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Author Topic: any input on these Dakota locales (& one in Wyoming)?
sojourner
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Expect to Amtrak to Minot ND with a friend and then drive around to see sights in western/central ND/SD (plus maybe WY; see question 6 below). Does anyone have any input on the following locations, esp with regard to must-see sights and restaurants? Thanks so much!!! (PS Please indicate how recent your info is; I gather the new wealth in ND has brought a lot of changes, for example, to the state museum!)

1. Minot: looking for restaurant/tavern recommendations--esp near the train station, since we will no longer have a car and eastbound train doesn't leave till 9:30PM if on time.

2. Bismarck/Fort Clark: Plan to see the capitol, walk on Missouri, see Fort Clark on our return to Minot. Probably not much time for anything else, but any input or restaurant recs welcome.

3. Medora/Theodore Roosevelt National Park: probably will spend most time in the park but any input on Medora, esp restaurants, most welcome. Also, any advice on must-see sites in the park besides the Painted Canyon?

4. Deadwood SD: Already plan to go to Mt Mariah Cemetery and do a historic walk, but any advice on other sites not to miss here? Also, restaurant recs?

5. Devil's Tower: Shall we make the drive to see it? It would cut into our time in the Black Hills in SD (see #6), but it doesn't seem too far. Also, any advice on where to eat lunch if we do make the trip?

6. Black Hills/Custer/Custer State Park: Obviously, we will see Mt Rushmore and likely the Crazy Horse Memorial, but what else in particular does anyone recommend--is it good to drive on Needles Highway? is that Jewelled Cave worth going to? What about the town of Custer--worth a stop? Any restaurant recs there? Any other towns better to see? Also, should we spend the extra $20+ to go to Custer State Park if we have time? (I think we may not)

7. Rapid City: We will be going here mainly to eat, but any sites not to miss downtown?

8. Wall SD & Badlands National Park: Any input on what to see or where to eat?

10: Pierre SD: We're likely just stop here to see the capital (the Cultural Center won't be open yet), but any input on where to eat?

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yukon11
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I've never been to Minot, ND. One thing which might be interesting is the Dakota Territory Air Museum.

If in Deadwood, besides the Mt. Mariah Cemetery, you may wish to run by the old and historic Bullock Hotel.. It was the first hotel in Deadwood, built in 1895 by Seth Bullock. Seth Bullock was the first sheriff of Deadwood, and took on that duty just a day or two after Wild Bill was murdered. Bullock may have been the closest, real person sheriff to the honest but vigilant western town sheriff seen in the movies.

The capitol building, in Pierre, looks like a beautiful old structure. It should make for a great photo.

East of Rapid City, SD, along Highway 90 and in eastern SD, is Mitchell, SD. Home of the Mitchell Corn Palace.

Also east of Rapid City, in Wall, SD, is the Wall Drug Store. I've not seen this one, but it looks interesting:

https://is.gd/64qntw

Have a nice trip.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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I made a 1974 road trip to roundly follow the MILW to the West Coast (wasn't I ever such a loyal railfan/employee?). I did stop at both Mt. Rushmore and Wall Drug; likely for nothing more than say "I did it".

But allow me to note, Ms. Sojourner, that you are "relaxing" your "never rent" position. Will next be your "never fly"?

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Vincent206
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I haven't been to the Dakotas since the oil boom, so I don't have any contemporary tips to offer. I've heard that housing is tight in the oil field communities and lots of the workers are living in motels, so be sure to make hotel/motel reservations before you arrive.

I have been to Wall Drug and Mt. Rushmore--neither would get a bucket list recommendation from me.

What time of year are you planning for the trip? The weather can be very hot or very cold depending on the time of year but the wind always seems to be blowing.

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palmland
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Sojourner, we took an extended camping trip 10 years ago and visited some of the places you mention.

Devils Tower was an interesting lunch stop and a reminder of the movie Close Encounters, but not really worth going out of your way.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Badlands. We stayed in the modest Cedar Creek cabins which was the perfect spot for early morning hikes (way too hot in mid summer otherwise). It was very impressive. But one of the highlights of our 8 week trip was a serendipitous moment when we took a wrong turn and wound up on a dirt road in a remote part of the park. We stopped to see a lone buffalo on a nearby hill. That turned into a stampede of 40 or 50 of them around our car. What an experience. Also, be sure to visit the nearby missle silos that are open to the public. A grim reminder of the Cold War.

