Day 13, Saturday, July 28, 2018
South Dakota is a bit monotonous once you get east of the Badlands. I apologize to those of you who think eastern South Dakota is incredible, if there are any of you out there. For me, I found it to be a long and boring drive.
It must be that the guy who founded 1880 Town thought that this stretch of the South Dakota prairie needed some livening up too; he started collecting historic buildings and moving them to this patch of land in the middle of nowhere – otherwise known as Murdo. (Again, I must apologize to those of you who live in Murdo and don’t think it is in the middle of nowhere. I think you are wrong, but I’m willing to be proven otherwise.) Actually, the real story is pretty interesting. A film was shot near Murdo in the 1970s, that was set in the 1880s; the filmmakers constructed a movie set with a main street made from historic buildings and wooden sidewalks. After the shooting ending, they gave the set to Richard Hullinger, and 1880 Town was born.
1880 Town now has over 30 historic buildings, ranging in time period from the 1880s to the 1920s, and which include a church, school, printing office, a couple of hotels, a barn, a general store and numerous other businesses that once lined the main streets of small prairie towns. He has them packed to the hilt with memorabilia from days gone by. And Dances with Wolves. Yep you got that right. Dances with Wolves was filmed near here, and 1880 Town is now home to a gigantic collection of movie memorabilia, including set props, costumes and signed photos of the actors who starred in the film. Everything from war drums, Costner’s sod house, Civil War operating tables and even the “dead” Cisco (Kevin Costner’s horse), is on display here. It was fascinating, if not a bit dusty.
I enjoyed wandering from building to building, checking out the artifacts, and posing inside the Wells Fargo Stagecoach. The site is big enough that it takes a couple hours to check it out, and there are a few shops inside the buildings that serve snacks, sodas and ice cream. You can see what a prostitute’s room would have looked like, check out the frontier jail, or experience what it was like to do your learning in a one-room schoolhouse. This town has everything you would have been able to find in a prairie town in the late 1800s. There is even a 14 sided barn!
There is a spot where you can get sodas and ice cream, and one of the hotels has a show periodically. There are also wagon rides around the town, and you can ring the bells at the church and the school! I bet kids really love that.
The display is a bit tired and dusty though – with a fair number of dead flies and mouse droppings in the windows and corners – the buildings need a good cleaning and a bit of maintenance. That was a little surprising, since with the $12 admission and the number of people that were there, it seems like they could have afforded to spruce the place up a bit. Perhaps most unusual was the gift shop, which was a mix of your typical souvenir items in an antique store with antique and vintage items. It was fun to browse and see what they had, but nothing suited my fancy that day.
I stayed that night at Al’s Oasis campground, in Oacoma, South Dakota. I had wanted to get a bit further on, to Mitchell, SD, but did you know that the time-zone changes in the middle of eastern South Dakota? Yeah, me neither… The tent area at Al’s Oasis was an open field, with water spigots marked non-potable (huh?). It wasn’t too far to go get water though, and the grass was nice, if not totally exposed to all the RV campers nearby. I talked to my parents on the phone that evening, and just relaxed a bit. The main gripe I had with this campground was that the sound from the freeway carried right into my ears, and was loud and constant all night long. I didn’t sleep well, and was crabby as a result. Not all road trip experiences are good ones!