Trail. This post covers the second part of that day, basically, my visit to the hauntingly wondrous Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.

Scrappy the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang
Scrappy the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang

Before I get into the Badlands visit, one more final comment about Kadoka.  While at a gas station off if I-90 I came across this giant scrap metal buck.  I did some research and found out that it’s name is “Scrappy” and it is the creation of metal artist Brett Prang, who resides in the Badlands area and runs Incredible Metal from his Guest House and their Frying Pan Ranch. I wish I would have known about his scrap metal art while I was in the area…..  He also has an amazing 37 foot tall metal cross that I would love to have seen.  (See article about Prangs here)

Closeup of Scrappy
Closeup of Scrappy

Scrappy was originally created as the mascot of Tivy High School (The Antlers) in Kerrville, Texas.  It was auctioned in 2005 to raise funds for the school.  It has now returned to its South Dakota birthplace.

Another closeup of Scrappy
Another closeup of Scrappy

Now, off to the Badlands!!

Welcome to the Badlands
Welcome to the Badlands

From Kadoka on I-90, I took Exit 131 and headed south on South Dakota Hwy 240 which passes by a big trading post and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site which I did not visit.  Another couple of miles south on 240 is “The Ranch Store” which is a tourist stop for Badlands and Prairie Dog mementos, but is also home to the Giant Prairie Dog statue and about a gazillion little prairie dogs.  If you make a visit to the Badlands, this is a must stop, especially if you have children and a camera.

Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats, SD
Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats
Sumoflam with the Giant Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats
Here's Looking at You - Giant Prairie Dog
Here’s Looking at You – Giant Prairie Dog

According to the Ranch Store’s website, they got their start in Kadoka in the 1950s, but once I-90 was completed their location was no longer viable.  So, they moved their store and their 6 ton pink prairie dog statue to its current location in 1971.  Not only can you get your souvenirs and ice cream, but you can also feed the prairie dogs that reside in their own huge underground village on the side of the store.  I got some nice shots of some of these cuddly looking little guys….

Prairie Dog - Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD

These little Prairie Dogs have great personality!!

Prairie Dog -- standing watch in Cactus Flats
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats

I saw this mother prairie dog cuddling her two babies.  It was absolutely darling and almost human. Had to put three of the photos together to give a better feeling of her care.

Mama Doggie - Cactus Flats, SD
Mama Doggie (kissing, comforting and hugging)  – Cactus Flats, SD

And just one more fond farewell….

Fond Farewell - Cactus Flats, SD
Fond Farewell – Cactus Flats, SD

Rather than drive the full loop from Cactus Flats, I decided to head back up to I-90 and then take the exit for Wall Drug to head south to Badlands National Park at the Pinnacles Entrance.  It had been a long day’s drive from Omaha and across southern South Dakota, so the sun was beginning to set in the west and shadows were beginning to fall on the Badlands, which, in my opinion, was a great time to view the park.  Following are a few of the nearly 300 photos I shot in the Badlands.

The Badlands as seen from Sage Creek Rim Road
The Badlands as seen from Sage Creek Rim Road
The Badlands
The Badlands
The Badlands
The Badlands
Badlands and Grasslands in Badlands N.P.
Badlands and Grasslands in Badlands N.P.
A lonely buffalo grazes in the valley near Sage Creek
A lonely buffalo grazes in the valley near Sage Creek
More Badlands as seen from the Pinnacles Drive
More Badlands as seen from the Pinnacles Drive
Rolling prairie grasslands as you look north from The Badlands
Rolling prairie grasslands as you look north from The Badlands
A Mountain Bluebird perched on a fencepost in the Badlands
A Mountain Bluebird perched on a fencepost in the Badlands
Shadows in the Badlands
Shadows in the Badlands
Sage Creek Valley in the Badlands
Sage Creek Valley in the Badlands
Mountain Goats relax at sunset in the Badlands
Mountain Goats relax at sunset in the Badlands
Sunset at the Badlands
Sunset at the Badlands
Turkey Vultures take a rest
Turkey Vultures take a rest

Of course, the park has herds of mountain goats.  As I drive down into a valley a couple of them appeared on the side of the road grazing.  Unfettered by my stopping and shooting, they continued.  Here are a couple of shots of them.

