12/24/2006

My Big Road Trip, Part 3

So I realized I haven't written the rest of my big road trip that I took this summer - driving from DC to San Francisco. I've written the first and second entries so far, and now we're going from Omaha to the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

Leaving Omaha pretty early, we continued to see tons of signs for something called Wall Drug. We'd seen them in Missouri (I think) but as we went west, they get more frequent. They're all pretty weird, some say "Free Ice Water!" some say "as seen in USA Today" or some other random newspaper, some say "There's a sign for it in Kenya", and on and on and on. I've never seen so many signs for anything in my life. About lunch time we decided to stop in Mitchell, SD.

Wall Drug Ice Water
Originally uploaded by tiffibunny.
We were trying to avoid chain food on the trip, and we found this little wood building with a gravel parking lot in the town, maybe the size of two vans, that sold burgers and shakes and the like. The place seemed like a real local place, folks were coming in and talking about local news and stuff. And for some reason, there was a signed photo of the stars of Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place on the wall that said something like "thanks for the great food." I have no idea what they were all doing up in a little town in South Dakota, but that was pretty funny. The peanut butter milkshake was tasty, I wish I remembered the name of the place.


The Corn Palace!
Originally uploaded by bp1101.
The other main highlight of Mitchell is the Corn Palace, a pretty wild building - this big auditorium which is decorated in murals made only of different kinds of dried corn. The corn isn't dyed or anything, it's all brown and yellow, and they usually change the design every year. However, because of a big drought, they hadn't changed the mural in awhile. It was still pretty interesting, however. A nice tourist trap.

As we drove west, it gradually got drier and less green. However, the radio stations stayed basically the same - we heard the exact same songs from state to state, and not just hit songs - random album cuts by 70s bands, hits from the early 90s we'd never heard, over and over, and so on. It just showed how much the radio monopolies make everything the same, there was zero variety, whether on classic rock stations or on top 40 type stuff.

Eventually we got to the turnoff for the Badlands. I wasn't really sure what to expect, other than some inhospitable land. The landscape was unlike nothing I'd seen - these striated dirt cliffs with different colored stripes, layered on top of each other. All the formations were caused by erosion, the area used to be the bottom of a sea. It went on and on, completely dry and without much foliage. That played tricks on the eyes - it was extremely difficult to tell if something was 20 feet away or a few miles, like this photo. These cliffs are only about 50 feet tall. And I'd see people out on ridges that looked miles away, but they were clearly much closer. It was strange and hard to describe. It made for some great photos, and I wish I hadn't lost my camera (more on that in the San Francisco post to come - a cliffhanger!).

Badlands Nationalpark
Originally uploaded by Dracs.
You start out on top of a plateau, and there are some nice hikes, we went around the spires and saw a rattlesnake. It smelled really nice too, like pine and wildflowers. We then drove down into the valley, where the park gift shop is, and I got my stamp for my National Parks book. The drive out of the park was equally grand - different colored cliffs, more spires, twisty roads that open up to crazy vistas of layered sand. The only radio station we could pick up was a Native American station (maybe this one) playing chants and drumming, which was really neat and added to the atmosphere.

After leaving the Badlands we came into Wall, SD, which is maybe 45 minutes from the park. Liz and I finally convinced Adam to go to Wall Drug - it was like the dad saying "ok, kids." He gave us ten minutes. I was thinking the place was just going to be a kiosk that sold bumper stickers, a big practical joke on all the tourists, but it's actually an enormous, ridiculous place. There are tons of different rooms - one with western leather stuff, one with just coffee mugs, and so on.

Wall Drug!
Originally uploaded by mexican 2000.
We missed the giant animals, the huge cafe, and some other stuff. This one gives the idea though, the place is really enormous - an entire city block. The bumper stickers were free, which is cool, but we never did get to the famous free ice water or 5 cent coffee. According to the corny history of the place that was the big selling point when they built it back in the day. Everybody who worked there was young, European, and friendly. It was kinda funny thinking of a bunch of European kids partying in a small town in South Dakota. I guess they came here to work and such, which is pretty neat. I'd do that.

On from here we went to Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park, which included buffalo surrounding the car. But you'll have to tune into the next episode for that one.

1 comment:

emma discovery said...

i did this drive (well, ride) when i was in middle school - i loved the badlands and your descriptions really take me back. we also went to wall drug - i played a one-armed bandit and got a coin with a dinosaur on it.

keep writing these. they're really good.