Archive for October 2008

Halloween Memories

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Halloween was always fun and exciting for me as a kid..well, except for that one year where some do-gooder in the church convinced my and most every other child’s parents that instead of going door to door trying to extort as much candy as possible, we should trick or treat for UNICEF. 
Thankfully, that only lasted one season. Our hearts weren’t in it. We were selfish and wanted candy..the good stuff. There were no mini Snickers or Milky Way’s back then. Some places, like Doc Peeke and my aunt Leila passed out the full size nickel candy bars on Halloween. They really had to stock up because every kid in town knew it and gravitated to those houses like honey bees to the queen. 
There were some things that no kid really liked. Cookies, for example, who the heck wants a crumby crumbly home-made cookie floating around in your pillow case which served as a sack to haul our haul.  Apples…nobody really wanted them either. Most of us had eaten our fill of green apples plucked from backyard trees on regular night patrols in which all we carried was an appetite and a shaker of salt. People who thought kids wanted apples or some other healthy fruit instead of candy on Halloween usually wound up having to clean streaks from their windows the next morning. Streaks that had been put their by disgruntled trick or treaters who carried a bar of soap in that pillow case too.
There was an exception to the no apple rule, though. A couple people in town gave out caramel apples. They were great but you had to get to those houses early because supplies were limited. And, when they ran out their back-up was usually a little box of Sunkist raisins or a handful of unsalted peanuts in the shell. Caramel apples were also one of those treats that needed to be eaten right away because that little paper muffin-tin liner stuck to the top wasn’t enough to keep other sweet things in your bag..like candy corn..from clinging to the caramel.
Kids no longer have to worry about getting apples or cookies or anything else that isn’t prepackaged on Halloween. Some sicko in some other state brought that to a screeching halt by sticking needles or razor blades in them. Maybe it was all a rumor started by apple hating trick or treaters.
We weren’t big on costumes as kids. Very few of wore anything bought from a store. There were a lot of hoboes and whiskered animals but that’s about it. I can still remember the smell of burnt cork that mom used to smudge up my face so I could look like the bum my old man often said I was.
Sadly, all of us eventually get too old to go trick or treating on Halloween night. But, you know, I’ve discovered that it has almost been as much fun over the years tgging along my own children and grandchildren on that special night. Almost.

Twins Baseball Back Outdoors..Brrrr

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

By the time some of you read this..the cold, rainy, windy, snowy 2008 World Series may mercifully be over. If the  Tampa Bay Rays lose they’re probably just glad the thing ended so they could shake off the biting chill of  late October baseball in Pennsylvania and fly back home to the healing warmth of Florida sunshine where they never have to wear those ridiculous baseball caps with earmuffs ever again.
For some reason, purists hate the idea of major league baseball being played inside of a dome..but I’ll bet that even the Phillies fans who had to endure the sting of wind-driven sleet in Philadelphia this past week were wishing the people who built their new Citizen’s Bank stadium would have spent a few extra million for a retractable roof.
Even the Rays, who’ve played inside a Dome for the past ten years, are being considerate of their complacent fans by putting a roof that opens and closes on their new stadium to shut out the stifling heat and humidity.
This brings us to the Minnesota Twins where fan comfort is an apparent afterthought.
A couple of years ago, the anti-dome faction, pining for the good ‘ol sun- drenched days at Metropolitan Stadium, finally won out and got the state legislature to okay a sales tax hike in Hennepin County to foot 352 million of the 544 million dollar price tag for a new open air stadium. In April of 2010 they will be free of that awful Metrodome where the homer hanky was born and the Minnesota Twins won every home game of  their two World Series championships in 1987 and ’91.
Well, I’ve been to lots of Twins games..both at the old Met (where you either melted or froze) and at the Hubert H. Humphry dome..which I much prefer.  What is sacrificed in perhaps less than idyllic seating for baseball is more than made up for in climate controlled comfort for players and especially fans. Plus there’s the knowledge that when you plan a weekend in Minneapolis to see the Twins play, you don’t have to worry about games being rained out or having to sit in the hot sun or frigid winds.
I was listening to WCCO radio in 2006 when it was announced that, at long last,  the okay had been given to build Target Field. Gene Larkin, hero of the 1990 World Series for Minnesota, was a featured guest. He and the show host were going on and on about what a wonderful thing this was and invited listeners and fans to call-in to share the joy. So I did.
They probably wished they hadn’t extended the invitation because I pointed out that the Twins’ fan base extends well beyond the city limits of Minneapolis-St.Paul and maybe a lot of us don’t feel like celebrating this new stadium. Many just won’t make the drive if there’s a good chance of thunderstorms (when isn’t there?)..or heat waves or snowstorms from which there’s no place to hide in the open air.
“Well, said Larkin, we were lucky to get a new stadium at all. The legislature just wouldn’t spring for a retractable roof.”
Then maybe the stadium wasn’t needed, I said, because I don’t think I’m going to spring for expensive tickets to attend  games in which players need to wear  ear flaps and the fans sit huddled in parkas occasionally glaring up toward the luxury suites filled with open-air stadium advocates in their shirtsleeves sipping martinis.
Footnote: The new Tampa Bay Rays stadium WITH the retractable roof is set to open in 2012.It will be a little smaller than Target Field in Minneapolis but it will also cost 95 million dollars LESS. Footnote 2: I’ll be helping to raise the roof at the Downtown Holiday Inn Friday, Halloween night, taking part in the 30th anniversary party for the Mogen’s Heroes band. Lots of music memories..old friends and fun..starting at 7. Hope you can join us.

