Before I get started, I’d just like to give a quick shout-out to Clay for answering the question about the difference between National Monuments and National Parks. I didn’t know the difference myself until a couple of days ago when I was reading an article about touring the National Parks. And it came up again during my tour of Wind Cave. So now you all know!
And now – back to the action!
The first thing you see upon leaving Rapid City heading east on I-90 is a series of advertisements for a place called Wall Drug, located in Wall, SD. When I mean series, I mean you see billboards every 45 seconds, sometimes more frequently. The billboards advertise everything from buffalo burgers to camping equipment to 5 cent coffee to free donuts and coffee to honeymooners. My favorite sign was the “free ice water.” Anyway, I felt it was worth a stop and lo and behold, everyone else felt the same. The first pic of this series is rolling into Wall – looks pretty empty. But then boom – it’s utter insanity (increased 10X by Sturgis). Wall Drug is basically a mini-mall with a pharmacy and cafe, as well as shops for shoes, clothes, books, jewelry, souvenirs. They even have a chapel! But clearly their claim to fame is the free ice water since it’s on their logo – note the little box that my fudge came in. (And the fudge is quite good)
From Wall to Badlands was literally one exit and within minutes, I was entering my next national park. I didn’t have any idea what I was in for – all the descriptions were of a moonscape and that nothing can grow there. Well… Glacier was beautiful but Badlands is truly out of this world. There’s a long scenic drive taking you through the park and there are lots of places to pull out to take pictures and even a few spots for hiking. I hate repeating myself but the pictures simply don’t do it justice – click on the thumbnails to see more detail. The big-horn sheep was an added bonus – he was just hanging out on this rock and wasn’t bothered at all by the throngs of people taking pictures of him. Badlands is badass…
Side note: for anyone thinking about doing a similar trip, be sure to purchase a NPS pass. It costs $80 and is good for one year and will get you into all the National Parks. I finally clued into this after whining to Dave about the high cost of visiting these parks – he showed me his NPS card and I got mine upon entering Badlands. Just a bummer that I didn’t have my receipts from Glacier, Crater Lake etc. The big parks (glacier, yellowstone, yosemite, etc are $30 each so you can see how this would add up).
From Badlands, I continued on to Pierre, South Dakota’s state capitol. While it’s not my intention to see every capitol (I missed Salem and Olympia), I do like to check them out if it’s on the way. Pierre did not disappoint. I pulled into town and found this big park right along the Missouri River. I found the first school there, along with a massive frisbee golf course. The guy in the picture is posing with all his frisbee golf discs. But the best part was I ended up parking right alongside the river that night in an area normally reserved for trucks with boat trailers. No parking restrictions, totally flat and an AWESOME view. A+ accommodations in Pierre!
Yesterday morning was Monday morning errands, including a stop at the laundromat. While waiting for my clothes to dry, Juno and I took a quick stroll and I found the best gas station sign(s) ever!
Casino! Live Bait! Beer Cave! Food Mart! But the “Minnows 99-cent a Scoop” sign was the best.
The drive north to Mobridge (where I spent last night) was a-ok, except for the continuing crazy wind. I passed field after field of crops but my favorite were the sunflower fields. Just incredible.
I’d like to end this post with an open-ended question on hay bales. Being a California girl, I’ve only ever seen hay come in square bales. But out here, you see round bales. And they are everywhere – scattered across fields, alongside roads, stacked in pyramids and even “jellyroll” style. I’ve seen them transported on huge “oversize load” semis. After a conversation with a former bison rancher, I understand the rationale for why you’d choose round over square – but what I can’t figure out is who the hay is for? I’ve never seen any animals eating it. Anyone who can help me figure out this conundrum will earn my everlasting gratitude.
I’ll be heading into North Dakota later day. I know I only spent 5 days here, but there’s a chance I might zip back across the border to Sioux Falls when I’m in MN. BTW – Anyone been to Voyageurs National Park in MN? Trying to decide if it’s worth the drive…