You know the shoot-out scene between Kevin Kline and Brian Dennehy in Silverado? The streets are empty, except a person or two watching in front of the saloon? I think you know where I’m going with this.
I trudge through the snow-swept streets of Deadwood. After entering three casinos and finding each empty, I’m thankful to come across some hardy souls at Saloon No. 10, a movie-set–perfect representation of a Western saloon, complete with a long bar that separates the watering hole into two gambling and drinking areas. We play a bit of blackjack before I make the trek back to my hotel.
For the next 48 hours, I roam Rapid City, indulging in all the goods it has to offer. I grab coffee at the country’s largest Seattle’s Best Coffee, a spacious, almost sports-bar-like java shop. I eat gourmet breakfasts at the small, sophisticated café across the street, Tally’s Silver Spoon. There, the more-worldly-than-most staff tells me about some good wine tastings going on this evening. They point outside at the construction of the Main Street Square urban design project, which will soon bring a more modern, youthful mixed-use urban feel to this downtown (making it, I suppose, a bit more like every other city in the U.S.). I spend a day looking at comic books at Storyteller Comics & Games. I gorge on steak, pasta, port and vino at Delmonico Grill, a superior bistro with a solid wine list, sumptuous cuts of red meat and a regular clientele of the city’s business set. I drink beer with the locals at Firehouse Brewing Company, a brewpub built in an old firehouse (with the requisite pictures and memorabilia from firefighting past), where I overhear a Fargo-voiced patron ask his waitress, “Oh, yeah, see, can you give me my check, sweetie, even though I just ordered, so I can pay in the most efficient manner possible?”
And I spend too many late-night hours warmly tucked inside Paddy O’Neill’s Irish pub, telling the barkeep about my walking tour of his fine old American town. He loves Rapid City, he says. Sure, it’s full of more powder right now than an Aspen ski slope, but it takes you back in time. You get to see museums, galleries and statues of past presidents on every corner downtown. Tourists come back year after year, he says, because the people and buildings and the unabashed celebration of our nation’s history make them feel proud in a way that might sound silly and stupid but is real just the same.
With that, it’s nearly closing time. The bartender reaches behind him, in the small nook where he keeps the better bourbons, and pours me a final glass, neat. As I finish my drink, my night, my visit, he asks me two questions, and the answer is the same for both: “You want one more drink?” and “That’s a solid hat — you get it at Mike’s?”