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Deadwood's Living History

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 4, 2007

Q. After watching "Deadwood," I'd like to visit South Dakota. What is the closest big city to Deadwood? Any suggestions on stopover places? I'd like to use Amtrak's Explore America pass.

Johnny Powell, Columbia

A. Fans of the HBO drama "Deadwood" can travel from their TV dens to the real Deadwood, an old mining town in western South Dakota. "The show is based on actual events that happened in Deadwood," said Kecia Rembold, office manager of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce (800-999-1876, http://www.deadwood.org/). "The whole town of Deadwood is a historic landmark."

The Wild West destination has only 1,700 residents, but it's hardly a one-horse town. An assortment of 19th-century hotels (e.g., the Bullock Hotel, built by Sheriff Seth Bullock in 1895) and museums line Main Street. Rembold suggests visiting the Adams Museum, which covers the town's history; the Broken Boot Gold Mine, where guests pan for gold; the Days of '76 museum, for Western themes and buggies from the 1800s; and the Adams House, a Victorian manse owned by town founder W.E. Adams. (The town was named after the dead trees in Deadwood Gulch.)

To visit the burial sites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, hike up to Mount Moriah Cemetery. And to see where Wild Bill was shot, swing into Saloon No. 10, a hybrid museum, bar and gambling hall that displays the chair he was sitting in when he was killed.

Rapid City, about 40 miles to the southeast, is the closest major metro area to Deadwood. In addition, such attractions as Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial are within 90 minutes. Closer in, Spearfish offers a wildlife sanctuary, and Lead has the Homestake Gold Mine, open for tours.

Amtrak does not run through South Dakota. The Explore America pass allows three free layovers over a 45-day period; to use the program to visit Deadwood you'll have to spend two days traveling from the District to Chicago to Denver. From there, take a bus to Cheyenne, Wyo., then rent a car for the 240-mile drive. Cost is from $417 per person for a coach seat and bus ride; car rental is extra. It might be easier to go by chuck wagon -- or plane.

We have a long layover in Reykjavik. Do tours leave from the airport or can we take ground transportation to the city?

Mary Ellen Dial, Arnold

Iceland's main airport, Keflavik International Airport, sits on the Reykjanes peninsula and is a 40-minute drive to Reykjavik -- a haul when you have a plane to catch. If you're hungry, in the mood to shop or just want to stretch your legs, the little town of Keflavik is only five minutes by taxi. An even better excursion, though, is to the Blue Lagoon ( http://www.bluelagoon.com/), the famed geothermal waters. Tour buses depart daily from the airport, but most visits are timed to afternoon arrivals. Reykjavik Excursions ( http://www.re.is/), for one, leaves for the lagoon at 4:30 p.m.; the trip lasts three to five hours and costs $58 (including bus fare and entry fee). Iceland Excursions ( http://www.icelandexcursions.is/) also has day tours departing from the airport.

If tour times are inconvenient, take a 20-minute cab ride to the lagoon, then spend your layover soaking in the waters and indulging in spa treatments. In addition, you can rent bathing suits (about $5), bathrobes and towels.

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