Rolling To A Stop

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

“It’s just too hard to skate with you, Doug,  you’re too short..sorry.”
I still remember the sting  of those words from Bethany Anundson..a girl from our  neighborhood in Volga who was a year ahead of me in school.  She was also an excellent roller skater and had agreed to help teach me the basics at the Lake  Campbell Roller Rink when I was about eight.
I don’t know if  it’s possible for someone to actually “wish” themselves taller but soon after the rejection from Bethany, I started growing like a Russian thistle. I became a much better skater too..thanks  to weekly outings at the rink by the lake.
Within a couple years I had my own black shoe skates  complete with red pom poms, I had become very comfortable on wheels..often skating at high speeds and backwards…plus Bethany was now a full foot shorter than me.
When  my own daughters were old enough to go roller skating..I would often join them. They were pretty impressed at the old man’s skating prowess and weren’t too embarrassed when the three of us would hold hands and glide around together.
Many years later when my first granddaughter, Tara, talked me onto the floor during  a skating party at Carousel, I even impressed myself at still managing to skate forward and reverse while avoiding embarrassing falls
Fast forward to Sunday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Granddaughter, Zoey is having  a skating party for her 7th birthday.
Could old grandpa, 18 years older and 50 pounds heavier, pull it off again? Should I even try? The organ music that used to inspire me to long strides and graceful turns, has been replaced by hip hop and a D.J. The floor, once made of maple which could cushion a fall somewhat, is now cold concrete painted gray and capable of causing colossal concussions.  
It’s like riding a bicycle I said out loud as if to convince myself and went to rent a pair of  size 11’s.
Another granddaughter, Allison looked hopeful but concerned. Linda was downright worried and pleaded with me to reconsider.
I guess I knew I was in trouble when the size 11’s went on a little tight.  Then I couldn’t stand up without help. Everything seemed foreign.
Oh,  come on, I thought, just put one foot in front of the other..you’ll remember. It’ll all come back.
With Allison’s help, I managed to shuffle  onto the cement but with my first stride, the wheels slipped out from under me. I stood there flailing my arms for a split second before collapsing like cheap lawn chair.
Allison just stood there with her mouth open..then made an attempt to help me back into a vertical position but it was useless. Instead, I managed to crawl over to the railing, passed laughing relatives and to the table where, to Linda’s great relief,  I began unlacing the skates having traveled a total of  maybe 15  feet.
It’s hard to face the reality that a skill in which I had once taken such pride, is lost and gone forever and that I’ll likely never roller skate again….unless, perhaps, Bethany Anundson is still out there and would be willing to give me another shot.

