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South Dakota is one state we have yet to visit, but one that intrigues me. Chad has heightened the interest with his terrific photos, so I think I will take advantage of his expertise. Sheila and I would like to make a trip into SD next year, so maybe Chad and others will offer us a bit of advice.

 

Rule one is we want to stay on two lane roads. I want to extend my knowledge of the Yellowstone Trail through South Dakota, and explore the lesser known Custer Battlefield Highway.

 

Sheila is big on “recognized” places like Mt Rushmore, so we will include it. I prefer the vintage small towns and crossroads settlements, the less “restored” the better.

 

So, any thoughts to get me started planning?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

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So, any thoughts to get me started planning?

 

Well, let's see here.

 

First off, even though I've worked for the South Dakota Office of Tourism for over 16 years now, the Custer Battlefield Highway is a new one to me. :P I had to do some Google searching to come up with a map, which isn't very clear, but I can make some educated guesses as to where it once ran. Looks like this route was established well before most or any of the roads were paved and I don't have a clue when the name ceased being published on official maps, etc. My guess would be that the construction of Interstate 90 pretty much killed off whatever was left of the use of the name.

 

So, let me do some comparing of the vintage map I found and a modern one to match up existing roads and see what I can come up with there. If anyone out there can lead us to more specific info, I'd appreciate the help.

 

To make Sheila happy, let's point out Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills region. I'm sure pretty much everyone on this forum is a map junkie, so we already know that the Black Hills are in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, right?

 

Rapid City is the hub or gateway city for exploring the Hills, especially for those who do arrive on the interstate. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is approximately 18 miles southwest of Rapid City, just outside the small mining/tourist town of Keystone. US Highway 16 and 16A lead from Rapid City to Rushmore, but due to the heavy traffic during the peak summer season, this route has been enlarged to a four-lane, divided highway. Since we try to avoid those, I'm going to suggest a route that was designed specifically to show off and heighten the anticipation of seeing the "Shrine of Democracy" at Rushmore.

 

By following SD Hwy 79 south out of Rapid City for 17 miles, you will reach the town of Hermosa. Turning west on SD Hwy 36 will bring you to the entrance to Custer State Park, which is another attraction not to be missed, but for now we turn north on US Hwy 16A, also known as Iron Mountain Road. We pass through a small part of the park, so watch for buffalo, antelope, deer and famous "begging" burros. Continuing out of the park, we begin to climb Iron Mountain itself. There is a nice turnout parking area at the summit, with short hiking paths to overlooks with scenic views of the surrounding Black Hills, Harney Peak, and in the distance, there it is - Mount Rushmore. Continuing down the other side of Iron Mountain brings us to the ingenious part of this road.

 

South Dakota Governor/US Senator Peter Norbeck personally mapped out the route that leads you through sweeping pigtail bridges and three tunnels that perfectly frame the carvings on Mount Rushmore. After winding down the mountain and through the one-lane tunnels, you will understand why this this is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. At the intersection with SD Hwy 244, you will turn west to Rushmore itself.

 

I'm embarassed to say that I haven't written about Iron Mountain Road on my blog yet, so don't have pictures there to point you to, but here's a link to my main Mount Rushmore photo tips - Mount Rushmore. (I'll try to fix that little situation in the very near future. ;) )

 

For more info on the park at Mount Rushmore, check out the National Park Service site and click here for a brochure on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway.

 

Also, for main travel info on South Dakota, check out my office's website at TRAVELSD. For more info on the Black Hills and Badlands region of South Dakota, check here - BLACK HILLS.

 

How's that for a starter?

 

Chad

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Chad.

 

That is a terrific introduction!

 

I’m not surprised that even very knowledgeable folks don’t recognize the Custer Battlefield Hiway (as they spelled it). And you need not spend a lot of time looking for it, as I have an excellent vintage map collection that I will use. BTW, a quick look at the 1927 Hobbs Grade and Surface Guide for the Custer Battlefield Hiway and modern Delorme TOPO USA shows that much of it still exists, undamaged by I90 (See sections of US16 and state 16).

