Last year we made one of our US road trips. It’s by far our preferred kind of holiday; pick a part of the country we’ve never seen, book a flight, rent a car, and then launch. We’ve never been disappointed, and I’ve always come home with notebooks loaded with ideas and material. A couple of such visits to Arizona laid the groundwork for Valley of Lights. A road trip around North Carolina and a follow-up research visit gave me The Spirit Box.
This time our starting point was South Dakota. We flew into Rapid City and headed first for the Devil’s Tower, and then on into Wyoming with a sidestep into Montana to see Little Big Horn. Over the next couple of weeks we had buffalo steaks in Buffalo, visited the amazing Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, saw dinosaur bones in Thermopolis, and petroglyphs in Hot Springs County.
All along the way were those classic American coffee shops, Mom and Pop motels, and little one-room museums that are part of a road trip’s unique appeal. We walked in snow and sunshine to see a mountaintop Medicine Wheel, and saw a waterfall deep in a mine. We ended the trip with a visit to the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments, and a stay in Deadwood.
If you ever go there, I can recommend Deadwood Dick’s as a place to stay… the unlikeliest looking accommodation ever, just a few strides from the main street, on the upper floors of an old grocery warehouse reached by a rickety old elevator, with three floors of junk counters – sorry, an antiques mall – below. The route to our suite involved ascending to the top floor and then crossing part of the roof. But the suite was huge and glorious, and the stay unreservedly memorable.
Some whiny people on sites like Tripadvisor have objected to the eccentricity of it all. Ignore ’em.
Modern Deadwood is a strange town – revived by gambling, and spoiled a little by the innate seediness of same. But it’s hard to criticise it for that, when you consider what gave the place its original character.