CHEAP TRICK IN THE WILDS OF NORTH DAKOTA - MAY 2005
As Cheap Trick fans will know, they travel and play everywhere and anywhere! And whilst the majority of shows are in or near cities or towns, they do occasionally play at pretty remote places, and this trip was to such a place - Ft Yates in North Dakota. This may have seemed like an odd choice of location for me to travel to, particularly for just one show. However, I'd never been to either Dakota, and South Dakota in particular has an abundance of cool places to see (and new places are always nice to visit!) So having consulted the guide book and road maps, I decided that this was a good choice for a long weekend of CT and sightseeing!
Thurs 5 May
As usual, a long travelling day lay ahead, in fact it was a longer journey than usual with four flights ahead of me. I was up a little after 3am, out by 4.20am and parked up and checked in my local Leeds/Bradford Airport by 5am. It was a dry and mild morning in Leeds, and I hoped for similar weather in the Dakota's over the next few days.
My 6.05am flight to Amsterdam took off just as it started raining, and although the plane was only about 1/3 full, I had someone sitting next to me. Huh, how do they plan these things? When the door was shut I moved to a nearby empty row of 3 seats. It was only a one hour flight, but it's always nice to have a bit of extra room!
Amsterdam was sunny, and whilst in the Lounge at Schipol I watched a little CNN coverage of the early voting in the UK General Election. Oddly, I was keeping up my recent record of travelling on newsworthy days (US Presidential Election, Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Pope's death). Luckily I'd been able to make a postal vote earlier in the week since the voting stations weren't open before I left the UK this morning, but I'd have to wait until I got home to find out if Tony Blair had got in yet again (like that would be a big surprise).
The mid morning KLM flight to Chicago was busy, and annoyingly I had the seat ahead of me back in my face for most of the flight :-( Damn, I HATE it when that happens. Anyway, I tried to make the best of it by having a couple of beers, reading my Jonathon Kellerman novel and also listening to some MP3's. One album I listened to was the new release by young Norwegian rockers SPAN, who I'd seen in their hometown of Oslo less than two weeks ago. Their latest album "vs Time" has a slightly less commercial feel than their debut "Mass Distraction", but has really grown on me and is another fine release. Their accompanying EP includes a cool, dark and brooding cover of the Talking Heads classic "Psycho Killer" and this young band still deserves to get their big commercial break. Fingers crossed for them, great band, great guys. Oh, and the CT link is that Span opened for Cheap Trick for their three British dates in 2002.
My tedious flight landed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport a minute ahead of time at 12.14pm, and it didn't take too long to get through Immigration, get my small case and pass through Customs. I had a few free hours, and so took the CTA train to downtown Chicago and did a little shopping in the warm afternoon sunshine before getting a train out to the north Chicago suburbs. My girlfriend Patricia met me on her way home from work, we had a short stop at her house to pick up her bag before heading back to O'Hare for the next round of flights. Check-in was "fun" as Northwest's computer system was down and they couldn't print off boarding passes. So boarding was a bit weird and frustrating, but we eventually got on and surprisingly our two assigned seat were still free. We got held in a long queue of planes waiting to take off, and so didn't leave the ground until 30 minutes after our scheduled time. Since we already had a short, scheduled connection time at Minneapolis that made me a little nervous. However, we both only had carry-on so that if we made our next connection at least there wouldn't be any lost luggage. We reached Minneapolis-St Paul and hurried the 1/2 mile from our arrival gate at G19 to our departure gate of C15 for our flight to Rapid City, South Dakota. Luckily we were just in time to make the flight, and in fact the gate agent even let me dash to the nearby food court to get a small pizza to take on (most US domestic flights no longer provide any food other than the proverbial tiny bag of pretzels). After 1hr 15mins we landed at Rapid City's small airport and caught a shuttle for the 10 mile trip to our hotel. After being awake for 26 hours it didn't take me long to crash out!
Fri 6 May
This was our main sightseeing day, so we had an early breakfast in the hotel before I got the shuttle back to the airport to get my rental car. The daily rate was pretty expensive, so collecting this morning rather than last night saved quite a few dollars. The morning was beautiful, bright and sunny, and as I drove back to Rapid City I realised how small yet roomy this "city" was. We soon left our hotel (the Quality Inn on Lacrosse St, which had a large central atrium and swimming pool that reminded me of the Radisson/Star Plaza at Merrillville for those who attended Trickfest 2 or 3) and drove to the nice Black Hills Harley-Davidson dealership off I-90. After a quick shopping stop there, we drove south into the Black Hills National Forest towards one of America's most famous icons, Mt Rushmore. The Black Hills were covered in dark green evergreen trees (and which make the hills look black from a distance), and the roads curved past rocky bluffs and pretty scenery. We were lucky that it was also very quiet, I can only imagine how choked these roads would be in the summer holiday months.
