Not counting multi-club regional and national events, there are very few MINI groups in the U.S. who rival Eastern Iowa MINIs when it comes to exciting and fun-filled, multi-day, out-of-area MINI motoring adventures to special destinations. This year’s 2016 EIM Black Hills Stampede, held on 18-22 May in the scenic Black Hills region of southwest South Dakota, was certainly no exception. A cadre of 26 fun-loving EIMers and 14 MINIs covered more mountain twisties and took in more scenic vistas over the long weekend than one can enumerate or imagine. This was EIM’s fourth trip to the area since 2008 and, by all accounts, it was one of the best.
Our decision to bivouac on Wednesday evening in Blue Earth, MN was excellent as it provided more time to socialize and get psyched up for the transit west, provided for some awesome photo ops at the Jolly Green Giant, and facilitated a sufficiently early departure on Thursday morning that provided ample time for exploring Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, and stops in Rapid City on the way into our base of operations at the K-Bar-S Lodge just outside of Keystone, SD. The weather was close to perfect and allowed our group to fully enjoy the exploration opportunities at all of the stops.
Friday’s skies dawned cobalt blue and after a few cold showers in one unit (we don’t know anything about who might have turned off the gas valve in the dark instead of the car wash water hose bib…do we Phil N.? 😉 ) we were off early to our nearby favorites, Mt. Rushmore National Monument and a hair-raising run down US-16A / Iron Mountain Road. After a stop at the new Custer State Park Visitor’s Center we enjoyed a superb buffet lunch at the CSP State Game Lodge, a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and serving as the Summer White House for President Coolidge back in 1927. After lunch we circled the CSP Scenic Wildlife Loop (fortunately only the MINIs and not the bison were stampeding) followed by another exhilarating run north on the Needles Highway, with stops at multiple overlooks including the “Eye of the Needle,” and a much-needed rest stop at the Sylvan Lake Lodge. Then it was down the mountain into Hill City, a stop for some at the Prairie Berry Winery for a little tasting and shopping, and a transit back into Keystone under increasingly threatening skies. That threat materialized into a whopper of an evening thunderstorm that sat over the mountains over several hours and upped the “pucker factor” with heavy rain and four separate instances of pea-sized hail, enough to accumulate like snow. It was rather tense for a while but thankfully the storm never devolved to the point of causing damage to our beloved MINIs. Not wanting to venture out en masse into the storm, the night was capped off in grand style when Laura R. and Peggy J. made a pizza run into Keystone (on behalf of their reluctant spouses, Mike R. and Steve M., who balked at getting stuck out in the weather). This turned into a true “Thelma and Louise” adventure complete with the dodging of flood waters, a solid stream of hilarious and “colorful” text message dialog, some Russian beer, an almost-missing-persons APB, and the ladies finally returning late to the K-Bar-S lobby with some great pizza and laughing so hard they were having trouble controlling their tears and their bladders. Of course, their virtuoso telling of the story had us all rolling on the floor laughing. Great times!
Saturday morning saw the bulk of our MINIs making a misty mountain run north on US-385 with stops at the Pactola Reservoir Overlook and at the brand new Homestake Visitor’s Center in Lead. Then it was southwest over the ridge on US-85 and then a spirited run north (after dispatching the student driver in front of us) on the Spearfish Canyon Highway, with several stops along the way including Bridal Veil Falls, with Cindy C.‘s “shoe incident” thrown in for good measure. That was so much fun, we decided to make a return trip up the canyon and back through Lead on our way into Deadwood for lunch and shopping. This group then filled the afternoon with a run west on US-14 to the outskirts of Sturgis and then south on Vanocker Canyon Road, Nemo Road, Norris Peak Road, and back on US-385 toward Hill City. Other MINIs in our group checked out the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Reptile Gardens, the Rapid City Bear Park, and other destinations. A gathering at the Ruby House Restaurant in Keystone for supper made a great exclamation point to a fun-filled day of MINI motoring. As our MINI mates started their independent return trips home on Sunday morning, it was hard to believe how fast the time had passed.
In addition to the folks mentioned previously, we want to give a shout out to Chris G. for his timely OBDII code reader expertise (and for the MINI “music” during the tunnel passages!) and to Steve & Juli B. for the GoPro video footage. A sincere thanks to all of the EIMers who participated in this trip and made all of the memories that much more special.
We’ve added lots of photos from our adventure in our Photo Gallery. You can access them directly using the following link:
Be sure to check out the EIM Facebook Page for even more photos and memories.