South Dakota isn’t the first state you think of when you hear the words “road trip,” but it would be a great miss if you never did it. South Dakota is the land of the Native American and cowboy, the raw mountains and windy plains, and the great bison and the elusive jackalope. How can you not want to road trip this state? My road trip took me on I-90, the only interstate to traverse this great state. Entering this state from the east you find yourself going from the smooth flat plains of Minnesota into a rolling landscape of tall grasses frothing to and fro like waves on a gentle sea. The wind in this part of the state is a relative constant 5 to 15 miles an hour, making it the perfect hair dryer as you walk from the showers back to your campsite. Interstate 90 will take you through Sioux Falls and then into the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. This is where they filmed the movie Dances with Wolves, and the scenery is simply beautiful; green as far as the eye can see and hardly a tree in sight. Also dotting the road are various farms in the distance, with the occasional silo or barn near the road, yet the state rarely loses a wildness feeling. And if you get a chance to see a storm coming in over the horizon, the show of colors and clouds is a sight that is hard to beat.
After the plains start to get boring, South Dakota changes it up again with the Badlands, which is a small side trip off I-90. Developed over eons of prehistoric land changes, these buttes, pinnacles, and hills are a kaleidoscope of mineral colors layering similar to the Grand Canyon. Rich reds, bright yellows, deep browns, and velvety blacks all hide their own treasures. As Frank Lloyd Wright put it: “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.” I can’t describe The Badlands any better than that because that is how they made me feel too.
Nestled outside of the Badlands, is the famous Wall Drug in the town of Wall, SD. Wall Drug got its fame from offering free ice water to thirsty travelers during the Depression, it is now a 76,000 square foot monstrosity that houses shops, galleries, and various attractions. You could call it a house of tacky kitsch or a sight to behold, I’ll let you be the judge on that, but suffice it to say, you should stop and see it for a bit.
After you have made your weird way out of Wall Drug, begin your journey to Rapid City, home of Mount Rushmore. I’m going to give you a secret about Mt. Rushmore that I wish I had known earlier. All those pictures you see of the faces being huge and up close? As a visitor you are quite a distance away, and unless you have an awesome camera, you probably won’t get such kick ass pictures. You also might be like me, and not so really impressed. However, it’s a national monument and grand in its own way, so you should probably see it.
Lastly, I have to mention Sturgis, since that is what most people know South Dakota for, the huge biker party that happens annually. Well, I wasn’t there for that, and didn’t really stop in Sturgis, but if any of you have, I would love for your comments. Until next time, keep on road tripping.
Series by: A Wandering Soul, aka Juror #11
Filed under: Drive the USA, North America | Tagged: A Wandering Soul, Bandlands, barns, bikers, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, constant wind, cowboys, Dances with Wolves, Frank Lloyd Wright, galleries, horizons, I-90, Juror #11, Mount Rushmore, mountains, Mt. Rushmore, Native Americans, plains, Rapid City, shopping, silos, sky, South Dakota, Sturgis, tacky kitsch, tall grasses, Wall Drug | 2 Comments »