Mountain Goat in the Badlands
Mountain Goat in the Badlands
Mountain Goat in the Badlands
Mountain Goat in the Badlands
Mountain Goat in the Badlands
Mountain Goat in the Badlands

The Badlands offered many amazing views.  I will devote a photo gallery to this trip later on.  But, I don’t think there could be a better time to visit than at sunset…

Badlands at Sunset
Badlands at Sunset

As the sun began its descent, I headed back to I-90 and then west towards my eventual overnight stay in Gillette, Wyoming.  My next day would take me west though Cody and into Yellowstone National Park.  That will be another a post in a few days.

A lonely cabin in the prairie
A lonely cabin in the prairie
Heading West towards Wyoming on I-90
Heading West towards Wyoming on I-90
Heading into the Sunset as I crossed into Wyoming on I-90
Heading into the Sunset as I crossed into Wyoming on I-90

(2658)

South Dakota Backroads: The Oyate Trail across southern South Dakota

Land of the Pheasants - southern South Dakota
Land of the Pheasants – southern South Dakota

In early April 2013 I had the opportunity to drive across the Hi-Line (US Route 2) in Northern Montana and then made our way to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and all the across South Dakota to Mitchell and the Corn Palace.   With another work trip to Idaho, I took a different route and, similar to the Hi-Line Drive, I mainly took US Route 18 (also known as the Oyate Trail) as it crosses most of South Dakota.  It goes through many small and unique towns.

Oyate Trail
Oyate Trail

The Oyate Trail is a 388 mile route that generally follows SD 50 and US Route 18 across southern South Dakota.  The name is derived from the Lakota word “Oyate”, which means “a people or a nation” and “Ochanku”, which is Lakota for “trail.”  Thus, the trail of nations, initially meaning the trail to the various Lakota Nations — the Yankton, the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Sioux nations.  But, the meaning is even more complex with the coming of the Europeans and the mixture of their cultures along the trail.


Oyate Trail across South Dakota

Elk Point, SD - "Where South Dakota Begins"
Elk Point, SD – “Where South Dakota Begins”

I started off in Kentucky on May 31 and spent the evening near Omaha, NE.  On June 1 I headed north towards South Dakota, entering South Dakota in Sioux City on I-29.  I took the freeway into the small town of Elk Point, another of the many places that Lewis and Clark had visited.  They made camp nearby the area in August 1804.

Downtown Elk Point, South Dakota
Downtown Elk Point, South Dakota

My main stop in Elk Point was at Edgar’s Soda Fountain, a throwback to the good old days.  Originally opened in Centerville in 1906 in a drug store, the soda fountain was taken out of the drug store in the 1960s.  It eventually was rediscovered and rebuilt by the granddaughter of the drug store owner.  They have even brought out the old manuals and have some concoctions directly from those manuals, such as The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages.

Edgar's Soda Fountain Bar
Edgar’s Soda Fountain Bar

Owner Barb Wurtz was there and the staff was ultra friendly.  They had an old-fashioned candy case, nice neon, original wooden booths and bar seating.  Its a great place to take a quick break off the road.

The Fountain
The Fountain
Old Soda Bottles
Old Soda Bottles
Outdoor Signage at Edgar's
Outdoor Signage at Edgar’s
Candy Counter at Edgar's
Candy Counter at Edgar’s

I also wanted to drop by Edgar’s with my good friend and amazing guitarist Edgar Cruz in mind.  So, “Welcome to Edgar’s!”

