Tag Archives: South Dakota

And Then There Were Two…

Tuesday morning the rest of the mining crew of Aren and Erik had to run on home.  Jesse and I drove them to the airport in rapid City so that they could pick up their rental car.  The boys had to drive to Denver to catch their respective flights.  Aren’s brother Lars was supposed to come to Deadwood from Denver for the rally, and could also give them a ride back down, but he was a weenie and never showed (Lars, you’re not really a weenie, please don’t hurt me!).

After seeing my friends off, Jesse and I drove back to Sturgis to melt in the sun and take in the custom bike building world championships.  The bikes were intricate and impressive. My two personal favorites were the steam punk cafe racer bikes.  I like brass.  There was also a gigantic bike that no rear axle.  Weird.

The plan was to peruse downtown and then head out to the Full Throttle Saloon to see Sebastion Bach and Cinderella headbang away.  Jenny and her posse were going to join us from One Eyed Jack’s.  Rad.

Both Jesse and I wilted in the heat.  Jesse decided not to go to the show and left me in Sturgis.  I swung by One Eyed Jack’s to gather up Jenny et al and had some cola and about seven glasses of water.  Jenny had to do her books so I hung out at the end of one of the bars and stared off into space slurping on my water.  After about twenty minutes a haggard young(?) bartender came up to me.  After studying me for a moment she took a long drag on her cigarette and said, “You can feel free to join the rest of us if you like.  We are all here to have fun, after all.”

My zen-like, heatstroke trance was broken.  I explained my drained state and asked for more water.  Jenny was taking forever.  The bartender that took over her station sucked at life.  While deeply engrossed in inane conversation with two dudes the rest of her clientele went thirsty and ignored.  They started clanging their empty beer bottles together making a racket in an attempt to get her attention.  She didn’t notice.  They left.  Looking good in a bikini will only get you so far, but if you don’t have people buying beer from you then you aren’t going to make the $1000 in tips the other bartenders rake in.

I guess evening time is when everyone decides to start doing body shots.  Body shots might be hot if it was two attractive people involved and one of them didn’t disinfect their bellies with rubbing alcohol afterwards.  Instead what I witnessed was fat, old, gross, graybeards slobbering all over the tight stomachs of petite twenty-one year olds.  The girls would put on their best fake smile, lay down on the bar top, fill their belly button with whipped cream, and stick a plastic shot glass to it.  The girls probably could have put a shot of maple syrup in the glass and the customers wouldn’t even have noticed by that point; this was the closest they had been to a young woman in forty years!

After being made acutely aware of my surroundings by the spectacle before me I began to regain some stamina and felt my second wind coming.  The girls behind the bar where I was sitting were hula-hooping.  If there is one thing I am sure of it is that I can hula-hoop for days on end.  I felt re-energized, so I informed my haggard bartender that I was in fact a better hula-hooper than everyone in this bar!  She said, “you’re on,” and pulled me behind the bar were I was to face off against their best.  She was tiny, tan, and smiley.  All she had on were a pair of neon orange booty shorts and a Jack Daniels bandanna tied around her chest as a “shirt”.  I crushed her.

I am a man.  I do not have girlish hips.  They do not sway, rock, or hubba hubba like lady hips do.  I beat this seductress the only way I know how: by pelvic thrusting the shit out of that hula-hoop.  Anyone who has been to a party at my friend Geno’s house knows about my amazing perpetual pelvic thrusting hula-hoop domination.  Now this young lady knew it too.  To add to her embarrassment was the indignity of her hula-hoop yanking that Jack Daniels bandanna off he chest like it was caught in a wheat thresher.  It appears that I may have won twice.

Jenny was finally through doing the days books and we sat so she could eat for the first time since 6am.  Three different reality TV shows had managed to interview her while I was hula-hooping.  There were about twenty reality TV shows being filmed on every corner at Sturgis.  Jenny’s sister, who also bartends at One Eyed, had no more voice and ditched u s to recover.  Her other friends she traveled with ditched us too.  We didn’t make it to the Sebastion Bach show and instead wandered Sturgis very slowly.  Every fifteen seconds there was another request from some gentleman for a picture of Marilyn Monroe.  We’d stop, and she would put on a tired smile, *click*.  Then we’d walk twenty more feet, “Hey, Marilyn, how about a photo?”  She was wearing her work attire.

I had no ride home.  This meant that I was the luckiest boy in the whole wide world!  Jenny put me on the back of her V-Star motorcycle and gave me a ride to the canyon.  We’d pull up at a stoplight where there would be all these old guys on their $50,000 choppers with nothing but a little tractor seat where they sat all alone looking tough and mean.  Meanwhile, I am on the back of a Japanese v-twin gabbing on to the hottest chick in town.  Big, tough, biker man was instantly jealous and I was beaming like an idiot.  It was in this moment that I realized that men have been doing it all wrong for 80 years–the girls should do the driving!

