Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Americana

Hartford City-20110717-00039July 17 -- Leaving Sioux Falls, South Dakota at first did not appear to be much different than Minnesota. Or Wisconsin. Or Illinois. To me, it was all one long bug-splattered highway ahead.

But very quickly, we realized that it wasn’t the same because, unlike those other states, South Dakota has … WALL DRUGSTORE! And not just Wall Drugstore, although that was the most ubiquitous of the road signs, but also Reptile World! 1880 Town! Old MacDonald’s Farm! Petrified Forest! In short, we had come upon a portion of I-90 that has more roadside attractions per square mile than any other place in the world, or so I’m guessing. And there’s a reason for that – the number of families doing this drive through South Dakota to Yellowstone as a summer roadtrip is astounding. From packed tiny Toyotas, to SUV’s, to pickups hauling airstreams, to truly massive tour buses, there are hundreds of them … thousands of them. And squished in between are bikers, many of them on their way to Sturgis. But, there’s a good reason they are all here. There’s amazing stuff here.

First, a brief turn-off in the middle of the Grasslands National Park. Who knew there was such a thing?

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Then, not much further ahead, we got our first glimpse of a few bluffs, but there was no doubt IMG_3535that we were arriving at the Badlands. Another hour or so and there it was, the turn off for the Badlands National Park. And it was spectacular – first, from a distance, the wall of jagged mountains and then, closer and closer, until we were upon them.

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The drive was spectacular, and we stopped a few places along the way, but not too often because we were driving through the hottest part of the country during one of the hottest heat waves ever. IMG-20110717-00048

IMG_3556Immediately after the Badlands we finally arrived … 250 miles of road signs couldn’t be wrong – Wall Drug! Free Ice Water! Lots of people! Many things to buy! OK, it was cheesy, but fun.

Motoring along, our next stop was Mt. Rushmore, which we reached around 4:00. It was still over 108 degrees out, so I confess, we didn’t take the interpretive walking tour, or ohh and ahh over it for long. Rather, we came, we saw, we ate ice cream, and we looked for a hotel in Keystone to spend the night.

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But the day was not over yet. First a stroll around Keystone where we ran into the one person at the Hertz counter in Sioux Falls who stood up for me during my struggles, and then,after one of the worst meals I have ever had in my life (always beware of the buffet), at dusk we headed to Crazy Horse to see the monument that’s been more than 50 years in the making, and will most likely be another 100 before it is done. That was followed by a cheezy laser show which became absurd when it ended with Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American" (somehow, I don't think the native americans would appreciate much of the lyrics) and a quick trip back by Rushmore to see it lit up at night.

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