Day 15: Billings, Montana to Deadwood; Over 5000 Trip Miles; Searching for Omens; Aces and Eights; Dropped Bike – Igor to the Rescue; My Evening on the Bench with Nancy, a Person Who is Homeless.

When I woke up yesterday I wasn’t exactly sure where I was heading. Then I remembered that when I was in Mahoneys Irish Bar in Butte they had a strange framed picture on the wall. It contained five playing cards, a hole card (not turned over) a pair of Aces and a pair of Eights – known as the Dead Man’s Hand. You probably have heard the story but it’s the hand Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back in the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. So, I thought, why not go to Deadwood?
As you can expect, I didn’t take the straightest route here but I arrived, almost safely, at my lodging, which was a magnificent bed and breakfast called the 1899 Inn. I say ‘almost safely’ because the house was on a hill and despite successfully parking the bike it fell over when I was taking my luggage off. Poor Big Red~! It was painful just looking at her. Now, remember that Big Red weighs over 700 pounds. Despite trying, and I have managed it before but not at this angle, she would hardly budge. I looked around. Don’t worry, someone will come along to help, I said to myself. I was getting ready to walk into the inn when a young woman came out and said: “You’re not the first one and you won’t be the last.” She introduced herself as the proprietor of the Inn. “I’ve got someone coming to help.”
A few moments later a really strong looking blond haired young man came across the street. “This is Igor.” She said. “He’s from Russia.” Igor looked at the bike, bending his head to examine the bike from different angles. I was just about to start the “how bout you grab her here, and I’ll grab her there and we’ll…” when he leaned over and lifted her back onto her kick stand, without any help from me. Thank you Igor! I started Big Red up, angled her better and parked her again. And don’t you worry she was just fine. Her safety bars protected her.
Later, I walked the half mile down to Deadwood and after looking at all the bars, stores and casinos, I settled on revisiting Number 10. I say ‘revisiting’ because I was here in Deadwood once before, three years ago. See:
The sawdust was on the floor as I remembered it and up near the ceiling was the chair Wild Bill was in when he was shot. I had a pint of Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils and watched what was happening. The band was setting up and I decided to call my daughter for a chat. While I was talking to her an older (about 80 years old), somewhat bedraggled, woman walked in and looked around. I told my daughter about her and said: “I’ll probably end up talking with her.”
The music started, the woman disappeared and some woman named Wendy asked me to dance. It was “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” so how could I resist? After a while, I went outside and sat on a bench and watched the people going by. A few minutes later Nancy, the older woman, came and sat next to me and we began to talk. And talk. For over an hour. It was one of the most rewarding conversations I’ve had on this trip. I learned all about her life. No kids, two marriages, came from Winston Salem, NC. Liked living here, traveling between Spearfish and Deadwood. (About 15 miles). People were so nice to her. Always treated her well. She said she didn’t drink or smoke. She told me about how she felt about God, that He would take care of her. “Always has. No sense worrying. Something always turns up. Life is good.” I agreed. I found out she wrote poems and a guy who recognized her sat with us for a few minutes and read one she’d sent him. Better than anything I could write. We talked more and she asked could she say a prayer for me. She didn’t have to ask twice. I’m a boy that always appreciates somebody praying over me. I need all the help I can get. God knows it!
It was getting close to midnight and I had to go and walk up that big hill to the inn. That’s if I could find it 9both the hill and the Inn!). We said goodbye and I thanked her for talking with me. She thanked me. I asked her where she was going to sleep and she said: “Right on this bench. The bar’s open till 3am. They’ll look after me. Everybody is so nice.”
This is where I write one of those ‘this just goes to show you’ lines. How about the old standby ‘you can’t always judge a book by its cover’? Sometimes you just have to take a chance and talk to someone who looks a little strange. After all, Nancy did. And I’m thankful.

Day 8: Freezing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Microbrewery, Custer, Big Red, Tao, Deadwood, Cadillac Jacks Casino, Number 10 Saloon, Old Havana Cigar Bar and Surprise!