Arriving at Mt Rushmore is a little weird, as you turn a corner and drive up a rise and suddenly see the four Presidents heads ahead of you, looking smaller than I'd expected and also somewhat surreal. But then, you still have to drive another mile or so until reaching the entrance and concrete parking lot. Walking towards the National Memorial through the Avenue of Flags you start to get the whole mountain perspective, it becomes more impressive and you appreciate the massive size of the sculpture in the mountainside. It was a cool place to visit, particularly on such a beautiful day.
After leaving Mt Rushmore we drove south through more beautiful scenery to the amazing work in progress that is the Crazy Horse Memorial. We didn't get as close to this as to Mt Rushmore, we stopped at the Visitor Centre/Indian Museum which is a good mile or so from the mountain. Slowly, a 3 dimensional statue of the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse on horseback is being fashioned out of the mountainside, and this is a far bigger project than Mt Rushmore was. In sheer tonnage of rock being removed from the mountainside, this dwarfs Mt Rushmore by many times. Again, cool to visit and somewhere worth coming back to in years to come.
The town of Deadwood is some 40 miles north, with the Mt Moriah cemetary up on the steep hillside and including the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The historic main street is lined with small casino's and you have to use your imagination to guess what it must have been like a hundred years ago. Or just watch the TV series!
Last on our touring list today was Sturgis, just north east of Deadwood and I-90, and site of the famous summer motorbike rally. In August, hundreds if not thousands of gleaming hogs from all over are parked the length of this small towns main street. However, at 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon in early May the place was quiet, empty and pretty much like any other small town main street in America. You had to just close your eyes and imagine
Sat 7 May - Cheap Trick at Ft Yates, North Dakota
Mid-point of the short trip and the day of the show. Although it was only a 250 mile drive up to Ft Yates, it would be mostly along small country roads and Yahoo Maps predicted a 7½ hour drive. Plus, Ft Yates is "just" the other side of the line in the Central timezone, so we'd lose an hour too. So, that all meant a fairly early start to the day.
Whilst yesterday had seen clear blue skies and warm temperatures, today was overcast and cooler. We headed back to Sturgis from Rapid City and then east on 34, ready to criss-cross our way north east up to Fort Yates. Ahead we could see heavy grey clouds, threatening the thunderstorms that had been forecast, and that certainly didn't fill me with confidence for the long and convoluted drive ahead. However, the journey was easier than I expected, both in terms of the roads and the weather. We did hit a little rain on the way, but the clouds mostly threatened rather than delivered. And my misgivings about the small roads were also misplaced, though this being a quiet time of year helped a lot. Literally, in the 200 miles between Sturgis and Ft Yates we saw about 30 other vehicles, maximum. The small, two lane roads were straight and empty, and it was easy to maintain a good speed almost all the way. With roads like these, I could understand why the bikers chose to come here every year to rally and ride. The roads cut through empty, desolate prairie/grassland, only occasionally interrupted by a creek, hill or butte. While desolate, the wide open land had a wild beauty, and certainly the air was wonderfully clean. One small settlement we passed through was Faith, with small signs proclaiming it to be "Home of Sue, the T Rex". Presumably this was where the dinosaur skeleton that is now in the Chicago Museum was found.
Bizarrely the last 7 miles in South Dakota were on dirt road due to construction, though on one side was a buffalo farm and I saw my first couple of buffalo whilst trying to navigate the bone jarring road! Once in North Dakota, the road became highway 6 and was thankfully tarred.
We drove into the small town of Ft Yates, to look for both the Prairie Knights casino and also the Sitting Bull Memorial. We passed a somewhat ramshackle painted blue sign near what looked to be a local tipping site, so couldn't believe that that was where the memorial was. We drove around the obviously poor town but with no sign of the casino, but by the water we did see the Standing Rock memorial which gave the local Sioux area its name. On the way back out of town we did eventually decide to stop by the blue sign, and walking about 30 yards we did actually find the small memorial where Sitting Bull was first buried in 1890. We then got back on the main road and drove some 5 miles north before turning back to Ft Yates, my Yahoo map certainly gave confusing directions as to where the casino was. We finally stopped for gas at a tiny service station and luckily an Indian driver who pulled in and waited for gas behind my pump was wearing a Prairie Knights uniform! So we found out the casino was 10-12 miles north on the main road. We headed back up there and finally reached the casino (in the middle of nowhere!) at 3.40pm local time (2.40pm back in Mountain Time). Since we'd left Sturgis at 10am (Mountain Time), we'd made excellent time to get here, despite losing a good 45 minutes around the town of Ft Yates.