We were also pleasantly surprised with the Black Hills, and we camped in the nearby Custer State Park. Thoroughly enjoyed hiking and driving through that area.

Agree with Vincent about Wall Drug and Mt. Rushmore, but nice to have ‘been there done that’. The milkshakes at Wall Drug might have been worth the stop and they had some nice western prints as well as Stetson hats if you have a need.

Also in Hill City is the interesting Black Hills RR- strictly a tourist ride but still fun. Deadwood was too touristy for us.

Yellowstone is only a days drive from there (although we took three in order to enjoy the Big Horn mountains and the spectacular Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge Mt into the park - highly recommended by Charles Kuralt). We were in Yellowstone for 5 days and could have stayed longer.

Sounds like a good trip; glad you found a friend to take the drive with you.

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yukon11
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Ditto on the Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge.

If you decide to head over to Yellowstone Park, don't miss the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. The town of Jackson is also worthwhile, although I haven't been there in over 40 years. However, I understand, unfortunately, that the town has been greatly commercialized.

The "Million Dollar Cowboy Bar" in Jackson, WY:

https://is.gd/53VAGE

Again, if your trip would let you get to Yellowstone Park, don't miss the "Buffalo Bill Center of the West" museums in Cody, Wyoming, a little east of the park.

https://is.gd/eFxAEl

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Ms. Sojourner, since Richard wants you to "Go West", here's a place I remember from my days with the MILW.

https://50000silverdollar.com

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sojourner
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Sorry I didn't get back; I lost the link and forgot where it was!

Anyway, thank you all for the info. I am sorry to hear Deadwood is so touristy; I've wanted to go there since I read Deadwood Dick back in the Dark Ages. Do you think we should stay someplace else the one night we are booked there? I kinda thought we might want to see Will Bill Hickock's and Calamity Jane's graves and have a really good steak!

I was at Yellowstone a couple of years ago, driving with another friend; she flew in to SLC and I Amtrakked there and met her at the airport. I loved Yellowstone, except even in mid-June, too much traffic! Also loved what I saw of Grand Tetons and thought Jackson WY very nice; stayed there two nights. Also drove up to Livingston MT and Boise ID, stopping in Sun Valley, saw a bit of Craters of the Moon National Park and stopped at an Idaho state park on the Oregon Trail. Liked everything very much except Sun Valley not so much (we didn't see the really scenic parts there--road was closed; did see Hemingway's grave, though).

PS Mr Norman, why do you assume I'm driving? Of course it's my friend who is doing the driving!

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sojourner
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Maybe we'll stay in Lead instead of Deadwood. Looks to be less commercial. I was interested to discover it's pronounced LEEEED, not LED.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
Maybe we'll stay in Lead instead of Deadwood. Looks to be less commercial. I was interested to discover it's pronounced LEEEED, not LED.

Same as Reading, Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad. REEEEEEDing. You reveal yourself as a "furriner" if you say Reding.
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yukon11
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George: I always pronounced the Railroad, next to Oriental Ave on the Monopoly board, as the "Reeeding" Railroad. But I mostly hear it pronounced "Redding". Now I'm not sure.

I thought you might find a lot of worcestershire sauce in Worcester, MA. Maybe its pronounced "wuster sauce". I have a problem with saying "Puyallup", WA (not "Pooey allup"), Sequim, WA (pronounced "Skwim") (not "Sequin" ending in "m").

Then there is "Squamish", BC (not "Squeamish").

I won't even try to pronounce "Nunathloogagamiutbingoi Dunes", Alaska.

Richard

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sojourner
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I'm sorry, but as far as I know, the railroad is named for Reading, Pennsylvania, pronounced /RED-ing/, not /REED-ing/. The station in Philadelphia from which the railroad left is now the Reading (pronounced /RED-ing/) Market. Where did you hear it was pronounced REED-ing?

I believe the PA city itself is named for Reading in England, also pronounced RED-ing, but that would not necessarily offer a clue to how it is pronounced. For instance, Reading, PA, is the county seat of Berkshire County, which is pronounced /BURK-shir/ here but in England is pronounced /BARK-shir/.