See You Sunday

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Bulletin:  Hog farmers in Minnehaha County were shocked to discover that their pigs had suddenly sprouted wings and taken flight.
Bulletin: Word from the nether region is that the fires of damnation have been extinguished and Hades is now enveloped in ice.
Bulletin: The Sioux Falls City Council has UNANIMOUSLY agreed on something.
Okay, now that last one is just too hard to believe. Kermit Staggers in harmony with Vernon Brown?  Come on.  What issue could possibly bring such unison? The unified city council bretheran and sisteran.
How about giving their blessing to a proposal allowing stores to sell wine on Sunday?
But, hey, why stop there?  Councilor Costello said we might as well let ‘em sell the “hard stuff” on the Sabbath too.  So, with apparently no objection or much discussion..all eight councilors said “sure”…and just like that, as of November 16th,  the doors at Sid’s can be unlocked and the ropes around the booze section at Shop ‘N Cart may be taken down.  
What a life saver this is going to be. Alcoholics will no longer have to stock up on Saturday night in order to get them through the weekend.  We can now pick up a jug of vodka on our way home from church.  No need for panic anymore when the wine runs out on Easter.
I suppose the ordinance banning Sunday booze sales was pretty hypocritical anyway since retail beer sales have been allowed for ages..and bars that serve food may also serve up cocktails.  In fact, any moral justification for keeping the Sabbath Day holy disappeared years ago when the malls came in and got people into the habit of Sunday shopping..and dining..and drinking.
(In my best old man voice) “That’s right sonny, in my day everything closed up tight on Sundays and if we ever saw a farmer working his fields when he should be in church, well, we figured him for a Seven Day Adventist or one of them there atheists..either way, they were headin’ to Hell fer sure.”
The truth is, if anyone..including me..needs to be fitted for asbestos underwear because we ignore the fourth commandment, (keeping the Sabbath Holy) it’s going to be mighty crowded down there.
About the only hope we have, as Christians, is in the book of Matthew where Jesus was being questioned by religious experts of the day.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
I can do that.
Now, if He will just look the other way on Sundays when I pick up a bottle of merlot at Lewis, shop for groceries at Sunshine, have dinner and drinks at the Alpine and accidently take His name in vain (#3) while watching the Vikings game.

Tim & Tom Chapter 2

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

As I sit here looking out my window, I see the trees bending over in the cold October wind..trying unsuccessfully to hang on to their dying leaves just a while longer. There’s a steady rain beating against the house. It makes a tapping sound and the droplets are sticking to the glass which can only mean that they are more ice than water. Usually the sight of winter barging in and shoving autumn out of the way gives me the chills and I head over to crank up the thermostat. But this morning, I’m feeling a bit hot under the collar to feel it much.
I see by Hemmingsen’s blog today that he too is feeling a little warm without having to light the fireplace.
The issue, of course, is Senator Tim Johnson’s decision (or his staff’s decision) to duck out of a commitment to be interviewed for last night’s Inside Keloland program. It wasn’t going to be a debate..which Johnson has refused to do..rather he and his senate rival, Joel Dykstra, would each have a half hour, back to back, to answer questions on the issues.  Pressing senate business in Washington was the excuse for the pull-out but no doubt Johnson’s own polls( which the Keloland/Argus Leader polls confirm) show that he’s going to win this election in a route without ever having to look his opponent square in the eye much less argue issues on a public platform. The only thing such exposure would do is call even more attention to the fact that Tim Johnson’s ability to articulate has been severely curtailed since his brain hemorrhage nearly two years ago.  
Like Steve, I’m only sharing some personal feelings here and in no way endorsing anybody or suggesting how you should vote.
I would just like to know, once and for all, is Tim Johnson himself in charge and up to the job?
Senator Johnson has always been a smart guy and he more than anyone knows the real value of speaking out on issues from the senate floor, convincing colleagues to side with him to get bills pushed through the legislative process..or even to meet and greet constituents who  come to call in Washington. I dunno, maybe it’s not all that important.
There is such a thing as “South Dakota Nice” and I’m glad we are that way. But if Senator Johnson is reelected to another term just because it would be insensitive not to..well..six years is a long time..especially if his staff is doing most of the talking.  Now, see, I feel bad about even saying that…especially after writing this shortly after Tim’s injury.
8 years ago, my younger brother, Tom, was jogging alone in a park near his home in rural New Jersey when he collapsed. Fortunately someone saw him go down and called for help. Tom, a Continental Airlines captain, had suffered a brain aneurism. He died and was revived by paramedics in the ambulance..then underwent brain surgery the next day. The odds were not good but he survived the operation and to everyone’s surprise and relief, began improving right away. One of his first concerns was..would he ever fly again?  Tom was determined.. but he would have to pass an endless battery of mental and physical tests first. Failure on any of them would be unacceptable. No matter how much he loved flying or how terrible everyone felt about what happened..his career as a pilot would be over.  Tom understood that and would never put the lives of passengers at risk if he wasn’t 100 percent back and fully capable of performing his duties. 
It took a year of hard work and worry but not only was he reinstated by Continental Airlines..but has since been cleared to fly larger aircraft on international flights.
Sadly, recovery for Senator Johnson hasn’t been as quick or complete as it was for my brother. Can he still be an effective U.S. Senator? I guess we’re going to find out. But the fact that this close to the election he passes on a free opportunity to be seen and heard by tens of thousands of South Dakota voters in prime time…well, it’s frustrating that he’s a no-show and, for Tim, very uncharacteristic which makes me wonder who’s really running things now.