The timing was lucky, as the band soundchecked only 30 minutes after we arrived. They collectively played "Oh Caroline" before Robin stayed onstage alone and performed "Shelter".
The venue was really nice I thought. It was a large room with about 25 rows of main floor seating. In addition there were some 10 rows of banked seating to both sides and rear, so it was like an arena venue but much smaller and more intimate. I guess the total capacity was around 1000-1200, and I gathered that the show was a sellout. The band also had a nice sized stage to work with.
The merchandise table was located out in the entrance lobby to the music venue, which also housed (for reasons I didn't check) a Hummer and a couple of other vehicles. Presumably they were grand prizes in the casino? Anyway, we got set up in good time and did some selling before the show, occasionally hearing the casino main desk announce a big winner of $1000 or maybe $1200.
A lot of people went into the venue literally in the last few minutes before the show was due to start at 7.30pm, though it was nearly full when I looked back as the band took to the stage at 7.32pm to a warm welcome.
RN - black suit, black Space Invaders t-shirt
RZ - white suit, white pinstripe shirt, white tie
TP - black suit, burnt rust/orange shirt
BC - black t-shirt, black jeans
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Southern Girls, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, RN solo into California Man, Goodnight Now
As the band came on and started "Hello There", there were two cool projections onto the stage backdrop of the 6x logo. The other thing I first noticed was that the colour of Tom's shirt almost matched the colour of his Waterstone bass! Accident or design? Hmmm !
After "Big Eyes" Rick gave his usual introductory spiel of "Just in case you're not sure, this is North Dakota, and we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick!" As usual, his assertion of Joe Dirt being "one of the finest movies of the last 25 years" brought laughter from the crowd, before the band went into "If You Want My Love". We were about 10 rows from the front and roughly in the centre, and the sound was really good.
After "Southern Girls" Rick commented on the "fine looking crowd here in Fort Yates, North Dakota" and added "I bet I'm not alone in saying that we've never been here before!" He then said they were working on a new CD to come out later this year, and then introduced Bun who gave a short drum beat in acknowledgement. He then said that "the next song features three chords - E minor, C and A, so if you brought guitars, banjos or harmonicas, join in!" The band then launched into "Best Friend", which impresses me every time I hear it. As usual, the band rocked out during it, possibly for a little longer than usual tonight. Whilst the band members excel of course throughout the set, this song really seems to see them all at their most intense.
As ever, Robins intro of "I Want you to Want Me!" brought a big audience reaction, and during it, instead of applying the pick "teardrop" to his own cheek, Robin put it on Ricks, smiling as he did so. After this song, Rick stated "We've introduced Mr Bun E Carlos, the beat of Budokan now it's time to introduce a VIP Very Important Petersson, the inventor of the 12 string bass!" which brought a short bass riff from Tom! Rick then asked the crowd if anyone remembered CT playing The Dutch Mill in Minot ND in 1973? Some people obviously did as there was quite a cheer. Rick then said he'd heard the place had gone, and jokingly "we're glad the place isn't there any more!" Tom stepped up to whisper to Rick who added "Tom says Minot is still there!" Thanks for clarifying that one Tom!
After Tom sang "I Know What I Want", Rick pointed out a group from "Vintage Guitar" magazine, who are based in Bismarck, North Dakota. A woman at stage front on Tom's side shouted something which caused Rick to jokingly announce "I left this shoe in this girls room last night!" She came along to front centre and handed up a checkerboard Vans shoe, which Rick held up to the crowd. He added "How was I last night?" and held the mic down to her. The woman retorted with a good, quick reply, "Bigger than the shoe!" to which Rick responded smilingly "Longer or wider?"! He added "Thank you my dear for lying" before proceeding to sign the shoe. He then noted "Its a size 11 that's my size" before adding "sorry to say, you were bigger than the shoe too!" That brought a mixed reaction from the crowd!
At the mid chorus of "Voices", Rick encouraged the crowd to sing the "cool voices, warm voices" lines, but they just cheered instead!
