Today we had to leave for the airport early – by 6:30am! (We are not early risers by nature, if you can’t tell! ha) It was a quick easy drive to a small airport. 7 gates. ha Before we even got to Starbucks from the airport, my mother was already at her gate.
Norah couldn’t hack it that early. haha
We got our coffee and headed out East towards Badlands National Park. But about 50 miles before a town called Wall, these signs start popping up in all directions. In fact, we saw the first one a couple days ago along the road in Wyoming. Wall drug- famous for their FREE ice water and 5 cent coffee. They have been advertising on the roadways since 1931 when they opened in the middle of the great depression. The owner dug a well that gave ice cold water… and road weary travelers started dropping in for refreshment. The business grew into a must stop destination for the town of 800 residents…with over 2 million people stopping in a year for their free ice water 🙂
It’s just a bunch of small knick-knack stores with a drug store on one end and a cafe. A few quirky carved out characters to get your photo with. But…if you go all the way through to the backyard, you’ll find some fun. And your free ice water you were promised 🙂
So, after a fun little stop there, we headed into the Badlands. Thusly named by early Native Americans here because of its lack of water and hard to navigate terrain. It was bad land.
The Badlands is basically just a drive through about 20 miles of this scenery. There are a couple spots where you can walk out onto the rocks. A couple other short trails out in between some rock… but mostly just viewpoints and Prairie dog towns for viewing the landscape.
We were driving the Badlands “backwards” coming in from the West, so we visited the visitor’s center last so we could learn more about the area and get Norah’s National Park Passport Book stamped. It’s a really cute book for kids (or adults really!) to document when you visited, what you saw, what you liked best, wildlife you saw, etc… and each park has a stamp available at the visitor center for you to get your book stamped, like a passport stamp. Norah really liked collecting the stamps. Hoping we can add to it over the years and she’ll have a great memory book of trips to various National Parks. Doubt we’ll hit them all- there are 63 parks, some in remote Alaska or the Channel Islands or American Samoa.. haha but never say never!
After our exit from the park, while trying to walk out into prairie dog towns and see one up close, we find this private farm with a giant prairie dog statue out front where you can actually feed them, because they are like pets- not protected in the national park. It was busy, so we didn’t stop. Norah still hasn’t forgiven us. ha
Our last couple stops in this area were at the Minute man Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center and then on out to the Delta-9 Missile Silo launch site.
This visitor center is set up to memorialize our Cold War defense system- the Minuteman II Missiles that were buried underground in this area as our national defense system against Russian nuclear attack.
Delta 1 is the only area that still exists and the silo still has a fake warhead in the shute ready to be deployed. They give scheduled guided tours to the Delta 1 command center underground where 2 men would have sat ready with keys and codes awaiting a command code to send the world into mutual destruction. The tours were booked out until September, so that will have to happen at another off-season non-Covid point. But we did go out to the Delta 9 launch site a few miles away to see the actual mission silo.
These Minuteman II missiles had 80 times the payload of the bombs we dropped on Japan. Imagine the impact-1-2 million people dead with each blast and we had hundreds of these ready to go. Russian had more than we did! Imagine a launch across the Eastern seaboard. 150 million dead or so? Scary, scary stuff.
After taking in the exhibits at the visitor center, we drove the 15 miles out to the Delta-9 Missile silo
So, after confronting just how close we were to killing ourselves off for about 30 years there… we drove on towards Minnesota. Along the way we passed a billboard saying “Feed Otis Popcorn” – and Otis was a camel. Well, Norah saw it… and she REALLY wanted to feed Otis popcorn. haha Good marketing, folks. So… that’s how we came to stop in at 1880 town along the interstate.
Kegan and I were not overly thrilled to be going here, but we didnt have a ton planned- they had bathrooms and Norah seemed to be genuinely excited about feeding a camel. ha Even less excited to learn they charge almost $20 a person for the pleasure of visiting their town! But… all in all, we were really glad we stopped! They had some really neat items and a huge collection of antiques I hadnt seen before…. so I changed my tune. Now, I say it’s definitely worth a stop!
We finally got back around to Otis…but he was just inside a fence, chilling… no one around and no popcorn to be seen. And he wasn’t interested in us. ha So…Norah did not get to feed a camel popcorn, but she saw him and she seemed happy enough.
Walking back to where Otis was, we saw Longhorn cattle up close. Closest we had ever been. Those horns are MASSIVE.
We got back on the interstate and headed East again, passed this guy walking his pet dinosaur along the road.
That brought us to the Dignity statue at a rest area overlooking the Missouri river- at the location where Lewis and Clark crossed out into the territory on their expedition.
This spot along I-90 near Chamberlain, South Dakota was also the spot where Lewis and Clarke set up camp before crossing the Missouri River into uncharted territory with the Corp of Discovery in 1803. It makes sense- the entire eastern side of the hillside slowly slopes down to the river like one giant boat ramp.. so I can see how this seemed to be a good spot.
There was a large gallery of items explaining some of the crew and goods the exhibition used…there was even a 55 foot keelboat like the 3 the group used for supplies… but of course looking at my camera role, the only photo I took was of the stuffed prairie dogs that they discovered! haha
We trucked on across South Dakota, eventually arriving at the famed Corn palace in Mitchell, SD.
Every year, the town of Mitchell creates all new murals out of corn cobs for display. They have been doing this for over 100 years, attracting visitors to their town. It’s the world’s ONLY corn palace. ha
Last stop of interest today along the road was the Porter sculpture park near Montrose. I thought it looked interesting, but after visiting and talking to the strange man who designed all of this- I now call it a must stop.
He said he works on the sculptures during the winters and then mans the booth and runs the RV campground in the summers. He said it sure beats sheep herding. ha
All in all, a great little walking path with tons of poems to accompany his many sculptures. We enjoyed seeing them as well as our conversations with the artist himself.
Dinner was just a roadside BBQ joint right up the road from our hotel. Unassuming and we didn’t have high hopes- but they had OUT OF THIS WORLD smoked chicken wings. Couldn’t recommend them more!
One more post for the last two days coming up – Minneapolis to home- coming soon! 🙂