Tony Dean RIP

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I know it’s not as important today but when I was young one of the key requirements to finding success in broadcasting was to have a great voice.
One of the finest radio and television voices that I ever heard fell silent this past weekend when Tony Dean (DeChandt)  died way too young at his home in Pierre. 
Most people know Tony for his legendary status as an outdoorsman..his Tony Dean Outdoors TV show and Dakota Backroads radio broadcasts have been around for over 20 years and won countless awards. His popular web site receives three thousand hits a day and he wrote a weekly column for newspapers in both North and South Dakota.  
But there was more to Tony than hunting and fishing. He spent 10 years in radio broadcasting..moving to Pierre in 1968 to manage station KCCR.
He served two years as press secretary to Governor Frank Farrar from 1970 to ’72.
His love of auto racing led to Tony’s operation of State Fair Speedway in Huron for ten years and another 8 years as an announcer on the Motor Racing Network covering NASCAR races at tracks all across the country.
Lately, Tony Dean has been taking a lot of heat for his politics. A lifelong Republican, Tony has openly supported Democrats from Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson to Barak Obama. The main reason is because he found himself more in line with their approach to environmental..as well as wildlife and wetland conservation issues. Tony’s lifelong goal was to make sure that future generations would continue to have open spaces for hunting, fishing and exploration.
I’m not much of an outdoorsman myself. Most of my hunting and fishing has been done vicariously through  Tony’s television shows.  I especially liked the fact that he did most of his sponsor’s commercials himself. Kind of like Paul Harvey, Tony had a special way of selling that made you want to go right out and try it..whether it was a hunting lodge in North Dakota or a recipe for mango pheasant with apple chutney. I used to get a few laughs in the Keloland newsroom when I’d do a rather lousy Tony Dean impersonation; enunciating each word slowly and perfectly with exaggerated emphasis on the SH sounds; fiSHing..marSHes..delicious Pugsley sandwiches.
We weren’t close friends but had a mutual respect for one another and whenever our paths did cross, I let him know that I was a fan.
I once asked if he’d consider taking me along some spring when he and his old pal, Doctor Bob Nelson of Sioux Falls went hunting for morel mushrooms. Now it’s important to note that those who know where these delicate and delicious fungi grow are usually ultra protective of their special spots and before taking any outsiders there; require an affidavit written in blood not to give away the location.   Well, Tony didn’t ask me to swear an oath of secrecy when he invited me on the next hunt. But, to my regret, I never made it and now it’s too late.Ironically, Doc Nelson died this last week too so a lot of morels will go unpicked next April.