Welcome to Edgar's
Welcome to Edgar’s

After consulting with the great staff at Edgar’s, I determined to make my way along US Route 18 (the Oyate Trail), which would take me across the lush prairies of southern South Dakota and into some small and unique towns.  After visiting the Lewis and Clark Campsite monument n Elk Point, I headed north on I 29 to Exit 47 near Beresford and then west to Viborg.  The Oyate Trail actually starts in Vermillion, SD, just NW of Elk Point, but I wanted to hit Viborg first.

Lewis and Clark Campsite - Elk Point, SD
Lewis and Clark Campsite – Elk Point, SD

After leaving I-29, I headed west on SD 46 to Viborg, South Dakota.

Velkommen to Viborg
Velkommen to Viborg

Viborg is a town of around 700 and was settled by Danish immigrants in the 1860s.  The town is named for Viborg in Denmark.  The town was originally named Daneville, but with the coming of the railroad in the 1890s, the residents had to move a bit north so they could be along the railroad.  Thus Viborg was born and was finally incorporated in August 1903.

Welcome to Viborg
Welcome to Viborg
Kountry Kookin' Cafe - Viborg, SD
Kountry Kookin’ Cafe – Viborg, SD

As I drive through town I got glimpses of the culture.  The Kountry Kookin’ Cafe, with its built in neon sign above the door, gave me cause for chuckle.  The window on the right says “Dis is vare Sven loves the dinners” and the window on the left says “Dis is vare Ole gets the pie.”  Had there been time, it could have been “Dis is vare Sumoflam gets the lunch!”

Viborg Movie Theater
Lund Theater in Viborg

Like many small towns, there are the old fashioned theaters that thrived in the 1950s and 1960s.  But these are a dying breed so I try to get shots of them when I go through these small towns.

Decorative Glazed Block Silo near Viborg, SD
Decorative Glazed Block Grain Silo near Viborg, SD

On the outskirts of Viborg I came across this unusual, yet decorative grain silo.  As I drive the back roads of this country, whether in Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin or elsewhere, silos are a common site.  Yet, I don’t recall ever seeing brick silos like this one, nor do I recall the decorative nature.  After a bit of internet research (thank you Google!!) I have learned that these are Glazed Block Silos.  They are apparently very common in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.  I am assuming that they are of Scandinavian origin, though I have not yet found anything definitive.

Horses Frolicking near Viborg, SD
Horses Frolicking near Viborg, SD

Living in Lexington I see plenty of horses.  But, I couldn’t help but notice this happy trio in the lush prairie grasses near Viborg.  I sat and watched them for a few minutes as they frolicked and played.

Old remnants of yesteryear near Viborg
Old remnants of yesteryear near Viborg — I love old cars!

From Viborg I headed straight north on SD 19 past Swan Lake to US 18 and began my trek across the state.

Turkey Ridge Store - Hurley, SD
Turkey Ridge Store – Hurley, SD
Meridian Corner Steak House at US 18 and US 81 junction
Meridian Corner at US 18 and US 81 junction – Freeman, SD

I passed the two establishments along the road.  Both were basically in the middle of nowhere.  Meridian Corner has a fairly active Facebook Page.  They are apparently quite popular and have T-shirts, etc.

Menno, SD
Menno, SD
Menno, South Dakota
Menno, South Dakota

I rolled into Menno, SD next. Menno was settled by German-Russian immigrants around 1874.  Continuing west my next stop was in Tripp, SD.  This was the first Tripp I have experienced on my many trips!!  The town slogan “Easy to Find, Hard to Leave”.  For me, its as my friend Antsy McClain says “Its All in the Trip”.

Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota
Welcome to Tripp, South Dakota

Tripp recently became a destination for a group of Amish families that moved from Wisconsin in 2010.  This, of course, brings the need for a blacksmith.  The name on the barn reminded me of the Amish, so I checked and indeed, as the link above explains, the first Amish in South Dakota are in this area.