There was a longish break after "Lot to Lose", I'm not sure what was happening, though the crowd remained enthusiastic in the dark. When the band were ready, they started into "The Flame" though oddly there was no Rick spoken intro to it. During the song it was cool to see quite a few lighters held up in the crowd.
At the end of the "70's Song" it was fun to hear Rick get slightly confused by shouting out "Alright Fort Yates South North Dakota!" I think he got away with it! "Surrender" was well received as always, with Robin very animated and Rick managing to snag the flat up on one of the roof girders (which weren't very high). I wonder if it's still up there?
Whilst waiting for the band to come back on for the encore, the crowd were very enthusiastic and several lighters were again held up. As usual, there was a deafening "YES" when Rick asked "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" There was no confusion about where we were during Rick's spoken verse in "Dream Police", he was certainly persecuted "right here in North Dakota!" "California Man" went down well, and "Goodnight Now" closed the set at 8.46pm, though only with a couple of endings. Whilst there were no surprises in the set list, it had been a nice, energetic performance with the band looking to be enjoying themselves and a good, lively crowd. Afterwards saw the usual rush on merchandise, with the lobby area remaining crowded due to the proximity of the temporary bar nearby. It was also raining heavily as I came out towards the end of "California Man", the threatened rain had finally arrived during the show.
We left the Prairie Knights Casino and hotel just after 10pm, as we'd previously been unable to book a room for the night here. We drove back down wet roads towards South Dakota, though thankfully the rain had now passed. However, instead of having rain to contend with, I had a drunken driver ahead of me for some miles, driving erratically, speeding up and slowing down, and even driving on the wrong side of the road for half a mile approaching an intersection. Scary stuff. Luckily I was able to pass him on the dirt road and leave him behind, I hope he reached home safely. As we drove south the sky cleared to display a bright carpet of stars overhead, it nearly rivalled the spectacular night sky that you can see from parts of rural Texas, far away from light pollution. At 11.20pm we reached the Grand River Casino Resort near Mobridge, a pleasant enough place though calling it a resort was stretching it a bit. It had a one room casino, probably the smallest I've seen! That didn't stop me losing $10 on the slots before bed though!
Sun 8 May
The day was again overcast and cool, but at least it was dry. After breakfast at the hotel we left at 9.30am (Central Time) and drove nearby to the Sitting Bull Memorial (yes, another one this is where his remains were moved to from Ft Yates in 1953) and also the Sakakawea Monument. Both were on a hillside commanding a fine view of Lake Oahe.
After that, it was back to driving on those long, straight, quiet backroads south. Again, the prairie lands were open and barren, though oddly enough and like yesterday, we occasionally saw a "field" with a few cows or horses in, miles from any human habitation. Oh well, it's not like there's not plenty of grass to eat. Though I wouldn't like to be out there in bad weather, there's just nothing to stop the wind and weather just zipping across those desolate plains.
We quickly got our hour back by passing back into Mountain Time, and finally reached the entrance to the Badlands National Park early in the afternoon. The sky was again grey and heavy with rain, and it was pretty windy too. However, there was no way we were going to pass up this amazing landscape. It's a fantastic spectacle of weird, almost unearthly rock formations, cliffs, spires and ravines, caused by half a million years of soil erosion. At first we stopped at every viewpoint to take pictures, but with 20-odd miles of the loop road to drive, we soon passed up viewpoints! Whilst briefly taking rain shelter at the visitors centre, we overheard a couple asking a park employee about large snakes they'd just seen at some campgrounds - that was good reason for me not to venture out of the car much after that! Truly, its a spectacular place to visit and well worth the time and entrance fee. I just wish we'd had a bit more time. As it was we left the park mid-afternoon and were soon arriving in the town of Wall in heavy rain. At this point, many readers will have two words in their mind "Wall Drug". Yep, with roadsigns hundreds of miles away, the Wall drug store has built itself up over the decades into a tourist stop of its own, and indeed it was a large and interesting series of small stores and departments all under one old fashioned roof. The iced water is free and I took advantage of a 5c cup of coffee! But they got their money back from me with the 95c chocolate covered donut! Mmmm donuts <drool>!