The drive out to the canyon was chilly and Jenny did not have much on.  I literally gave her the shirt off my back for the return ride back to Sturgis.  Jenny, if you’re reading this, send my shirt to me anytime you’d like.  I look really good in that one, you know.

Wednesday was… did we do anything on Wednesday?  Uhh… We went to the Rec center pool, puttered around Deadwood, and went to The Saloon No. 10 where we got a late dinner with our tiny friend Robyn at “The Social Club” upstairs.  As we sat at the bar munching on flatbread pizza-type things Jesse’s cousin Troy brought over a disgusting bottle of white zinfandel and asked if we wanted it.  No we did not.  He opened it anyway.

Apparently there were two tables outside who were trying to outdo each other by purchasing more worse and worse drinks for the other table.  The white zinfandel had won the contest and no one wanted it.  Somehow the three of us ended up with it.  I don’t drink, Robyn was done drinking as she was “fuckered”, so that left Jesse as the champ stuck with an entire bottle of sugary headache.

She sat starring at the sip of migraine poured into the glass before her with a disgusted raised lip.  A suave gentleman with perfect young-gray hair in an expensive suit made the mistake of coming to the bar and striking up a conversation with us.  He incredulously asked Jesse if she was drinking that entire bottle herself.  This gave us the opportunity to try and get rid of some of this liquid garbage.

Jesse tried the hard sell, “This is a lovely bottle of Black Pine Vinyards white zinfadel.”  She stroked the bottle.  “Would you like to try a glass?”

He wasn’t biting.  After a couple of jokes he returned to his table behind us.  I then just grabbed the bottle and got a couple of glasses from the bartender and walked over to the man and his guests and plopped the whole setup in front of them.  The man, named Pete, is the gaming director at Cadillac Jack’s, a casino down the road.  His two guests happened to be Penthouse Pets; Ms. January: Jenna Rose, and Ms. June: Alexis Ford.  Jenna loved the wine–then again, she is only 21 and probably likes anything that has alcohol in it.

The Penthouse Pets raved over Jesse’s wild big hair and caressed it while I tried to be hilarious and memorable.  I had never met Penthouse models before, I figured my best bet was to treat them like normal people.

Pete was entertained by us and told us to swing by Cadillac Jack’s and he would buy us drinks.  We agreed.  Downstairs the cover band was at it again and they played Nickelback, again.  Gross.

Thursday Jesse and I made a noon-time stop at Cadillac Jack’s to take Pete up on his offer but we saw him leaving in his Mercedes just as we were getting out of the car.  Some other time then.  we went inside the casino anyway to see what was going on.  Inside sat our two new pornographic friends from the evening before.  They were at a table signing photographs so we strolled on up and shot the breeze with them.  I asked how the rest of their evening went and they thanked us again for the wine.  They really liked it and were genuinely grateful that we gave it to them.  Go figure.  They each signed a photo for me.

Jenna wrote:

“Houston, you are so fuckin’ SEXY! 😉 / P.S thanks 4 the wine! 😉 / XOXO, / -Jenna Rose”

Alexis wrote:

“Houston / Blow a big load for me / Thanks for the wine at Saloon 10 / *heart sign* Alexis Ford”

Penthouse Pets are hilarious, who knew?

We headed back to our usual joint, The Saloon No. 10, where Jesse’s beautiful cousins Micheala and Charlie were signing their rally posters for charity.  I had them sign my poster as follows:

“Erik, Aren, Dave & Lars are weak little girly men who are not man enough to stay for all of Rally!  Houston is so much better!

*heart sign* Micheala and Charlie”

I am in love.

Inside we had some drinks with Wild Bill Hickock.  Our friend Travis is literally the face of Deadwood.  He plays the legendary lawman Wild Bill Hickcock in all the reinactments around town and gets paid to be shot in the back of the head twice a day.  Rally is Travis’ week off and he has shaved off his required mustache for the first time in a long time.  Travis has been invited backstage to that evening’s Jakyl show at the Full Throttle because he was featured on the Full Throttle’s reality TV show earlier in the week.  I am jealous, but will be seeing Jakyl too!  Or so I thought.

Jesse couldn’t make the show so I drove out to Sturgis to pick up Jenny, her sister, and anyone else who wants to go see a band that has chainsaw solos in their songs.  I didn’t know where the ladies were staying so I had to wait to hear from them as to where to pick them up.  Hours passed.  I played a lot of solitaire on my phone.  I got a text reply that just said, “11 miles.”  What the hell does that mean?

Later I receive a text that says, “in the shops.” Que?

I wander Sturgis looking through the shops trying to find the prettiest needle in the haystack.  I lose this game.  By the time my frustration go the better of me it was midnight and I went back to the canyon.  I missed Jakyl *sad face*.

