Getting out and about in your Corvette is about as good a reason for owning one as exists. Knowing this, your next step is to find out exactly where you want to drive. And that’s exactly where the following comes in handy.
What has to be one of our favorite outings is the Black Hills Corvette Classic (spread over five days) held yearly and encompasses the breadth of South Dakota (it begins at the eastern border in Sioux Falls and ends at the western border in Spearfish). Hosted for the 47th time, it makes this one of, if not the, longest-running Corvette event in the world. The Black Hills Corvette Classic is organized by the Sioux Falls Corvette Club and hosted by Jerry’s Chevrolet (Beresford, South Dakota; neighboring city). Jerry’s Chevrolet is one of the premier outlets for buying a new or used Corvette in the country. Its Corvette department is headed by Chief Corvette-ologist Barry Konken who also was part of the “fun to be had by all” week and one of the driving forces behind the event.
It takes dedicated club members to organize and carry out such an event. It’s here that the Sioux Falls Corvette Club once again comes into play along with the Holiday Inn (host hotel) in Spearfish. The event begins with a morning/afternoon gathering at Jerry’s Chevrolet that’s followed up by a car show in downtown Sioux Falls on Main Street (although this year inclement weather nixed this part of the event). The next morning it’s bright and early and onto the road for the nearly 200 Corvettes as they make their way westward.
Think of this event as a Corvette sandwich. You have Sioux Falls on one side and the town of Spearfish on the other. In between you have approximately 393 miles along Interstate 90 (with its middle section of approximately 250 miles of highway driving) providing the “meat” for your Corvette sandwich. It’s out here on this remote stretch of highway between these two towns that one has the ability to run 80 mph (speed limit) making the dash to Spearfish.
There’s a lot to see along the 393-mile drive, which would normally take around 5 hours 30 minutes, as well as have a meal or two along the way and stop off and play tourist and take in old cowboy towns and a pretty good bit of high Plains history.
Some of the great places one could pull off Interstate 90 to visit and get gas, or maybe a bite to eat before resuming the “hammer down” journey to Spearfish are as follows. One of my favorites is ... and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but … The Corn Palace is a very cool place to visit.
World’s Only Corn Palace: This palace is decorated using corn, native grasses, straw, milo and sour dock each year to depict a different theme. A local farmer grows all of the corn for the palace and a local artist, along with a supporting cast of 20, works to change the design each year.
Dakota Discovery Museum: Pioneer and Native American life on the prairie depicted around a one-room schoolhouse.
Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village: This ancient Indian Village is more than 1,000 years old.
Al’s Oasis: It was only a matter of time before food crept into the conversation! Their buffalo burgers and pie is definitely “fuel for the body and soul.”
Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center: This museum is located on the campus of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain and provides history and learning about Native American life.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center: This interstate stop offers a great deal of interesting history on the explorers Lewis and Clark.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: There was a time, the Cold War era, when being prepared had a very ominous tone. You can see Delta-09, an underground concrete silo on the edge of Badlands National Park held a Minuteman II missile. Tours of the silo and the Delta Launch Control Facility are offered.
Badlands National Park: Striking landscape via a maze of buttes, canyons, pinnacles and spires. The Lakota gave this land its name, “mako sica,” meaning “land bad.” Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). Within the 244,000 acres we were able to find bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule and whitetail deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, eagles and hawks.
Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway: We took our 2019 Corvette Z51 (thank you Chevrolet!) on this 39-mile loop between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall. There are 16 designated scenic overlooks that provide plenty of chances to pull over and enjoy the views … and we stopped at many of them managing to get our Corvette properly positioned for some cool shots.
Wall: Located on the northwestern rim of Badlands National Park, Wall is a small town that houses Wall Drug, a family-owned drug store that’s known worldwide. A favorite roadside attraction since 1931. This 76,000-square-foot emporium has free ice water, 5¢ coffee, donuts to feed a crowd and an outdoor playground. (Before anyone asks … yes, we found the donuts!)
Wounded Knee Museum: The museum serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives at Wounded Knee Creek. The mission of the museum is to provide and enhance knowledge of this shared history.
Rapid City is centrally located in the Black Hills and is South Dakota’s second-largest city. It’s known to be a hub for visitors interested in Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Dinosaur Park and the Journey Museum and Learning Center and many other world-class attractions. (Each day the Sioux Falls Corvette Club led outings so that each Corvette owner could get out and see the sights.)
Sturgis is famous in its own right, and the last stop before Spearfish. Bear Butte State Park is located six miles northeast of Sturgis. Additionally, there is the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, which is home to a variety of motorcycles dating back to 1905.
Being the neighboring town, it is a quick drive from Sturgis to Spearfish, the midway point between Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Devils Tower National Monument.
Spearfish Canyon: The breathtaking limestone palisades of this creek-carved gorge are more ancient than the Grand Canyon. Accessible only by horseback until 1893, Spearfish Canyon’s narrow, 1,000-foot walls are among the most spectacular scenery in the Black Hills.
Well, if that isn’t as good a nearly 400-mile drive that you can make in a Corvette I’m at a loss! (The country is full of incredible drives to take your Corvette on, but this is surely one of the best.)
Once in Spearfish, there is still a lot to do. We mentioned the daily tours, typically three a day, but for the more competitively minded there’s an autocross event set up as well as drag racing. Hey, a Corvette was born and bred to be a competitive machine and this event gives you plenty of opportunity.
However, one of the truly fun aspects of the entire week is the Friday night on Main Street in Spearfish. The police shut down the downtown area from about 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. and allow the Corvettes to line up along the curb and side by side down the middle of the street. There must have been 150-plus Corvettes lining the center of town for the locals and Corvette aficionados to walk about throughout the evening. (Once parked you were a “captured” Corvette for the remainder of the evening.) There were also many, many more Corvettes that were parked around each of the city blocks so that they could “escape” when the desire so arose.
Given that our trip began in Sioux Falls, we had to make our way back on Saturday (but the event continued on until Sunday morning). I suppose there are better ways to drive nearly 400 miles than in a brand-new 2019 Corvette … although I, for the life of me, can’t think of any, nor would I want to!
A big round of applause to the Sioux Falls Corvette Club and Jerry’s Chevrolet along with the countless volunteers who organized and managed this amazing event. We are still a few years away from the 50th … bet that’s gonna be a humdinger. Vette
Photos by Robert McGaffin and Chad Phillips