 

South Dakota had several auto trails. I have noted the Yellowstone Trail and the Custer Battlefield Hiway. Add the Black and Yellow Trail, the Atlantic-Yellowstone-Pacific Highway, and several more local named trails. I’ll take a closer look soon.

 

You have provided a great start. I also turned to City-Data where local photographers post local shots. Several towns seemed to meet my “authentic” small town standard. A closer look is demanded!

 

Thanks for the great start!

 

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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Chad, I appreciate that response and I'm not being anywhere the Dakotas any time soon. But I will be some day and hope I can remember to make my first Rushmore approach along the route you describe.

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Dave,

 

Great idea starting this thread to expand on SD beyond Mt Rushmore. We've been wanting to travel there too and I am watching this with great interest. Do you have any links you can share of the city-data pics you've found? Do you plan to post your map of the Custer Battlefield Hiway when complete?

 

Chad,

 

Thank you for providing the additional info and the links, going to check them out.

 

Jason

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So, any thoughts to get me started planning?

If you are in the north part of the state along US-12, I definitely recommend the Petrified Park in Lemmon, SD.

 

If you are in the southwest area of the state along US-385, you should visit Wind Cave National Park. Wind Cave is renowned for its boxwork. At 120-some-odd miles, it is considered to be the fourth-longest cave in the world.

 

And of course if you are near Mitchell, a visit to the Corn Palace is always in order.

 

Chris

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Thanks everyone! Great additional suggestions Chris, keep 'em coming.

 

If no one minds, I'll just keep adding to this thread until you've all got a full picture of the entire state. :D I'll try to hit the highlights of the rest of the Black Hills next.

 

And by the way, if you follow those links to TravelSD and the Black Hills and Badlands sites, most of the pictures you will see there are mine. That's my fulltime job - making South Dakota look like a place you'd want to take your vacation. Believe it or not, I love my job, because it's fun and I get to travel the state all the time.

 

If anyone has questions about a specific place in South Dakota, fire away. If I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to track it down. Like the Custer Battlefield Highway, still can't believe I'd never heard of that before.

 

Chad

 

 

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Like the Custer Battlefield Highway, still can't believe I'd never heard of that before.

I am indeed shocked. :o Next you'll be telling us that you've never heard of some of the other routes, such as the Hypotenuse Trail, that Dave has maps of. B)

 

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I am indeed shocked. :o Next you'll be telling us that you've never heard of some of the other routes, such as the Hypotenuse Trail, that Dave has maps of. B)

 

Sorry, but Dave didn't include South Dakota on the Hypotenuse Trail, but he did send me a lovely ballpoint pen from Palm Springs from that trailblazing trip. I have a funny feeling Dave has maps of a lot of routes that I don't have a clue about. :lol:

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While planning your SD trip you might check a not-to-easy-to-find page on the Travel SD site: www.travelsd.com/travelprofessionals/grouptour/itineraries/highway12.asp It is just a "teaser" but might help a bit to plan the Yellowstone Trail part of your trip in SD.

 

Also, if you do not have the Mobridge (SD) Tribune guide to the Yellowstone Trail pick one up in a business along the route. Or write to the Tribune for a free copy -- I think. Or e-mail me. That guide gives detailed and accurate (well, nearly accurate) maps of the old route together with some history and travel notes.

 

Searching out the old road leading to the 1924 highway bridge is fun. On the West side of the river it is just on the south side of the sitting bull monument. Then there are traces of the old route as it goes north of present US 12 bridge.

 

Let us know how it goes.

 

John Ridge -- Yellowstone Trail Association

 

 

 

 

South Dakota is one state we have yet to visit, but one that intrigues me. Chad has heightened the interest with his terrific photos, so I think I will take advantage of his expertise. Sheila and I would like to make a trip into SD next year, so maybe Chad and others will offer us a bit of advice.