The sky was overcast, leaden colored when I started out. It was cool but became decidedly colder. I managed about 53 miles before I stopped and had coffee at Dale’s Family Restaurant in Hot Springs. The temperature on one of those bank signs said: 49 degrees. I hadn’t really prepared that well for riding in such cold temperature. While the newer bikes have heated grips on the handlebars my 2004 Harley Road King (aka Big Red) doesn’t. I have heated gloves which last about an hour. After coffee I was back on the bike, the batteries on the gloves were dead and I was freezing. Nothing to do but keep going. I managed another 31 miles to Custer, pried my grip bent hands off the handlebars and sought more coffee. This time I found an old bank which had been converted into a coffee shop, called, surprisingly, The Bank Coffee House. I had a great Americano coffee and kind people that they were, they let me charge the batteries on my gloves.
Then back on the bike, the sun was out and it was warmer now. About 20 miles down the highway I spotted the Black Hills Miner Brewing Company. The folks back at Old Havana Cigar Bar in Rome Georgia would never forgive me if I didn’t stop. I went into the brewery tap room. Here’s a quote from their website: “In 1876, the Black Hills gold rush was in full swing. Most settlers during this time, including Brewmaster Sandi Vojta’s family, were European immigrants bringing heritage and culture from the Old World. People brought and shared food, wine, ingredients, recipes and of course, beer.
During this time, brewers were making beer for the miners. Train cars would come in and deliver special ingredients that were shipped over from Europe to make beer. Beer was instrumental to the Black Hills mining community and because of this important and informative time, owners Matt Keck and Sandi Vojta decided to pay homage to the early settlers and miners of Black Hills with the name Miner Brewing Company.”
I chatted with the staff especially one young, vivacious, blond-haired young woman who told me her life history, which was interesting. While I was there a man brought in a box of flasks/growlers (64 ounce), which he started unpacking. They had the name and logo of the brewery on it and I bought the first one! I asked for a discount since I was buying the first one. “Sorry”. Name on the wall or a plaque somewhere? “No.” Had to try anyway. While sipping on my Pilsner 02, a man came in and gave his business card to the blond waitress. She blushed and giggled. “That’s the second time this week some guy has asked me to call him.” Bless her heart.
I had them fill my growler with Pilsner, asked for directions to Mount Rushmore, tucked the growler in the saddlebag and hopped back on Big Red. I stopped by the side of the road to take pictures of Mount Rushmore, the sculpted heads of 4 presidents. Someone pulled up behind me, hopped out of the car and said: “Hey look there’s some carvings on the mountain behind Big Red!” (ha ha!). Next, I rode down some beautiful twisting, curving roads through the Black Hills. Signs announced: “Warning big horn sheep crossing”. The Harley rode beautifully leaning into the curves with balance and poise. A good Tao ride. I finally made it into Deadwood, got a place at Cadillac Jacks Casino, showered and walked the half mile into town.
I wanted to go see Number 10, the saloon where Wild Bill Hickok had been killed while playing poker. He was holding a pair of aces and eights, which has come to be known as “the dead man’s hand”. I walked into the rustic old saloon, which had sawdust on the floor, and ambled up to the bar. I slapped a twenty on the counter and said with a sorta mean looking grin: “I’ll have some rotgut whiskey.” The huge bartender just stared at me and crossed his arms. I said: “Okay, um, how about that Boulevard Wheat you have on tap?” He nodded and poured me a glass. He was a tall, huge guy with red hair. I said to him: “Hey, it’s funny, but my motorcycle’s name is Big Red!” He just stared at me, didn’t seem to get the joke and I figured that explaining would probably only get me in more trouble. I will say that the bartender and I got to be better friends as the evening wore on and eventually he even gave me a “buyback”, a drink on the house. Why don’t they start this tradition at Old Havana in Rome! Come on Perry, Kenneth, Cary, Elliot?
I pulled up a stool at the bar. Behind me, high on the wall was, purportedly, the chair Wild Bill was in when he was shot. Remembering my friend Marlin’s advice of not having my back to the door I turned a bit on my stool so I could keep a wary eye on the people coming in. I was just sipping my beer, trying not to cause any more trouble and these two women sat down and started talking with me. They were in town to surprise a woman (niece and friend) who was just turning 21 and was getting married. She was getting married nearby and was in town to celebrate turning 21 (the legal age for drinking in the USA). Apparently, she didn’t know that these two (and others) were waiting at the bar to surprise her.
So we chatted and eventually she came and I got to meet her and her fiancé and the rest of the family, including the grandfather, named Gene! That’s my real name, though I have many aliases. “Dutch” is my road name. I spent about two hours talking with them and it was great. A funny, loving, down to earth family, filled with great warmth and South Dakotan hospitality.
Eventually, I had to leave. I said good night to the bartender, who waved and cracked a smile and I ambled back to the casino/ hotel.
I even spent a little time in the casino on the slot machines. I wanted to win some money for a lady friend who needs it, back in Rome. I pledged that if I won any money I would give it to her. Well, needless to say with those one-armed bandits I didn’t win anything. In fact, now my lady friend owes me ten bucks for trying!