Saturday, September 15, 2012

Badlands, South Dakota

By Claire

My astonishment at how much South Dakota has to offer continues.  We mapped out our route last night, choosing the longer, scenic route to drive through the famous Badlands.  At first, it just looked like a flat, pale, endless prairie with some moonscape bumps here and there. 

It wasn't long before we started to see the real show.  The temperature climbed as the day went on.  At 9 am it was already 73° so we knew it was going to be a hot one. By 1 pm it was 95°.

Our trusty Prius, Christina, passed the 3,000 mile mark for our trip, today!  So far she is providing excellent service, even though we have yet to fathom the total depths of her technology. We learned just today that we can ask our GPS guru, Vicky (if we're polite about it) to give us alternate routes to our destination.  What a concept!


At the end of a short trail, The Window.  We also walked The Door trail.

  It felt a little like being back in Petra, Jordan

Smallest mesas I've ever seen--about 10 feet high, 10 feet deep and 25 feet wide.

Suddenly we were in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands--pretty, but similar to what we have seen before.  We passed the town of Interior, advertising their "uptown Wagon Wheel Bar & Grill (is there a lowtown?) Also Scenic--I kept thinking Chuck was talking about the scenic route, which he was, but he was also talking about the town.  The final town, if you want to call it that, was Cactus Flat.

Our route took us to I-95, still two lanes with very little traffic.  We passed a few tiny towns and then I saw a billboard for a diner that looked pretty good.  We pulled into the town of Murdo and, with some trepidation, walked in.  It was full of people, mostly eating slabs of meat with brown gravy, grayish peas and mashed potatoes.  We sat at the counter and after being told about the special for $6.25--Swiss cheese and mushroom burger with a side of pea soup, we ordered two.  I was a little surprised at how good it was.

Back on the road, we passed several billboards (the only thing worth looking at) promoting the Corn Palace in the town of Mitchell in Davison County.  Of course we had to stop. Our friends, Jim and Stephanie had insisted "You have to go to the Corn Palace." We surprised ourselves by heeding their advice and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Closer detail

Even closer -- it's all corn
Inside, they had exhibits of toys made of corn husks (what else are you going to do with them all?) and other things all about corn.  There were photographs of the three corn palaces and dozens of revisions they have constructed since 1892, just three years after South Dakota became a state.  Thirteen shades of colored corn currently are planted in separate fields to maintain color purity; the best ears are hand picked for use on the Corn Palace.  275,000 ears are used to redecorate the murals each year.  They did not redecorate this year because there wasn't any corn, due to the drought.

Now it was time for a treat.  We found a really  nice ice cream, frozen yogurt (haven't seen any since California) and coffee shoppe.  Chuck was hankering after a root beer float and I agreed to a frozen yogurt with a vanilla base, and then they mixed in my requests of fresh raspberries and blackberries.  I was still so stuffed from lunch that I couldn't really eat it all; but I've got a mean eating machine with me.  I just pass it over.

After the Corn Palace, what could be more exciting?  We did turn off to find Laura Ingalls Wilder's home; but when we realized it was 55 miles out of our way just to get there, we continued back onto the highway.  We simply waved at the exit to George McGovern's Legacy Museum.  It had been a long day.  We're now in Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota--153,888 in 2010.  You'd think we could find a car wash; Vicky Christina Barcelona is really in need of a bath.

The Dakota Badlands...what I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere--a distant architecture, ethereal..., an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright