This state’s nickname should either be the Indoor Water Parks State or Bug Splatter State. Perhaps this needs further explanation. On our travels, our vehicle has caused so many bug deaths that we can no longer take photographs from the front seat. It is a cruel graveyard upon which we stare at all of the time, ALL OF THE TIME! We didn’t ask for this, why didn’t they fly a bit higher, whyyy!? Now onto the other point. Seeing as how South Dakota lacks a coastline, it makes sense for every damn hotel to include an indoor water park. We tried to enjoy these sites but right away the taint of our ecological education forced us to ponder the negative implications of all of this water use in a territory where there is not an overabundance of it. Yayyyy knowledge is power (and depressing).
While driving through South Dakota, the landscape transformed a few times. First it was flat, consisting of open pastures, beautifully blue skies, and pleasant scenery all around. Then the land became hillsides, which may sound boring but they were actually quite inspiring. It was hard to drive past everything without staring, taking our gazes off of the road. Some of the stretches we drove on had us gain a lot of elevation. Lastly, the composition became one of mountainous forests. Beautiful outcroppings of rock mixed with coniferous forest were the sites we longed to see. We only got more excited knowing that Washington and Oregon will be even more of these land types.
Knowing that we should try and understand the area’s flavor of music, we turned on the local radio stations and you know what we found? There are loads of country radio stations. No seriously, there was maybe 4 radio stations that weren’t country, one of which was classical, another was public radio. Is there something that we don’t understand? Are there subtle intricacies to country music, leading to 10 different mini genres? Or did each station focus on a particular emotion, aka lovin your sweet baby, cruising for a boozing, or being hung up on a sweet honey that don’t love you back. We may never know. Annnd not to sound too hurtful but we don’t really need to ever find out.
They really seem to like their billboards here. I couldn’t tell you the number of signs we saw for Wall Drug (which apparently has everything from home made pie to “Black Hills gold”, not to mention an utterly insane budget for billboards), 1880 Town (A great place for the kids!), and, my personal favorite, “Nature in Action! Wild Taxidermy Exhibit”. That last one doesn’t even make sense! I suppose billboards are a fairly effective means for advertising, considering there isn’t really too much out here to look at. Note: Wall Drug’s advertising got the best of us and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check it out. If something could scream tourist trip, it would be Wall Drug. It was kind of like a mini mall, built upon a conglomerate of different shops. They all sold cool items, regrettably we spent a little too much time at this place.
While driving we discovered an interesting case of subconscious conditioning. For most of the drive the speed limit is 75. Numerous times we’ve had to make a conscious effort to drive faster than 70. JG- “The only time it feels natural to drive 75 is when I’m speeding back home. Apparently we have been subconsciously programmed to know when we are driving 65, and intuitively cruise control at that speed.
Perhaps it was due to us arriving at the Badlands in the middle of a heat wave, but we can certainly see how they earned their name. Trying to live in such inhospitable conditions would be… unpleasant. Thankfully, we were only there for a day or so. Heat wave aside, the scenery was beautiful. One minute you’d feel as though you were caught in a maze, the next you would be gazing upon a huge open vista, grasslands stretching off into the distance, broken up by formations of the striated rock that makes the Badlands so famous. The formations were painted with a splash of rich colors, ranging from soft pinks to warm red-browns. It would be easy to assume that nothing can live there, but that was not the case. We saw countless species of insect, bird, even a ground squirrel (or kind of mouse, not sure), and a small rabbit. It became easy for us to stare off into the horizon, imagining an ancient land full of bison herds, and even prehistoric mega fauna from the Pleistocene era. We set up camp after briefly checking out a few trails, and then went out to explore more. A ranger directed us towards “Notch Trail”, which took us longer to find than expected, but resulted in us clambering up a log ladder that went nearly vertical up a cliff. Our favorite part was climbing back down the ladder. Good times. Cooking for the first time was interesting, but surprisingly uneventful with few or no injuries, minus the obnoxious bug bites. As time passed by the sunset became quite lovely, painting the sky in lovely pastel colors. Then the stars came out, and that was a wonderful site to behold. They were pretty bright, but we know they will be even brighter in the parks we visit in the future.