Heine Prien - Blacksmith - Tripp, SD
Heine Prien – Blacksmith – Tripp, SD
Flag painted in Window - Tripp, SD
Flag painted in Window – Tripp, SD
Old Neon Sign - Tripp, SD
Old Neon Sign – Tripp, SD
My version of a John Deere ad - outside of Tripp, SD
My version of a John Deere ad – outside of Tripp, SD

I continued west on US 18 passing by farmland and a few trees.  I found one set of trees that struck me…these were near the junction with US 281, where US 18 heads due south towards Ravinia, SD.

Trees on US 18 near US 281
Trees on US 18 near US 281
Farmland near Ravinia, SD
Farmland near Ravinia, SD

US 18/US 281 again heads west near the base of Lake Andes, which is a National Wildlife Refuge.  As I drive along the southern border of the lake, I saw a huge flock of white birds.  From my viewpoint I thought they were swans, but I decided to take a closer look so I took a drive into the small park just before getting to the town of Lake Andes, SD.  I was thrilled as I got closer and discovered it was a huge flock of pelicans!!

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
More Pelicans - Lake Andes, SD
More Pelicans – Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight - Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight – Lake Andes, SD

Seeing the Pelicans was a real thrill for me as these were birds that I have never had a close encounter with.  While at the lake, I also saw some beautiful purple wildflowers.

Purple Wildflowers near Lake Andes, SD
Purple Dame’s Rocket Wildflowers near Lake Andes, SD

From Lake Andes I continued south on US 18/281 to cross over the dam at the Randall Creek Recreation Area.  At the top of the hill past the dam I had an excellent view of the Old Fort Randall Cemetery.

Old Fort Randall Cemetery
Old Fort Randall Cemetery

US 18 continued west, then southwest for a while and then began heading northwest again towards the town of Bonesteel.

The road goes on forever - US 18 in southern South Dakota
The road goes on forever – US 18 in southern South Dakota
More winding roads in South Dakota
More winding road in South Dakota

The town of Bonesteel was basically the first town of many on the actual Oyate Trail that I would hit on this drive.  Bonesteel has an interesting name, named after H.E. Bonesteel and hasjust about 300 people.

Bonesteel Welcome Sign
Bonesteel Welcome Sign
Battle of Bonesteel Commenmorative Sign
Battle of Bonesteel Commenmorative Sign
Bonesteel Mural
Bonesteel Mural

The railroad first made its way into Bonesteel in 1902.  there were a limited number of registrations for land ownership and eventually many of the prospective homesteaders fought leading to what was called “the Battle of Bonesteel.”

Bonesteel Mural
Bonesteel Mural
Another Bonesteel Mural
Another Bonesteel Mural

On the outskirts of town is a small little restaurant.  Great name…

TeePee Cafe - Bonesteel, SD
TeePee Cafe – Bonesteel, SD

The next town on the trail was Burke, SD, another town with about 600 people.  As I approached town I ran into a place called Rooster Tales Hunting Service.  They had a unique sign and even a patriotic hay bale!  Turns out that they have a Pheasant hunting service.

Rooster Tales Hunting Service - Burke, SD
Rooster Tales Hunting Service – Burke, SD
Rooster Tales Mailbox in a milk can
Rooster Tales Mailbox in a milk can
Patriotic Hay Bale at Rooster Tales
Patriotic Hay Bale at Rooster Tales

This part of South Dakota is considered the pheasant capital of the U.S. (including a number of towns competing for the title).  So, despite the small towns, there are hotels and accommodations for pheasant hunting enthusiasts.

Old style motel - Hillcrest Motel - Burke, SD
Old style motel – Hillcrest Motel – Burke, SD
Burke, SD Water Tower
Burke, SD Water Tower

Despite its size, Burke is also home to the Burke Stampede Rodeo, supposedly the largest amateur rodeo in the Midwest.

Burke Stampede Rodeo - Burke, SD
Burke Stampede Rodeo – Burke, SD

The next major stop on the road is Gregory, South Dakota.  This is in the midst of pheasant country.  South Dakota is the pheasant capital of the U.S. and this area of the Oyate Trail is one of the centers of the pheasant hunting world (and, in Gregory there is also a Gorilla or two….)