The next morning I get a flood of texts from Jenny.  She was already at the Full throttle the entire time and didn’t need the ride.  So lame!  The previous evening’s confusion started to make a whole lot of sense as I got a plethora of communique that had been digitally sent fourteen hours before, but the series of tubes that guide our lives decided not to pass them on to me until it was far too late.

That afternoon Jesse, Travis, and I went driving deep into the Black Hills.  We grabbed burgers at the 100 year old Moonshine Gulch Saloon in Rochford.  We dirt roaded to Hill City for drinks and a great southern rock cover band.  We then headed back North and were stopped by an insane hail storm.  The hail pounded the car for half an hour with stones the size of quarters.  Motorcyclists were cowering under trees as several inches of hail covered the ground in places.  I put my hand out the window.  That was stupid; it hurt a lot.

After the hail moved on we continued our return to Deadwood for a second lunch at The Saloon No. 10.  We made plans for going into Sturgis that night to whoop it up and gathered Jesse’s friend Lori who works the casino cage at The 10.  The four of us made a go of it and moseyed into the Loud American Bar where we saw an awesome bad named “Judd Hoos”.  The lead singer had pipes.  The lead guitarist, who I am pretty sure was 15, shredded.  Good times.

A swing through One Eyed Jack’s meant Travis was now to the point where he could belt the lyrics to every hair band song that blared on the loudspeaker.  Behind one of the bars stood this plump middle-aged bartender who seemed totally out of place among the young skin that were the regular employees.  There is a reason for this.  It is because she is sofa king awesome!

These geezers would come behind the bar and she would just humilate and abuse them.  They’ed get smart and she would put them in had cuffs and dunk them in the jockey box full of ice water and beer.  She had the strength to pick these dudes up like t’weren’t no thang.  She would rip their shirts off and paint effete and humiliating things on their chests.  She would squirt whip cream on her boobs and set shots in her cleavage and wouldn’t let them have their shot until she was satisfied.  I want this woman as part of my posse wherever I go from now on!

We returned to The Dungeon Bar when I heard from Jenny and her sister so I left Jesse, Travis, and Lori to go gather the temptresses.  I found them in a vendor tent purchasing special insoles for their tired feet.  We walked a few blocks and met up with the others at Easyriders Saloon and got a late dinner.  The dinner of champions; fried pickles, fried cheese curds, and cheesecake (when I got back to Seattle my mother’s first comment to me when I saw her was, “you look like you’ve lost weight.”  I don’t know how I do it).

The drive back to Deadwood to offload Travis and Lori was hilarious.  Travis was completely overserved and was just being randy.  He kept telling me to drift the corners so he could innocently fall into Lori’s cleavage.  I heard no words from Lori the entire drive, just belly laughs.  As we came into Deadwood I got pulled over by South Dakota’s finest.  The breaklight was out.  This was Jesse’s car so it was Jesse’s fault we got pulled over.  Officer friendly had me leave my car and sit in his passenger seat while he wrote me a warning.  I think he and his partner were very disappointed in me.  They pulled us over and smelled booze just pour out of the car when I rolled down the window and they probably though, “jackpot.”  Sorry to rain on your parade, fellas, but I am a designated driver doing the right thing driving my intoxicated friends home.

That night back at the lodge the Thunder, wind and lightning was intense and I slept hard.

The trip is close to recounted.  Until next time!

Young Bucks in a Sea of Grey. I Also Saw a Cat Ride a Dog.

The time for entering Sturgis was upon us.  It was Sunday, the holy day of sinning… Wait, I think I got that backwards.  Whatever.

By the time we found a place to park the car it was already a bajillion degrees outside.  I made the mistake of bringing the wrong flip flops on this trip. Any water, sweat, or spilled drink and I am sliding around like a goof.  I end up having to walk like an old man using all his concentration and energy to avoid breaking a hip.  This day my feet are a bit sweaty and I am a goof.

A brief stroll through some of the bike builder tents, we take some pictures, and an agreement among us forms; fairings and giant windscreens on hog motorcycles are for old people. Fat, slow, not very limber, old people.  I say this with my extremely abundant experience with motorcycles.  After we cruise the bikes we go to a “little joint” called One Eyed Jack’s.  There are easily twenty bars inside this one bar.  Every single bartender is a young woman dressed to give the crowd overflowing with graying old men one giant collective heart attack.  These old men won’t die though; thanks to all the Viagra lowering their blood pressure, but raising the randy factor by factors of ten.

The first bar top we stop at is OK.  The ladies were OK.  The service was OK.  We moved deeper in and found another bartender who was OK.  After about ten minutes Jesse turns and points and says, “We need to go over there!”

