In the movie, “Michael” John Travolta was an unconventional angel that wanted to see lots of tourists’ attractions…many that were pretty corny like, “The World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or Frying Pan.” There are many off-the-wall oddities around America that would satisfy the likes of “Michael.”
I am not a fan of tourists’ attractions. The purpose of my journey wasn’t to see the world’s largest ball of twine, yarn or rubber bands. I didn’t start my quest to watch re-enactments of famous battles or gunfights. Sure, I’ve seen a few having been relatively close that passing by would have been almost as bad as some of the attractions themselves. I stopped by the Cadillac Ranch off a stretch of the original Route 66. The “artwork” so didn’t impress me that I remained in the car and watched a handful of tourists as they traipsed through mud and muck to add their own graffiti to the rusted autos.
Finding ourselves in Rapid City, SD for a campground co-op ownership promotion where listening to a sale’s pitch earns a generous rate reduction for a three night stay landed us in an area rich in history and the tourism venues that are associated with them. I’d heard of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the sculpture of four honored presidents on Mt. Rushmore and the Western town known as Deadwood.
Deadwood. Had to check it out. About 55 miles from Rapid City it is a picturesque mountain community that claims notable Wild West outlaws, gamblers and lawmen as tourists, too. It is where Wild Bill Hickok was reportedly shot to death after being dealt the now infamous “Dead Man’s Hand” of Aces & Eights.
At somewhere around 5,000 feet above sea level summer temps average in the high seventies to the mid-eighties with night time temps dipping into the sixties. Winters are rough. Those I spoke to thrive on cold weather and wouldn’t want to live elsewhere…ever. Some had left only to return years later like the doorman at the Silverado Casino.
Speaking of casinos. There are over 80 of them in the little town. The main drag is lined with them on both sides of the street fighting unique restaurants for valuable real estate. If the machines in one don’t reward your efforts you can simply stroll a few short feet to the next one. Some are elegantly appointed while others have sawdust covered wooden flooring.
A few of the older, well-established casinos—many associated with a Hotel—offer live table games along with their colorful array of electronic gaming choices. But it is nothing like Vegas, Laughlin or Reno. Not even close. Though limits were just raised this summer most folks the other night were wagering $5 to $10 per hand at the Blackjack tables. There were a few exceptions, though.
Knowing the drive would take a little over an hour, I planned my visit to Deadwood to coincide with the Silverado’s evening buffet’s service. After driving through town twice I finally found a safe and fairly convenient parking space close to the Silverado (at top of the main street). Advertising won me over with their claim of having the best buffet in town.
Though good enough, I was very disappointed in the Silverado’s buffet. The Prime Rib made a nice presentation, but was bland. A piece of fried chicken was found to be extremely fatty. Dinner rolls that should have been soft were hard and flaky. All in all it was a good meal but far from Vegas quality or even those along the southern Gulf of Mexico. And for $18 soft drinks should have been included in the price.
After my meal I headed into the Hotel’s casino to play a little Blackjack and have a smoke. Nope, not in Deadwood. Unlike almost every other casino in the country, smoking isn’t allowed in any of the Deadwood establishments. Hardly reminiscent of the old west. And the table games were few and far between. I finally found a true double-deck table near the bottom of the main avenue and played until after dark. Cashing in my winnings, I headed for the door and realized how far I had to walk to return to my vehicle so I hopped on another hotel’s shuttle and they kindly took me…in a round-about way…back to my car.
If you find yourself in the Black Hills of South Dakota, by all means a visit to Deadwood is a must…just to see. And if you like walking long distances up and down the main street venturing into local shops that sell all kinds of knick knacks, crippy crap and other touristy junk, then it will be a winner. And if you get lucky in one of their 80+ casinos…you will be a winner, as well.