August 3, 2006.
By 10:00 on this cool, crisp, sunny morning I had entered South Dakota. Shortly after I stopped at a rest area and picked up some information and had a snack. I walked around the “pet exercise area”– someone should tell these folks that humans need exercise too! I marveled at the neverending expanse of yellow grass and rolls of hay. The great blue sky seemed to go on forever. Back in my car I was examining my maps when this leathery old biker guy knocks on my window.“Hey, nice car. What kind of gas mileage do you get?”
So we chatted about my little Scion and he wished me a good trip. The bikers are out in force because the big bike rally is going on in Sturgis this week. I’d see quite the assortment of motorcyles, denim, leather and fringe over the next few days.
At 11:30 I pulled into the small town of Mitchell to visit the Corn Palace I’d been reading billboards for all morning. It was a dreadful tourist trap but it provided a nice rest from all the merciless driving. I picked up some souvenirs, soaked in the sun and returned to the road.
Speaking of billboards…for hundreds of miles I’ve been entertained by billboards advertising “Wall Drug.” Some are cute, some are funny, some are strictly informational and all are enticing. It must take some strong will to NOT stop there. It is still a ways off so I will have to check it out later. In the meantime, I crossed into the Mountain Time Zone and soon after, arrived in the Badlands.
Gray clouds loomed large over the unusual landforms of the Badlands and almost as soon as I arrived, large bolts of lightning illuminated the area. Then, the downpour of rain began. I had been looking forward to hiking here for days! This was a disappointing turn of events. So I drove around for a little bit, admiring the contrast in colors and awesome rock shapes to wait for the storm to pass.
Eventually the skies cleared enough to allow safe passage. I stopped at most of the turnouts and explored the brief side trails at each one. A few times I followed herd paths or made my own trails just to get a taste of the park off the beaten path. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t see myself spending lots of time here. I took some pictures and loaded myself back up into the car.
Not far up the road I entered the town of Wall and drove to the world famous Wall Drug. The place was gigantic, with room upon room of junk to buy. I ate a Buffalo burger and fries and parted with some of my money, buying a hiking book and some souvenirs. A few hours later I decided I’d gone far enough. In the darkness of 9pm in the Black Hills, I pulled into a campground and slept in the car.