We look up and over to the furthest, most hidden, corner of the establishment and see this blond vision beckoning us over.  On top of the bar is a crosslegged and nearly topless Marilyn Monroe.  We do as she commands and go to her.  She is funny, beautiful, and flirty.  We all fall in love.  Jesse and I decide that I need my picture with her to send to our friend Ben who was supposed to join us in Sturgis but wussed out.  The photo is of me looking smug, and Marilyn looking amazing.  The message to Ben was short and as follows: “We found you a wife!”

Ben then apparently used this photograph to convince everyone he met that this woman was, in fact, his wife.

We didn’t want to overstay our welcome with our voluptuous hostess so we ambled on.  We saw shops, topless young woman, topless old women, lots of motorcycles… and bars!  We went down the steps to The Dungeon.  Dark, brutal, vandalized, and pounding with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”– The Dungeon is my kind of place!  Aren and I had to duck our heads as we stumbled in.  The walls are covered with evidence that thousands of customers were indeed “was here” at some point.  The ceiling was awash in the panties of the ladies who felt that people like Aren and I like to have their dirty underthings hit us in the eye.  We do.

We had no pens.  Jesse was not about to drop trow and staple her ungies to the ceiling.  I had to leave my “was here”.  I felt that the panties-thing was a little to sexist, so I unraveled a condom and tied it around the neon Budweiser sign.  Oh yeah.

We left The Dungeon and went to The Oasis for some karaoke.  Some good singing before a crowd of hundreds was taking place.  Dave was the first to up and wooed the assembled mass with Hank Williams Jr.  A few songs later I was easily bringing down the house pelvic thrusting the faces of strangers and giving it my all through a healthy rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine” when the song just ended.  I hadn’t even gotten to the “Where do we go now?” part.  The “Where do we go now?” part is the entire reason to do that song!  The crowd was as disappointed and confused as I was.  The lady running the show took the mic from me .  My moment in the sun was over.  Jesse then made everyone fall in love by morphing into Tina Turner before our very eyes.  Her voice was spot on, and the hair was definitely big enough!

By this time it was two o’clock and four out of five of us were drunk.  Good job, Sturgis!  We visited Jesse’s uncle Jeff were he was selling his line of clothing “Celtic Roar.”  Then we ended up next door and Big Bertha’s Biker Bar.  Free peanuts and girls with their boobs spilling out serving drinks.  Perfect.  Jesse was excited and started spanking me with her new Celtic Roar bandana, so I naturally stuck out my rump for some more abuse.  Aren kicked me in the balls.  My day was now ruined.  Hunched over, I rested my hand on Aren’s shoulder and punched him square in the nuts.  Aren’s day was now ruined.

For the next several hours Aren and I bitched about our lasting, throbbing pain.  No one else cared.  This was something only Aren and I would share together.

We crossed the ally to The Knuckle Saloon where the server never brought us our drinks.  There is a radio station inside The Knuckle that broadcasts commercials.  We sat there waiting for our drinks for half an hour and I am pretty sure I heard half an hour of spots for Ford Trucks and Budweiser.  Since our server vanished, so did we.  The troop stumbled on and went into some… place.  It was empty and the bartenders were total babes.  This was new.  On a stage outside was the worst freak show I have ever seen.  The crew was wasted and my balls were still smarting.  I watched the most boring “Torture King” I have ever seen.  He stood on glass! Yawn.  He laid down on a bed of nails! Snooze.  I wanted out of this place!

It was 5pm and everyone was wrecked.  We kept losing Dave, the only member of our posse without a cellphone.  I am pretty sure Dave took 11,000 photographs and I am also pretty sure that every single one of them was magnificent.

Water, lemonade, anything to hydrate.  We bounced off the crowd and searched for something to revive us.  The car was still blocks away and it was 97 degrees outside.  My flip flops were useless.

The drive back to Deadwood was so hot.  The back seat was nattering nonsense.  Food was coming.  We ate Mexican at a casino and Dave I think lost $80k in the slot machines.  Once fed, over to The Saloon No. 10 we went.  The evening is as blurry as the pictures.  I do know that we ate chicken balls and the band played Nickleback, again.

I got everybody safely home and to bed.  Monday morning Dave had to return to Trinity, California.  Our constant buttcrack and our mascot (Mud) were leaving us.  Sadness.

Since I believe the remaining gang was hung over, naps at the Spearfish Rec Center were in order.  After powering up, using the Sun like the Supermen and Superwoman we are, we returned to Sturgis and made a stop at One Eyed Jacks to visit the only bartender we liked from the day before.  There she was, a ray of light in a sea of leather Harley embroidered vests.  Marilyn!

Aren and I did the flirting because he was upset that I got a photo with her and he didn’t. Marilyn, who we learned was actually named Jenny agreed to a photo with our Giant.  She hopped up on the bar and wrapped herself around a beaming Aren.  I told Jenny that she should come out to Deadwood–she asked me for my phone number.  She asked me for my phone number?  SHE ASKED ME FOR MY PHONE NUMBER!!!

uhh… umm… Do you have a pen? oh… uh…. mutter… Wait, I have a business card!

