Side Trip from Custer State Park


A South Dakota Day Trip to the Towns of Lead, Deadwood and Sturgis

We decided to give our legs a break after yesterday’s long hike so we headed north to the towns of Lead, Deadwood and Sturgis. It was also the night we almost hit a buffalo on the road!!

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Breakfast in Custer: Baker’s Bakery & Café

Our day started out with breakfast at Baker’s Bakery & Café.

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We both ordered the Western Omelet, but I got the homemade wheat toast and Dave got the sourdough. The bread is dense and delicious! The portions are big and the meal was tasty.

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We both wanted to try at least one pastry since we saw a lot of people coming in and picking up coffee and one to go.

Custer State ParkThere was no way we could eat it after our big breakfast so we bought a cookie and a cinnamon roll for later. Both were absolutely divine! So good in fact, we visited twice more for a caramel roll and another cookie, later in the week for a quick snack!

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We loved their buns alright!

Custer State Park

Gold Mine Turned Nobel-Prize Experiment in Lead

We stopped in the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center without a clue what we were entering. We thought it was just the old gold mine we had read about in Lead (pronounced LEED oddly enough), but didn’t know what used to be the largest gold mine in the Western Hemisphere is now home to an underground physics research facility.

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Over the course of 126 years, miners pulled out more than 41 million ounces of gold and 9 million ounces of silver from the mine. It was closed in 2001, leaving over 370 miles of tunnels as deep as 8,000 feet underground.

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In 1965, a chemist transitioned the mine into an experimental compound and ended up winning the Nobel Prize for his findings regarding particle physics. I’m no scientist; my novice background goes as far as high school chemistry and my in-depth knowledge of the television show, Big Bang Theory, but this is an interesting stop.

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Basically, there are particles called neutrinos that exist in the world around us. There are billions of them floating (not sure that’s the correct term) in every inch of space, but until his research no one had been able to find (record?) them because of all the “noise” within our atmosphere. Since the cavern is deep underground, he was able to cut out all the noise and make groundbreaking discoveries that led to the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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The Not-so-Western Town of Deadwood

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I was a little disappointed in Deadwood in regards to an Old Western town, but still enjoyed our time walking around and gambling. I thought it would look and feel more authentic than it did. C’mon it’s where Wild Bill Hickock was killed after all!

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The year was 1876 and the prospect of gold brought an array of characters to the town of Deadwood. It may not be the place to pan for gold anymore, but with casinos lurking around every corner there’s still a chance of striking it rich!

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Knuckles Brewery in Sturgis

We made a short stop in the deserted town of Sturgis to try out the new(ish) Knuckles Brewery. With no festivals going on, it was extremely quiet driving around. It’s hard to imagine what the town turns into during the month of August with its world-famous motorcycle rally.

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The Night We Almost Hit a Buffalo

It was a long day with dusk just settling in when we were making our way back to the campground in Custer State Park. As we were driving, we noticed a motorcycle in the opposite lane coming toward us without his lights on. We were commenting on how dumb this person was since we are in the middle of a park filled with burly animals. What is he thinking? As we slowed down while passing him, we discovered it wasn’t a motorcyclist at all, it was a husky buffalo trotting down the highway!

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Next Stop: Mount Rushmore, Jewel Cave and a Rodeo

Miles Driven Today: 207, Total Miles Driven: 1,338, Average Gas Price per Gallon: $2.29, States: South Dakota

And so our epic 80 day summer road trip continues – 12 U.S. states, 1 Canadian province and 11 national parks. Follow our journey via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you would like to see our full itinerary, start at the beginning here. And Day 1 here.

Make sure to sign up below to join our adventures!

Thank you South Dakota CVB for providing us with breakfast at Baker’s Bakery. All words and opinions, however, are my own.

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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

4 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    That is so funny (yet very scary) that at dusk a huge buffalo was trotting down the road, looking like a motorcycle. It’s a good thing he was trained well in the rules of the road and knew to stay in the right hand lane when you passed him, or he would have literally been “dead meat”!

    • Dang Travelers

      Dead meat..good one! It’s scary when you think about what could have happened if he was on our side and we didn’t see him, but since that wasn’t the case we laughed all the way back to the campground!

  2. Kim B

    Hey there Dang,
    I’ve been to Deadwood and Sturgis but not to Lead. thank you so much for the information, I know this is a place hubby will love.
    My mom would’ve loved the bakery to, unfortunately I didn’t see it in the area. I won’t forget.


    Kim B

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