Conclave 2019 in Deadwood, SD was a hands-down winner. The event “had it all”, from great roads, to impressive social events and meals, to the best car show ever. The twenty-plus members of the AHASC (as well as several more from the San Diego and Golden Gate clubs) certainly picked a winner when deciding to attend this event.
The festivities started with an efficient check-in process at the town Visitor’s Center, followed by a Welcome Reception at the host Deadwood Grand Hotel event center, where 250+ attendees feasted on a fabulous appetizer buffet. I don’t know where you buy jumbo shrimp in South Dakota, but they were big, tasty, and in abundant supply.
Day Two featured the Gymkhana, Funkhana and a drive through Custer State Park, which is known for its wildlife. The beautiful Black Hills featured smooth, curvy roads with lots of dramatic cliff and rock formations and little traffic. Most of our group opted for the driving tour and we were not disappointed.
We were some ways into the Park, lamenting the lack of wildlife, when suddenly traffic came to a stop as a herd of buffalo decided to take up residence in the road. You don’t honk at a 2000-pound bison, nor do you try to intimidate it in a car half its size! Before we knew it, we were surrounded. Eventually the herd moved off and we were not daunted by the burros and antelope we encountered later! That evening, with no Conclave dinner planned, the California Group arranged a party at the Charlie Utter Theatre above the famous Saloon 10, where Wild Bill met his end. A group of over 40 enjoyed a fine dinner and much socializing.
Day Three featured the Car Show, or rather Car Shows, two of them. Early in the morning over 150 cars lined up by class at the nearby Rodeo Grounds parking lot where the official show voting took place.
After a couple of hours, and with a full police escort, we made a fifteen-mile loop through the nearby town of Lead and then back to Deadwood where we parked right on Main Street, covering three full blocks, sometimes five cars wide. Car owners and visitors alike “voted” for their favorite cars by buying ballots from the local Boys and Girls Club volunteers. In all, over $3000 was raised! As far as car shows go, I doubt there will ever be one to rival this event.
A BBQ dinner, which surpassed the previous buffet in both quality and quantity, capped the evening, though there was a good deal of socializing that continued a bit longer. Some of the car show awards were given out, which you can read about in another report.
Day Four was another, even more challenging drive. Dubbed the Pigtails and Tunnels Tour, this one took us over Iron Mountain Road, where there were numerous narrow, and sometimes long, tunnels carved from solid rock. The road also featured about a half dozen “pigtails” where the road spiraled up, around and over itself....a unique experience. The second half of the drive was over Needles Highway, a fantastic landscape of tall spires of rock, many of which appeared to defy gravity. Surely one of the country’s best driving roads.
Day Five was supposed to be a Free Day, but with so many roads yet unexplored, a large group of us did an impromptu tour through Spearfish Canyon (magnificent) and onto Sturgis (of motorcycle fame) to the Full Throttle Saloon (of reality show and biker fame). Amazing that you can build an entire bar interior out of car and motorcycle parts welded together! Following lunch, we finished off the day with another memorable drive through Vonacker Canyon.
Fifteen miles of lovely, winding country roads that were just made for Healeys. I don’t think we saw half a dozen other cars the whole way.
That evening we enjoyed another outstanding Banquet meal and were treated to an interesting and unusual Native American/Rock Band performance. A fitting way to cap off an outstanding event.
Deadwood was the perfect venue. Lots of interesting shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment, including numerous casinos in a real Old West setting. Definitely a vacation spot worth revisiting. And, probably due to gambling subsidies, everything was CHEAP! Thanks to the Minnesota Club for hosting a truly first-rate event.