Welcome to Gregory
Welcome to Gregory
Gregory - Home of the Gorillas
Gregory – Home of the Gorillas
Gregory Wall Art
Gregory Wall Art
Mary Bob's Bar - Gregory, Idaho
Mary Bob’s Bar – Gregory, Idaho

I got a kick out Mary Bob’s Bar — out in Kentucky we hear of “Jim Bob” all the time, but I have never heard of “Mary Bob.”

Hipp Theater - Gregory, SD
Hipp Theatre – Gregory, SD

The Hipp Theatre in Gregory is a community volunteer run theatre, but does show up to date first run movies.

Gregory - The Happening Place
Gregory – The Happening Place

Then there is the giant pheasant….

Giant Pheasant - Gregory
Giant Pheasant – Gregory, SD
Sumoflam and Giant Pheasant
Sumoflam and Giant Pheasant

Apparently Gregory is “The ground-zero of pheasantdom” according to Fortune Magazine in 1992.

Pheasant Sign - Gregory, SD
Pheasant Sign – Gregory, SD

Next stop was not too far — Dallas, South Dakota

Welcome to Dallas, SD
Welcome to Dallas, South Dakota

Dallas is a really small town but has some interesting things…

Water tower in Dallas -- in the middle of the road
Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road
Frank Day's Lodging House
Frank Day’s Lodging House

Frank Day’s looks run down, but, apparently it is one of the “happening places” on the Oyate Trail. They have fashioned themselves as an old western-style saloon and also seem to be an attraction for bikers.

Frank Day's Signs
Frank Day’s Signs

Moving west on US 18 I finally arrived at one of my “planned destinations.”  Those that follow my blogs know that I am always looking for unique town names like Uncertain (TX), Boring (OR), Peculiar (MO), Tightwad (MO), Odd (WV) and more.  Well, this town is a real Winner!!!  Yes, Winner, South Dakota.

Welcome to Winner, SD - Pheasant Capital of the World
Welcome to Winner, SD – Pheasant Capital of the World

Winner was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and later part of the Dakota Territory, which was established by an act of Congress and a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.  Winner was named because it was the “winner” in the struggle to establish a town along the railroad right-of-way when the Chicago North Western began moving west from Dallas, SD in 1909.

Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota
Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy

Frank Leahy was one of Notre Dame’s most famous coaches.  He grew up in Winner.

Downtown Winner, SD
Downtown Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

While I was in Winner, I stopped for a drink and a snack at a gas station.  I just had to ask…had anyone ever won it big in the lottery in Winner.  And, believe it or not, there was indeed a winning ticket sold, and, ironically, the winner’s name was Neal Wanless (awfully close to Winless…).  Wanless was a Winner in Winner to the tune of $232 million.  He apparently has many friends that frequent the Pheasant Bar.

Pix Theatre - Winner, SD
Pix Theatre – Winner, SD

Want a winning place to buy groceries?  Try this place….

Winner Food Center, Winner, SD
Winner Food Center, Winner, SD
Winner Westside Motel
Winner Westside Motel

The Motel Parking lot above is home to another Pheasant Statue, as seen below…

Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD

Now, for that “Pheasant Capital” bit….  Research has shown me that Redfield, South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World” and they have even registered the phrase.  Redfield is in the northeast section of South Dakota, north of Mitchell.  As late as 1994 there has been a dispute between Winner and Redfield as to which is the “official” capital.  I found an interesting article that shows that on October 26, 1994 Redfield had trademarked the phrase.  Winner still claims it as well.  But, Gregory is still the “ground-zero of pheasantdom.”  I think this argument has gone to the birds!!!