We left jenny and drove out to The Buffalo Chip to visit Jesse’s friend Molly who bartends there.  We did not find Molly, but we did find a bar that overlooked a bikini bike wash.  This would do.  Aren and I were sitting on a bench staring at girls bedning over putting sponges on gas tanks when this giant man from Alabama sat down beside us.  He was enormous.  A head the size of a beach ball and no neck.  He told dirty jokes and was a typical good-ol-boy.  He thought we were cool.  Jesse wanted a photo of Aren and I relaxing, so naturally, I rested my head on Aren’s shoulder and he, in turn, rested his head on mine.  The perfect photo.  The good-ol-boy didn’t think we were cool anymore.

We gave up on finding Molly and made our way back to Rim Rock because it was the night for the annual BBQ at Rim Rock Lodge.  It took a while because just outside The Buffalo Chip a kid hit a motorcyclist and the police and aid crews were at work.  Once back to the canyon the boys showered, sobered, played Uno, ate fancy steak, and were pleased.  Then we went to Deadwood and the old time photo place.  Jesse was not happy about this; the rest of were.  Jesse’s ‘tude made for magnificent photos.  Erik in a sombrero made for magnificent photos. Aren and I were along for the ride.

Hey look over there!  Is that The Saloon No. 10.  I see?  The evening was rad.  Jenny actually texted me.  Holy crap.  I received a text message from Marilyn Monroe!   We danced, the band played Nickleback yet again.  We ate chicken balls, and we may have put the nails into the coffin that housed Aren’s liver.

The party is not over.  Stay tuned for more blow by blows!

Wyoming’s a blur. South Dakota Killed Aren’s Liver.

We left the Colorado Rockies and wormed our way North and East destined for the vacation portion of our trip; into the Black Hills of South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!

After a shower stop and breakfast at the Western Ridge Ranch (home of the family of ladies who like to flip Aren shit because he is a “spaz”–I approve of this place, by the way), we got back onto US287 and drove North to Laramie Wyoming.  Even though breakfast had only been an our earlier we stopped in at one of the haunts from last year, the Altitude Brewery, to see if the worst server any of us have ever experienced was still working there.  If you recall (and by “recall” I mean go back to last year’s posts) we had a pleasant server by the name JT, or “Just Terrible” who was just that:  Terrible.  He meant well, he just sucked.

Instead of JT we got a lovely, competent young woman who got us everything we ordered and nothing we didn’t.  WOW!  Aren thought he saw JT walking around.  I was befuddled; Either management was incompetent or JT really worked through the bugs in his system and made himself worthwhile.  I had to know, so I asked our server, “Does a guy by the name JT still work here?”

“Yup, he’s right over there.  Do you want me to go get him?” She pointed to the gentleman Aren thought was the culprit, who was standing behind the bar yucking it up with some customers.

“Good God no.  He was our server last year, and he was the worst server any of us have ever had…”

“He’s the general manager now.”

I gave her a shocked and pitied look and just put my hand on her shoulder.  She gave all of us a knowing look of yeah, he sucks… hard.

It turns out management was incompetent.  JT, I am sure you are wonderful person, I just don’t think restaurants are your calling.

We left the Altitude Brewery and went further North on SR34 to Wheatland and Interstate 25.  All of Wyoming was in a haze.  It was hot and the air was blue with smoke from distant fires.  There were no green pastures, not like last year, and every lake and pond was dry.  Once off I-25 we went East on US18 caressing the North Platte River along the way (the only river I saw on this entire trip through the Rockies that had a normal flow of water).  US18 transitioned into US85 and there were many miles of brown, dead grass that followed.  Then Dave vanished.

“Where did Dave go?”  He had been a constant presence in my rearview mirror this entire time.

“I saw a puff of smoke.  That might have been him.” Replied Aren.

Uh oh.

I hung a u-ee, and headed back South to look for Dave.  Nothing to fear, Dave putted passed us and gave a “shocka” while two entirely different types of smoke plumed from his tail pipe.  One was white and sweet smelling, the other dark and ominous.  We did another U-turn and pulled along side Dave and asked if everything was all right.  All we got was a shrug and thumbs up.  Good enough for me.  I passed Dave but kept my speed to 55-60mph in case his Jeep felt like exploding at a higher speed.