 

Rule one is we want to stay on two lane roads. I want to extend my knowledge of the Yellowstone Trail through South Dakota, and explore the lesser known Custer Battlefield Highway.

 

Sheila is big on “recognized” places like Mt Rushmore, so we will include it. I prefer the vintage small towns and crossroads settlements, the less “restored” the better.

 

So, any thoughts to get me started planning?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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While planning your SD trip you might check a not-to-easy-to-find page on the Travel SD site: www.travelsd.com/travelprofessionals/grouptour/itineraries/highway12.asp

 

John Ridge -- Yellowstone Trail Association

 

Thanks for pointing that out, John! That's a portion of my office's website that I don't find very often myself.

 

In fact, the other itineraries there are very useful for the rest of the state as well.

Itineraries

 

I'll be adding some more Black Hills info later tonight.

 

Chad

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Sorry, but Dave didn't include South Dakota on the Hypotenuse Trail, but he did send me a lovely ballpoint pen from Palm Springs from that trailblazing trip. I have a funny feeling Dave has maps of a lot of routes that I don't have a clue about. :lol:

 

I regret the obvious error, and the Hypotenuse is the loser for the oversight!

 

One of the benefits of following the romantic old auto trails is that they organize or structure a trip so that getting there is half or more of the fun. And South Dakota is blessed with a couple of the most romantic…the Yellowstone Trail and the Custer Battlefield Hiway (I even like the insistence on “Hiway”!), and a dozen or more lesser known.

 

I can even see a photo extravaganza for each named trail, sort of a “Follow the ** Trail to South Dakota Adventure.” Hint Hint. :rolleyes: And I bet by now many of these old trails are scenic byways also.

 

I have to patch a bad link and fix spelling errors on my map site but you can get to a 1925-26 Clason’s road map of South Dakota here:

 

http://www.historicalroadmaps.com/SouthDak...SouthDakotaPage

 

Incidentally, Chad, one turns south from Rapid City toward Hermosa on the “Black Hills, Sioux Trail.” :):P Sure, I know its state 74 today…but where is the romance and adventure in “state 74”. <_<

 

Here are a few photos from a 1923 Rand McNally auto trails map showing some of the signage for South Dakota and region auto trails in days gone by. In South Dakota, probably all of these roads still exist, and not so much changed as to spoil the ambiance and sense of adventure. Those with a red dot are in South Dakota.

 

ARATSD1.jpg

 

 

ARATSD3.jpg

 

 

ARATSD4.jpg

 

 

ARATSD5.jpg

 

 

ARATSD6.jpg

 

 

And BTW, the tip on the approach to Mt Rushmore is a gem.

 

Keep em coming and Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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OK wow, I thought I was the expert on South Dakota when we started this little journey, but I've already learned tons. Thanks for the map Dave and the trail list. I had no idea we had that many historic routes through the state. The Yellowstone Trail and the Black and Yellow Trail are the only ones I knew of before now.

 

I did rectify the lack of Iron Mountain Road photos on my blog today. You can now get a better idea of what it looks like here.

 

So let's finish up the rest of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, SD hwys 244, 87 and 16A. Assuming we've traveled the Iron Mountain Road section as posted yesterday, we are now at Mount Rushmore. A tip for viewing - Rushmore looks best in the earliest light you can make it there for. Sunrise lights the faces in golden hues, but they still look good up until about 11 am or so. After that, shadows begin to form on the heads and get worse as the day goes on.

 

There is no entrance fee to Mount Rushmore, but there is a $10 parking fee.

 

One of the often-missed gems of the park is the museum tucked underneath the main viewing platform. Many people stand on the roof of it, take pictures of the carving and leave without ever finding it. It does a very good job of explaining the monument, why and how it was made. If you're lucky, you'll catch Nick Clifford there signing books and talking with people. Nick is one of the few remaining men who actually worked on the carving. If you see him, tell him I sent you.

