Monday, August 23, 2010

South Dakota - Badlands and Wall Drugs

Well, we've already had an eventful time since arriving in the Rapid City area! Today we drove out to the Badlands National Park, which is a 180-mile round trip, and then visited the famous Wall Drugs on the way back.

The Badlands was very impressive and we are glad to have made the trip! Some factoids: this park encompasses nearly 243,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest, protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. Badlands National Park contains the world's richest Oligocene epoch fossil beds, dating 23 to 35 million years old, and fossils have been found here that prove ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed the area.

Badlands National Park also provides refuge to a variety of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

We drove around the park (see yellow highlighted route on the map), stopping the car occasionally to walk around and take photos. Along with amazing rock formations, we saw bison, pronghorn, and a coyote.

Later in the day, we joined a ranger-led discussion about some of the fossils found in the park and that was quite interesting also.  

I think my most favorite area was the Yellow Mounds - take a look at the photos and you'll see why!  We decided to leave the park by the east entrance, intending to visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Anyway, we ended up not even stopping as the sign indicated we had missed the last tour of the day. C'est la vie!

On our way from Rapid City to the Badlands, we had passed lots of signs for Wall Drugs, which Lynda remembered from the hilarious book Queen of the Road. According to various web sites, Wall Drug was a tiny store opened by Ted and Dorothy Hustead in 1931. They were struggling to stay in business when Dorothy came up with the idea that Ted should put up a sign on the highway advertising free ice water at Wall Drug. At the time, every drug store gave away free ice water and so this idea seemed a little silly. But, so the story goes, Ted put up the sign anyway and by the time he got back, thirsty tourists were lining up for their free ice water. When Ted realized that signs could draw customers, he put up painted wood signs proclaimed "Wall I'll Be Drugged" and "Wall Drug Or Bust" in every state of the union. In fact, at their peak in the 1960s, Wall Drug had over 3,000 highway signs scattered around the nation. Ted and Dorothy's son, Bill, took over the business in the 1970s and it has grown exponentially since then.

And so, after leaving the Badlands, we decided to stop at Wall Drugs on our way back to Rapid City. To be honest, neither Lynda or I cared for it one bit. Wall Drugs is now a 200% commercialized enterprise that encompasses an entire town block and sells everything from t-shirts, to coffee mugs, to key chains, to photo-ops with a giant jackalope - they have perfected numerous ways to part a tourist from his money. Oh well, some folks love this kind of kitsch and so each to their own!  We had an early dinner at a local restaurant and then headed back to to Rapid City.

We made it back to TeePee Campground and all was well.  It had really been a good day but it was getting late and we were tired, and so neither of us was particularly happy when Lynda discovered the commode is not working properly - the trap is not opening to let the contents go into the holding tank. Our plan is to deal with this in the morning... its too late to tackle this now and we can use the campground restroom until we get the commode fixed. The only real concern is that we have horseback riding reservations tomorrow afternoon and so I'll be getting up early to get this commode problem sorted out in the morning.  Grrrreat!

Stay tuned!

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