A long line of converted 5th wheel 1-ton trucks passed opposite our gypsy caravan.  I guessed these were trucks that had just delivered a bunch of Harleys for rich people attending the Rally.  We arrived in Newcastle needing a fresh tank of gas.  I filled our tank at a business who’s only identifier was the word “GAS” in large letters atop a pole seventy feet in the air.  The four of us and Mud suddenly traveled back in time.  The gas pumps were from the sixties and my guess was that none of the pumps had actually filled an entire tank since then either.  I can’t imagine a driver patient enough to wait the four hours it would take to fill an 18 gallon tank.  There was a man with a Winnebago next to us who had been there twenty minutes and managed to only squeeze three gallons into his 100 gallon tank!  I bet that dude had a long night!

North we went, through Four Corners.  *Blink*, gone.  Then into South Dakota.  We turned off US85 onto US14A and down Spearfish Canyon.

The land that is now the Black Hills was at onetime the floor of a vast ocean.  Thousands of feet of sediment and limestone was laid down over millions of years.  A funny thing about the ocean, no one realizes this, but there is one part per billion gold resting suspended in every drop of water.  Much of this microscopic gold finds its way into the muddy depths and rests for a time on the bottom only to be covered even more gunk from above.  That is until there is an orgy of orogeny!

Millions of years ago a great ball of magma rose from the depths yearning to break free of its lithic confines and pushed this once retired seafloor upward.  In the carnage fractures appeared in the now rock-hard, former ocean bottom.  Through these cracks water, super-heated by the molten rock below to hundreds and even thousands of degrees, wiggled its way up to the surface.  Along its path the “one in a billion” gold that was once a negligible blot in the mud started melting and got fed into the highways of hot water.  Soon all these lonely particles of gold found their long lost brethren in the sources of thousands of hot springs.  As the water got closure to the surface, and further from its heat source, it began to cool.  Pressurized water that was once well above the melting points for gold, copper, silver, lead, sulfur, and quartz was now cooling to the freezing temperatures of these minerals (still in the hundreds of degrees).  Inside the fractures of the Earth from hence the hot springs flowed began a great condensation of riches.  Load gold in big quartz stringers!

A few million years of weather later: rocks break down, crumble, roll into stream beds, and worked their way downstream.  Some of the rocks that break down happen to be these frozen quartz intrusions.  Some of these quartz intrusions happen to be full of blobs of gold.  In 1874 miners in the South Black Hills found some of that gold in the rivers.  In November 1875 the real deal was found in Deadwood Gulch in the North Black Hills.  At the top of Deadwood Gulch resides the Homestake Mine; to this date, the single most lucrative gold mine in human history.  More than 50 million reported troy ounces of gold from that one claim were produced over a 125 year span (that is $80 billion in today’s dollars!).

Spearfish Canyon had its own share of prospectors.  The canyon walls show no mineralization save for the odd geode here and there, but high up the steep gulches, hidden by the black pines, white bands of quartz would shed their treasure and the nuggets and flakes of gold would roll down the creek.  About five miles from the mouth of Spearfish Creek a miner’s cabin was built in 1903.  109 years later there are six cabins, a house, and a lodge owned by my friend Jesse’s family.  Our drive down the canyon brought us to our home for the week: Rim Rock Lodge!

We all gave Jesse big hugs.  I said hello to Jesse’s sweet parents, Bruce and Cheri, and made the introductions of my ragtag crew.  A quick unpacking job in the lodge where we were staying and we piled into Jesse’s trusty white grandma car for an evening in Deadwood.

First stop:  Mustang Sally’s for burgers and “chicken balls”.  Spicy little deep fried marbles of cholesterol and chicken that we have come to love.  They drank lots of beer.  With our hunger quenched more libations were required, so on to the Saloon No. 10, the most famous site in all the Dakotas (a place that also happens to be owned by Jesse’s cousins)!  In the beginning days of the gold rush of 1876 there sat a claim along Deadwood Gulch assigned the name of Claim No. 10.  Seeing that beer, liquor, girls, and gambling was much more profitable and not as back-breaking, a saloon was built on the claim and carried the name with it.  Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the back of the head here–and still is to this day… Actually, twice a day to tell the truth.

The fever was on.  The band was playing, some foosball was had, and Jesse’s beautiful cousin Micheala brought the boys theirs rounds.  Micheala is also a local celebrity as she and her cousin Charlie are both looking good straddling motorcycles in this year’s No. 10 rally poster (they signed one for me!).  From The 10 we went to the Deadwood Tobbacco Company for the rocking blues band.  Then last called from there we returned the to The 10.  When I designatedly drove the party back home late that night the damage had been done.  Aren went to bed first.  It turns out Aren has a ten day limit on binge drinking.  His warranty ran out, and his “check liver” light came on.  Aren didn’t get out of bed until 5pm the next day and hasn’t stopping bitching since!

While Aren slept the day away Dave, Erik, Jesse, and myself went to the Spearfish Rec Center (the greatest rec center of all time) for water slides and intermittent sunshine.  Then burritos and back to the lodge where I woke Aren up and gave him a football-sized curried chicken burrito.  He whimpered, ate a few bites and returned to sleep.  This routine went like clockwork for the next few hours until at last the giant arose.  Aren said he wasn’t going to drink that night.  Aren is a liar.