Oh, Lord. Lund’s Writing About His Grandkids Again

Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled when, on November 7th, 1992, our daughter Brenda and her husband Dale announced that they’d decided to name their newborn son, “Tucker.” I was worried that insensitive classmates would one day tease him..using words..one in particular..that rhyme with it.By November 9th, though, Tucker’s name was the least of our worries.
He was pretty small at birth..weighing-in at less than six pounds..which meant time in the incubator.Then doctors discovered he had protein C deficiency..a rare genetic disorder that causes clotting. Blood was not getting to his tiny kidneys.  One had already shut down but they somehow managed to save the other and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone but Tucker, that is.
Just like his brother before him, Tucker had developed asthma and would spend his first 14 years never far from an inhaler or the nebulizer machine that, for ten minutes each day, would blow medication through a mask into his lungs.
Brenda and Dale’s first son, Cody, died at birth so they were understandably protective of Tucker considering all his health issues. Competitive sports would be too dangerous…even though he clearly showed signs of being a natural athlete.
Tucker understood his parent’s concerns and accepted his situation…for a while, that is.  He absolutely loved sports, though, and couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of his life having to watch from the sidelines.
He finally managed to coax his mom and dad into letting him play softball and basketball where he excelled..but football..his favorite sport? That was out of the question.
Tucker had been so good and grown up about handling everything, it was heartbreaking to see his disappointment at having the door closed on what he wanted most; to play football.
“We’re going to the doctor,” Brenda told him. “If he gives the okay, you can try out for the West Central team.”
“There are always risks,” the doctor told them. “But if you have him fitted for a flak jacket to help protect his kidney, I’m not going to say no.”
That’s how our grandson, who is just a sophomore, came to win a spot on the varsity for the eleven time state champion West Central Trojans who are undefeated again so far this season.                                                                 Tucker Smith, number 21 breaks through for a tackle.
At five nine, 175 pounds, Tucker Smith may not seem big enough to be playing defensive tackle but what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in drive and enthusiasm. He pursues opposing offenses with such reckless abandon that his nervous mother spends the entire game riding an emotional roller coaster; both worried and proud at the same time.   No.21 on defense charging for a sack. Thanks to Dave Eggen and Inertia Sports Media for the picture. On offense scrambling for yardage. Photo courtesy Matshots.By the way, nobody makes fun of Tucker’s name. In fact, Linda and I plan to be there yelling it loud and often when Tucker and the Trojans take to the field Friday night.

Hail Hail Rock & Roll

Posted: Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

“Hey Doug, you’re the trivia master,” our friend Alona said when she called this week, “Who sang the song Be my baby?”
(She’s right, Hemmingsen and I used to be pretty darn good Trivial Pursuit players. In fact, when the board game first came out in the 80’s; our Keloland team usually scored high at Trivial Pursuit contests.)
“Diana Ross and the Supremes,” I blurted out with the confidence of a true useless knowledge champion.
“You sure it wasn’t the Ronettes?” she said”
“Positive.”
Alona wanted to know because her granddaughter, Sydnee, is in an upcoming ice skating competition in New Ulm, Minnesota in which she’ll be wearing a bee costume. She’d wants to skate to the music of a song that has the word “be” in it a lot. “Do you know of any others that might work?” she asked.
“How about Be Bop A Lula by the Everly Brothers?” I suggested.
When Alona called back a few hours later she said, “You’re slippin’ Lund..it WAS the Ronettes  that sang Be My Baby.”  She had looked it up on Google.  “Are you sure the Everly Brothers did that other one?”
“Of course I’m sure. We used to sing it in our band all the time.”
After we hung up, I’m the one who checked the computer this time and…oops, wrong again. Well, sort of wrong. The Everly Brothers did do a version of Be Bop A Lula on one of their albums (where I heard it) but the old rockabilly song was first recorded by Gene Vincent in the mid fifties.
That puts me oh for two.
Strange then, that rock and roll historian, Don Fritz of Sioux Falls would ask me to be on the board of directors for  the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that he’s trying to get started. 
Don Fritz. THE authority on early history of S.D. Rock and RollAlthough not a musician himself, the soft-spoken Fritz has always loved rock and roll..especially the early stuff.  He can tell you a little something about nearly every band that played around here in the 50’s and 60’s, the songs they recorded and every ballroom and nightclub where they performed.
The basement of his modest home off Marion Road is filled with neatly filed vinyl records (thousands of them) several vintage juke boxes as well as all kinds of rock and roll memorabilia.
Most impressive though, to me anyway, are the hundreds of band posters with a South Dakota connection that he’s somehow managed to find and frame over the years. Many are from well-known groups like Myron Lee and the Caddies but what’s amazing is the number of posters he has from obscure garage bands that popped up in every town large or small back then and, after a year or so, disappreared.
 I did a Lund at Large feature on Fritz’s collection a few years ago and nearly tripped down the stairway when I spotted a poster hanging on his wall from the band I was in way back when; “The Couriers.”  I thought my cousin and I had the only Couriers posters left. I think Don said hegot this one at a yard sale. I wonder how much he paid for it.
In 2006, the Center for Western Studies invited Fritz to show off his collection at the Augustana College campus gallery. It was a big hit and made him more determined than ever to not only find a permanent home for his stuff but to create a South Dakota Hall of Fame where those who contributed to the history of rock and roll in our state can be honored and have their musical instruments or other memorabilia put on display too.So far, we’ve had no luck finding such a place but we’re hoping to rent the Mosque for a night and have a ceremony naming the first inductees by next spring.
If you have any thoughts, memories or ideas on Don’s dream, he’d love to hear from you. Just click here.
I’m sure he would know a lot of other songs with the word “be” in them and I’ll bet he’d get the artist right too. Next time I’ll have Alona call him.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat Stay Off the Golf Course

