Wyoming and South Dakota - a short road trip

by Wiggy

If you're planning a trip to America's "Wild West", here's my brief guide to restaurants, sights and accommodation in Cody, Buffalo, Sundance, Deadwood and Keyston


Now, to say that Cody airport is small is something of an understatement. The baggage reclaim track is big enough for no more than two cases and right opposite is the car rental desk. And that's it. That's Cody Airport. Custom control consists of a door and if you can open it then you're in cowboy country. We dropped our bags into the Cody Motor Lodge Motel and checked the town out. It's one street, 1 saloon, 3 restaurants, 5 motels and a Domino's Pizza place. We just loved it. Buffalo Bill had spent a fair (though sponsored) amount of time in Cody and had built The Hotel Irma where they still have mock gun fights at 6pm every night. We only stayed in Cody for one night. The Cody Motor Lodge was $96 per night including tax and was situated right at the end of the main street. At the other end of the street is The Hotel Irma. Cody itself is less than five minutes by car from the airport.


Buffalo is as small and cowboy as Cody. The first night we went to the Historic Occidental Hotel where Butch Cassidy had stayed and where a portion of “The Virginian” was written by Owen Whister. There isn’t much to do in Buffalo during the day. The Cinema is only open Thursday to Sunday, the famous Buffalo Steakhouse is only open Tuesday to Saturday, the internet cafe is open Wednesday to Saturday and the Super 8 Fairground is only open at weekends. The Little Big Horn Motel provided our accommodation and cost us $75 per night including tax. It was a five minute walk from a couple of bars and restaurants but if you don’t want to walk at all then The Occidental Hotel looked to be a nice place to stay. There’s a little bar next to The Occidental called The Century Saloon which we frequented for pre dinner drinks before eating both nights at The Virginian restaurant in The Occidental itself where the food was excellent. Prices are low across Wyoming and South Dakota. Probably because there’s not much to choose from and the bars are pretty ‘earthy’.


This was the smallest place yet. Three bars, one restaurant (and the word 'restaurant' is really stretching it) and one pay phone for a population of around 900 people. About thirty minutes outside Sundance is Devils Tower which is a really weird natural outcrop of mountainous rock which is said to be a spiritual place for the native Indians. It's where the Aliens landed at the end of the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Well worth a visit. One night is definitely long enough for Sundance (in fact, that may be too long). There’s only a couple of places to choose from as far as Motels go and wherever you stay you’ll be within walking distance of the entire town. We slept at the Sundance Mountain Motel which was fine for $97 and had an indoor pool and Jacuzzi. The three bars were called The Silver Dollar Horseshoe Saloon, The Longhorn Bar and The Turf Bar. The latter of the three had some great T-shirts for sale at just $10 each. The only place open to eat at was called the Aro Restaurant so we had lunch and dinner there. There’s a small museum on Main street which is free to enter and that’s about it unless you decide to take the short ride out to Devils Tower.


We checked into the Celebrity Hotel on Main Street. The place was fantastic and had old western movie memorabilia on display such as Clint Eastwood's rifle from "Unforgiven." They also had a car museum which had the original Herbie VW, 007's Aston Martin, Burt Reynold's Bandit car from "Smokey and the Bandit" and even Tom Selleck's Ferrari from the Magnum series.
Deadwood was a strange type of place set right in the valley beneath the Black Hills. Gambling was legalised there in 1989 and as a result, you couldn’t move for slot machines. 'Saloon No 10' is advertised as where Wild Bill Hickok was shotand you can watch a re-enactment of the event as a kind of little theatre show.Earlier we’d travelled up to Mt Moriah Cemetery and saw the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. There’s a fair bit to take in and do in Deadwood so two to three days wouldn’t be a stretch. The Celebrity Hotel was right in the centre and was a great place to stay with fabulous rooms at $109 per night. We ate at the Gem Restaurant in the Mineral Casino on our first night which was OK but nothing to rave about and had a much better meal the second night at The Chinatown Café in Miss Kitty’s. There’s a couple of small booths on Main Street which sell tickets for a tour of the town and a trip up Boot Hill to the cemetery to see the resting place of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane (around $8 each).


Keystone is a tiny little tourist town at the base of Mount Rushmore. We checked into the White House Motel then drove a mile up the road to look at Mt Rushmore which was awesome. There was only one official place to park though and they wanted to charge us $16 for the privilege so we just pulled over to the side of the freeway and took some pictures. Crazy Horse Mountain is also just about a thirty minute drive further on. The entire town is only there because of Mount Rushmore and consists of a couple of eateries and half a dozen souvenir shops. A night at the White House motel set us back $75 and we ate in a terrific restaurant called The Ruby which adjoins a nice little bar called the Red Garter Saloon. We overheard that most of Keystone shuts down from October to March so plan accordingly.