More to come!

An update of concluding proportions.

The end of the Great diamond mining adventure of 2011 is nearly a month old, and many of the finer details of my vacation are lost in my hazy memory. Or perhaps were obliterated by the alcohol consumption which began in Deadwood South Dakota, and continued through Seattle Washington. Driven by a need to bring conclusion to my dangling ‘to be continued” I’ve decided to take a stab at wrapping up my recollection of the ‘mining’ section of my vacation.

A month ago, I left off with our merry band standing quadriceps deep, dredging a hole into a river in Wyoming. It took a little while to get rolling as only Houston had used a dredge before. But, our cohesion as a work crew grew pretty quickly. Admittedly there is really not much to moving the big rocks out of the way of the man holding the sucky end of 50 feet of dredge hose. Once we figured out the problems with clogging and how to backflush our dredge nozzle, we were sound as a pound… or is that sounds a yard (of material moved by a powerful water pump in mere minutes)? We were able to work for a couple hours, occasionally stopping to clear the clogs. On one of these stops, Erik called out, “Houston, company.”

A man had come to the bank of the river and waved us over. His opening statement was not a pleasantry, more of a gruff “Do you know where you are?” After answering the question, and explaining where we were, who we were, what we were doing, the man informed us we were on the Bacon n’ Beans claim. Now, we had been diligent and kept our eyes open for the claim markers which are required by law if one desires legal recompense against ‘claim jumpers.’  The problem comes when men, intending to intimidate you off of a claim, come along and warn you about the regularity with which gold miners in Wyoming carry guns. Since we had bear mace, but no guns, we decided to be polite and living members of society and pack up. The man who warned us away and explained where the functional legal claims on the creek were, also confirmed that he found diamonds in his sluice. ‘Plenty of them.’  But since the creek was claimed out, we decided to test pan another section of a neighboring creek. Houston knew that that diamonds were unlikely, but heck, maybe we could find a bit of gold for out troubles. The test pan did have gold! A flake or two. On the upside, we got to find gold in the wild. On the down side, for as much work as we would have done, we would have just been wasting time and money.

Now, being kicked off the river was disappointing, however it was by no means a crushing defeat to the Great Diamond Mining Adventure of ’11. Houston, shortly before the adventure began, had discovered and alternate site, which promised the possibility of success a few hours to the South in Northern Colorado. The secondary site was less than a day’s drive away, so we packed up camp and moved out.

The hills of Northern Colorado were just as impressive as those of Wyoming. To me, Colorado had the feeling of being higher altitude, as far as the visual aspects of the place. I believe our site in Colorado was actually lower  in altitude. There were other hints as well. The oxygen quality and weather seemed more hospitable, while the bugs and biting flies seem painfully more active.  None the less, our supplies stocked, and our hopes un-dashed, we descended into a river valley campsite, and looked for a place to throw in our hose. This is where the anecdotes and stories start to to become a coagulating mass. The moments that sneak out of my memory are those such as our success at hiding a birthday cake, and presenting it to Sam for his Birthday. Throwing tinfoil wrapped potatoes into the fire, and forgetting about them to the point that they had disappeared when we finally raked the coals. Other moments are more vivid, such as crushing my finger under the trailer hitch of the honey badger. For the most part though. by Colorado, our conversations had degraded to baser subjects, discussed in an amalgamation of oft repeated catchphrases, grunts, gestures, and bodily odors. In short, it was a blast!

Our mining activities in Colorado were more successful than Wyoming, in the sense that we managed to work more hours. We dredged a hole into the bottom of one of the nearby creeks. We found garnets, we thought we found diamonds, we found the sole of what looked like a woman’s shoe, burred a couple feet down in the riverbed. At the end of our first full day of dredging, Houston realized we were on the wrong fork of the collection of creeks. For real diamond discovery, we wanted the more southern fork, which had cut through a different set of hills. Time for relocation. We packed up the dredge, sluice, and tools, then moved them a mile down river to set up again.

Once more, we moved a sizable amount of material, and began to carve a good hole for ourselves into the river. By Colorado we had perfected the grease plate and were using a mix of Crisco and petroleum jelly to coax our little diamonds out of the water. The evening of our relocation, we also sorted through the concentrates we’d picked up on the first day of dredging the wrong creek. We found honest to goodness diamonds! The diamond tester, a little plastic device which hit the stone with a small charge, squealed like an excitable middle-schooler when pressed against a diamond. It ignored everything else as harshly as middle-schoolers often ignore those people they see no value in knowing (at least in my experience). Numerous small diamonds were sorted out, and many more small quartz stones were disposed of with the careless flick one might use to dismiss a booger or toenail clipping. Diamonds. We were heartened, and ready to dredge more the next day.