Posted: Friday, October 3, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I took some more political heat from my golfing buddies Thursday; buddies who are still dumbfounded at the notion of my still intending to vote for Obama next month. 
“You gonna watch the debate tonight?” Bob said.
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“You just wait, Palin’s gonna kick Biden’s butt.” (only he didn’t say butt and from what I saw, she and her attempts at being folksy yet fierce came off phony and it seemed to me she was the kickee not the kicker)
“You know what Obama’s middle name is don’t you?” Jerry blurted out..apparently hoping the fact that it’s Hussein will convince me that the Democratic nominee is a Muslim..not a Christian as he claims.
I have to admit that when I first heard that a black senator from Illinois named Barak Hussein Obama was running for president..incredibly at a time when the names Osama and Hussein are so identified with terrorism and the Iraq war, I didn’t figure he’d have a snowball’s chance in Hades.
As comedian Dana Carvey said, it would be like voting for a guy whose name was Charles Manson Hitler.  
But, here we are..a month before election day and I continue to watch my retirement erode on Wall Street, military leaders calling for more Americans  in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s cave still has an unlisted number and the administration continues to play the “it wouldn’t be fair to dead American soldiers to leave Iraq before the job’s done” card.  What was our job again?
I’m a pretty conservative fellow but something has to change in this country and I saw nothing in Thursday’s debate to suggest that John McCain and Sarah Palin are the people to bring it about.If you don’t agree, don’t be angry with me.  In fact here’s a favorite photo that I hope you all can find funny.

Off The Beaten Path

Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
No Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Okay, Wild Bill, I’ll get out of DeadwoodThe vote was unanimous; on our annual excursion to the Black Hills this autumn, Linda and me along with our traveling companions, Denny and Joanie Graves, were going to get off the beaten path and go places and do things we hadn’t done in years or never at all.
It began with the road West. Rather than stay on Interstate 90 all the way, we decided to hang a right on highway 73 and head toward Philip where none of us remembered ever being before. We stopped at a local honky tonk for a light lunch of chicken strips, onion rings and mozzarella sticks..all fresh from the deep fat fryer.
We continued North to highway 34 then turned left in the direction of Sturgis through antelope-filled countryside that is amazingly beautiful simply by its barrenness.The beauty of solemnity somewhere between Philip and Sturgis
 
Coming into Sturgis from the East, we passed by the infamous Buffalo Chip Campground where hundreds of thousands of bikers call home and where big name entertainers perform on stage during the August motorcycle rally.    
“We should check out one of the biker bars,” I suggested.
 The Broken Spoke Saloon probably serves a thousand or more rowdy customers at a time during rally week so it felt pretty big and pretty tame when we went inside early on a Friday afternoon in late September; just us and a few thirsty cowboys sitting at the bar.
Denny and I jokingly suggested that our wives carry-out a Sturgis bar tradition but they just rolled their eyes…said something like “yeah, right” and left their sweatshirts firmly in place.
 
