Ellen and I took a few days vacation last week and headed to our neighbor to the west, South Dakota. We had not done much ‘exploring’ in that state, mainly just passing through it on the way to somewher else. This time we wanted to visit and see parts of the state. Our first visit was to Pierre to see the state capitol. Having spend several years working in Minnesota’s capitol when I was a State Representative, I really like to visit capitols and see how they work in other states. South Dakota has a gorgeous 101 year old capitol building. It is constructed of several types of stone, including white marble, Indiana limestone and native granite material. The very large rotunda is 96′ high from the main floor. But what is truly amazing is the capitol grounds. The area surrounding the capitol building is lush and planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Every tree has a nice permanent sign identifying the type of tree. Just to the east of the capitol building is a small man-made lake with park area around it. It is an idyllic setting and one all South Dakotans should be proud of. On the shore of the lake is a monument to the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served in our military branches. The life size statues honor each branch of the military.
From Pierre we continued west on highway 14 through central South Dakota. Highway 14 is not a freeway road (I like to take ‘blue highways’ when we travel) but it, like every South Dakota road we traveled on, was in excellent condition. I’m not sure if the good roads is related to having less than a million people in the state, or is reflective of an adequate transportation budget, but South Dakota has to be commended for the quality of their roads. We arrived in Deadwood for the night. Deadwood is a town that almost became a ghost town in the 1970’s. It is off the highways and in the Black Hills, jammed in between hills as narrow as 300 yards in some places. Infrastructure and buildings were decaying and the town was dying. City leaders came up with a plan to ask the legislature to approve limited gambling, with a big share of the stake going to the city to rebuilt itself. The legislature approved that in 1989 and it paid off hugely. Millions and millions of dollars have been generated to fund all types of repairs. And the city is busy with tourism now, generating strong economic dollars. We checked into the historic Bullock Hotel right on main street and enjoyed our visit. Deadwood had several fires in the late 1800’s and as a result, all downtown buildings were required to be rebuilt of brick or stone. The town is filled with historical buildings. There is a 1930’s gas station that reflects the Art Deco style. It has been turned into a restaurant—Mustand Sally’s— with good food and atmosphere. This is the town where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down in the #10 Saloon, marking a piece of Western history.
I’ll post more later.