Speaking of shires, the sauce is named not for the MA city but for Worcestershire in England, pronounced WUS-tir-shir. The largest city in this county is Worcester, pronounced WUS-tir, and that is where the sauce was "invented." The Massachusetts city is named after it and in this case basically retains the pronunciation.

As far as Lead pronounced LEED, I gather it's named for its leads, pronounced LEEDZ, (synonym of lodes) of the deposits of valuable ores.

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George Harris
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Sojourner: I meant Reeeding as to say use the long "e" sound. Not necessarily exaggerated, but simply the long e. I am certain of that from spending about six weeks working near there, sometime about 1983.
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palmland
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It is Red-ing. At least that's the way the Reading RR guys pronounced it when I had a meeting with them in Reading terminal in 1976 (when Chessie was considering buying the E-L/Reading.

How about Albany, Ga. and Milan, TN. Hint not the same pronunciation as the cities in NY and Italy.

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sojourner
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I very much enjoyed the Dakotas and went to everything mentioned or suggested here, except we could not get to Devil's Tower because of the rainy weather (and some snow in the Black Hills). The highlights were Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt national parks, but I was glad to go to Mount Rushmore too (though it was too foggy and wet for a really good picture), thought the Needles High was pretty cool (and scary), was interested in the Knife River and other Native American sites we saw in ND and missile sites in SD, loved my burger at Wall Drug, liked riding on the old stagecoach road up to Pierre, and thought even Deadwood, which I gather can seem very honkytonky at the height of summer, was fine and fun--I could wish the interiors of the lovely old buildings didn't contain tiresome modern slot machines and wouldn't eat there (we instead headed for Rapid City, which has good ethnic restaurants)--gambling should have more class hahaha--but I enjoyed the cemetery and the reenactment of the Wild Bill Hickock poker game (the players were quite good) as well as the architecture. I saw my 48th and 49th state capitol and have now been to 49 of the 50 states. One unfortunate thing was Medora ND wasn't open yet for all the western hoopla, but maybe that's all for the best; we did think it a cute little town.

Going to Minot worked out great (except the high charge for left luggage, so we didn't use that), otherwise nice little station, car rental excellent, even got to see a bit of the Scandinavian Heritage Park and ate in a terrific truck stop diner there called Schatz's Crossing and had some yummy Scandinavian soup.

Amazingly, all trains were pretty much on time except the NE Regional I took down to DC!!!! Only lowlight of the trip was the food on the Cap Ltd, simply dreadful; but we had fortified ourselves with fantastic lunch in DC (where we also saw the Tintoretto exhibit, very impressive). It wasn't quite as bad on the Lakeshore, esp since I knew what to eat for breakfast (cold cereal and banana) but still, it made the food on the Empire Builder seem positively gourmet.

All in all a very nice trip.

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sojourner
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I am surprised no comments on my trip report--anyone want any info on Amtrakking to the Dakotas?
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Gilbert B Norman
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So who actually rented the auto? Were you both listed as authorized drivers?

I await a trip report from Ms. Sojourner stating that she has flown somewhere. If such is to be overseas, well I think Carnival/Cunard still ofers "TransAt" sailings, but if away from when they offer them, guess how one will go.

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palmland
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Sojourner, thanks for bringing this back up as I missed it after you posted. Sounds like a great trip. We’d like to head to TR NP so would be interested in more details about that part of your trip.

Preliminary thoughts about a return to Glacier and Yellowstone next year and would be a drive across the northern tier, maybe from Wisconsin as we’ve only seen that from the Builder.

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yukon11
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Mr. Palmland, I would be interested in your plans for Yellowstone and Glacier Park. Would you be going by auto the whole trip, or throw in some travel by either train or plane?

I'm thinking Glacier next summer. A night at the Izaak Walton Inn, Belton Chalet, and Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish for a total of 3-4 days. In one direction, I may fly from PDX or SEA to Kalispell, MT but no definite plans. Builder in the other direction.

Richard

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palmland
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Richard, no definite plans at this point, but will let you know.

I highly recommend a balcony room at the Belton Chalet in Glacier. Although we only had lunch at Izaak Walton, I prefer Belton on all counts. Hopefully you can work in a stay at one of the other NP hotels. Many Glacier Lodge is probably the most scenic and nicest of traditional NP hotels. We liked the east side of the park better than the west - more dramatic scenery and good trails. E. Glacier lodge is a close second and of course in walking distance to the tracks.