 

Also not to be missed is the Presidential Trail, which leaves from either side of the viewing platform and leads to the bottom of the rockpile below the faces. If you take the left branch from the platform, you can stay on completely level trail right up to the rockpile. The right branch leads to long staircases down and back up.

 

The rest of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway encirles Harney Peak, the highest point between the Rockies and the Alps. West of Rushmore SD 244 winds past beautiful Horsethief Lake with Harney looming above it. About 10 miles further 244 intersects with US 16/385 and you will want to turn left, but only for about 100 yards and turn left again on SD 87, the Sylvan Lake Road. You will climb very steeply up a set of several switchbacks topped by another granite tunnel before reaching Sylvan Lake, where the scenic byway splits. Following the the easterly SD 87 part of the route takes you onto the Needles Highway and into Custer State Park from the northwest. Following the southerly SD 89 takes you into the town of Custer, and then east into Custer State Park from the west.

 

I'm going to suggest the Needles Highway branch. You will first pass by Sylvan Lake, which along with Mount Rushmore was featured in the movie "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets." If you've seen the movie, the monument and the lake are much farther apart than they appear on the screen. There's a great hiking trail around the lake, and this is also the main trailhead if you want to hike to the summit of Harney Peak. Pictures of Sylvan Lake are featured here.

 

From the lake, it's on to Needles Highway proper. This is one of those amazing engineering feats of road-building. I'll let you look at my pictures and description to see what I mean here.

 

As you drop out of the Needles, you will enter the main part of Custer State Park. I would suggest turning east on US 16A and making a circle through the park on the Wildlife Loop Road. You will pass by the State Game Lodge, which served as the Summer White House for presidents Coolidge and Eisenhower. There is a great set of photos and description of the lodge at historic-hotels-lodges.com. The lodge will be undergoing some renovation in 2009, so be aware it may not be as grand as it could be next summer.

 

The Wildlife Loop Road takes you through the main habitat for the large bison herd in the park. I'll let you read and see my thoughts about them here. You will also likely see antelope, deer, prairie dogs, wild burros, and possibly bighorn sheep and elk.

 

More info on Custer State Park can be found here.

 

I'll call that good for this post. Hope that seems helpful to everyone.

 

Chad

 

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Dave,

 

Great idea starting this thread to expand on SD beyond Mt Rushmore. We've been wanting to travel there too and I am watching this with great interest. Do you have any links you can share of the city-data pics you've found? Do you plan to post your map of the Custer Battlefield Hiway when complete?

 

Chad,

 

Thank you for providing the additional info and the links, going to check them out.

 

Jason

 

Jason,

 

I would just go to the City Data site and go to South Dakota. There are towns listed by groups according to popultion. You click on a town and get photos, if any, provided by site visitors. I occasionally will upload a few photos of a town myself.

 

The mapping thing sits out there as another project that deserves attention. The barrier for me in doing maps like the Custer Battlefield Hiway is broadly the issue of “quality.” I can probably do the CDH through South Dakota in an hour and upload it to Google in another hour….if I use the “most probable modern equivalent” approach.

 

However if I get down to researching abandoned alignments, many turn by turns, etc, it turns into a big project. So what I could do is track the most probably modern equivalent, using my old maps, and post the result in a form you can view on Google. Then if someone wanted to “perfect” my work, they could.

 

Would that be useful?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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A very cursory look at the 1927 Hobbs Custer Battlefield Hiway Guide suggests that for most of the distance across SD the highway followed near what is now I90. A quick inspection of a modem map shows two lane roads that parallel I 90 through the towns on the Custer Battlefield Hiway, so an educated guess is that the two lane was the old CBH.

 

There are two sections of the apparent CBH that diverge more than a few miles from I90, and might be fun drives. One segment in the west drops down on US85 and US14A into Deadwood and then west on US14A to Sturgis.

 

The other segment is in the eastern section of the state and goes along state 42 from Alexandria via Bridgewater and Pumpkin Center into Sioux Falls.