For my part, I ran to civilization the next day. We were out of Vaseline. If I learned one thing, it is that two jars of Vaseline will not stretch Nearly as far as you want them too. I headed drove along the dirt road version of a superhighway to get out of the Colorado hills. The dusty wide road was rather exciting, and while I never endangered the truck, I could imagine given a little power, and a little practice, how dirty track racing could be extraordinarily fun. I restocked our supplies, and climbed my way back up the dusty roads into the hills. What I discovered upon returning to camp was disappointing. Apparently, during the days work, some nice men wearing semi-official badges had requested that the guys halt their dredging. We had looked up Colorado laws about dredging, and had complied with them in our activities. But apparently the volunteer rangers were adamant and so the work had halted for the day while they tattled on us to higher authorities.
Unfortunately, a nice ranger rolled up the next day. His badge was official looking, as was the large handgun and numerous clips of ammunition. “So, you guys are looking for diamonds? Are you panning and such?” he asked. “Yeah,” Houston replied, “we’re doing some panning and we’ve got a three inch dredge.”

“Oh!” the ranger chuckled. “Yeah, Ok, No. You’re gonna have to shut it down.” Apparently we were messing with a river preserve for steel-head trout. And since we were in a state forest, the rules for mining were different (read also, prohibitive) He was nice enough even though he was “gonna have to run ya out of here.” He was curious about the diamonds, told us a little history of the area we were in, and was generally pleasant enough. But, it ended our Plan B, to which we had no Plan C.

Sam had already planned on leaving this day. So we took apart the dredge, and packed it back out. It felt like more than half a mile, especially because I got my boots wet and was carrying the generator on a pack. (Ok, I can’t complain that much, I did it on purpose so i could brag about lugging 150 pounds of stuff out of the wilderness) The pack out was done quickly enough and we loaded the truck. Sam departed early to get back to Missouri, while Houston, Erik and I returned to Laramie Wyoming, and stopped to have dinner. Our great diamond mining trip was over. We had success in the form of a small handful of microdiamonds, and knowledge of where one might go to find diamonds in the future.

To celebrate our microsuccess, and mourn the end of the mining section of our vacation, Erik and I got drunk with dinner. We then made the drive to South Dakota, blasting music, singing along, stopping along the way to refresh ourselves, and laughing uproariously when Houston pointed out lightning bolts by shouting “Bluh-blayum!” We followed a thunderstorm for hours (you can imagine the endless hilarity of ‘bluh-blayum’ing), and rolled into Deadwood South Dakota around midnight.  Then we hit the Bars. We went dancing with Jesse, our host in Deadwood, and received the compliment that we all smelled like campfire. The adventure had come to a close, and the vacation had begun. Within a few days the campfire smell had washed off and the laundry was clean once more. The vacation lost the last little remnants of work, and became purely fun, and lounging poolside.

Thanks for reading.


The great diamond hunt of 2011 looms!

Everything is getting packed. Tents, cots, Igloo coolers, chairs, shovels, rock hammers, picks, pry bars, dredges, sluices, gold pans, engines, gas cans, wet suits, hip waders, hiking boots, external-frame packs, towels, propane tanks… Freaking everything!

I hit the road and begin to collect my crew Wednesday morning and I don’t return from this adventure until August… hopefully rich and tan! Where am I going this year? Wyoming, of course! Our first stop is to a place I call “Secret Spot” to hunt for opals. Opals of all kinds; white, black, fire, precious. I don’t care. What I do care about though is setting a world record. Our goal: Find the largest opal boulder on record, bring it back to Seattle and polish it. It won’t take much to beat the current world record holder, the Galaxy Opal from Brazil, all we have to do is beat 5,000 carats polished. I don’t just want to beat it, I want to destroy the world record! I am shooting for 100,000 carats plus this year. Anything less will be a failure!

Second stop, and our shot at a second world record, Central Woming and the hunt for a giant iolite gem. We’re talking man-sized, hundreds of pounds. A real MONSTER. The goal: To find and facet the largest natural gemstone on planet Earth. The current record holder is the America Golden Topaz, also from Brazil, that weighs in at about 22,000 carats. I want to destroy this record too. I want a stone so big that when we cut it, the table of the stone can be used as an actual table!

Stop three, the Medicine Bow Mountains. Here is the main gold of the trip; to get as many diamonds as we can shovel and dredge. I chose a certain creek in the Medicine Bows for a good reason; for its historical gold production, and for the fact that 14 identifiable kimberlite pipes drain into it. If I’m not getting buckets of diamonds, I am sure as hell going to be getting some gold while I’m out there!

My crew will swell to as large as ten adventure hungry near-do-wells at times, and our backs will be breaking with the promise of riches that will await us in the rockies.

Opal, Iolite, and Diamonds 2011, Ho!