On our previous Yellowstone visit we were camping there for 5 days. It certainly was far better than I expected with such varied terrain, animal sightings, and thermal features.

This fall we're off to the Southwest and will meet friends in Las Vegas, NM who live in your hometown in the Oakmont community. If you want to PM me we can communicate via email.

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yukon11
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I also don't have any definite plans, but next June might be a possibility.

It sounds like you will be on the east side of the park. I agree Many Glacier Lodge would be my favorite from a scenic point of view.

 -

When I lived in Browning, MT (about 14 miles east of East Glacier Park village) we visited Many Glacier Lodge several times. If I remember correctly, the mountain goats would come down close enough to where you could feed them.

Also, back in the early 70's, Glacier Park Lodge was a nice place to go for dinner but the rooms weren't all that great but expensive. I never stayed there, overnight, but I hope the rooms have been upgraded.

While in East Glacier, the short hike to "Trick Falls" (now called "Running Eagle Falls") is interesting.

I will keep in mind a balcony room at the Belton Chalet. I assume the Chalet is in close walking distance to the Apgar (West Glacier) Amtrak station. Maybe it's a platform instead of a station.

While in Las Vegas, NM, let us know your impressions of the Castaneda Hotel.

Richard

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palmland
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Richard, I had forgotten that you lived in MT so you are probably more familiar than I about places to go. But, here are some photos of Belton Chalet. The first is the view from our room of the BNSF mainline and passing siding. Next is the restaurant on the property, although operated independently. It got reviews when we were there of best food in the park. But, I liked cocktails on that deck. You can see the lodge behind the restaurant. Finally, it's a short walk, maybe 5 minutes, to the station. It's open a few hours a day as a museum but serves as a shelter for passengers.

Will let you know about La Castaneda. It'll be fun to compare with La Posada and we hope to meet Alan Alfeldt, the guy behind it. We had some correspondence about the SWC.

 -

 -

 -

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yukon11
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Thanks for the nice photos, Mr. Palmland. It looks like a balcony room is the one to book. I thought the restaurant was in the same building as the Belton Chalet. I have heard the food, there, is quite good. What else is in Apgar? Are there any stores or shops? Is there a gas station nearby? I also understand there is a Dollar car rental near the Belton.

Thanks, again, for the photos.

Richard

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sojourner
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Palmland, getting back to Teddy Roosevelt NP, as you probably know, it has two units, North and South, plus a ranch of TR's. We went only to the South Unit. Coming from the east in Bismarck, we went first to the Painted Canyon entrance, stopping at the Visitor Center there and seeing the canyon, where there are hiking trails of varying degree of difficulty. My friend did a short one while I waited--I cannot hike down things, no balance. The views were lovely even from up top. Bison come right up to the Visitor Center too, though none was there when we were, we did see the evidence!

We then headed to Medora, where we were staying, and went in the (main) entrance of the park there. There's an excellent 1.5 hour drive you can make, and trails off it. Very lovely, sometimes magnificent terrain, even if not as many of the geological formations (caprocks etc) as I gather the North Unit has. Saw lots of bison and prairie dogs. Behind the main entrance is Teddy Roosevelt's cabin, also worth seeing.

We went a little too early for the Medora Musical, and very little was open in the town, but it was still nice to see. The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame wasn't open yet, but we saw the sculptures etc outside. Only a few restaurants were open, and we had a nice big taco steak salad in one of them, but I forgot the name. Might have been Little Missouri.

We stayed at the Amercinn (by Wyndham); there are probably even cheaper places to stay but this was very nice. There is also the fancy Rough Riders Inn, with a pricey but supposedly excellent restaurant (for steak), but the restaurant wasn't open yet. I suspect once the Musical starts all the hotels/motels get full up here, though.

The area is on Mountain Time, while Minot and Bismarck (from where we drove) are on Central Time--the divide is basically the Missouri River (which I learned from a CJ Box book set in the area that I was reading during my travels)

That's about all I can tell you about Theodore Roosevelt National Park except, esp to females: go to the bathroom at the Visitors Center before you go in for the drive; on the main drive there is only one other toilet....

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palmland
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Thanks, Sojourner. Good info, hadn’t heard about the Medora Musical or Cowboy HofF and will check out Rough Riders Inn.
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