Here is the REAL WInner!!
Here is the REAL Winner!!
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
Centennial Mural for Tripp County in Winner
Heading west on US 18 out of Winner, South Dakota
Heading west on US 18 out of Winner, South Dakota

I continued to head further west to Mission, which would be my last stop on the Oyate Trail as I planned to head north to the Badlands from there.  By the way, Mission, SD is the home of Bob Barker, famous as the host of The Price is Right. The town of Mission is in the Rosebud Indian Reservation, home of the Sicangu Lakota tribe of the Sioux Nation.

Catholic Church in Mission, SD
Catholic Church in Mission, SD
Buffalo Jump Restaurant - Mission, SD
Buffalo Jump Restaurant – Mission, SD

While driving through Mission I came across this colorful restaurant called the Buffalo Jump.  It is owned and operated by Native Americans and offers buffalo burgers, Indian tacos, and, yes, Asian, Mexican, Italian, seafood and other goodies.

Mural in Mission, SD
Mural in Mission, SD
Another Mural in Mission, SD
Another Mural in Mission, SD

From Mission I headed north on US 83 until I arrived at SD 63.

US 83 in South Dakota heading north from Mission
US 83 in South Dakota heading north from Mission

I found it interesting that my GPS sent me onto SD 63.  I think my GPS is learning my penchant for back roads.  SD 63 is 23 miles GRAVEL ROAD that cuts mainly through the Rosebud Indian Reservation to Belvidere, SD on I-90 near Badlands National Park.  What a wonderful drive it was!!

SD 63 near Norris, SD -- 23 miles of gravel road
SD 63 near Norris, SD — 23 miles of gravel road
Sioux Burial Ground - I think
Sioux Burial Ground – I think
Sunlit badlands on SD 63
Sunlit badlands on SD 63
SD 63 going though prairie grasslands and badlands
SD 63 going though prairie grasslands and badlands
Long gravel road
Long gravel road
White River as seen from SD 63 south of Belvidere, SD
White River as seen from SD 63 south of Belvidere, South Dakota

I crossed over the White River just south of Belvidere.  The White River is the 36th longest river in the US at 506 miles.  It truly is whitish gray as a result of the clay, sand and volcanic ash it picks up along the way.

Belvidere, SD
Belvidere, SD – Population 63

I finally got back onto pavement as I entered Belvidere, just a small town with 63 people and perhaps that many horses and goats….

Foal jogging in Belvidere
Foal jogging in Belvidere
Community grazing tree in Belvidere
Community grazing tree in Belvidere
Grandpa Goat
Grandpa Goat
Rural Scene near Belvidere, SD
Rural Scene near Belvidere, SD

It was time to fuel up so I stopped at the Badland’s Travel Stop in Kadoka just off of I-90 west of Belvidere.  I loved the skies behind it.

Badland's Travel Stop - Kadoka, SD
Badland’s Travel Stop – Kadoka, SD
Teepee Picnic Area at Badland's Travel Stop
Teepee Picnic Area at Badland’s Travel Stop
Kadoka, South Dakota water tower
Kadoka, South Dakota water tower

Kadoka, South Dakota is “The Gateway to the Badlands.”  The name Kadoka is a Lakota word which means “Hole in the Wall,” but the town doesn’t seem that way….

 

Badlands Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, SD
Badlands Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, SD
Flag Benches in Kadoka, SD
Flag Benches in Kadoka, SD

I really got a kick out of all of the homemade signs in Kadoka…..

Pocketful of Posies - Kadoka, SD
Pocketful of Posies – Kadoka, SD
Museum - Kadoka, SD
Museum – Kadoka, SD
Hotel Pearl - Kadoka, SD
Hotel Pearl – Kadoka, SD

And then there is the old Wagon Wheel motel sign…

Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, SD
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, SD
Dr. Pepper Sign in Kadoka, SD
Dr. Pepper Sign in Kadoka, SD

And that was the end of the road to the Badlands — Kadoka is the “Gateway!”

Prairie Dog -- watch for me soon
Prairie Dog — watch for me soon

On my next post I will have some great shots of prairie dogs and badlands!!

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