It had been many years since we’d been to Mount Rushmore so that was our destination Saturday. After shelling out ten bucks to park the car, we trudged up a cold grey granite incline to the viewing terrace. In spite of the federal government’s efforts to sterilize the place, the sculpture, itself, never fails to impress.
What the government did get right during the remodeling several years ago, was to create the President’s Trail which allows people to walk directly under the faces. Denny and Joanie  had never seen Rushmore from that perspective..so close if Washington sneezed we’d get a shower. They loved it.Rushmore from The President’s TrailThe trail continues down to sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s studio which none of us had seen. The sign warns that the trip is strenuous…but how strenuous can going down a bunch of steps be?
The sculptor’s studio contains the model Borglum designed and built for use as a guide to carve the mountain.  His model for the unfinished hall of records behind the monument is also there.
“Okay..how do we get back to the car?” 
Oh..so that’s where the strenuous part comes in.Linda and Joanie’s smiles mask their concern over the long climb ahead back to the  top.
 
After we caught our breath, Joanie said she hadn’t been on the Needles Highway since their kids were little.
“Well, we might as well take Iron Mountain Road to get there,” I said.
It turns out that the Graves had never traveled that winding highway and were blown away by the site of pigtail bridges and all the tunnels that were designed and carved out to perfectly frame Mount Rushmore at the entrance or exit. 
 
Just when we were thinking that the 12 dollar daily fee to enter Custer State Park was a bit excessive, we came upon dozens of donkeys that had traffic stopped on the road begging for food..willing to stick their head in your car to get it.
“No wonder the democrats have an ass for a mascot,” I heard one delayed traveler say. “They’re always looking for a handout.” 
The donkeys aren’t indigenous to the hills. Back in the twenties, an enterprising gentleman brought several burros in to carry tourists to the top of Harney Peak. Within a few short years, the guy gave up on the idea and turned the animals loose in the hills where they have since been fruitful and multiplied.
 
I’d about given up on seeing a buffalo as we inched along the switchbacks toward the needles when suddenly we came around a corner and met this majestic fellow dining on grass along the narrow roadway.
 
Traveling the Needles Highway is no quick journey and when we finally emerged onto 385 after what seemed like hours of twisting and turning we agreed that it may be another 30 years before doing it again.
 
It was time for rest and refreshment so, in keeping with our commitment to get off the beaten path, we looked for an out-of-the-way spot for a picnic. We found it on the other side of Sheridan Lake; a quiet little empty campground in the woods..perfect.Good friends and good wine.
 
In our many trips to the Black Hills, we’ve spent a lot of time in Deadwood; even taken the tour of Mount Moriah to see Wild Bill and Calamity Jane’s graves. But we’ve always been curious about the houses that cling precariously to the slopes of Deadwood gulch. So, at breakfast Monday morning, I suggested we take a drive up there. That’s how we discovered Mt. Roosevelt Road..a bumpy gravel path that turned out to reveal the most stupendously beautiful and colorful Black Hills vistas we’d ever seen. Driving it is a challenge and poor Linda, who literally gets nauseous peering out the window over a thousand foot dropoff, covered her eyes until we stopped the car.  Upon our return to town, we all agreed that we didn’t have to drive Spearfish Canyon again this year. It’s lovely but doesn’t hold a candle to Mt. Roosevelt Road.
To get there turn west on the first street North of the Franklin Hotel and hang on!
I can’t wait until next year to try other new adventures the Hills have to offer; adventures that don’t involve stubborn slot machines or unsympathetic dealers when you go bust after taking a hit on 16.
Any ideas?
Share them in the comments below.