Thread Archive > STAR 2014

STAR ’14 Travel Tips


By Carl Wieman | Owatonna, MN

We have been to the Black Hills areas several times over the past 25 years. We drove to the Black Hills on July 21, 2013, for a week. We took our two sons and two grandsons. We drove a Ford Explorer with a trailer for luggage, but should have used the cycle trailer to haul our cycles.

We took I-90 all the way. Many people from Minnesota, when riding cycles, use Hwy 14 to Wall, SD. I-90 has 75 MPH limited in SD, making it faster, but a boring ride across the state. Hwy. 14 can be picked up in Winona, MN on the Mississippi River, or many other places across MN and SD, and follow it for a more enjoyable and scenic route.

At Wall, SD, there are frontier cabins, on the south side of town. The small cabins are only 5 years old and the 6 of us slept in one cabin comfortably the first night. We headed to the Badlands in the morning, before it got too hot later in the day. About 11:00am, the temp was 94 Fahrenheit (F), by the vehicle temp gauge in the Badlands. About 2 hours later, when we got to Rapid City, it was down to 86F, and then when we got to Keystone, it was still lower at 83F. Suggestion; plan Badland rides in morning. That is why we did it this way this time.

We stayed in Keystone at the Mt. Rushmore Resort in the Jefferson Chalet on the hill. If anyone is going early or staying longer, the chalets are the best deal for more than two people. It was $130.00 per night for 6 people. We had the whole chalet with washer/dryer, complete kitchen, gas grille, TV’s both floors, 2 fridges, 2 bedrooms with queen Beds, 4 foldout sleepers plus more. No noise like downtown with very little parking. They have 3 or 4 of these chalets. We could see the faces of Mt. Rushmore from our Chalet. Beautiful in the early morning as the sun rises and shines on the faces. Keystone is home to several museums relating to Mt. Rushmore, history of mining, and others.

If people are arriving from the south, the quickest way to Rapid City is Hwy 79 from Hot Springs, about 55 miles and 4 lane open road at I believe the speed limit there was 65 mph. Going through the Black Hills, Custer, Keystone, or Hill City to Rapid City is about 80-90 miles of twisty roads taking 2-3 hours. Not a route to take at night with all the wildlife, such as Bison on the roads. Save it for a nice day ride or several days of the different routes.

Hot Springs has Evans Plunge. A hot spring coming through the ground, for this water park with slides. A nice way to cool off if in the area with the spring water. Also in Hot Springs is the Mammoth Site. You cannot dig, but can take the tour and video.

Mt. Rushmore is a must see for everyone. We have been there almost every time we have been in the area. This time, we visited the first and last nights of our stay in Keystone. The light ceremony is awesome, with the presentation before the lighting. My youngest son and I were invited down along with many other past and present military people for the lowering of the flag. We were on the stage, and after the flag was lowered and folded, the park announcer went through the group and each gave their name and branch of service. We were the only father and son in the group of military people that night. It got very emotional as we walked off the stage to return to our family and all the strangers thanking us for our service and shaking our hands. Then a small boy ran up to me and jumped and gave me a big hug as he said thank you. It was my 9 year old Grandson that had run down the steps to meet us. He got excited with all the people cheering for the military. His dad and grandmother were worried where he had gone until we brought him back with us.

The park is free but you need to pay for parking, and the ticket is good for the whole calendar year. Get there early, unless you want to stand in the back. The ceremony starts at 9:00pm, but people fill the place about 8pm. The amphitheater is huge and holds thousands of people.

There are several wineries in the areas. My wife and I checked out a few. Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City was the best. Free samples, and waiters that know how to give the samples in the best sampling order, by the choices that you picked. This place also had more people while we were there, also giving us the impression that we are not the only people that liked this place the best. Very helpful people, the wine is $1-3 a bottle less than some other places and it tastes great. They will also ship wine. Some other wineries charge for samples.

Deadwood has some interesting sites also. The cemetery has Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane’s Grave. Downtown has gun fights throughout the day.

Sturgis was getting ready for the Rally. We were there 10 days before it started, and the tents were full of T-Shirts and stuff to buy. No crowd when we were there, and the sales people were willing to talk and had the time. Another few weeks and they would not want to see another shopper. The motorcycle museum is great to see. You will not see much about Japanese cycles, being this is Sturgis. And, there were not many Japanese cycles in the early days of Sturgis. There are a few European cycles also. Two floors of old cycles and stories and such makes it a place you could spend many hours if you read everything. We went through in about 45 minutes, and even the grandsons enjoyed it.

Full Throttle Saloon

Full Throttle Saloon was open. We did not ask, but it looks like the front part is open all summer. Interesting stuff hanging from the ceiling and walls.

Down the road about 2 miles is the Buffalo Chip Campground. We drove in and took a quick look as they were setting up. They had their display flags in the ground already. They put hundreds of US flags up for the Rally each year.

Buffalo Chip Campground

I will also mention some of Rapid City, the host of STAR 2014. Check out the statues of all past US Presidents on the corners downtown. President Obama will be placed upon leaving the presidency. There are several walking tours in Rapid City. The host hotel, Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn, is located downtown in this spread-out city. Easy to get to from all directions. Rapid City’s rush hour might take an extra 1-2 minutes to drive the 10 miles from the north-to-south side of the city.

Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold store gives tours in the factory on the history of Black Hills gold and how it gets different colors and how the jewelry is made from wax castings. This is free.

If coming from the East, we also suggest a stop in Austin, MN at the Spam Museum. Free and interesting history of Spam. Mitchell, SD has the Corn Palace.

Wall, SD has Wall Drug. This is the real, have-something-for-everyone store. It is a whole block of different shops connected with a backyard with dancing waters and more.

These last few make some good stopping points to rest and get off I-90. Stop at 1 or 2 on the way West, and 1 or 2 on the way East.

There are lots of other interesting places and things to do along the way, as well as in the Rapid City/Black Hills area. You could spend several weeks in the area and not see it all. But, isn’t this about riding the great twisty roads of the Black Hills? Yes.

I thought it might be nice to give some ideas of other things to do, for the people that arrive early or want to stay late. Also, maybe this will help convince a spouse to go to STAR 2014, even if they are not interested in riding every day.

Along the South Dakota roads you will see the “Think Signs”. They have a big red “X” on them and say “Think Drive Safely”. These are fatality markers and are put on the road by South Dakota where there was a fatality from a vehicle accident. They are placed off the road usually near a right-of-way line often on the cattle fence. None are marked if the family objects. The program started in 1979. Many are on main roads to Mount Rushmore, or the Badlands or the local grocery story, along with the road from Spearfish Canyon to Deadwood. So be cautious, when they see the signs, and understand that no one planned to have a sign erected for them.

If you have any questions on any of the above mentioned places, please contact me know. I can expand the details on any or all places listed above. If you would like, I can give more places to see, but maybe a person from the Rapid City area can also give those details. Or, if you would like some more places to stop along the way, to rest, I can also give those ideas.


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