We left in the rain but it soon eased up as we drove west towards Rapid City and the good old Quality Inn again. We were just left with strong headwinds as we drove along I-90, the fuel gauge dropped alarmingly as I fought against the wind, and I think we only made it to a gas station near Rapid City on both fumes and my willpower! Unfortunately time was against us as it was now 5.30pm, and my remote hopes of trying to get to Wyoming and get a brief glimpse of the Devils Tower were unfeasible. Oh well, another time. In the meantime I'll just have to content myself with making re-creations of it using mashed potato
Mon 9 Tues 10 May
All too soon the weekend was over and it was time to fly. Another long travel day lay ahead, and it was another somewhat grey, breezy but dry morning. After breakfast we drove to the airport for about 8.15am, and I probably managed to offend the Avis people by telling them which spot the car was in outside, but adding that "its not like you're not going to find it" ooops! OK, so Rapid City is a very small airport, but it's also very nice! Anyplace that has only one luggage conveyor belt (Leeds/Bradford has two) is fine by me.
We had no problems checking in for our 9.30am flight to Minneapolis, and had plenty of time there to make our connecting 1.15pm flight there for Chicago O'Hare. Well, the plane that would take us to Chicago arrived a little late but that wasn't too much of a big deal, as the airlines build extra time into the schedule. However, we sat on the tarmac for a while as the Captain announced that there were thunderstorms in the Chicago area and we were not allowed to take off. We finally got off the ground 45 minutes after schedule, and were soon told that our flight plan would take longer as we were being directed east across Green Bay and Lake Michigan, then down the Lake and back across to O'Hare, to avoid that area of turbulent thunder clouds. Well, my 2½ hr transfer window at O'Hare was rapidly shrinking.
O'Hare was actually dry, overcast and hazy when we landed at 3.40pm, and I had 85 minutes to get my case and get over to the International Terminal. In case anyone wonders, I couldn't check my case through all the way from Rapid City as I was on two separate bookings - one from Leeds to Chicago (return) and the second from Chicago to Rapid City (return), So, you can't check in on two separate bookings at the same time. Hence, I'd need to retrieve my case and then go to check-in for my international flight. Well, it was a rush it took a while for my case to make it onto the carousel, then I had to scramble up to the shuttle train to get from T2 to T5, and by the time I reached KLM's check-in desks they were closing up. Well, it was now 45 minutes before take off time and apparently the flight was already boarding. I was told I'd missed the flight, but after explaining how I'd been delayed and also bringing out my KLM Platinum card, the agent checked me in. I was so stressed from all the rushing that I barely registered that I had an upgrade seat. More uppermost in my mind were the extremely long lines for the security check, and at this rate I'd definitely miss the flight despite being checked in. After establishing that the people in front of me had a good 90 minutes or more for their flights, I'm afraid that I jumped the line. I'd never dream of doing that normally, but really I had no choice. Actually, as I gingerly walked up to the front of the line, I saw there was actually an entrance for First and Business Class passengers, so I didn't feel too guilty after all. I got through fairly quickly and literally straight onto the plane, though I'm afraid that my somewhat dishevelled state after all the rushing hardly made me fit in with the Business Class crowd. Oh well, no one complained, and it was only half full upstairs anyway!
It was a 7 hour overnight flight to Amsterdam, and despite my best efforts with thick eyeshades and earplugs, I got no sleep. Great. I was somewhat bleary eyed during my two hour layover at Schipol, though I saw from the mornings English paper that Tony Blair had indeed won last Thursdays UK General Election (but with a much reduced majority). I got my flight to Leeds/Bradford OK, leaving grey and damp Schipol behind. The plane aproached Leeds/Bradford by flying right over my Leeds centre office, and I was back there (by car) for work by 11am. I wasn't actually in a fit state to contribute much, but I was there! At least for a while!
And so ended another short, intense but memorable trip. The flying at the start and end was certainly tiring, with four flights each way, and the rushing about on the way home was a bit of a pain. But in between it had been great! I loved South Dakota, it was very clean, fresh and wide open, and Rapid City struck me as being a very pleasant, small town. For some odd reason I liked it a lot! The Black Hills area was gorgeous and there was so much more to have seen if only we'd had more time. In addition the Badlands were incredible, again I'd like to have a more leisurely visit there. All in all, South Dakota had been one of the most pleasant places I've visited, and I definitely want to go back. I'd recommend it as a destination to visit to anyone. Add to all that a nice Cheap Trick show just up in neighbouring North Dakota, and it really had been a good weekend!
As always, thanks are due. Many thanks to Patricia for her excellent company throughout and for putting up with me and my shopping needs! Thanks also to Carla, the band, Jon and all of the crew, good to see you all as ever!
Kim Gisborne - Leeds, England - 15 May 2005
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