Wednesday, September 1, 2021
The drive from Pierre to Spearfish South Dakota was uneventful. We traveled exclusively on combined highways US 14 and SD 34 a two lane country road until US 14 zigged south and SD 34 zagged on more of a straight line towards Sturgis.
Jil said “I looked up the route on my phone and there are lots of towns on SD 34”. The condition of SD 34 was an unwarranted concern so SD 34 it was. The first two signs of civilization were churches. One all by itself on a little knoll and another located next to a grain elevator. No towns, just churches with a couple of farm houses within sight of Grace Church and nada near the Little Brown Church. We pass an occasional farmhouse. The farms out here are large so passing a farmhouse doesn’t happen too often.
Places named on Google Map seem to be named for a nearby farm or establishment, not for a town. The first services were in Billsburg- a truck stop with some sort of outbuilding just to the south. We stop and stretch with Jil running into the store to buy some munchies. A few more miles west is a fairly new fueling station/minimart but still no town. We come to Howes- no town, just a little country store- out in the middle of nowhere. Howes’ store claims “We ain’t no Hooterville but advice is always free”. Another church, this one with a cemetery across the street greets us as we head west.
Downtown White Owl
We finally arrive at what appears to be a multi-building community. White Owl, a metropolis of 61 living souls, has a Baptist church, a fashion boutique, community center, a graveyard and a post office- and that’s it other than a few homes.
Nellie’s Saloon in Enning, SD
We stopped in Enning, a thriving community of 49 souls. But Enning is far from devoid of services, it has Nellie’s Merchantile and Saloon. And grocery store and restaurant! Jil goes in to see what Nellie has for lunch and comes back with the best hamburger and fries I’ve eaten for a very long time. Jil spoke with Nellie as she hand formed the hamburger patty, plopped it on the flattop, dropping the fries in the deep fryer. She says she has a home in Pierre which she visits occasionally. She keeps her establishment open as a gathering place for the locals- and a place people can use the rest room. As she stated, “There’s no place for old ladies to relieve themselves for hours so I keep the place open for them. She features good home cooking with specials every day. During COVID finding help was tough but she now has three young ladies that give her a hand. As you might surmise, we enjoyed our stop in tiny Enning.
As with most places on the route Union Center is a WHAT? Not a town but allegedly has a population of 350. Cammack Ranch Supply is along the highway as well as the Bull Creek Cafe. Do those 350 people live underground- or what?
We come into Sturgis. Yes, that Sturgis. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was a few weeks ago so those 500,000 motorcyclists have mostly gone home. The town, founded in 1878, was originally named Scooptown because many of the residents “scooped up” their pay from nearby Fort Meade. The name was later changed to Sturgis in honor of Civil War General Samual D. Sturgis. The town is quiet today with just the occasional raucus motorcycle disturbing the now almost peaceful town. Sturgis is the seat of Meade County and has a population of 6627 souls.
Heading west, now on Interstate 90, we come to our destination for six whole nights, the excellent Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort. The price is fair, the sites are large, the staff is accommodating. The park features a large swimming pool, a large kid’s playground, basketball court, tennis/pickleball court, horseshoe pits, several wash houses complete with laundry facilities. A meeting hall, a large conventions style tent, walking paths that take one out on to the prairie, two large dog parks- this place is really nice!
The historic 4700 acre Frawley Ranch is next door. Six historic homesteads are on the acreage. So is the Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club. A thousand acres of the ranch have been set aside for residential development. And of course, the RV Resort. New construction closer to I-90 is in progress so this ranch is still developing. At one time bison grazed here.
We are laying over for the Labor Day weekend here at Elkhorn Ridge. Quite a few places of interest are within striking distance so it’s a good place to stay. This place is packed for the holiday weekend and everyone with children has brought them along. The kids are having fun- all day long. The outdoor venue is hosting a wedding on Saturday. What a great place for a wedding!