 

And a correction…..the King of Trails does not go into SD. It follows N/S just east of the state line in Minnesota.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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How about some classic roadside attractions in the Black Hills? We've got plenty of them and here are my suggestions -

 

Reptile Gardens, south of Rapid City on the road to Mount Rushmore since 1937. They have the world's largest collection of reptiles, but even if you aren't a snake person, there's something to see - beautifully landscaped grounds, birds of prey shows, a petting zoo, etc. http://www.reptilegardens.com/

 

Bear Country, just up the hill from Reptile Gardens. A drive-through wildlife park with bears, elk, wolves, bighorn sheep and lots more. http://www.bearcountryusa.com/

 

The Black Hills are filled with caves, with eight giving guided tours. I've been in all of them, and while each has something unique about them, I'd recommend the two that are operated by the National Park Service - Jewel Cave and Wind Cave. There are links on from here - http://www.travelsd.com/placestogo/caves.asp

 

Cosmos Mystery Area - A classic "gravity hill" attraction where balls roll up hill and people stand on the wall. http://www.cosmosmysteryarea.com/

 

Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer - A small amuseument park/campground with a Flintstones theme. http://www.flintstonesbedrockcity.com/

 

Evans Plunge, natural warm water swimming pool in Hot Springs. http://www.evansplunge.com/

 

Boondocks - a 50's themed gift shop/drive in/museum. Lots of classic cars parked around, and tons of nifty souvenirs. ON Highway 385 south of Deadwood. http://stores.fiftiesfun.com/StoreFront.bok

 

Dinosaur Park in Rapid City - Concrete dinosaurs roam a tall ridge overlooking the city. http://www.shellworld.net/~emily/dinosaur.html

 

Like I said, there are many more, but I like these the best for the retro/nostalgia tourism feel.

 

Chad

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Sorry it's taken awhile to get back to this thread. Family obligations over the holiday, you know... :)

 

Travel through South Dakota seems to be all based on east-west routes, probably a long-lingering remnant of pioneer trails, railroads, etc. However, one of our better two-lane routes runs north-south along the Missouri River - the Native American Scenic Byway.

 

National Scenic Byways has info on this route at http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2596/.

 

The Missouri River is also, of course, the Lewis and Clark Trail through South Dakota.

 

Highlights along the way include -

 

- The remains of Fort Randall, just below Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown

- The Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, with great displays of Native American artifacts

- The Lewis and Clark Info Center in Chamberlain, perched on the bluffs above a great view of the Missouri River

- The South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre

- The Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, also known as the state museum, is a gigantic underground facility with great artifact displays and rotating exhibits

- Sitting Bull's grave and Sacagawea Monument, west of Mobridge

 

 

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Chad,

 

You are definitely on a roll! Looking at all the places you suggest really whets the travel appetite! I especially appreciated the Native American Scenic Byway and the tie to Lewis and Clark.

 

Now I want something else. I want the places tourists don’t go! I know that is probably an anathema to a tourist office, but let me suggest that there might be an audience. The “undiscovered” South Dakota.

 

For example, I know nothing about the small towns of South Dakota. By the looks of the map, there are lots of small counties, each with a county seat, created no doubt when farmers wanted to be able to get to the county seat and back to the farm in time to milk the cows. So there should be many county courthouses built around the turn of last century. And if agriculture has gone toward big agri businesses, the county seat hasn’t grown much if at all. And the same goes for lots of small farmers’ supply towns.

 

So across South Dakota’s landscape there are modest sized county seats and old court houses, and further afield there are unassuming, towns and villages, perhaps with a bar and restaurant still in business, and maybe even a grocery store. There has been no reason to “restore” them. The hotel where the salesman got off the train to show his wares to the locals is closed, but it still stands, and maybe there is an abandoned service station from a later era.

 

Let’s take an example of the small county seat and grand court house….Britton, SD. What about the town of Britton? Population about 1500. BTW, they need help telling their story! Where are the photographs of main street Britton? I couldn’t find them. How about the Strand Theater, the Court House, and anything else that is evocative of Small Town America?

