Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Badlands, a Corn Palace and Loose Meats

Hey Ned and Joe, Where Did You Find Harvey?

It started to rain last night and when we awoke we found that water had seeped up through the floor. It wasn't even that hard of a rain. It is always annoying to break camp when everything is wet. At least the rain had stopped.

After a stop in Rapid City, SD for gas we were heading east on I-90. We didn't have have far to go until our first stop, Wall, SD the home of the famous Wall Drug Store. The store is more like a mall with a drug store, gift shop, restaurant, other stores and a low key amusement park. It was just a typical drug store until 1930's when the owner's wife had the idea to advertise free ice water to travellers on their way to the newly opened Mount Rushmore. Wall Drug also earns much of its fame from its billboards that can be seen for hundreds of miles throughout South Dakota and neighboring states. It still gives away about 20,000 cups of water per day during the peak tourist season.

The place was packed with motorcyclists. We looked around a bit watched the T-Rex roar and then left. We didn't get any ice water unless the drinking fountain counts. Just south of Wall is Badlands National Park's Pinnacles Entrance and the beginning of the Badlands Loop Road.

Joe Likes to Ride the Jackalopes

Ned Rides Ol' Hopalong

Motorcycles Lined Up Outside of Wall Drug

Badlands National Park has one of the world's richest mammal fossil beds and the country's largest expanse of protected prairie ecosystem but its main attraction is the landscape of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires. Because of the relatively wet summer the green of the grassland made for a sharp and beautiful contrast against the sandstone. At the visitor center we learned about the different animals that lived here in the past and now and the boys successfully completed their Junior Ranger books and received their badges.

The Badlands Stretch Out to the Horizon

This Way to the Visitors Center

Next was a quick stop at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site but the tours of the underground launch control center and a missile silo were filled. We watched a short video about the Minuteman missiles.

We made an unexpected stop was at arest area where I-90 crosses the Missouri River near Chamberlain, SD. There was a Lewis & Clark interpretive center with maps and displays and an upper landing with a full size replica of the keelboat used by their Corps of Discovery to travel up the Missouri River. The keelboat opens onto an observation deck overlooking the Missouri River, right where Lewis & Clark camped.

200 miles east we stopped in Mitchell, SD to see the famous Corn Palace. Can you drive across South Dakota without stopping at the Corn Palace? The Corn Palace dates back to 1892 when early residents displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building's exterior. They continue the tradition with new murals created each year depicting an important facet of the lifestyle of South Dakota. The murals require thousands of bushels of corn, grains and grasses each year. We toured the inside of the building where there are more murals. There are also photos of the building from the last hundred years showing each year's exterior mural.

The Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD

Inside the Corn Palace

Ned and Joe are Acting Corny...

C0rn Palace Exterior Detail

From Mitchell we went to Sioux Falls then south and into Iowa to have dinner at Bob's Drive-In in Le Mars, IA. Western Iowa has a specialty called loosemeats which is a sandwich of ground beef that is cooked loose – unpattied – and served sauceless. At Bob's its called a Tavern and is very good. They also have really good milkshakes made with Blue Bunny Ice Cream which is made in Le Mars. The Bob Dog, a hot dog covered in loosemeats, is also really good.

It was pretty late and dark when we left Le Mars and turned north into Minnesota. Once back on the interstate we got as far as Blue Earth before pulling over at a rest area for some sleep.

Custer State Park, SD to Blue Earth, MN, 628 miles 10 hrs 58 min

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