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June 29, 2017

South Dakota - the Center of our Nation

The geographic center of the contiguous 48 states is in Lebanon, Kansas.  Fran and I stopped there in 2015 on a previous trip east, that blog is HERE.  The geographic center of the nation including Hawaii and Alaska is at Belle Forche, South Dakota.  Behind the Visitors Center is a nice display to celebrate the event.  The physical site is 20 miles away including 17 miles (R/T) of gravel and washboard.  That’s not for the RV.
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Also at the VC we learn the main outdoor activity in Belle Forche is Frisbee Golf!   Although there were several courses we did not play.  I did use their FREE dump station.

The little museum attached to the VC has a large collection of western cowboy memorabilia, a display of the numerous western movies filmed in the Black Hills and some fossils.
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The large bank building in Sturgis proudly shows the date of 1876.  The Ft. Laramie treaty of 1868 promised "undisturbed use and occupation" of the Black Hills to the Indians.  But that was before the discovery of GOLD!, in 1874.  By 1877 the Black Hills were confiscated by the US, in what is regarded as the most controversial treaty regarding the Black Hills.

It not only took the Black Hills from the Sioux, but established the reservation system.  It still remains a controversial land grab, known as the “Sell or Starve” Act.  In 2011 President Obama offered the 9 tribes of the Sioux $1.3 billion as a settlement to the dispute.  The Sioux refused.
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Sturgis, which is close by, is most noted for the massive motorcycle rally and tattoo parlors, but other rallies are held throughout the year.
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During our visit it was a rally to celebrate the Chevrolet Camaro, hundreds of Camaros.
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There were three of the Bumblebee Transformer cars.  Less than 400 of these were made patterned after the Camero used in the Transformer: Last Knight movie.
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The Camaros in the Show & Shine displayed some very creative paint and expensive schemes
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My favorites were liquid metal, bat out of hell, a salute to the 911 firefighters
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Deadwood (named after the dead trees surrounding the gulch) is the only town in South Dakota where gambling is still legal.  As with Sturgis its history begins in 1876 after the discovery of GOLD.  The Deadwood Gulch placer miners worked the richest vein in the Black Hills.  The entire town, all 300 buildings, burned to the ground in 1878.  Hence the oldest buildings in town date from 1879, including most of the masonry structures.
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The Kansas lawman Wild Bill Hickok came here with his best friend Colorado Charlie in 1876 to work a mining claim.  But Wild Bill found the money good and the labor more to his liking at the card tables.  He was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall in Saloon No 10.  After the fire, Saloon No 10 was rebuilt in brick and renamed Eagle Bar. … Big marketing mistake!  Across the street a model of the original Saloon No. 10 was built, and called … yup Saloon No. 10.
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It is in Saloon No. 10 that a fairly accurate reenactment of the events of August 1, 1876 is made by the Deadwood Alive theater group.  Colorado Charlie is a retired history teacher.  He taught 8 different history courses on the Black Hills at the college in Rapid City.  He is also wrote the scripts and choreography for all the re-enactments performed throughout Deadwood.  He sat at our lunch table for a good 20 minutes spellbinding us with his stories.  In the picture below he is setting up the scene for the events to come.
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The bar girls are our waitresses, but are now soliciting drinks from the gamblers at the tables.
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After a drink, Wild Bill joins the card game
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And is shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall, while holding a pair of black aces and eights, with a nine of diamonds … the dead man’s hand.
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Fran with the entertaing Colorado Charlie, then murderous Jack McCall and Wild Bill.
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Saloon 10 is a National Historic Museum, with a bar …. the only museum on the register with a bar.  Worth a stop.

Photos of Wild Bill and family
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The original wooden headstone, made by Colorado Charlie
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We did not make it up to the cemetary, where both Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried.

And many photos and drawings of what it was like for the placer miners in the muck
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Another of Colorado Charlie’s reenactments is a shoot out on Main Street.
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We really want to return to the Black Hills for its beauty, history and the many trails we did not take advantage of.
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