 

I chose Britton at random, and I have no idea what is there….but does South Dakota have many Small Towns with Main Streets and old theaters and court houses and railroad stations, and water towers, and playgrounds with swings, etc? Where are they?

 

I’m thinking South Dakota is a gold mine of Small Town America…but I don’t really know. There has to be a bunch along the Yellowstone Trail alone. Just wondering?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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Chad,

 

You are definitely on a roll! Looking at all the places you suggest really whets the travel appetite! I especially appreciated the Native American Scenic Byway and the tie to Lewis and Clark.

 

Now I want something else. I want the places tourists don’t go! I know that is probably an anathema to a tourist office, but let me suggest that there might be an audience. The “undiscovered” South Dakota.

 

For example, I know nothing about the small towns of South Dakota. By the looks of the map, there are lots of small counties, each with a county seat, created no doubt when farmers wanted to be able to get to the county seat and back to the farm in time to milk the cows. So there should be many county courthouses built around the turn of last century. And if agriculture has gone toward big agri businesses, the county seat hasn’t grown much if at all. And the same goes for lots of small farmers’ supply towns.

 

So across South Dakota’s landscape there are modest sized county seats and old court houses, and further afield there are unassuming, towns and villages, perhaps with a bar and restaurant still in business, and maybe even a grocery store. There has been no reason to “restore” them. The hotel where the salesman got off the train to show his wares to the locals is closed, but it still stands, and maybe there is an abandoned service station from a later era.

 

Let’s take an example of the small county seat and grand court house….Britton, SD. What about the town of Britton? Population about 1500. BTW, they need help telling their story! Where are the photographs of main street Britton? I couldn’t find them. How about the Strand Theater, the Court House, and anything else that is evocative of Small Town America?

 

I chose Britton at random, and I have no idea what is there….but does South Dakota have many Small Towns with Main Streets and old theaters and court houses and railroad stations, and water towers, and playgrounds with swings, etc? Where are they?

 

I’m thinking South Dakota is a gold mine of Small Town America…but I don’t really know. There has to be a bunch along the Yellowstone Trail alone. Just wondering?

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

Chad,

 

Bingo, and Double Bingo! I chose Britton, South Dakota almost at random, guided only by a legal site that gave advice to prospective jurors and showed court houses. Britton happens to have a spectacular court house.

 

Then I looked for photos of Britton and you would think it didn’t exist. I was disappointed. Even the boosters site is devoid of photos of the town. But I hit a site that awarded a prize to an amateur 16mm movie made in Britton in the 1930’s!

 

Believe it or not there is a long silent movie of life in Britton, South Dakota during the depression (1938) just before “The War” (WWII). Lots of footage, much more than I would want to watch in one sitting. But there is the downtown, the kids and cars, the housewives, the shop girls, the fellows standing on the corner, the farmers, and the bank clerks……the whole Main Street America as it really was.

 

Now maybe this movie is already a South Dakota classic….I would never know. But Britton is celebrating its 125th anniversary in July of 2009, and I’ll bet half the town or more are descended from the people in that movie. In fact, some of the little kids in the movie are still around today telling stories of the “old days.”

 

You can’t watch even the first ten minutes (and that is all I have watched so far) and not be swept away with the images. Two good looking girls walking down the sidewalk and talking, suddenly turn and you see the fellows standing on the sidewalk have evidently made a complimentary comment, a little girl of two or three self consciously plays with her hair as she is filmed, tons of “old” cars line the streets, and the downtown is the center of community activity…store windows with unbelievable prices, …a parade, the football game bonfire, the team in action….it goes on and on.

For Britton, and for South Dakota, if someone can’t do a “Then and Now” celebrating Main Street America using that movie, South Dakotans have no juice. But they are probably already on to it. I’ll find out, because the chamber will have an e-mail waiting for them Monday AM.

 

I’ll post some stills if they come out.

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

Dave

 

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