After a rousing one hour on the road, we were quickly distracted by the “World’s Only Corn Palace” and had to pull off the highway. Unfortunately, we caught the end of the corn season as workers were stripping the building of its corncob exterior, but were able to get a sneak peek into next year’s design.
Of course, the corn made us hungry, so soon there after, we pulled off at a rest stop to concoct our picnic lunch. The gale force winds of flat, treeless, central South Dakota, however, didn’t cooperate, and neither did the fact that we forgot to pack plates. Like true explorers, we made do, but ate in the car to avoid accidentally munching on one of the tumbleweeds passing by (yes, really).
Finally, the Badlands gave our eyes a break from the plains. We took a scenic drive around the park and stopped frequently for hiking and photo breaks, without managing to a) fall to our deaths or b) get bitten by a rattlesnake (although apparently they’re prevalent). Our favorite part was seeing the pink, yellow and blue area of the park; the colors were so vibrant it looked like they had been painted. C was excited to spot a single prairie dog and bait him with Rainbow Goldfish, after zillions of signs along the way promised they would be there, only to turn left and see an entire field of them.
239487234823749238 signs later, we finally arrived at the jack-of-all-trades store, Wall Drug. After scoping out the Native American souvenirs, spotting a T-Rex, catching some jackalope and grabbing some ice cream at the café, we were on the road again.
Once arriving in civilization, AKA Rapid City, we made a mental note to be more prepared with our sleeping situation and actually make hotel reservations in advance after being turned away at the first two hotels we came to with no vacancy. Once settled into our suite, yes SUITE, we explored the quaint downtown historic area on Main Street. Thanks to J’s keen eyesight, we found the Firehouse Brewery and had an awesome dinner complete with two varieties of delicious South Dakota beer.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast (yes, we know we eat a lot) and headed out to explore the Black Hills (and by explore, we mean driving around the park in sweats with our Starbucks coffee). Putting our fat kid tendencies aside, we stopped to take pictures and climb the gorgeous rockscapes (and maybe a park sign or two…) lining the road. Enter: Casper, the friendly, misunderstood Mercury Mariner that has valiantly chauffeured us from place to place along our journey (we would write out how we came up with the name, but would rather keep our dignity).
Still on the road, we drove past the disappointing Crazy Horse work-in-progress memorial monument. The “fifth face” of Mt. Rushmore really was just a face. Next, we headed to the small town of Keystone in search of a rumored “7’2”, eyes of blue, size 13 in the shoe” cowboy that Linda had told us about. Unable to find such a stud, and exercising extreme self-control by not shoving our faces with fudge and candy, we lifted our spirits by purchasing our very own pairs of Minnetonka moccasins.
Stoked for an afternoon of hiking around Mt. Rushmore, we ate a healthy lunch, dressed for the occasion, and packed a “just in case” bag complete with water, snacks, sunscreen and a first aid kit (I hope you’re proud, mom). Upon arriving, we quickly found out that our “hike” was .5 miles long on a paved path with railings… but, hey, at least we got to hang with the boys, George, TJ, Teddy and Abe, up-close and personal for a little. Running to the gift shop for cover, a quick thunderstorm passed overhead, revealing an incredible, full double rainbow over the parking lot. What a way to cap off our adventures in South Dakota!
We took advantage of Comfort Suites’ WiFi connection to situate our finances, upload pictures, make hotel reservations and, most importantly, order pizza. Six pieces, a bottle (and a half…) of wine and torrential rains (complete with thunderstorm watch across half of the counties in South Dakota) later, we called it a night, still wondering what will happen to Laurence Fishburn’s character on the next episode of CSI and still wondering if, in fact, “Jackie Kennedy would never have had a camel toe.”